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Lord's Day Liturgy

Weekly Fellowship

One day we will know without a doubt what God’s favorite part of our worship is. One day we will worship Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2), and some of the things we do now in these mortal bodies by faith will no longer be necessary. Perhaps that gives us an angle to evaluate our current liturgy, the means and the end.

In the resurrection a call to worship will be as unnecessary as the sun is to define the day (Revelation 22:5). Not only will the cycle of eternal life be different, but the divisions and distractions of our purpose will be removed.

In the resurrection we will be glorified, we will be finally conformed to the image of Christ, and so there will be no new sins to confess. We will not forget that we’ve been forgiven, but neither individually or corporately will we need Him to wash our feet (cf. John 13:10).

In the resurrection we will know the Word, and preachers will be given some other occupation. The Word is eternal, but we will not need teachers in eternity (consider Jeremiah 31:34). We will have The Teacher, but even then, celebrating truth will be different than sermonizing it.

And in the resurrection we will be in our eternal rest (Hebrews 4:9-10), not that we won’t have employment, but there will be no more charge for the battle even if there is more to build.

So, what we look forward to is unhindered, undiluted, undistracted communion with God. It is why He sent His Son, that Christ would bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). This fellowship is what we remember and rejoice in during the Lord’s Supper in our weekly liturgy. The work of Christ is for our communion with God, and all our work comes from that communion. Our time together around the Table is just a taste of how good He is.

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The End of Many Books

Desiring the Kingdom

A friend gave me a copy of this book and I was eager to get after it right away. It didn’t take too long before I was reading bigger chunks at a time…so I could be finished with it faster.

The book is primarily about the power of liturgy to affect our desires/loves. And amen. This is something I had not thought about until ten or so years ago, and I am very thankful that this book by James Smith is not the first one I came across. It might have messed me up all over.

It’s not just that I don’t care for a number of his terms, such as “precognitive,” but I really came to not believe him when he tried to stick on a weak qualification here or there about how we shouldn’t abandon all propositions/sentences/statements of truth. Liturgy should be emphasized, especially among those who only see worldview issues through catechesis. But Smith emphasized it in such a way that liturgy becomes the autocrat of pedagogy, so to speak. But God gave us His Word. His Son is the Word. Psalm 19:7-8 describes the Word as potent.

I cannot recommend that you read this, and, if you do, watch out that you do not follow Smith in giving too much authority to the experiences and feelings and traditions of men.

1 of 5 stars

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Lord's Day Liturgy

More But Not Less Than Mental

I’ve read some things recently about recovering rituals, especially in the liturgy of Christian worship. One resource in particular argues for the importance of liturgy due to its power to effect us pre-cognitively (which is not my preferred nomenclature). The idea is that some things we do repeatedly get into our guts, and that supposedly has greater stickiness than hearing or meditating on a sentence.

As a church we have tasted the goodness of some things we don’t always, or perhaps can’t perfectly, define. But there’s no reason that mind and body can’t work in harmony. There’s no reason that contemplation and conduct have to compete.

Even at the Lord’s Table, we partake weekly, corporately, and bodily. But we are not just going through the motions, chewing our bread mindlessly. We come and share and we know what we’re doing.

There is history (the name of Jesus, the night He was betrayed, His blood and His death), there is theology (atonement “for you,” “new covenant” with you), there is mission (proclaim His death until He comes). There is gratitude, there is faith, there is obedience.

So Jesus said Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). Do, as in eat and drink, which is more than mental exercise. It is liturgy, it is embodied, it is embedded in our practice. 


There is ritual in it, but the ritual is to remember, not a substitute for remembering. We remember the Son of God, we remember the sacrifice of the Son for our sins and God’s wrath against us satisfied, we remember the exchange of His righteousness to our account, we remember His love.

“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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Not Your Modern’s Therapy

Worship is not therapy, at least not as moderns define therapy. Worship includes treatment to relieve or heal a disorder, the dictionary definition of therapy, but worship heals us so that we can die.

I don’t remember the last time I heard someone talk about it, but I’ve read about what some preachers lament as our modern religious predilection for “therapeutic moralistic deism.” Deism means that people believe in a God, moralistic means that there is some sense of right and wrong, and therapeutic means that there is some sort of topical remedy or way to deal with the bad feelings that we have because we probably haven’t done everything right according to this God.

The weekly exhortation to confession, and prayer of confession, and reminder of forgiveness from a different Scripture text, is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain in order to pay for our sins, in order that we might come and die with Him as living sacrifices.

God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons, one God and Lord. Sin is personal. God is holy, holy, holy. He has given His Word, His law, and every mouth is shut before it (Romans 3:19). We have all sinned and fallen short of His glory. And again, He heals us, by His wounds. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

And this makes us sacrifices of worship. Remember the work of His living and active Word, sharper than any two-edged sort, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. We are “naked and exposed” before Him, we are “laid bear,” which is from the Greek word trachelizo, to twist and expose the neck of a sacrifice.

