Growing in Grace: Worship
I have 2 brothers named Andrew. One is blood – Andrew Loginow. The other is legal – Andrew Vadnais. When I married Bethany, there was an existential change for me. I was all of the sudden a part of her family, and she mine. I gained Andrew Vadnais as a brother as a result of my marriage.
We’ve spent the last 2 weeks looking at saving faith. And today we’re continuing our series – you could call it “Growing in Grace” – looking at the next step. Once God saves you, what is the next step in growing as a Christian? I’m going to show you my hand from the start. We believe that the very next step is joining a local church. And we’re going to explore this topic together by asking 6 questions about the worship of the local church – who, what, where, when, why, and how? So, if you’re a note taker, there’s your outline.
The first question to answer is “who?” Who is the church? Certainly the Bible teaches that there is the universal church, which is comprised of all believers, Jew and gentile, from Adam and Eve until now. But the universal church is always made manifest in the local church. This is my definition of the local church: a church is a group of Christians who covenant with God and each other to worship God through the administration of the Word and the sacraments, the physical and spiritual care of each other, and the evangelization of the lost.
There is no such thing as Christianity separated from the local church. To be a Christian is to be a member of one of Christ’s churches. This doctrine is assumed in the Bible. Just as it is assumed that a follower of YHWH would become a member of the nation of Israel in the OT, so is it in the NT that followers of Christ become a member of a church. In Ephesians 20.28, Paul is speaking to the Ephesian Elders and gives them this instruction:
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
Paul’s admonition is just as applicable to the Elders of Christ Community Church today as it was to the Elders of the Ephesian church 2,000 years ago. Notice that Paul’s imperative assumes local church membership. How can local church Elders pay attention to their parishioners if we aren't all joining together in a local community? Paul says that the Holy Spirit made them Elders to care for God’s church. Man, I’m grateful for the men that the Spirit has made Elders here at CCC. But if there were no local church membership, then the task for Elders would be impossible.
This means that there is no such thing as lone ranger Christianity. God made us to be in community with one another. This fights against everything that we’re taught as rugged, individualistic Americans. And the Bible is very specific about Christians joining a local church. When you go to a Christian music concert, that’s not church. When you have a bible study with a couple of friends, that’s not church. Para church organizations, your quiet time, seminary, all of these things are good, but they are not the church. The church is the family of God, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit; she is the bride of Jesus, the Israel of God, the New Jerusalem, the holy nation.
Second, we must discern what the church is doing when she gathers. As I mentioned in my definition of the church, the church gathers to worship God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The purpose of gathering is to corporately worship our Holy God. We are coming together to sing, pray, give, read Scripture, hear the Word, take the Eucharist, and fellowship. We gather as a community to declare that God says who he says he is. He is holy and he is love. We gather to declare that we are who he says we are – image bearers who have fallen in sin. And we gather to declare that Jesus is who God says he is – the Christ, Son of the living God.
To worship God means to ascribe to him that which He deserves. In Matthew 22, the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asked them to show him a coin and then asked whose picture was on it. “Caesar,” they replied. Then Jesus said,
“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt 22.21)
The coin bore Caesar’s image, so it was due to him. We bear God’s image, so he deserves our lives. As we gather for worship every week, we are continually giving ourselves to God – to his Word and his table.
Thirdly, where is this happening? In this question, I’m not asking, “what is the address of Christ Community Church? This building at 8291 E. 14 Mile is not Christ Community Church; it is where Christ Community Church meets. We are Christ Community Church. So the where is wherever the local church gathers, but it is imperative that we gather. Hebrews 10.23-26 says this,
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.
We must hold fast to our confession. We must also stir one another up to love and good works. That is only possible if we meet together. Coming to church is a means of grace that God has given us. We are made more like Jesus when we are faithfully invested in the local church.
That means that if someone does not faithfully come to church, then they will not grow. If someone neglects to meet together with the local church, then they are living in sin. If someone says that they don’t need “organized religion,” and that they have church when they read their Bible alone, or meet with a friend at the coffee shop, they are spitting on the very bride of Christ. And I’ll tell you what, if you were to spit on my bride, we’d have a problem.
