Lord's Day Liturgy

Lordship Style

As we exalt in the Lordship of Jesus, as we remember the cosmological implications of His position, we also remember our Lord’s teaching about His own Lordship style.

Consider the teaching of Jesus to the disciples who were irritated at the egotism of James and John who said the quiet parts out loud regarding how great they all wanted to be seen in connection to how great Jesus was.

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45 ESV)

It’s not a tip, not a life hack, but it is the way to be great: serve.

It was the mind of Christ, born in the humbling likeness of men, humbled in obedience to the point of humiliating death on a cross, that leads to the therefore: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him,” and one way or another “every tongue (will) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:5-11).

So at the Lord’s Table we drink the “cup of the Lord” representing “the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). He has served us. Eat and drink in light of the Lord’s death until He comes.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Table Call

It’s hard to say everything good any given Sunday. I’ve never done it. I never will. God is so good we cannot exhaust His infinitely excellent person or works. Past, present, future, heaven and earth, natural and special revelation, individual and corporate, we can’t keep up with His goodness.

Our morning service drives toward communion every Sunday. Even though the liturgy itself is a gospel-in-practice pattern (call to praise God, confess and repent, believe in Christ, abide in Christ, then live for Christ), sometimes people have given concerned feedback that there isn’t a “gospel presentation.” We don’t end with a call to believe, we end with a call to the believers to go live it out.

I take heart that Paul didn’t freak out when talking about Christ. Sometimes he got carried away in the middle of one thought, but he was fine with whatever point exalted Christ. All are yours. In Romans 10:9 he focused on Jesus as the risen Lord.

In fact, he was in the middle of explaining why so many Jews did not believe, and yet that explanation has become a great call to believe.

Our time around the Lord’s Table is for believers. It’s not for non-Christians. It’s not a time for doubt but for faith, it’s a time not to look at self but at the Savior, Jesus who is the Lord of all. And, so, believe in Him! Believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Do it today! Today is the day of salvation!

It’s not an altar call, but a Table call, a call to faith in Christ who died for our sins and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!

Lord's Day Liturgy

The Bread Is Live

Participation at the Lord’s Table is not independent or theoretical; we’re playing with live bread, so to speak (Jesus did say, “I am the living bread” John 6:51). Our communion is a privilege, it is something to anticipate, it is something to celebrate.

We welcome eight new souls to share the supper today. They were baptized last Sunday evening. As they have confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and believed in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, so they share communion with the saints, eating Christ’s body and drinking Christ’s blood by faith (John 6:47, 54). The water has marked their identity, now the table fellowship feeds their identity as those who have eternal life and will be raised on the last day.

“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 10:16b-17) “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16a)

Paul reminded the Corinthians of the truth and focus of their faith. We look to Christ. This table reminds us not to depend on idols of any kind, including the idol of our ignorance or the idol of our own self-righteousness. We provoke the Lord to jealousy by going to other tables, feeding on other food. We give Him glory by receiving His strength, resting on His Son as our Stone, abiding in Him for our lives.

Lord's Day Liturgy

For All Their Problems

We can read more words written to the church in Corinth than any other group of Christians, 15,318 words over the two letters, compared to the next highest which is Romans at 9467, and the next after that is only 3,102 to the Galatians (source). Paul had a lot to say “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus” in that ridiculously sinful first-century city.

In his greeting to those Corinthian saints, even knowing the many and profitable reproofs and corrections they needed, Paul could still say that he gave thanks to God for God’s grace given to them, and he could see that God had given them gifts for serving each other. For all their problems, Paul trusted that God would sustain them to the end, sanctifying them for the Lord’s return. Their faithfulness depended on God’s loyal and steadfast love.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)

God “called” these believers. This is the effectual call, the internal call. It’s more than an invitation (typically referred to as external call), it’s the transforming of heart, mind, and will along with an enabling to call on the name of the Lord. John Calvin described it as follows:

“[God’s] calling, by which He draws us to himself, is not like that of a man, who tries to persuade someone by words alone, but is a secret power, which by the working of the Spirit penetrates into the innermost recesses of the soul, and affects it by its own efficacy.” (Institutes III.xi.5)

And God called these believers “into fellowship,” fellowship with Himself and His Son (by His Spirit). This fellowship is divine, this fellowship discourages division among the brothers (see the very next paragraph in 1 Corinthians 1:10ff), this fellowship is the aim of God’s call, God’s faithfulness that calls the unloved to be the beloved. We are His beloved gathered by Him to share communion with Him and with Christ’s body.

