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Created for Corporate Worship

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 19, 2023 12:01 am

Created for Corporate Worship

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 19, 2023 12:01 am

Is corporate worship an optional exercise or an essential element of the Christian life? Today, Jason Helopoulos considers the biblical mandate to prioritize and prepare for the weekly privilege of worshiping with the church.

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There is no Lone Ranger Christianity. There's no such thing. You need the body.

I need the body. We need one another because we belong to one another. It would have blown the circuits in any apostle's head or any prophet's head or any disciple's head to hear a Christian talk about not needing to go to worship, let alone not wanting to go to worship. Church attendance, at least in the U.S., seems to be declining. But what may be of more concern, as you'll hear today, is of those who do attend church. On average, they only go once a month. Many of us have forgotten that we were created for corporate worship.

Thanks for joining us for today's edition of Renewing Your Mind. We're featuring messages from Jason Holopoulos' new teaching series, Created for Worship. Ever since I became a Christian, I've met professing Christians who claim that they don't need to go to church. I can think of several now who, although claiming to be a follower of Christ, never attend a gathering of Christians on the Lord's Day. Maybe you know someone like that.

Maybe that's you. Maybe you go to corporate worship most weeks, but you certainly wouldn't call it the highlight of your week. Well, I'm glad that you're with us, and I hope Reverend Holopoulos' message today is an encouragement as he makes the case that Christians have been created for corporate worship. Let me give you, just in summary, a few principles to think about as I think about corporate worship and what should mark it as we think of gathering together with God's people and God's presence on Sundays and do that in His presence. One, it should be word-centered.

We've looked at that already. We're going to continue to look at that, that we read the Word, we preach the Word, we sing the Word, we pray the Word, we see the Word in the sacraments, we confess the Word. So it is a word-saturated service. Second, it's to be doxological, and we've referenced that as well, that it is all to the praise of God. So when we are thinking about worship, it is directed towards God. It is doxological. It is to be praise that's offered to Him. It is also dialogical, and we're going to discuss that a little more here in our lesson, in this lesson and the next lesson.

But it is dialogical in that there is a conversation that is happening in the midst of it between God and between us, and I hope to bring that out here in a few minutes. Next, it's to be simple. It's not to be something that is fancy, that is adorned with all kinds of props and show, and it is just simple.

And why? Because it's word-centered. We're focused on what we're hearing. And so all of the other things that would be a distraction, they quickly are to be gone from our services. It's just to be a simple service. It is also, because it's directed towards God, it is to be reverent. It is to be done with reverence and awe, as the writer of Hebrews says. So if we are focusing upon God and we have a great God, then it should be a reverent service.

But that doesn't mean that it's stiff and formal. It is also to be joy-filled, because we're recipients of grace. If we're gathering together, not only with our King, but with our Savior and friend, then there should be joy that's erupting in our hearts and that's coming forth from our mouths, and that's evident with smiles on our faces as we're worshiping and as we're together with one another. It is also, and this is one of the things that the Reformers especially highlighted, is that the services are to be edifying. If it's not edifying, then it's not worship.

It is meant to build up the saints, and it's meant to encourage our faith, and it's meant to equip us. And so if it's not actually edifying, then it's not true worship. And then lastly, it's to be verbal. It's something that we do with our ears and with our mouths. So we're listening, we're speaking. It's not about what we see on a screen. It's not about pictures that we see in the room. It's about what we hear and what we say.

It's a very verbal gathering. So those are a few just principles as we think about corporate worship together. This is what I want to think through, though, here in our time together in this session, is do you actually need to go to corporate worship? Do you actually need to?

Should you? I was reading a study recently that just came out within the last couple of months that said that the average Christian, the average Christian in this country, in America, the average Christian in America that is a church-going Christian, OK, the average church-going Christian in the United States now goes to church once a month, once a month. Do you need to go? We've got podcasts. You can listen to sermons on your computer, on your phone that you carry around in your pocket. Listen, there can be a lot of benefit just gathering together with other Christians for a small group Bible study. Do you actually need to gather together with God's people on Sunday in corporate worship?

I'd argue the case is absolutely yes. First, because of the corporate nature of our faith. We're bound together. We've been put together. If you think about the analogies that are used throughout the New Testament regarding the people of God, they are corporate in nature. We're the flock of God. We're being built into a holy temple under God. We're told that we are the bride of Christ as we are put together.

And all of these are corporate expressions. And maybe the greatest corporate expression comes from 1 Corinthians 12, and we see it in some other passages as well. We are called the body of Christ.

That is, that we are each members and we are each differently gifted, but we are put together in one body. Think about 1 Corinthians 12. I just want to read a couple of verses for you from 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul was highlighting this.

