Beholding the Glory of the Lord Together

Beholding the Glory of the Lord Together

Nick Esch, 7/28/2019 Cornerstone Baptist Church

The three main things that separate us from other churches are that we are God-centered, Bible-saturated, and Christ-focused in all we do. I often lump these ideas together in the term gospel-centeredbecause fundamentally this means that we will live and love for the glory of Christ because we treasure Christ supremely, because it’s in Christ and in His gospel that we most explicitly see the glory of God. As Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” And as 2 Corinthians 4 tells us, the gospel is the gospel of the glory of Christ, and because Jesus is God His glory is God’s glory… So, our passion for the gospel and our passion for the glory of God in Christ are linked; and these passions in turn make us passionate about God’s Word, and that then makes us passionate about the way our worship services and sermons are structured, and passionate about the way we do church membership and live and function as a church as well.

We are elder led, deacon served, and congregation ruled all under the Lordship of Christ. We are committed to preaching God’s Word verse by verse, book by book. We are committed to the public reading of God’s Word, to studying God’s Word, to praying God’s Word, and singing God’s Word for the glory of God and the good of His people. We are committed to meaningful membership where we seek to make sure every member of Cornerstone is truly converted and truly walking with the Lord. And we are committed to being disciples who make disciples, seeking to be faithful in our discipleship, to be faithful to disciple one another, and to share the gospel with the lost in hopes of seeing them become disciples of Christ as well. In other words, everything we do and everything we are as a church is about seeking to see the lost saved, the saints edified, and the glory of God in Christ magnified. Thus, we are God-centered, Bible-saturated, and Christ-focused in all we do…

This is what I love so much about Cornerstone: we are a people serious about the Word of God, serious about the gospel of God, serious about the glory of God, and thus serious about the people of God and our eternal joy in Christ… And that being the case, we must fight to stay this way, and to be this way all the more. We must fight to be God-centered, Bible-saturated, and Christ-focused in all we do… And we must fight to all the more be seeking to see the lost saved, the saints edified, and the glory of God in Christ magnified in and through us…

That said, I feel there is an area that we have been slacking in: that area is our children’s ministry. Though we’ve implemented the best gospel-centered curriculums I could find, though we’ve got great volunteers who love and lead well, I still feel as though we are slacking, and that’s because in an effort to cater to our children we’ve actually been excluding them. What I mean is, if the key things we are about are being God-centered, Bible-saturated, and Christ-focused, and if that plays out most fundamentally in our Sunday morning worship and in our lives of love together, then by sending our children off to children’s church instead of keeping them in the service from beginning to end we’re robbing them of the very things we think are most important, the very things we are most passionate about as a church.

Our Sunday morning worship services are a microcosm of the whole Christian life. In the Christian life we identify with Jesus and His people, we live for God’s glory, we study, hear, and obey God’s Word, we pray, and we fellowship with Christ and His church; and all of these things are seen as we gather together around the Word of God: reading the Word of God, praying the Word of God, singing the Word of God, hearing the Word of God preached, and seeing the Word of God in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In baptism we identify with Jesus and His people just like we do in the Christian life. In singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs we glorify God just like we live for God’s glory in the Christian life. In reading God’s Word and hearing God’s Word taught and preached we hear and obey God’s Word just like we do in the Christian life. Our corporate prayers together and the pastoral prayers in corporate worship set the model for our own prayers in the Christian life. And as we take the Lord’s Supper we remind ourselves of the gospel and our fellowship with Christ and His church, the fellowship that we are to live out in the Christian life.

This is why our corporate worship service is longer than most of the churches around us… Because we take these things seriously; because we take the Christian life seriously; because we are serious about the glory of God in Christ and our joy in Christ… Our corporate worship—the praying, the reading, the singing, the preaching, and everything else—is intense and weighty by design so that we would truly know the Lord, love the Lord, and be better equipped to live for the glory of the Lord. We do all we can to not only put the gospel front and center in our church services, but to saturate the service with the gospel, because if it’s in the gospel that we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, and in beholding glory we are transformed into the same image… And it is (see 2 Cor. 3:18, 4:6)… Then one of the most sanctifying things we can do is gather with a gospel-centered church for worship…

And no matter how good children’s church may be, it simply cannot live up to these expectations; children’s church can never do what the actual church can… Yes, it is hard for a young child to sit through a long sermon, or to make it through an hour and a half church service quietly, without disturbing others. Yes, it can be distracting for parents of young children to have their children in the service with them. And yes, much of the service and the sermon especially will go over the heads of most children. But, the things they will see and the things they will hear will have a far greater effect on them than what we could ever imagine. And being exposed to the gospel and the people of God in this way is what will grow and mature them, and enable them to be better equipped to not only sit through church without disturbing others, but to be a joyful participant in worship.

As our children see us praying in desperation, singing in joyful adoration from the depths of our hearts at the top of our lungs, fellowshipping with and caring for one another, and reading, studying, and sitting under the preaching of God’s Word with soft hearts and eager minds, taking notes, engaging the text, and seeking to learn and grow, they will catch more than we could ever teach them in children’s church. And they will see that the ones who love them love Christ supremely, and that just as our love for them is authentic, so too is our love for the Lord. There is a time and a place for good teaching that is geared towards children, like Sunday School; but the Lord’s Day worship service is a feast meant for all of God’s people… even those who have yet to come to understand the gospel… Nothing evangelizes better than a community of gospel people gather around the gospel together.

In a church where we all seek to behold the glory of the Lord together parents, and the church as a whole, teach children by example the meaning and value of worship. And when parents and children are sitting under the same preached Word this will provide easy discipling opportunities. On the way home from church, at lunch after service, over dinner… wherever whenever, parents can discuss and reflect on the sermon preached, the songs sung, the prayers prayed, and the Scripture read. We can work through applying everything from the Lord’s Day morning together so that all of us might truly be Christians, and be better equipped to live the Christian life.

Embracing this model of worship may be hard, and it may make it harder to bring in young families to Cornerstone, but that’s ok. The Christian life is not about our comfort and ease, but about the glory of God; and it’s not our job to grow the church—only Christ can do that… Or job is to be faithful. And as we are faithful with the gospel, and joyfully obedient to God’s Word for the glory of God and the joy of His people, our children will mature and grow in the Lord, as will we by God’s grace, and people will be drawn in… Not because of us, or because of the comfort or convenience we offer, but because of the glory of the God we worship…

In conclusion, if we would continue to be rightly God-centered, Bible-saturated, and Christ-focused in all we do, we need to make sure we’re not unintentionally leaving anyone behind in the process. And I fear that’s what we have been doing with our children. But if we commit ourselves to beholding the glory of the Lord together, then we are committing ourselves to be all the more faithful for the glory of God and the joy of His people; and that’s exactly what God’s people should be committed to.