Robert Murray M’Cheyne lay on his sickbed in January 1839. Illness had punctuated much of his life and would eventually claim him at the tender age of twenty-nine. Eternity was ever before him in such seasons. Thus, on January 12, 1839, he wrote to a ministerial friend: “May your mind be solemnized, my dear friend, by the thought that we are ministers but for a time, that the Master may summon us to retire into silence. . . . Make all your services tell for eternity.”
Worship is the main theme in the symphony that is the Christian life. Lord’s Day meetings are the center of our experience, for it’s in gathered worship that we encounter the triune God through His Word, sacraments, and prayer.
When the saints gather on Sunday, eternity kisses the earth.
WORSHIP THAT UNDERSTANDS THE REALITY OF ETERNITY
What might happen to our services if they told for eternity? At least four things would be true.
I. We would enjoy God’s presence. One great mystery of the Christian’s experience is that we live already as citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20). The Lord has raised us with Christ and has seated us next to Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Thus, the author to the Hebrews explains, we have “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all” (Heb. 12:22–23). To gather in worship is to gather before God.
Francis Schaeffer once asked, “What difference would it make if God’s presence left the evangelical church today?” He wrote, “The simple tragic fact is that in much of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ—the evangelical church—there would be no difference whatsoever.” The indictment surely rings true decades later. May it not be said of us, however. Let us join Moses, the man of God who knew that if God left His people, their existence would be pointless (Ex. 33:15). When God’s people gather to worship, God is there. And nothing is sweeter or more satisfying than His presence (Ps. 17:15).
II. We would encounter God’s power. Worshiping in God’s presence means experiencing God’s power through His ordinary means of grace. In the reading and preaching of God’s Word, Christ confronts our conscience and soothes our soul (Eph. 2:17). The sacraments tangibly hold forth Christ’s blessings and benefits (1 Cor 11:26). Baptism is a life-changing, name-altering rite of initiation (Matt. 28:19). The Lord’s Supper is the summons to God’s banqueting table to receive an appetizer of the wedding banquet to come (Song 2:4; Rev. 19:9). Through prayer, we ask for heaven’s bounty to fall on earth (Matt. 6:10–13; Heb. 4:16).
Services that tell for eternity are, by necessity, word-saturated gatherings. The Word is God’s breath (2 Tim. 3:15), and so is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12). Its truth is “more fully confirmed” than an experience of Christ’s transfigured glory on a mountainside (2 Peter 1:19). It is perfect, pure, and powerful (Ps. 19:7–9). It is our daily bread, for we feast on every letter from God’s lips (Deut. 8:3). According to the psalmist, God’s word brings us life (Pss. 119:25, 37, 50, 93, 107, 154, 156). God’s power in creation, regeneration, and sanctification comes through His Word.