Do it again!

December 24, 2017 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Christmas, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Liturgy, Meditations, Parents

Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)
30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child, I doubt that I have to remind you that children love these times of celebration. While we adults often grow tired, kids never tire; they long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open presents?” Are you children excited?

We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. God never tires of causing the earth to spin like a top; never tires of flapping the wings of a bird; never tires of causing the grass to sprout from the earth; never tires of sucking water out of the earth through the roots of a tree and turning the nutrients into apples that people can eat. All these works of the Lord reveal His untiring joy and laughter, reveal His delight in all His work, His faithfulness and uprightness. G.K. Chesterton explains all this in his inimitable way in his book Orthodoxy. He writes:

“Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

So what of you? Have you grown old? Have you ceased to look in wide-eyed wonder at the world? You teens, have you become too insecure or too self-important to rejoice with joy? You young adults, have you become too self-absorbed and ambitious to slow down and enjoy family and friends? You adults, have you become too tired and lazy to celebrate with joy? Or too greedy to enjoy the delights of fellowship? Reminded that we have sinned and grown old, that we have become bored and complacent with the marvelous world that God has made and in which He has placed us, that we have complained rather than overflowed with thanksgiving, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Nature of Biblical Worship

December 17, 2017 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - OT - Psalms, Christmas, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Worship

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)
15 Therefore by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

In our continuing study of Jesus in the Psalms we examine Psalm 35 today. Three times in our psalm, David will promise to praise God if God will but deliver him from his persecutors. And since Paul urges us to offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name, it seems fitting to study each of David’s promises and to learn what they teach us about biblical worship.

David makes his first promise in verses 9-10:

9 And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; It shall rejoice in His salvation. 10 All my bones shall say, “LORD, who is like You, Delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, Yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?”

Here David teaches us two things about biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be personal. My soul shall be joyful; all my bones shall say, “Lord, who is like you…” Worship isn’t something “out there” that we participate in, it is something “in here” that emerges from grateful hearts. Second, biblical worship is to be joyful. My soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation. Because God saves us from those too mighty for us – from sin, from Satan, from worldly foes who hate God – worship should be saturated with joy. Biblical worship is to be personal and joyful.

David makes his second promise in v. 18:

18 I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.

So let us add two more features of biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be thankful. I will give you thanks… Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights, so we ought to thank Him. Second, biblical worship is to be corporate. I will give you thanks in the great assembly [church]; I will praise You among many peoples. Biblical worship does not confine itself to me and God alone because God’s purposes for my life are far greater than my salvation. He saves me in order that I might bless and encourage others, that others might be saved through me. Biblical worship is to be thankful and corporate.

David makes his final promise in verse 28:

28 And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness And of Your praise all the day long.

So let us add two final features of biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be vocal. And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness… Worship isn’t just a matter of the heart, it issues forth from our mouths using our lips and tongues. Second, biblical worship is to be continual. And my tongue shall speak…of Your praise all the day long. While our worship is to be corporate, it cannot be limited to times of corporate gathering – these times are few and far between. Consequently, our corporate worship must spill out into all my day, must shape the entirety of my life. My day should be filled with praising and thanking God. Biblical worship is to be vocal and continual.

Putting all this together, therefore, biblical worship is to be personal, joyful, thankful, corporate, vocal, and continual. Often, however, our worship lacks these traits. So as we enter into the presence of the Lord, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Psalms as the Word of Christ

December 10, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Christmas, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship

Colossians 3:16 (NKJV)
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

For Advent and Christmastide we are continuing a tradition that we started several years ago of preaching through the psalms. It is important that we remember why this is a fitting tradition, why we should devote considerable time and attention to the psalms. In our day, various ideologies divorce Christians from the OT; consequently, Psalm singing has fallen on hard times, especially among Protestants. So as we recover this practice, let us consider the foundation for it that Paul lays in our text today.

First, Paul identifies the content of our worship. We are to let the word of Christ, Christ’s own word, dwell in us richly. Jesus speaks to us today; He is calling today. But where? Paul tells us: He speaks in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In the Greek translation of the OT, these labels correspond to the varied songs in the psalter. Paul’s categories of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are, in other words, different ways of directing us to one book, the Psalter. The book of Psalms contains psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which we are to sing. Why? Because they are the Word of Christ – Christ’s own words to us. When we sing the Psalms to one another, we hear Christ speaking to us in the voices of our brethren.

