Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

A Forefeast

Hear the prophet Isaiah:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make 
      for all peoples a feast of rich food, 
   a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, 
   of aged wine  well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain 
   the covering that is cast over all peoples, 
   the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, 
   and the reproach of his people he will take away
      from all the earth, 
   for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day, 
   “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him,
      that he might save us. 
   This is the LORD; we have waited for him; 
   let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 
(Isaiah 25:6–9, ESV)

This communion meal on Resurrection Sunday is a foretaste, a forefeast.

We eat today while we wait for that day. We can eat it while rejoicing, but often still in heaviness (1 Peter 1:6).

The sorrows are real. My dad died sixteen years ago today. My sister professed faith six years ago on Easter, and died less than a year later. My dad didn’t get to meet his only grandson, and neither of them got to meet our new grandson. Just this past year, some of you have lost a husband, a son, a brother-in-law, a brother-in-Christ, friends, some old and some so young. In addition you have born griefs from the world, you have carried concerns about your responsibilities.

But, beloved, your faith and labor are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:17, 20, 58). Jesus is risen from the dead.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne
will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7:17, ESV)

That will be a glorious day.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Candy and Christian Nationalism

I know people argue about whether or not the United States is a Christian nation. I wouldn’t argue for it in terms of every citizen being a Christian, which is obviously not true, but I might argue for it in terms of how much candy parents buy their kids for Easter.

People can eat candy as a distraction from death, but only Christians can eat candy while rejoicing in death. Of course, our rejoicing in death only comes because we know who died and why He died and what happened three days after His death. But we sing merry songs and buy bright colored dresses and eat chocolate bunnies because commercializing Easter as a holiday (and I’m not saying the commercialization itself is good) only works with people who talk smack to death, “Where is your sting?”

I’m actually giving another exhortation to parents here. There is no moral law requiring that you buy your kids Easter candy, there is no law against it either, Ms. Sugarbebad. But when your kids ask in times to come, “What do these baskets of plastic grass mean?” it is your obligation to tell them why.

So work it through. God demands perfect obedience, and any disobedience, even candy-demand or candy-envy, earns death. Christ obeyed perfectly, and then sacrificed Himself for sinners. He endured the suffering we deserved that we might taste that He is good.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
(Psalm 34:8)

The Lord is sweet. Salvation is joy. Parent like it’s true. Work for your kids’ progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25).

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

We Must Be Hatched

A few years ago I began to talk about #MEGA, Make Easter Great Again, not because it ever stopped being great, but in order to remind us of how great it really is.

It’s not the day per se, and it’s not limited to the doctrine. The resurrection itself declares that God received the sacrifice of His Son and vindicated all the Son’s claims. He “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4, ESV). The resurrection, as objective and historical truth, did it.

If Jesus is resurrected, then God is pleased with you who believe in Jesus because you’ve been raised with Him. If Jesus is raised from the dead, then your account with God has been settled. It is finished.

And also He is not finished with us. He will be, and we can share Paul’s confidence. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV). But at the present time God is willing and working in us (Philippians 2:13), and our perfect heavenly Father wants the same for His sons: perfection.

C. S. Lewis put it this way:

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. (Mere Christianity, Location 2504)

“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3, ESV). The realities of Easter remind you that He is making you a new self and renewing you through the knowledge of the living Christ (Colossians 3:10).

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

The Price of Passion

It is good to remember where certain things come from.

The week between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday is often called Passion Week. It’s called passion because of Latin, and in many copies of God’s Word in the first few centuries of the church pastors would preach about Jesus’ passionem, a Latin word meaning suffering.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering/passionem of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)

While most English speakers today think of passion as an intense desire, it originally referred to painful endurance. Jesus taught His disciples about it before it happened.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer (a verbal form of passionem) many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21)

That’s the background of the word passion. But this passion, this suffering, is the background for Jesus’ glory. It was due to His humble death on a cross that “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-9). It is because of Jesus’ suffering that He is “crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:9).

And Jesus’ passion is the background for our joy.

Jesus loves you, and suffered to bring You to the Father (1 Peter 3:18). God loves Your sanctification, and His Son suffered to make it secure (Hebrews 13:12). God loves to share His joy with you. God sent His Son to suffer, die, and rise again to show it. How will He not with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Know, Reckon, Yield

When I was a child I thought like a child, which meant I thought it was more common to be on fire. I say that because we were regularly drilled in the fire safety trifecta of: Stop. Drop. and Roll. Since fire feeds on oxygen, the emergency procedure aims to suffocate the fire. As it turns out, by God’s grace, I have never needed to apply these instructions, but they certainly have been memorable.

What I really wish is that I would have been similarly drilled as a disciple of Christ. There is a three-fold set of commands in Romans 6 that I would have used much more often, even daily, and numerous times throughout the day in dealing with sin and temptations to sin. The sanctification trifecta is: Know. Reckon. Yield.

We Know not only the truths of the gospel, but our union with Christ in the gospel events. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6).

We Reckon or deliberately deliberate on this new reality. “So you also must consider (reckon in the KJV), from λογίζομαι, meaning count it to be so) yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

And then Yield to the new way. “Present (yield in the KJV), put at His disposal) yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Romans 6:13).

Every believer has been baptized into Christ’s death, and we have been raised from the dead to walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). Are you hot with with offense or bitterness? Are you engulfed with guilt and regret? Are you consumed with anxiousness or doubt? Confess your sin, and then Know. Reckon. Yield. Today we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, and ours in Him.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Confession Is Not Futile

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead does not exempt us from confessing our sins, the resurrection of Christ keeps our confessing of sins from being futile.

