Why kneel in worship?

February 5, 2017 in Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - NT - Revelation, Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Bible - OT - Psalms, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship
1 Kings 8:54 (NKJV)
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
In the last few weeks we have explored various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. As we have noted, every church has traditions – and those who claim they don’t are trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles – and it is this that we are doing with our exhortations.
Among the traditions we have as a congregation, one of them is kneeling when we confess our sins. In just a moment I will invite you to kneel with me as we confess our sins to God. Many people, visitors especially, find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable (physically challenging is okay!) – in fact, many have refused to return and worship here because we kneel during our service. The preaching is fine; the music is acceptable; the fellowship seems sweet – but why do you kneel?
This question often causes me to scratch my head and wonder what in the world is happening in the church. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholicism. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman Church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading, prayer, and public singing as well. So I’m not sure that’s the real issue. I think the real issue is deeper.
Kneeling is an act of humility; it is to bow before another and acknowledge that that other is greater than I, more important than I, and hence worthy of my respect and honor or even my adoration. Kneeling is also sometimes a visible expression of wrongdoing, a plea for mercy as it were. Hence, there are times when kneeling is inappropriate. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to kneel before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; God reserved 7,000 in Israel who would not bow the knee to Baal. There are times when kneeling is compromise and sin.
But there are other times when kneeling is glorious: all Israel bowed the knee to King David; a leper kneeled before Jesus begging to be healed; a man kneels before his beloved and asks for her hand in marriage. There are times when kneeling is the right thing to do.
So what about worship? Is worship an inappropriate or appropriate setting for kneeling? Well, let us consider: we have entered the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose holiness must judge all sin and wickedness; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to bear the punishment that our sin deserved – how could we imagine that to kneel in this One’s presence is unfitting or inappropriate? Uncomfortable at first? Maybe. But inappropriate? Never.
So in our passage today, we see that Solomon – the Son of David, the King of Israel, and the wisest of men – kneeled before God to make supplication and prayer. And Psalm 95 summons us, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! And note that this isn’t a summons to private but to public kneeling – O come, let us kneel ­– let all of us together bow before God for He is worthy! And so the four living creatures and the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall down before the Lamb and they sing a new song saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

So this morning, as we consider that we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord.

The Devil conquered by Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

March 13, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 John, Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - NT - Revelation, Easter, Good Friday, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Satan
1 John 3:8 (NKJV)
8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
For the first three Sundays in Lent, we addressed our three chief enemies as Christians: the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we are outside of Christ, these forces dominate our lives and compel us to sin; they drive us away from our Creator. So having identified each of these enemies, we have begun to highlight the way that Jesus, through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave, has conquered each of them. Last week we heard John’s announcement that Jesus was manifested to take away our sins. He died and rose again to free us from the guilt and power of sin. This week John reminds us that not only did Jesus die and rise again to conquer our sinful nature, he also died and rose again to conquer the devil. Listen again to John’s words: He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
John’s words remind us that though Satan is alive on planet earth, he is far from well. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection Satan’s power over the world has been fundamentally broken. He can no longer enslave the nations as he once did. Momentary victories he may have but his ultimate defeat is sure for his power is broken.
Consider, for example, the power he once had over death. Paul writes in Hebrews 2:14-15 – Inasmuch then as the children [we] have partaken of flesh and blood, [Jesus] Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Jesus broke Satan’s power. He did, in John’s picturesque imagery in Revelation 20, chain Satan that “he no longer deceive the nations.”
This is why, therefore, our due sense of caution in the presence of the devil and his minions must always be tempered by a robust and profound scorn of his weakness – not his weakness in relation to us but his weakness in relation to God, the God who has promised to protect us and who has entrusted all authority in heaven and on earth to the Lord Jesus Christ. He holds the keys of death and hades. So we can remind one another, when fearing the devil, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” Even as John writes in 1 John 2:14 – I have written to you, young men, because you are strong and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.

So as we enter into the presence of our Lord today, let us confess that at times we have failed to fill our hearts with the fear of God in our fight against the Wicked One and have instead fallen prey to his schemes and stratagems and intimidation. And as we confess, let us kneel.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

February 19, 2015 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Genesis, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church History, King Jesus, Newsletter, Providence

What is your only comfort in life and in death? Have you considered the answer to this question? Life is of course full of many comforts. I like my home, my car, my hot showers and plenteous food. I rest in the embrace of my wife, the laughter of my kids, and the affection of my parents. All these are comforts in life – but they are not comforts that carry over with us into death. They are comforts that leave when the blackness of death envelops us. So what is your only comfort in life and in death?
 
