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Over the past year we’ve slowly discussed what it looks like to genuinely worship God at church. And we haven’t yet — even once — talked about music. Why is that? Because everything we do is worship. And celebrating God at church is about far more than merely singing songs.
In fact, though singing praises to God should be a legitimate and important part of our corporate services, there is very little to be said about it in the New Testament. However, there’s a ton to be said about the work of the ministry that the church should be accomplishing.
Therefore, we should use those criteria — not simply how we feel after singing a song — to determine if we’re genuinely celebrating God at church.
By the way, if you’re interested in an extremely nuanced and scholarly discussion concerning worship in the modern church, I highly recommend you subscribe to “By the Waters of Babylon.” The host is Scott Aniol and the content is so amazing. He just finished reading through a book he wrote on corporate worship, and he’s recently come out with another book about children in the church.
I really believe God will use Scott and his podcast to help you better celebrate God at church and at home.
Scott teaches seminary courses on worship and leads the singing at his church. He’s also a conference speaker.
And speaking of speakers, I would be honored to speak at your event, conference, or service. I speak widely on all sorts of biblical topics, but I’d be honored to talk with your church or ministry or organization about how you can better know, love, and serve God within your unique context.
The Celebration of God is about worshipping the Lord with every second of our days. That includes our time at church as well as our time at school and work and hanging out with friends. I not only enjoy equipping Christians for discipleship and celebration broadly, I love working with ministries and organizations to help them create a culture of worship — even at work!
There are few things sadder than a church or para-church organization that isn’t truly worshipping God as they create resources for or minister to other people.
Perhaps your ministry would benefit from The Celebration of God performing a Worship Check. During these checks we interact with your ministry, employees, and volunteers to get an idea of how God is being worshipped in your space and then help everyone create a plan for discipling each other and growing closer to God . . . even while they’re working.
If you’d be interested in something like that, you can go to AMBrewster.com to continue the conversation.
And don’t forget that we have free episodes notes and transcripts available for you at CelebrationOfGod.com.
Now, let’s talk about the consequences of true corporate worship.
If you haven’t heard our previous episodes in this series, you’ll need to start there otherwise today’s content won’t help you very much.
For example, based off what we’ve already discussed, in order to benefit from the blessings of celebrating God at church, we have to assume that we’re assembling with the right people, and doing the right things in the right ways for the right reasons.
If we’re not worshipping God the way He’s prescribed, then we’re not going to experience the benefits.
Of course, at the end of our last episode I pointed out that all bodies of believers are imperfect and flawed and sinful because God has not glorified us yet. So, what we’re talking about is trajectory.
Assuming the trajectory of your church is to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father, and assuming they’ve rooted that plan in God’s expectations from Scripture, then you’re going in the right direction, even if you’re moving imperfectly.
Therefore, assuming all of that, what are the consequences of participating in the body of Christ?
Well, in order to answer that we need to be reminded of the biggest purposes of the church.
The church exists to glorify God by corporately praising Him and learning about Him for the purpose of discipling each other and evangelizing the lost.
The two Godward focuses equip us to correctly execute the manward focuses. Just like we must love God with all our being before we can truly love our neighbors, we must dedicate appropriate time to corporate adoration of God as well as corporate teaching about God.
And as Ephesians 4:11 and 12 tells us, that corporate teaching is designed by God to equip us for the work of the ministry. And, as we’ve been discussing the past few episodes, the work of the ministry involves evangelism and discipleship.
That means that the four biggest results of genuine worship are as follows:
1. We will grow in our knowledge and understanding of God. And that will cause us to . . .
2. We will grow in our love of God. And that will produce . . .
3. We will live wisely in this world by being salt and light to those in darkness. And . . .
4. We will build each other up in truth and love.
Now, it’s unfortunate that there’s a subjectivity to all of this. People who participate in cults and false religions would readily say that they’re growing in the love of their deity as well as knowing and understanding him better.
And — no doubt — the most ardent of them will be living accordingly. They may offer daily sacrifices, they may proselytize, and they may even blow themselves up as an act of worship to their false god.
But that doesn’t mean they’re accomplishing anything outside of their own power and for their own glory.
So, how can we know we’re receiving the genuine blessings of truly worshipping God at church? Well, in order to answer that question, I want to focus on the last two.
