Lord's Day Liturgy

Life Laid Down

When we say that death brings life, it can be understood as a reference to self-denial that leads to the blessings of obedience. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). He continues, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (25). Death is a kind of self-denial, related to the cross, that leads to personal “profit” (verse 26) in life.

This is true, but there is more. When we say death brings life, we often mean life for others. The cross reminds us that sin in us needs to be killed, and the cross reminds us that sacrifice for others does them good.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16).

Of course we do not atone for our brothers’ sins. Our sacrifices are not for them like Jesus’ sacrifice is “in their place,” ours are for them as “for their benefit.” John illustrates a way for the life-laying-down, when we see and help a brother in need of “the world’s goods” (verse 17). So again, it’s not necessarily taking a bullet for someone, but giving as we’re able.

Death is at work in us, and glory is on display in us when it is.

“Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth” (verse 18). This is the ministry of the gospel to one another, and the Lord’s Table reminds us of our Lord’s laying down His life for us.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Affection Deficit

I finished reading 2 Chronicles again, and this time through the number of references to a man doing things with “all his heart” stood out to me. Jehoshaphat “sought the LORD with all his heart” (22:9), every work Hezekiah undertook he did “with all his heart” (31:21), Josiah committed to walk after the LORD “with all his heart” (34:31).

This got me thinking about the Great Commandment, of course, to love God with all our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37). And it also got me curious about whether the phrase “all his heart” relates to what modern men often call focus or being present and not distracted. So I searched for “all heart” in Scripture.

There is definitely a connection between attention deficit and affection deficit. So, for example, social media manipulation works on weak loves; the algorithms don’t have divine power.

Which brings me to the surprise I found in my searching.

I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:41)

That is not the high priest or a king speaking, it is the LORD Himself. God reveals His commitment in whole-hearted terms. In context the LORD is speaking to Israel about post-captivity. But His intention is to gather again and make a people and be their God. Divine power is at work changing our hearts.

I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. I will put the fear of me in their hearts that they may not turn from me. (verses 39-40)

Again the promise is directly to Israel, and by extension we receive application of the LORD’s intent. He is committed, with all His heart, to overcoming our affection deficit, and giving us proper fear of Him, faithful obedience to Him, and full affections for Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Glory Is Central

The two statements in 2 Corinthians 4 are not only a mouthful they are full of majesty. They are not the same, but they have a similar flow. This is what Satan blinds men from seeing, this is what God shines in the hearts of those He rescues from perishing.

  • “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (verse 4)
  • “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (verse 6)

“Light” is the same in each; light is illumination. “Gospel” and “knowledge” parallel each other; good news is a message and understanding of that message. “Glory” is central in both, the first is the glory of Christ, the second is the glory of God; it is no contradiction because Christ is God; they share the same divine glory. “Image” and “face” follow the reverse order, Christ is the revelation of God, and then God is revealed in Christ.

The gospel is for men because it is about God. Our glory is tied to whatever we reflect, so the revelation of God’s glory is the great good for men. This revelation is exclusively through Jesus. Glory is central and the good news centers on the Lord.

It is interesting that we are taught to call this the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), and the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:21), rather than Jesus’ Supper. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord (2 Corinthians 4:4), and as we eat this bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). He is “the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8), we have His divine and supernatural light.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Working Reputation

Paul had thankfulness syndrome. At least some people might think that. His thankfulness wasn’t really a problem, but it was profuse.

One of Paul’s first letters was to the church of the Thessalonians. He came out of the gate with his gratitude: “We give thanks to God always for all of you” (verse 2). The Thessalonians received the word of the gospel (verse 6), they imitated those who brought the gospel, and in doing so became examples to believers in their region (verse 7). They had a reputation “everywhere” (verse 8).

As one of your shepherds, I am thankful for similar signs among us and I’m devoted to this being even more true of our flock as well. What goes into it?

Last week I referred to reverence, repenting, and rejoicing. From 1 Thessalonians 1:3 let me add another trifecta. The two different threes aren’t competing; all are yours.

Paul was giving thanks as he remembered “before our God and Father [their] work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3).

The typical three virtues are faith, hope, and love (as written to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 13:13). Here these spiritual virtues are in a different order and they are attached to activity. Three verbal nouns: work, labor, steadfastness.

Truth turned them from idols to serve the living and true God (verse 9). Doing the word belongs with hearing the word, and then faith and love get to work, with hope giving strength and stamina. It leads to a working reputation.

