Each week, there is the opportunity to gather with others to worship by expressing praise, adoration, devotion, submission, and gratitude to the King of kings and Lord of lords – to the One who paid it all when we could not. For many, it is the highlight of their week to gather with others in the name of Jesus Christ.
But for others, the perspective of this time is skewed. The gathering is just an isolated event in a weekly string of events. It’s simply one more thing to do. We do not come prepared; we leave being no different, and perhaps wonder why we came.
But when taking a broad, biblical view of worship and the body of Christ, we remember that the gathering together of the saints for worship is the culmination of a week of living worship. It is a time to come together and remember, celebrate, ponder, pray, rejoice, encourage, and be renewed. When we approach this time with our spiritual eyes open and our hearts and minds ready to engage with God and with His people, it is no longer one more thing on our calendars. It is a can’t miss encounter with the the glorious God who loves us immensely and gave His Son for our wretched sin.
Yet in the midst of messy lives, people often miss the significance of the corporate gathering. Sometimes physically, but more often spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. How do we engage in this without it being all about us? (Yes, it is possible and appropriate to benefit from the times the church gathers.) In gathering and encountering God, we can experience transformation and renewal that prepares us to live daily lives that glorify Him. That sure seems like a good idea, but how do we wrap up a stressful week of work, family, and relationships so that we can remember and respond to God?
Preparation is vital.
Some time ago I came across this article at The Worship Community. I so appreciated what worship pastor David Linder wrote about preparation, that I asked to share it with you. Instead of approaching Sunday morning as just another (stressful) event with our families, he offered a cool acronym to help in preparing to meet with the Savior of our soul, S.O.S.
The First “S” is Submit. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Heb. 5:7). We need to follow the example of Christ, who was God, but was still obedient to His Father even though it cost Him everything (Phil 2:1-11). We need to be people of prayer, but not just praying “Lord, help me to worship you today,” though, that’s a great place to start. Rather, we need to pray, Listen to the Spirit’s prompting and the follow through with what the Holy Spirit tells us to do. “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation…because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God…and by him we cry, “Abba,Father” (Rom. 8:1-26). When we feel the Spirit leading us to respond in worship, we have an obligation to follow through. It’s not just what Jesus would do, it’s what He did.
The “O” is for Others. We need to think about others and we need to not think about others. Make sense? Just in case it doesn’t let me explain. First we need to think about others. In any worship service, the people leading worship aren’t just those on the stage. Everyone has the opportunity to lead someone else in worship. And when you Submit to the Spirit’s leading, the same Spirit could be at work in someone around you. That same Spirit may want to use you to lead them.
At the same time, we need to not think of others. We should not restrict our worship for fear of how others might perceive us, instead Fear the Lord. “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them” (Ps. 25:14). Do not be confused by the word Fear. It is a term of worship. When used in scripture it is used in terms of Reverence and Awe, a Hatred of Evil and an Obedience of God.
The last “S” is for Sacrifice. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of Praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:15-16). What’s comfortable for us, isn’t a sacrifice. And don’t forget that in our corporate times of worship when you make a sacrifice you are sharing with others, and that is pleasing to God.
“I will sacrifice a free will offering to you, I will praise your name O LORD, for it is Good. (Ps. 54:6)” We sing songs of praise and thanksgiving and offer them as a sacrifice not simply because we’re commanded to, but because Jesus sacrificed himself for us, and because we want to experience now as well as look forward to a time that is to come when all worshippers will worship in Spirit and Truth. (Heb. 13:12-14; John 4:23-24).
Think about it, a time when our worship will be uninhibited by our fallen state and we will always obey what the Spirit tells us to do. A time when we will see Him clearly, face to face and we will be able to worship Him without any false pretense, but based solely on the truth that we see standing before us. What a day that will be. But don’t think that’s something reserved for Heaven, because we can experience it together. We can Experience God, when we come together each weekend to worship and we Submit to the Spirit’s leading, serve the others around us, when we get outside of what’s comfortable to us and offer up to God a Sacrifice of Praise.
May the Lord God Almighty through the power of the Holy Spirit empower your church’s times together for His glory so that we may walk in the newness of life offered through the blood of Jesus Christ.
How do you prepare for the weekly worship gathering you are a part of?