It’s very hard to know whether we’re really growing in our love for God or simply our love of loving religious practices.
It’s very hard to know if our knowledge and understanding of God is penetrating deeper than simply an accumulation of facts.
Therefore, just like genuine love for mankind cannot exist outside of genuine love for God, we’re going to use the application of our love for God to judge the strength of our love for God.
The means we need to look at our involvement in evangelism and corporate sanctification.
Let’s start with . . .
Other than entering into a relationship with God, the second most beautiful thing in the world is to introduce someone else to God and have them too enter into a relationship with Him.
Listen to Paul’s words from Romans: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”
I Corinthians: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians: “Because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you.”
Philippians: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Colossians: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”
I Thessalonians: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.”
I Timothy: “To Timothy, my true child in the faith.”
Titus: “To Titus, my true child in a common faith.”
Philemon: “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.”
In nearly every single letter from Paul, he starts with a gushing reminder of the fact that very little brings him more joy than to know those people are children of God.
And John says the exact same thing in 3 John: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” He wasn’t talking about his biological children, he was talking about his spiritual children.
The only reason God doesn’t immediately take us home following our conversion is that He wants us to participate in the glorious commission that is going into all the world, preaching the gospel, and making disciples in every land.
If you’ve never had the supreme joy of doing that, let me encourage you as a friend that you ask yourself “Why?”
When you read through the Gospels you should be struck that the people who God used to turn the world upside down were people who understood the significance of the grace they received.
God incarnate visited an oppressed people. He targeted the down and outers, the fishermen, the adulterers, the thieves. And then when God forgave them and saved their souls, they could not help but proclaim His goodness to anyone who would hear.
An Ethiopian Eunuch — a slave who had had his masculinity taken from him — was used by God to spread His Truth through Africa. A serial adulteress was used to spread the gospel through Samaria. A previously demon-possessed man was sent back to his hometown to tell of the awesomeness of Christ.
My friends, we should be no different.
If we are born again, then we must never forget that we were nothing more than wicked, God-hating sinners. But He loved us, and for no other reason than He is good, He sent His son to redeem us.
That reality should have us all shouting His praises from the rooftops. We should all have blogs. We should all have podcasts. We should all be starting churches so that other people can come to know our Lord!
Yes, it’s true that some people need to overcome being shy. Others need to stop sinning and making excuses for their lack of love for the lost. But the other reality is that those who don’t love much haven’t been forgiven much — meaning they likely weren’t forgive at all. At least, that’s what Jesus says in Luke 7: “I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
My point is that when we assemble with other believers, God wants to use the pastor to equip you to understand how to introduce others to Christ.
But even though it’s not hard to share Christ, and even though we’re surrounded by hundreds of unbelieving neighbors and classmates and coworkers, and even though it’s nearly impossible to not have opportunities to evangelize, so many professing Christians never think to talk to other people about the God that supposedly changed their lives.
They’ll talk about skin creams and sports teams and sweet dreams and comfy jeans, but they’re embarrassed to talk about the King of Kings!
Now, if I’m describing you, if you are struggling in this area, if the thought of sharing your God with others seems new and difficult and strange, and you’re not certain how to get involved in this exciting and amazing process of sharing the good news with the world — then the church is the place that should be equipping you and your kids to do just that.
But fishers of men don’t come out of self-serving assemblies. People who think that evangelism to merely getting someone to come to church or pray a prayer aren’t the result of churches that understand God and equip believers to share Him with the world.
So, that’s one huge blessing of participating in the right kind of church for the glory of God — you’ll be actively engaged in evangelism.
Now, I know that may not have been what you were expecting.
You may have been hoping that the consequences of assembling with God’s people would be that you would feel better or live better or become wealthier or healthier, but that’s not true.
Sure, you may feel better, but our emotions are not the arbiter of what pleases the Lord.
And, generally speaking, if by “live better” we mean being conformed to the image of Christ, then, yes, that will happen.
But being conformed to the image of Christ will result in us living like Him. He came to this earth in submission to the Father in order to do whatever it would take to bring people to God . . . even though it would require His death.
That’s the consequence of attending a good church.
Here’s the other.
2. Corporate Sanctification
Now, I keep using those words, and I don’t want anyone to be confused.
Corporate Sanctification is a short way of talking about the process that God wants all of us to play in each other becoming more like Christ.
