Nothing in life happens in a vacuum, and in an even greater sense this is true in the Christian life. The problem is that too often we forget this—not least when it comes to worship.
A great deal of discussion of this theme has focused on the content of worship: what we offer to God in our sacrifice of praise. But there are other crucial factors that ensure our worship is pleasing and acceptable to God and also is a source of joy and blessing to us as worshipers.
The fundamental consideration that shapes both our understanding of and participation in worship is that it is “in the Lord.” We can approach God and worship Him in spirit and in truth only through our union with Christ. He is the true worship leader (Heb. 12:24) who leads us into the inner sanctum of heaven. He makes us acceptable to God by His justifying grace and enables us to enter into the spirit of worship by His Holy Spirit.
Flowing directly out of this is that worship is also a corporate activity. It involves God’s people, not as isolated individuals, but as God’s family in joyful communion—“the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb. 12:23). We are caught up into an expression of worship that unites the church militant here on earth with the church triumphant in the realm of glory.
There are many other considerations that inform and enable worship that is always growing into richer and deeper dimensions, but one stands out as the most underappreciated and neglected of them all. It is that God has designated a day for public worship: the Lord’s Day.
It is clear from Genesis that the six days of the divine creative activity were crowned by a seventh set apart for the world to enjoy its Creator and Lord. Far from being burdensome, this day was invested with a unique blessing. Even after Adam’s fall, it remained enshrined in the fabric of creation and in God’s law for the good of humanity and creation itself. It was a day when all were so closed in with God that all else was eclipsed by His glory and the blessings found in Him alone. So, in terms of the economy of time, it was no sacrifice to “lose” a day to God, because the gain it offered enriched everything else.
The transition from old to new covenant epochs changed the day of this Sabbath celebration, but it also changed its benefit. It took it to a whole new plane, from anticipating God’s promised salvation to its realization in Christ. The day also changed to the first day of the week, marking the inauguration of God’s new creation through Christ’s resurrection as its focus. It was invested with further benediction through the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost—which also fell on the first day of the week.
God has set aside this day not to spoil our enjoyment of life but to enrich our enjoyment of Him in worship and provide its perfect context.