Many think, vainly, that death itself is a comfort, a land of forgetfulness. But death is no comfort to the one who is not reconciled to God. Death brings no release from suffering for the one who hates or is indifferent to God; it brings only an instantaneous and blinding confrontation with perfect holiness and justice and love – a confrontation that will condemn any man or woman not forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Death is not a comfort; it is an enemy.

What is your only comfort in life and in death? If you know anything of the Reformed tradition, you perhaps know that this is the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism was written around AD 1563 for the instruction of German Reformed believers, especially children, in the basics of the faith. Its answer to this question is one of my favorites.

Question #1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto him.


Now that, brothers and sisters, is comfort for life and death. I am not my own but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has given Himself for me and, what’s more, so rules over all things that nothing happens in my life that is not for my ultimate good, for my salvation. And this “all things” includes the false accusations of my enemies (Is 50:7-9), the wounds of my friends (Gen 50:20), the failings of my physical and mental health (Ps 73:25-26), etc. All things come to me from my loving Father in heaven who has designed and crafted each event just for me – including the time of my death (Rom 8:28; Rev 1:17-18). Thanks be to God for such comfort.

Questions on Eschatology

February 13, 2015 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Eschatology, King Jesus

My daughter has written a thesis on eschatology for her persuasive speech this year. In the midst of her research she had a number of questions – here are a few and my answers.

1. When looking at the 1000 years in Revelation 20, it isn’t literal so is it “prophetic” or something else?

The 1000 years is symbolic of a very extensive number. The factor 1000 has already been used in Scripture and in Revelation in this way. For example, Scripture notes that God owns the cattle on a 1000 hills. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t own the cattle on the 1001 hill but that he owns all of them. Similarly, Revelation identifies 12×1000 from each tribe of Israel who are saved by God as a remnant within unbelieving Israel. This is again symbolic of a perfect number from each tribe – not that there were exactly 12000 from each tribe. (Rev 7:4ff).

2. Can you explain Revelation 20 about what it means by Satan being chained and being sealed away for awhile?
Yep, would you like me to? 🙂 Assuming yes – this refers to the current age. Notice that the chaining of Satan is in a particular regard. He is chained that “he not deceive the nations any longer.” In other words, the time of Satan’s control of the nations (the old covenant era) has come to an end. Jesus has broken the power of Satan, the nations are now His, and He is in the process of bringing them into submission to His rule through the preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments. Jesus clearly teaches this in Mark 3 when he is accused of casting out demons by the ruler of the demons. Jesus says, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.” Note that Jesus essentially says – your accusation is absurd! But then he goes on to explain what he is doing: “No one can enter a strong man’s house [Satan’s house] and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.” During his ministry Jesus was in the process of binding Satan so that he might plunder Satan’s house – the nations of the earth. So that’s what Jesus is doing now. He conquered Satan throughout His ministry (Lk 10:17-19) but definitively at the cross (Col 2:15). So Satan is now “bound.” Remember the image in Pilgrim’s Progress of the two lions on either side of Christian’s path? So long as he kept to the path they could not harm him – for they were chained.

3. Does the 1000 years in revelation 20:4-6 mean that he reigns among us today?
Absolutely – Jesus reigns today. He is the Lord of all (Mt 28:18-20; Acts 2:29-36 especially 36; Rev 1:4-5; 11:15-19; 17:12-14;  19:11-16). When Satan is called the “lord of this world” it does not mean he is the lord of the earth but the lord of those forces that wage war against Jesus and His lawful rule. God is the King; Jesus is King; Satan is not.

4. Can you explain again what the iron and clay feet represent in Daniel 2? And what verses 41-44 mean?
The kingdom of iron and iron/clay is one kingdom – Rome. The mixture of iron and clay in the feet represents the inherent instability of Rome but also of all the kingdoms built on human power and might. These kingdoms are doomed to fail. So notice v. 41 – “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided…” Which kingdom? The kingdom that Daniel has just mentioned – he connects the legs of iron with the mixed feet. They are one kingdom. This is confirmed by Daniel’s later vision in chapter 7 – again there are four pagan kingdoms replaced by the kingdom of the Son of Man. There is no “extra” kingdom in there. Lion – Babylon; Bear – Persia; Leopard – Macedon; Monster – Rome; Son of Man – Jesus! The animal kingdoms are replaced by the human kingdom. Praise God!