Without the truths of Easter maybe the most pitiable part of our Lord’s Day liturgy would be the assurance of pardon. A call to worship could still come from any bigger-than-man god. Such a god could also demand our prayers and our obedience to whatever instructions given. Gods like sacrifices, and if they can be pleased they may give support to the worshippers. But only one God gives forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without death, and there is no complete forgiveness without resurrection from death.

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

But by the resurrection of Jesus we know that He is God (Romans 1:4). Easter declared Him so. By the resurrection of Jesus we are born again into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). It is of first importance, not only that Christ died for our sins and that He was buried, but also that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

The cross by itself does not prove forgiveness, the cross shows the offensiveness and cost of our sins. The empty tomb proves that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that He accepts us in Christ.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Look for a Second

On the first day of the week we worship because Christ rose from the dead; the first day changes all the other days for good. Likewise, His resurrection, though only something that happened once, is just the first of many in a different way. He will not rise from the dead again, but because He did many more will after Him.

Paul told the Corinthians,

in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20–23, ESV)

On the first day of the week we remember the first fruits. “First fruits” is one Greek word, ἀπαρχή, a word that refers to the beginning that represented more. Just as there is no need for an outline without at least two points, so a first signals us to look for a second, for a succession. Paul called Jesus the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18), the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29).

We are an army of new men, the offspring of His offering. Supernatural life was breathed into us. We have hope not only in this life but in the life to come. We are no people to be pitied, we are a people purchased and raised and promised the glory of an imperishable body. Jesus is the first fruits and we are part of the rest of the resurrection harvest.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Easter Had to Be Effective

It appears that Americans will have spent more money for Easter this year than they did for Valentine’s Day (ht: Al Mohler). When it comes to the commercialization of holidays, Easter may not be quite as marketed for money-making as Christmas, but it is multiplying like bunnies.

What most people are buying most is candy. I remember getting candy on Easter when I was a kid, and we often give candy to our kids, too.

Is this a bad thing? Is it a sign of our compromise, or worse, of our loss of respect for Christ’s bloody sacrifice for sin and miraculous, world- resurrection?

It certainly could be. Buying candy and giving it as a gift (and eating it) isn’t necessarily Christian, nor does chocolate and peanut butter obviously make one think of the cross or the empty tomb. Candy consumption could be thoughtless. It could be sacrilegious.

But what other worldview would ever make sharing sweets a cultural thing to do? Bacchus was the god of partying, and there was much feasting and drinking done in his name, but it always led to men and women losing inhibitions, and usually someone ended up dead. Serving Bacchus resulted in ecstatic rage and the shedding of blood. Materialism doesn’t offer a good basis either. Mammon is a god to many, but how did the candy company executives and advertisers and store owners convince so many consumers to buy tasty yet otherwise useless candy?

We eat sweets (and other feasting foods) to remember winter’s end, not to try to forget winter’s inevitable return. We buy and give and share candy because Christ’s resurrection has established a world of buying and giving and sharing. We don’t party before offering sacrifice, we rejoice because the sacrifice was already offered and accepted. For it even to be possible to commercialize Easter, Easter had to be effective, otherwise we would all be fearful of immanent judgment and eternal death. We should not be thoughtless, but because Jesus is risen from the dead, think about how much we have to be thankful for.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Behold Him Better

Based on how the calendar works this year, Easter Sunday and Tax Day in the United States fell within two days of each other. Jesus often used economic vocabulary and asked some critical questions about our accounting categories. What is the price tag on your soul?

In Matthew 16 Jesus told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem and would suffer many things and be killed and on the third day be raised. They didn’t understand this. Peter even tried to argue Jesus out of it. Following that conversation, Jesus told His disciples how they too must take up a cross and follow Him. While that might sound difficult, He asked, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (verse 26)

This is a rhetorical question based on accounting principles. There is not one possible gain, but two, and likewise there are two possible losses. One can gain the world and lose his life or one gain gain his life and lose the world.

Only those who lose their life for Christ’s sake will find it (verse 25). Only those willing to count everything as loss for sake of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord understand the gain. Only those who die will get a return.

On Sunday I asked our church, “What would make today a profitable Easter Sunday?” As Christians we can do many things for Christ’s sake. But by way of testing our hearts, could everything else be counted loss if you gained more of Christ? Would you give up your new Easter outfit, your family traditions? Would you give up your theological library for simple trust in Christ? Would you give up your job, your reputation? Are there any good things are keeping you from beholding Him better?

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

A Resurrection Relationship

If you could have whatever you wanted, what would you want? If you could define yourself by anything, what would you want said about you? There is more than one good way to answer those questions as Christians, and certainly a variety of vain answers for unbelievers. But, at least in one place, the apostle Paul wrote that he wanted nothing more than a resurrection relationship.

He listed his religious assets early in Philippians 3, reasons he had for being confident in his flesh. These were the very things he counted “loss for the sake of Christ.” Then he revealed his value system in two sentences.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8–11)

A Christian want list: knowing Christ, gaining Christ, found in Christ, showing Christ’s sufferings, imitating Christ’s death, and attaining Christ’s resurrection. Christ has made us His own. He fellowships with us now. He promises to raise us from the dead so that we will fellowship with Him without end.

The communion table gives us a taste and increases our wants for the power of His resurrection. No other bread endures to eternal life. No other cup satisfies. When we identify with Him here by faith, He will identify with us and raise us up on the last day. That will be gain.