Returning to those “First Loves” – the Centrality of the Worship Meeting

Returning to those “First Loves” – the Centrality of the Worship Meeting
Pastor Jeff VanGoethem

One of Calvin’s biographers described him as a “bow always tightly strung.”  Not that he was “high strung” as we would speak of such a thing, but rather that he was always pressing on with his duties.  He was an indefatigable worker, in preaching, counseling, teaching, visiting, writing, and leading.  This was true even though he was besieged by painful bodily ailments much of his life.  This was so even at the very end of his life, when very sick, and his friends admonished him to desist from his labors until feeling better.  He replied, “What, would you have the Lord to find me idle?”  No doubt this represents a different mentality from our modern, leisure-obsessed world.

The use of time.  What a subject.  Jonathan Edwards pledged as a young man to always “improve time.”  He meant by that to use what time he had for good and holy purposes, for personal spiritual development, and for proper spiritual ends.  Do we embrace any semblance of such an ethic in our modern lives?

I wonder. Let’s take the modern Christian’s use of the worship service, which is, I think all of us would agree, an important aspect of the means of spiritual growth.  I personally consider the worship meeting to be central to the life of the disciple of Christ. Corporate worship has always been so – it is the gathering of God’s people to hear from God and to re-surrender to His will.  What could possibly be more important than that in our weekly schedules?  For those of us with any spark of the flame of the Spirit still alive in our hearts such a meeting should call to us and fill us with yearning.

But does it? Has the centrality of the worship meeting departed from the yearnings of our hearts?  If so, it must be brought back.  As part of those “first loves” (Revelation 2:4) that we are so lamentably inclined to forsake bit by bit.  “Repent,” said the Lord Jesus, “and do the works you did at first.”

I remember when I was first saved.  A friend of mine took me by the hand to a church in which the Pastor proclaimed the Word of God.  It was the first time I had experienced such a thing.  I had never heard anything like it before. From then on I was in the worship meeting every time there was one, on time and front and center. “Return,” said Jesus, “to the works you did at the first.”  A good admonition to us all.

So how is your use of time?  Specifically how is your use of that very central and special hour of the week devoted by the people of God to the worship of God?  Let’s ask ourselves some questions about the centrality of the worship meeting in our lives:

1.Have I devastated it by falling into the “weekend mentality?”

The weekend is “my time” we often think.   No true Christian can think that way.  God’s Word teaches that all time is His and it ought to be used for His glory. And the Lord’s day is the Lord’sday, not my day. It is to be given to Him. So a fervent, devoted follower of Christ must maintain the right spirit with regard to the Lord’s Day and the worship meeting.  We must restore its proper observance when we have neglectfully discounted its centrality.

2.Have I diminished it by exchanging what is good for what is best?

Some of us do not look at the worship meeting as all that important.  I can catch a sermon anytime.  I have an IPOD and a radio. When I come to church I like to visit with my friends – if I get in the worship meeting late or not at all, so what, at least I connecting with my friends and showing my face?

My friend, such a spirit is a symptom of a diminished love.  Repent and do the works of a first love. That means front and center, and on time as a matter of obedience to the Lord.  We may have met with our friends but have we met with God?  The latter is to have the highest place in our lives.

3.Have I disregarded it by an undisciplined approach to living?

Do I arrive at the worship meeting physically and spiritually unprepared?  Have I met with God and walked with God day by day during the week? Have I risen on Sunday with enough time to pray and read the Scriptures before venturing out?  Have I reigned in my behavior and organized my family so that I get a good night’s rest on Saturday in preparation for the Lord’s day?  In the Puritan era it was common for believers to come out of their homes on Saturday nights for prayer meetings in preparation for the worship of God the next day!  It is no wonder they saw revival in their days.

There is no spiritual progress in the Christian life without discipline. That also pertains to the use of the worship meeting. Let us discipline our lives.

We live in troubled times, when “the love of many has grown cold.”  Let it not happen to us. Let it not happen to our worship meetings.  Here are some suggestions:

1.Give the Lord His day. Always.  Without compromise. Surrender to Him.

2.Meet with God and walk with God all week. Don’t be a “Sunday Christian.”   Always be preparing your heart for what God might say to you. Don’t live like an atheist Monday through Saturday. You’ll find your experience of worship will improve exponentially if you walk with God all week.

3.Discipline your life on Saturday. Get yourself and your family organized for the next day so that you don’t have a combination of world war three and mass chaos in your home on Sunday morning. Be prepared. Exercise discipline.  Plan ahead.  Communicate as a family.  This honors the Lord.

4.Arrive at church ON TIME. Take full advantage of what is available to you. Fathers, lead your families in this. Teach your children what is important.  Get to where you should be ON TIME.  Hurry is the death of the spiritual life.

5.Prepare yourself to meet with God. Use a few minutes in the pew before the service begins to make final preparations to meet with God.   Don’t make Sunday church attendance a social event.   Make it a theological event, a doxological event, and you might find it becomes a burning bush event.  When is the last time you had a fresh encounter with God?  When is the last time you prepared your life so that such a thing could even happen?

Let us not falter in the use of time – especially that critical hour of the worship meeting of the church. Exercise great care over it. Treat it as sacred.  Don’t profane what God has called holy.  Return to the first works of the first love.  Be hungering and yearning to meet with God.  In response you might be surprised that God will meet with you.

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