Second, Paul identifies the function of our worship. We are to teach one another and admonish one another. First, we teach one another. When we sing the psalms to one another, we expand our knowledge of God and our awareness of His work in the world. We teach one another of His righteousness, His mercy, His wrath, His love, His patience, His judgments, etc. The psalms force us to reckon with ways in which our own thinking differs from God’s thinking. When we sing a psalm and find ourselves disagreeing with its words, the problem is not with the psalm but with us. Consequently, we not only teach one another as we sing, we also admonish one another. We correct erroneous thoughts, summon one another to trust the Lord more fully, rebuke one another’s complacency, immorality, greed, idolatry, and deceitfulness. The psalms teach and admonish us.

Third, Paul identifies the motive of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts. True worship emerges from a grateful heart; it is an expression of thankfulness for God’s work in our lives. The hypocrite says one thing with his lips and another with his heart; the loyal worshiper joins heart and lips together in song. We are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts.

Finally, Paul identifies the object of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. The Lord is the object of our worship. He alone is worthy of praise, thanksgiving, and honor. He has created us and not we ourselves; He has redeemed us through the precious blood of His Son Jesus. He has sent His Spirit to empower us to walk in newness of life. So we are to give Him thanks and praise, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Him.

So as we enter into the presence of the Lord this day, as we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, let us teach and admonish one another as we worship the Lord. Unfortunately, much of the church has abandoned the psalms in favor of songs that do not teach and admonish. We speak to one another our own words rather than the words of Christ. But even when we speak the words of Christ to one another, we often fail to learn from our brethren, we often fail to correct ourselves. So reminded of our failures in this regard, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Father is Seeking Worshipers

June 18, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Communion, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Sovereignty of God, Worship

John 4:23–24 (NKJV)
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.”

Last week we observed that Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman explained some of the changes in worship from the old to the new covenant. While old covenant worship was centralized in Jerusalem, new covenant worship has been spread throughout the earth; and while old covenant worship was simply monotheistic, new covenant worship is Trinitarian, gloriously monotheistic. Today I’d like us to meditate on Jesus’ remark that the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

In the history of Christianity, one of the names used to identify the weekly corporate gathering of the congregation is the Divine Service or the Lord’s Service. Unfortunately, we rarely use this term any longer, almost exclusively using the word “worship” to label our weekly gathering.

On one level, of course, using the label “worship” is entirely fitting. To worship God is to ascribe worth to Him – it is to announce that He is the Lord and Creator of all and is therefore worthy of all honor and glory and power. Each Lord’s Day we gather to worship the High and Exalted One, the One who has created us from nothing and who has redeemed us from destruction. As Jesus says in our text today, we gather to worship God the Father in the Name of His Son and by the power of His Spirit. Worship is a great term.

But the term “worship” can obscure a fundamental reality to which Jesus points us in our text: The Father is seeking such to worship Him. Jesus declares that when we come to worship the Lord, the reason that we have come is because God in His mercy has sought us out. Our worship, in other words, is a response to God’s action. Why are you here today? Because God sought you out, God summoned you here, God brought you here. We love because He first loved us. We serve God in worship because God first served us by bringing us here.

And this is why the title the “Lord’s Service” is so helpful. The title is intentionally ambiguous – is the “Lord’s Service” our service of the Lord – worshiping Him, honoring Him, and praising Him – or is it the Lord’s Service of His people – calling us together, comforting us from His Word, and feeding us at His Table? Biblically our gathering each Lord’s Day is both. He serves us and we serve Him. And whose service is primary? Whose service comes first? The Lord’s. For if He did not serve us by calling us here then we would not serve Him by worshiping Him.

Ought we not, therefore, to begin each Lord’s Day with gratitude and thankfulness? God has called us here; summoned us to enter His presence and worship Him in Spirit and Truth. So how have you responded to His summons? Are you here with an eager heart and mind? Or are you here cloudy and disinterested, so worn from the cares of the week that you cannot serve Him well?

Reminded that God has sought us out and served us in order that we might serve Him, let us confess that we often respond to His work with ingratitude and indifference rather than joy and delight. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant Worship

