Lyrics and Harmony

One of the ways we know if we’ve been born again is our attitude toward those who sit around the Lord’s Table with us.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1)

This meal of communion is only for Christians, those who are born again, and Christians are those with a particular affirmation and with personal affection.

Those who are born of God believe “that Jesus is the Christ.” Any claim of new life apart from confessing that Jesus is Lord and Savior is a bogus claim. The lyrics sung by the born again are clear: Jesus is the Christ, the promised and anointed one, the substitutionary sacrifice who died on the cross for sins, was buried in a tomb for three days, and was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection.

The harmony of the born again song is loving other born-againers; this is not a solo act. We who are born of God confess Christ and care for one another. Diluted affections for, resistance to forgive, and reluctance to fellowship with other believers calls into question one’s spiritual life just as failing to breathe calls into question one’s physical life.

If you’re harboring resentment or anger toward a brother, whether the size of a cruise ship or kayak, you should repent and make that right before you celebrate the symbol of our uniting love. He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and we who are born again must love all the others who share our living hope.

Come, eat, drink, and celebrate your born again life in Jesus the Christ. Come, eat, drink, and commune with your born again family.

How Grain Gets Memorialized

When some Greeks came to see Jesus, Jesus said it was the hour of His glory. Then Jesus explained the truth of buried seed bearing abundant fruit.

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:23-24)

The way of fruit is sacrifice and burial for sake of life. This is not only the way God made the world to work, this is the way He made men to receive glory. We remember battles. We remember sacrifices. We memorialize those who gave what they had, and in a thousand ways we don’t even recognize, we are the fruit of many men’s deaths.

Of course this is ultimately true in the gospel. Jesus took on flesh to spend it, He came low so that He could be lifted up on a cross, and He knew that such a death would be His glory.

We learn the path to glory and how we ought to imitate Him. In the communion meal we start by remembering His cross-work, and consider the results of His death and burial. It wasn’t just His resurrection, it is the many brothers who He has raised since. May we remember, may we rejoice, and may we not give up our place in the line.

Wise in His Own Worship

Perhaps one of the most response-provoking visits of our trip to the United Kingdom was an unscheduled stop for Sunday morning worship at a church in Coventry, England. Our coach driver had a friend who attends the church there and, though that friend ended up not being there, we enjoyed a different service than most of us are accustomed to.

Everything was different, and similar, all at the same time. Most of our students, however, saw more of the differences than the similarities. We sang a few of the seven-eleven songs—songs with seven lyrics repeated eleven times—and that is not an exaggeration. There was nothing heretical said, though it was comparatively light.

We had quite a conversation on the coach following the service that continued over the next day or so. Of course our church has been working to develop our liturgy, to deepen our understanding and practice of worship, and some of our youth had not really experienced Church Lite.

It was fantastic, in one way, to hear their critiques. Where was the sense of sin? Where was the repentance? Was the service attempting to manipulate emotionally? How did the preacher connect his points? Were his illustrations appropriate?

The Bible urges us to watch others and consider their conduct. The Proverbs are full of persons to observe, most of whom we should avoid. In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul admonished believers to not be like the entire generation of disobedient.

But, the primary point of all this is to remind us to repent. Look at them, and think about what I am doing wrong, how I am sinning, how I need to grow up. It is the wrong way to appreciate our emphasis in worship on sin and repentance and be best at criticizing others who don’t do it like us.

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
 There is more hope for a fool than for him.
(Proverbs 26:12)

The Mask Is Off

When Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, what did that miracle do? It seems that there are at least two things. First, it enabled the party to continue. Second, it demonstrated that Jesus had divine power.

But is that it? Is the point of the miracles to reveal Jesus as God? It is certainly one of the things that happened, and it is important to acknowledge Jesus’ identity. But any given sign that Jesus did, such as turning the water into wine, is intended not merely to make us think about that one event, but to think about every time God ever does a similar natural thing.

Athanasius was the first to make this connection regarding the Incarnation. C.S. Lewis followed up on it in his essay, “Miracles.” All the miracles Jesus performed were supernatural, but they were focused demonstrations of what God is always doing naturally.

