Preach the Word: With Teaching

September 24, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Hebrews, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Preaching, Word of God

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Today we close our series of meditations on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” We consider the last of Paul’s admonitions when he writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” What does Paul mean when he urges Timothy to continue in his work “with teaching”?

Paul’s words remind Timothy that when people enter into the Christian faith, they enter as infants in need of teaching and instruction. We do not enter the Christian faith as mature adults; the Spirit does not magically fill our head with doctrinal truth; rather, teaching is necessary; discipleship is the need of the hour, every hour; for this cause, Christ has appointed teachers in the Church to build up the people of God, instruct them in the Scriptures, and protect them from lies that parade as the truth.

Because of this necessity of teaching, the church has historically insisted that ministers of the Gospel be well-trained prior to entering into ministry. Paul writes, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). This was the pattern. Paul taught Timothy; Timothy was to teach other faithful men; those other faithful men were to teach others. In this way, the work of God would be multiplied and the people of God built up in the knowledge of Christ.

This emphasis on teaching helps us to put Paul’s warnings about knowledge elsewhere in their proper context. For instance, Paul writes to the Corinthians that “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor 8:1). While some have erroneously inferred from Paul’s words that learning doctrine is dangerous at worst or superfluous at best, it is clear that Paul is warning us of the danger of severing knowledge and humility. A true knowledge of God leads to a profound sense of one’s own insignificance and of the magnitude of God’s grace. Teaching is not the problem; learning is not the problem; pride is.

How do we know? Because Paul insists that teaching is necessary. Ministers of the Gospel are to commit themselves to the task of teaching the people of God.

If ministers of the Gospel are to teach the Word of God, then what are Christians to do? Learn the Word of God. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God…” (5:12). Paul is disappointed in these folks because they had failed to learn what Paul and their elders had striven to teach them. They did not give heed to the teaching.

So what of you? Are you taking seriously Jesus’ call to discipleship, Jesus’ call to become a learner? Do you know your Bible? Do you know basic Christian doctrine? Can you defend the Trinity? Can you articulate what it means to be reconciled to God? If not, then learn.

Reminded this morning that ministers of the Gospel are called to teach God’s people and that all God’s people are called upon to learn, let us acknowledge that we have often neglected our duty. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: With all Longsuffering

September 17, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Church History, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Meditations, Preaching, Truth, Word of God

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

For the last several weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A few weeks ago, we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition to continue in this effort “with all longsuffering.”

The Greek word translated “longsuffering” can mean patience, fortitude, or forbearance. Paul wants Timothy to continue preaching without growing weary or being dissuaded. He is to stick to the task, be faithful to his calling, whether folks desire to listen to him or not. Paul warns Timothy in the next couple verses (4:3-4):
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Timothy must persevere, he must be patient, for he will face opposition. People will – in this great phrase – heap up for themselves teachers who tell them what they want to hear, who soothe their consciences and who turn away from the truth to fables. But, ultimately, Paul wants Timothy to remember, the truth will prevail and so Timothy must persist in His calling.

It was this firm confidence that buoyed John Wyclif during the 14th century in England. Facing much opposition and criticism for his critique of the pope, his emphasis on the authority of Scripture, and his proclamation of the grace of God, Wyclif persevered, he taught with much longsuffering. What gave him confidence? “Magna est veritas,” he wrote, “et praevalebit.” Great is the truth and it shall prevail.

The reason Wyclif had such confidence in the power of the truth to overcome all obstacles is because God had promised that His Servant, our Lord Jesus, would not fail, in the prophet Isaiah’s words, to “bring forth justice to the Gentiles” (42:1d). This Servant, continues Isaiah, “will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law” (42:4). Jesus will so labor that the truth become fully manifest. So the Apostle Paul assures us that Jesus “must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:25-26). Great is the truth and it shall prevail – or, perhaps better, He shall prevail.

This same patience demanded of preachers of the Gospel is to be practiced by the hearers of the Gospel as well. Paul reminds us that “faith comes from hearing” (Rom 10:17) and asks, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” But sometimes the preacher is unclear; sometimes we have had a rough evening the night before; sometimes the ambient noise is annoying; sometimes the preacher’s mannerisms are distracting; sometimes his voice is too quiet; sometimes his appearance is off-putting. What is your calling then? It is to listen to the Word preached with all longsuffering – to listen for the voice of Your Master, Jesus, in the voice of the preacher and to apply the truth, as best as you are able, to your own life.

And so reminded that we are to pursue patience and persistence in the preaching and hearing of the truth, must we not acknowledge that we often give up too soon, we often boil over in frustration, we often permit ourselves to grow distracted, we often lack patience? Let us, therefore, confess our impatience to the Lord; and, as we are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: Exhort!

