In the halls of University College London, a wandering visitor may chance upon a strange sight: the skeleton, hay-stuffed clothes, and wax head of Jeremy Bentham, an 18th century philosopher and the spiritual father of University College. (It seems an odd fetish to me, but to each his own I suppose.) It’s even reported that at the 100th and 150th year anniversaries of University College Bentham was wheeled into board meetings where he was recorded on the minutes as “present but not voting.” At least they didn’t ask him to give the closing address….
Now, here’s the question: when we gather on Sunday mornings, how often is our functional view of Jesus something like “present but not voting?” Yes, we know we’re singing to Him and talking about Him, and we’re sure that He’s pleased with what we’re doing – but do we think of Jesus as anything more than a spectator at a party someone else has thrown for Him? Is our view of the Sunday gathering a mostly bottom-up, us-to-God kind of endeavor, the sort of thing Jesus might notice, smile down on, and say, “That was thoughtful of you!”
The reality is that Jesus is not “present but not voting” in His church. Listen to how Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck describes Jesus’ ongoing ministry as our resurrected and exalted Savior:
“In the state of exaltation, consequently, he has also been given the divine right, the divine appointment, the royal power and prerogatives to carry out the work of re-creation in full, to conquer all his enemies, to save all those who have been given him, and to perfect the entire kingdom of God….It is the living and exalted Christ, seated at the right hand of God, who deliberately and with authority distributes all these benefits, gathers his elect, overcomes his enemies, and directs the history of the world toward the day of his parousia” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. III, p. 474).
The next time you gather together with the people of God at your local church, meditate on this fact: Jesus is present and active among us by His Spirit. He is present and active to break through layers of unbelief, hard-heartedness, and sin’s deceitfulness to change us from the inside-out through the preaching of the Word. He is present and active to open the eyes of those still blinded by Satan and to bring them into the glorious light of His gospel. He is present and active to stir and animate and deepen our praise as we sing. You have never been in an “ordinary” Sunday meeting. Sometimes quietly, sometimes obviously, but always actively and faithfully, our risen Lord Jesus Christ is at work in our Sunday gatherings to sustain, equip, and transform the people He bought with His own blood until the day when “the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord.”
Could there be a better reason to gather on Sunday mornings?