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Lord's Day Liturgy

Unburdened Reverence

Just as being healthy in faith, in love, and in steadfastness is not limited to older men (Titus 2:2), so being reverent in demeanor is not limited as a good only for older women (Titus 2:3).

I think we learn much about the practice of reverence by the drip-drip-drip of weekly communion. It is inescapable; around the Table we learn one type of reverence or another.

We know that there is an unworthy manner of participation (1 Corinthians 11:27), with drastic consequences (1 Corinthians 11:29-30), so especially around the Lord’s Table we take care. How we take care, how we behave ourselves here, becomes a measuring stick for practicing reverence elsewhere.

Reverence has been boiled down to seriousness, on the solemn side, flirting even with isolation and self-focus. “I will be serious. How dare you not be serious, evidenced by that smile on your face.” We think we prove our seriousness by putting our heads down and closing our eyes, afraid to make any sounds.

And who would say that blurting out isn’t selfish, or that fools aren’t focused on themselves? Indeed. But…

The only Supper that should’ve been so cheerless was the only one eaten before Christ died, and so the only one eaten before Christ rose again. Every Supper since remembers the finished work, the forgiveness purchased, with the Son of God risen again to fulfill His intention for His Bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).

So let your reverence be relieved and unburdened, in shared and uniting supernatural joy, full of the peace of God that passes the understanding of men.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

A Table for Our Health

While specifically written for older men (Titus 2:2), being “sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” would be healthy for all Christians.

If your faith was fragile, if your love was out of shape, if your steadfastness was questionable, how would you increase them?

Among other things, our regular remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice at the Lord’s Supper should help.

Faith is personal, but in an accomplished fact, and even more, in a faithful Person. Trust Him who is the resurrection and the life.

Love is also personal, and when we wonder what it looks like, we look at the cross first. You are loved, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ. His Spirit dwells in You, so love as you’ve been loved.

As for endurance, none of us have resisted sin to the point of bloodshed. And the only man ever to finish His race without giving in to temptation is Jesus. Jesus, who is the “author and finisher of our faith” (KJV), “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Remember Jesus, remember the joy He promises.

Here is a Table for our health, as believers and as the Body of Christ. Believe! Love! Hold on! Christ who is your life will return for you.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Thankful Opposites

Because we are holding to the trustworthy word as taught, because we are receiving instruction in sound doctrine, because we work to guard against those who contradict it, we should give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, that we meet to share His Supper as the opposite of those described in Titus 1:10-16.

We are not insubordinate, but we submit to the Lord Jesus. We are not empty talkers, not windbags, but we know the eternal words that make wise for salvation. We are not deceivers, we have put off the old self and speak truth in love.

Our households are not upset, but they are set in order, sound in faith. We are not devoted to white space stories and human standards, but devoted to the truth. By God’s grace and Spirit and Word our minds and our consciences have been cleansed and are being renewed. We profess to know God and seek to honor Him with our works.

We are not detestable, but loved. We are not disobedient, but because Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree, we are dead to sin and living in righteousness. We are not unfit for any good work, but we’ve been qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light, walking in a manner worthy of the Lord.

This is our common faith, this is grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of the Lord.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Obtained by Blood

Elders and overseers and pastors are all underworkers. Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He not only has the ultimate authority, He is the only one who has shed His blood for your sins.

The exhortation that Paul gave to the Ephesian elders was rooted in their recognition of whose sheep they were caring for.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Christian, you are not your own, you were bought with a price. You do not belong to a group of under-shepherds, though they are given by the Chief Shepherd for your good.

Remember Jesus Christ. Remember the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. Remember His blood that has covered all your sins, blood that has made you Christ’s own.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Communion in the Present Age

As one of the elders of this flock it has been one of the highest priorities as well as one of the deepest joys to share the Lord’s Supper each week with great joy. We have changed a few practical things about it over the years, but more importantly we have (successfully, by God’s grace) changed the expectation about our tone around this Table.

It is our calling to live godly lives in the present age. That calling requires every bit of grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. That calling is rough amidst all the ungodliness and worldly passions. Joy does not come easily or naturally. But this is a Table prepared for us in the presence of so-called Pride Month, a Table that points beyond our political fools and all the biting and devouring one another in the present age.

