We Gather to Respond to God
When we encounter God, we must respond to God. Not responding to an encounter with God is not an option! In fact, worship is our response to God. To just encounter God via his truth in the songs we sing and in the preaching of his word is not enough. To just be at church and sing the songs and hear the preaching is not enough. It’s not enough to just show up. This gathering becomes a festive worship gathering, it becomes a celebration, it becomes a party as we respond to God. All true worship is a response to God—to whom he reveals himself to be and to what he’s done for us in Christ. And we respond to him with joy and brokenness and humility and gratitude and awe and wonder and reverence and love and that response is worship!
Now if we understand this—that all true worship is a response to God—it will protect us from being Pharisees. Do you remember what Jesus said about the Pharisees? Matthew 15:8, “this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Understanding that worship is a response to God protects Sunday morning from becoming a formality. It protects us from simply going through the motions. Singing the songs and hearing the sermons is not enough! But if your singing flows from an awareness of who God is and what he’s done, if it flows from meditation on his greatness, if it flows from joy in his mercy, then singing is worship.
The same is true with listening to preaching. It’s only a form of worship if it elicits a response from us. I think we can tend to view worship as something we do (which is correct, it’s our response), but since preaching is done by me (and not you), we might fail to realize that preaching is corporate worship. But it is an act of worship when you listen with an eager mind and responsive heart. The reason it is an act of worship is that you are listening to God speak (through His Word) and responding to what you hear. So we gather together in order to respond to our encounter with God. And our response is worship and this worship protects us from the formality and hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
It also protects us from legalism, from viewing this celebration as a means to earn God’s favor. I think it’s easy to slip into the false notion that in worship we work our way into God’s presence. That is not true! Worship is not a means into God’s presence. The finished work of Jesus Christ is! That’s the gospel! It’s true that in worship, corporate worship in particular, we may become very aware of God’s presence. That’s an amazing mercy! But it wasn’t our worship that got us there. It is the blood of Christ that makes entrance into God’s presence possible. We enter through his flesh. We draw near to God because we are sprinkled clean by Jesus’ blood. So worship is not a means into God’s presence. That’s legalism. That’s scorning the gospel. Worship is our joyful response to the fact that God has made a way into his presence through Jesus. And worship is our exultation in the mercy that represents. We don’t gather to strive for the goal of entering into God’s presence. We gather together to corporately respond to the glorious truth that as the church we are in God’s presence! I love that truth!
*Adapted from Together: Gathering, a sermon orginally preached by Rick Gamache on September 18, 2016*
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