Lord's Day Liturgy

All of Us

Does Jesus have all of us? All we are and all we have is from Him and should be utilized to honor Him. Last week our congregation practiced, with a low grade physical awkwardness, kneeling during our prayer of confession. Most importantly Jesus should have our humble hearts but, as many experienced, something is different when He gets our humble knees, too.

I’ve come to a personal conviction that when we sing songs or read Psalms in our corporate worship that refer to raising hands, I am going to do it. I don’t know when the next opportunity will come up but I’m already uncomfortable about it. That said, I’m more uncomfortable saying one thing and doing another. I’m glad God is at work in my heart, though I didn’t anticipate that His work in my heart would come out like this.

Again, the hand-raising is a personal conviction and not a corporate invitation as is the kneeling. But my specific conviction comes from the sweeping question: does Jesus have all of us? Does He have all of our hearts? Knees? Hands? Eyes? Ears? Tongues? Wallets? Watches? It really isn’t an option to present most of our members to serve Him and keep a couple back for ourselves. He made each part of us, He gives life to each part, and each part is made for worship one way or another.

Are you holding anything back from Him? In the assembly’s Lord’s day worship? In the six days of work? If so, something is not right in your heart and should be confessed.

Lord's Day Liturgy

We Shouldn’t Be Careless

We emphasize that the Lord’s Table is a banquet, a feast, a celebration. We emphasize the joy of communion, God’s joy over us and our corporate joy with Him. Jesus made peace by the blood of His cross and reconciled us in His body of flesh by His death in order to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before Him (Colossians 1:20-22). Christ’s finished sacrifice is a reason to rejoice.

It is also a reason to examine ourselves. The Table celebration is for sinners who boast in the Savior not for sinners who boast in their sin. We must not be sinless before we eat but we also must not be careless about our sin. Paul said,

Whoever, therefore, 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. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)

Sin affects the body. Not all effects on the body result from our personal sin but some do. Weakness, illness, and even death may come to those who deliberately ignore the sin Christ died for.

Weekly celebration of the Lord’s Table nourishes those with faith and endangers those who participate without faith, those who love sin and don’t seek His strength to fight sin. He desires communion with us and He will discipline those who come for communion with disregard the sacrifice of His Son.

At this meal we meet with the Father through the work of His Son. Let us enjoy that fellowship with Him as we discern His saving work in us.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Out of Place

There is an uneasiness we deal with every Lord’s day. We want to worship. We love God and we know that He is our good. We know that His Word reveals that He’s glad to meet with us and to bless us. But we are sinners. We do not deserve to fellowship with Him. We come into His presence as those who are out of place, as those who are humbled before His majestic holiness.

So we have a time of confession in our morning service. We acknowledge our sin and our trust that He forgives sin in Christ. We mourn our disobedience and we rejoice in His deliverance. We bow before Him and we’re lifted up by Him. We’re sinners who don’t belong before His holiness and yet He makes a way for us to draw near to Him. It’s an awkward pull in the soul, a tension that we will live with until our glorification.

As an assembly we’ve talked about being whole persons, consistent in heart and word and body. That triggers a certain level of discomfort because we’ve been trained to keep it all in and that God only cares about the heart.

Something has to give. We can either be awkward in believing one thing and doing another or we can be consistent in expressing the awkwardness of our hearts with our bodies. At the moment I’m referring to kneeling during our prayer of confession.

We decided to try it and here are a couple of key things. No one is obligated to kneel. We believe it is appropriate for the assembly and we encourage everyone to use the opportunity. But, again, believers are free to do it or not to do it. Also, we are not practiced at this, the space between our current pews is not optimal for it, and some will not be able to do it no matter how much they want. That’s okay.