Lord's Day Liturgy

When You Don’t Have a Name

So far in this little series of exhortations I’ve found analogies in pinched nerves, loose joints, broken bones, blood loss, and cancer. If I haven’t talked about your line of aches and pains, it’s not because I don’t care, I’ve just focused more on some of the things I’ve had to learn about. These aren’t my only personal connections; I could have talked about torn ligaments, tonsillectomies, Costochondritis, acid reflux/fundoplication, and migraines. But one thing these all have in common is that they can be diagnosed; they have a name.

I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever talked to who was more glad to not know what was wrong with them. As in, they were having serious, painful, possibly disabling sort of symptoms that caused them to seek medical help, but were happy to hear their doctor say it was just a mystery. Chronic is one kind of bad, obscure is a second bad on top of the already bad. Remember the woman who touched Jesus’ garment who had spent all her money for twelve years on doctors who didn’t heal her (Mark 5:25-34)? Yet as bad as her hemorrhaging was, she wasn’t questioning her condition.

What do you do when you know that something is wrong but you’re not sure what is the “that”? How do you fight an enemy you can’t name? What you must not do is nothing. Trying to get an answer may be frustrating, but sitting in silent sadness is frustrating and futile.

There’s a principle of interpreting the Bible called analogia Scriptura which means “analogy of Scripture,” or interpreting the hard passages in light of the move obvious passages. Perhaps we could also apply analogia sanitatis, the “analogy of health,” let the clear parts of what makes for health help set a context for the confusing parts.

What if something is wrong in your soul? (And of course soul and body work together, but for the moment focus on the soul side.) David wrote, “Who can discern his errors?” (Psalm 19:12) And what about “hidden faults” (also verse 12)? Well, these concerns come after the celebration that the law of the LORD revives the soul and the precepts of the LORD rejoice the heart (see all of Psalm 19:7-9). Don’t forget what you do know, don’t stop doing what you can do. Confess the sins you are convicted about. Pray for wisdom. Read and reread and mediate on God’s Word. And when you still don’t have clarity, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Never Put to Shame

Peter pulls together three Scripture passages about Jesus Christ as the Living Stone, who either is the foundation of honor and fellowship or the source of tripping and resentment.

For it stands in Scripture (from Isaiah 28:16): “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, (from Psalm 118:22) “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

and (from Isaiah 8:14) “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (1 Peter 2:6–8 ESV)

Believers are being built up as a spiritual house on the Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5), but unbelievers “stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (1 Peter 2:8). “Destined” is assigned, “appointed” (KJV); they are “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22). Many of these were the religious, those in Israel who did not pursue righteousness by faith (so Isaiah 8:14 and the “stone of stumbling” is also quoted in Romans 9:33).

All of us who believe have been destined for identity as God’s people. All of us who rest in and on Christ have received mercy. We are “His own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Christ is our Cornerstone. Take Him away and we fall apart. Built on Him we will never be put to shame. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes, so let us rejoice and be glad in Him (Psalm 118:23-24).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Communion Delight

I’ve heard some people say recently that they still really look forward to assembling for worship on the Lord’s Day. It’s more than a habit, it doesn’t feel like a have-to slog, but is a time they anticipate for sake of their progress and joy in the faith.

Add to that a number of baptism interviews I’ve conducted over the last couple weeks. Many of our young people want to participate with the rest of the church in communion. They aren’t being guilted into making a confession of faith, they are seeing what is good about faith in Christ. It’s not unrelated to some of the things I know the elders will be stressing at the parenting seminar later today: our kids should desire and delight in the culture of glad faith in Jesus Christ.

And what is most important in all this is that none of us have the anticipation of, or affection for, assembling before the Lord to the degree that the Lord Himself does. No matter how much you value it, He Himself has purposed and purchased our joyful communion with Himself.

