October 14th, 2010 by Kristi Stephens
“Experiencing God in the midst of an assembly, the gathered people of God – His church – is like hearing God in concert. We all, in different ways, experience God throughout our day as individuals: in our private devotional life, in the beauty of nature, and in our acts of service to the poor. But as wonderful and necessary as these experiences are, they do not replace the experience of God in concert. Like an iPod or portable music player, they replicate the music of the concert experience, but they cannot replace the concert itself. God is a master musician, and He is best experienced live in concert.
I’d like you to think about heaven for a moment. When the curtain is pulled back and we get a glimpse into the world of heaven in the book of Revelation, we see an enormous assembly- a concert of living creatures, elders, and people of every tribe, nation, and tongue gathered together around the throne of God (Rev. 4-5; 7; 14). Heaven is not presented as a private recital of God’s glory. It’s not an individualistic experience. When the Bible speaks about the end-time return of Jesus Christ, we are told it is the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19) – a giant, celebratory, communal feast, not a series of private picnics. It’s a community experience…
When we assemble together as the church, we re-create the concert of heaven here on earth. Hebrews 12:18-29 teaches us that the gathering of God’s people is a re-creation of this heavenly experience. Just as Israel gathered around the temple and the tabernacle to re-create their foundational assembly at Mount Sinai, we do something similar when we gather as an assembled church. Instead of re-creating the assembly on Mount Sinai, we join our worship to the eternal worship of the assembled in heaven (Heb. 12:22-29). Because we have come near to God in this heavenly assembly, we should ‘worship God with reverence and awe.’ (v. 28)” [Samra, 32-33]
This quote comes from an excellent book written by my parents’ pastor and friend, pastor Jim Samra from Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His book, The Gift of Church, is an excellent read – highly recommend it! And *pssst* – tomorrow on Scripture Dig we’ll be announcing a giveaway of this book, if you’d like to try to win a copy for yourself! You might also want to consider purchasing a copy as a gift – this is pastor appreciation month, after all! :)