June 11, 2017 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - NT - John, Bible - OT - Psalms, Israel, Liturgy, Meditations, Trinity, Worship
John 4:21-24 (NKJV)
21
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.”
On this Trinity Sunday, I would like us to consider the words that Jesus speaks in this text and the way that they help us understand new covenant worship. Jesus is anticipating two changes in the worship of God’s people. Unfortunately, these changes are frequently misinterpreted. Many imagine that Jesus is contrasting the external, formal worship of the OT period with the heartfelt, internal worship of the New. At one time people worshiped externally, now all worship is “in spirit and truth” – that is, heartfelt and genuine.
The difficulty faced by this interpretation is not the insistence that worship must be heartfelt and genuine. That is most certainly true. The difficulty is that this was no less true in the OT than it is in the New. David declares in the psalter, “Sacrifice and burnt offering you did not desire, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”Heartfelt, genuine worship was to characterize the OT no less than the New.
So what are the changes Jesus anticipated in His words to the Samaritan woman? There are two. First, Jesus insists that the corporate worship of the people of God would be decentralized. Remember that in the OT God’s people had a central sanctuary located at Jerusalem. As we will review today in the sermon, three times a year every male had to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to Mount Zion, and worship at the central sanctuary, offering sacrifices, feasting with God’s people, honoring the Lord. The Samaritans, for their part, refused to acknowledge the centrality of Jerusalem but likewise had a central sanctuary at Mount Gerizim. Here the Samaritans had their collective feasts. The woman asks Jesus – “You’re a prophet; so which is it? Mount Zion or Mount Gerizim?”Jesus responds, “Neither! In the Christian era, during My reign, God’s people are not required to gather for corporate worship at a central sanctuary – whether in Gerizim or Jerusalem or Rome. Rather, wherever the people of God gather together in My Name and lift My Name on high, there is Mount Zion, there is the City of God, there is the central sanctuary.” In other words, Jerusalem in Israel is no longer the center of God’s dealings with man; the heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the Church is the center.
Second, Jesus informs us that not only would corporate worship be decentralized, it would be explicitly Trinitarian. When Jesus rose from the dead and sent forth His Spirit, the worship of God’s people was forever transformed. It became explicitly Trinitarian – worshiping the Father in Spirit – the very Spirit whom Jesus promised would come and lead His people into all righteousness – and in Truth – the very Truth who took on human flesh and declared to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday the Church has historically emphasized the Triune nature of God. It is this that Jesus does in our text. Worshiping the Father in Spirit and Truth is not an exhortation to heartfelt, genuine worship – that exhortation had been given throughout the OT. Worshiping the Father in Spirit and Truth is to worship the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And it was this transformation that Jesus anticipated and announced to the Samaritan woman. “The time is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.”

So what does this mean for us? It means that this morning as we gather together to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, as we gather to worship the Triune God, we are approaching the central sanctuary of God, the place where God dwells. Mount Zion is His dwelling place and it is this place to which we draw near every time we gather to worship the Lord together. Hebrews tells us, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born who are registered in heaven…” (Heb 12:22-23) And, like Isaiah, who entered the presence of God in the Temple, the first thing that should strike us is our own unworthiness – in ourselves, we are not worthy to be here. And so let us kneel and seek His forgiveness through Christ.

A Pentecost Liturgy

June 4, 2017 in Holy Spirit, Law and Gospel, Liturgy, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Pentecost, Ten Commandments
One of the ancient associations of Pentecost is with the giving of God’s Law on Mt. Sinai. While the feast of Passover was associated with the deliverance from Egypt, Pentecost 50 days later came to be associated with the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. As Christians, it is important, as we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, that we not drive a wedge between God’s Law and His Spirit. For the Spirit who has been poured out upon us is the Spirit of holiness who enables us, by His grace, to live lives that fulfill God’s law. The Spirit teaches us to cry out with David, “O how I love your law! It is my meditation day and night.” So this morning we mark our celebration of Pentecost with a responsive reading of God’s law – the men will be reading each of the Ten Commandments and the women will respond with passages from the New Testament that parallel these commandments.
Responsive Reading of the Law of God (Exodus 20:1-17)
Pastor: Then God spoke all these words, saying,
Men: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Women: For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
M: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
W: Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
M: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
W: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.’” (Matthew 6:9)
M: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
W: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.(Hebrews 10:24-25)

M: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
W: Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)
M: “You shall not murder.”
W: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8, 9)
M: “You shall not commit adultery.”
W: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)
M: “You shall not steal.”
W: Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
M: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
W: Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25)
M: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
W: Do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Ephesians 5:3)
All: Amen!

The Spirit not only teaches us the law of God, He also convicts us of the ways we have fallen short of its demands. And so reminded of God’s law, let us respond by confessing our sin to the Lord – and let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