He says this in 1 Corinthians 12, verse 4. He says, Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of service, but the same Lord. And there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

Now listen to what he says in verse 7. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To each has been given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

And then down to verse 12. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jew or Greek, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit. We've been put together. We need one another. You need me, and I need you. Our salvation, we are not just saved unto God, we are also saved unto one another. We're saved unto God, and we're saved unto one another.

I need you, and you need me. And we need each other. We could truly say that the Spirit is only fully manifest and appreciated by us when we are gathered together as a body. Because it's there where all the gifts of the Spirit are present. And it encourages all of us. The person that has the gift of faith sets an example before us. The person with the gift of teaching exhorts us. The person with the gift of mercy blesses us. It's there where the body gathers together in all of those gifts by that same one Spirit that has united us all together as one body, together with our one head, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we are all coming together and our lives are informing one another.

And it's through that informing that we're shaping and building one another up into that holy temple and to the Lord, as Paul speaks about. There is no Lone Ranger Christianity. There's no such thing. There's not even a Lone Ranger and Tonto Christianity. You need the body.

I need the body. We need one another because we belong to one another. It would have blown the circuits in any apostle's head or any prophet's head or any disciple's head to hear a Christian talk about not needing to go to worship, let alone not wanting to go to worship.

They would have had no category for it. We need to gather with God's people because here's the reality. I don't just need them. They need me. Those who stay away from worship and do so willingly are those that can't go because of different physical ailments or other ailments.

That is understandable. The church is then to go to them and visit them. But those who would willingly not join with God's people have a fundamental misunderstanding of our God and of salvation. We're saved unto God and we're saved unto one another. We belong to one another. My Christian faith is not just about me.

It's about you. And it's about my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Now, as we think about the fact that we are bound together, I want you to think about the church through the ages as it belongs together. Because it belongs together, it gathers together. So we see this throughout the scriptures, if you think back from the foot of Mount Sinai to the tabernacle to the temple, to the house churches, to the synagogues before the house churches. The people of God, they gather together. And what do they do when they gather together? They worship. Why is it that they worship when they gather together? Because they've been recreated to be worshippers.

This is what we do. We're worshippers. So when we get together with one another, we worship.

This has always marked the people of God. We know from Acts 2.42 that the first Christians met together regularly for teaching, for fellowship, for the breaking of bread and prayer. We know from 1 Corinthians 12 through 14 that public worship was an important part of the life of the church. We know from 1 Corinthians 11 that there was a time in the gathering together when they were to read the scriptures and inform one another.

In 1 Timothy 4 verse 13, there was a time where Timothy was to read the scriptures regularly among the people of God. In 1 Corinthians 11, we read of instructions for when you come together as a church, indicating that there was a unique time when they gathered together as the people of God. And this idea of gathering, maybe nowhere more do we see at Preston than there in Hebrews chapter 10 where the writer says, do not forsake the weekly fellowship of the saints. And that word that is used there of our gathering together, that fellowship, that gathering together, it's not just speaking about a few Christians getting together, it's talking about that corporate nature where the church gathers together as one. This isn't just a couple of Christians sitting down and listening to a podcast together. This isn't just a couple of Christians opening up the Bible and talking about how hard their week was together. This is a gathering of the people of God with one another in the presence of their God worshiping Him. This has always marked the people of God.

And we are to do this week in and week out. Truly, the New Testament has no category for a Christian who does not worship with God's people week in and week out. And can I say this, especially I think about parents and parents that are raising children to know and to love and to seek Christ. If you see church as optional, then don't be surprised when your children think that God is unnecessary.

If we see it as optional, they'll see Him as a good add-on. And related to that, let's remind ourselves that when the church gathers, it's the church that gathers. And so it should be all those who belong to the church. And so I'd encourage you in your thinking about this is that our children should be in our corporate worship services with us. They should be there among the people of God. This is the high point of our week.

This is the high point of our common life together. So the children should be in the room with us where they are sitting underneath the Word Preach. They are hearing the Word.

They are seeing. The saints pray and sing, and they are joining their voices that they are in the midst. This has always been the case when God's people gather together.

Just giving an example, a few examples from Joel 2. Joel there will be calling the nation together in corporate repentance where they are to confess their sins. And who is it that he calls out? He says, blow the trumpets, call them out.

And who is it he's calling out? Fathers? Mothers?

Teenagers? Listen to what he says, consecrate the congregation, assemble the elders. And then he says this, gather the children, even nursing infants.

Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. He's calling the entire covenant people of God together before the throne of God, and let's repent together. And this isn't foreign. When Moses is handing out the instructions for the Passover, he expects that children will be asking their fathers about what's happening at the Passover.

Why? Because they're there. They're in the midst of its celebration. We can look at this throughout the scriptures, whether it's Feast of Unleavened Bread or whether it's the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Booths. And every single one of the passages that address those, it speaks of children being in the midst of God's people. It shouldn't surprise us when we keep pushing our kids off to the side and then we can't understand why when they get to 18, 19 that they don't want to come into the corporate worship of God's people.