Being cut by the Word so that we can offer ourselves before the throne of grace is a kind of therapy, and it starts with confessing our sins.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Liturgy to Lifestyle

The difference between being a fruitful Christian and a frustrated Christian is how well you can translate liturgy into lifestyle.

The order of our service applies beyond Sunday. God does something when we assemble before Him, and part of what He’s doing is reminding and equipping us for when we go out from the assembly.

God calls us to worship Him. When does that call end? It doesn’t even end when we confess our sins; that is part of our worship. When you rise up, when you walk around, when you hammer the nail, when you enter the data, when you pack the lunch, God calls you to worship.

We confess our sins because He is faithful. If we say we don’t have sin, we make Him a liar. Confession happens for the church corporately only once a week, but confession and forgiveness for each Christian is a constant all week.

God is conforming us to the image of His beloved Son by His Word, as our minds are renewed. This is sanctification, consecration. But this isn’t only a sermon work. This is the Spirit’s work through the Word as we meditate on it day and night, Sunday and the other Sixdays.

When we leave we are given a good word, a benediction. We’re reminded of what grace we have and what grace is promised to fulfill our calling.

And as now, we commune with God. Christ Himself instituted the Supper. We eat and drink as a picture of our reliance on Him, but it is not merely symbolic, and it is not a single event. Communion is how we bear fruit. Communion is how we laugh. Communion with God through Christ is our life, not just a piece of our liturgy.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Calvinist Knees

How does a Calvinist confess his sins? That’s not the start of a joke.

We are a Calvinistic church, meaning that we believe that God is God, God rules over all, and that includes His sovereignty in the salvation of men. We believe that He elects spiritually dead men to be brought to Him as worshippers for eternity. He has their names already written in a book. They are a love gift from the Father to the Son as a Bride.

Whether you like the nickname or not, it’s convenient theological shorthand. The least you could do is hope to be a Calvinist that isn’t weird.

So how does a Calvinist confess his sins? Some don’t. They confess that total depravity is a true doctrine, but they reason that God saves His chosen ones regardless of any specific repentance, so individual confession doesn’t matter. I’d call this a form of hyper-Calvinism, and more than that, I’d call it wrong.

There are some other Calvinists who don’t confess their sins because the truths of the doctrines of grace have caused them to see everyone else’s errors but their own. A certain kind of knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1). I’d call this hypocritical-Calvinism, and it is worse than wrong.

Those who realize that they were corrupt and contemptible to God, rebels without a cause, dead in sin apart from God’s free choice and God’s perfect blood and God’s initiated heart-transplant, should not be proud. A Calvinist should confess his sins in humility. A Calvinist should confess his sins on his knees. We could call him a Calvikneest.

As part of our liturgy we’ve been inviting those who are able and willing to kneel in humble confession for many years. It’s not a convenient position for many, and a physical impossibility for a few. But for those who are able, wouldn’t it be a great testimony if others knew we were Calvinists by our knees?

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Familiarity Breeds

Since I’m a pastor and since I am responsible for much of the Lord’s Day liturgy at our assembly’s worship, I’m often asked what our Sunday morning service looks like. When I get to the part about having weekly communion, the follow-up question is typically, “Doesn’t that make it not special after a while?”

There are short answers, which is what I usually give (don’t be too surprised). I often say, “Not yet by God’s grace.” Still, we understand where the question comes from, and yet it is surprising that Christians are so fearful.

The truism we believe is that familiarity breeds contempt. It’s catchy, and we can see how that could be used as a diagnostic to explain why we have contempt for something. Now that I think about it, I’d much rather blame “familiarity” than something in my own heart. Yet (my/your) ignorance also empowers contempt, as do (my/your) pride and (my/your) envy.

I was meditating on the assumed power in the verb: familiarity breeds. Breeding doesn’t happen by proxy, there are no breeders emeritus, you cannot sign up for distance breeding. Husbands become fathers through familiarity with their wives. Why don’t Christians ask if marital familiarity is dangerous? Maybe Christians are too spiritual to ask it out loud, maybe some do think it. But familiarity is powerful to produce fruit.

In the Bible, familiarity with God breeds panic and praise, weeping and worship, dread and joy. As it turns out, familiarity isn’t the problem, we are the problem. Dinner with the family every night could become monotonous if mom despised the work and dad despised the interruption and the kids despised being despised. But when there is familiarity with sacrificial love and intention, contempt doesn’t have a place at the table.

The Lord’s Supper doesn’t stay special because of it’s scarcity, but by our increasing in the knowledge of God that grows our affections for and gratitude to Him.