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Lord's Day Liturgy

Punching Entitlement in the Face

The more I think about it the more I believe that the most powerful weapon God gives His people to fight dualism, entitlement, and hypocrisy is thanks.

Consider the apostle John’s transition from the story of Jesus feeding the five-thousand (John 6:1-15) to Jesus’ offer of Himself as the bread of life (John 6:22-34). Tucked into John’s description of the crowd’s movement from the “other side of the sea” back to Capernaum is a key repetition. John does not repeat the miracle Jesus performed, He repeats the thanks Jesus gave. “Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (John 6:23, see verse 11 for the first mention of Jesus giving thanks).

Thinking back over the story, as far as we’re told, Jesus is the only one who expressed thanks. The disciples don’t. The crowd doesn’t. The crowds follow Him because they wanted more bread, not because they wanted to express gratitude. They wanted to make Him King so that He could give them security not so that they could give Him appreciation.

The bread by itself wasn’t the problem. Jesus was glad to provide bread of both kinds, imperishable and perishable. He didn’t make them a meal in order to make them feel guilty on full stomachs. Thanks keeps the imperishable in mind while enjoying the perishable. Thanks fights dualism which says only the spiritual matters. But the crowd couldn’t recognize the distinction or receive the full benefits of either bread as evidenced by their lack of thanks.

Thanks also fights entitlement. The crowd didn’t get bread because they were great or because they deserved it or because He was obligated to meet their expectations. For us, thanks enables us to receive what He gives, even to seek provision from Him with a dependency that honors Him rather than with an self-referential expectancy. It is hard to be grateful and demanding at the same time. Pride buys entitlement a drink and sits down to commiserate. Thanks punches entitlement in the face (in the right way).

Thanks also fights hypocrisy. Take communion as one example. The point of this ordinance is not half-hearted, let alone hardhearted, participation. We fight against externalism, Pharisee-ism, going-through-the-motions-ism by stirring up and starting with thanks. And how much life, here and forever, we have to be thankful for at this Table.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Training for Hypocrisy

Words matter. When there are no words, there is no clarity. When words come from an empty heart, there is no integrity. When words are inconsistent with behavior, this is hypocrisy.

As Christians, we must sing and speak words. Our faith, our worship depends on words. We cannot be clear about the gospel, about Christ, about salvation, about His glory without words. Even if we have to borrow it, we need language to thank Him.

Words also must not be empty. We cannot speak reality into existence as God can. When we speak and sing our faith and worship, the words won’t land unless there is a heft of trust and adoration already in our hearts.

Our words must also match our behavior. We are sensitive to misleading words, to the inconsistency and hypocrisy of those who do not do what they say.

So, here are three questions for us. Are our words clear in worship? Are our hearts driving those words? Are our actions consistent with the words that came from our hearts?

We often sing about standing and lifting our hands, about bowing down in worship. Many psalms call us to clap our hands and shout with loud songs. Those are words of thanks to God, humility before God, and joy in God. Are we clear? Yes, so far so good.

Do these words express the reality of our hearts before God? He looks at our hearts, which is comforting or terrifying. Does He actually find hands-high honor, clapping thanks, bowing humility, and vociferous joy? He should.

And do these words match the reality of our behavior. “Well,” we say, “God only cares about our hearts.” Does it bother Him if the words that come out of our hearts don’t fit what we do? Isn’t that hypocrisy?

We are learning in worship that clarity matters, that hearts matter, that behavior matters. In a recent message I mentioned that believers ought to consider kneeling in prayer. Kneeling is a clear word and it pictures a necessary reality. Since that sermon much has been said about God’s concern for the heart. So then, are we kneeling in heart before His holy majesty? That’s actually harder anyway. We say it, we believe it, but we wonder if we ought to do it. As a congregation we’re still “praying about it,” and that’s good for now, so long as we realize the danger of training ourselves to say something different than we do.

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A Shot of Encouragement

The Oxygen of Church Politics

Hypocrisy is the oxygen of church politics.

—Rick Holland, 2010 Shepherds’ Conference message