No experience on earth should delight the soul of the Christian more than corporate worship. It is the high point of our week and establishes the rhythm of our lives. As Christians, we live life from Lord's Day to Lord's Day. We dare not "neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some" (Heb. 10:25).
Why does worship occupy such an important place in our lives? Because of what takes place in worship.
We often speak of worship in terms of giving and receiving. We receive mercy, grace, kindness, peace, love, truth, and joy from God in corporate worship. And though this is true, receiving is not the essence of worship. We also give to God in worship. We give Him adoration, praise, confession, love, and service. And though this is true, neither is giving the essence of worship. Corporate worship, rather than primarily consisting of receiving or giving, is about being. Above all else, worship is an encounter with the living, true, holy, sovereign, triune God of the universe. He chooses to meet with us by His Word and Spirit, and there is nothing as meaningful, rich, and glorious on earth as the church gathered together with its Lord and Savior in worship. In that moment, we are enjoying a foretaste of heaven to come, the greatest longing of our soul, and the very purpose for our creation.
Therefore, as we approach corporate worship, we must seek to do so with purpose. We dare not attend it casually. If there is one thing consistently observable in the Scriptures, it is surely the reality that meeting with a holy God is anything but casual.
When men and women come into God's presence, they know it. Moses takes off his shoes (Ex. 3), Israel is struck with fear (Ex. 20), Isaiah quakes (Isa. 6), Job silences his lips (Job 40), John falls down as though dead (Rev. 1). Even the elders and angels, who are worshiping day in and day out before the throne, aren't casual in their worship (Isa. 6; Rev. 4). Casual worship of the living, true, holy, sovereign God of the universe just doesn't exist. There is a seriousness that must mark it, a solemnity and honor that must attend it, a gravity that must saturate it.
Yet the temptation to treat worship as something casual is great. As part of our weekly activity, it lends itself to being treated as common and routine. We easily go through the motions, sing the songs mindlessly, and get our worship attendance card punched. May it never be. We are on holy ground. As we attend corporate worship, let us attend it with seriousness. Here are four things to consider as we weekly gather on the Lord's Day for corporate worship.
First, the seriousness with which we come to corporate worship begins far before we enter the doors of the church. Seize the rest of the week. Practice family and secret worship daily, knowing that it will inform and encourage your experience in corporate worship. Be boring on Saturday nights and go to bed early. Sleepy heads make for drowsy worshipers.
Second, prepare your heart on Sunday morning before entering the doors of the church. Take the time and effort to do so—your soul will be the beneficiary. Rise early and spend time reading the Word, praying, and meditating. Cultivate a spirit of joy on Sunday mornings in your home. If this is the highlight of our week, then let's act like it. For example, we can talk about how wonderful the day is going to be, wake the kids up with excitement, turn on good Christian music for the whole family to listen to, and put smiles on our faces. On the drive to church, we can talk about the passage that will be preached, sing a hymn together, and converse about the things of God. We can arrive at church early, so we can read through the bulletin, think through the songs, meditate on the Scripture readings, and pray before the service begins.
Third, in worship, tend to your heart. As your mind drifts in the service (which happens to the best of us), remind yourself of the great privilege of corporate worship. My friends, we are meeting with the triune God of the universe—never lose sight of this. The Lord of glory is speaking to us and the grace of Christ is being extended to us. Nothing in all the earth is more significant, monumental, and remarkable than the reality that God chooses to meet with us week in and week out.
Finally, reflect on the worship service afterward. Ask each family member on the drive home to explain what they heard in the service, how the Lord convicted them, and what delighted their soul. Use the Lord's Day afternoon to reread and pray through the passage preached. Plead with the Lord to reveal your own sin, teach you new truths, uncover your weaknesses, increase your faith, and bind your wounds.
Worship is one of the greatest gifts we enjoy. Attending to it with seriousness is paramount. That does not mean moroseness or in some kind of stiff formality, but rather with intention, attention, and delight. God chooses to meet with us. That reality should rattle the Christian's soul with joy.