The gathering together of the church for worship is an act of reversal; it is an act of reversing our loves.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “We don’t go to church to worship, we come to church already worshiping.” Our days are not marked with worshiplessmoments. We are always giving our hearts in worship towards some end — like running water that must move and wind around and fill up, worship is ever flowing out of us. When sin entered the garden, Adam’s and Eve’s worship wasn’t diminished, it was simply redirected.
Augustine defined sin as disordered love. Sin has everything to do with love. God created us to worship him as an end in himself, and he designed us to love people and this planet in a way that would magnify his goodness and greatness. Such a disposition would create the deepest happiness in our souls. But sin entered our hearts, and those loves became reversed. We now love the world and ourselves as an end, and we view God as a means to that end.
Augustine knew the depth of this disorder, and the havoc it was wreaking in his own life:
Let these transient things be the ground on which my soul praises you (Psalm 145:2), God creator of all. But let it not become stuck in them and glued to them with love. . . . For these things . . . rend the soul with pestilential desires; for the soul earnestly desires to be one with them, and take its repose among the object of its love. But in these things there is no point of rest because they lack permanence. (Confessions IV. x. 15)
The Fight for Order
Our hearts have a God-designed relentless propensity to cleave and unite to God himself. But because of sin and its distortion of our loves, we glue these transient things to ourselves and perpetually tear our souls apart. However, when the Spirit of God awakens us to see our Father’s faithful love in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he enables us to see Jesus as our glorious Savior. This divine gift of grace begins the reversal process in our souls, and everything we do from that point on is a progression of love and enjoyment and delight in God as the end for which we were created.
Gathering together as the church is one way we fight for ordered love in our hearts. When we come together, we prompt each other, “Look up! Behold our God!” The writer of Hebrews reminds us of this in Hebrews [12:18]–21. The people of Israel had their eyes fixed on a minuscule, insignificant, man-made golden calf when only a foot to the side was smoldering, burning, trembling Mount Sinai.
Now, before we look on them with judgment, asking, “Where was your faith, Israel?” we should be mindful of how easy we too drift into impatience with God — which inevitably results in us carving up our own plans and our own idols that gratify and please us in some fleeting insignificant way because they lack permanence.
Written by Joseph Tenney
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