Whenever my boys disrespect their mother I remind them that they’re not just disrespecting their mom, but my wife and that I won’t have that. Do you think Jesus cares when his wife is disrespected? Cyprian said, “One cannot have God as father unless they also have the church as mother.” It’s the only place where you can hold fast to the confession, it’s the only place where you can be stirred to love and good works, so don’t neglect this means of grace!
When does the church gather? This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s healthy to remind ourselves why we do what we do. The church must corporately gather every Sunday. The Sunday morning worship service is the New Covenant Sabbath. If the church does not gather, or if members of the church neglect to gather on Sunday, they are in violation of the New Covenant Sabbath. This is true because Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead on the first day of the week – Sunday. Paul writes this instruction in 1 Cor 16.1-2:
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come
Church history affirms that the church has always believed, and practiced, gathering under the Word and the sacrament every Sunday. Now, this is where we have to repent of capitulating to modern cultural liturgies, and not historic, orthodox Christian liturgies. The other day my kids were watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (come inside, it’s fun inside). Mickey was teaching them the days of the week. He sang, “There’s Monday, and then there’s Tuesday, and then there’s Wednesday, Thursday, etc.” We’ve been trained to view Monday as the 1st day of the week because it’s the beginning of the workweek and Saturday and Sunday are the weekend. That’s a pagan calendar! Sunday is the 1st day of the week. It’s the 1st day because Christ resurrected on Sunday. When he did that, the worship of God’s people shifted. Saturday is no longer the Sabbath, but the Sunday gathering has become the Christian Sabbath in celebration of the Lord Jesus.
Now we come to the why question. Why is it imperative that we come to church, and the answer is two-fold – for God’s glory and for your own good. First, when the saints gather for worship, it is with the telos of glorifying God. The Reformed principle soli deo Gloria – to the glory of God alone – is the reason we exist, and so it drives us to worship. We come together to sing to God, give to God, pray to God, listen to God, and dine with God. We do it together because we acknowledge that we were made for him and for each other.
But the 2nd reason is what this sermon series is all about. We come to church for our good. The church is a means of grace. Corporate worship sanctifies God’s people; it is, in a sense, sacramental. When we sing together, pray together, listen to the same sermon together, take communion together, we are fighting the self-centered impulses inside ourselves and putting God and others before ourselves. God’s blessing is found in the community of his people. Which means that if you are not regularly giving yourself to the church, you are living in sin.
The final logical question to ask is how? How does God want us to worship him? One day Jesus was headed toward Galilee and he just had to travel through Samaria. As he was en route, he ran into a Samaritan woman and they struck up a conversation. The women could tell that Jesus was religious, so she asked him his opinion on different worship styles. You see the Jews believed that one must worship in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim. Who was correct? And then Jesus does what he normally does; he demolishes her 2 options and gives her the gospel. Jesus says:
The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Christians are called to worship the triune God in spirit and in truth. To worship in spirit means to engage your whole being. You’re not just going through the motions, but you’re engaging your mind. You’re thinking about the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the sermon, the table. You’re engaging your affections. You’re not cold toward the Lord, but you’re actively seeking to love and honor him. Don’t be a white washed tomb when we gather to worship, worship your heavenly Father in spirit.
But we also must worship him in truth. We don’t just decide what we want to believe about God, but his Word guides us. There’s far too much worship these days that may be full of. spirit, but is lacking in truth. We actively seek to fill our service with Scripture. We want to be shaped by the tradition of the Christian church. And above all we want this service to be centered on Jesus. If a worship service in not Christ-centered, it is not a Christian worship service
The world tries to create their own “Church” – their own family community. Maybe it’s through kids sports, pta, Facebook, or whatever, but it’s all just a shadow of what God has given us in the church. The church is called the bride of Christ. Through our soteriological marriage to King Jesus, we’ve gained a family. Just as I gained my 2nd Andrew through my marriage to Bethany, now through my marriage to Christ by faith, I’ve gained a Kevin McGuire, a Dan Sullivan, a Connie Frikken. I’ve gained you – Christ Community Church. Church, we need each other. The local assembly is a means of grace that Christ has given us to become more like him. If you neglect the church, it is detrimental for your soul, but if you give yourself to the church, which we’ll talk more about next week, you’ll find the riches of Christ. And bonus, if you’re a member of Christ Community Church, you also have 2 brothers named Andrew.