Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” – Isaiah 6:6-7
People do not decide to become worshipers of God; rather the gospel produces worshipers. – Donald Whitney in The Gospel and Worship in the April 2011 edition of TableTalk
The rhythm of our Sunday gathering tells a story. We proclaim the gospel by the way we worship. And this proclamation is not just about repeating those portions of the gospel that lead to new conversions; it is about engaging the power of the good news that God has provided his grace to save, to sanctify, and to equip his people for this day, every day, and forever. As we have been singing about in Rock of Ages, we need this gospel to not only enter Christ’s kingdom, but we also need it to walk with him through our daily trials and demands. We want to be reminded of heaven’s mercy in a rhythm designed to reflect gospel truths. With this in mind, our Sunday Gatherings become a “re-presentation” of the gospel.
As God calls his people to worship, we naturally begin with his adoration in the scriptures we read and the songs we sing, so that all will recognize the greatness, goodness, and grace of God. In the light of his glory, we recognize that we are sinful people in desperate need of his grace. An assurance of his pardon then becomes necessary for us to continue to tell the gospel story. This assurance is defined by Bryan Chapell in his book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice as simply the affirmation of God’s provision of grace through the person of Jesus Christ. Redemption Hill does this primarily through the songs we sing during this portion of the service, and our responsive readings.
The heart that cries out to God for mercy needs the assurance of his grace, or else there is no “good news” in the gospel. Such a gospel pattern is reflected in the account of Isaiah above, whose cleansing from sin is followed by an assurance of pardon. In an article entitled The Gospel and Worship in the April 2011 edition of TableTalk, author Donald Whitney goes on to state:
The gospel takes the natural, worldly view that worship is a person justifying himself by reaching up to God and corrects it with the truth that worship is a person responding to the God who has reached down through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
No element of the gospel may be more essential than the good news that in Christ Jesus we have received pardon from sin. The assurance of pardon in a worship service announces God’s forgiveness. Shame is past, guilt is gone, and divine mercy is ours. We have peace with God because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. It pleased God to apply our punishment to him who was without sin, and to grant his holiness to us who are unrighteous. By faith, we are united to Christ and may rest in the knowledge that we are as precious to God as his own Child.