It is awkward. And here’s the thing: confession of our law-breaking to the King we serve is awkward. We’re not uncertain about His forgiving heart, but it is a difficult nonetheless. It’s okay that it’s difficult to express it outwardly as well.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Display Purposes Only

If you sat down at a dinner table, what might cause you to get up after a while unsatisfied? There might be nothing on the table, no food to eat. There might be no one else at the table, no fellowship to enjoy. There might be a family tradition passed down for generations that strictly forbids anyone from eating, the food is for display purposes only. Or, there may be no reason to eat because you ruined your appetite with junk an hour earlier.

These may be reasons why the communion Table doesn’t satisfy as well. Working backwards through the list of four above, those who come to a Table of grace full of their own works, who come to a Table of righteousness whose stomachs are full of selfishness, will not be nourished. Not only that, they may be judged by the Lord of the Table for unworthy participation.

Those who come to the communion Table believing that the table is for show, a picture to be seen, not a meal for participation, will not enjoy it. Celebration doesn’t fit their understanding of proper Table dimensions.

Those who come to the communion Table lost in the recesses of individualism will get something, but they won’t get communion; they won’t be sharing anything with the body. They may write about the goodness of fellowship in their journals but they won’t taste it.

And those who come to an empty table are going to some other table than the communion Table. The Lord’s Table is never empty and His portions are never scarce. The Son gave His life for us and all things are ours with Him. God’s grace and love know no bounds and fill up all who come to receive by faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Getting in Shape

Worship is dangerous, especially to the status quo and especially to our pride.

Of course, worship is inescapable. We were made to be admiring creatures, always looking for greatness to praise. We can’t avoid it; we will worship someone or something whether or not we’ve found true greatness. Worship of the true God gives meaning to life. Because we were made in God’s image, better views of Him show us more what we’re to be. As we draw near to Him and see His shape more clearly, our own lives are defined.

The dangerous part of worship comes because we are sinners and the process of conforming us includes confronting our unlikenesses. We are not in shape and, because He is eternally committed to getting us in shape, He will chisel off whole pieces, He will peel away layers, and He will sand out the rough spots.

The better and more accurate our worship, the deeper our mourning and the more painful our discomfort will be. Worship is for our good but that’s because He will not leave us alone. His Word and His Spirit will convict us, expose us, and humble us. The rest of the assembly will bring out many ways we have not arrived because we don’t yet love them as we ought; we can barely stand some of them. Men who resist confession of sin must also avoid true worship since one leads to the other.

Without Jesus we would avoid worship or at least we wouldn’t be able to worship in truth. His death dealt with our sin and His resurrection guarantees that all His brothers will become like Him. Through the Son we come to worship the Father with clarity yet without fear. Through His Spirit we are transformed in worship, grieving over our sin and glad in our Savior. Worship is dangerous and our greatest delight.

Every Thumb's Width

Little Miss Red Shoes

I don’t always read Challies but, when I visit his site, I typically scan through his A La Carte links. A week ago he started with a post at Paradox Uganda about a young girl in Africa whom the author named “Little Miss Red Shoes.” She’s nine. She had gone to the police and then to the “casualty department” at the hospital to report being raped by a 15 year-old neighbor.

I have a nine year-old daughter. She wears Mary Jane style shoes, too. I can’t imagine if she were in a similar situation.

Read the story and “please pray for JUSTICE, for Little Miss Red Shoes and the countless little African girls (and others all over the world) who are raped, beaten, blamed, sold.”

Lord's Day Liturgy

What It’s Good For

Our fellowship with God comes on very specific terms. Peace must be established between two parties that were previously enemies. In our case, the defiance was entirely with us. Our enmity must be defeated and our rebellion accounted for. Communion also requires a certain likeness between parties. In our case, we must walk in the light as He is in the light in order to enjoy fellowship. God’s Word, therefore, is crucial if we’re to know the terms, if we’re to respond to follow the light, if we’re to understand the sacrifice of Christ that establishes the peace.

But peace isn’t only on paper, nor is it found in an out of reach place. Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us, He did not merely think about it. His death and resurrection are recorded in a Book, but that Book gets us more than a contract in thin air. Through the Word we learn about communion with God and He established a Supper for our bodies to actually commune with God in worship. We receive His Word and partake in His ordinance. He requires both, He gifts us with both, working hand in hand, to reveal the terms of peace and to share a meal of peace.

