The above should nicely sum up what Church is about, not just our church but every church. We are a worshipping community. We offer up to God our worship because we love him and desire to glorify him. Worship is not just confined to the 2-hour Sunday gathering. Flowing out of that corporate experience is also our constant offering of ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him, which is our spiritual act of worship. We are a uniting community. If we obey Jesus’ commandment for us to love one another as He has loved us, being united in him is a natural consequence. And it is love that compels us to obey the Great Commission – make disciples. We obey because we love God; we also obey because we love the people that God loves.
We come together to worship God – our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. God doesn’t need our worship because he is self-sufficient. It is us who willingly offer it to him out of a grateful heart. When someone has shown us underserved kindness, we would be so overwhelmed that very naturally we want to express our gratitude to the person. Prophet Isaiah (in Isaiah 6) saw a very big vision of God, and against such a holy and Almighty God, he knew that he would be doomed for he was a wretched sinner. Yet the Lord in his mercy readily forgave Isaiah of his sins. Being overwhelmed by such an act of kindness, Isaiah readily gave himself to God’s service. Do we respond the same way as Isaiah every time we gather together for worship? Do we come in awe and reverence because we have a right vision of who God is? Do we realise how depraved and how undeserving of his love we are? Yet in God’s mercies, we have received the forgiveness of sins because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Are we constantly touched by the gospel? How then is it reflected in the way we worship God? How is it reflected in the way we respond to the voice of God who speaks to us as we worship him?
Let’s make an effort to prepare ourselves for Sunday worship the night before by resting early. Come early so that you have some time to pray before worship begins and don’t be in a rush to leave even before the service ends. Plan your schedules in such a way where you will have time to stay around for fellowship. I don’t want to be legalistic here but if we are perpetually late and perpetually rushing off, then we really have to ask ourselves whether God deserves this kind of tardy worship? Come also with an expectancy to hear God’s voice. Come with the anticipation that you are going to commune with him. Expect him to show up. When we are constantly looking out for God, we will be less distracted over technical glitches, grammatical errors, off pitched singing, unsynchronised music, preferences and expectations not met. Instead, let’s fully participate in worship – sing heartily and mean what we sing; pray fervently along with the worship leader by paying attention to the words of his prayers; listen intently to the Word read and preached; adopt the posture of a wide-eyed child expecting God to speak anytime.
As we gather together and relate with one another, let us allow the power of the gospel to govern our relationships. Let us not see each other in terms of categories – nationalities, race, age, life stage, marital status, rich vs. poor, educated vs. uneducated. In Christ, we are one because the gospel is the equaliser, i.e. we are all sinners saved by grace. In Christ, these dividing lines according to categories should disappear for there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither master nor slave, neither rich nor poor, neither local nor foreigner, neither old nor young. There is only one category – Christians! If someone comes along with idiosyncrasies (which may not necessarily be sinful) that you cannot tolerate, please say to yourself ‘gospel’ and continue to embrace the person. You are on the verge of deciding not to go on the mission trip because those going are so much older, say to yourself ‘gospel’ and go ahead to sign up. You are apprehensive of joining a small group which consists of marrieds because you are single, tell yourself ‘gospel’ and join them anyway. You are a wealthy and intelligent man and someone from a humble background comes up to rebuke you. Before you let your pride get the better of you, will you not tell yourself ‘gospel’ and thank the person for pointing out to you your weakness when no one else has the courage to do so? Each time we are able to overcome our biases, we grow in love, which is the fruit of the Spirit, the character of Christ.
Our love for God (expressed through our worship) and our love for people (expressed through our unity) should compel us to be a faithful disciple and disciple-maker. This means that not only have we been engaged and evangelised and transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, we are now being established and equipped so that we too can repeat the same process with others. Let me give you some examples of how we can be involved in the disciple-making process and thus be a partner of God in doing kingdom’s work. Daniel is asked by his colleague what he did over the weekend and he replies that he went to church and heard an excellent sermon. When he is asked to elaborate, he freely shares what he has learnt. Afterwards, he prays that these sorts of opportunities would continue and his colleague’s heart would be opened to the gospel. Peter’s teenage son is feeling very stressed over his studies and as they talk about it, he reassures him that regardless his results, he still loves him, reflecting the unconditional love that God has for them. Susan is chatting with Cassandra after church and shares with her how encouraged she was by a particular verse that she came across during her bible reading. Dennis meets John one on one every fortnight over lunch for bible study. June is worried about her friend April, who struggles with anxiety and has been missing church quite a lot. She messages her, quoting a bible verse to offer encouragement and inviting her to get together to pray. Alex goes to DG and makes sure that he has prepared for his BS before he goes, and prays that God would help him to say true and encouraging things in the group. Lucy is elderly and finds it difficult to leave her home but she calls people up, offering encouragement through God’s Word and praying with them over the phone. Wilson has been praying for his friend and finally invites him to Gospel Sunday and on the way home, speaks to him about the sermon and does his best to answer his friend’s questions. John visits James in the hospital and before he leaves, shares his quiet time with James and prays for him. Michelle conducts a ‘Becoming a Contagious Christian’ class in church. All these people are participating in the disciple-making process – engaging & evangelising, establishing & equipping others. You can be involved too.
By now, some of you may feel very overwhelmed, not overwhelmed by God’s grace but by the sheer amount of effort you need to exert to do all these things. You may ask: ‘Is this a religion of good works?’ We are not saved by good works but we are saved for good works. Even so, as we persevere in these good works, the grace of God abounds and we see ourselves growing as we serve. Let’s strive to be a community where we will faithfully gather for worship, conduct our relationships centred round the gospel instead of our individual preferences, and be of one mind and spirit to do kingdom’s work. In the process, we will derive a strong sense of meaning and purpose for our lives, lives that are lived by his grace and for his glory.
Rev Lee Kien Seng
January 24, 2016