September 10, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations, Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

For the last few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A couple weeks ago, we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition, “exhort.”

The Greek word behind “exhort” is parakaleo. In English translations of the NT, the word is variously translated as exhort, plead, beg, urge, beseech, or even encourage. Whereas the one who rebukes stands in front of another and points out his error, the one who exhorts comes alongside him and urges him to imitate Christ in his daily life. So Paul writes to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father…” (5:1). While to “rebuke” is to deliver a short, verbal thrashing, to “exhort” is to appeal, to sidle up beside a fellow believer and direct their eyes to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Exhortations, therefore, are grounded in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. The minister of the Gospel is to “exhort” people to remember Jesus Christ and to imitate His character in their own lives. So consider various “exhortations” that Paul gives in his letters:
· Romans 15:30 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,
· 1 Corinthians 1:10 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you…
· 2 Corinthians 10:1 — Now I, Paul, myself am “exhorting” you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ….
· 1 Thessalonians 4:1 — Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
· 2 Thessalonians 3:12 — Now those who are [busybodies] we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

Note carefully that in each “exhortation” Paul brings us back to Christ’s salvific work. As the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes, “The exhortation is distinguished from a mere moral appeal by this reference back to the work of salvation as its presupposition and basis.” Consider Christ – consider who He is, consider what He has done, consider what He has promised – and in that knowledge, act.

So reminded that Christ is our example and that we routinely fail to imitate Him in our attitudes and actions, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Tradition of Anti-Traditionalism

June 25, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Children, Meditations, Tradition, Worship

1 Corinthians 11:2
Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.

Our culture has institutionalized the tradition of anti-traditionalism. Yesterday’s clothes are outmoded; yesterday’s ideas are passé. No sin is more grievous than being “behind the times.” Each new generation is expected to originate something totally new and eagerly jump on board the new train. Beanie babies have come and gone; Tickle me Elmos have lost their flare; Cabbage Patch dolls are a long-forgotten craze; and fidget spinners will soon lose their luster.

Unfortunately, the Church has imbibed much of this cultural food. Several years ago, I read a story about a Trinity Church in Connecticut. Trinity had been founded by folks who were dissatisfied with the traditions in the churches and who wanted something new, something hip, something relevant. However, ten years into their project they discovered something disconcerting: they had developed their own traditions. The Wall Street Journal remarked that “these churches were founded by people in rebellion against established institutions. Ten years down the road, they have become the establishment.” Consequently, the pastor decided to step down. “You don’t want to become ossified,” he said. “You have to keep thinking freshly on how to do church.”

Contrast this way of thinking with Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians in our text today: Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. Paul praises the Corinthians not for their novelty but for their faithfulness to that which they had been taught. In other words, the Word of God teaches us to value a godly inheritance – to take what is given in one generation and to pass down what is good and precious to the next; to tell our children and grandchildren the wonderful works of God so that they in turn can tell their children and grandchildren.

Popular culture, by design, rejects this idea–it plans for obsolescence. Who could imagine making special note in one’s will of your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Collection? Or your Garth Brooks CD set? The idea is absurd because these things are not meant to be handed down. Products and performers in pop culture are expected to have their day in the sun and then disappear, to be replaced by another. For this reason, it is critical that our worship not reflect the pop culture mentality, not reflect an opposition to a godly inheritance.

Paul’s words reveal that traditions are not inherently bad; in fact, as I have emphasized before, traditions are inevitable. It is only when our traditions undermine what is biblically important that they become destructive. And the tradition of anti-traditionalism is biblically destructive – the constant pursuit of some new style of worship, the longing to be relevant, the overthrowing of older generations because younger ones always know better – what do any of those things have to do with the Word of God?

As we gather to worship, therefore, let us do so with joy, celebrating the great work that the Spirit of God has done in leading and guiding His people to this day – treasuring what is good in our inheritance and passing those things down to the next generation. And the first thing the Spirit does in bringing us into the presence of our thrice holy God is awaken in us a sense of our own sin – in particular, our sin of undermining the Word of God through our traditions. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

This corruptible must put on incorruption

April 30, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:51–57 (NKJV)
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Last week we observed that we are in Eastertide, the period when the Church has historically continued to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is too momentous an event to celebrate only one Sunday – for it is Jesus’ resurrection that eliminates for us the fear of death and assures us that the bodies of all those who believe in Him shall likewise be raised from their graves.
And it is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body must pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortalbody must pass through the furnace of death and be raise immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised all those who believe in Him from their graves, when He has transformed us into conformity with His own body – righteous, incorruptible, and immortal– then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, because Christ has risen, we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. And this is what Psalm 27:13 articulates. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” In the words of Paul in our text today, “Oh death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So how are we to treat death? With contempt. Why? Because Christ is risen and has broken his power. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So what should characterize our lives? Fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and shrinking rather than fearless and bold, let us kneel and confess our lack of faith to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why use leavened bread in the Supper?

