Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Not with Contempt

Imagine a close friend who one day sinned against you and broke fellowship. Imagine that you pursued him (or her) with no success. You communicated Your hurt, you expressed your desire to forgive and receive them back, and it all went south.

Now imagine that months pass. Perhaps the sting of the hurt has lifted a little but the pain still isn’t gone. Then your friend drops by. He (or she) has a different spirit. Without hesitation he asks for forgiveness, acknowledges his sin, knowing that there may be ongoing consequences but knowing that he was wrong. What you thought was impossible has come about.

How would you respond? More specifically, would you be irritated or glad? I’m not talking about glad gloating over the vindication of your right-ness. I mean, wouldn’t you rejoice that a lost friend returned, that a broken friendship was restored?

Then why do many Christians tend to believe that God looks on them with contempt? Our Father rejoices when we confess our sin against Him, when we seek His forgiveness. We may have wandered for years, or a week, or our account with Him may be measured by minutes. Jesus told the Pharisees and Scribes, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). If He rejoices when sinners repent, how much more His sons?

One of the most important moments in our Lord’s day liturgy, and probably my favorite part, is the declaration from different parts of Scripture that God gladly forgives. If He marked iniquities, none could stand. But He forgives that He might draw us closer in worship.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

MVPs at Confessing

One of the reasons that confession of sin seems so odd, even distasteful, is that we have little to no sense of togetherness.

Sin creates space between persons, whether to opposite sides of the bed, the room, the city, or the country. Adam and Eve died when they disobeyed in the garden of Eden just as God warned them. Their immediate death was a spiritual death, and that death was a loss of fellowship. Not only was the relationship damaged between them, more importantly, their relationship with God was severed. Sin causes divorce.

The apostle John wrote that when we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). That’s not all, indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son (1:3). What blocks us from Trinitarian fellowship and joy? Sin. And we all sin, so we all stumble out of the light.

What can we do?

We can confess because we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (2:1). He will forgive us and cleanse us (1:9). But that’s not all He does. He repairs the broken relationship. Sin separates but the Savior restores and unites.

Because we sin so much, because we splinter our relationships so often, you’d think that we’d be quicker to our knees and that we’d be MVPs at confessing. But we don’t. We don’t because we’re more cozy in the dark. We’re too often content at a distance from God and from one another.

Our Lord’s day worship is important because we have opportunity to clean the palate by confessing our sins. Worship is also important because it gives us a strong taste of fellowship with God as well as the intoxicating joy of harmony as an assembly. As we learn to love togetherness like the Trinity, our eternal lives won’t be the same.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Glad to Forgive and Fellowship

In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), the younger son despised his father by asking for his inheritance early, then he dishonored his father by squandering the family money and the family name. After the cash ran out and he was eating the pig slop, Jesus said “he came to himself” (verse 17), headed home, and hoped that he could work for his dad as a hired servant.

We affirm his repentance. We endorse the son’s remorse. We approve the son’s confession when he said, “I have sinned against heaven and before you” (verses 18 and 21). The son knew that, even if his father showed mercy, he was no longer worthy to be treated as a son but only as a servant. We relate to this true view of sin.

We don’t relate to this true view of the Father. The greater “scandal” was the father’s grace, his compassionate reception and celebration over the son’s return. Was the son’s sin huge and horrific? Was his confession absolutely necessary? Of course. But the father didn’t want to be proven right as much as he wanted the relationship restored. He ran and embraced and kissed his son. He called for the best robe, a ring, and shoes. He threw a party, a feast for renewed fellowship.

The Pharisees and scribes (verse 2) listening to the parable related to a holy God. They hated that God was glad to forgive and fellowship with sinners.

How do you view the heavenly Father’s response to your confession? Do you see Him disappointed that you blew it again, reluctantly letting you return as a hired servant? Or does He run to receive you? Only one of those reactions is good news. The Father declares that we were lost and now we’re found, because He loves His children. He’s glad to have us back.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

Calvinism as Guaranteed Fellowship

On Calvinism as a life-system, or worldview, that explains how men relate to God’s eternal purpose:

Calvinism takes its stand with a fundamental thought which is equally profound. It does not seek God in the creature, as Paganism; it does not isolate God from the creature, as Islamism; it posits no mediate communion between God and the creature, as does Romanism; but proclaims the exalted thought that, although standing in high majesty above the creature, God enters into immediate fellowship with the creature, as God the Holy Spirit. This is even the heart and kernel of the Calvinistic confession of predestination.

In other words, our enjoyment of eternal life is part of God’s eternal plan to share His eternal life with us. Among other things, His eternal life is Triune communion, and Calvinism summarizes His intent to share communion with men. This is good news, and it is the “mother thought” of all God’s “heroes and heralds.”

[P]redestination was inexorably maintained, not for the sake of separating man from man, nor in the interest of personal pride, but in order to guarantee from eternity to eternity, to our inner self, a direct and immediate communion with the Living God.

—Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, 21.