You are doing these, and do these more and more (4:1, 10).

Lord's Day Liturgy

One Degree of Sacrifice to Another

When you are transformed from one degree of glory to another by beholding the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18), what does that look like? What does it feel like? Awesome? Probably not. Instead this glorification will look and feel like sacrifice.

It is a profound, mysterious, radical, far-reaching, intense, and also obvious principle that Jesus told and then embodied for His disciples.

Some Greeks had come to worship in Jerusalem for the Passover feast and told Philip that they wished to see Jesus. Philip got Andrew and they told Jesus.

And Jesus answered them, “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, ESV)

Jesus continued,

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (John 12:27–28, ESV)

The hour of His glory was the hour of His loving death for His people.

That makes Lord’s Supper a meal of glory; our sharing and joy are part of the “much fruit” from Jesus’ sacrifice. So likewise we learn the way of glory, and we are being transformed from one degree of sacrifice to another.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Three Rs

Some of you are old enough to remember when schools boiled down their mission not to letters such as LGBTQ or CRT or even to ABC, but to the three Rs: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. (Perhaps we should have seen the trouble coming earlier; that alliteration only sounds good to the illiterate.)

For the people of God who have their own assembly, a different three Rs would be a good start: Reverence, Repenting, and Rejoicing.

Reverence is another word for the fear of the Lord. We stand in awe of the Lord (Psalm 33:8). By God’s Word the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ shines in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6). We regard His glory.

In Proverbs “the fear of the Lord is a hatred of evil” (Proverbs 8:13). This applies to what we see around us; we cannot be apathetic. This applies to what we seen inside us, we cannot be hypocrites. We turn from sin.

Proper reverence leads to repentance, and with proper repentance is the promise of forgiveness and cleansing and joy. Worldly grief produces death, but “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). In Christ we rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

The story of redemption is the story of reverence lost (the Fall) and then restored, of repentance needed and then granted, of false rejoicing made true. God sent His Son to redeem sinners and “to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14).

Confessing our sins doesn’t add to the permanent record, like laying down yet another thick layer of asphalt, but removes the guilt and clears the way for reverence and righteousness and rejoicing to flow again.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Cross Views

We are Christ’s body. He is the head of the body, the church. Our union is a spiritual reality. Our connection is also a corporate responsibility.

[S]peaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15–16, ESV)

He is the head of the body, “the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18). The head is on top and the head brings us closer together.

We have communion with Him by the Spirit, and we have communion in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. As we commune with the head we do it as parts of the body, but also as the whole body. We’re reminded of our connections; look across the room. See the ones you’re working for.

For the first time in years we’re all together under the same roof on one level at the same time. One blessing of this room is that it’s less of a lecture hall, limited to seeing the back-of-many-heads portrait layout, and more landscape with cross views.

It’s not perfect, neither are we, or our communion. But it’s good, and our head gives us truth and love, and by His grace He will continue to build the body.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Rejoicing in Roe’s Reversal

I know it was announced over a week ago, but I want to profess my thanks to God for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Praise the Lord! What an answer to prayer. This is the right decision and a cause for great rejoicing.

Maybe you’ve seen some of the Christian lamentation over the decision. I don’t mean the so-called pro-choice people who profess to be Christians, but rather the ostensible Christians urging other Christians not to celebrate so loudly because it might offend and upset others for whom killing babies is supposedly a complex issue. “Praise God, but for your neighbor’s sake, keep it down.”

Here’s an example:


Let me exhort us to beat our breast in humility (like the tax collector in Luke 18:13) and then raise the roof with rejoicing filled with compounding rejoicing. Any step that abates “legal” murder is a good step, a mercy from God that seems, if possible, extra undeserved by our nation in light of so-called PRIDE month.

Yes, we are not done with the work. Returning legislative responsibilities to each state is something, and Roe was a large legislative idol that is past due to be torn down. But our state is still committed to slaughter, and we must “rescue those who are being taken away to death” (Proverbs 24:11).

And yet also, how many have prayed for this day? How many have sacrificed? This is a kindness from our Lord Jesus Christ. His mercy be praised! Say His name. We cannot say it too loudly.

It is not at the same level, but our first day in our new assembly location doesn’t mean we’re done. Likewise, rejoicing in our forgiveness doesn’t mean we’re perfect. But the Lord and His grace deserve praise for every step.

Take the restrictor off your rejoicing in the Lord.