Lord's Day Liturgy

Lordship Style

As we exalt in the Lordship of Jesus, as we remember the cosmological implications of His position, we also remember our Lord’s teaching about His own Lordship style.

Consider the teaching of Jesus to the disciples who were irritated at the egotism of James and John who said the quiet parts out loud regarding how great they all wanted to be seen in connection to how great Jesus was.

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45 ESV)

It’s not a tip, not a life hack, but it is the way to be great: serve.

It was the mind of Christ, born in the humbling likeness of men, humbled in obedience to the point of humiliating death on a cross, that leads to the therefore: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him,” and one way or another “every tongue (will) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:5-11).

So at the Lord’s Table we drink the “cup of the Lord” representing “the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). He has served us. Eat and drink in light of the Lord’s death until He comes.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Cosmic Portfolio

One of the Lord’s favorite things is to be called on. We’re not like that. We don’t want to be interrupted. Only the least pleasant kind of mom needs to be needed forever. When someone’s knocking on the door at midnight, we tell them that we’re already in bed, take care of their own issues.

We are going to talk more about “Jesus is Lord” in the message from Romans 10 this morning. As Lord, Jesus is identified as the Lord in the Old Testament, as Yahweh. He is the Lord who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He’s got no end of riches and resources (Psalm 50:12).

But in Psalm 50 this review of the Lord’s cosmic portfolio is a rebuke, with two horns. He doesn’t want their ceremonies, which they were presenting ad nauseam (“your offerings are continually before me” verse 8), instead He wanted their calls, which they were not presenting in prayer.

Addressed to “The Mighty One, God the LORD” (verse 1), who claims ownership of every beast, who knows all the birds, everything that moves (verses 10-11), He lacks nothing.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all its fullness are mine. (verse 12)

So what does the Lord want?

call on me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:15)

Not depending on Him is not worship; self-effort is for self-glory, not His glory. If you need more trouble to remind you to call on Him, He has many trials in His arsenal. The real problem with desperate times is not depending on Him for deliverance.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Table Call

It’s hard to say everything good any given Sunday. I’ve never done it. I never will. God is so good we cannot exhaust His infinitely excellent person or works. Past, present, future, heaven and earth, natural and special revelation, individual and corporate, we can’t keep up with His goodness.

Our morning service drives toward communion every Sunday. Even though the liturgy itself is a gospel-in-practice pattern (call to praise God, confess and repent, believe in Christ, abide in Christ, then live for Christ), sometimes people have given concerned feedback that there isn’t a “gospel presentation.” We don’t end with a call to believe, we end with a call to the believers to go live it out.

I take heart that Paul didn’t freak out when talking about Christ. Sometimes he got carried away in the middle of one thought, but he was fine with whatever point exalted Christ. All are yours. In Romans 10:9 he focused on Jesus as the risen Lord.

In fact, he was in the middle of explaining why so many Jews did not believe, and yet that explanation has become a great call to believe.

Our time around the Lord’s Table is for believers. It’s not for non-Christians. It’s not a time for doubt but for faith, it’s a time not to look at self but at the Savior, Jesus who is the Lord of all. And, so, believe in Him! Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Do it today! Today is the day of salvation!

It’s not an altar call, but a Table call, a call to faith in Christ who died for our sins and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Cardboard Mirror of Self-Flattery

One reason that people are weird is because they don’t have any good friends. We usually think it’s the other way around; it’s hard to be friends with weird people. And sure, but one way you become less weird is by trying to get along with people.

This isn’t just a lesson for junior high students, this is a reality for humans and a benefit for fellow worshippers in the church.

I remember in my heady days of Bible college, probably still in the cage-stage of Calvinism, days filled with new interest in reading about the glories of doctrine from dead-but-helpful theologians, and full of “important thoughts” to get past small talk with church people. One evening I was at the house of the pastor of the church I was attending, Old Forrest Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, and after the Bible study I was waxing eloquent in my foolishness about not really being sure I was going to get married. I was going to be a pastor. I had “important work” to do.

The pastor said to me, “You need to get married to know how big of a sinner you are.”

There’s no verse that says that. You need God’s Word and God’s Spirit, not a nagging wife. But that’s not what he meant. He meant that when you’re trying to be in fellowship, you find out how much your own sin makes you hard to get along with.

When people say they don’t want to go to church because there are too many hypocrites there, what they mean is that they don’t want to have to deal with their own lack of love, patience, wisdom, and joy toward others. They don’t want to be in fellowship, they want no threat to their cardboard mirror of self-flattery. It’s easy to think higher of yourself if no one else is around to provide a different picture.

If you don’t want to be lonely, confess your sins; if we walk in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Bread Is Live

Participation at the Lord’s Table is not independent or theoretical; we’re playing with live bread, so to speak (Jesus did say, “I am the living bread” John 6:51). Our communion is a privilege, it is something to anticipate, it is something to celebrate.

We welcome eight new souls to share the supper today. They were baptized last Sunday evening. As they have confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and believed in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, so they share communion with the saints, eating Christ’s body and drinking Christ’s blood by faith (John 6:47, 54). The water has marked their identity, now the table fellowship feeds their identity as those who have eternal life and will be raised on the last day.