We've entertained them for 15 years. No, they come in the midst of God's people. We put them in the way of the means of grace where they're hearing the Word or they're seeing God's people pray, where they're seeing the sacraments being reminded that this is the God who saves and that they need to place their faith in this God. It is not easy to bring children in, I know that. I watched my dear wife wrestle our kids in the pew when they were young. It can feel like a kind of self-inflicted torture experiment at times, but the pain is only limited.

And the eternal benefits that can be produced as a result are there. I often remind congregations that I've served over the years that people say, Well, children, they can't understand everything. No, they can't. Neither can you.

Neither can I. But they grab little things here and there, and we're forming habits, and we're saying something to them about the fact that they belong, that they belong among us, and that, you know what, this is your God. This isn't just a God of adults. This is a God of children as well. There's blessing in this. There's great blessing not only for the children, there's great blessing for us as we look around and are reminded that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church.

Here's the next generation. That they set an example before us. Jesus said, Of such is the kingdom of heaven made. They set an example before us, just their simple faith, and it's an encouragement to our faith. We need children with us as we worship our Lord and our God.

Struggles are limited to the morning, but the blessings can truly be eternal. My favorite things at the church I serve is we have a prayer meeting. We have morning, evening worship. We take one of our evening worship services every month for Sunday the month, and we turn it into a prayer meeting where we just pray for an hour.

And we have children all over that room, and we structure the prayer meeting different ways. But it is a wonderful encouragement to my soul. When we're in the midst of praying and you hear a five-year-old offer up a prayer over here, that does my soul good. You hear this 13-year-old over here who isn't too embarrassed to pray in front of all her friends. It does my soul good.

It's a great blessing. I used to go to a church plant and preach every week or once a month to give the church planter a break. And there was this girl that would, she was seven or eight years old, and she would sing at the top of her lungs.

She couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but she would sing at the top of her lungs. I love it, and I know where God loves it. Include our children. Let me just close with this as we think about corporate worship. I want to talk to you about how to prepare for worship as we go into worship, how to prepare yourself, how to prepare your family, how to prepare friends and roommates. One, would you be boring on Saturday nights? Be boring on Saturday nights. Friday nights, live it up before you're living it up. Saturday nights, go to bed early.

Trousy heads make for poor worshipers. And too often, people are staying up late Saturday night, and then they come Sunday, and they are exhausted and just going through the motions. It's not a bad thing to think about the Sabbath day beginning at the evening like it did for the Jews. And to think, you know what, Saturday night, when the sun goes down, my Sunday has begun so that you're not tired.

Second Treasure, the Lord's Day. God knew your need for rest. That's why He instituted it.

That's why He instituted it in creation. He knows your need for rest. He knows your need to have one day set aside and seven for worship.

And so Treasure this day. Focus on it throughout the week. Talk about it throughout the week, especially if you're parents, especially if you're married. Talk about it throughout the week, about how you're looking forward to it. When you get up on that morning, make it special, would you? Put a smile on your face, act like you're actually happy that you're going to corporate worship, and let everybody else in the house see it.

Treasure the day. Talk on the way to church to prepare your hearts. Talk about what you're about ready to experience.

Think through the passage ahead of time. You know, most of you know what your pastor is going to preach. Talk about it. Is there going to be a sacrament that day? Talk about what it means. On the way home, talk about it.

Instead of having the proverbial roast pastor for lunch, don't do that. Talk about how is it that I was impacted by that word today. Where was I challenged? Where was I encouraged? What song was it that stirred my soul today?

What was it that I learned for the first time? To do some of those things. I want to encourage you that corporate worship is the great highlight of our lives here on earth. It is something we are to continually be longing for and looking forward to Lord's Day after Lord's Day. It takes real thought. It takes real preparation.

It takes real reflection on the back end. But it's worth it, and it's the best thing for our souls. In our next time together, we're going to look at some of these different aspects of corporate worship as we've talked about reading the Word, preaching the Word, singing the Word, confessing the Word, seeing the Word. And we're going to talk about that before we head off into family worship and private worship. I appreciate the reminder that if corporate worship is to be a great highlight of our week, it takes real thought, real preparation, and real reflection. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was Jason Holopoulos from his brand new teaching series, Created for Worship. If you'd like to walk through this 11-part study learning more about the elements of corporate worship, the why and how of family worship, and a message on secret or private worship, request your copy on DVD with a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. All the messages, as well as the study guide, will also be available in the free Ligonier app for access on the go. So call us at 800-435-4343, or give your donation at renewingyourmind.org. This offer ends tomorrow. Jonathan Edwards said that every Christian family ought to be, as it were, a little church. So what does it look like to worship as a family, and what are some of the benefits? That's what Jason Holopoulos will explore tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-19 04:06:34 / 2023-10-19 04:15:43 / 9

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