God’s grace saves us and strengthens us to wait:

for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us … and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession…. (Titus 2:13-14)

We do live in hope of eternal life, and that hope is personal. That hope is in the next coming of the Anointed one. As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Godly Communion

Let us not get tired of remembering “our Savior.”

Habakkuk said, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18). And now that we’ve moved into one of the pastoral epistles, I’m glad to point out that Paul uses “our Savior” nine times (five in Titus) in what add up to 13 chapters. (Jude is the only other one to use the exact phrase in the NT, verse 25).

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3–7 ESV)

As in Titus 1:3 and 4, both God–Father and Jesus Christ are called “our Savior.”

And of course we ask, “Savior from what?” The answer is sin. We know it required the sacrifice of God’ Son. But especially as we come to the Lord’s Table we remember and rejoice in the Redeemer, the one who reconciled us to God.

How do the godly observe communion? They are humbled by their eternal election, they are humbled at the cost Christ paid, and then they get after high praises of God in their throats (see Psalm 149:6).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Taking Joy

“I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

This is a great resolution (Habakkuk 3:18). It’s only stated like that once in Scripture, though there are similar expressions, and numerous examples.

How much more do we know than Habakkuk? We know the immediate end of Habakkuk’s prophecy as the Babylonian empire fell and the captives returned to their land. Even more, we know the ultimate end of the eschatological Babylon’s fall. We know the name of our God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

So there are many applications – in plenty and in want, in health and in sickness – where the resolution to take joy in the God of our salvation is apropos. Not least is as the church gathered to share the Lord’s Supper.

Take joy in Jesus that:

  • your sins are forgiven
  • the Holy Spirit dwells in you as a seal of your eternal inheritance
  • all things are working together for your good according to God’s purpose
  • the wicked will not be successful in the end
  • your labor in the Lord is not in vain
  • no one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand
  • the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea

You could not have imagined a better Savior, you could not have invented better reasons to rejoice.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Remember Mercy

Habakkuk’s prayer (Habakkuk 3:2) should be someone’s motto, maybe for our post-2020 world, or in presidential election years: “in wrath remember mercy.” (Maybe to class it up in Latin: cum iratus, misericordiæ recordaberis.)

Most of us have some sort of story where affliction and blessing met, where sharp edges and warm comfort came together. But as good of a prayer as it is, the remembrance of mercy in wrath has been personalized. Nowhere has mercy been more alive amidst wrath than on Jesus on the cross.

God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). God gets glory for His mercy among the nations (Romans 15:9) in salvation. “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9), because Jesus was our propitiation.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9–10 ESV)

“It was the will of the LORD to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10 ESV) in remembrance of mercy. And “in the midst of the years” between the incarnation and establishing of His kingdom, we eat this bread and drink the cup to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Not a Table of Taunts

The Lord’s Table is not a table of taunts. God does not mock us, ridicule us, or make us a byword with bread and wine. It’s not as if He invites us together and says, “Look at these undeserving idiots all around here.”

What is amazing is that in order to share communion with us, God sent His Son to be the target of the taunts we deserved. He was mocked in our place, He was wounded for our transgressions. He bore the woes we had earned.

The Father takes no pleasure in our disobediences, but He has accepted the propitiation of Christ. So He does not invite us to communion in order to “put us in our place.” This is not where He airs His grievances against us.

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)

As we eat and drink in His presence, He is not inwardly calculating about how much more we owe Him back (like the stingy king in Proverbs 23:7). As we sometimes sing, “He drank the bitter cup reserved for me.” (See Matthew 20:22 and 26:42).

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will judge the puffed up, and the zeal of the God of all grace will lift up His humble sons.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Don’t Shrink Back

One of the three places that Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted in the New Testament is Hebrews 10:38. (Philip preached on this passage in January, and I recommend a re-listen.) It is not about justification by faith, it is about perseverance and preservation by faith (for those justified by faith).

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:36-39)

We do not lose heart. We have confidence, we are con=with and fide=faith. We are those with-faith.

Those with faith do not shrink back from communion, and I mean that in three ways. We do not cringe or cower from Christ Himself—our faith in Him gives us access. We do not pull back from Christ’s body, from one another—we share “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” and so we are one body. And we do not drag our feet to the Lord’s Table.

In fact, you can often see those who do not make communion a priority will drift away from fellowship with fellow believers and (often, though we pray not inevitably) it won’t be long before their confession of faith in Christ is a confession of serving the flesh. Don’t shrink back.