9.15.2012

Sabbath Meditation: Why You Should Go to Church



Psalm 84 “How lovely is your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts.” The word tabernacle means dwelling place.  The tabernacle was the place that God had chosen to come down and meet with his people in the wilderness.  The God of heaven and earth had descended to meet with his people that they might call upon his name and worship him in the beauty of his holiness.
Notice the fervency of the Psalmist, he is describing his love to come to worship. Deep within his being he longs, yes, even faints to think about the worship of God. We often think of OT worship as full of requirements, laws, and sacrifices so that there must have been no joy in coming to worship. But here the psalmist is rebuking the idea that the worship of God was some sort of chore, or some hard demand God put upon his people. That is not what it was at all.  He is describing that he found coming to the LORD’s house as the exact opposite, it’s lovely. How lovely is your tabernacle! It as if he says, “The worship of the Lord thrills my soul; it is my greatest passion, to be where God dwells. The worship of you O Lord is the most satisfying thing I have ever done with my life.”

This isn’t the only place such a description is given. Psalm 27 states , “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” The worship of the Lord for these saints was the ultimate blessing.
Why is worship so important? The Psalmist is not putting emphasis on places of stone or wood, or the physical structure of the tabernacle. He is speaking about the spiritual blessings that flow from God’s presence as he had chosen to come down and tabernacle among them.  There is an understanding presented to us in this psalm that when God’s people gathered corporately for worship on the Sabbath, there was something happening that you couldn’t get anywhere else.  You will notice in verse 2 that his heart and his flesh are crying out for the living God. God himself had chosen to come and dwell among them in that place. 

For the Old Testament saints, it wasn’t a question of how often they had to come to worship.  Forcing worship would be the most unnatural thing to do in light of what they understood.  The Lord always wanted his people to call the Sabbath a delight. Whenever it became a duty of forced servitude, you ended up with people drawing near with their mouths, while their hearts were far from him.  They went through the forms, devoid of sincerity of heart and they missed the intention of the Sabbath. 

For the Old Testament saints, the whole Sabbath was a day of rest and gladness. They gathered morning and evening for corporate worship.  We see this in the only designated psalm for the Sabbath, Psalm 92.

As the worshippers would come to the LORD’s house on the Sabbath, they would sing, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. This is remarkable. The only psalm with a superscription expressly designating this as a Psalm for the Sabbath, presents a pattern of God’s people gathering for worship morning and evening. 

It’s sad in our day that there is so much ignorance not only as to what worship is, but why this is needed.  Today, people love to quote Jesus who said that we no longer worship on this mountain or on that mountain but in spirit and in truth, and they have taken this as license to say that they no longer need the church because we have the Spirit. This may have a sound of wisdom, but it has lead to something very wrong.

There is a reason God had to give a commandment in the New Testament to let no one neglect the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some. The Scriptures always warned that there would be a problem of people saying they don’t need to come to church.  We live in those times.  And I suggest that people spiritually pinning away because of this disregard.  

It is a great tragedy that people today treat the worship of the lord as a burden to their already busy lives.  Can you imagine what the Lord is hearing from someone who asks, ‘Do I have to worship the Lord?” I respond, Has the Lord burdened us?  Is it too much to come one day out of our week to sing to him, enjoy him, acknowledge his goodness, and receive his grace to us in our struggle as sinners?  In this light, the excuse of someone who says that they don’t need to come and worship the Lord has nothing to do with being pushed or pulled, but it has everything to do with what Jesus said that men love the darkness more than the light.  Coming to the light is only welcomed by those who are assured that the Lord has been gracious in making his face to shine upon them. 

When the child of God knows the smiling countenance of the Lord, worship is the most splendid blessing of his life.  Here a power is given that cannot be found anywhere else.  Christ calls us to him that he might give us the food and drink of eternal life.  Christ stoops down and washes our feet.  This is where gospel is announced, that Christ died for our sins, that he rose for our justification, and that he is coming again to take us to be with him.  There is a power in worship that cannot be experienced elsewhere. 

James Boice one said, “There is something to be experienced of God in church that is not quite so easily experienced elsewhere.  Otherwise, Why have churches?  If it’s only instruction we need, get it by a tape or book.  If it’s only fellowship, have a home gathering. There is something to be said for the sheer physical singing of the hymns, the sitting in pews, the actual looking to the pulpit and gazing on the Bible as it is expounded, tasting the sacrament in the very atmosphere of the place set apart for the worship of God that is spiritually beneficial.

Here we are set upon a rock.  Here God looks upon the face of his anointed and blesses us. Come to the waters and be refreshed. Come, put your foot into the hands of the savior and he will cleanse you from all your sins. Come, worship the Lord!  

