(A review of the book, “With Reverence and Awe, Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship” by D. G. Hart and John R. Muether. In conjunction with our Wednesday night study, I am using this book and the principles taught in it to aid us in a study of worship.)
Chapter 9: The Means of Grace
“…worship is for God and not for us. God is the audience of our worship, not unchurched seekers or even fellow believers. He alone is the one whom we are to please in our worship. Worship, then, is not chiefly about evangelism, nor is it a concert, lecture, or counseling session. All of these activities may be legitimate and worthwhile for Christians. But none of them constitutes public worship.” (Hart and Meuther)
As we look at the means of grace, we will be turning to what worship does for the church and how believers are nurtured and edified by them. While worship is not centered all around us, Scripture does make it clear that when we praise and glorify God, we will be blessed. God causes Christians to grow in grace, principally through worship that pleases and honors Him.
We see this principle expressed in Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
The outward and ordinary means of grace (preaching, the sacraments, and prayer) work slowly and quietly in reorienting our hearts heavenward. These ordinances are not necessarily a quick fix. They may not produce a spiritual high. Christians today seek quick results in our age of instant gratification, rather than the steady diet that God has provided for us.
Acts 2:42 states, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Are we as devoted today to these means of grace God has provided for us as believers were in the early Church?
“Worship is our work. But more importantly, it is God’s work. In the elements of worship God is at work saving his people…The Bible, in fact, teaches that God’s people are saved, that they are being saved, and that they will be saved. The means of grace, however, reinforce the idea that Christians who have converted and are marching toward Zion are also weak, frail, sinful, and prone to wander. So we are in constant need of God’s grace And this is what we receive especially in worship.” (Hart and Meuther)
In our pilgrimage of this life, let us not be like the Israelites in the desert who complained about the manna that God provided for their sustenance. Many today are tempted to look at ordinary means of grace as boring and optional, but when we forsake worship we starve our very souls of what God has given to us for our good.
“The wilderness experience is a corporate march toward the promised land. For this reason, the outward and ordinary means of grace are ecclesiastical ordinances. They belong to the church, which alone possesses the keys of the kingdom. These ordinances of the church are crucial to salvation. On this basis, the Reformers rightly insisted that outside of the visible church “there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (WCF 25.2). Public worship is not optional for believers because it is the time when the church chiefly conducts its ministry and work.” (Hart and Meuther)
As Reformed Christians we reject the individualism of American spirituality. We do not come to the church as consumers who are looking for a product. We come instead to be discipled through the Word and sacrament. We recognize worship as a corporate activity.
“So the choice comes down to eating the manna of God’s gracious provision or supping on the food of our own creation.” (Hart and Meuther)
Are you and your family being fed and nourished by God’s means of Grace? Are you taking advantage of morning and evening worship every Lord’s Day? Do you place value on those things that God has chosen to grow and strengthen His people? Let us not forsake the feast that is prepared for us by God every single week.