Day 10: The torn curtain
A LoveSingapore 40.Day prayer and fast devotional, following 2020's theme of In the Long Run – A Journey Through the Book of Hebrews.
LoveSingapore // July 10, 2020, 12:01 am
How can we make worship more attractive? New songs? Shorter sermons? Dance and drama? Stunning visuals? All wrong. Because the question is wrong.
How did the author of Hebrews deal with declining worship attendance? He did so in one long sentence that stretches from heaven to earth, literally. Hebrews 10:19-25 is a single sentence in Greek. It starts with a call to worship in the Heavenly Sanctuary. It ends with an appeal not to abandon our assemblies on earth.
If we neglect our earthly assembly, are we not also forsaking the Heavenly?
In other words, your local church is an earthly extension of the Heavenly Sanctuary where Jesus presides as High Priest. Therefore, if we neglect our earthly assembly, are we not also forsaking the Heavenly? Pause for thought.
Why must we worship together? The Preacher gives three compelling reasons: Faith. Hope. Love.
We approach God together in faith. We hold fast our confession of hope. And we provoke each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:21-24).
These reasons for gathering in worship are as practical and down to earth as they are heavenly and spiritual. But the ultimate reason is found in Hebrews 10:20: Corporate worship is a worthy response to Jesus, whose flesh was ripped open like the curtain in the temple to make a way for us to approach God.
The scourging of Jesus was at the hands of Romans, not Jews. It was not limited to 39 stripes, as is often assumed. The number of lashes depended on the whim of the whipper. The whip was barbed with scraps of metal and bone. In some cases, it stripped the victim’s flesh down to his ribs, exposing his vital organs. The pain was excruciating.
In Hebrews, therefore, the cure for casual Christianity and declining worship is not stage presence, skilled musicians, and special effects. It takes a renewed vision of, and appreciation for, the torn flesh of Jesus through which we enter the Presence of God — together.
Making worship attractive to draw a crowd trivialises the severity of Jesus’ sacrifice.
- We need divine deliverance. We cannot manufacture revival.
Pray: Lord, set us free from consumer Christianity. We bend over backwards in the name of relevance. We stage a show to create an atmosphere, to give people a so-called ‘worship experience’. Forgive us, Lord. Come as a refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:3). Purge from our worship all that is tainted with pride and tarnished by ego. Purify our hearts from the inside out. Grant us a revelation of Christ Crucified, his extreme suffering and sacrifice. This generation desperately needs a new norm: Zero tolerance for entertainment masquerading as worship (Richard Foster).
- We need a divine visitation. A restoration of true worship that draws people to Christ and his Church in the right way and for the right reasons: Faith. Hope. Love (Hebrews 10:22-24).
Pray: Lord, awaken us to worship you with full assurance of faith. Sprinkle our hearts clean from an evil conscience. Embolden us to go public with our confession of hope. Stir us up to provoke one another to love and good works with no strings attached. Pour out your Spirit. Reveal Christ in manifest power. Cause a deep sense of awe to come upon every soul. Add to our number daily those who are being saved (Acts 2:17, 43, 47).
- We need divine clarity. Amid all this chatter about future church and new norm post-Covid, some are inclined to totally forsake in-person gatherings and only do church online. Be real. Our humanity is a synthesis of spirit, soul, and body. You cannot upload your complete self into cyberspace. There is no substitute for the face-to-face community of faith! The word church (ecclesia) means the called out assembly. Pray: Lord, protect us from the new abnormal. From being carried away by all things cool and convenient. Set our minds straight so that we will think biblically and act wisely for our own good in the long run. You have created us for community: To gather and grow together. To invoke faith. To instill hope. To inspire love and good works. Ignite in us a passion to live out this divine purpose. We long for the day when we can worship again as your called out assembly gathered together in one place. I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’ (PSALM 122:1)
- We need divine favour. Today is General Election 2020.Enthrone Christ over Singapore. Worship him! Declare with zeal: His Kingdom come, his good, pleasing, and perfect will be done in Singapore as it is in heaven. Our God reigns!