Six Principles for Faithful Worship

January 3, 2021 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - OT - Psalms, King Jesus, Liturgy, 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 61 today. As we will see, Psalm 61 articulates David’s longing to worship God with the people of God. He sings, “I will abide in your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings… So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may daily perform my vows” (Ps 61:3, 8).

Paul commands us in Hebrews to emulate this passion for worship, 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.” Paul gives us six principles to guide our worship. First, our worship is to be Christological: “By JesusPaul writes, we are to praise God. Even as David looked in faith to the Christ to come, we are to look in faith to the Christ who has come. The only way that our sacrifice of praise can be accepted by God is through the substitionary sacrifice of Jesus. No one comes to the Father except through His Son, for there is one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. Our worship is to be Christological.

Second, our worship is to be communal. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God…” Even as David longed to be in the tabernacle, the place where God’s people gathered to worship Him together, so Paul commands us to join together to worship the Lord. Where the people of God gather to worship, there is God’s tabernacle, God’s temple, God’s dwelling place. The sacrifice of praise is something that we bring to the Lord together. Our worship is to be communal.

Third, our worship is to be continual. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God…” Even as David vowed to sing praise forever and to daily perform his vows, Paul wants worship to saturate our lives. This would obviously include gathering week by week on the Lord’s Day with God’s people. But the worship that we enjoy here with the people of God is to seep into our homes, our personal lives, and our friendships. Our worship is to be continual.

Fourth, our worship is to be theocentric, God-centered. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God…” Properly, worship is not a cathartic experience for our own amusement; nor is it a performance for others’ entertainment; it is primarily a sacrificial offering to God. Worship is offered up to God as a pleasing aroma, an offering that brings Him joy. Our worship is to be theocentric.

Fifth, our worship is to be vocal. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of our lips…” As the fruit of our lips, the sacrifice of praise requires our lips to move. We are to sing praises to the Lord. Like David, Paul wants us to enter into the presence of the Lord with joyful shouts, celebrating the goodness of the Lord. Our worship is to be vocal.

Finally, our worship is to be thankful. “By Jesus, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.” Thankfulness is the heartbeat of worship. A man or woman who is not thankful is a man or woman who cannot worship. He might move his lips but his praise just bounces off the ceiling. The resentful, bitter, angry man may grudgingly bow the head and speak the words, but his heart will not utter joyous shouts and so he does not truly worship. Our worship is to be thankful.

So hear Paul’s exhortation, “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.” Our worship is to be Christological, communal, continual, theocentric, vocal, and thankful. 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. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Resolutions for a New Year

December 27, 2020 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Human Condition, King Jesus, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness

Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This morning we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year. The old has passed away, behold the new has come! As we prepare to enter into this new year, I want to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians. New years provide opportunities for renewed resolutions, hopes, and dreams. Paul’s words in Ephesians 3 contain profound wisdom for us as we consider these things.

So let us note that in our text Paul is giving glory to God in the process of which he gives instruction to us. First, Paul gives glory to God: to [God] be glory. So why is Paul ascribing glory to God? Because God is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever dreams or hopes you have for this upcoming year, Paul tells us, they are not too difficult for God to accomplish. God is able to do far more than we can articulate with our mouths or that we can even imagine with our heads.

And what Paul tells us is that the power of God comes to us by Christ Jesus. Jesus is the center of our faith. It is through His death and resurrection that we have forgiveness of sins and newness of life; through His death and resurrection that the power of God is at work in us. Paul ascribes glory to God by Christ Jesus our Lord.

So what does this mean for us? Well Paul tells us that this God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is the very God whose power works in us. Did you catch that? If you are in Christ, if you have turned from your love of sin and sought out the forgiving grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, then the omnipotent God, He who rules and reigns among the affairs of men, is at work with His power in your life. God’s favor is toward you. Do you believe it? You see, Paul wants you to grow in wisdom and holiness and the way you grow is through a deep and personal knowledge of all that God has done, is doing, and promises yet to do for you in Christ.

So note that Paul writes that God’s glory is revealed in the Church: to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. In other words, God’s glory is revealed in and through you and me. God’s power is on display in His people – He has forgiven us and empowers us so that we might display the wonder of His work in a dark and hopeless world, that we might display the impotency of the world, the flesh, and the devil when confronted with the power of our Christ. In ourselves we are weak and powerless; but in our God we can run against a troop (Ps 18:29). If you are in Christ, God wants to display the wonder and power of His grace in your life; to glorify His Name through you.

So what this means is that those excuses you’ve been making for not addressing that sin pattern in your life are groundless; those despairing voices that have been telling you that there’s no hope for change are lying; those urges to complacency that have said it’s okay that you’re just coasting along spiritually, that you’re not really growing or being intentional about serving Christ; all those excuses, voices, and urges are of the devil. God gives His omnipotent strength to His people because He loves us and longs for us “to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18b-19).

