Lord's Day Liturgy

Sharing in the From-Through-To-Him One

Not that we are surprised, but we should be encouraged, that Christ is the superlative example of all the gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8. We considered that all the endowments are in Him, the “fulness” is His, but we can actually go item by item in the list.

Jesus is the great and greatest prophet (Luke 24:19). No one ever spoke like Him, or revealed the Father’s will like Him. Jesus Himself is revelation, the Word of God.

Jesus is the most humble and most loving servant (Philippians 2:7). He lowered Himself, He washed feet, He went hungry and went out of His way to do unto others what they could not do for themselves.

Jesus is the truth, and the most clear Teacher of the truth (John 3:2). As for exhortation, He urged men to repent and believe; He admonished sinners and disciples to obedience.

Jesus has spent more than any other, doing miracles to give bread, giving Himself to salvation, generous and lavish and uncontaminated. Jesus leads, He rules. His mercy is glad, and He does not make us feel bad that we need it.

He ascended to the Father, which is why we eat and drink “until He comes.” And He’s given gifts to the church, to His body, that each part would work properly and that the body would grow and build itself up in love. We share in the From-Through-To-Him One, the Head of the body (Colossians 1:15-18), who made peace by the blood of His cross, even at the Lord’s Table together right now.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not in This House

At the beginning of Ephesians 5 Paul exhorts the believers to imitate God and walk in love. In particular they should follow Christ’s example of love, Christ who was a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” So also Paul urges all the brothers to be living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.

Paul immediately exhorts the Ephesian Christians about what their lives ought not contain. There is a similarity as in his letter to the Romans, who were to be living sacrifices for God and therefore not conformed to this world. But he gets more explicit about worldly ways in Ephesians.

I’m going to take two or three more weeks of exhortations to work through these verses.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:3–6 ESV)

Sex and stuff, money and our mouths, there are righteous and unrighteous ways of dealing with it all in the world. But when we want what we don’t have, and sometimes want what God says explicitly is off limits, these are the ways of disobedience (verse 6), the ways of darkness (verse 8), unfruitful (verse 11), and shameful (verse 12). Because we are beloved children, some things must not even be named among us, some things are just out of place. In this “house” there are some things we just don’t do. More to come as we consider some of the specifics.

Lord's Day Liturgy

No Measure to His Endowments

When Paul wrote about the many members making up one body in his first letter to the Corinthians, he started that instruction immediately after his admonitions about the Lord’s Supper. Communion implies sharing something in common, which implies that there is more than one to do the sharing.

We learn along with the Corinthians and with the Romans that not any individual has all the spiritual gifts/functions in himself. One part does not make a body (1 Corinthians 12:19), we are a body all together, and God has given us a measure, a portion, so that we can do our part.

This is not like Christ.

Commentators have properly called attention to the difference in respect of measure between Christ and the members of His body. He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), it pleased the Father that “all the fulness should dwell in Him” (Col. 1:19), “in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. There is no measure to His endowments. (John Murray, on Romans 12:3-5)

We cannot think more highly of Christ than we ought to think. He is the Head, and from Him all our nourishment comes (Ephesians 5:29-30). He is the fullness of God who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:23). And He is the one we share.

The cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ, we who are many are one body who partake of the one bread, the bread of life Himself (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Just Hit Like

It seems to be one of the hardest things in the world to see accurately the person you spend the most time with, and I’m referring to yourself. It is the Ego, the I, the Me, that not only is evasive and preferring hiding spots, but other times is a very pushy liar. The number of half-truths and shady observations I have told me over the years is quite a piece of work.

There are a number of ways that such illusions can go, but one the Bible often talks about relates to having opinions, especially high opinions about our own importance. For as many wise guys as there are in the world, there are even more wise-in-their-own-eyes guys. Just hit like and subscribe to their channel.

One of my favorite progressions of Proverbs is in chapter 26, which begins with 10 of the first 11 verses describing the damage done by the fool—he deserves a beating, he can’t be trusted with a message, his “wise” words jab others like thorns, he repeats his folly like a dog to vomit—and then verse 12: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

Paul exhorted the Romans not to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (Romans 12:3). How can you not be “that guy”? Look into the mirror of God’s Word, remember that you have nothing that you weren’t given by grace, and refuse to believe that you don’t need anyone else; you need the rest of the Body (Romans 12:4-5).

The End of Many Books

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

by Madeleine L’Engle

I was told by @hobbsandbean that I would like this book. It is why I read the first two books in the series: A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. I did not really enjoy either of those (it’s also true I listened to those as audiobooks, which rarely make the story better for me). I did like this one. The “Might-Have Been”s didn’t get me freaked out about Open Theism, though I suppose it could if I really wanted something to be OUTRAGED about.

I liked it even though the Higgins family wasn’t helpful. I liked it even though Pastor Mortmain was one of the worst characters. I liked it even though it was sometimes hard to distinguish all the similar sounding names who were living in a different When. I liked it when the unicorn said that being sent to our planet is “considered a hardship assignment.” Ha!

4 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

Strangely Bright

by Joe Rigney

Great stuff. In my ongoing efforts not only to love Christ but to love (all) the things Christ loves, this brief book is only profitable.

The categories Rigney provides are crucial for living on earth as God-fearing image-bearers that are not either idolators or ingrates. He points out totalizing passages in God’s Word that provide a comparative approach; God must be more valuable to us than any and all other things. Rigney also points out things-of-earth passages that show an integrated approach; God is valuable to us in/through His gifts, such as bodies and time and relationships and responsibilities and pleasures.

