A Zero Ego Party

We will never be really happy without being really humble. Only humble eyes seen how many things there are that are amazing. A proud person’s expectations are rarely satisfied. A humble person enjoys everything as unexpected or undeserved. He gives thanks always and everywhere because he knows he’s getting great stuff.

It is the humble man who does the big things. It is the humble man who does the bold things. It is the humble man who has the sensational sights vouchsafed to him, and this for [these] obvious reasons: first, that he strains his eyes more than any other men to see them; second, that he is more overwhelmed and uplifted with them when they come…. (Chesterton, Heretics, 28-29)

whereas it had been supposed that the fullest possible enjoyment is to be found by extending our ego to infinity, the truth is that the fullest possible enjoyment is to be found by reducing our ego to zero. (Chesterton, ibid., 69)

True happiness it isn’t about having a lot. More is not a way to be more merry. Nor does gladness perforce come from giving up what we’ve got. It’s just as easy to be a hoarder when you only have one precious than when you have a kingdom.

It’s why communion has every reasonable and dangerous expectation of turning into a party. If every sin is paid for, then we have nothing whatsoever to boast in. We cannot take any credit for anything good. The cross of Christ humbles us before our guilty sentence and eternal punishment. All of pride is killed. Seen from that angle, how could we possibly be more happy?

Only those who know they don’t deserve it can really delight in it.

I Am Not My Own

One of the greatest comforts in life is knowing that we are owned. As disciples of Christ, we were the Father’s and the Father gave us to the Son. He did it in such a way that both Father and Son possess us. Jesus described this reality in John 17 as He narrowed His prayer list. He prayed for His own.

The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, begins with this encouragement, affectionately referred to as “Heidelberg One.”

Question: What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yeah, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth to live unto Him.

I think this comfort has great theocentric, Trinitarian, and Calvinistic clarity. The comfort is objective and durable. At the same time, I also feel its warmth. The comfort is deeply personal. We are not our own; He bought us with a blood-expense. We belong to Him; He wills and works in us to live unto Him. That is truth not only worth believing, it is the only truth that leads to life.

We are in for a great death of futility and frustration if we try to ignore or forget or deny God’s ownership. God intends for us to see His ownership as a blessing, as life, rather than a burden.

Have we been submitting to His ownership? Have we been comforted by His ownership?

Making Himself Known

When Jesus instituted the Supper of remembrance He told His disciples, “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). What was the new covenant and how is the Lord’s Table connected with it?

The New Covenant was God’s promise to “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 36:22, 32) to do for them what they failed to do in the previous covenant. Ezekiel described how God would give them a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), which they could not do for themselves. Jeremiah described it differently. He wrote that God would put His law into them, He would write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33a). The prophecy goes further.

I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33b–34, quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12)

God makes a promise to make Himself known. In light of what knowing God means in John 17:3, God makes a covenant to give eternal life.

The New Covenant belongs to the nation of Israel. The sun will stop and the heavens will be measured before that changes (see verses 35-37). But God gives life through the knowledge of Himself to all His people, including the “children of God scattered abroad” (John 12:52). God is gathering His people from every tribe, tongue, and nation with a special fulfillment still to come among Israel. This is His own covenant at His own cost because it is His own character. He is making Himself known.

Jesus’ death on the cross not only purchased our forgiveness, it is part of knowing Him. In his book Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves wrote, “On the cross, Christ the Glory puts to death all false ideas of God.” He makes Himself known so that we can have life and our life brings Him glory as the life-giver. This meal of remembrance that Jesus instituted is our life because here we know God and here we glorify God.

Racing Back for More

We’ll be studying John 17 as a church for a while on Sundays and taking our exhortation to confession cues from Jesus’ prayer. What He wants for us should be valued and pursued by us. If we’re not desiring in the same direction that He is supplicating, we have something to examine, and possibly to confess. Last week we focused on His prayer for our sanctification. This week let us consider that He prays for His own glory.

It may seem out of place to point out our need to glorify Him when we have gathered together to glorify Him. The dentist doesn’t need to give me grief about teeth care, “I’m here, aren’t I?” And yet religious people don’t always care correctly. Take, for example, the Jews who killed Jesus to honor God.

Jesus prays that the Father would glorify Him (John 17:1, 5). Do we want the Father to glorify His Son? And how does the Father do that? What part do we have, if any?

The Father lifts up the honor of His Son by making Him known. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Light reveals, knowledge clarifies and distinguishes, the face makes it personal. The Father removes the veil that keeps men from seeing “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (verse 4).