5. What is the mountain/God’s kingdom in Daniel, referring to? The kingdom of God in the Church or the heavenly kingdom or none of those?
The rock cut out without hands is the kingdom of God (2:44), the rule of God established through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Jesus announced that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mk 1:15) – he came announcing that the time to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy had arrived. The kingdom is not identical with the church. The kingdom of God is the rule of God through His Messiah Jesus. The kingdom, therefore, is more extensive than the Church. Because Jesus rules, because He has established His kingdom, there is a people of God on earth – the Church. The Church is one of the manifestations of Christ’s rule but not to be equated with His rule. After all, there are other evidences of Christ’s rule – the spread of peace, the establishment of civil justice, the protection of the poor and needy, liberty, etc. Christ’s kingdom is more extensive than the church.

6. What do Revelation 20:7-10 mean?

They imply that near the end of Christ’s triumphant rule there will be a brief rebellion by Satan and his hosts which will be overcome by Christ’s return in glory.
You might listen to my sermon here for a description of Revelation 20. You can download the pdf notes for the sermon there as well.

Why Kneel in Worship?

January 11, 2015 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Bible - OT - Psalms, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Rome, Tradition, Worship
1 Kings 8:54 (NKJV)
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
In its public worship, every church has traditions. Whether it is a tradition of spontaneity or a tradition of regularity, traditions are unavoidable. They are an inescapable part of human life. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles.
Among the traditions we have as a congregation, one of them is kneeling when we confess our sins. In just a moment I will invite you to kneel with me as we confess our sins to God. Many people, visitors especially, find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable – in fact, many have refused to return and worship here because we kneel during our service. The preaching is fine; the music is acceptable; the fellowship seems sweet – but why do you kneel?
This question often causes me to scratch my head and wonder what in the world is happening in the church today. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholic worship. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading, prayer, and public singing as well. So I’m not sure that’s the real issue. I think the real issue is deeper.
Kneeling is an act of humility; it is to bow before another and acknowledge that that other is greater than I, more important than I, and hence worthy of my respect and honor or even my adoration. It is also sometimes a visible expression of wrongdoing, a plea for mercy as it were. Hence, there are times when kneeling is inappropriate. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to kneel before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; God reserved 7,000 in Israel who would not kneel to Baal. There are times when kneeling is compromise and sin.

But there are other times when kneeling is glorious: all Israel bowed the knee to King David; a leper kneeled before Jesus begging to be healed; a man kneels before his beloved and asks for her hand in marriage. In such situations, how can one do anything but kneel? So what about worship? We have entered into the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose glory fills heaven and earth; the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to rescue His people from sin and Satan and death – how could we imagine that to kneel before this One is unfitting or inappropriate? Uncomfortable at first? Maybe. But profoundly wise and biblical.
So in our passage today, we see that Solomon – the Son of David, the King of Israel, and the wisest of men – kneeled before God to make supplication and prayer. And Psalm 95 summons us, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! And note that this isn’t a summons to private but to public kneeling – O come, let us kneel ­– let all of us together bow before God for He is worthy! And so the four living creatures and the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall down before the Lamband they sing a new song saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

So this morning, as we consider that we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.

The Public Reading of Scripture

January 12, 2014 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - James, Bible - NT - Revelation, Lord's Day, Meditations, Tradition, Word of God, Worship
1 Timothy 4:13 (NASB95)
13
Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.
In its public worship, every church has traditions. Whether it is a tradition of spontaneity or a tradition of regularity, traditions are unavoidable. They are an inescapable part of human life. It is important, therefore, that we learn to distinguish between our traditions and God’s commands so that we are able to evaluate our traditions in light of His commands. Nothing is more deadly than imagining that we don’t have traditions – for this is the first step to subverting the Word of God with our traditions.
Among the traditions which we have as a congregation, one of them is reading various passages from the Word of God each Lord’s Day. Apart from the sermon text, we read Old and New Testament passages. Why do this?
The passage today answers this question. For while many of our traditions are simply applications of biblical principles, the public reading of the Word of God is the implementation of a biblical tradition. Paul exhorts Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture.” Likewise, John in the book of Revelation pronounces his blessing on the one who was to read in worship the book he was composing. Reading portions of the Word of God each Lord’s Day is not simply a church tradition – it is an apostolic tradition.
Given that Paul places such a premium on reading the Word of God in our public assembly, how ought we to approach it? First, how ought we to read the Word of God? The Scriptures give us a number of principles. We ought to read with reverence and awe for it is the Word of the Living God, the God who is a consuming fire. We ought to read in a language that God’s people can understand – for when Ezra read to the people of God in the Old Testament he translated to give the sense (Neh 8:8). We ought to read with joy – for the Word is life itself, giving us wisdom and direction for our lives. Finally, we ought to read with discretion – giving due attention to the tone of the passage – whether it is pronouncing doom upon the unrepentant or comfort to the afflicted; tone matters.
Second, how ought we to listen to the Word of God? We are told in Nehemiah 8:3 that “all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” And this is our first and primary obligation. We should be straining our ears to hear the Word of the living God. Our ears should be attentive to His message; all our being should be focused on God’s revelation of Himself. Taking every thought captive, let us hear what the reading is announcing to us today.
And, having heard, let us not be like the man who looks at his face in a mirror and immediately forgets what sort of person he is. No, rather let us not only give ear to the Word but as God uses it to poke and prod us, let us give heed to in in the alteration of our attitudes and actions.

