We Gather to Encounter God
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Hebrews 10:19-25
Why do we gather? We gather together to encounter God. As members of his church, we have been given access into God’s presence--together. That’s astounding! And so verse 19 of this text says, “we (plural) have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” And verse 22 says, “let us (plural) draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Jesus died in order to bring us to God. That is the best news of the good news. By his blood, we come. The cross of Christ is a doorway into the presence of God for all who believe.
There is an encounter with God and an experience of his presence that is not available to us outside the church. Sunday morning is extraordinary. What we do here is no ordinary thing. It can feel routine and mundane and familiar. But it is actually mind-blowing. Let me try to convince you that’s true. I’ll stay in the Book of Hebrews, but let’s look a couple of chapters ahead. Chapter 12, verses 22-24. This text is that we should have in mind when we come to the Sunday Celebration, when we come to church, each week. This is a description of the gathering we come to. This is the gathering we join when we walk through those doors. This is a description of reality—a reality that we can’t now see completely with our physical eyes. But it is reality nonetheless—a very significant reality! Let’s read:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, (We don’t just go to Oak Grove Middle School in Bloomington, Minnesota when we come to a Sunday gathering here. We come to Mount Zion, to the city of God. Now, there’s a sense in which this city is still to come. But there’s a sense in which we’ve already arrived there in Christ. Together we are citizens of the city of God, enjoying all the benefits of citizenship. And to gather together as the church is to come into the city of God.)
And [you come] to innumerable angels in festal gathering, (You see, this is a gathering! And it’s a festive gathering. In other words, it’s a party. There are angels at this gathering and they are dressed for a party because that’s what Sunday morning is—it’s a celebration. We join innumerable angels when we gather together on Sunday to celebrate. And not only are there angels, but look at verse 23.)
23 and [you come] to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, (That’s every Christian! With this gathering as a local church, we join every gathering of those enrolled in heaven.)
and [you come] to the spirits of the righteous made perfect (That’s every believer who has died and gone to heaven. So in this gathering we join with Abraham and Moses and David and James and John and Peter and Paul and Augustine and Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon and Larry Strandquist--we’re worshiping with Larry this morning).
(And all the assembly is there) to [come to] God, the judge of all, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
That’s a description of a remarkable encounter with God. And it happens corporately. It’s a gathering! Participation in this Sunday celebration is, in a very real sense, participation in the heavenly worship. There’s a veil, but we’re almost in the same room. And we come celebrating into the presence of the same God, by the same blood of Jesus, and we do it together! That’s what we participate in during this Sunday celebration. We gather together in order to encounter God, to celebrate the blood of Christ shed on our behalf, we gather to party in God’s presence because of the gospel. This is a significant thing we do together every Sunday morning. Why do we gather? We gather together to encounter God. And it’s an experience of his that’s only available when we’re in the same room.
*Adapted from Together: Gathering, a sermon orginally preached by Rick Gamache on September 18, 2016*
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