 

15 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. This is the most amazing thing I have read in a long time. I simply do not understand the idea that Church could ever be optional, that the night service is somehow less important than the morning, or that we wouldn't long for it like the deer that pants for water. If we want to be like David, in being people after God's own heart, then certainly we should crave the worship of God like water in the desert we're in!

    I think people's willing neglect of Sunday worship, from week to week, the night service, and while on vacations proves that they haven't really understood the gospel. I mean, if we had, could we ever act like that? God himself, the Lord of the Universe calling us to worship and we find it burdensome. Ugh. It's like someone saying: God, don't impose on my "me" time.

    1 John 5:3
    For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

    Thank you Pastor Gordon. I had never connected Jesus washing of the disciples feet with his washing of ours during the worship service. Awesome, and what a privilege.

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  3. I will never forget a sermon I heard once about going to church. The question was posed - do you know of any hungry, truly hungry, person walking away from food that is offered to them? What if was a banquet table filled with delicious food - free food? What hungry person would walk away and decide to stay hungry? Don't you hunger for the Word of God?

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  4. Thanks, Mark. Love the 1 John verse! People think they are coming to worship to offer God something. This does happen as a respone, but we have confused our responses with the primary purpose of worship--to "receive" the means of grace. When we begin to understand the greatness of grace, so exponentially grows our view of worship and response.

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  5. Hi Sandy, I once knew a homeless person that refused a meal. Strange, homeless but not "truly" hungry. But you're correct, give me a truly hungry homeless person, he will love my food! "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isa 55:1 ESV) Great comment!

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  6. Chris - thanks for this post. It is useful and is a good challenge to those who think church worship is optional.

    I wonder, though, whether in thinking about the benefits of worship to us (without taking away from anything that you have said), we miss the central issue. Worship is about God. Worship is worth-ship - in gathering together with God's people we express His infinite worth. God alone is worthy of worship. And He is more glorified in the corporate worship of His people than when one individual worships Him alone. (Hence the constant calls in the Psalms for all nations / all of creation to worship Him.) When we only worship God individually, we are robbing God of the glory He deserves. But, when we worship God corporately because of the benefits we receive in doing so, we also rob God of glory (and ourselves of benefit.) Only when we worship God because we are captivated by Him will worship become what God intends it to be.

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  7. Hi Michael, I appreciate what you are saying. It's similar to the whole distinction John Piper makes as he incessantly quotes Edwards, "God is most glorified when we are most sastisfied in him." Piper has taken this to mean that we should just be satsified in God for who he is, and not for what we can get out of him. This sounds right, but I've always been left wondering how I can be satisfied in him apart from understanding his benefits. In other words, who is approaching who with a need? As Ursinus says, the benefits of Christ are offered in the gospel. So the question becomes, does God need our worship or do we need him, and why do we need him? How we answer that will determine what we believe is happening in worship. Are we washing the feet of Jesus because of his greatness, or is Christ stooping to cleanse us because we have a need as sinners? I'm sure we would agree that God's doesn't need our worship. But surely you would agree that we have a need to be washed. This is why the Reformers called worship a divine "service". Here the benefits of Christ are communicated to us in worship as we receive from the hand of Christ what we need. In this way, as we believe, trust, and receive, God is glorified. Apart from understanding our need and what Christ is bestowing upon us, we will make worship only about what we are offering to God. What we offer is only in terms of gratitude. But the Reformers understood that the greatest act of worship is to listen and receive attentively the words of life that are given to nourish our souls in the struggle against sin. Just some food for thought.

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    1. Chris - I think the litmus test is who is at the centre. If I encourage people to worship God because of the benefits that they will receive in doing so, I encourage them to put themselves at the centre. Then, very logically, if they don't think they are getting those benefits, they'll either stop attending or find somewhere "better." But worship is intended to reorient our lives so that they are centred on God. It is an act of submission, obedience and dependence. Many times I may not feel like coming to worship - but I come anyway. Many times worshipping God will be profoundly uncomfortable as He exposes my sins - but I come anyway. Many times I may wonder whether worship is doing me any good - but I trust in God's promises and I come anyway. It's not about me - it's about Him.

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  8. For the most part, I agree; however, I also see a lot of people come to worship in God's house and then the rest of the week, forget about personal devotions, family devotions and personal time with God. I have a 16 year old daughter that "speaks" with God for an hour at a time. Let us also make sure that we don't condemn those families who don't come to church regularly, for you might not know what their situation in life is, that it is SO personal, they are not wanting to share what that situation is and need time to work their issues out without interference from the church. The church cannot always fix a family's situation that is facing a multitude of issues. You might think, well that would be the time TO BE in church. Not necessarily. "Where two or three are gathered", must be remembered also. If a family has expressed that there are issues in their family that they are trying to resolve, then the church must be patient and not pressure that family. It is not right to excommunicate a family from church because of their attendance when they have explained their reason for breaking away for a time. That doesn't mean they've left the word of God and abandoned God, it means, that there is something so personal going on that they need time to heal, get counseling and receive compassion from the church leaders, not condemnation.