He loves to show His mercy. “He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons” (Ephesians 1:5). “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). God’s own Spirit dwells in us and seals us for our inheritance (2 Timothy 1:14; Ephesians 1:13-14). And in Christ together we are being built into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).

The Triune God calls us to commune with Him because He delights to.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not New and Improved

Sometimes you hear people making an exaggerated difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. They’ll say the OT revelation is of a God severe and hard, the NT revelation is of a God tender and warm. We know that this isn’t true. The NT anticipates God’s judgment and wrath with an explicitness the OT prophets barely dreamed of.

A good reading of the OT also knows better than to call the Lord cold or cruel. He is holy, and He judges sin, but He loves to point out that His steadfast love endures forever.

It really stood out to me a number of years ago reading through some of the Omnibus curriculum. When I was a kid in school, I thought reading was dumb. I was dumb. By the time I got excited about reading in college, I gave myself to the Bible and theology books, which is good, but unnecessarily narrow. By God’s grace we don’t have to choose steak or butter, we can spoon butter all over the steak (which is an illustration that breaks down).

Anyway, Omnibus I and IV are focused on Ancient civilization, from creation up to about the time of the NT. The curriculum includes some Old Testament books, but also the Iliad and the Odyseey and The Epic of Gilgamesh. We read the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides. And in all those non-Bible books, we read about the gods of men. The gods of men are unpleasant at best, brutal and obscene at worst. They can’t control themselves, they can’t be trusted, they can’t give an account for their behavior.

Yahweh/Kurios, the Lord, is sovereign and good. Yahweh says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Exodus 33:19), and then He actually is gracious and merciful. The life and sacrifice of God’s Son demonstrated God’s love par excellence, but however different His character is from idols, it isn’t new and improved. Praise God!

How precious is Your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the
shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of Your house.
(Psalm 36:7-8)

Lord's Day Liturgy

Archetypal Deliverance

It would have been better to be an Israelite than an Egyptian. That said, it didn’t seem easy for Israel in Exodus. The taskmasters made them gather their own straw to make the same amount of bricks. Blood on their doorposts wasn’t normal. They were trapped by the water, with Pharaoh’s army pinning them in. There was nothing about being an Israelite that didn’t require faith.

But what a story for those with faith. The Lord was making a name for Himself in raising up Pharaoh (Exodus 9:16), “for this purpose I raised you up, to show my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” And in so doing was making the archetypal story of deliverance.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 10:1–2 ESV)

Being delivered doesn’t always feel delightful. But the alternative is destruction.

The Exodus is one-of-a-kind. We are not Israel. But Yahweh, the LORD, is our Lord. Paul quotes the Exodus story for our benefit in Romans 9 (verses 15 and 17), and states explicitly in Romans 15:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 ESV)

There are hard parts about being a Christian in this state in these days, but He is giving us stories to tell to our sons and grandsons of His great power. As G. K. Chesterton wrote,

“The one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God’s paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle – and not lose it.”

So we enjoy the Lord’s Table set in the presence of God’s enemies (Psalm 23:5), and we taste His delivering power by faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Cupboard Full of Vessels

Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). That’s good, and the “for one another” part means that this applies to a group not just to single soul. One of Jesus-disciple’s is connected in affection for many other Jesus-disciples.

In complement to that, how should the assembly be known? There should be holiness/godliness in our midst (2 Peter 3:11), there should be the speaking of truth (Ephesians 4:15), there should be using of gifts for the building up of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:7). These are all good.

And also it’s indispensable that we are identified as the ones to whom God’s mercy has been revealed, as those who have received God’s mercy.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

Mercy is Godly. It is God’s nature to show mercy as He pleases. When He sent word through Hosea against the house of Israel, the Lord said of Gomer’s daughter, “Call her name Lo-ruhamah (‘No Mercy’), for I will no more have mercy” (Hosea 1:6). And then she bore a son, and the Lord said, “Call his name Lo-ammi (‘Not my people’), for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9).

But after this rebuke, the Lord also promised that “yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea” and “it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’” (Hosea 1:10).

Paul quotes Hosea (2:23) in Romans 9:25-26, that Jews and Gentiles are made God’s people by God’s mercy. We are a cupboard full of vessels of mercy that make known the riches of His excellencies.