Worship has always been an important part of the lives of God’s people. From the time of Moses all the way through the New Testament, we read about the people of God assembling to offer worship to God. This year’s pandemic has given us all a newfound appreciation for the worship assembly on Sunday. We realize that what had become a routine in the lives of God’s people should never be taken for granted.
Whether you have been to more assemblies than you can count, or you are a new convert, there are some things you should keep in mind this Lord’s day as you enter into the assembly to worship. I hope these five reminders will help us all to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
1. God Is Present
As you worship this Sunday, one of the fundamental things to keep in mind is that the Lord is present. It is true that we can never escape God’s presence (Ps 139:7-11). God’s omnipresence is something we normally emphasize in studies on Christian apologetics, but as it relates to worship, we need to remind ourselves of this spiritual reality. Jesus described God as one seeking those to worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).
As we come together to worship God, we are in the presence of one another, but most importantly we are in the presence of our God (Ps 95:6). I wonder how a constant reminder of this reality would affect the way we approach each aspect of our worship. We worship alongside the brethren, we teach and admonish each other, but we worship God alone (Matt 4:10; Rev 19:10).
God is present everywhere we go but there is an added significance when we come before God in worship. This Lord’s day—and every other day for that matter—remember that God is present and paying attention (Prov 15:3). God is watching us sing, take the Lord’s supper, daydream during the sermon, or whatever else we are engaged in. The presence of God in our worship assemblies does not need to incite paralyzing fear within us, but it should cause us to have pious reverence (Ps 89:7). As you scan the auditorium this Lord’s Day and take note of who is there, remember to account for the one who is invisible (1 Tim 1:17)!
2. People Are Hurting and Struggling
We are not to abandon or forsake the assembly of God’s people (Heb 10:25). However, it is not always easy to walk through the doors and worship. It is not because God is unworthy, but because some seasons of life are harder than others. Right before the verse which tells us not to “skip church” we are told to encourage each other and stir each other up to love and good works (Heb 10:24). We are to encourage each other daily (Heb 3:13) and Sunday is an opportune time to fulfill this obligation.
When you walk into the assembly Sunday, remember that hurting people are present. I once heard Jeff Jenkins say in a sermon, “there is pain on every pew.” The more I preach and deal with people, the more the truth of his words resonate with me. While we are to worship God, we also need to be sure not to forget those in our presence who are “limping along” (1 Thess 5:14).
It will take all that some people have within them just to get through the doors this Lord’s day. Remember to be kind. Give a smile or an encouraging word and leave the destructive criticism at home (see Col 4:6). Some are dealing with difficult children or maybe difficult parents. Some marriages are on the rocks. Others may be unsure of their future employment. There may be those who are battling depression, anxiety, self-worth issues, or mental health problems in other ways.
“God is near to the brokenhearted, and the closer we get to God the closer we will get to the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18).”
Jesus’ heart went out to the hurting and so should ours (Matt 9:36; 11:28-30). God is near to the brokenhearted, and the closer we get to God the closer we will get to the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18). Look for someone to lift up when you assemble this Sunday because I can assure you there will be someone there who can use it.
3. Examine Yourself
It’s funny how we can have 20/20 vision when we observe the issues of others, but we struggle to see our imperfections and areas of needed improvement. When we come to worship God, we must remember to examine ourselves. As we listen to the sermon, we should search for what applies to us. We are to do our best to present ourselves approved to God (2 Tim 2:15). We need to allow the word of God to work on our hearts before we think of how it could help others. Sometimes we may be listening to a sermon or even preaching it and thinking “I know just who needs to hear this sermon.”
The person who I need to have in mind first as I preach or listen to a lesson is myself. Peter told those who heard him preach on Pentecost to save themselves (Acts 2:40). Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves (2 Cor 13:5). The only person we can control is ourselves, so that’s where we must start. There is nothing wrong with hearing something that could help someone else, but we must be sure not to listen for others first.
SEE ALSO: WHY PEOPLE FALL ASLEEP IN WORSHIP
When taking the Lord’s supper, we are to examine ourselves as we eat the bread and drink the cup (1 Cor 11:28). Jesus died for the world, but I need to realize he died for me as an individual (Gal 2:20). Worship is a communal act, but it involves individual introspection. Are you taking the Christian life seriously? Are you believing the promises of God? Are you producing the fruit of the Spirit? Are you shunning the works of the flesh? Do you truly mean the words that you sing? These are the questions that we should be asking ourselves as we come before the throne of God in worship. We can’t answer these questions for anyone else and no one else can answer them for us (Rom 14:12; 2 Cor 5:10). This Sunday, take the mirror of God’s word and be sure to look into it for yourself first (Jas 1:23-25).
4. Visitors are Watching
I’m not sure if you will have visitors present where you attend this Sunday. Still, I can assure you that if you do have visitors they will be watching. I believe it is important to remember that we do not gather for the purpose of entertaining visitors or members (see point #1). But visitors will get an idea of what Christianity is about from what they see in the assembly (see 1 Cor 14:23). We should conduct worship in an orderly fashion because God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33). We should also be orderly because our worship says something to our visitors about who we are and the God that we serve (1 Cor 14:40).
If you have a role in leading the worship services be sure to not rush through things as if everyone knows why we do what we do—an explanation is sometimes helpful. When the preacher starts the invitation, don’t grab a songbook and ignore what he’s saying. If the invitation doesn’t look important to those who are members, visitors might conclude it doesn’t matter for them either.
We should be careful about the example we set (see Rom 12:17). There is a sense in which we are a divine advertisement and our worship speaks volumes. Maybe a member is studying with someone and brings them to worship to show them what the people of God are about. May we be known for our love for God and our love for our neighbors (1 Tim 1:5). Visitors are more likely to become members if members behave as Scripture says they should.
5. The Gospel Changes the World
We will sing about it and hear it in the sermon, but we need to be reminded that the gospel changes the world. The gospel is God’s power to save (Rom 1:16). The gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. Throughout the week we hear so many conflicting messages about what we really need in order to live, thrive, and survive. On Sunday we get to hear the truth proclaimed. The truth is, hope is only found in Jesus (1 Tim 1:1). There is only salvation in Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The world needs to hear this message and we need to remember it. The first-century Christians overcame threats and persecution because they knew the life-transforming power of the message of the cross (1 Cor 1:18; Rev 12:11).
We are on the winning team. In Christ, we are more than conquerors.
We are on the winning team. In Christ, we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37). While all are invited, only those who believe and obey enjoy the victory. As you worship this Sunday, whether it’s with a gathering as small as 20 or one as large as 700, remember the gospel we proclaim and believe can change the world—it already has.
Worship God with everything you can this Sunday. Worship him as he desires to be worshipped. Come before him in spirit and in truth. Hopefully, these reminders will help us to take our worship more seriously and to be better servants of our God.