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Lord's Day Liturgy

Waiting for Perfection

I’m sure you’ve been waiting to find out this fourth and final part of Defeated Devil December. Actually, you didn’t have a choice to wait (I didn’t even give any hints), though you did have a choice how to wait. In fact, the fourth virtue of Defeated Devil December is waiting patiently. Not panicked, not agitated, not hotfooting it toward the path to immediate gratification. Be patient, the devil hates to see it.

The Seed of the woman has already come once and settled His battle with the ancient dragon (see Colossians 2:15). Because the serpent fights on in his bruised position, there are ways for us to demonstrate the glory of The Offspring’s win. We are to be content, to love truth, and to be generous without a show. We also know how to wait when the Lord says, “No,” or at least “Not yet.”

Eve and Adam swallowed what the devil said was the shortcut to God-like glory. Satan tempted Jesus the same way, showing Jesus how all the kingdoms of the world could be His just by submitting (Matthew 4:8-9). But the nations were already promised to Jesus, He was the Anointed (Psalm 2:8). His inheritance would come after obedience, glory after sacrifice.

God reveals that endurance, long-suffering, patience is the final piece of perfection that He’s planned for His people.

the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:3, KJV)

So count it all joy when you have to wait, whether to open presents, or to get relief from pain, or for the Son of God to advent again.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Second Advent Caring

In the Son’s first advent, He was hardly recognized as a King, more recognized Him as a servant, and He self-proclaimed Himself to be a shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). His office is identified by His sacrifice. Then He says the same thing a couple sentences later, with a different emphasis.

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:12–15 ESV)

He sacrificed because, unlike the hireling who runs because he cares nothing, Jesus came because cares entirely for the sheep. Unlike a stranger, Jesus as shepherd knows His sheep and the sheep know and follow His voice. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, also John 10:4).

He is making “one flock” and He is the “one shepherd” (John 10:16). And, church, will this care of the Shepherd, this affection between Shepherd and us His sheep, not also continue after His second advent when He is recognized as King “to the ends of the earth” (Micah 5:4)? Is this not why He says, “I give them eternal life” (John 10:27), abundant life (John 10:11)? This is why He came, it is why He is coming again.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

The Lex Talionis Gift List

It’s not found explicitly in the Gospels, but when Paul spoke to the Ephesians (in Acts 20:35) he mentioned that the Lord Jesus “Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That provides another virtue for Defeated Devil December.

We’ve considered that the ancient serpent would rather have us discontent and dishonest. Jesus called Satan the father of lies, so he lies about God’s goodness to man and gets men to lie about their goodness to others. Satan also gets men to lie about their generosity.

Ananias sold some property and claimed that he was Mr. Altruism when he laid the money at the apostles feet. He did everything he could to make it look like he’d given it all; of course he hadn’t. Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…?” (Acts 5:3). A man convinces himself that it is more blessed to look like he’s given.

There is another angle to this devil-ish conceit. It’s giving, but with brown-paper bitterness tied up with strings. It’s giving, what you see is what you get unlike with Ananias, but what you don’t see is the internal spreadsheet keeping score in columns. Maybe it’s the Lex Talionis Gift List, expecting a gift of equal (or better) in return. Maybe, even more prevalent, is the Honor System Gift List, where the second column is for thank-you cards received (and not received)[1]. Such accounting acts as if it’s more blessed to be recognized for giving.

Be generous. Don’t give anything you can’t afford in your soul not to get credit for. Count it all joy to be generous, not counting appreciation. Don’t join Satan as an accuser of the brethren.


[1] YES. Writing thank you notes is great, appropriate, fitting, right, and something that parents should model and teach their children. The point of this exhortation, though, is about one of the ways we mess up on the giving side, while obviously it’s also possible to mess up on the receiving side.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Anticipation Proper

Maybe the word advent is a little new to you. You’re familiar with Christmas, and even the building anticipation toward the 25th, but “advent” almost sounds like a separate holiday (compare to Acts 17:18 and those who thought “Jesus” and “the resurrection” were separate “divinities”). It’s possible that a few others of you are very familiar with Advent, capital A, from a religious/church context with all the formal tradition and stuff.

