What are we doing here?
On Sunday morning, when you’re sitting with your Life Group; or an hour later, when you’re in the pews with the congregation hearing the Word of God; or on the first Sunday evening of the month, when you’re bowed with other saints in our Corporate Prayer gathering –– have you ever stopped to ask, What are we doing here?
When we assemble around the Word for worship, for prayer, for fellowship, what’s the purpose?
For many of us, we’ve done all of these things for basically our entire lives, and for some of us we’ve done these things here at Mountain Creek for basically our entire lives. But still, surely it’s got to be more than, this is what I’ve always done.
What are we doing here?
What I hope we see is that when we come together around the Word, we’re assembling both to worship God and to be formed to be more like God. We gather to magnify, and we gather to be matured. Our aim is God’s glory, and as we behold God’s glory we are transformed to be more like Him.
My assumption is that we intuitively understand the first purpose: We gather to worship God. We call it a worship service; we begin with a call to worship; we think of our singing as worship; we speak of giving as an act of worship; we even recognize that we worship through hearing God’s Word in the preaching of the sermon.
We see all of this from the worship of Israel in the Old Testament to the worship of the early church in the New Testament to the worship of those around the throne in the book of Revelation: God is the audience of our worship. We assemble for his glory.
At the same time, as we assemble for his glory, we also assemble to be made more like him. As we worship, by his Word and through his Spirit, he grows us to maturity in Christ. The Spirit uses the Word––the Word sung, the Word prayed, the Word taught in our Life Groups, the Word proclaimed in preaching, the Word demonstrated in the ordinances––the Spirit uses the Word to shape us, to form us, to mature us, to change us from who we are now to who he wants us to be.
God’s purpose is for us to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). That’s not a list of names for a sign. That’s not a job title like someone might have on a business card, something that defines who he is at work but not who he is at home. 1 Peter 2:9 is our corporate identity that is meant to define us in every area of our lives—we’re to live different than those who are not defined by 1 Peter 2:9—and God progressively forms us into that identity primarily through the ministry of the Word in the assembly of the local church.
Consider 2 Corinthians 3:18. There, Paul writes,
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV
Just before this, in verse 15, Paul spoke of the people under the old covenant hearing the reading of the books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and that for them, there was a veil over their hearts. They didn’t fully understand what God was doing in the world. But now in the new covenant in Christ, through the ministry of the Spirit, the veil is removed. So now, for us, things are different. Now when we’re hearing the Word together, when we’re beholding God’s glory in our corporate worship, the Lord who is the Spirit transforms us by his Word to be like him.
We gather for worship (to behold “the glory of the Lord”) and we gather to be changed by the Lord “into the same image.” We assemble for God’s glory, and we assemble to be transformed to become more like him.
So here’s the question for you: When you come to worship God, are you entering that time with the recognition that, first, it’s not about you, and second, you should be different when you leave?
Are you entering ready to give honor to God above all else?
And are you entering ready to be changed by God to be more like him? Are you ready to leave different, and to then live different, in response to meeting with God?
For both, we need the right heart. We need the eyes of our hearts opened to see God’s glory (see Ephesians 1:18), and we need hearts that are softened and ready to be shaped by God (see Hebrews 3:12–15). So a great prayer to pray as you prepare for worship this coming Lord’s Day is this: Father, by your Spirit, open the eyes of my heart to see your glory, and keep my heart from being hardened to your Word. As we worship you, transform me and your people to be more like you, that we may proclaim your excellencies.
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.