“The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16b-17) “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16a)

Paul reminded the Corinthians of the truth and focus of their faith. We look to Christ. This table reminds us not to depend on idols of any kind, including the idol of our ignorance or the idol of our own self-righteousness. We provoke the Lord to jealousy by going to other tables, feeding on other food. We give Him glory by receiving His strength, resting on His Son as our Stone, abiding in Him for our lives.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not Bummed Out

I’m done with exhortations prompted by medical analogies. But in addition to providing illustrations related to the soul, the theme also provides a reminder of our connection to the body. Here we are worshipping God in bodies that have problems and pains, with various diseases and distractions, worries and weariness. God is not surprised or bummed out that we can’t get out of these bodily limitations. He gave us bodies, and His mercies enable us to present our bodies as living sacrifices of worship (Romans 12:1).

Our corporate time to confess our sins is serious. It is also spiritual, in that our fellowship with God is in the Spirit and with our spirit, and sin separates us from that fellowship. But our fellowship with God by faith is still in the flesh. We fellowship with God on the ground, not in Platonic categories in the clouds.

For a couple months it’s been kind of cute for me that during the time of kneeling my only outside grandson sees me and starts aggressively baby-talking at me. He’s aware enough to recognize me, it’s mostly quiet in the room, and though he’s not old enough to use words he’s old enough to want my attention.

So is that a distraction from the liturgy of confessing my sins? Is that a distraction from my job of leading our worship in confession? How about for you? Are your broken knees that won’t allow you to get down on the floor a hindrance? Are your kids keeping their eyes open and watching you making it harder for you to focus?

The only way these things are a worship problem is if you’d rather deal with them than with God. But perhaps they are gifts from God that remind you why confession is so important in real life. Beloved, is God’s Spirit trying to get your attention? Do you know what is right but are failing to do it? (James 4:17) Then confess your sins to God and trust the forgiveness He offers to those who believe in Christ that you might be holy and acceptable to Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

For All Their Problems

We can read more words written to the church in Corinth than any other group of Christians, 15,318 words over the two letters, compared to the next highest which is Romans at 9467, and the next after that is only 3,102 to the Galatians (source). Paul had a lot to say “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus” in that ridiculously sinful first-century city.

In his greeting to those Corinthian saints, even knowing the many and profitable reproofs and corrections they needed, Paul could still say that he gave thanks to God for God’s grace given to them, and he could see that God had given them gifts for serving each other. For all their problems, Paul trusted that God would sustain them to the end, sanctifying them for the Lord’s return. Their faithfulness depended on God’s loyal and steadfast love.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)

God “called” these believers. This is the effectual call, the internal call. It’s more than an invitation (typically referred to as external call), it’s the transforming of heart, mind, and will along with an enabling to call on the name of the Lord. John Calvin described it as follows:

“[God’s] calling, by which He draws us to himself, is not like that of a man, who tries to persuade someone by words alone, but is a secret power, which by the working of the Spirit penetrates into the innermost recesses of the soul, and affects it by its own efficacy.” (Institutes III.xi.5)

And God called these believers “into fellowship,” fellowship with Himself and His Son (by His Spirit). This fellowship is divine, this fellowship discourages division among the brothers (see the very next paragraph in 1 Corinthians 1:10ff), this fellowship is the aim of God’s call, God’s faithfulness that calls the unloved to be the beloved. We are His beloved gathered by Him to share communion with Him and with Christ’s body.

Lord's Day Liturgy

When You Don’t Have a Name

So far in this little series of exhortations I’ve found analogies in pinched nerves, loose joints, broken bones, blood loss, and cancer. If I haven’t talked about your line of aches and pains, it’s not because I don’t care, I’ve just focused more on some of the things I’ve had to learn about. These aren’t my only personal connections; I could have talked about torn ligaments, tonsillectomies, Costochondritis, acid reflux/fundoplication, and migraines. But one thing these all have in common is that they can be diagnosed; they have a name.

I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever talked to who was more glad to not know what was wrong with them. As in, they were having serious, painful, possibly disabling sort of symptoms that caused them to seek medical help, but were happy to hear their doctor say it was just a mystery. Chronic is one kind of bad, obscure is a second bad on top of the already bad. Remember the woman who touched Jesus’ garment who had spent all her money for twelve years on doctors who didn’t heal her (Mark 5:25-34)? Yet as bad as her hemorrhaging was, she wasn’t questioning her condition.

What do you do when you know that something is wrong but you’re not sure what is the “that”? How do you fight an enemy you can’t name? What you must not do is nothing. Trying to get an answer may be frustrating, but sitting in silent sadness is frustrating and futile.

There’s a principle of interpreting the Bible called analogia Scriptura which means “analogy of Scripture,” or interpreting the hard passages in light of the move obvious passages. Perhaps we could also apply analogia sanitatis, the “analogy of health,” let the clear parts of what makes for health help set a context for the confusing parts.

What if something is wrong in your soul? (And of course soul and body work together, but for the moment focus on the soul side.) David wrote, “Who can discern his errors?” (Psalm 19:12) And what about “hidden faults” (also verse 12)? Well, these concerns come after the celebration that the law of the LORD revives the soul and the precepts of the LORD rejoice the heart (see all of Psalm 19:7-9). Don’t forget what you do know, don’t stop doing what you can do. Confess the sins you are convicted about. Pray for wisdom. Read and reread and mediate on God’s Word. And when you still don’t have clarity, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).