April 2, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Exodus, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Communion, Lord's Day, Meditations, Postmillennialism
Luke 13:20–21 (NKJV)
20 And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
For several weeks, we have been explaining some of the traditions that we include in our corporate worship. Last week we touched upon our practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly; this week let us consider our practice of using leavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. Why use yeast? Why leavened bread?
Given that the Lord’s Supper has parallels with the old covenant rite of Passover, some have argued that Christians should use unleavened bread in the Supper. Passover was the last day in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, given to celebrate the exodus from Egypt. Since the Lord’s Supper was inaugurated during that feast, some have argued that we should use unleavened bread in our celebration. What should we think of this?
Let us say, first, that there is nothing wrong with a church deciding to use unleavened bread in its celebration of the Supper. “The kingdom of God is not in eating and drinking but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). Further, Paul exhorts us in Corinthians, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:8). Unleavened bread can be used to convey such an exhortation and there is nothing wrong in its use.
That said, throughout Scripture both leavened and unleavened bread were used in sacred rites. While unleavened bread was used at Passover, leavened bread was used for the peace offerings (Lev 7:13) as well as for the celebration of Pentecost (Lev 23:16-17). Given that the Lord’s Supper is the new covenant feast that centers all these rites in Christ’s death and resurrection, it is important to recall why unleavened bread was used at Passover to determine if that rationale applies to the Lord’s Supper.

According to Exodus 12, unleavened bread highlighted the “haste” with which our fathers were to leave Egypt. God wanted them to leave quickly and so they didn’t have time for the yeast to rise. This sense of haste was confirmed by their dress – they were to eat the meal prepared to travel. “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waste, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste” (Ex 12:11).
So does the Lord’s Supper commemorate this same sense of “haste”? I don’t think so. The only haste seen at the Last Supper is that of Judas who is told, “What you have to do, do quickly!” That is hardly the type of haste we want to imitate! So what does the bread of the Lord’s Supper commemorate? It commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and the commencement of His kingdom. At the Supper Jesus took bread and broke it; He then shared it among his disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is My body.” The bread points not to haste but to Christ.
And this brings us back to the parable I read earlier. And again [Jesus] said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Jesus uses leaven to illustrate the pervasive influence of His kingdom, His rule. His kingdom shall operate in the world like leaven, slowly, organically permeating the world until the entire earth is leavened. And it is this characteristic of Christ’s rule that we are attempting to emphasize by using leavened bread: Jesus’ kingdom is like leaven. Slowly, organically the reality symbolized by this bread will become realized throughout the world. Jesus will spread His rule throughout the nations of the earth.

The use of leavened bread, therefore, summons us to be like leaven, to be instruments of God’s work in our families, communities, and workplaces. We are so to live and labor that the entire loaf becomes leavened. Reminded that God has called us to be leaven; to live so that through our witness Christ’s rule on earth is established; let us confess that we often fail to live in this leavening fashion. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Why Celebrate the Lord’s Supper Weekly?

March 19, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Communion, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations
1 Corinthians 11:17–22 (NKJV)
17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
As we read the New Testament, it is evident that Paul was deeply disappointed by the errors that emerged in the Corinthian church. Yet, in God’s Providence, Paul’s correction of these errors has served to lead, guide, and protect all churches since. The instructions that Paul gave them enable us to evaluate our churches in light of apostolic teaching. So, from our vantage point, we give thanks to God for the challenges in the Corinthian congregation.
As we see in our text, one of these challenges centered around the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. For several weeks, we have been explaining some of the traditions that we include in our corporate worship. Today we consider our practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly in our service of worship. While the Lord’s Supper historically has been a regular part of Christian worship, many Protestant churches now share communion monthly or quarterly or even annually. So why have we chosen to observe it weekly?
As we see in our text, Paul insists that the point of the Supper is to highlight our unity as the people of God. By sharing in the body and blood of Christ, we declare that what unites us together is not our race, nor our sex, nor our economic status, nor our age, nor our intellectual capacity, but the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are one in Christ.
So in our text Paul is highlighting the way in which the Corinthians’ worship practices undermined this unity. When they came together as the Church, when they (literally) “synagogued” together – notice the focus on public worship – when they came together as the Church and then partook of the Lord’s Supper in such a way that highlighted their divisions with one another rather than their unity, were they celebrating the Supper? No! Paul writes in v. 20, “when you come together in one place (i.e., when you synagogue), it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.” The whole point of the Supper is that we are one body. The Corinthians were eating bread and drinking wine, alright, but what they weren’t doing is celebrating the Supper – even though they called it that.
But note that Paul’s very rebuke of their malpractice highlights the reason they were gathering together. When they came together as the Church, it was not to eat the Lord’s Supper, but it should have been! Celebrating the Supper, in other words, was to be one of the purposes of their gathering. When we come together as the Church, we do so to worship the Lord, to hear from His Word, and to act out our unity in Christ. And how do we symbolize, how do we ritualize, how do we illustrate that unity? By sharing communion together. As Paul writes in 1 Cor 10:17, “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” Even as there is one loaf, so there is one Christ and one body, of which we all are partakers.
So why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly? Because it is through this Supper that God reminds us that we are not a social club; we are not a men’s gathering nor a women’s gathering; we are not an age segregated community; we are not a white collar nor blue collar association; we are not an Arminian nor Calvinist theological society. We are the Church of God, united together in Christ, through His death and resurrection, as one people.

