The continuing reality of sin in the believer’s life is a difficult part of our present existence. As believers, we have acknowledged the abhorrence of sin, realized its terrible consequences and affirmed that it deserves death. All of the comfortable illusions that the unbeliever can enjoy about not being as bad as the other guy have been stripped away; yet our sin remains, and the awareness of it is painful. Some Christians will act as if a certain amount of moral improvement is required of them or else their justification will be revoked; others have difficulty every really believing they are truly forgiven. Others will try to make the forgiveness of sins the whole of the gospel and ignore all the Scripture’s calls to repentance and change, which is only a recipe for an even fiercer attack of guilt and despair in the future.
When we come before the Lord in worship, we are immediately reminded, at the very beginning of the worship, of the grace and peace of God, as we are greeted by the salutation, “Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are at peace with God because of Christ, and that peace can never be taken away from us. We can forget about it for a time. We can lose the experience of its comfort during periods of our lives. But “He that has begun a good work in you will complete it to the day of salvation.” A Biblical worship service will be filled with reminders of God’s grace to us, His forgiveness of our sins, His love for His children.
But peace is not found through a mere promise of absolution. Receiving the forgiveness of sins means surrendering to the grace of God and committing ourselves to following Christ. The presence of the Spirit of God working the grace of God within us is what gives us confidence that we really are in Christ, and really are forgiven, and really have a claim to the peace of the gospel. Thus, the claims of the law to our obedience and repentance are indispensable to the peace that the gospel promises; it is grace _and_ peace with which we are greeted in the worship of God. One of the reasons the Heidelberg Catechism tells us to do good works is that we may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof (question 86).
So in worship we hear the promise of God for forgiveness of sins and the call of God to walk with Him in faith. We receive instruction in the truth of God, to guide us to understanding what we were created to be, and as we see the fruits of that change in our lives, we are assured that God’s promise to us is actually true.
The rest of the week we will be constantly assaulted with fears that we’re missing out, that we’re not doing good enough, that some imminent disaster will befall us, that we’re not as pretty or as rich or as successful or as important as someone else with better publicists than us, that the key to success is some perfect combination of diet and exercise and self-help techniques. We will be attacked with guilt and despair over our own repeated failures, bitterness and anger over the failures of others, fear and worry over the uncertainty of life.
But it is the awareness of the wrath of God against sin in the background of our consciousness that fuels all of these assaults, and through the gospel we know that the curse of the law is gone, the wrath of God is satisfied, and the love of God is ours. He has called us sweetly to Himself in forgiveness, to learn and to walk in His ways, to fellowship with Him and His people, and we need to be continually reminded and instructed in these precious truths. Gather together in worship, people of God, and receive the peace that only walking with God can give us. Grace to you and peace.