Summary: We must have a vertical (worship toward God) and a horizontal (edification of the church) philosophy of worship.
Have you ever wondered “Why do we gather together on Sunday mornings? What is the purpose of carving out of our busy week 2 – 3 hours to come to a place to be with other people to sing songs and to listen to a guy speak?” What is the purpose of congregational worship? I mean, you could be home working on the house or spending time with your family. What is the purpose of church? Why did God create the church?
The text we will focus on today is found in Colossians, chapter 3 verses 15 – 17. Please turn there with me. This Sunday and next the Message which God has laid on my heart to give to you will be focusing on the importance of community worship, namely congregational worship and family worship. So we will be going from the macro – the Fellowship of Believers, to the micro – The Family Fellowship. Why don’t I address the issue of individual worship? I believe we have learned the art of individualism too well. Individualism is at the core of our society, of our culture, of our value system. But the church is called to rise above worldly values. I am not saying individual worship is bad or we should not practice private prayer… Jesus modeled it after all. What I AM saying is that there is something unique and distinctive about the church. It is distinctive because Christ spoke so much about it and inspired His apostles to do the same. There is something more to the Christian faith than private praise and prayer and I think that a person’s faith can only grow and mature through the context of the church.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
From this passage I see four important elements of congregational worship in which each member of the body is responsible.
The Four Elements of Congregational Worship
1. The first element is this: We are to “let the peace of Christ rule in” our hearts. To have the peace of Christ ruling in your heart is to have your heart completely connected to God’s heart – to be as King David – A man after God’s own heart. It’s to have our will so connected to God’s will that all decisions we make are done in accordance to God’s direction and will.
When Summer and I have made a big decision in life, such as when we decided to attend seminary or when we accepted the call of this church into full time ministry, some have asked, “How do you know it is God’s will?” I tell them that I turn to three sources to discern God’s will: 1) The Bible – is this decision in any way contradicting the truths of Scripture; 2) I also turn to those who have been placed in authority over me – my elders. I seek their counsel, wisdom and prayer. 3) I also pray for God’s peace concerning the choice which I am about to make. It is this peace which usually guides me in either direction of the decision I need to make, after consulting scripture and my elders.
The Greek for the word “rule” in this passage has to do more with athletics than anything. It refers to an umpire ruling over a game. Bible Teacher Warren Wiersbe describes it as this “The peace of God is the “Umpire” in our believing hearts and our churches. When we obey the will of God, we have His peace within; but when we step out of His will (even unintentionally), we lose His peace.”
Having the “Peace of Christ” means being in the will of God, and, in the context of this passage, it also means being at peace with your brothers and sisters in Christ. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
Of course Paul meant more to this passage than simply having fellowship with God. You see, believers are not only called into a vertical relationship, that is a relationship with God, they are also called into a horizontal relationship, a relationship that extends to every member of the Body of Christ. I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but accepting Christ means a whole lot more than having fellowship with God. Using the family model as an example, accepting Christ also means accepting that bullying big brother or that little sister who always takes your things. Accepting Christ means accepting the responsibility of watching out for and warning the younger brother who keeps trying to climb on top of the table. And when he falls, you are there to say its ok and help him back on his feet again. Accepting Christ means being there to encourage your big sister when she looses something that is most dear to her. Accepting Christ means coming to the family gatherings, even in the midst of heartache, reconciling differences, and enjoying a grand feast together at the dinner table every week.