Advent proper is the four Sundays prior to Christmas, usually represented by four purple and pink candles, each one referring to a different element (Hope, Love, Joy, Peace) with a different reference (Prophecy Candle, Bethlehem Candle, Shepherd’s Candle, Angel’s Candle), and as Christmas gets closer the combined light gets brighter. A fifth, white candle usually gets lit for the day itself (Christ’s Candle).

We don’t have candles for our liturgy, though some have them at home, whatever colors and whatever you call them. Our community doesn’t talk about Advent like a narrow, let alone biblical, necessity. All are yours, and so parts of it are strategic without defining your righteousness by it.

The feast that we’ve been given and required to celebrate is the Lord’s Supper. And we remember Christ our Savior, not only in facts, but with the bread and wine.

The rule is that it shouldn’t be done alone, in isolation. It’s an activity for the body, for all the parts together. The rule is that it shouldn’t be done in the abstract, in the intellect only. It’s an activity for the body, chewing and sipping and swallowing. The rule is that it shouldn’t be done in MISERY, but in rejoicing and hope for His return.

In that sense our worship of the Lord in communion does exercise our feasting muscles, and prepares us for Anticipation proper.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Advent Honesty

We’re back for the second exhortation of Defeated Devil December. Jesus Christ is the Seed of Eve, the fulfillment of God’s promise to bruise the head of the ancient dragon (Genesis 3:15). When Christ rose again from the grave He made a triumph over the serpent and the serpent’s offspring (Colossians 2:15). Though the devil still prowls around like a lion seeking prey to devour (1 Peter 5:8), greater is the one in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

How can we advent like death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered the serpent? Last week we considered contentment as an arrow in our Christmas celebration quiver. Satan would rather us be annoyed at all the things, be ungrateful for what we’ve been given, and be suspicious that we’re not really getting the best we could.

A second virtue of Defeated Devil December would be honesty. The devil is the father of lies (John 8:44), a liar since the beginning. Eve listened to the devil’s crafty deceit; he sold her a falsehood.

We should tell the truth. This doesn’t mean to delight in sharing our irritated opinion; “hey, I’m just telling the truth.” It more means telling the truth, “hey, I was irritated with you, even if at first I tried to say I wasn’t. Will you please forgive me?”

Satan doesn’t want you confessing your sin, or at least not all of it. He prefers your pretense of religiousness (like the religious ones that Jesus called sons of the devil in John 8:41, 44), anything other than the genuine affections and actions of sanctification. The offspring of the serpent bear false witness, but, Christian, he is not your father. Be honest.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

He Didn’t Wait

How does the incarnation encourage us? There are many ways, and one of them is that, in Christ, God came. God took on flesh and it was His idea. He initiated and He travelled. He did not wait for us to draw near to Him but He clothed Himself with frail humanity.

Our salvation is not the result of any long pilgrimage on our part to some holy place, it is the result of the Son’s sojourning among unholy people. We do not globe-trot or cross galaxies to get to God. He covered the distance. We could not reach Him, but we can also not get too far away from Him that He cannot reach us.

Eternal life draped Himself with a body so that mortal flesh could put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). Heaven came down and glory fills our futures. “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). We give thanks for salvation and the fellowship we enjoy with God because He came. We share the bread and the wine because He came.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Defeated Devil December

Four years ago (2018) I shared a strategy for our family called No Discontent December. It wasn’t only about not being fussy about what you did or didn’t get for advent/Christmas gifts, but about attitude in all the extra pulls and pushes on our days and schedule and budgets.

I thought about running a second No Discontent December, and while that would be fine, in light of the passage that starts our advent series of sermons (Genesis 3:15), I’ve got a related, but similar idea.

Defeated Devil December – 3D

In no way do I mean to take Satan lightly. Jude said that the archangel Michael, when contending with the devil, didn’t presume to smack talk but called for the Lord’s rebuke (Jude 9). So the goal here is to take God’s promise of a seed that would crush the serpent’s head seriously (again Genesis 3:15). We know that seed was Jesus, and He has defeated and will finally defeat that ancient serpent (Colossians 2:15, 1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14).

So what attitude and behavior would demonstrate this December that Christ has conquered?

