Why Go to Church?

Most of us understand that the question is not, “How do I want people to remember me?” Instead, we wonder if anyone will remember us at all! I admire my wife because she has a keen interest in her ancestry. If someone offers me something about my family’s heritage, I like to hear it. But my wife will seek the information out. So, what do we want our great grandchildren to know about us? What is the one thing that they should remember about us?

David wrote, “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple …When you said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, LORD, I will seek.” (Psalm 27.4, 8)

Foundational Character

Three NT verses remind us that Abraham’s foundational character trait was belief. “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4.3; Galatians 3.6; James 2.23). Therefore, Abraham found strength in his dependence upon God.

James 5.11 reveals, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and see the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” Job waited patiently for the Lord to vindicate him. Job found strength in his perseverance in the Lord.

Numbers 12.3 says that Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth. Moses found his strength in complete dependence upon the Lord to fight for him.

James 5.17 states that Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain; it didn’t for 3 ½ years. He prayed again and the heaven gave rain. Elijah was bold and courageous because of his witness I the dark day in which he lived. So, Elijah found strength in the courage God gave him.

But what of David? Since David wrote many of the Psalms, we know that he had a heart for God. Acts 13.22 says that God found “David, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.” 1 Kings 14.8 says that David followed the Lord with all His heart. The hearts of future kings were often compared to David’s own heart. Many of them had hearts that were “not loyal to the LORD [their] God, as was the heart of [their] father David” (see 1 Kings 15.3). It was in the heart of David to build God a temple (2 Chronicles 6.7). David’s foundational character trait was his devotion to God. So, when we read the Psalms, we read them primarily to cultivate a heart of devotion to God. It’s not enough to find comfort in them; we must find a devotion for God in them. “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek ….to behold the beauty of the LORD …Your face, LORD, I will seek” (Psalm 27.4, 8).

One Desire

David’s one desire was to behold the beauty of the LORD, to draw close to the heart of God. “I have loved …where your glory dwells” (Psalm 26.8). David found the glory of God in the temple. Our bodies as believers are temples of the Living God. We are never exiled from God’s presence. We are never carried away from God in captivity. We have the privilege of beholding the LORD’s beauty and seeking the LORD’s face wherever we are. It is sweet to do so with other believers in church, but we have the privilege of doing so at all times and in all places.

Psalm 42 speaks of a psalmist in exile. He is not David but of the sons of Korah. His soul panted for God as a deer pants for water. He thirsted for God, the living God. He asked, “When shall I come and appear before God?” David driven into the wilderness caves longed for the presence of God in the temple once again. David desired to worship the beauty of God’s holiness. God honored this desire with great delight.

What is your one desire in life?

Jesus Christ has taught us the Great Commands: Love God supremely, tap into His love poured out in your hearts, and then love others even as you love yourself! We don’t offer blood sacrifices today. We see Jesus! He is the substance of the Old Testament shadows. His sacrifice is the keystone doctrine of all others in the church.

Believers today see the justice of God against the backdrop of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. This is something that Old Testament believers would have had difficulty grasping. Evidence for this is abundant. One need look no further than Jesus predicting His cross-work and resurrection on three different occasions in the Gospel of Mark. Yet it took His disciples by surprise.

We know the suffering of Jesus Christ as it is revealed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He drained the cup of God’s indignation for us each of us. The wrath of God poured upon Jesus so that the love of God should be poured out in each of our hearts. Amazing love! All of this not because we deserve it, but because He chooses to love us.

Our one desire is found in God’s love for us through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Think of the mercy involved in the thought that the Father gave His only Son that we might not perish alone forever! “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9–10)

So my desire is to attend church, be baptized, and partake of the Lord’s Supper. My desire is to open the Scriptures whenever believers gather. I might behold the beauty of God on a walk in the countryside. I am able to see His beauty when I listen to a sermon online. I see His beauty in my morning devotional time. But I miss no small measure of His beauty and holiness when I forsake the assembly of believers on Sunday or Wednesday.

One Delight

David’s desire became rewarding delight. It was in the tabernacle where David inquired of the Lord. Animals were sacrificed continually in order to remind him of the destructive nature of sin. David understood that God was the God of justice and that death was the price of sin.

Yet David witnessed God’s acceptance of the sacrifices. This acceptance gave David understanding when it came to the mercy and grace of God. He surely didn’t understand mercy and grace the way we do. We see God’s mercy and grace supremely through the Person and cross-work of Jesus Christ. However, David did see God as holy and loving. He responded to the revelation God gave him. It is in this sense that David is a believer, a saint.

A proper understanding of the evil of sin and the mercy of God offers hope and courage as David worships the LORD in the beauty of holiness. David is a realist. He is not living in a fantasy world. He doesn’t have an overly optimistic view of himself.

David had a private desire for God; he also privately delighted in God. But David desired to publically identify with God and other believers in the tabernacle. That public worship was sweet to David and offered him delight that could not be found privately. David understood that the worship of God was necessarily taking place in the assembly of the saints. This was approaching God on His own terms, not on David’s terms.

This also became the great equalizer for king, wealthy landowner, and poor carpenter. That is, the king must go to the priest just like the baker. All must look to the beauty of God’s holiness and find delight while they wait upon Him.

What is your one delight in life?

All of us would agree that nothing is worth missing even a glimpse of the beauty of the Lord when we gather at church on any given Sunday. I am troubled when I am even providentially hindered from missing fellowship with believers on Sunday. When I spent weeks in the hospital and in recovery from my cancer, I was all out of sorts. That time taught me the value of church attendance. It is something we take for granted. I never ask, “How many times should we go to church in a given week?” It seems absurd for me to think of it that way. We must have more opportunities to open our mouths wide so that the Lord may fill them (Psalm 81.10).

Church prepares us for Heaven. Church lifts us up from our down-below world. Church gives us eternal perspective in an earthly, temporal context. Church isn’t about the order of service, the pastor’s view on politics or controversial theology. Church is a foretaste of Heaven. It enable the glory and pursuit of holiness in our lives. It is the place where we sing and express our gratitude coupled with joy. Church assures us of the hope of Heaven, unites us with saints of the past, and teaches us to pursue the things of the Spirit. Church will once again invite us to look up to God and pray, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You” (Psalm 73.25).  So, if my great grandchildren are to remember me, I’d like them to remember me as someone who was all about the church of the Lord Jesus Christ during his earthly life.

One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.

Psalm 27.4

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