So reminded that the Supper emphasizes our unity with Christ and one another weekly, let us confess that we are often divided from one another. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

What’s With the Kneeling, Standing, and Lifting Hands?

June 5, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Resurrection, Singing Psalms, Worship
Psalm 95:6 (NKJV)
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
Psalm 134:1–2 (NKJV)
1 Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD.
One of the most frequent questions visitors have about our service of worship, one of the questions that you may also have, is this: What’s with all the different postures? We sit, we stand, we kneel, we bow heads, we lift hands – why all the variety?
The answer to these questions is threefold: first, God did not create us as mere spirits but as creatures with body and soul. As those who have bodies, God expects us to use them for His honor. Paul writes, “…you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Our bodies belong to God and so what we do with them is important. Our actions should should reflect our reverence for Him and our knowledge that one day Christ will return in glory and raise these very bodies from the grave. Our bodies matter.
So this leads us to the second answer to our question: why all the variety? The answer is that in worship there are a variety of things we do. We praise and thank the Lord; we confess our sins; we hear the assurance of forgiveness; we listen to the reading of God’s Word; we confess the creeds; we present our tithes and offerings; we pray; we learn from the Scriptures; we feast with God at His Table. This wonderful variety demands a variety of responses – both verbally and bodily. There is no “one size fits all” bodily posture.
And this is why, third, the Scriptures invite us to worship God with a variety of postures – standing, kneeling, sitting, lifting hands, etc. So consider our texts today from the psalms – Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD. These are just a few examples of bodily invitations given in the context of worship.
As we consider this threefold rationale, let us also beware les we merely go through the motions. For the ultimate reason that our posture changes is that we worship in God’s very presence. He is here with us and we dare not treat Him lightly. He calls us to worship; we respond by standing to praise Him. He thunders at our sin; we respond by kneeling to confess it. He assures us of pardon; we stand to listen and enter boldly into His presence through the blood of Christ. He instructs us from His Word; we stand to give our attention to its reading. This is the drama of the Divine Service – but it’s a drama that is meaningful only when accompanied by hearts that love and cherish Him.
So what of you? Why do you stand? Why do you kneel? Why do you sit? Do you do it just because that’s what you’re being told to do? Do you kneel so you won’t appear out of place? Do you sit so you can take a nap? Or do you do all these things because you recognize with awe and wonder that the God we worship this Day has invited you into His very presence to worship?

So today as we have entered into God’s presence He has thundered at our sin – let us confess that we have often just gone through the motions of worship; and let us kneel as we confess together.

The Sure & Certain Hope of the Resurrection

April 4, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:51–57 (NKJV)
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – so today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection is far too significant an event to be celebrated only one day – it inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that for all those who believe in Him our bodies likewise will be raised.
It is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised us from the dead and transformed us into His own image – righteous, incorruptible, immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead; because Christ has risen we too shall rise.
So what does this mean? It means that we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. As Paul declares, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We stand in great need of such confidence given the twofold task that has been entrusted to us as Christ’s disciples. On the one hand, Christ calls us to lead lives of godly sincerity and purity no matter what others may think or say. On the other hand, while living this way Christ does not permit us to retreat into a little hovel but calls us to engage all the nations of the earth with the message of the Gospel. We have to stand against the world for the world. What could possibly enable us to accomplish such a task? Listen to the early church historian Eusebius:
[To accomplish this twofold task] the strongest conviction of a future life was necessary, that [we] might be able with fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the conflict with Gentile and polytheistic error: a conflict the dangers of which [we] would never have been prepared to meet, except as habituated to the contempt of death.
How are we to treat death? With contempt. Why? Because Christ has risen and has broken his power. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. This mortal shall put on immortality. So what should characterize our lives? Fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and shrinking rather than fearless and unshrinking, let us kneel and confess our lack of faith to the Lord.