[E]very year, from Noah’s time till ours, God turns water into wine. That, men fail to see. Either like the Pagans they refer the process to some finite spirit, Bacchus or Dionysus: or else, like the moderns, they attribute real and ultimate causality to the chemical and other material phenomena which are all that our senses can discover in it. But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off. The miracle has only half its effect if it only convinces us that Christ is God: it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana. (God in the Dock, 29)

It doesn’t make the miracles less significant, but it does mean we should be more in awe and giving thanks for the mundane.

The Lord’s Table is not a miracle, but as we eat the bread and the wine it is a focused, and special, opportunity to remember the death of Jesus, followed by His resurrection and the vindication of His sacrifice for sin. But this is not the only time we should think about God’s provision of bread and wine, or about His provision of a church body, or His provision of everything, and how He is building it all together.

Many things come into focus when we focus on this meal rightly.

Bow Down

Although I probably could get an exhortation to confession from every page in Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, I promise I won’t. That said, contentment and thankfulness and emotional self-control requires constant vigilance, and it often requires repentance of fear and anxiety as well.

The confession of every Christian is, Jesus is Lord. At conversion we repent from self-will and self-serving. We turn away from sin and are delivered from our slavery to unrighteousness. Jesus is Lord, we submit to Him.

Sanctification is the process in which our wants and wills are transformed by the Spirit, from the inside out. We are free from sinful wants. We are also becoming more and more free from sinful reactions.

This Genesis 3 world is tough. Even in the 21st century West not everything is easy, and much of our days is spent carrying some sort of burden. The burden carrying is right in so far as we receive it as from the Lord. Where we go wrong is when we add to our suffering an attitude of slavery to the suffering. Burroughs wrote,

“How unseemly it is that you should be a slave to every cross, that every affliction should be able to say to your soul, ‘Bow down to us.’ …Truly it is so, when your heart is overcome with murmuring and discontent; know that those afflictions which have caused you to murmur have said to you, ‘Bow down that we may tread upon you,'” (147)

How easy it is to elevate our troubles into masters, when we answer questions from friends, rant on social media, or just in our emotional reactivity. Our souls are free, not from suffering, but from being slaves to suffering. We confess, Jesus is Lord, and no man can serve two masters.

We Were Tohu va Bohu

In the beginning was the Word, the Logos. In the beginning the Logos created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was tohu va bohu, “without form and void.” After the initial act, there was darkness, chaos, and emptiness.

Then God’s Word went to work. God spoke and light pierced the darkness. God spoke and order came from chaos. God spoke and filled the earth, overwhelming the void. His Word formed and filled. The Logos changed the landscape of existence.

And the Logos changed existence a second time when He died on the cross and rose again on the third day. He is still changing it.

Because of Adam’s sin, we are born sinners and so we sin. There is darkness in our hearts, a chaos of confusion and disobedience, an emptiness of meaning and of love. The incarnate Word of God sacrificed Himself so that we could see the light and be in the light. We are in Him, and He is the light. He is the truth, the one who clears our thinking and conforms us to His image. He is the life, and in Him we have love and joy. He is the value by which we measure all things, and He is the meaning-giver.

Apart from Christ, we were tohu va bohu, without form and void. For those who believe, for those in Christ, we are being formed and filled with the fulness of God. Let us remember and rejoice in this Word.

Appears to Meet the Specs

God frequently reveals the priorities He has for us, and it is very common for us to make alterations. He says what He wants, we give Him something else that we think He might be happy with instead.

The Lord regularly told the Israelites that He desired their obedience rather than their offerings (Hosea 6:6); Psalm 50:8, 14-15, 23; Proverbs 21:3). Those sacrifices were, of course, sacrifices that He Himself had commanded them to make. But the sacrifices were to be an act of obedience, not a substitute for obedience.

It is just as likely for us to offer up something to the Lord that appears to meet the specs. It is not just possible, it is likely that Christians often consider their attendance and participation in corporate worship as something that pleases God, which it is, but only as we are worshipping Him in all the ways He wants.

