Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Available Space

“Keeping a rule,” however technically correct, falls easily into the trap of abstraction and impersonalism. As a result we oppose sin with a false standard of holiness, and then are surprised at its impotence. But gratitude, thanksgiving, contentment, and joy are always personal, by definition. Jesus is there, and if you thank Him, then that gratitude fills up all the available space.

—Doug Wilson, Clean Contentment

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

The Gloomy Ordinance

I am increasingly concerned with a perspective that many Christians seem to be taking toward what has become the gloomy ordinance. One post about the Lord’s Supper will not be sufficient to blow away the clouds that have covered us. There needs be much said, but it doesn’t all need to be said today.

Another name for the Lord’s Supper is communion. Note that the ordinance the Lord gave us was about communion, not confession.

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)

Yes, according to the apostle Paul, many have fallen asleep because they ate and drank unworthily. “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” (11:27). If we are worshipping other gods or the true God with half-hearts, Paul gives grave warning.

But if we are beholding the glory of the Lord, worshipping by grace through faith in Christ, then when we partake of the bread and the cup in communion, we share in His body and blood and we share that with each other. When we give thanks for each element, we aren’t giving thanks because we saw and confessed every last sin. We give thanks because by His body and blood He overcame all the obstacles blocking communion. This table doesn’t require us to remember every last sin we’ve committed, it requires us to remember Him who is our Savior.

Communion is not an ordinance of dismal mourning, it is an ordinance of thoughtful rejoicing. We remember the death of Christ, and in so doing we remember that it was our sin that causes His death. But He is no longer dead and we are no longer in our sins. We rejoice in our participation with Him and with each other.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

How Collected We Are

We are not usually good team players. We put the “-ism” in individualism. We’re big on personal freedom and individual rights, personal investment strategies and personal preferences, personal development and self-reliance.

As a nation, our bumper-stickers say “Be all that you can be,” and “Look out for #1.” There have been days of cosmetic unity in our history, usually during the Olympics or when we’re in a clear war. Then we come together and raise our common flag. Then we’re glad to be identified by something bigger than our driver’s license or Facebook profile.

Even in the church we’re usually more mindful of the person sitting in our seat (me) than the rest of the pew. But one leg can’t hold up a table; one finger can’t claim to be the whole hand, let alone the entire body.

As Christians we are many individual members. Each believer is saved and sanctified, personally responsible for sin and for spiritual warfare. But each believer is also part of the church–the Body–and should not think of himself otherwise. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

There are things that the church does that a Christian cannot do by himself. God’s point to the universe is “through the church” (Ephesians 3:10), through the collected mess we are. The heavenly beings don’t learn anything by watching how messy we are, they know that. They’re watching how collected we are.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Like a Compass Points North

God takes His position as God seriously. He is not insecure or defensive, but He is jealous and promises to punish any who bow before knockoff gods. Commandment number one of ten made clear: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Worship of the LORD is to be exclusive; serve only Him. And worship of Him is to be done rightly: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image….” Worship of the LORD was to be unabridged, not limited by any distorted or dwarfish representation.

Why? The easy answer is that our Creator and Deliverer is infinitely worthy and deserves all our reverence. But that isn’t the only answer. Right worship is also important because men become like what they worship. Men were made from the beginning as image-bearers of God and true worship provides us with our bearings like a compass points north. Idolatry offends God, yes, and it also aims men in the wrong direction. The needle doesn’t need to be off by much before we’re soon headed off the cliff.

Failure to worship, or worship of another god, or off target worship of the true God, makes men miserable, not only because their God-given conscience is violated, but also because their God-given image is distorted. They cannot know truly who they are or what direction they should go because they believe and worship what is false. Even as Christians we can get lost a thousand different ways each week, so we confess our sin and get back to worship that keeps us oriented.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Swords of Two by Fours

[I]n a fight a man needs a large heart and a narrow sword. We have jumbled everything, and now have narrow hearts, and our swords are clumsily made from two by fours.

—Doug Wilson, A Primer on Worship and Reformation, 23

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Love of the Congregation

Sometimes a minister tends to think too highly of himself as a clergy-man. He stands before the congregation; he, as God’s spokesman, pronounces the blessing; he is the holy person facing a congregation that is on a lower level. To prevent this attitude, it is well that he counteracts his sense of self-importance by affirming that he lives among brothers as a brother, and that he loves the congregation. May all God’s servants be of such a mind. Love of the congregation, and of brothers and sisters, is the highest incentive for administering that which is holy, and from which we may expect rich fruit.