Interestingly enough, I think contentment really throws a wrench into the devil’s works. He is insatiable for more than he was given, and unraveled Eve’s confidence that the Lord had given her fulness of blessing. Discontentment double-dates with doubt, fussiness comes from a lack of faith in God’s Word and God’s goodness. The serpent wanted Eve to want more, to covet beyond her privileges and gifts.

This Advent/Christmas season, don’t listen to the father of lies. Resist him. Be grateful, content, and in so doing let the devil be frustrated, not you.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Familiar Trees

It’s proverbial that familiarity breeds contempt. Our contempt starts with that statement itself; it’s contemptible to hear about how easily we’re made contemptuous. But our condition is one in which we get dirty and forget about it, we develop callouses and live with them, we fall down and it’s easier to stay there. We need to be washed, we need to have the hard parts cut off or filed down, and we need to get back on our feet.

So…we’re familiar with Christmas. Jesus is the reason for this season…we know…so how does He fit in our familiar celebrations? It’s hopefully more, though not less, than reading the story of His birth on Christmas morning (this year we’ll assemble as a church for worship on Christmas Sunday). For sake of scrubbing our holiday grime, let’s start with our Christmas trees. Why? What for?

For the first time in eleven advents, we had a choice for ourselves in the church’s building. Hey, we’re not Gnostics. We went for it.

And consider our pine tree configurations at home. We stand our trees in a location for maximum visibility. We place our presents under the tree for others. We hang lights and garland and other ornaments on the branches. We typically perch a star at the top most point. Which part is for Jesus? Which part is meant to honor Him?

Isn’t He pictured and honored every where? He is the focal point; our eyes are drawn to Him. He is the Father’s gift to sinful men. He is the light of the world, the Creator who decorated the universe. Not only did a star mark His birthplace for travelers, He Himself is the morning star. We can’t limit where we honor Him. He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, worthy to be honored from top to bottom. He ought to be so in our Christmas celebrations.

We cannot be overly familiar with Christ, only wrongly familiar in a way that doesn’t honor Him everywhere at all times. I also plan to start an advent season sermon series next Sunday. A reminder that the Word became flesh, full of grace and truth, and has made the Father known, even as we celebrate His Supper.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Divine Love and Bad Choices

What an amazing preaching privilege I’ll have not many minutes from now to declare that nothing in all creation can separate any Christian from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). That is God’s Word to His people, as dependable as His raising of Jesus from the grave.

Though it doesn’t have divine inspiration, I was reminded of a pastoral privilege, summed up well by another pastor who put it this way, “I am a pastor, and I watch people make bad choices for a living.” He went on to say, “The trick is to be calloused and tender at the same time.”

Bad choices could come from not seeking counsel, seeking counsel but ignoring it, being immature, being quarrelsome about everything for fun (I have a lot of experience here), and of course, being sinful. A shepherd’s life involves watching sheep get themselves into trouble that they didn’t have to—repeatedly, stepping in mess they could have avoided—again and again. It is an occupational hazard.

And, bad choices and divine love go together, before and after, though it is a bad choice itself to blame a bad choice on God’s love.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). In love, the Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. And in love He calls His sheep to follow Him, to obey His commands.

Because you can’t be separated from His love, be encouraged. And also, you can still make bad, sinful, ruinous, catastrophic choices. Don’t do it. Repent, and remember His love.

You are His flock, the church of God which He obtained with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Hold fast to the Word of His grace which is sanctifying you for good (Acts 20:32).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Blessed Eyes

On the night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper He gave thanks. We aren’t told the what for, not explicitly. It seems reasonable that it was for more than the meal itself, but for all that went into it, and for all that would come from it.

There are a few other places in the Gospels where Jesus gives thanks and where we are told what He said. Here’s one example.

At that time, Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Matthew 11:25-26)

God reveals, but God also hides, on purpose, such that the Son thanks His Father for the hiding. Jesus goes on.

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except for the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)

Then He follows up on His sovereign prerogative with the encouragement.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Luke records a different follow up.

Then turning to the disciples, he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-34)

What a gift. How blessed we are, to understand the Father’s gracious will, to see His salvation, and to have been drawn to the Son and His rest. He who did not spare His own Son, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?