“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.”
A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in church, singing with my church family and fellow believers, thinking, “I really love Sundays.” There is something deeply encouraging about gathering with fellow believers, singing songs that reinforce biblical truth, hearing messages preached faithfully from God’s Word, and joining together to offer praise to our God. I can’t even explain how deeply encouraging this is, but it truly is. Some weeks I feel like I tend to drift along a bit, in danger of drifting along with the world rather than remembering who I am in Christ as strongly as I want to do. Then Sunday comes along, and the Word and fellowship remind me again about our mission, remind again to hold fast, and to ‘Keep on,’ as Alistair Begg says. That particular Sunday I was so encouraged to worship and so moved by how much we need to encourage each other while it is still called today, that I thanked my God for Sundays.
A few years ago I read the book, ‘Jesus, Name Above All Names’ by Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg. One idea that stood out to me, and still does today, is the thought that when we gather together to worship God, Jesus stands among us, His people, and through Him we are able to offer our praise to God through song and the hearing of His Word preached by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is through Jesus, our High Priest, that our praise is made acceptable to God.
I once heard someone who had just returned from a youth-oriented conference where the music had been ramped up and like a concert most of the time bemoaning why can’t people worship like that at church. Even at the time that bothered me, because there is a real danger in mistaking the emotional manipulation that happens in that kind of setting for worship and assuming if we don’t exhibit that kind of emotional response then we aren’t truly worshiping. Sometimes I think we bank too much on a feeling and not enough on what we know to be true. We don’t have to have emotionally charged music and lights and smoke machines in order to truly worship, and sometimes actually, it’s probably better if we DON’T have all that.
One Sunday that has stayed with me for a long time happened during the year we got to be members at Parkside Church. Pastor Alistair had just preached a sermon about our hope in Christ and looking forward to His return. The song we ended with was the hymn, “It is Well With My Soul.” Something very special happened that morning that I have never forgotten. There was no emotional manipulation in the music, just the simple musicians playing and the congregation singing, but, oh, what singing when you stand in a room full of people who genuinely, deeply believe the words they are singing and have just been encouraged again through the preaching of the Word with our great hope in Christ. That room swelled with the voices and tears of people as we sang those verses and the praise that rang in that room was surely merely a glimpse of what the praise in Heaven will sound like.
This past Sunday, I had reminded my son of that moment and he smiled, he remembered. Well, our closing hymn Sunday night after hearing the Word preached and getting to take communion with our church family was ‘It is Well With My Soul,’ and you know what? It happened again. As we reached that verse that says, “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!” the voices in that room swelled and tears fell and there is just nothing like that moment when you are reminded again of how great a salvation our Lord Jesus grants us by His grace. How precious it is to be forgiven and have it be well with my soul!
People whose minds are informed by the truth of God’s word and who have been forgiven and set free will worship. Even if it’s a simple piano and a layman with a hymnal open in his hand singing with us, we need no false emotional manipulation to sing out because we worship a mighty God.
I am so thankful for Sundays. I need the encouragement I always find in gathering together with my church family to press on during the other days of the week. And here it is Wednesday, and I’m still pondering and remembering and wanting to be more faithful to put into practice what I’m learning and hearing each week.
Alistair Begg recently finished a series on the Sabbath on Truth for Life that was challenging and encouraging, and listening to it probably is what spurred me on to write this post. I recommend it!