Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How to Have a Delightful Assembly

One of the greatest privileges and blessings we have in Christ is to spend the day (or a large part of it) together in the presence of Christ. A day in his courts is better than a thousand elsewhere! (Ps 84:10).

But how can it become what God intended it to be - a delight?  Do we want to have joy on the Lord's Day, especially when we assemble?  The Lord promises it to us! (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Here are some things we can do to bring joy to our Lord's Days assemblies.  Obviously, none of these work without the help of the Holy Spirit - hence the first one!

1. Pray for the Lord's Day - pray that the Lord would prepare the hearts of his people, that he would set our minds on Christ, that he would help us to come into his presence with joy, that we would deny ourselves in his presence, that we would delight in Christ and his works, that he would make the hearing of his word profitable, that he would help poor pastors who have the responsibility of preaching the word, that we would repent of sin, that we would call the Sabbath a delight, that we would set aside our love for the world and the things in it. (That's a good start!) 

Prayer should begin on the Sunday evening before the next Lord's Day. The Spirit gives life - our flesh is no help at all. Without prayer, forget about it. 

2. Prepare for the Lord's Day - Not only do our hearts need to be prepared, so do our bodies and lives to have joy on the Lord's Day. We can prepare by getting things ready to go on Saturday - Don't wait until Sunday morning! 

Go to be early enough to be rested. While the Holy Spirit can do all his holy will in us regardless of our physical state, if you read the word of God, the intent is not that we come into the Lord's presence dragging. 

Israel prepared for two days to come into the presence of the Lord at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19). Are we any less in his presence on the Lord's Day? Prepare, but prepare yourselves for joy!

3. Get other stuff out of the way.  This is sort of a subset of number 2.  The idea of the Sabbath is to be freed up of work and responsibility (as much as is possible) to enjoy Christ. This is going to sound legalistic - it's not. We can't cram Jesus into a host of other activities. We should come into his presence singing and with joy, without an eye to the clock!

Free up yourself from other responsibilities and commitments. There's no better place to be than to be in the presence of the Lord with all of his people! A thousand other activities, no matter how important or enjoyable, can't match a single day in his courts (Ps 84:10). 

The cost of our assemblies was high - the suffering and death of Christ. He chose you to enjoy this great honor and satisfaction. Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! 

4. Remember your salvation in Christ! Preach to yourself! Remember why you are going to church in the first place. Is it not because Jesus saved you from your sins - sins that would have brought judgment!  Christ died for you, and because he did (and you believe in him), your salvation, your inheritance, your forgiveness, your adoption, your redemption, your justification, your sanctification - your future - are ASSURED!  

If these don't get us wanting to come into his presence with joy, something is wrong.  Meditate on these wonderful, glorious, gracious, merciful truths. Rejoice in them before you assemble, and you will have plenty to fuel gladness on the Lord's Day. Psalm 92:4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

5. Pursue unity with your church (deny yourself) - While we are meant to enjoy the Lord on a highly personal level when we assemble, we are to assemble as one body in Christ. Nowhere is our Lord's admonition truer - Matt 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 

Unity trumps a lot of other things when the church assembles. In fact, if the church is not unified when it assembles, if it behaves in selfish ways, then it would be better if it had not assembled at all.

1 Cor 11:17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized

As we just read, one of the ways we demonstrate that we are truly in the faith is that we behave in a unified way when assembled with the church. Factions demonstrate insincere faith.  

How differently would we behave if we knew that our own behavior impacted the acceptance of our assemblies to the Lord? Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor

6. Desire biblical things! This one should be obvious - it isn't. The Lord tells us exactly what he wants the church to do on the Lord's Day when his people assemble. Desire the things you see in his word. 

What might they be? Reading and hearing the word (2 Tim 4:1-2), prayer (1 Tim 2:8), singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19-20), the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11), stirring up one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24-25) through upbuilding - encouragement and consolation (1 Cor 14:3), praise and thanksgiving (Psalm 92:1-2), a love feast (meal 1 Cor 11). 

All of these are either commanded, taught in principle or seen by example in Scripture - meaning these are the biblical things God sanctions for his assemblies - for joy!

Now, if we come to church wanting something other than these things (unless I've left something out from Scripture), then we're not on the road to spiritual joy.  Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit - can we believe he produces it in us by things not found in his word?

How filled is the church today with activities on the Lord's Day found nowhere in Scripture. For joy, let us stick to God's word which is sufficient to make us equipped in all things - including assembling in his presence (2 Tim 3:16-17).   

7. Love your brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no joy without love (John 15:8-14).  He commands us to love one another - how much when assembled in his presence!

Now, how do we love our brother biblically?  We do what the Scriptures say to do towards them.

1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.  

What should we do on the Lord's Day? Look at what the Scriptures say to do - that will always be the right answer to the question - how do I love my brothers?  Look at the Scriptures. Understand what God desires of you. Pray for help to do his will. 

8. Be there!  This one should be obvious too - but it isn't because of our fleshly hearts.  Jesus wants us to have joy in his presence, joy when we assemble together.  Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  

Being there shows love for Christ and love for your brethren. It is discouraging to others when we forego the assembly. Love your brothers and sisters and be present for them. 

Jesus wants you there. Christ, who loves you with a perfect, eternal love, wants to spend intimate time with you.  Song of Solomon 2:14 My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. He thinks you're lovely (because of his redeeming work in you), and wants to be with you!

Rejoice in his presence, knowing that he desires to see you and hear from you! What a God we serve.  Psalm 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him

God intends us to have joy always, but particularly on the Lord's Day when we assemble in his presence. And he tells us in his word the things that will help our joy.  May God cause us to do these things, that this may be truly said of us,

Psalm 100:1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! 2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

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