Jeremiah Burroughs wrote,

You worship God more by [contentment] than when you come to hear a sermon, or spend half an hour, or an hour, in prayer, or when you come to receive a sacrament. These are the acts of God’s worship, but they are only external acts of worship, to hear and pray and receive sacraments. But this is the soul’s worship, to subject itself thus to God. (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 120)

He continued by pointing out the power of our being pleased with what God does.

in active obedience we worship God by doing what pleases God, but by passive obedience we do as well worship God by being pleased with what God does. (.ibid)

Maybe you have done all the things you think you needed to do this week. But have you been pleased with all the things that God has done in your week? Pleasure in His work is worship.

What Good Is That

If you walk into your house and your wife is cooking something new for dinner dinner that smells delicious and she offers you a bite of whatever she’s making, what good is that taste? Or if you are watching a show about food, especially one of the shows where the host visits a hole-in-the-wall place, and you get to see how the dish is made and the host takes a bite and his face lights up, what good is that to you?

Neither situation is meant to discourage you or frustrate you. When your wife gives you a taste, she’s not flaunting how you’ll never get any more. When the host enjoys his taste, he’s not rubbing it in the audience’s face that he gets what they can’t. He’s inviting you to take a trip, maybe to a place that’s nearby that you never knew about.

There are times when I reference things you might not have much familiarity with. Last Lord’s Day I mentioned Prince Caspian a couple times, previously I’ve mentioned things from Omnibus books or from other resources that caught my attention. It’s possible that this could frustrate you. “I don’t know anything about that.” But that assumes that you want me only to prepare things you’ve already eaten before, maybe even cut up the meat for you.

I could act superior, and that would be a turn off. I could give a taste that isn’t tasty. But giving a taste is an invitation to get more for yourself, not discourage you because you’ve never had that dish before.

And so with this taste of communion with the Lord. It is no discouragement that we’re not with the Lord, it is an encouragement that there is more where this came from.

Full Attention

The theme of our recent youth retreat was self-control, and that’s also been a theme for my recent study and sermons in 1 Corinthians 9-10. Self-control touches everything in our lives.

Usually our thinking about our self-control starts with physical/external/tangible things. We think about what we eat, what we do, how much we sleep, and so on. These are very much a part of self-control, just as athletes exercise self-control in all things in order to win the prize.

But while that’s true, self-control starts inside and actually has more to do with the inside than outside.

Take corporate worship for example. We are told to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23-25).

There are two parts to this. We are not to neglect meeting, which means we must show self-control to get here. There are many “good” reasons not to. There are always distractions and difficulties. Sometimes it is impossible, but don’t think that it will always be easy. That’s why self-control is necessary.

The second part is that we are to consider encouraging one another, which means we must show self-control to be here. Get here, and be here. We can’t check out, wander off in our minds to some other place, or distract ourselves with digital devices. We must be self-controlled in our considering work. This is the time we meet with God, and this is a time for building up the body, which requires our full attention.

The Most Honorable Lineage

Near the end of Prince Caspian, Aslan feasted the Narnians (yes, feasted can be a transitive verb with a direct object), and declared Caspian, “a son of Adam from the world of Adam’s sons,” as the true King of Narnia. The story, though, was not so positive about the sons of Adam, and when asked if Caspian understood it, Caspian replied, “I do indeed, Sir. I was wishing that I came from a more honorable lineage.”

When we think about our own history, don’t we wish something similar?

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

Not only is this actually true for us, in a non-fiction way, we have even more. We come from the lineage of the cross. We are subjects to, and sons of, the Lord Christ.

The death of Christ on our behalf ought to mortify our illusions of self-importance. We are not great. We have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The cross is our death. The grave is our bed. Such weight bows us.

And also, God sent His Son to die for all those He loved. The benefits of His death are applied to us. We have died with Christ, but we have also been raised with Him. Somehow this is a weight that makes us skip and dance and sing with joy.

So we gather around the Lord’s Table to commune with Him as those who have a the most honorable lineage.