by Ken Puls
One of the great benefits of gathered worship with the church is that it keeps us regularly under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. As God’s people we must give attention to God’s Word. We must be diligent to listen as it is taught. We must be willing to place our lives in its light and ask God to shine upon us.
As the Word of God shines on us, exposing our sin, we are to respond with repentance. God’s Word has a penetrating gaze into the life of the believer. It is like a light that shines into a room. When the light is dim, the room may not look too bad. It may look rather pleasant. But as it shines more brightly, we begin to notice spills and stains, dirt and dust—messes we never even knew were there.
This is what Christ does through His Word each week as we sit under the preaching and teaching of truth. He comes into our lives and opens drawers, and goes through closets, and looks behind our cherished possessions. He exposes our darkness and smashes our idols. He makes us aware of our sinfulness, and we begin to realize just how dark and deep our sins really go. Our repentance deepens as we learn to confess sin, fight sin, flee temptation and turn away from sin.
But for us to have hope, repentance must be accompanied by another response in worship. Though we must see ourselves in light of God’s Word, we must look even more intently at Christ. As the Word of God shines on Christ, revealing Him as the way of salvation, we must respond with faith. In ourselves we have no hope. But in Christ there is mercy and forgiveness. In our sinfulness we face fear and condemnation. But in Christ we find joy and redemption. We must put our hope and trust in Christ alone. We turn away from sin, but we turn to Jesus.
Because of Christ our faith is strengthened, even as our repentance grows deeper. Our sin is great; our need is certain. But our Savior is greater, and the promise of the gospel is more certain. As we look to Christ by faith we realize more and more just how precious He is, how much we need the gospel, how much we need His perfect righteousness to clothe us. This is why we so need the gospel—even after we have professed faith in Christ. We never outgrow the gospel. We must day by day learn to walk in faith and repentance.
Faith, like repentance, is not something we can find or create in ourselves. Faith is a gift of God rooted in His grace.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
By faith we believe the gospel and walk in its light, trusting that all God has said in His Word will certainly come to pass. Faith allows us to lay hold of the promises of God, though we have not yet seen the final outcome.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
We have every reason to trust God and rest in Him. Over and over the Bible exhorts us: Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Trust ye in the Lord for ever:
for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord;
and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord;
trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light,
and thy judgment as the noonday.
Trust in him at all times;
ye people, pour out your heart before him:
God is a refuge for us. Selah.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Even in times of trials, the promises of God remain true. Trials, as Peter teaches us, can be God’s means to increase and test our faith, that Christ would be magnified in our lives: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:3–9).
This is how we respond rightly to worship—trusting Jesus by faith.
As we go out from worship, we must go out into a life of faith, a life where we are not trying to sort things out on our own, but a life where we are committed to walking in the light of God’s Word and trusting in His promises. Responding rightly to worship is anchoring our hope and securing our faith in Christ alone.