The King of kings – Palm Sunday 2017

April 9, 2017 in Bible - OT - Zechariah, Church Calendar, Confession, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Postmillennialism
Zechariah 9:9-10 (NKJV)
9
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’
Have you ever been taught that while Jesus came as Savior in His first advent, He is waiting until His second to arrive as King? He is waiting, so it is said, to establish His kingdom on earth. If you have heard or even, like me, embraced that kind of thinking or, perhaps, still do, then you may have a hard time getting your mind around Palm Sunday. For Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as our King come to establish His kingdom.
Advocates of a delayed kingdom will ask: if He is entering Jerusalem as king, why doesn’t He appear very kingly? However, such a question reveals how distorted our concept of kingship has become and how we have allowed the world to define true kingship rather than allowing our Lord Jesus to define it. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, His entry into Jerusalem to suffer and to die for His people, His entry into Jerusalem to serve, is the preeminent illustration of what it means to be a king. What does it mean to be a king? It means to be humble and lowly, to be a servant, to give your life for the benefit of your people.
And it was precisely this type of King that our Lord Jesus was and is. He came to give His life a ransom for many. He came not to be served but to serve. He came as the prototype for all the kings of the earth – this is what it is to be a ruler. It is to be a servant to your people.
To our fallen nature this type of kingship can seem utterly ineffective. No king who comes to serve rather than to be served will be respected and honored; no king who acts in this way will really be successful. Rather it is those like Alexander the Great who push and prod and pursue their own glory who accomplish great things.
But the prophet Zechariah gives the lie to such thinking. Immediately after proclaiming the humility and lowliness of the coming King (the King rides on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey), Zecharaiah declares that this King will destroy warfare from the earth and will establish universal peace under His rule. How effective shall Christ’s Kingship be? His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’
So what of you leaders out there – what type of kingship have you been exercising? Whether you are a husband, a father, a mother, an employer, a foreman, a manager – what type of kingship have you practiced? Have you demanded, cajoled, manipulated, and wormed your way to the top? Or have you served and given and made yourself the least of all the servants of God? For the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Reminded that we have been unrighteous kings and queens, demanding our own way rather than serving others, let us confess our sin to our Sovereign Lord. 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.

Why does worship include a pronouncement of forgiveness?

March 12, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Confession, Liturgy, Meditations

John 20:21–23 (NKJV)
21 So Jesus said to [the disciples] again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
For several weeks we have been explaining some of the traditions that we include in our corporate worship. Today we consider the absolution. In just a moment, following our confession of sin, I will announce the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. Why do we do this?
You may recall that one of the great controversies that surrounded Jesus’ ministry was the forgiveness of sins. Some men brought a paralytic to Jesus and let him down through the roof into the house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus looked at the man and declared, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Immediately, the Pharisees began questioning among themselves, “Who does this man think he is? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The Pharisees’ question was entirely reasonable. While each of us can forgive those who sin against us, we dare not presume to forgive their sins against God – only God can do such a thing. So the dilemma of our human condition is this: we all have sinned against God, so how can we know whether God has forgiven us? Who speaks for God on earth? In the old covenant, God provided this assurance of forgiveness through the sacrificial system and the priesthood. He appointed the Aaronic priests to speak on His behalf:
‘And it shall be, when [someone] is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; and he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lordfor his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin. (Lev 5:5-6)
The priest shall make atonement for him – the priest shall announce to him, “Believe God’s promise in His word! He has provided a substitute to bear the guilt of your sin. You are forgiven.”

The reason controversy surrounded Jesus’ forgiveness of the paralytic is this: Jesus was not an Aaronic priest, nor was He at the temple where a sacrifice was being offered. So how dare He presume to speak for God? “Who does this man think he is? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus knew their doubts; He knew their questions. So He asked, “Which is easier to say to this man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or, ‘Arise, take up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” (he said to the paralytic), “’Arise, take up your mat and walk.’ And immediately the man arose, took up his mat, and walked.”
According to Jesus, the healing of the paralytic established an important point: the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus was announcing the end of the temple and the sacrificial system, that the Judaic Age was over. The priests no longer speak for God; Jesus does. And in this Messianic Age, the forgiveness of sins is declared in His Name, based on His once-for-all sacrifice. Jesus speaks for God.
After Jesus had been crucified and then risen from the dead, He then spoke to the Twelve. “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you…”  Jesus commissioned the Twelve to speak for God in the world and to declare the forgiveness of sins in His Name. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” In other words, the sacrificial system has forever come to an end. Now the forgiveness of sins is preached to all nations based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone.
So every Lord’s Day, following our confession, I have the privilege of reminding you, assuring you, that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, there really is forgiveness with God. Acknowledge your sin and turn from it, seeking God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
My word does not grant forgiveness; only the sacrifice of Jesus can do that. My word simply reminds you of God’s promise and summons you to believe His word: all those who trust in the once-for all sacrifice of Jesus shall be forgiven and cleansed. Your calling is to hear that promise, even as the paralytic heard the words of our Lord, and to believe Him. “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
So reminded this morning of the gift of forgiveness that God offers through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, let us confess our sins in His Name, trusting that God will indeed forgive all those who come to Him in faith. 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.