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Lord's Day Liturgy

In His Crosshairs

None can escape the wrath of the Lord, but some have an Advocate with Him (1 John 2:1). Men are either in His crosshairs, or they look to His Son’s work on the cross. God’s bow is strung and aimed at their faces (Psalm 21:12), or Christ’s blood is spilled and atoned for their sins (Revelation 1:5).

Our time at the Lord’s Table is a remembrance of Christ’s death, and also a proclamation of it (1 Corinthians 11:26). We remember the sacrifice and we rejoice in our salvation. We are not yet sitting on thrones, but we’ve been richly blessed by He who sits at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:23). He gives us life and length of days. Because He has made peace, we can be glad with joy in His presence.

His glory is great through our salvation, and so we will sing and eat and drink in praise of His strength.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

More Holy Glory

One of the things that stands out in the psalm we studied last Sunday morning (Psalm 21) is how nothing peculiar stands out. It’s not for lack of looking. There is a general context with some typical truths. God deserves praise for salvation. God’s enemies should beware His certain judgment. God is God and His people praise Him. While there are some meaty phrases worth meditating on, we don’t get anything exceptional.

The same might be said at the end of the day about any given Lord’s Day. We are not a people given to chasing novelty and extraordinary feelings anyway. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know enough to know what to do.

The liturgy of steadfastness is its own lesson. In these mortal bodies we will not grow out of the need to eat, nor will we mature past the point of praying to God for help and praising Him after He helps. Nor will the discipline of confessing our sins be useless, futile, superfluous.

Christian, the Lord requires your obedience, not because obedience earns salvation, but salvation effects obedience. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus “our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

Confess your sins to Him. He is not bored of hearing us nor bored in cleansing and iterating us into sharing more of His holy glory week by week. He is the one with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13). He is the one for whom we do what we do.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Renewing amidst Ruining

For every Christian the inner man is being “renewed” day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). The wearing down and out of the outer man can’t stop the renewal and, actually, to the degree we can see by faith what’s happening and where we’re headed, a part of the inner renewing occurs through the outer ruining. This renewal is partly a direct work by the indwelling Spirit (Titus 3:5), and it is partly a mediated work as the Spirit applies the truth of our testimony.

We are “transformed by the renewal of [our] mind” (Romans 12:2), “renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). The Spirit takes the truth and works it into us.

The Lord’s Supper also renews our inner man. This shared meal, an ordinance instituted by the Lord for His body, is a regular and repeated part of our renewal. It is a kick in the joy pants by the Spirit through faith as we’re reminded of the new covenant purchased and on its way to being perfected.

A taste of honey renews hunger. A jolt of adrenaline renews energy. A bite of bread renews thankfulness and unity as we partake of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17). A sip from the cup of blessing renews peace and our sense of freedom as those who participate in the blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).

It is all good news for those who confess Jesus is Lord, so eat and drink.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Ordered Affections

Knowing which mental shelf something belongs on is more than mere convenience. Groupings and hierarchies work for our good.

Two categories of affections are life-shapers. Affections can be aimed toward good or bad, they can be weak or strong, but they can also be comparative or integrated. The comparative and integrated categories are something I first read about in The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney. In order to please God we must have both and they must be in the right order.

By comparative affections we mean that we love nothing more than God by comparison. We love Him with all our heart (Matthew 22:37). We love Him more than mother or son or daughter (Matthew 10:37). We desire Him more than anything on earth (Psalm 73:25). Nothing compares. Even though He is unseen, the things of earth seem dim in His light (2 Corinthians 4:18).

As necessary and orienting as they are, they are regularly used to guilt others into sacrifices, and guilt is greater if they’re treated like the only category of affections. We could be made to feel bad that we’re hungry at all since, I mean, isn’t man supposed to live by the Word of God (Matthew 4:4)?

Of course bodies and bread, and hunger and baking, are all God’s ideas, ideas which are explained in that Word we live by. He is Lord of the seen things, even if they are temporary, and He requires that we receive them with thanks, that we steward and invest and share with others following His generous example. We are commanded to love our neighbors, our wives, our enemies.

These affections are integrated affections. Because we love God we don’t try to make every day Sunday. Because we love God most we know how to keep money as a servant not an idol. In order to love God, some of our minutes are spent examining if He is the preeminent love, and most of our minutes are spent putting that into practice.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Nothing Can Stop Him

What can you do with a whole group of people who know that they will be raised with Jesus and brought into His presence (2 Corinthians 4:14)? Believers, these are truths for you:

God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. (1 Corinthians 6:14).

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:14)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

This is true for each Christian, but it is also true for all Christians, that is, for the church. He will “present the church to himself in splendor” (Ephesians 5:27), He will present the whole body “holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22), He is able to keep us from stumbling and present us “before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

What can the world do with that sort of people? What can threaten them? What can be taken from them? What affliction is not able to be a reason for grace to extend that thanksgiving would spread to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15)?

We are those with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe, and so we speak (2 Corinthians 4:13). We believe, and so we eat and drink with thanks, knowing that Jesus will bring us into His presence, and nothing can stop Him.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Even the Boring

I got to bat clean up at our youth retreat last week and my assignment was to give the “So what?” I worked through this sentence:

That every one of you would walk worthy of the Lord in wisdom by the Word for your work and witness in the world.

It took a whole sermon to address each of the Ws, but for this exhortation, let me drill down on walking worthy of the Lord.

Walking is a metaphor used a few times in Colossians. Paul prays that the believers would walk worthy of the Lord (1:10), exhorts them to walk in Christ (2:6), and reminds them again to walk in wisdom toward outsiders (4:5).

Walking is the most mundane yet intentional thing we do each day. We breath, but we do that even without conscious decision. We eat and drink, which is daily, but that satisfies an internal hunger mechanism. Walking is the most feet on the ground, attention-requiring, all-embracing analogy for our deliberate conduct.

The walking metaphor isn’t just about behavior, but about even the boring behavior.

We are to walk worthy of the Lord. This sort of worthy is not about deserving to represent Him, but about sharing a similar weightiness to Him. The word for “worthy” applied to measurement by scales where balance was required between the weights and the object. The Lord is on one side, our walk is to match His. This is pleasing to Him (Colossians 1:10).

we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12, ESV)

As necessary, repent and turn around from walking in the wrong direction, as well as from any false equivalence; do not be moldy oranges to Christ’s golden apples.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).