Preparation for Sacred Assembly
June 4, 2016
The scripture text which is so familiar to us forms the basis for our sacred assemblies is 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 – You are familiar with this passage.
When I (God) shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people.
If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Next Sunday, we will join with churches across the Church of God movement in a sacred assembly. A time of corporate prayer for the church and for the nation. Sacred assemblies have been used by God's people through the years to renew the covenant relationship between God and his people. God gave ancient Israel the Sabbath and seven other days of assembly scattered through out the year. Unfortunately, many of these holy gatherings took on different tone. They ceased to be oriented toward God and came to be little more than just parties for the people living in the land.
We can see how easy it is to drift away from the holy meanings of holidays in our own life and times. The birth of Jesus gets forgotten in the season of Christmas. Easter no longer means a celebration of Jesus and his sacrificial death and triumphal resurrection. These are the days when we should most often turn our hearts to God and thank him for his loving compassion toward us, but somehow we have allowed purely secular meanings to creep in and overshadow the true reasons for the seasons.
Even in America, our special days do not reflect their original intent. Thanksgiving was one of the first special days celebrated by the English speaking peoples who founded this nation. Yet, most people barely stop to give thanks to the God of heaven for his provision and protection during the year which has gone. When the holiday of Thanksgiving was first conceived, it was intended to express the nation's gratitude to the Almighty. Even our secular holidays have been diverted from their origins. The 4
Well, I say those things because in the midst of culture that demands that we call a sacred assembly, we often fail. Even today, we need to renew our dedication and our commitment to God. We need to restore what has been broken. We need a to call for a special day of reflection, prayer, repentance and renewal of the covenant.
Now, I must interject just a note of caution for us because it is so easy for us to mix and blend the Old Testament covenant and the nation of Israel with the conception of the New Covenant. In the Old Testament, under the covenant of the law, God did have a special place for the Nation. Those were his chosen people. They were the ones who were tasked with upholding righteousness in the midst of wicked and perverse generations. Yet, under the covenant of Grace, God works through a different sort of people. The holy nation moniker belongs to the spiritual Israel, to the church. Over and over in Paul's writing, he calls the believers “chosen people, holy nation, a kingdom of priests.” Paul further asserts that the church has become a “holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21) and says that believers belong to the same classification as Isaac, as children of promise.
What does that mean? Well, to me it points out that the very real nature of any sacred assembly should be to call the
The failure can be laid at the feet of ministers who preach feel good messages. Listen, God doesn't want you to feel good about the sin in your life. Your sin will keep you from your inheritance. Your rebellion against his precepts will void your standing in the kingdom. Certainly God wants you to feel good when your sins have been forgiven. He wants you to boldly approach the Throne of Grace, but only after you have godly sorrow for your sin and failure and reproach. Then, God, himself, will lift you up and give you hope and healing. Listen, we need more messages about the dangers of sin, to remind us of the eternal consequences. Preachers need to present the Word of God without excuse.
But, we cannot lay the blame only on pastors and preachers. There is some personal responsibility for each of us. God has given us his Word in multiple formats. In a language of the contemporary scene. It is understandable, but first we must read it. You must read it. If your pastor is preaching falsehood, it is your responsibility to know the truth anyway. God doesn't just speak to the professional minister. He speaks to each Christian. Again, Paul says that we are a nation of priests unto God. You and I will each be held accountable. Paul's instruction to the believers at Rome was that each of us should
“offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God .. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12 :1-2).
You must offer your body.
You must refuse to conform to the pattern of the world.
You must be transformed.
You must test and approve God's will.
You must not shrink or falter. You must not be tossed around like a boat on the waves of culture. Instead, you must be grounded in your faith, anchored to the truth, even if the preacher is trying to lead you astray. You have a responsibility before God. You will be held accountable.
God Has Established a Limit
Would it surprise you to know, to realize, that God has a limit to the amount of sin that he will tolerate before he brings judgment? In the Old Testament, he said, the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full limit (Gen 15:16), implying that when the limit was reached, In the Gospels, Jesus chastises the Pharisees that they are about to reach the same measure of sin as their forefathers, the ones who murdered the prophets (Matt. 23:32).
Of this we can be certain, God's limit is much higher than ours. We will blow our stacks at the slightest provocation. We will rush to judge even the smallest of sins. But the example from scripture is that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy (Jonah). He gave us the example of the prophet Hosea. Hosea's wife left him on many occasions and God told him to forgive her and welcome her back. Hosea was a type representing God. His wife, Gomer, represents Israel. The people were unfaithful, but God refused to bring about his judgment. Until, the limit was reached, then their cities were destroyed, their people carried away into exile. When the time is right, when the sins have filled up his limit, God will execute judgment on America, on any nation, but especially on those who claim his name and refuse to heed his warnings.
Preparing our Hearts for a Sacred Assembly
When Jonah finally arrived at the capital city of Assyria, he preached to the nation. Jonah told them that God was about to bring judgment on them. Their sin had reached the limit. In 40 days, God was going to overturn the nation. The king heard the message and believed it. He called this pagan city of 120,000 people to fasting and repentance. God noticed. He had compassion on them and did not bring destruction. One of the great things about God is that though our sins might have grown close to the limit, if we will simply repent, turn away from our depravity, and seek his holiness, our sin can be forgiven. Essentially, the bowl of his wrath is emptied by forgiveness. He holds our past against no longer.
The church needs to repent. We need to admit that we have gotten off track and followed scoundrels. We have not been responsible as individuals and have not followed God as closely as we should have. He will forgive our arrogance.
Once the church gets it right, I believe that the nation will follow. The church is often guilty of watering down the gospel to make it more attractive to the nation. But our efforts are strangely counter productive. It is only when we hold the highest standard of truth that people are drawn to it. So, the nation has no where to turn. We need more truth tellers.
Spend this week preparing your hearts for this sacred assembly. Focus and concentrate on you being right before the Lord. Let the revival start in your own heart.