—Abraham Kuyper, Our Worship, 116-117

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Mud All Over the Place

In John 13, Jesus began to wash the disciples feet as a demonstration of His love for them. When He came to Peter, Peter objected and, in a sense, we understand his objection because Jesus was the Master and the Master should be the one having his feet washed; He should not be the one washing. Jesus, of course, overcame Peter’s initial refusal, and then Peter reacted to the opposite extreme and told Jesus to give him a full-body bath. Jesus again corrected Peter’s misunderstanding by explaining that dirty feet didn’t necessarily mean his face was filthy.

The first lesson of John 13 is about service and Jesus taught His disciples to follow Him in this pattern of humility. But there is another issue as well, the issue of cleanliness.

We are Christians, and one of the things that means is that we are clean; our sins have been forgiven. Our body of sin has been washed in Christ. But our belief of this and our having confessed our sins for sake of salvation, does not mean that it was one confession and done. We, as Christians, get our feet dirty with sin. John teaches Christians in 1 John 1 that, for the sake of our ongoing fellowship with God and with each other, we must keep confessing our sins.

We ought to confess our sins each time we sin. And as a congregation, when we gather for sake of fellowship with God and each other, we do well to wipe our dirty feet at the door rather than track mud all over the place.

Categories
Rightly Dividing

How Important Is the Bible?

In this 18 minute video, John Piper asks and answers five questions about the importance of the Bible.

  1. What would happen if it did not exist?
  2. What would you give to have it or keep it?
  3. What does it make possible?
  4. How does it weather critics and detractors?
  5. How much effort should be given to spread it and preserve it?

He also references the ESV and why our loving of God and others depends on our thinking (about Bible truth).

via Justin Taylor

Categories
Preach the Word

Inspiration

Creation begins to make the case for the giving essence of God’s authority. The incarnation of His Son also demonstrates willing exposure of His sovereign Self. In both creation and the incarnation, God shows not only who He is, but also what His goal is with us: fellowship. The revelation of His Word is the third aspect that demonstrates the purpose of disclosed truth and the inviting nature of true authority.

Inspiration

The Scriptures reveal God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness. The law stops every mouth and makes every man accountable to God (Romans 3:19). None are righteous, no one understands, no one seeks God, there is no fear of God before our eyes (Romans 3:10-11, 18). The Bible exposes our weakness, our ungodliness, our rebellion, and our deadness (Romans 5:6, 10; Ephesians 2:1-3).

But the Word doesn’t see our deadness and mock us. It sees us dead and raises us to life. We “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God, for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you'” (1 Peter 1:23-25). The Word wields authority for our life.

David wrote about the potency of special revelation to change us for good.

The law of the Lord is perfect, > reviving the soul; > the testimony of the Lord is sure, > making wise the simple; > the precepts of the Lord are right, > rejoicing the heart; > the commandment of the Lord is pure, > enlightening the eyes; > the fear of the Lord is clean, > enduring forever; > the rules of the Lord are true, > and righteous altogether. > More to be desired are they than gold, > even much fine gold; > sweeter also than honey > and drippings of the honeycomb. > Moreover, by them is your servant warned; > in keeping them there is great reward. > Psalm 19:7-11

Paul wrote about the efficacy of “the word of His grace” to protect and establish us.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:29-32)

The Word saves, the Word sanctifies, the Word builds. Authoritative truth seeks our good. Paul loved the truth, he wanted the Ephesians to be alert for the truth, and he gave himself ceaselessly and affectionately so that they might have the truth. Why? Because truth invites life. Revelation invites relationship with God (and with each other). Carl Henry’s second thesis was:

Divine revelation is given for human benefit, offering us privileged communion with our Creator in the kingdom of God. (God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol 2, 30)

That’s the authoritative Word at work for us, not against us or in spite of us or at a distance from us. Truth works and wins us. God uses truth to bring us into His true joy.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

Laughter Is War

I’m a longtime reader of Credenda/Agenda. I admit that I enjoyed it more when hard copy issues arrived in the mail, but we take what we can get in this eAge. Anyway, for a few months I’ve been meaning to share the centerfold from Vol 18 Issue 2, Kicks and Giggles. It’s more than a college ad, it’s a motivational poster.

As they say, remember to “saber-rattle responsibly.”

UPDATED: See War! What Is It Good For? Absolutely…Actually It Does Do Some Good Things