The early church theologian, Augustine, said, “O Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” At Apple Valley Church we find our rest in our Triune God, who has saved us from our sins and graciously called us into His presence. Our worship reflects the joy and the reverence of redeemed sinners in the presence of Almighty God in union with Christ Jesus.
Foundational to worship is letting Scripture alone reveal the worship that pleases God. Instead of filling the service with things that interest us, God’s interests fill our worship. By the guidance of the Holy Spirit we seek to plan and offer up to God worship regulated by what the Spirit of Christ has revealed in His Holy Word. The result of this biblical governance of worship is a liturgy (“order of service”) that follows the lines of the gospel, God's story of redemption told throughout all scripture.
Noticeable in our worship is the priority on approaching God by faith alone through Christ alone. A practical expression of this is the absence of secondary mediators and tools in our approach to God. We deliberately keep our worship space sparse of statues, images and symbols. We do not wish to confuse the Lord's "little children" but rather have them approach the invisible God through the risen Christ by faith in the (presently) unseen glories of his eternal kingdom (see Hebrews 12:22-29).
A gospel-shaped liturgy
As God speaks first in our salvation—gathering us by grace, calling us to Christ—He also speaks first in our worship. We begin with a call to worship, usually from a Psalm. Having been graciously called by God into His presence we joyfully respond with a hymn of adoration followed by a prayer of invocation, praising our Triune God and asking that He be present with us as we worship just as He promises in his Word.
Each week we read a different portion of Scripture which contains aspects of God's Law, His holy and righteous standard which we all transgress and to which God still calls us to as a rule of life. Upon hearing the Law we corporately make confession of our sins, acknowledging afresh our need for God's pardon and power to do his will. This confession in no way wins God’s favor or forces His pity. Rather, because God’s favor has already been secured through Christ crucified and risen, we are now free to bring our sin to light. Confession renews us in the riches of the Savior’s love, the only basis of true heart-felt obedience.
Immediately following confession we hear the assurance of pardon, a scriptural declaration of God’s forgiving grace in Christ. Our response to this good news comes through a hymn, spiritual song or psalm, sung by the congregation.
Because the gospel is also for our children (Acts 2:38-39), we regularly give direct instruction to children in the worship service. In this way they learn early that they too are sheep who belong to the chief Shepherd.
Our service continues with the responsive reading of a Psalm or a confession of faith using the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed. We may also use one of the catechisms of the Reformation as our confession of faith for they have proven to be biblically faithful interpretations.
After the deacons collect our offering, we prepare to hear God’s Word preached. As God’s Word is read and preached His Spirit ministers to us, leaving us helpless to save ourselves so that by faith we will be raised up and seated with Christ in the promise of the gospel. Our pastor follows a lectio continua pattern of preaching, that is continuing through a book of the Bible over the course of several weeks.
Every month we receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. From the Lord’s table we are fed by God with the crucified, resurrected, exalted Christ. God does this by His Holy Spirit and through faith. Thus the sacrament signifies and seals the forgiveness of our sin and our nourishment and growth in Christ.
The service closes with a sung response to what we heard from the Spirit in the Word. We depart with God’s blessing upon us in the words of benediction (Numbers 6:22-27).
A gospel-shaped heart
When the gospel and scripture regulate our worship not only do we discover a pattern like that above, we also discover the attitude of heart God requires in worship. God requires sincerity (Joshua 24:14), reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28). So preparation for worship begins long before the Lord’s Day. Let us not despair, however, for the sovereign Lord grants what He requires when we humbly ask for it in Jesus’ name.