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

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.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Nothing Can Stop Him

What can you do with a whole group of people who know that they will be raised with Jesus and brought into His presence (2 Corinthians 4:14)? Believers, these are truths for you:

God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. (1 Corinthians 6:14).

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:14)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

This is true for each Christian, but it is also true for all Christians, that is, for the church. He will “present the church to himself in splendor” (Ephesians 5:27), He will present the whole body “holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22), He is able to keep us from stumbling and present us “before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

What can the world do with that sort of people? What can threaten them? What can be taken from them? What affliction is not able to be a reason for grace to extend that thanksgiving would spread to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15)?

We are those with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe, and so we speak (2 Corinthians 4:13). We believe, and so we eat and drink with thanks, knowing that Jesus will bring us into His presence, and nothing can stop Him.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Life Laid Down

When we say that death brings life, it can be understood as a reference to self-denial that leads to the blessings of obedience. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). He continues, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (25). Death is a kind of self-denial, related to the cross, that leads to personal “profit” (verse 26) in life.

This is true, but there is more. When we say death brings life, we often mean life for others. The cross reminds us that sin in us needs to be killed, and the cross reminds us that sacrifice for others does them good.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16).

Of course we do not atone for our brothers’ sins. Our sacrifices are not for them like Jesus’ sacrifice is “in their place,” ours are for them as “for their benefit.” John illustrates a way for the life-laying-down, when we see and help a brother in need of “the world’s goods” (verse 17). So again, it’s not necessarily taking a bullet for someone, but giving as we’re able.

Death is at work in us, and glory is on display in us when it is.

“Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth” (verse 18). This is the ministry of the gospel to one another, and the Lord’s Table reminds us of our Lord’s laying down His life for us.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Glory Is Central

The two statements in 2 Corinthians 4 are not only a mouthful they are full of majesty. They are not the same, but they have a similar flow. This is what Satan blinds men from seeing, this is what God shines in the hearts of those He rescues from perishing.

  • “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (verse 4)
  • “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (verse 6)

“Light” is the same in each; light is illumination. “Gospel” and “knowledge” parallel each other; good news is a message and understanding of that message. “Glory” is central in both, the first is the glory of Christ, the second is the glory of God; it is no contradiction because Christ is God; they share the same divine glory. “Image” and “face” follow the reverse order, Christ is the revelation of God, and then God is revealed in Christ.

The gospel is for men because it is about God. Our glory is tied to whatever we reflect, so the revelation of God’s glory is the great good for men. This revelation is exclusively through Jesus. Glory is central and the good news centers on the Lord.

It is interesting that we are taught to call this the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20), and the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 10:21), rather than Jesus’ Supper. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord (2 Corinthians 4:4), and as we eat this bread and drink the cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). He is “the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8), we have His divine and supernatural light.

Lord's Day Liturgy

One Degree of Sacrifice to Another

When you are transformed from one degree of glory to another by beholding the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18), what does that look like? What does it feel like? Awesome? Probably not. Instead this glorification will look and feel like sacrifice.

It is a profound, mysterious, radical, far-reaching, intense, and also obvious principle that Jesus told and then embodied for His disciples.

Some Greeks had come to worship in Jerusalem for the Passover feast and told Philip that they wished to see Jesus. Philip got Andrew and they told Jesus.

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:23–24, ESV)

Jesus continued,

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” (John 12:27–28, ESV)

The hour of His glory was the hour of His loving death for His people.

That makes Lord’s Supper a meal of glory; our sharing and joy are part of the “much fruit” from Jesus’ sacrifice. So likewise we learn the way of glory, and we are being transformed from one degree of sacrifice to another.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Cross Views

We are Christ’s body. He is the head of the body, the church. Our union is a spiritual reality. Our connection is also a corporate responsibility.

[S]peaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15–16, ESV)

He is the head of the body, “the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18). The head is on top and the head brings us closer together.

We have communion with Him by the Spirit, and we have communion in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. As we commune with the head we do it as parts of the body, but also as the whole body. We’re reminded of our connections; look across the room. See the ones you’re working for.

For the first time in years we’re all together under the same roof on one level at the same time. One blessing of this room is that it’s less of a lecture hall, limited to seeing the back-of-many-heads portrait layout, and more landscape with cross views.

It’s not perfect, neither are we, or our communion. But it’s good, and our head gives us truth and love, and by His grace He will continue to build the body.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Behind the Wall

It directly applies to Timothy as one with spiritual responsibility for others, but it has spiritual encouragement for all.

I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:12-14, ESV)

We are being guarded and we are entrusted with guarding, the truth itself but also our purchase of the truth. We’ve been committed to the teaching and we’re to follow that pattern. We’ve been given the gifts of faith and love and we’re to continue believing and loving. We’ve been chosen by the Father, brought to the Son, and sealed with the Spirit. He is guarding us and will guard us to the end.

He guards us by supernatural means.

In The Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan paints the picture like oil in the lamp from behind the wall.

Then I saw in my dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and let him into a place where was a fire, burning against a wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it to quench it, yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil: that in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that: so he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of the which he did also continually cast (but secretly) into the fire.

Then said Christian, what means this?

The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the Devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. And in that thou sawest, that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire; this is to teach thee, that it is hard for the tempted to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul.

Here in communion we are reminded of the teaching (Romans 6:17). Here in communion we are renewed in our minds and bodies. Here in communion the oil of God’s grace is poured on the fire of our faith.

Lord's Day Liturgy

At His Disposal

The body has many members. We are to present our individual members to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13), our whole bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). This is every Christian’s call, and this is the entire assembly’s call.

Clearly in Romans 6:13 Paul refers to “members” as body parts, but if we connect that with the church as Christ’s body and church members as different body parts (1 Corinthians 12:12), we could relate that to our corporate (from the Latin corpus meaning “body,” so corporate is “body-formed“) worship, especially in communion.

When we eat the bread and drink the wine we are “proclaiming Christ’s death until He comes.” This is a corporate statement, all the parts combined into one voice.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26, ESV)

This belongs with the church’s statement to the spiritual forces about God’s wisdom.

so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10, ESV)

Together, the many parts, “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” bear with one another, forgive each other, love each other, are ruled by the peace of Christ “to which indeed you were called in one body,” are thankful, are richly indwelt by the word of Christ in order to be thankful in communion (Colossians 3:12-17).

Because we are under grace we are one with our Head, one as His Body, and the whole church is at Christ’s disposal.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Liturgical Scandals

We are in a liturgical battle. There have been so-called worship wars between professing Christians about what songs and styles to sing, but the greater worship war is more clearly between two liturgical scandals: either parades of drag queens down main street or a stream of disciples down the center aisle for communion in flesh and blood.

Our neighbor city of Arlington had their first Pride parade last Saturday, with religious blessing by a woman episcopal deacon who is married to another woman. There was a presentation from Planned Parenthood, drag story time and dances. It is gross, and is a sign of God’s judgment.

What we as Christians offer in return is not “nice,” not traditional, not conservative. What we offer as alternative is gross: we eat Jesus flesh and drink His blood.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (John 6:53–56, ESV)

Many who heard Jesus use this language walked away from Him. The disciples who stayed called it “hard saying” (John 6:60). Paul referred to the central doctrine of our beliefs, the crucifixion of Christ, as a scandal and offense (1 Corinthians 1:23).

Ironically, what we know to be natural (Romans 1:26-27) is rejected by natural men (so called in 1 Corinthians 2:14); it takes the power and presence of God’s Spirit to rejoice at the Lord’s Supper. The bread and the wine are signs of God’s judgment, but for our salvation.