Lord's Day Liturgy

Communion and Provision

After the familiar story of Jesus feeding the five-thousand in John six there is much about how Jesus is the bread of life and about how His disciples must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to live. Though Jesus doesn’t institute the Lord’s Supper at that time, our communion with Him is connected to our provision from Him.

Paul also connects communion with provision in 1 Corinthians 10. In the first part of the chapter Paul demonstrates from the Old Testament that it is dangerous to receive God’s blessings but not actually obey God (verses 1-12). In verse 13 he states famously:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)

Immediately after that Paul moves into a discussion about the anti-idolatry meal–the cup of blessing and the bread. In other words, our participation in the blood of Christ and in the body of Christ is part of God’s provision to escape temptation. God provides a way to endure. He provides grace. He provides nourishment. He provides help. And as with the loaves and fishes, there is more than enough.

The Lord’s Supper is a meal of soul-provision and of faith strengthening for sake of sin-fighting as we commune with Christ and with each other. We need it and He graciously provides. It’s a familiar story.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Quite Appalling

One of the biggest reasons that the gospel (and gospel worship) appalls men is that men don’t want to forgive others.

The good news is that God sent His own Son into the world, born of a virgin, fully God and fully man, who lived a sinless life and then was crucified unjustly as a substitutionary sacrifice. He died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. His resurrection confirmed that the Father accepted His work and enables Him to forgive those who confess and repent. In Christ, all who believe are forgiven.

What kind of God would go through all of that in order to forgive rebellious people? A God who loves to forgive, who is glad to reconcile with enemies, who eagerly pursues fellowship with men. What does that have to do, though, with how we treat other people?

We cannot worship God without becoming more like Him. We cannot draw near to Him, see what He is like and see that He likes to be with us without also realizing that we are called to do likewise. The gospel of God flows downhill.

So Paul said that believers must forgive each other, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13). Jesus taught us that “If you you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).

Confessing our sins in our worship service is a threshold. If we understand gospel confession correctly, not only are we being forgiven and cleansed by Christ, we are making a commitment before Christ to forgive others. Not everyone is eager to forgive others. We prefer holding on to our grudges and pettiness and criticisms. Getting forgiveness from God isn’t offensive until we realize that it also requires giving it to someone else. That’s yet more proof that we needed and still need the gospel of forgiveness.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Boasters Welcome

The Lord’s Table is a table of glory. God invites boasters to eat and drink with Him, boasters who have repented of boasting in themselves and who now boast in Christ alone.

We offer nothing to a self-sufficient God or His Son. In fact, God calls the low, the despised, the foolish, and the weak of this world for Himself. This was “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:29). But He doesn’t call us and then leave us empty. “Because of [God] we are in in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Paul is quoting the prophet Jeremiah.

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)

We are, all of us, glory seekers (think John 5:44). As Christians, we seek the glory spread before us on the Table. We boast, and our boasting is in the Lord, in His death for us and in His resurrection for us. The eternal Dignitary, the infinitely excellent Majesty invites us to share in His glory. He offers His glory, His very self to us at this Table by faith. By grace through faith we find Him in the place His glory dwells. One day in His glorious presence is better than a thousand praises of men.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Exalting Dignity

We don’t use it much any more, maybe because there isn’t much any more, but dignity is a great word. Dignity refers to a quality or state worthy of honor and respect. It describes a man with worth, someone with nobility and gravitas and glory. True dignity can’t be reached via shortcuts and, once there, dignity acts in a certain way to maintain itself.

Our weekly corporate confess of sin is entirely about dignity. It is a time to protect honor, to preserve respect, and to put forth a noble image. We are, all of us, concerned with dignity.

However, we are not, all of us, concerned with the same dignity. Some of us are concerned to maintain our own dignity, to display a certain image that shows that we are worth something, that others should think highly of us. Those of us who are concerned for our own dignity may sit through this part of the service with a sense of superiority, sitting in distance from inward or outward concern for humility. We desire dignity before our brothers.

But, as I said, everyone is concerned for dignity and that is good. It is good when we approach this time concerned for the dignity of God because we esteem His worth, His nobility, His image. In order to acknowledge His dignity we confess our sin that brings trouble into His courts and that reflects poorly on His glory.

