I had a little chat with God at church this morning. Having youth work in my blood, I sit at the back of the hall, on some raised seating that looks over most of the congregation. I looked around during the final song in our time of sung worship, and cracked out a smile – it was such a beautiful sight. Everyone was worshipping God in a totally different way: some were stood, tall and bold, with arms outstretched. Some were sitting with God, talking to him quietly. Some were journaling or sketching, communicating the things that were hidden in their heart. Some had been trained and sung well, some (like me) sing loudly and proudly and trust that God likes the sound of our voice, even if no-one else does.
I looked around at my lovely church family, and I thought: I bet Sunday mornings are such a joyful time for the Spirit: it’s a moment when so many hearts get turned towards him. We all worship and praise God so differently and so beautifully, and yet in that moment, God hears every single one of our praises, and He whispers into our hearts something so unique, knowing each one of us so intimately. And He’s not just hearing the praise of each of the 150-or-so people in our church family: at that moment and the hours around it, millions and millions of people all over the face of the earth were gathering together to praise God.
The beauty of a God who knows billions and billions of people by name, and changes every single one of our hearts so completely made me take a breath and marvel in the glory of our God. And then I thought: I wonder if there’s a twinge of disappointment in there for Him – because in those billions of people, there are lots who are only looking at Him for the Sunday morning, who only give Him a glance, before carrying on as if nothing has changed.
The answer almost immediately dropped into my heart: God never feels disappointment towards His children – that is not something that He is capable of feeling: our God is love, and joy, and peace. When we turn to praise Him, He has so, so much joy – He’s like a proud Dad when His kids come running in for a hug. When we accept Jesus, we are covered by that love, and that grace, 24/7 – He always feels the same love and pride when He looks at us, and that never changes – it has nothing to do with who we are, or what we’re doing, or what we’re doing. When we’ve said thank you for what Jesus did, we are clean, and holy, and blameless, and as close to the Father as Jesus; and nothing that we can do has the power to change that.
Romans 8:38-39 says this: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord”.
If we have said yes to Jesus, we are in Him, and therefore this is the truth of the way that God feels about you: there is this fiery, all-consuming love, that cannot be removed by death, your present, your future, any other power; no matter how high or far you travel, or how lost you think you are. We cannot be separated: whether we are standing in church with our hands in the air, or in our bedroom by ourselves, we are the righteousness of God, he loves loves loves us with a love that cannot be torn away, and he is so, so pleased with you.
So hear this, dear friend: God LOVES your church face. He loves it when you go to church and sing your praises to Him, letting Him speak into your heart, and giving him space to work in your life. Of course He loves it – what kind of loving Father wouldn’t LOVE it when their baby comes to spend time with them?
But know this: there is so much more to life than your church face. When we say yes to Jesus, we are covered by His grace – and that means that we can’t mess it up. We are forgiven, we are healed, we are loved with his unshakeable, unbreakable love – and there’s nothing that we can do to lose that. So live every day in a love story with the one who loves you. Let it be that the devil does not just fear you when you walk into church on a Sunday morning, but when you set foot out of bed every morning – because you are up, fully awake, fully walking in your identity as a child of God, fully covered by His grace, and you are walking out as God’s light on this earth.
This, Church, is how we are called to live:
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”.