Without the Word we could not understand what eating and drinking are good for. Without eating and drinking, we do not understand what the Word is good for. The Word of the Lord declares peace for all who believe, at the Lord’s Table we digest it by faith.

A Shot of Encouragement

Two Great Things

Two great things go together: the great commandment and the great commission. They do not compete with each other, they compliment each other (and they do so even better than peanut butter and chocolate). Obedience to the great commandment makes obedience to the great commission a no-brainer. Obedience to the great commission requires seeing others become obedient to the great commandment.

So evangelism and worship meet in the disciple-making process. That’s why worship can have an evangelistic impact. That’s why evangelism isn’t finished unless it leads to worship.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Training for Hypocrisy

Words matter. When there are no words, there is no clarity. When words come from an empty heart, there is no integrity. When words are inconsistent with behavior, this is hypocrisy.

As Christians, we must sing and speak words. Our faith, our worship depends on words. We cannot be clear about the gospel, about Christ, about salvation, about His glory without words. Even if we have to borrow it, we need language to thank Him.

Words also must not be empty. We cannot speak reality into existence as God can. When we speak and sing our faith and worship, the words won’t land unless there is a heft of trust and adoration already in our hearts.

Our words must also match our behavior. We are sensitive to misleading words, to the inconsistency and hypocrisy of those who do not do what they say.

So, here are three questions for us. Are our words clear in worship? Are our hearts driving those words? Are our actions consistent with the words that came from our hearts?

We often sing about standing and lifting our hands, about bowing down in worship. Many psalms call us to clap our hands and shout with loud songs. Those are words of thanks to God, humility before God, and joy in God. Are we clear? Yes, so far so good.

Do these words express the reality of our hearts before God? He looks at our hearts, which is comforting or terrifying. Does He actually find hands-high honor, clapping thanks, bowing humility, and vociferous joy? He should.

And do these words match the reality of our behavior. “Well,” we say, “God only cares about our hearts.” Does it bother Him if the words that come out of our hearts don’t fit what we do? Isn’t that hypocrisy?

We are learning in worship that clarity matters, that hearts matter, that behavior matters. In a recent message I mentioned that believers ought to consider kneeling in prayer. Kneeling is a clear word and it pictures a necessary reality. Since that sermon much has been said about God’s concern for the heart. So then, are we kneeling in heart before His holy majesty? That’s actually harder anyway. We say it, we believe it, but we wonder if we ought to do it. As a congregation we’re still “praying about it,” and that’s good for now, so long as we realize the danger of training ourselves to say something different than we do.

Lord's Day Liturgy

They Belong Together

When we come to confession before the Lord, should we think more about our sin or His holiness? Should we think more about our sin or the sacrifice of His Son? Should we think more about our sin or His grace? The answer is obviously both but, I would argue that even when we confess our sin, our focus is on God and not ourselves.

Apart from His holiness, we would have no standard by which to examine ourselves. Apart from His grace we would not even have the revelation of His standard, let alone the revelation of His invitation to confess. Apart from His righteousness, in particular Christ’s perfect life and the Father’s righteous judgment poured out on the Son, any offer of forgiveness to those who confess would be judicial fiction. And apart from His Spirit, we wouldn’t be sensitive enough to notice or care about our sin.

Our confession is part of our worship because in confession we receive and submit to His holy standard. In confession we also take hold of His Son’s sacrifice by the Spirit’s work.

So, who does the work in confession? God does. God serves us through His Word, His Son, and His Spirit. He serves us by graciously inviting us into His presence, by graciously making a way for us to come near, and by graciously cleansing our consciences so that we can worship motivated by joyful freedom, not slavish guilt. True confession is worship because we can’t take any credit for the conviction or the comfort.

When it comes to confession, deeply mourning our sin does not prohibit God’s rich blessing of comfort (think Matthew 5:4). They belong together.