Jeff Stivason writes:
I love to see families entering the doors of the meeting house on Lord’s Day mornings. I see each of them as a living stone gathering to form a living temple in order to worship the living God. Once they were like the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision. They were scattered throughout the valley of the shadow of death. But now, by God’s sovereign grace, they’ve got spiritual muscles, saintly sinews, and new hearts. They belong to Christ. They’re glorious to behold.
However, I’m under no false impressions. I realise that these beautiful families have their mornings – even on the Lord’s Day. On some Lord’s Days, these same folk might describe their trip to church in the words of Ezekiel 37, “There was a noise, and behold a rattling; and the bones came together!” Especially on mornings like these, it’s important for us to keep track of things we shouldn’t forget when we go to worship. So, let me give you five crucial things to remember when going to church – no matter what the morning may be like.
First, remember that worship is not about you, but it does call for your full participation. Most likely, every believer would give this a vigorous “amen!” On difficult mornings, though, the one thing you’re thinking about is yourself and your family – and not all of it’s good. For instance, on the way to church maybe your heart is still stewing about the kids’ bad behaviour. Maybe their hearts are still stewing about yours. What a great opportunity to bring the gospel to bear on the life of your family! What a great way to help everyone understand that you’re on your way to meet personally with the exalted Saviour who’s the source of our reconciliation before God and each other.
Second, remember that while worship’s not a lecture hall, it’s also not a living room. Some mornings it’s hard not to feel like your family just crash-landed in the chairs. Sometimes that sense of chaos follows you into worship, at least, in your mind. The Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God supplies some practical direction at just this point. It says that if any are providentially hindered from being present from the beginning of worship they ought to come in and compose themselves to join with the assembly in that ordinance of God which is then in hand. In other words, come in, get situated quickly, and join in worship! To put it another way, join the family activities!
Third, remember that, while the preacher is leading, it’s the Lord himself who’s actually speaking. Paul reminds us of this several times throughout his letters. Take Romans 10:14–15 for example, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Or, think of Ephesians 2:17, “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” Clearly, when we listen to Bible preaching in faith, it’s actually the Lord’s voice we hear. And that ought to motivate us to fully devote ourselves to listening as we ought. Brothers and sisters, what can be more encouraging than to realise that the God of heaven and earth himself is speaking to you and your family?
Fourth, remember that what you sing teaches and admonishes your brothers and sisters (see Colossians 3:16). Think of how wonderful it is on a difficult morning to be encouraged in God’s providence by your spiritual siblings singing the great themes of forgiveness, grace, and God’s good commandments. And remember that your singing does the same for them. Put your heart and voice into it.
Fifth, remember that not only are you glorifying God, but also in worship, God is doing something in you and your family that will last for all eternity. Brothers and sisters, take heart. He is forming Christ in you. Let me tell you what that means practically. It means that God is re-shaping you and your family to be like Jesus. No, you won’t be perfect this side of eternity. But from the inside out, you’ll grow more and more Christ-like – and so will your family. That alone should give you and your family hope every time the Lord’s Day approaches.