So as we enter into the presence of our Lord on the cusp of a New Year, let us confess that we have often failed to believe Him, failed to trust Him, and let us seek His forgiveness through Jesus Christ that He might empower us as His humble people to bring glory and honor to His Name in this coming year. 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.

Do All in the Name of Christ

December 13, 2020 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Worship

Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)
17
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

If you’ve been at Trinity long, you’ve no doubt discovered that we utilize the Church calendar to organize our year. Our songs, our Scripture readings, our confessions of sin, our meditations, and even sometimes our sermons are geared to the Church Calendar. Given that following the Church Calendar is not a matter of necessity, it’s not explicitly commanded in Scripture, why have our elders decided to do so? What’s the point?

As we consider that question, consider what each phase of the church year does: it places Christ’s Person and Work at the center of all reality. It orients the entire year around the life of Christ: Advent – awaiting His birth; Christmas – celebrating His birth; Epiphany – celebrating His revelation as Messiah to the Magi and in His baptism; Lent – remembering His suffering on our behalf; Passion week – remembering His final week of challenge, betrayal, death, burial, and resurrection; Ascension – celebrating His enthronement at God’s right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords; Pentecost – celebrating the outpouring of the Spirit by our Risen and Exalted Lord. Between Pentecost and Advent? Celebrating Christ’s work, by the power of His Spirit, throughout church history. The Church Calendar puts the Person and Work of Christ at the center of our lives, year after year.

So why is this valuable? Well note Paul’s command today: So whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Whatever you do – whether eating or drinking or sleeping or waking; whether living in the winter or summer; in the fall or the spring – do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus. The Church Calendar helps us fulfill this command by putting Jesus exactly where He belongs – at the center of our Church life, at the center of our calendar, at the center of our celebration and our worship. And this, of course, reminds each of us to put Jesus at the center of our own life as well.

But often we are consumed with other things. We want to push Jesus to the margins of our lives; oh, we’ll give Him a bit of attention on Sunday but the rest of the week? That’s ours. But Jesus demands all our time – each day, each hour, each minute, each second. He is the Sovereign Lord and all we are and do is to be offered up in praise and thanks to Him.

So what of you? Has Christ been at the center of your life this week or have you put your own self at the center of your calendar? Singles, have you displayed Christ this week, manifesting His character in your life and speaking His praises with your lips, living a life of integrity and honor? Husbands and fathers, have you led your family to Christ this week, worshiping and praying and speaking of Christ’s work in your home? Wives and mothers, have you modeled Christ this week, laying down your own life for the lives of your loved ones? Children, have you followed Christ this week, obeying your parents even as Christ obeyed His?

Reminded this morning that whatever we do, in word or in deed, is to be done in the Name of Christ to the glory and praise of God, let us confess that we often do things and speak things in our own name, for our own glory. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Sing Psalms!

November 29, 2020 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church Calendar, Meditations, Tongue, Worship

1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)

4 Coming to [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue us from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who trust in Him. It is this Son who is the subject of Peter’s epistle. He is the One who was in the beginning with the Father, full of grace and truth; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary and born of her; who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; and who rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended up into heaven. Jesus is the object of our faith.

Peter describes Him in our text as a living stone, the foundation stone of God’s Holy City Jerusalem and the cornerstone of God’s Temple. This stone, Peter tells us, was rejected indeed by men – rather than bowing before Him in worship and praise, we crucified Him. So deep is our depravity as human beings that we rejected the One who would deliver us, killed the physician who would heal us, trampled the shepherd who would lead us, and betrayed the king who would rule over us.

Yet it is this stone, Peter tells us, that was chosen by God and precious. The One we crucified rose again from the dead. He is the Living Stone chosen by God to build up a Temple, a spiritual house, to the glory of God’s Name and to establish a universal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. So how does He build this Temple? Establish this priesthood? As the Living Stone, Jesus builds God’s Temple out of living stones; He sends forth His Spirit and imparts His resurrection life to men and women and children who are, by nature, spiritually dead. He causes our hearts of stone to live, to beat again in love of God and neighbor, that we might become living stones, members of a spiritual house, and priests of God Most High.

So why has God enlivened our stony hearts? Why is He constructing a spiritual Temple from us naturally lifeless stones? Why is He establishing a holy priesthood from us sinful men and women? Peter gives us the answer – to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In other words, God has enlivened us that we might worship Him. Listen to the 9th verse of this same chapter:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

God has chosen us in order that we might proclaim His praises, declare His wonders, and extol His excellencies before all nations. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is seeking people to worship Him.”

