Yesterday, I preached on the cosmic significance of corporate worship. For the sake of time, we dropped in the middle of the argument in Hebrews 12, but I thought it might be interesting to look at the immediately preceding verses, that give the practical need for corporate worship. What are some things we should seek from our time worshiping together? I am going to bold the commandments, and underline the things to avoid:
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
Encouragement from Corporate Worship
As we worship together, preparing for the incredible experience of encountering a holy God, we must work together. When some of us come discouraged, exhausted and ready to quit, we must lift our brothers’ and sisters’ drooping hands and wobbling knees. Some of our time together is about the warm encouragement that we can share. Life is hard, and it is easy to be a critic. It is hard to be a friend, hurting together and rejoicing together – but as the church, we must!
To truly worship God as we should, we have to be at peace with one another. This requires a real relationship, not just membership in the same club. If you are not in our corporate gathering, you cannot be encouraged or be an encourager.
Accountability through Corporate Worship
We must resist sin, making straight paths to walk in, so our brokenness will not be made worse, but be healed. The sin that is not dealt with does not get better on its own. Like walking on a sprained ankle, it will not heal until the normal rhythm of life is broken and it is dealt with directly. As Christians, this is even harder and even more painful. We must be involved in each other’s lives, even when it requires a painful change of direction.
If we are serious about pursuing holiness, we will accept the pain of conviction. If we realize that there comes a moment when it will be too late to avoid the consequences of our actions (like Esau), we will want to be stopped now. The problem is that we tend to love sin! We would rather do what we know is worse in the long run, because of the pleasure we get now. So we keep walking on a broken foot, and the problem stays. When you’re not here for corporate worship the problem will not get better, but worse and worse.
Diligence in Corporate Worship
It is too easy to let things in our lives drop without the accountability of corporate worship. We know from Matthew 7:22-23 that there are lots of people who believe they are Christians but are not. We have to be diligently together, examining our lives and asking those who love us to examine our lives with us. Nothing could be more foreign to the highly independent culture of our world. But we need each other! When we are following God as we should, we can help many. When we are not, “many [may] be defiled.”
Are you the kind of person other people can count on? Worship together matters. It is only by corporate worship that we can be everything God intended us to be. When we gather together, it is not just our money, our time, our voices, or our attention that we offer God: it is ourselves. The time we spend in community prepares us to be an acceptable offering for Him.
Take some time to read the entire chapter (Hebrews 12) and see how it all fits together.