Lord's Day Liturgy

Glorious Day

Not only did Jesus pray that we would be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:1), He also provided a meal to unite us. He Himself is the meal, “His body the bread, His blood the wine, broken and poured out all for love” (Chris Tomlin, “Jesus Messiah”). He gave His flesh (John 6:51) so that we could enjoy familial fellowship as part of His household.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? 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 10:16–17, ESV)

When we sing songs such as Glorious Day, and as we think about Jesus our Redeemer, the suffering sacrifice who bore our sins and carries them far away, note that the day of our forgiveness isn’t the glorious day, though that day was great. The day of His coming is the glorious day. One day He’s coming, because what He did isn’t just a message of justification to be believed, He is the Beloved One meant to be known forever.

Lord's Day Liturgy

MVPs at Confessing

One of the reasons that confession of sin seems so odd, even distasteful, is that we have little to no sense of togetherness.

Sin creates space between persons, whether to opposite sides of the bed, the room, the city, or the country. Adam and Eve died when they disobeyed in the garden of Eden just as God warned them. Their immediate death was a spiritual death, and that death was a loss of fellowship. Not only was the relationship damaged between them, more importantly, their relationship with God was severed. Sin causes divorce.

The apostle John wrote that when we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). That’s not all, indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son (1:3). What blocks us from Trinitarian fellowship and joy? Sin. And we all sin, so we all stumble out of the light.

What can we do?

We can confess because we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (2:1). He will forgive us and cleanse us (1:9). But that’s not all He does. He repairs the broken relationship. Sin separates but the Savior restores and unites.

Because we sin so much, because we splinter our relationships so often, you’d think that we’d be quicker to our knees and that we’d be MVPs at confessing. But we don’t. We don’t because we’re more cozy in the dark. We’re too often content at a distance from God and from one another.

Our Lord’s day worship is important because we have opportunity to clean the palate by confessing our sins. Worship is also important because it gives us a strong taste of fellowship with God as well as the intoxicating joy of harmony as an assembly. As we learn to love togetherness like the Trinity, our eternal lives won’t be the same.

A Shot of Encouragement

Imaging Creatures

God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation.

—G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship, 16

Enjoying the Process

Überlingen Panorama

I returned home from Germany last night. Jesse and Maggie are married (twice actually, once by the city registrar in a 15th century courtroom and once by a preacher on a beautiful country farm). I stayed in Überlingen and below is a panorama of the view from our balcony that Jesse took with the Autostitch app. Click on the image for the full effect.

Uberlingen panorama
Lord's Day Liturgy

Initiated without Our Interest

We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We live because He lives and we have eternal life because His Spirit breathed life into our souls. We rejoice in response to His initiating and effective grace.

Gospel is a one-word name for the New Covenant which is a two-word name for God’s eternal, Triune love story. From the first chapter to the last, the story is all about how He goes first. All things are from Him and then through Him and back to Him. Not only do we blow it when it is up to us, we don’t even have the brainwaves to know that we were blowing it or to care without God as antecedent.

Adam and Eve, with Adam representing all of humanity, ran and hid in shame after sinning. Adam’s sense of shame was a grace as God made man in His image; even conviction was something the pot was not entitled to. Adam did not draw near to God after he disobeyed. Adam did not seek forgiveness and reconciliation. He did not start preparing a sacrifice. Had not God gone and sought them, their bones would still be behind those bushes. God did not wait for them to cry out to Him.

Jesus did not wait for the Jews to cry out for Him. He clothed Himself with flesh to give life to the world (John 6:51), but not because the world wanted Him to. Jesus died on the cross, but not because we asked Him to. It wasn’t our idea, it wasn’t our petition. All we did was need Him to do.

The bread and the cup were prepared for us. Peter explained that Jesus was the spotless Lamb foreknown before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20). Through Him we are believers in God, who raised Christ from the dead and gave His Son glory, so that our faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:21). He did not wait for us to draw near. The Incarnation and Redemption were planned, initiated, and executed without our interest or input. Then He let us hear His voice calling. Now He invites us to come by faith and be filled because He came to seek and save the lost.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Again I Will Say, Grumble

Listening to many of us talk, you’d swear that Philippians 4:4 said, “Grumble always before the Lord, again I will say, Grumble.” Church people don’t have a monopoly on whining, but that’s largely because we like to whine so much that we just give it away for free.

Grumbling kicks humility in the shins. The two don’t like each other, though grumbling usually does most of the smack talk. Grumbling prefers to perch above the situation, to take the judges chair, and to pronounce all his unfulfilled expectations about schedules and traffic and disobedient kids and work hours and weather and Bible teachers. Humility doesn’t deny bad things, but humility also knows that bad things aren’t as bad as he deserves.

