Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25
I am anticipating our return to worship with the church assembled together, in one place. We’ve announced the coming changes to our Lord’s Day service, and I want to share some things that for me, helped to underscore a need for that change.
I think we have all struggled with uneasy concessions in this season of pandemic. The strain of separation paired with “remote gatherings” is acute. Our worship services have sufficed, but not compared with the gold standard from God’s Word for all-in worship.
For me, a rough analogy is food. You could live on protein powders and supplement pills, but that’s not the same as participating in a delicious meal. In this season, we’ve endured the powder and pill, often downing our “meal replacement” all alone. Think of it: would you be thrilled to receive my invitation to “view our simultaneous nutritional intake on-screen?” I didn’t think so. But an invite to come to a home-cooked meal and table fellowship? That gets to God’s heart in giving us food and fellowship. “Do not forsake!” How much more is God’s heart in calling us to corporate worship!
Like a release from confinement, or a return from a distant country, there’s nothing like being together with the family again. Nothing compares. The Lord does not say, “Find your solitary way and focus on isolated worship of me.” No, He admonishes us to draw near.
The day draws near for the Lord’s next phase, as we see our world rapidly devolving. This should not surprise us or cause our retreat (2 Tim. 3; 1 Pe. 4). I see our nation and the world’s downward acceleration as the ongoing sin-fueled quest for what it is: deny God, and try to become a god through power and control. As Solomon mused, there truly is nothing new under the sun. This is evidenced in the agenda-driven policies adopted under the veil of the virus. For much of mankind, fear and confusion are the seedbed to grow an exhausted compliance to the mantra: “Stay home, stay safe; we’ll deliver what you need to your door. We are in control; we know best and we will take care of you.” For assurances of safety and security, there is a gradual but unrelenting surrender of freedom. A meal in exchange for the birthright. Sound familiar?
While the population watches their mailbox, neighbor, temperature, screen, and four walls, what is occurring? Ever-widening governmental programs and regulations. Shutting down entire sectors of the economy, with the careers that composed them. Signing into deeper world-governance alliances. Spiraling, unextractable debt. Dilution of our schools. Legislation for “woke” radical social objectives. Cascading madness in race wars, equity, and cancel culture. Vaporizing of a free press and journalistic tenets. Victim narratives that demand continual outrage about everything: big, little, real or perceived. I haven’t even touched on social media, morality, vice, entertainments, or the sorry state of sports today!
Not wanting to be long on description and short on remedy, what does this mean for us, the Body? In a world that is opposed to its Creator, steeped in rebellion no different from Eden’s, we find encouragement by the writer of Hebrews. We must hold fast to the Lord and our profession of salvation in Him alone, extending this “holding” through His Word to every truth and gift of God that He has given to us.
How is your grip today? There is one Word. Only one Savior. There is one truth of our creation: male and female. There is one defining truth of the institution of biblical marriage. Of family. For God’s sake, have you not read? The Creator has fashioned only one race.
We are to grasp the importance of living this life and worshiping God from a clean conscience, not yielding to coercion. It is apparent, now with truth declared fluid and relative, that we will not be in the popular, majority camp. Our perception by the world will be that of being “the problem,” much as we see of the despised early church in the Book of Acts. Not surprisingly, this hatred will also come through much of the apostate “church” that is following lockstep in their religion of humanism. The Lord, who does not know them, has noted them, already.
So again, how’s your grip? The road is going to get rougher.
The writer of Hebrews does not pull his punch. “Let us consider” is a call for each of us to think deeply about how our individual involvement in corporate worship makes a difference. How our testimony among the assembly is absolutely critical and essential. How our corporate time is truly for us as priests, to minister before our Lord in the holy place, and in so doing, to serve one another. We are coming together first to give, and in our giving, we then receive.
In worship, may we be led of God’s Spirit to be aware of all who are around us, regardless of age, race, income, background… that we assemble together – not immediately split into conventional, cultural groupings – and in that assembly, in sincere heart with full assurance of faith, we hold up our confession of hope in Christ.
May it be that our children may learn what it means to sit under God’s Word, as a family. That they grow to see it is our call to worship Him together, as the Body. That we realize we all have a necessary contribution to make to our corporate worship. And that we, the “learned,” may even relearn the same things!
As is the habit of some: Some found it difficult to assemble, even before the pandemic on a sunny day. The past year has further sifted that truth out. Many today may find it hard to break from the newly formed habit of isolation. A spirit of discipline will need to be embraced soberly.
Remember this truth: There are some that would love to attend that simply cannot. For these, we will always have a video service. This should not be the norm for those able-bodied who are perfectly capable to come in person. Convenience, mood and schedules should not determine my corporate involvement in worship. These were never a factor for sporting events or travel, were they?
Some may realize that even when faithfully attending services, there has long been a theme of isolating; wanting to receive but not give. Flitting in and out, as one grabs a to-go order. May the Lord grow them, and dispel that mindset that stunts personal and corporate growth.
So we continue, and so we begin again – looking forward to our worship, service, and mutual encouragement in the truths of the Lord.
And that, for a starting point, is why we are moving forward in Worshiping Together.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1