“Take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Last Sunday, the elder leading worship began the service with a quote from David Wells’ book, God in the Whirlwind. Here is a portion of that quote:
Worship, then, is all about refocusing our lives. It is about confessing our sin together, for God is holy, and once again hearing the words of assurance that Christ has borne sin’s penalty. It is about remembering the resurrection of Christ, his grace, his holy-love, and his reign that will one day sweep away all that has broken life and defied God. There is no other reason to be in worship than to remember and celebrate these truths. They will endure for all eternity because they all correspond to what happened in the cross and to what is there in God’s character. They will be celebrated in eternity. They will be our eternal song.
I had read this passage in Wells’ book, highlighted it, and flagged it for use as an introductory statement as our worship begins. Still, when the Elder read that quote this week – it got me thinking, and I quickly had to write down some notes while the congregation started singing the opening hymn.
We need worship to refocus our lives. While I may not be very consistent at vehicle maintenance (how’s that for a leap in thought – trust me, I will come back around), I know that having your alignment checked and the tires balanced regularly is a good thing. When your wheels are out of alignment, and the tires are out of balance, your tires will wear unevenly, deteriorating faster than they ought, and the general handling and performance of your vehicle diminishes. If you’ve driven through the streets of Cherokee, IA for a couple of years, crossing the train tracks on Willow, Cedar, or Bluff streets on a regular basis, chances are your alignment is out of whack, and it’s time to have it checked.
Each week, as we gather for worship, we come to get our life back in alignment. Each day is filled with bumps and pot-holes that make a wreck of our faith. We face obstacles that seem overwhelming: the bills are more than the paycheck; a friend turns her back on you; the doctor said it’s cancer; your marriage is falling apart. We struggle daily with sin: we do the things we know we shouldn’t (and often we enjoy it), and we neglect the good that we ought to do; the careless word that cuts someone down, the bitter attitude that can’t let go of old wounds; the arrogance and selfishness that disregard God’s word for what we think is right and best in our own eyes. We wrestle with doubt: can God really love me; could one man on a cross truly pay for all my sins; if God makes all things work for good, why am I facing this?
This is just one reason why we desperately need to worship. We may put on a good front when we come in and find our pew on a Sunday morning, but if we could see with the eyes of Christ, what a different picture that would be. Each one of us comes into the house of prayer beaten, weary, worn, tired, frustrated, confused, broken, wounded. Our lives are so out of alignment, so out of whack, it’s only by the grace of God that we made it back to worship. We come, not to show off how right and good we are, but because each of us is sick and we need healing.
There is a balm in Gilead, that makes the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead, that saves the sin sick soul.
We come to worship confessing our sins, not so that we can wallow in the mire, but so that, having confessed them, we may find healing in the assurance of pardon. That’s why, at least in our serve, there is no “Amen” after the Prayer of Confession – that prayer is not done until you hear the assurance of you salvation. “In Christ, your sins have been forgiven.” That is the proclamation of the Gospel! That’s what we need to hear, before anything else. You are at peace with God, you are forgiven your of your sins, the wrath has been born by the Lamb, you are a new creation!
What obstacles do you face this week? What hardship do you bear? What sin has beset your soul? What grief is too much to carry? What doubts and fears overwhelm you? Does it seem like God has let go and things are beyond His reach?
Do not lose heart. Christ has overcome all things. He has overcome all sin. He has overcome all doubts. He has overcome the grief, the fear, the shame. When we come back to Christ as our foundation, He brings our lives back into alignment. We find assurance when assailed by temptation, peace in the eye of the storm, hope in the midst of despair. We will still face suffering and loss, but we know that even these things draw us closer to Christ, in whom we have ultimate victory.
Return to this foundation in the worship and praise of God through Jesus our Savior. Know that “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). Come back to the message of the Gospel, the truth that will endure for all eternity, the truth that will be our eternal song.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28–31 (ESV)