This Advent our sermons focus once again on Jesus in the Psalms. As we consider the psalms, I would remind you why God has given them to us in the first place – they are meant to be sung. God saved you that you might proclaim His praises, that you might offer up spiritual sacrifices, that you might offer up the fruit of your lips to God. Singing praise to God is not optional – it is the reason God delivered you from your sin. So sing; don’t be self-conscious. Sing; don’t make excuses. Sing; don’t deprive the assembly of your voice. Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!

As we gather in the Lord’s presence to praise Him, therefore, let us lift up our voices with joy remembering that God has saved us so that we might praise Him. Let us not mumble; let us not be silent in coldness of heart; let us not complain or grumble at God’s ordering our affairs. He saved us that we might offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. So reminded that we were saved to sing His praises, let us confess that we have often failed to praise the Lord as we ought – and let us kneel as we confess our sin together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The End of Fatherhood

November 22, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Faith, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

For the last couple weeks we have considered the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood here in 1 Thessalonians 2. We have seen that fathers are to cultivate a certain character: we are to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the eyes of their children. We have identified the basic duties of fathers: we are called to exhort, comfort, and bear witness to their families. Today we wrap up our consideration of this text by learning from Paul the end or goal of this conduct. Why ought fathers to be men of character? Why ought fathers to fulfill their duties toward their families well? Paul answers: so that our children may walk worthy of God.

Note that Paul declares that he had been as a faithful father among the Thessalonians “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (12). Paul’s burning passion was to see these men, women, and children in Thessalonica loving and serving God. As the Apostle John wrote in 3 Jn 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Both Paul and John wanted Christ’s disciples to reflect the glory of God in their own character. And praise God that they did for this desire led them to write the books which now form part of our New Testament canon. The apostles’ passion for their children paved the way for generations of believers to grow and profit.

So fathers (& mothers), two thoughts follow from this: first, how passionately are we praying for our children that they would walk worthy of God? Are we reminding them of what is most important in life? Calling them to believe the Lord, to trust Him, to honor Him, to cherish Him and His law? Our greatest privilege and calling as parents is to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in order that they themselves may walk worthy of God.

Second, fathers, let us beware putting any stumbling block before our children. After setting a little child before His disciples, Jesus warned them, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offences! For offences must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Mt 18:6-7) God forbid that any one of us parents be the means that God uses to blind our children to the truth. Instead, let us so live, so speak, so labor that we are the means God uses to call them into His own kingdom and glory.

Alongside these exhortations for fathers (and mothers), let me remind you children of your calling. God has given you the glorious privilege of growing up in a Christian home – a home where you have access to the Word of God, where you are receiving a Christian education, and where your parents are striving to raise you in the fear of the Lord. So treasure that privilege, thank God for it, and grow into it. Your calling is, as Paul admonishes the Thessalonians, to walk worthy of the God who calls you into His kingdom and glory. Learn what that means in order that God may use you to bless future generations even as you have been blessed.

These admonitions remind us of the many ways in which we all fall short of our calling as fathers, mothers, and children. We have sinned and we are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord.

The Duties of Fathers

November 15, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Discipline, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Last week we began looking at this text in Thessalonians and the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood. We learned that our goal as fathers is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the face of our children, our church, and our community. We are to be men “above reproach” as Paul says elsewhere.

But Paul not only tells us about the character of fathers in Israel, he also reveals the duties of fathers. Paul tells us that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of [the Thessalonians]” as a father does his own children. So notice the triad of responsibilities that Paul ascribes to fathers.

First, fathers are to exhort their children. The word is parakaleo – to call alongside. Hence, fathers are not only to model what it means to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly but are to call their children to join them in this type of life. The life lived in the fear of God, lived in obedience to Him, is the truly blessed life. As fathers, we are called to point this out to our children and encourage them to recognize it and love it. Even as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to learn the ways of Christ and honor Christ with their lives, so we fathers are to exhort our children to follow Him.

Second, fathers are to comfort their children. The word is paramutheomai – to cause them to be consoled. Fathers are not to be distant, not to be hard to reach, not to be unkind or uncharitable to their children. Rather we are to comfort them, to come alongside them, to stoop down and lift them up. Our comforting kindness to our children serves, after all, as a picture of the kindness of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103 declares that even as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. Thus even as Paul comforted the Thessalonians in the midst of hardship, fathers are to comfort their children throughout life.

Finally, fathers are “to charge” their children. And many a father out there says, “Yes, I wish I could charge my children but they don’t have any money!” Well it’s not that kind of charge. The word is martureo – to bear witness. It is the word from which we get our word “martyr.” Our calling is to bear witness to our children, to point them to Christ. We are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, pointing them to Christ as the only hope for individuals, families, and societies. In a Christian home, the daily witness of a father (and mother) who loves and serves Jesus is the ordinary means that God uses to bring our children to faith. Even as Paul bore witness to Christ before the eyes of the Thessalonians, calling them to trust in Him and believe in Him, fathers are to do for their children.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you daily with your children encouraging them, comforting them, bearing witness to them so that Christ might be formed in them? Or have you been lazy, assuming that your children will just “get it”? Have you abdicated, relying on your wife to accomplish the task? Have you been distant, failing to engage your kids? Then the Word of the Lord comes to you today – repent and start being a real father.

