Lord's Day Liturgy

Scoffers Don’t Care

One of the main characters in Proverbs is the scoffer. The scoffer is a species of fool, and what seems to define him is that he’s hypercritical, a “haughty man” (Proverbs 21:24) who “sets a city aflame” (Proverbs 29:8). That’s not untrue, but perhaps the scoffer is extra complacent.

Mo pointed this out to me. As we watch more shows with closed-captioning turned on, a frequent label is “[scoffs].” It shows when a character hears something and is unimpressed. It could be visible in a minimal energy head shake, it could be some version of audible “pshaw,” “pfft,” a sound that means “whatever, that’s stupid.”

In that sense scoffing isn’t caring too much about the wrong thing, it’s not caring at all.

In that light listen to Proverbs 1:32:

For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them.

“Complacency” is a smugness, a “careless ease” (NET). It is “repose gained by ignoring or neglecting the serious responsibilities of life” (C. H. Toy).

A great temptation is the worldliness of not caring, not just about what but how much. It’s one thing to care about the wrong things, it’s another not to care about the right things in a way that corresponds to the value of those things themselves.

Our roots don’t go deep, no wonder we are blown around by slight breezes.

There is truth. Know it. There is truth’s way of knowing the truth. Treasure it up. Complacency, a lack of attentive eyes and affectionate hearts, kills.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Part of Our Protection

What is it God wants with us? It is the goal of creation, of salvation, of our worship service. Yes, the end for which God created the world is His glory. How does He get glory? How do we give it? What does the Lord’s Table have to do with it?

The glory of God includes His sovereign, holy, gracious, and loving overflow of Himself to His creatures. He made us to know Him, to enjoy Him, and to fellowship with Him. He made us to delight in Him, and as we do so, fruit comes out.

Fellowship with God is a supernatural gift. It is a supernatural purchase. It is a supernatural protection.

When the church, under the authority Jesus described in John 20:23, declares forgiveness and withholds forgiveness, she is declaring fellowship and denying fellowship. When the church removes her affirmation of an unrepentant member, handing him over to Satan as described in 1 Corinthians 5:5, that member is cut off from fellowship and from its gladness and guardianship.

It is not something we see without eyes of faith, but that doesn’t make it an illusion. Our communion is not just something we’re called to protect, our communion is part of our protection. Glory to God that He has called us to Himself in fellowship that we may bear fruit for Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Sin as Fire

Perhaps this is too on the nose, but sin is like fire. Sins of speech are likened to fire; the “tongue is a fire…setting on fire the entire course of life” (James 2:6; Proverbs 26:20-21). Sexual indulgence can cause someone to “burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9).

Sin destroys things, beautiful things. It destroys things people have been building for years. It destroys precious things that can’t be replaced. Sin destroys lives.

When sin flames up to a certain level it’s impossible to ignore. Sin will set acres and counties on fire. It changes the color of the whole sky. Ash and debris touch down on everything. Smoke makes it hard to breath.

Maybe your sin isn’t a 4th stage church disciple wildfire. Maybe it’s contained, for now, in your home. Maybe you’re playing with fire just on your phone, or in your heart (see Proverbs 6:27). Christian, stamp out your sin.

Is it a spark of bitterness, a match of envy, a flare of lust, unattended anger? Dampen down your pride. Pour buckets of truth on falsehood and deceit.

Jude says to “save others by snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23). Don’t let sin burn out of control; otherwise, it may be like fire that never says “Enough.”

Lord's Day Liturgy

Discipline or Destruction

Jesus, as the Amen, told the Church of the Lukewarm that the ones He loves, He reproves and disciplines (Revelation 3:19). In Hebrews 12 we learn not only about laying aside sin that slows down our run (verse 1), but also about God’s discipline. 

He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:10-11)

As sons, when we are subject to the “Father of spirits” we live (Hebrews 12:9). 

In Romans 6 we’ll be reminded that Christians are sons and slaves. God is our Father and our Master. He is righteous, He frees us to be righteous, He instructs and strengthens and disciplines us that we might see the fruit of righteousness. 

