When you gather with the church this Sunday, God’s Word will be read and preached, the sacraments will be administered, prayers will be lifted up, and you will join a chorus of others who herald the good news by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. But where will you look? Allow me to tell you where to set your gaze.
First, look up (Col. 3:2–3). Worship is about God, not us. Everything in the service should direct our thoughts upward to our reigning Savior. If there is distraction or deficiency in your church’s gathering, exercise some self-control and guide your own thoughts toward the excellency of Jesus. If the preacher is not pointing you to Jesus in the text from which he preaches, search Him out yourself. Commit yourself to seeking the Lord when you gather on the Lord’s Day. This is your responsibility, and no one can prevent you from fulfilling it.
Second, look in (Ps. 139:23–24). While worship is fundamentally about God, we cannot help but come to a better understanding of ourselves as we come to know Him. As you sing of His holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, and meditate on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, be sure to examine your own heart. Are your sins being addressed? What must you do? What must you grab hold of by faith? Be receptive to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Word. How do you need to repent, what do you need to believe, and in what truth do you need to delight?
Third, look around (Eph. 5:19). The direction of corporate worship is primarily vertical (directed toward God), yet there is a horizontal aspect as well. The people around you are part of the family of God, and they are your brothers and sisters. Do you know them? Do you serve them? How can you encourage them in their faith and life? Do you understand that this is a part of your calling? Do you know that God expects you to minister to them in ways that extend beyond the time frame of Sunday worship? As you worship Christ together, you should grow in your affection for His people, your people.
Fourth, look back (Ps. 77:12). When the service is over and you head back home to rest, be sure to look back to what you sang, prayed, and heard. Talk about it with others, and take those truths even further into your own heart. Now is the time to continue preaching that message to yourself, pressing on to see what God will do in and through you. I believe half of the reason we get little out of corporate worship is because we leave it all in the assembly, when God wants us to take it with us wherever we go.
Head into corporate worship this Sunday with great expectations. God will speak. Will you listen? God is present. Will you seek Him?