Lord's Day Liturgy

Coronapocrisy and a Communion of Conquerors

There are at least three levels of crisis in the world currently: physical crisis, cultural crisis, and eternal crisis.

The first two levels are hand in glove, or like soap and water. The physical sicknesses and deaths of COVID-19 are real, though they have been made worse by the lathering of cultural selfishness. The coronavirus attacks blood and internal body parts, and coronapocrisy hoards toilet paper and tattles on non-social distancers in the name of neighbor-love. Thankfully, not every hospital bed has been filled so far like was predicted, but unfortunately most of the political seats are still full of greed.

We can pray that God’s providential shake-up is being used by God to wake-up sinners to the eternal crisis. Because of sin they are separated from God, and whether they die from a virus, or they die from hunger, or they die from violence, God’s vengeance is still on them for their own unbelief and ingratitude before Him.

In the COVID-19 world is sickness, selfishness, and separation. In Christ is healing, love, and fellowship.

By faith in Christ we overcome the world. “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 4:4-5). We are a communion of conquerors, and our communion is conquering.

Though we are not under the same roof today, our faith is in the same resurrected Lord. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. Though we don’t see each other, be believe in the Son who gives us eternal life.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Confession Is Not Futile

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead does not exempt us from confessing our sins, the resurrection of Christ keeps our confessing of sins from being futile.

Without the truths of Easter maybe the most pitiable part of our Lord’s Day liturgy would be the assurance of pardon. A call to worship could still come from any bigger-than-man god. Such a god could also demand our prayers and our obedience to whatever instructions given. Gods like sacrifices, and if they can be pleased they may give support to the worshippers. But only one God gives forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without death, and there is no complete forgiveness without resurrection from death.

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

But by the resurrection of Jesus we know that He is God (Romans 1:4). Easter declared Him so. By the resurrection of Jesus we are born again into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). It is of first importance, not only that Christ died for our sins and that He was buried, but also that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

The cross by itself does not prove forgiveness, the cross shows the offensiveness and cost of our sins. The empty tomb proves that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that He accepts us in Christ.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Salvation So Free

Salvation in Christ is so free. It really is unlike any other transaction.

In our economic decrescendo the government is offering money buckets to bail out certain industries that are supposedly too big to sink. The government is printing money to make numbers look better on paper. The government is offering loans to some businesses to help them get through a rough season. Without saying much more than that for now (except that the majority of these decisions and offers are wrong-headed, counter-productive, and unjust), just think about how these stimulus packages compare to the gospel.

In God’s economy, no person (or family or nation) is too big to fail. God needs to preserve or protect no single individual in order to accomplish His purposes. A kid can be saved no matter his dad’s condition, a poor person, or a rich one, can be saved no matter what a king or president or Federal Reserve Chairman decides. Absolutely anyone can fail, can die in need of forgiveness without repentance, and God alone remains indispensable.

Yet in His sovereignty over the entire system and every sphere, He offers grace. Grace is unconditional. God’s grace is not based on any amount of merit or qualification; not gender, age, lineage, occupation, network, portfolio, health. He considers none of those factors in considering who to save.

And He saves entirely at His own expense. Salvation is not a loan. We do not pay Him back. If we use the language of debt, it is one of love, but that is not a debt to work off. He does not tax us next year, or tax our grandchildren, or anyone else.

Christ died for our moral bankruptcy. He atoned for our foolishness and selfishness and pride, for our lack of submission and faith and thanks. His forgiveness and gift of life is free, and He makes us free to serve Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Seriously Bad

I watched a recent interview with a pastor I appreciate who gave some explanation for why he didn’t think it was appropriate for a church to partake of the Lord’s Supper during our digital, distance assembling. His primary concern was that people wouldn’t take the Table seriously enough, which he clarified to mean that people wouldn’t take their sin seriously enough.

It may border on uncharitable of me to restate his argument thus: only pastors can make the people feel bad enough in order to make them worthy enough to take communion. That is not much of an exaggeration, if any.

Are you worthy to eat and drink at the Lord’s Table? Do you know how dangerous it is to eat and drink unworthily? Paul did say that those who don’t discern eat and drink judgment on themselves (1 Corinthians 11:29).

We don’t think we are worthy because we’ve done enough good. We also don’t think we’re worthy because we felt really, seriously bad about our sin. God does not despise a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17), but in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday there were many who took sin seriously who didn’t have anything like a broken heart.

What I miss most about having communion in the same room is not that I don’t have a sense of control over the wretched vibe, I miss trying to make eye contact with as many of you as possible while we eat and drink together in joy.

He gave His body for all who believe. He calls us to remember Him as we drink the cup. May His Spirit fill us with serious thanks and seriously unite us as one.

The End of Many Books

The Religious Affections

This was one of the books that God used in the last half of 2005 to convict me of my mostly head/truth-based Christian life. Rereading it in the last half of 2019 and beginning of 2020 edified me greatly, even as I noticed more of Edwards’ repetitiveness. He also borders on stimulating doubt more than faith, but still a good challenge to loving obedience. The book in one sentence: you always do what you most want to do.

5 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Rust on the Bottom of the Chair

You are at home, but you are not home alone. We are at a distance, but we are not disconnected.

I am not trying to play loose with words, I’m trying to emphasize the spiritual, even if invisible, reality of our union in Christ.

You cannot do something that doesn’t affect the rest of us. You can do, and regularly do, a lot of things that we don’t know about. Perhaps most of the time we won’t notice any immediate consequences. But that doesn’t change what’s true.

The current “Stay home, save lives” context has changed how we contact each other, but it has not changed that we are connected.

This is true for our household units, but in reverse. Just because your kids can see you work from home now doesn’t mean that how you did your work at the office didn’t matter to them before, it just means that a lack of integrity takes more work to hide.

Some of you may be compromised; what would we see if you forgot to turn off your webcam? Rust on the bottom of the chair isn’t as obvious, but it is just as damaging.

So how are you helping the health of the church body? How are you making us stronger? You cannot use your spiritual gifts in all the same ways as before, but that doesn’t mean that we are any less dependent on you doing your part for our fellowship.

David’s “private” sin with Bathsheba didn’t stay private. He was Israel’s king, so he had a different level of responsibility as the governing head, and that’s why the Lord punished the nation not just the man. In a similar way, the body has many members, but it is still one body (1 Corinthians 12:20, 26).

We will be stronger or weaker the next time we come together in person, and it will be a result of how we killed sin or coddled sin while we’re not.

Lord's Day Liturgy

That Is Our Habit

Hebrews 10:25 urges Christians not to neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some. I’ve seen various arguments that churches who are not meeting in their usual locations in their usual ways are disobeying this exhortation. But not meeting together is not our habit. And, as a church we are still considering how to stir one another up to love and good works, encouraging one another albeit through different channels.

The word “church” refers to a collection, a group of gatherers. A church, like some Christmas toys, means that some assembly is required. But we are not reinventing church, we are not trying to replace anything, we are in a season that causes us to remember why being the church is so important.

When Solomon dedicated the temple he had built, he prayed that even those who couldn’t be at the temple could turn toward it, wherever they may be, from however far away they may be, and trust that the LORD would hear their prayers (1 Kings 8:30 ,35, 38, 44, 48).

As Christians we do not have a temple, we are the temple. You do not turn toward a particular direction, but you do turn toward the rest of your people. That is our habit.

So we celebrate our communion again in an imperfect way, but we celebrate because we believe that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. We celebrate because Christ will build His church; we are His body, and He is our head, wherever we may be.