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  9. Hello Chris,

    Thank you for the post, I am grateful of the reminder of the importance of Sunday worship and agree that to be a Christian in our context is more, but not less, then belonging to a local church in membership and attending frequently (I say "in our context" only because there are frontier missionaries who are the only Christians around and I do not want to give a definition that would accuse them of sin for not worshiping in a corporate environment. I suggest Michael Willemse take this into consideration (see his comment above)).

    Can you please clarify what you mean when you say "Come, put your foot into the hands of the savior and he will cleanse you from all your sins"? I was not going to ask, but I do so because of the comment by Mark "I had never connected Jesus washing of the disciples feet with his washing of ours during the worship service." Does Sunday worship have anything to do with our justification? Have we not already been cleansed upon the moment of saving faith?

    It is hard for me not to turn this into a conversation about method (Sunday night services, worship type, etc) however, I do not think that is the point of this post. You are making a statement about the call to worship and I pray many heed your call Chris. Understanding that God is not some god needing our praise to fulfill something lacking in Him, is a fact that brings praise and peace in me.

    On a side note, having just read Piper's "Desiring God" I do not think you are accurately representing him when you say "It's similar to the whole distinction John Piper makes as he incessantly quotes Edwards, "God is most glorified when we are most sastisfied in him." Piper has taken this to mean that we should just be satsified in God for who he is, and not for what we can get out of him." but I am not sure this post is the best place to go into that more and I have to get back to work...

    Thanks again Chris. Praise God for men like you making famous His name and work.

    Jeff
    http://progressivescantification.wordpress.com/

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  10. For the most part, I agree; however, I also see a lot of people come to worship in God's house and then the rest of the week, forget about personal devotions, family devotions and personal time with God. I have a 16 year old daughter that "speaks" with God for an hour at a time. Let us also make sure that we don't condemn those families who don't come to church regularly, for you might not know what their situation in life is, that it is SO personal, they are not wanting to share what that situation is and need time to work their issues out without interference from the church. The church cannot always fix a family's situation that is facing a multitude of issues. You might think, well that would be the time TO BE in church. Not necessarily. "Where two or three are gathered", must be remembered also. If a family has expressed that there are issues in their family that they are trying to resolve, then the church must be patient and not pressure that family. It is not right to excommunicate a family from church because of their attendance when they have explained their reason for breaking away for a time. That doesn't mean they've left the word of God and abandoned God, it means, that there is something so personal going on that they need time to heal, get counseling and receive compassion from the church leaders, not condemnation.

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  11. I re-posted the comment above because I did not realize you could not be anonymous. Some people are looking for answers and have issues that are very private, so I don't quite understand the reasoning for this, so I complied and put an I.D. on the above post.

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  12. Jeff, you write,
    Can you please clarify what you mean when you say "Come, put your foot into the hands of the savior and he will cleanse you from all your sins"?

    Most commentators, including Calvin, Hendriksen, on and on, make a distinction here. Christ said he who is bathed is already clean, except his feet." One is already justified by faith in Christ and his word, but has a daily need to be washed since his "feet" become dirty in his travel as a pilgrim. So, as I John says that when we confess our sins he is gracious and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. One of the benefits of corporate worship is to have announced to us the pardon of our sins. As for Piper, he has constantly made this point in all his sermons, books, etc. Michael's post followed that line of thinking and I was simply observing that it is impossible to appreciate, enjoy, know, rest, trust in Christ apart from his benefits.

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  14. Dear Mr ID, I do require a name so that people cannot hide and there is accountablity with their comments. And maybe this indicates part of the problem I have with your post. Respectively, this individualistic mindset is what is killing the church today. We are not islands to ourselves. As important as personal Bible study and prayer is, these things do not replace corporate worship. This is why Paul said how will they hear without a preacher, and how will they preach unless they are sent? If personal devotions are all that is needed, why have church at all to begin with. I would encourage you to reread the Boice comment. There is something happening in worship that you cannot get anywhere else, the means of grace. We don't send up grace to God in our prayers, he condescends to bestow it upon us in the foolish means he has chosen. This is why the "command" to gather corporately is given, not as a burden, but to be a blessing. I don't condemn people for missing worship, I have pity and concern for their souls because they are dying of thirst in a land in which there is no water. Come to these waters and you will never thirst again. Thanks for commenting.

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