There are two kinds of pain: the pain of discipline or the pain of destruction. According to the word of the Lord, the pain of discipline leads to peace. The pain of destruction leads to more pain. 

My son, do not despise the LORD’S discipline  
or be weary of his reproof,
for the LORD reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.
(Proverbs 3:11–12 ESV, quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6)

Be wise, receive His corrections that bring about the blessings of obedience. 

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Lord as Host

On the night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper the disciples were not taking pictures to post later on Instagram. But even without that sort of missing-the-moment-distraction, there’s no way that they fully understood what was happening.

Jesus had prepared a table for them in the presence of an enemy, and enemies. Judas had already made plans to betray Jesus, and the soldiers were mustering to seize Jesus within a couple hours. In the midst of lies and schemes and envy and unjust arrest and murder, Jesus provided a feast to His men (who He knew would also scatter, Matthew 26:31).

David could not have known what that sort of supper would look like a thousand years before Christ came, but his description in Psalm 23 of the Lord as Host, the Lord as generous table-setter, can be connected.

We also don’t know the full extent of the Lord’s generosity toward us, or the fullness of animosity directed against us by enemies. Here is the Lord’s table, prepared for us in the presence of enemies. This isn’t about left or right, it’s not primarily a political party, but a spiritual reality.

Either the Lord will grant repentance and draw rebels to His table by grace, or He will keep filling our cups and protecting us from rebels. His cup of grace overflows to us. His goodness and mercy have followed us to the table. Because of Christ’s loving sacrifice we will dwell with the Lord, our Shepherd, all the days of our lives.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Sundays as the Start for Strength

During our church family meeting last Sunday evening I mentioned some of the new colors we’re planning for our trellis. By trellis I’m referring to our ministry programs, the scheduled and organized ways to serve the body, and by colors I mean the fresh plans for teachings and readings and discussions in the meetings we already have.

Lord willing, we’ll continue studying through Romans during our Lord’s Day worship. On Sunday evenings the pastors plan to preach through particular subjects in Proverbs. To complement that, the men will read Proverbs for our Men to Men discussions. The ladies for Titus 2 will start the year reading That Hideous Strength and follow that in the new year with How to Be Free from Bitterness. We’ll plan another parenting seminar in February.

One thread between all those is strength. Romans builds strength of faith, Proverbs teaches strength in wisdom, Lewis’ book is a riff off the wrong strength, a hideous strength, which is a poetic reproof over the Tower of Babel project which was intended to be a sign of man’s strength without the Lord (Genesis 11:4).

This is one of the reasons we assemble on the Lord’s Day. The first day of the week is Sunday, and the first thing we do is confess our glad dependence on the Lord. We fear Him, that is wisdom. We trust Him, that is faith. We look to His joy, that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

The truth is that He is Lord. Here is our opportunity to be reminded of it, to rejoice in it, and to get ourselves in line.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jumping on the Drums

Our Life to Life group had an edifying discussion about the different kinds of Psalms and the different blessings that they bring. There are Psalms for taunting enemies and Psalms for confessing sin. There are Psalms that remind us that God is near even when He feels far off, there are Psalms that remind us that He is for all those who fear Him. There are many human experiences, there are many works of the Lord, there are many songs in our arsenal for all those situations.

We ought to be able to sing any of the lyrics when appropriate. We can sing how blessed is the one who dashes the enemies little ones against the rock (Psalm 137:9), we can sing of our heart’s desperation for the Lord’s presence (Psalm 42:1-2). There is a way that both of them can be acceptable to the Lord, and also a way that both of those angles can be ruined. What makes either like playing the cymbals with swords is self-righteousness.

Singing triumphant lyrics with a smug heart is like jumping on the drums; the words may be right but the heart is out of rhythm. Singing lyrics of sadness with self-pity, with an attitude that isolates, with a “no one understands or feels my pain” perspective doesn’t fit. For that matter, listening to others praise the Lord for victory or pray to the Lord for help in trouble with the filter of self-righteousness is no better.

What would be of greatest dissonance is confessing our sins (like Psalm 51:1-2) with self-righteousness, as if we thought we were better than others because we thought we were more honest to God about our transgressions than others. May it never be.

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.

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.

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.