Knowing Christ, as we esteem His features and enjoy His fellowship, brings Him glory. So Peter commanded, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). How about us? Are we resting in our collection of knowledge relics or are we racing back to learn of Him in the Bible, more by day by week by year? Are we gathering to say things about Him or are we gathering to see Him, know Him, and give Him the sort of glory He asks the Father for?

Many Offspring from One Offering

Christ is our high priest. He ministers with our names on His heart as the priests in the Old Testament carried the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. They prayed, they offered sacrifices for the people. But they were limited.

The author of Hebrews wrote “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said ‘Sacrifice and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me'” (Hebrews 10:4-5). Why a body? Jesus not only offered sacrifices, He was the sacrifice, and many offspring came from His offering (Isaiah 53:10).

[E]very priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11–14)

In the communion meal we come to the epicenter of our life, the epicenter of our sanctification, the epicenter of our victory. Jesus conquered sin, He killed death, He defeated His enemies, and He has returned to glory until that time when He comes to get us and bring us to glory.

He gave His body for the bread of our life. He gave His blood as the covenant of life. He is true food and true drink. He invites us to partake of Him, to share together His love until the glorious day when we will be with Him where He is and see the glory that the Father gave Him in love (John 17:24).

Prayer for Sanctification

Last Sunday we entered a study of John 17. The entire chapter is one prayer by Jesus for His disciples the night before His crucifixion. We learn, or at least we have confirmed for us, what sorts of things the Son desires for us as we hear Him ask the Father. He makes a variety of supplications and we will take a few weeks in our confession time to examine if we are wanting what the Son wants.

First let us consider that Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in your truth: your word is truth” (17:17). Two verses later He says, “For their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be sanctified in truth” (verse 19).

We define (or argue about) sanctification better than we desire it. Christ wants us to be sanctified, to be set apart from the world in our desires and loves, but yet not removed out of the world. Sanctification is not an escape, it is a conscious battle to love God and to love our neighbors who don’t deserve it. The moral behavior part of being made more holy grows out of better and stronger love for the right things.

Jesus prays for our sanctification as our priest, as the one who goes to the Father on our behalf. Not only that, He went to the cross on our behalf. He “consecrated” Himself, He dedicated His life and death for the sake of our purification from sin. He cleanses the inside of the cup first.

Christian, are you pursuing purity in your heart for the sake of your pure, unmixed, uncontaminated loves? Are you loving the same direction that Jesus is praying? Are you living in a way that matches the purpose of Christ dying?

Loathsome Liturgy

Those of us who know so much, we who have been given so many biblical vistas of God’s glory, will naturally struggle to match our hearts with His majesty. Our feet are too small for the worship shoes we have to fill. There is a very real danger to give up, not entirely, but in certain religious ways. Rather than fight against sin and fight for fuller affections, we settle for worship motions.

We’re not the first or only people to ever be in that dangerous spot. Psalm 50 helps us even though it wasn’t written to us. It was for Israel, written by Asaph for Israel to sing. The choir were the “faithful ones” (verse 5), or “godly ones” (NAS), “saints” (NKJV), “consecrated ones” (NIV). The Hebrew word is hesedi, a derivative of hesed which we repeatedly heard last week: “for his hesed endures forever.” This psalm is addressed to recipients of His hesed, His-mercy-have-gotten ones.

But Psalm 50 is not a song of consolation. It is song a judgment because God is angry. “The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth” (verse 1). “God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest” (verse 3). He comes to “rebuke” (verse 8), with “rebuke” mentioned again in verse 21 as He “lays [the] charge” before them. God the LORD, the mighty, devouring, righteous judge has come into the universal courtroom to testify against His people. Why?

The indictment can be found in verses 8-21. God did not charge them with failure to offer sacrifices. “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burn offerings are continually before me” (verse 8). Nor did He charge them with ignorance of His statutes. His question in verse 16, “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips?” assumed that they were singing or speaking His law. The people knew who He was. They knew what He revealed. They knew what He required in worship. They knew what He had given them.

Yet two things made their liturgy loathsome to God. They were not depending on God nor were they obeying Him. God hated their liturgy because their hearts weren’t in it. The gestures of their worship were false signals.

Wrong-hearted liturgy is worse than worth-less, it is worth His wrath. The more we have to live up to the more tempting it is to make believe. As we get more excited about growing in our understanding and practice of worship, some may appear to be excited who are not actually more grateful and dependent on Him. That doesn’t mean we need to close up shop, stop learning new songs and new parts, but it does mean that we must always remember that God is looking at our hearts.