God wants me to work our my own salvation in fear and trembling, but He also wants you to participate in the process of me working out my salvation in fear and trembling. In fact, to be honest, I need the body of Christ in order to mature as quickly and as well as I should.
There’s no such thing as a maverick Christian — no lone rangers. No castaway Christians.
You need other believers if you want to be transformed into the image of Christ.
So, let’s finish off today by looking at a passage we studied a couple episodes ago in this series.
I’m going to start reading in Ephesians 4:11, and I’m going to jump around a little and make comments as I go, and then we’ll be done.
Here’s what God has in store for you as you assemble and participate with a Christ-Honoring body of believers.
“And he gave the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”
Pastor/Teachers are God’s gift to us so that we may be equipped to do what the church has been called to do.
But they’ve also been called to build “up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
The Greek word translated “build up” refers to the precision and efficiency of a skilled architect. When we listen to the preaching of God’s word and participate in the application of it to our lives, God will use it to make the body of Christ bigger and stronger. He will use it to mature you in that process.
Do you want to really, truly, genuinely, be mature?
“How mature?” you ask. Paul tells us that the purpose is for us to be as mature as the fullness of Christ Himself.
And then Paul goes on to explain what that looks like. He says, “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
God doesn’t want you and your kids to be thrown around by the conflicting and destructive failure philosophies that so easily invade our homes and our hearts.
I encourage you to expand our study today by listening or re-listening to an episode I did for TLP called, “Are There Failure Philosophies in Your Home?” It’s so easy for them to sneak in and undercut our ability to stand strong and confident.
The lies of Satan produce doubts and dash our hopes on the rocks of errant worldviews. And the world is doing this on purpose.
Schools are trying to proselytize young Christians for Satan. The entertainment and sports industries are trying to preach a message of godlessness. Science, medicine, government, and culture at large are using cunning and craftiness and deceitful schemes to ruin you.
And God wants to use His church to disrupt that plan.
God wants to mature you so that they will be like Jesus — undeceived by the lies of this world.
And then Paul continues and gives us the positive side of the coin: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Let me break that down for you.
God wants to use His church — and if you are a born-again follower of Christ, then you are part of that church — He wants to use the church to train us to speak the Truth in love.
He wants to help us grow and be better connected with Jesus Christ — the Head of the body. It’s Christ who nourishes us, and since sickness in the body can hinder the brain from communicating with the rest of the body, God wants to make us healthy and strong so that connection with Christ can flourish in every joint.
And God wants to use the church to help each you work properly so that you and your local body of believers can all participate in the grand and glorious goal of flourishing in the body of Christ.
Isn’t that amazing?!
Yeah, I get that it doesn’t sound quite as fun as roller coasters and chocolate cake. But — let’s be honest — that simply reveals the immaturity of our hearts.
The fact that the two greatest blessings of celebrating God at church is that we will know and love Him more, and the two biggest proofs that we are genuinely knowing and loving Him more is that we’ll spread the Gospel in this world and engage in discipleship with each other is the most glorious blessing we could ever receive!
I hope you believe that.
Now, I wanted to end this episode by flying through the thirty-something one-anothers spread all throughout the New Testament, but I think the verses with which we just ended are perfect.
Perhaps you can further your study by going through the one-anothers yourself and then share them with your fellow disciples as you help them to better love God and the church.
It will be exciting to see how God specifically helps us mature and become more like Christ — and the one-anothers are how He does it.
I also encourage you to share these episodes with your friends. This could be a wonderful small group study.
You can even download and use the notes from CelebrationOfGod.com.
In fact, I’d love to visit your church and encourage your small group the way I’ve encouraged you. Perhaps your pastor would like to invite The Celebration of God to your church to do a Worship Workshop or Discipleship Conference.
I’d love to share this vision with your whole local body.
But even if I don’t have the chance to do that, you can still share this episode with your friends. God’s Truth is grand and glorious, and we need to be sharing it with everyone we can.
Now, I don’t like to end a series on a low note, but our final episode is called the consequences of neglect.
I know of far too many professing believers who do not regularly assemble with Christ-honoring churches. That is nothing but dangerous.
And it’s so important that I believed it was best to end our study looking at the very real results of refusing to live life the way God created it to flourish.
But — before we wrap up this series — we’re goin to talk about celebrating God on Independence Day!
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.