Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Importance of Corporate Worship


It is true that a child of God can worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23) without being at a specific physical location designed for worship. I think that it would do many of us some good to worship with our churches in a different physical location to keep us from becoming fixated on meeting God at a particular time and place. The curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom at Jesus’ crucifixion (Mark 15:38), dramatically demonstrating that the way to God is now open for all. However, I believe that some Christ followers interpret such truths in a way that leads to a disastrously casual attitude about their own participation in corporate worship. It doesn’t matter much that we worship in a specific physical space as a church body, but it is critical, critical! that we worship God corporately. You cannot survive as a follower of Jesus without it. Satan hates you. He hates you. He wants to destroy you and everyone that you care about. If he can keep you away from corporate worship, you are a far easier target. 1 Peter 5:8 in the ESV says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We’ve all seen episodes of National Geographic or Nature where a predator is pursuing a herd of some kind. Usually a single predator is no match for a herd. But if the predator can isolate one animal, often one younger or weaker, then the animal is easy prey.

When a person is discouraged or even depressed, there is a strong tendency to want to hide and not be around other people. Also a young person is largely at the mercy of the adults in his or her life as to whether or not they will attend worship. These two groups are the most vulnerable to be “picked off” by Satan to devour.

So, I urge you to not listen to the voice of Satan who says, “You don’t need to go to church this Sunday. You can go next week. You need the downtime more than you need to be with all those people. A lot of them are hypocrites anyway.” I’ve got news for you; we are all hypocrites to one extent or another. None of us lives up to our own ideals, let alone consistently following the instructions of scripture. Welcome to hypocrites anonymous! The church is not a museum for people who are perfectly polished works of art. The church is a hospital for sick people. The church is an organization for which to get in, you have to be willing to acknowledge that you are sick. Here’s how Jesus said it, “Repent and believe the gospel.”

Furthermore, you don’t come to church to make God like you better. You can’t make God love you more than he does right now. We need to be in worship because we all need to be reminded together that God is God and that we are not. It’s very unlikely that we will make spiritual progress without regularly sitting with other believers and hearing the gospel passionately preached from God’s word. That may be a bit out of fashion, but it is a critical part of the way God draws people to himself. (I’m not forgetting that there are some people who cannot physically get out. That’s a different issue. Also this has nothing to do with worship attendance figures at Bethany Place. I think that is going really well. Rather, the importance of corporate worship is a deep conviction of mine that it was time to share.)

This Sunday at Bethany Place I will be talking about Fighting for Joy from Psalm 42-43. One important way we do that according to that text is to worship. I am looking forward to seeing you here on Sunday as we fight for joy together. You can see the scripture and outline for that message below. I will link to the audio here on the blog when it is available next week. You can get to past sermons at Bethany Place by clicking here, or here, or by subscribing to the podcast from within Itunes.

Fighting for Joy, Learning the Language of Faith Part 3
Psalm 42:1–43:5 (ESV)

1.    Recognize that longing for the past doesn’t help
   As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
   My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
       When shall I come and appear before God?
   My tears have been my food
day and night,
       while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
   These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
       how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
       with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
   Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
       Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

2.    See the futility of complaining in the present
       My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
       from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
   Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
       all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
   By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
   I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
       Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10    As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
       while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
11    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
       Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

3.    Pursue God in prayer and worship now
43 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
       from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!
   For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
       Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?
   Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
       let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
   Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
       and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
   Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
       Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.



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