Grumbling drives away and leaves hope standing alone. Grumbling partners with his pal Unbelief and they love to predict how bad it probably will be. Grumbling pleads the law of uniformity: the same laws and processes that operate in the universe have always operated in the past and will continue to apply everywhere now and in the future. It has been bad, it won’t get any better. Hope sees past the fray by remembering the gospel and the promises of a sovereign God who loves to tell redemption stories.

We cannot fight grumbling with indifference. God does not aim to make us uncomplaining but lethargic onlookers, He aims to make us rejoicers. He implores us to rejoice, not mainly because happy people will live a few more years, but mainly because eternal life is sharing God’s life. He is glad and so He calls us to quit our complaining.

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Same God

Many who love to profess their love of God’s sovereignty struggle to profess their love of God’s love. Perhaps that’s because it is easier to be proud about knowing that He’s sovereign, which is quite an ugly cacophony if you think about it. Nevertheless, if He acts for His own name (and He does), if He seeks His own glory (and He does), then how could He be for us? How can we know He loves us?

Yes, God controls everything. Yes, God punishes those who will not praise His infinite excellencies. But the same God who told us that He is omnipotent also told us that He is love. The creation story reveals God’s love for His image-bearers as He couldn’t wait to show them all He’d made for them. The Incarnation puts love into flesh and bones. The Word came who into the world because He loved the Father and those the Father was giving Him.

How do we know it was done by love? Look at the Lord’s Table. The Son gave His flesh, gave His life so that we who believe might share His life and know His love. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The bread and the cup represent life laid down and that represents love.

God is autonomous; He has no need for others. His glory is untouchable; we cannot steal it away from Him. And yet the Father sent His only Son as a sacrifice to save and secure all those given to Him. Here is love vast as the ocean. Here is life in Jesus. Come to Him and commune with Him and He will raise you up on the last day.

Enjoying the Process

They Have Empires There

Here is Mo’s first blog offering of 2012. The only reason she posted the story is that it was too long for her to tweet. The story is in a league by itself.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Telephone Poles

We image-bearers are always telling the other image-bearers around us what God is like. If we were likened to a delivery company, we might say that our trucks are always loaded and on the road. There are no weekends off, no holiday breaks. We deliver non-stop information about God even if our trucks regularly run into telephone poles.

In Nehemiah 8:10, Ezra and some of the Levites called Israel to celebrate that “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” They had heard the law read and explained and were weeping with conviction. But it was a holy day for the LORD and they were to rejoice.

Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

This verse is worth memorizing for multiple reasons, but it is as hard as it is heartening.

It rouses our interest because we hear that something makes us strong. Where does strength originate? Strength comes from theology proper. We are made strong by knowing that our God is holy and joyful. His Triune gladness is indefatigable–never tired, irrepressible–never hopeless, and unmistakably strong like brewing French Roast in a closet. His joy is, it can’t be knocked over.

If the joy of the Lord is our strength, doesn’t that also mean that when we are not strong in Him, when we will not rejoice, we are making Him out to be wearied, sorrowful, or wobbly? Not that He actually is any of those things, but that is the baggage our behavior delivers. When we show up grouchy (at work, at home after work, at the assembly’s worship, etc.) we are not reflecting His gladness. When we don’t show up at all we reflect a reticent joy, a joy that cannot make anyone strong.

This is a reason why worship is so important. We cannot be strong if He is not glad and we will not see His gladness if we do not draw near to Him in Christ. If we do know His joy, then we will be strong and our trucks will stay away from the poles.

Lord's Day Liturgy

If Only

There are many sign seekers today. “If only God would show something miraculous to me, then I would believe. If only He would prove the truth to me, then I would trust Him. If only He would answer all my questions, then I would follow Christ.”

The first problem with sign-seeking is that it makes doubting men those who administer a test that God must take. But God did not enroll in our lab class so that we could grade His performance and believability. He has graciously revealed Himself as the standard, He has not submitted Himself to our standards.

The second problem with sign-seeking is that signs don’t trump the Word. Abraham told the rich man in Hades that “If they (your five brothers) do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31) “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed” and we must “pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19).

The third problem with sign-seeking is that He has already shown Himself. The crowd in Capernaum asked Jesus for another sign after they had already eaten the bread and fish until their bellies were full (John 6:30). We have better; we have the risen Son of God. Jesus died for our sins according to Scripture, was buried, and was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. We have all the proof we need though it must be received by faith.

As Christians, when we come to the Lord’s Table, we do not come seeking signs. We come, instructed by the Word, to eat and to drink the symbols of His death and life for us. He is the food that endures to eternal life and He offers Himself to all who believe.