This reminds us that we often fail to give heed God’s Word as we ought. Our attention is often distracted when it is read. Our own opinions often intrude. Our heart often refuses to obey when we have heard. Let us then draw near to God and ask Him to cleanse us of our faults.

Marriage Supper of the Lamb

March 1, 2010 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Postmillennialism

“The existence of the Church as the congregation of the New Covenant marks an entirely new epoch in the history of redemption. God was not now merely taking Gentile believers into the Old Covenant (as He had often done under the Old Testament economy). Rather, He was bringing in ‘the age to come’ (Heb. 2:5; 6:5), the age of fulfillment, during these Last Days. Pentecost was the inception of a New Covenant. With the final divorce and destruction of the unfaithful wife in A.D. 70, the marriage of the Church to her Lord was firmly established; the Eucharistic celebration of the Church was fully revealed in its true nature as ‘the Marriage Supper of the Lamb’ (v. 9).” Chilton, p. 473.

Millennial Muddle

March 1, 2010 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Postmillennialism

Just finished preaching a series on eschatology which is available online via our website or for purchase via email info_at_trinitycda.org. I wanted to put up a number of quotations from David Chilton’s Days of Vengeance which I found particularly helpful in the course of study.

“With the rise of divergent eschatologies over the last two centuries, the traditional evangelical optimism of the Churchwas tagged with teh term ‘postmillennialism,’ whether the so-called ‘postmillennialists’ liked it or not. This has had positive and negative results. On the plus side, it is (as we have seen) a technically accurate description of orthodoxy; and it carries the connotation of optimism. On the minus side, it can too often be confused with heretical millenarianism. And, while ‘amillennialism’ rightly expresses the orthodox abhorrence of apocalyptic revolution, it carries (both by name and by historic association) a strong connotation of defeatism. The present writer therefore calls himself a ‘postmillennialist,’ but also seeks to be sensitive to the inadequacies of current theological terminology.

“This ‘generic’ postmillennialism holds that Jesus Christ established His mediatorial Kingdom by His death, resurrection, and ascension to the heavenly Throne, and as the Second Adam rules over all creation until the end of the world, when He shall come again to judge the living and the dead; that He is conquering all nations by the Gospel, extending the fruits of His victory throughout the world, thereby fulfilling the dominion mandate originally given by God to Adam; that eventually, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, ‘the earth will be ful of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea’ (Isa. 11:9); and that the Biblical promises of abundant blessing, in every area of life, will be poured out by God upon the whole world, in covenantal response to the faithfulness of His people.” Chilton, pp. 497-498

Disarming the Principalities and Powers

January 18, 2010 in Augustine, Bible - NT - Colossians, Bible - NT - Revelation

Colossians 2:13-15 (NKJV)
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

This Lord’s Day we explored the inauguration or beginning of the Kingdom of God through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. One of the issues discussed was the conquest of the demonic forces, the principalities and powers, that at one time ruled men and nations. These minions of the devil were, according to Paul, disarmed when our Lord was crucified. Imagining themselves the victors, they were defeated. Augustine explains this winsomely. Below is a quotation I read in the sermon – rearranged by me to make the oral hearing of it easier to follow. I pulled the quotation from David Chilton’s The Days of Vengeance: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation:

The devil was conquered by his own trophy of victory. The devil jumped for joy, when he seduced the first man and cast him down to death…. [He] jumped for joy [again] when Christ died; [but] by the very death of Christ the devil was overcome: he took, as it were, the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced at the death, thinking himself death’s commander. But that which caused his joy dangled the bait before him. The Lord’s cross was the devil’s mousetrap: the bait which caught him was the death of the Lord… By seducing the first man, [the devil] slew him; by slaying the last man, he lost the first from his snare. The victory of our Lord Jesus Christ came when he rose and ascended into heaven; then was fulfilled what you have heard when the Apocalypse was being read, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah has won the day.”