We are all of us concerned to maintain and to show off an image. The question is whose dignity we are daily, and in our worship, seeking to exalt.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Path of Life

Every Lord’s day we gather as Christians to celebrate Christ’s historical, bodily resurrection. If He has not risen, if His resurrection is a myth or a scam, our faith is in vain and we are still in our sins. Unless He lives, we cannot face tomorrow, let alone eternity.

In Psalm 16:10, David looks forward to the glad security that the Savior’s flesh would not see corruption. His soul would not be abandoned to Sheol, to death. The next verse brings us home, too.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11, ESV)

Though David may not have connected all the dots, we can. The “path of life” is Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way…no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus brings us into life. He is “the life.” He brings us into God’s presence (1 Peter 3:18) and with God there is “fullness of joy.” At God’s “right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

The Communion Table is spread with the symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, with His own life given for our lives. The Lord’s Table is spread with joy because when we eat and drink with each other, we are communing with God in heaven through Christ. This is a foretaste of the ultimate banquet of fellowship. guarantee of forever pleasures because Christ is risen from the dead.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not the One They Wanted

Israel rejoiced in John the Baptist’s lamp-light for a while (John 5:35). Many Jews saw the straight path from Baptist’s ministry to the Messiah’s coming. They were anticipating the Messiah’s arrival, expecting Him to defeat their enemies and to share His kingdom with them. They couldn’t wait for the Messiah to change their lives. But John lost his luster when he kept talking about the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

A few years later, Jesus entered Jerusalem to pageantry and praise. On the day we call Palm Sunday, the crowd was eager to crown their King. They cried out, “Hosanna!” “Save us, we pray!” They laid their clothes and palm branches on the road in front of Him. He was their Messiah, but not the One they wanted. He offered them life, but not the one they wanted. He came to defeat their greatest enemy, their death-deserving sin, and to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin. They wanted Him to defeat the Romans. Within a week they asked the Romans to crucify Him.[1]

Jesus does promise life. He promises an eternal inheritance in His kingdom for all who follow Him. He promises to share His glory with His servants. He promises communion with Himself and with His Father.

But life comes on certain terms, namely, it only comes by His death. He will be exalted, given the name above every name, but that lifting came after being humbled, by being obedient even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8-11).

We who believe should look forward to His final victory. We should look forward to obtaining the guaranteed inheritance. We ought to anticipate the day when all our enemies are defeated. But the way to life is the way of dying. The Lord’s Table reminds us of what we have in Christ, now and forever. It also reminds us how He purchased it, once and for all.

[1] I’m aware of the arguments that not everyone who cried out “Hosanna!” on Sunday cried out “Crucify Him!” on Friday. Some in the crowds believed Him truly to the end, others didn’t stop hating Him from the beginning. Certainly the crowds included both. But a recurring theme in Jesus’ ministry is the capricious reactions of men, so to say that there weren’t any at all who swapped their position seems like a stretch.

Lord's Day Liturgy

THIQ Obedience

Most Christians probably don’t need another acronym for our spiritual walk, and yet a well-applied acronym can slow down unraveling strings when we’re in the fray. YMMV but, at our house, we’ve written a certain acronym on our “heinie remindie” tool (AKA, “the rod”) to remind us all about obedience.

What is obedience? Oftentimes a child who asks the question knows the definition, he’s filibustering to save his fanny. In order to avoid the need for a word study in the heat of a disobedience, we talk about obedience that is THIQ: total, happy, immediate, and quick. Admittedly, that may not be the best logical order but IQTH doesn’t quite roll of the tongue.

THIQ obedience is total, doing everything that was assigned. It is happy, cheerful, without anger or tormented countenance. It is immediate, not traded for an obedience to be named later. And it is quick, not poky, dawdling, or meandering.

I mentioned THIQ obedience that we describe to our kids during corporate worship because worship is one of the best times for parents to model THIQ obedience for our kids. Where should they learn how to obey? They learn as we correct and train them, yes, and they learn by watching us. Our obedience and our worship should be THIQ. Our confession before God should acknowledge when it isn’t.

Are we worshipping totally, whole-hearted and fully engaged? Are we worshipping happily, gladly and without burden? Are we worshipping immediately, that is readily, when He calls, or when we’re ready to get around to it? And are we worshipping quickly, running with our hands on the worship battering ram, or are we just out for a Sunday stroll? If we’re not THIQ, let’s show our kids how we want them to respond when they disobey: humbly confessing our sin and seeking forgiveness promised in the gospel.