Many of you reading this provide a marvelous example in worship. Some of you have come to lay your gift before the Lord with hearts that were breaking. Some of you can barely waddle through the front door and get to a pew. But, if you’re at least able to move, you’re here. I’ve visited many sick individuals with one thing on their minds: “Justin, I just don’t know when I’ll be able to get back to church, but as soon as I can, I’ll be there.”
I love a heart that says I want to worship, for far too few people have such a heart. Some folks get up and don’t feel on top of the world, so they go back to bed. They can’t come to worship when there’s a basketball game on the television. They can’t worship because the sun is shining outside and life is so much better on the lake. They can’t come to worship because it starts too early (although they have no trouble getting to work by 7:00).
We need to think long and hard about attendance at worship. I know some of you reading this cannot attend as much as you wish. Some of you cannot drive at night, and you wisely choose to stay home. Some of you cannot sit through more than an hour service. Some of you must work during a service here and there, not by choice, but of necessity.
When we talk about attendance, we always talk about Hebrews 10:24-25. That text actually has nothing to say about missing the assembly. The inspired writer speaks of forsaking the assembly. The Greek word for “forsaking” carries with it the idea of intention. If you can’t help being absent from the assembly from time to time, that’s one thing. Intentionally refusing to honor God is another matter altogether.
Why does God expect us to worship?
One: Worship makes us the church.
When I was growing up, I was told over and over that it was wrong to say, “I’m going to church.” I suppose that was because people refer to the building where we worship as the “church.” But, that idea is just flat wrong.
The term church is used to mean the community of believers. That is clearly the meaning, for example, when Jesus speaks about building His church (Matt 16:18).
However, the term ekklesia really means “assembly.” The gathered mob in Ephesus is called an “assembly”—in Greek, ecclesia (Acts 19:32, 39).
The New Testament also calls the assembly of the church an ekklesia. “When you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it” (1 Cor 11:18). Paul talks about speaking “in the church” (1 Cor 14:18-19). Without an interpreter, the one who can speak in tongues is to be silent “in the church” (Acts 14:28). A woman is to be silent “in the church” (1 Cor 14:34-35).
Two: The assembly is a unique form of worship.
You hear all the time that you can worship God just as well by watching some guy on TV or going to the lake or staying home.
Scripture destroys that idea.
We’re to sing to one another. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16). How can we teach and admonish “one another” if we’re not together?
The Lord’s Supper requires an assembly. “On the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them” (Acts 20:7). “My brethren, when you come together to eat [the Lord’s Supper], wait for one another” (1 Cor 11:33). The second half of 1 Corinthians 11 discusses the Lord’s Supper. Throughout the passage, the idea is that we eat the Lord’s Supper with our brothers and sisters.
Three: The assembly is for our encouragement.
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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” (Heb 10:24-25). We’re very aware of this passage about not forsaking the assembly. Yet, we often don’t read this text appropriately.
Notice exactly why we cannot forsake the assembly: We’re to be encouraging one another in light of the Second Coming. Look also at verse 26: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” The Greek “for” at verse 26 expresses the reason for what was just stated.
Why can we not neglect the assembling of ourselves? Because if we continue to sin there is no further sacrifice for sin. Missing the assembly leads to other sin! Assembling with the people of God encourages us not to persist in sin!
Four: God commands our worship.
Worship is not something we do for our enjoyment; it’s something God has commanded. When Satan seeks to convince Jesus to worship him, the Lord declares, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matt 4:10). In the Revelation to John, John sees an angel flying in the midst of heaven, and the angel declares, “Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Rev 14:7). If you fail to worship, you are sinning against the God who made heaven and earth.
Five: Worship fulfills your destiny.
People talk about finding themselves and fulfilling their destiny. You were created to honor God, and you fulfill that purpose when you come and fall before Him in worship. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all” (Eccl 12:13). Fearing God and keeping His commandments is the purpose of your life. The idea of fear is to respect, to honor. In worship, we fall before the God of all and give Him the fear, the honor, the respect He so rightfully deserves.
Someone once told me that wasn’t fair. He said that it just was not right for God to create us for His purpose without our consent.
But, God is worthy of my worship. “Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him” (Ps 33:8). Heavenly beings in unbroken praise honor God by saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev 4:11).
When you worship, you do what God created you to do.
Hope to be with you Sunday as we gather around God’s throne in praise and worship.