If you haven’t read The Things of Earth, do that, too. Read both. They cover some similar ground, but Strangely Bright also has a complete chapter on the goodness of baseball. Can’t beat that.

My only reason for not giving full stars is that Rigney can appear to give a little bit too much credit to natural revelation, for example, in stating that mountains reveal God’s righteousness. From my reading in Psalm 19 and Romans 1, the attributes of God revealed in creation do not include God’s mercy, holiness, and goodness which Rigney does state as being learned outside of Scripture. That said, there are a few explicit sentences where Rigney gives priority to Special Revelation and how “Scripture is the grammar textbook for [the] language” of nature. So, okay, I can work with that.

4 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Pleasing at Present

Of course the only way we can present our bodies as a living sacrifice is because Christ took on a body, in which He lived without sin and with the humility of a servant, and in which He gave Himself as a substitute for sinners. So our offering to God does not save us, it is only because we are saved. We do not atone for our sins, we do not redeem anyone else, but because we are united to Christ in His death and resurrection we present our members for righteousness as part of our worship.

This pleases God.

Jesus is the Son in whom the Father is pleased, and we come as those united to Christ, those who are “in Christ.” We remember and rejoice that God has highly exalted Christ Jesus and bestowed on Him the name that is above every other name, and with our tongues we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. With this God is pleased.

Though the ESV translates Romans 12:1 as “acceptable to God,” the word acceptable could be translated as pleasing to God. Living and holy sacrifices please God. So Paul prayed for the Colossians that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, “fully pleasing to Him.”

This is not just some future status, it is the present process of believing and bearing fruit, of giving thanks to the Father for redemption in His Son and for transferring us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. Come, eat and drink in fellowship with God who is pleased to welcome you.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Delete the App*

When I was a young man my elders used to talk about “Garbage in, Garbage out.” We didn’t know about FoMo yet, mostly because there wasn’t that much happening to miss out on. But though the Internet and smart phones weren’t around yet, GiGo was still a thing. While Jesus taught that it’s what comes out of a man’s heart that defiles him, it’s still possible to give your heart more foul material to work with.

What a blessing it is to have so much virtuous content available to us, for learning, for encouragement, for equipping, with help for this present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8). While it takes a little keyword knowledge to search for the right “how to” video, it has become more difficult to turn off the stream. The next episode starts playing automatically, the sidebar scrolls endlessly with related videos. With the stream comes debris, and sometimes the filth.

Paul prayed that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. He prayed that the Philippians would have affections that abounded still more and more in all knowledge and discernment so that they could approve what is excellent. He urged the Romans to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Watch your content diet, stop filling your soul with garbage. It is not good for you. Pluck out your eye (Matthew 5:29), set a screen time limit, delete the app. You may be a target of shrewd advertisers, but you are not a helpless victim.

And pray to desire the Scripture more than much fine gold. You are not of the world, you are Christ’s, and He prays that you would be sanctified in truth.

*as necessary

Lord's Day Liturgy

Quite an Earful

When Paul said that as often as you eat and drink the Lord’s Supper we “proclaim” the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26), who hears that proclamation?

We do. That is, believers in Christ continue to feed on the body and blood of Christ, and we don’t get past the edifying work of the gospel that Christ died for our sins according to Scripture. It is finished, and every member of Christ’s body around the Table hears it again.

But Paul probably didn’t limit the hearers of the Supper to Christians. Near the end of chapter 14 he acknowledged times when “an unbeliever or outsider enters” corporate worship, and should be able to “declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25). That’s connected with clear words of prophesy instead of uninterpreted tongues, and the clear love of each member of the body for the Head and for each other would also be “heard” through the proclamation in communion.

But even that doesn’t seem to be the extent of it. When the church gathers, and I’d think especially when she shares the bread and wine, she “proclaims” the love of Christ in His death and the “manifold wisdom of God…to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). There are “unsearchable riches of Christ” proclaimed in the gospel, and preaching brings to light God’s plan, “God who created all things, so that through the church” the cosmic powers might sit up and “hear” – so to speak – that in God’s wisdom they are doomed to pass away (1 Corinthians 2:6).

Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the end of fear for all who believe, the end of death for Christ’s people, and signals the end of rebellion at the proper time. We proclaim the power of His death when we eat the bread and drink the cup together.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Rich in Mercy

We love God’s sovereignty for it’s certainty; He is powerful to do the pleasure of His will. We love God’s wisdom for it’s breadth and length and depth; He works and weaves all the threads in perfect purpose. And in God’s omnipotence and omniscience He loves to display His mercy.

The great doxology–perhaps the greatest in all Scripture–at the end of Romans 11 ties a bow on the revelation of God’s work among Israel and the nations, and especially how God shows mercy to the disobedient. Many Jews disobeyed in order that the gospel mercies might go to the Gentiles, and the mercy shown to the Gentiles works toward future mercy to Jews. “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32).

Remember back to Romans 9, and Paul’s explanation about God’s glory in election. “For (the LORD) says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:15-16). God is rich in mercy (see Ephesians 2:4).

So two exhortations to confession:

1) Any failure to praise God’s mercy is disobedience. Confess your failure to praise the fulness of His kindness.

2) Any disobedience is a reason to confess your disobedience and pray to God for His mercy. Confess your sin as part of your worship; seeking His mercy honors Him.

And then by the mercies of God present your bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). To Him be glory for His mercy forever.