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                    "SERVING THE LORD WITH GLADNESS"

                   Getting More Out Of The Assemblies

INTRODUCTION

1. David, "a man after God's own heart" (Ac 13:22), loved to worship
   God...
   a. He was glad when asked to go to the house of the Lord - Ps 122:1
   b. He called upon others to serve the Lord with gladness - Ps 100:2

2. Many who go to church seem not to enjoy it much...
   a. Some sit with disinterested or bored looks on their faces
   b. Others make the effort to attend, but appear to receive little
      benefit by their presence
   c. Those who lead singing or who preach often notice the lack of
      'gladness'
   d. Visitors often notice it as well

3. Having witnessed such myself, I have often wondered...
   a. Do such people not know the Lord?
   b. Do they not find joy and gladness in serving the Lord?
   c. Are they not encouraged when they assemble with their brethren?
   d. How can we help them get more out of coming to church?

4. I find opportunities to worship the Lord a source of great
   encouragement...
   a. I am drawn closer to God, I am encouraged by my brethren
   b. I wish others would experience the same blessings

[To encourage people to get more out going to church, we begin a series
of studies entitled "Serving The Lord With Gladness".  This first study
deals with the general idea of assembling together...]

I. THE ASSEMBLIES OF THE CHURCH

   A. AN IMPORTANT DUTY...
      1. That we might exhort one another - He 10:24-25
         a. We worship God when we come together
         b. But an important element is our mutual edification
      2. That we might keep one another saved - He 3:12-14
         a. There is the danger of becoming hardened by sin, departing
            from God
         b. The antidote to apostasy is frequent exhortation
      -- One of the first symptoms of apostasy is irregular assembling
         with other Christians

   B. WITH MANY OPPORTUNITIES...
      1. The assembly on first day of the week - Ac 20:7; 1Co 16:1-2
         a. We have the opportunity to assemble weekly
         b. To break bread (the Lord's Supper), along with other
            activities (prayer, singing, etc.)
      2. Bible studies - Ac 2:42; 2Ti 2:2
         a. We have the opportunity to attend Bible classes
         b. We can often attend home Bible studies
      3. Gospel meetings - Ac 19:9; 2Ti 4:2
         a. Conducted by churches in other places
         b. The purpose is both to evangelize the lost and edify the
            saved
         c. They provide wonderful opportunities to learn and develop
            ties with brethren
      -- The opportunities to serve the Lord with gladness are indeed
         many!

[Yet attending such assemblies is not high on many people's list of
priorities.  Evidently they do not get much out of them.  If such is the
case with you, here are some thoughts on...]

II. GETTING MORE OUT OF OUR ASSEMBLIES

   A. PREPARATION MAKES A DIFFERENCE...
      1. We get out of something what we put into it
         a. This is true with any endeavor in life
         b. Even what seems most boring can become interesting with the
            right preparation
      2. Preparation beforehand makes a big difference in what we get
         out of going to church
         a. Such as praying and meditating upon what we are going to do
         b. Planning what we can do to make the assembly more edifying
            (e.g., welcoming and visiting others)
         c. Come to serve, not to be served (though we will blessed in
            return - cf. Ac 20:35)
      3. Preparation often begins the night before, especially for the
         Lord's day
         a. Getting a good night's sleep
         b. Planning on getting up early enough to have time to dress
            and leave on time
         c. Planning to leave with enough time to arrive early
      -- A little extra effort in preparation can make quite a
         difference

   B. BE MINDFUL OF THOSE PRESENT...
      1. Our brethren in Christ
         a. People like you, who appreciate the presence and
            encouragement of other Christians
         b. So take the time to visit with them before and after the
            assembly
            1) Don't get into the habit of always coming in at the last
               minute
            2) Don't be in such a rush to leave after the service is
               ended
      2. Visitors who frequent our services
         a. Who naturally draw conclusions about the congregation during
            their visit
            1) Will they conclude we are really disciples of Jesus?
               - cf. Jn 13:35
            2) Will they say in their hearts "God is truly among you"?
               - cf. 1Co 14:25
         b. So take the time to welcome them and visit with them - He
            13:2
      3. Especially our Lord
         a. As He promised in Mt 18:20
         b. Do we act as we would if He were bodily present?
      -- Proper awareness of those present makes the assembly more
         significant to us

   C. ENGAGE YOURSELF IN THE SERVICE...
      1. Look and listen
         a. Use your eyes to help you pay attention, by watching those
            who lead the services
         b. Use your ears to listen, for blessings come to those who
            hear well - cf. Mk 4:24-25
      2. Sing and pray
         a. Join in the singing, which is designed to edify - Ep 5:19;
            Col 3:16
         b. Pray along in heart with those who lead, adding your 'amen'
            - cf. 1Co 14:15-16
      -- Worshipping God is not a spectator sport; it requires active
         participation!

   D. SIT TOWARD THE FRONT...
      1. Able to enjoy the singing more
         a. When the majority of the singers are behind you, you will
            hear more
         b. When they sit in front of you, their volume is directed away
            from you
      2. Able to better concentrate on the sermon
         a. Up front there are less distractions
         b. Sitting in the back, your attention is drawn by every
            movement by those in front
         c. Children especially, get more out of it by sitting up front
            (I certainly did!)
      -- We can't all sit up front; but if we have a choice, why not use
         it?

   E. THE MORE YOU GO, THE MORE YOU GROW...
      1. The more you come, the more (and faster) you will grow!
         a. This is true in physical exercise (cf. once a week vs. three
            times a week)
         b. Should we expect spiritual exercise to be in different?
            - cf. 1Ti 4:7-8
      2. "How often do I have to come?" is indicative of spiritual
         immaturity
         a. It displays a lack of true love for Christ and His brethren
         b. It shows that one is selfishly concerned with how little
            they can do to save themselves
         c. Does the love of God abide in such a person? - cf. 1Jn 3:
            16-19
      -- There is a direct correlation between how often you attend and
         the depth of your spiritual maturity!

CONCLUSION

1. I have never known a truly happy Christian...
   a. Who made it a practice to assemble with other Christians only on
      Sunday
   b. When they had ample opportunity to do so more often

2. Like many they "lead lives of quiet desperation" (Thoreau)...
   a. They have a semblance of religion, but no real power - cf. 2Ti 3:
      1-5
   b. They have enough religion to make themselves miserable

3  The happiest Christians are those who attend every service they
   can...
   a. They are happy because they are stronger in their relationship
      with the Lord and brethren
   b. They have learned how to serve the Lord with gladness!

My prayer is that these studies will help us all to be able say with
David...

   "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of
   the Lord.'" (Ps 122:1)
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