When [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he was glad…” (Acts 11:23)
What Do You Expect?
What do you expect to see when you come to church this Sunday?
Take a second and think about how you might answer that question. It’s an important one—more important, perhaps, than we might initially think.
After all, what comes to your mind as you consider that question reveals a great deal about how you perceive the purpose of the church and what you tend to value about its worship gatherings.
The fact is, almost everyone has deeply engrained expectations about what the church’s gatherings should look like. Which necessarily beckons another question—a much more crucial question. Let me put it to you this way, Is what we’re expecting to see at church this Sunday in alignment with what Scripture teaches us to expect?
The Kind Of Grace You Can See
To find an answer, let’s go back two thousand years to the Mediterranean city of Antioch:
“Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” (Acts 11:19-24)
Here, in just a handful of verses, God provides us with a simple clue about what we should expect to see when we come to church. In fact, I can easily distill it into one word: grace.
Verse 23 says that Barnabas saw God’s grace in Antioch. With his own two eyes, he witnessed the life-transforming power of the Gospel at work in this newly planted church. He didn’t have to wonder, What exactly is this church about? No, it was quite obvious. This church was all about the Gospel. And it showed.
So what about us? Can that kind of unambiguous grace which characterized the church of Antioch be seen among us today?
Well, it really depends. Grace-drenched worship gatherings don’t happen by accident. It’s unlikely that LifePoint could merely stumble into being that kind of church unintentionally. Which means that there are two things that God is requiring of each of us this Sunday.
We must come to church with the intent to proclaim Jesus to others in all we say and do. And we must also come ready to hear Him proclaimed by others.
After all, this is why we gather. It’s why we sing and preach. It’s why we observe the ordinances. It’s why we greet and serve. It’s why we pray and read Scripture together. Through these practices, God is giving us a united voice by which we speak prophetically to one another and listen intently to one another.
Knowing this, we come to understand why Barnabas tells these new believers at Antioch, “…remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (v. 23). In other words, he’s saying, You guys received a God-given purpose through the proclamation of the Gospel. And God’s grace is now flourishing among you as a result. But in order to remain in that grace, you must continue in the same way you began—through faithful proclamation of the Gospel.
Or as Paul, writing to the Colossian church, put it, “…as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7). For us, that’s really what it comes down to.
So let’s “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” by putting the glorious Gospel of Christ at the center of our worship this Sunday. Let’s speak the Gospel passionately and listen to the Gospel carefully. After all, if our mouths are full of the Gospel and our ears are full of the Gospel, our gathering will be full of grace. Which means there’s a really good chance that our hearts will be so full of Jesus that we can’t help but long for the world to be changed by this very grace we gather to share and enjoy.
So what are you expecting to see at church this Sunday? Lots of grace? Bingo.
Songs for Sunday, July 10, 2016:
Hallelujah, What A Savior
As performed by Austin Stone Worship
Rock Of Ages
As performed by Northwest Collective
Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean
As performed by Bethel Live
As performed by Hillsong Worship
How Rich A Treasure We Possess
As performed by Matt Boswell