The previous posts this week have focused on some areas that I have observed in the various churches I have attended (both as visitor and member) and the reformation enacted by King Josiah. While they may not be the area of need in your church, they are, in my opinion, areas that must be guarded in order to maintain a healthy church.
So I now write to those whose churches are not so fortunate. I pray that God will use these simple solutions to bring these areas of corporate worship up to the standard that God has intended.
Rediscover God's Word
The first step to recovering Scriptural worship is recovering Scripture itself. While we do not worship Scripture, Scripture has the central place in our worship. In Scripture we will find all that God requires of us. Until the Bible is proclaimed line upon line, precept upon precept, God-centered worship will never take place. In the Word of God, God reveals Himself. If we do not examine the Word and regard it as infallibly portraying God, we will not have an accurate picture of the God of Scripture.
This must take place first, in our preaching. Preaching must be expositional, contextual, and comprehensive. This means that when we preach we must explain the text, show the immediate context in a given book and time period, and show how those truths that are taught in that text relate to the rest of the Bible. Then we can see a complete picture of God as He is to be worshipped.
Another place the examination of Scripture is to take place is in our homes. Studying God's Word daily, alone and with our families, and meditating on the Scriptures at work and continually.
Return To God
As we see God emerging from the pages of Scripture, we are to accept this God as the one true God. We must do away with our preconceived notions of what our god would do, of what are god is like, and of how he reacts. In short, we must conform to the revelation of God in Scripture.
We must cast down those vain imaginations of me-likeness and surrender to the God of the Bible. The God who is Holy, Just, Righteous, Transcendent, Pure, Light, Love, Wrath, Mercy, Grace, Peace, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Immutable, Omnipresent, who punishes those who hate Him, and rewards those who love Him.
Reverence The Time Of Worship
There is nothing intrinsically valuable about the place of worship. There is however a time to honor as the time that we come together as a community of believers and worship God. When we come together for the purpose of worship we are doing something that transcends time, space, and matter. We are lifting our voices as one with those believers who are present, those around the world, and those who stand before the throne of God lifting perfect praise to the Lamb and the One who sits on the Throne. The Holy Spirit is uniting us together in one body and combining our praise together so that every tribe, language, people, nation, and race are worshipping as one.
This time is not a time for frivolity. I, as much as anyone, enjoy joking around and having fun. There is a time and place for that. That time and place is not while we are congregated together for the purpose of worship. This time is not to be used for singing about my friends and loved ones who are waiting for me over yonder on that bright shore where beautiful flowers bloom and we get a mansion. All of that may be true to a degree, but we end up worshipping the blessing instead of the One who blesses. I want to see my family and friends, but may I never sing a song of worship about them! Heaven will be beautiful, but I dare not worship heaven. God is the fountain and focus of worship. Don't worship His future blessings. Worship Him.
This time is to be used for the worship of God alone. We worship Him through the clear preaching and hearing of His Word, through sacrificial giving of our means of living as, a picture of a life totally sacrificed to His will, and through the singing of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.
Regard The Ordinances As Meaningful
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the two ordinances that are taught in Scripture. Scripture also provides the parameters for observing each of these.
Baptism is reserved for those who believe and repent. Only those who have believed and repented are eligible for baptism. (I'm Baptist. Can you tell?) We have no other example given in Scripture.
Baptism is a visible portrayal of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In baptism we identify ourselves with Him. Just as Christ died for our sins, we show that our old man died with Him. As Christ was buried we show that we were buried with Him. As Christ was raised we show that we to have risen with Him in newness of life. It is a confession of our faith in Christ alone.
By baptism, we are united with a local body of believers, where we have the privilege and responsibility to watch over one another's souls.
The Lord's Supper, or Communion, is also a visible portrayal of the Gospel. When we take the bread and 'wine', we are committing an act of faith in Christ. We are displaying our faith in His body that was broken and His blood that was shed for our sins. When we partake of the Lord's Table, we are looking back in faith to His finished work. We are looking up waiting expectantly in faith for His return. We are looking around at our brothers in Christ recognizing that we are one body with them. We are looking inward at the reality of our union with Christ, represented by eating His 'body' and drinking His 'blood'.
Both of these ordinances must be guarded lest they become meaningless. It is often said that if you take the Lord's Supper too often that it will become meaningless. I don't think so. It will only become meaningless if we allow it to be available to those who have not shown evidence of biblical faith in Christ. We may feel that Baptism or the Lord's Supper is meaningless, but the meaningfulness of these ordinances does not depend on our feelings. The meaningfulness of these ordinances are spelled out for us in the Word of God.
"What if I 'm not worthy of Baptism or Communion?" No one is. Christ has bought your worthiness with his blood. But we do need to beware that we do not present ourselves for either of these ordinances with unconfessed sin. Not free of sin, that won't happen till we get our glorified bodies, but conscious and repentant of sin that is present in us.
When we recognize the significance and that Christ has commanded and granted these ordinances to the Church, we can begin to see how they are vital to our worship and to our sanctification as well. We have a constant reminder in them that we are to exhibit faith and repentance on a continuous basis. And faith and repentance are the supreme acts of worship.
Conclusion: As God's people we would hope that we would not drift from Him, but the sad fact of the matter is we have drifted, are drifting, and will drift again. That is why we must always be reforming ourselves, our families, and our Churches. We must repent and reform.