A central theme in the Bible is that our lives would display the preeminence of Jesus Christ in all of life through the transforming power of His Gospel. Paul says to the Colossians, "[Jesus Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross." (Col. 1:18-20)
For the follower of Jesus Christ, this does not begin on Sunday morning at 10:30 am and end at noon - it should happen 168 hours a week as we trust our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for salvation, living obedient and faithful lives by the grace He supplies, and magnifying His Lordship and reign in all things. (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 10:31)
This does not diminish the importance of coming together as the Body of Christ on Sunday mornings. We feel it is vital and Biblical to gather on the Lord's Day to worship God the Father through the perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of God the Son, empowered and led by God the Spirit.
Since Jesus Christ is the perfect Prophet, Priest, and King, He is our Chief Worship Leader (Heb. 2:12). We love to make much of our Lord and follow His example by:
- Preaching His Word. (Col. 3:16)
- Joining Him in Praising God through song. (Rom. 15:8-12)
- Remembering His atoning death and victorious resurrection at the Communion Table. (1 Cor. 11:26)
- Identiying with His death and resurrection through Baptism. (Rom. 6:3-4)
- Spirit-led, faith-filled prayer. (1 Cor. 14:15)
(For a fuller picture of Biblical worship at ANCF, listen to "Biblical Worship" sermon - click here for link to sermon.)
It is our aim that the tone, ethos, or feel in our large meetings (Sunday mornings) should be guided by God's word. (Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:18-21) The book of Hebrews helps us in fleshing out our heart response in worship. Hebrews 10:22 says,
"Let us draw near with a sincere (true) heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."
1. Come in sincerity, without false appearance or nature.
In the things that happen in church on Sunday morning specifically (preaching, praying, praising, fellowship etc.) and throughout the week, we will by God's grace labor to be authentic, genuine, and sincere; not pretending, acting, trying to appear spiritual, or being something that we're not; trusting what Jesus says in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This does not mean we don't struggle with sin and unbelief. God is honored when someone realizes his brokenness and in repentance cries out to Him for grace, forgiveness, and healing.
2. Come in faith.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek Him." We come in faith expecting the Lord to fill us with joy in His presence. (Psalm 16:11) John Owen helps us see this connection:
"No man will ever see the glory of Christ hereafter if he does not have some view of it by faith now. We must be prepared by grace for glory and by faith for sight."
The Glory of Christ, p. 8
3. Come in humility, knowing that it is only by the blood of Jesus that we are clean.
Hebrews 7:25 says, "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." It is humbling to realize that the only way to truly worship God is through Jesus Christ. There is nothing in me that deserves His righteousness. In my flesh, because of my sinful rebellion and utter disdain for His person and His ways, I deserve His wrath forever in Hell. We say with the apostle Paul, "Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Another way this humility manifests itself in the church is being open to correction, rebuke, and discipline. When people ask about the "benefits" of church membership, we list accountability and being under authority as such a mercy from God. (Heb. 3:13) A third way this is working itself out in the church is through a Romans 12:16 kind of lowliness. "Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly." (Give yourselves to humble tasks).
4. Come in purity, confessing our sins to the Lord.
Sin is so serious because it is first and foremost against God. Hebrews 10:29 talks of outraging the Spirit of Grace and Ephesians 4:30 talks of grieving the Holy Spirit. God loves to forgive the sinner:
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed."
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
Here is a precious promise in Ezekiel 36:25, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness and from all your idols I will cleanse you." This is why our times of worship together must be Cross/Christ centered. In many ways (not exhaustively) worship is celebrating and experiencing the healing event of God's salvation through Jesus Christ.
When we look at the book of Revelation, we see a picture of heavenly worship. The prayers and songs are radically God-centered; passionately praising Him as creator, redeemer, and judge. Our desire is that our times of worship together as the Bride of Christ would reflect God's passion for His person, His ways, His glory. He has revealed Himself to us through the His word (the Bible) and through the Living Word, Jesus Christ. (John1, Heb. 1:1, 2) The worship we render to Him on this side of Heaven will always we laced with our remaining sin and corruption but God is gracious and invites us to boldly keep on drawing near to the throne of grace through our great and glorious High Priest, Jesus Christ. (Heb. 4:14-16) Hallelujah, what a Savior!