The calling of fathers to encourage, comfort, and bear witness to their children, reminds all of us that we have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

The Character of Fathers

November 8, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

In our text today Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his conduct among them – and he uses the metaphor of a father. In so doing, Paul gives us a vision of fatherhood that we will consider for the next couple weeks. Today I would like us to observe that Paul helps us understand the character that fathers are to possess: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe…” What sort of character are fathers to cultivate? Our character is to be devout, just, and blameless. This is our calling. As fathers in Israel we are to set a standard that all others can witness and imitate. And so, though I speak primarily to fathers this morning, these words apply to all – for fathers are to set the tenor and tone for all who believe.

First, we are to live devoutly. We are to model love for God, love for His law, and love for His people. We are to be the ones encouraging our wives and children to grow in their love for the things of God – for His law and for His people. And the principal way in which we encourage this is by modeling it – loving the Lord, loving to read His Word and to pray, loving the singing of the psalms, loving fellowship. We are to live devoutly.

Second, we are to live justly. We are to be models of justice and fair-mindedness, listening carefully to complaints and judging justly based on the principles found in God’s word. This is to be especially true when it is necessary to discipline or exhort our children. We are not to discipline in anger or rage for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. We are to beware being blinded by our own prejudices or simply delighting in our own opinions. We are to be steadfastly loyal to the principles of God’s Word and to apply them faithfully in our homes. We are to live justly.

Finally, we are to live blamelessly. We are to listen to the Word of God and implement it in our lives. We are to live above reproach. Our standard is not that we be cool or hip or that we be fashionable or well liked or that we be conservative or liberal. Our standard is that we be blameless – scrupulously obeying the Word of God while trusting in the forgiving grace of Christ. We are to live blamelessly.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you leading your homes? Are you setting the standard for devotion to God in your home or are you lagging behind? Are you a minister of justice in your home or are you a minister of disruption or disinterestedness? Are you striving to live a blameless life, growing in holiness, or are you stagnant? The goal of fatherhood is to live devoutly and justly and blamelessly among those who believe. How can we possibly live this way? Only by the grace of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. He is the One who must work in and through us to glorify His Name. In ourselves we are not capable to live this way – but by the grace of God we can.

So reminded of our calling to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before the Lord and His people, reminded of our need for God’s grace to empower us to obey, let us confess that we often fail in our calling and cry out for His grace. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

God’s Judgments are a Great Deep

November 1, 2020 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Politics, Sovereignty of God

Psalm 36:5–6 (NKJV)

5 Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. 6 Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast.

Last week Bob read this psalm for our Old Testament Scripture reading. As he read, I was struck by the psalmist’s declaration that God’s “judgments are a great deep” and so wanted to take a moment to meditate upon that today.

The psalmist likens God’s judgments to the deep places of the earth. This would include the depths of the ocean or the depths of a cavern in the earth or the depths of a cliff’s edge. The deeps are associated with darkness, with mystery, with awe, or with wonder. Recently my mother-in-law moved into her new condo in downtown Coeur d’Alene. She is 17 floors up and so the distance to the ground is considerable, a great deep. I went out on her patio and, of course, the first thing to do is to go up to the railing and look over the edge.

Deep places are like that, aren’t they? We find ourselves on the edge of a cliff and we want to know how far down it is. So we glance over the edge – or perhaps, if we’re more skittish, we look back to where we were once we’ve returned to the bottom. Whether we’re talking about the depths of the ocean or the depths of the Grand Canyon or the depths of a dark cave – the deeps are scary but they are also alluring. On the one hand, they frighten us and drive us away – sometimes irrationally! But, on the other hand, they also cause us to marvel and draw us in – sometimes irrationally!

The psalmist is telling us that God’s judgments are like a great deep. So what does this mean? First, it means that God’s judgments are mysterious. We cannot hope to understand them completely. So, for example, Paul concludes his discussion of God’s predestination, the judgment of God as to whom He will save, with these words, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:33) God’s judgments are mysterious. He has His own reasons for what He does and how He does it. Hence, His judgments often baffle the greatest minds. Who are you, O Job, to demand an answer of God?

Second, that God’s judgments are like a great deep reminds us that peering into the judgments of the Lord requires great caution. The deeps draw us in; we long to look over the edge. But what often happens when we look over the edge? We lose our balance. Many a man has lost his life glancing over the edge of a cliff; and many a professing Christian has fallen from grace trying to plumb the depths of God’s mind. Why is it that God grants some men eternal life and condemns others to eternal death? Why is it that good and faithful men suffer while the wicked strut about? Why is it that little children suffer with terrible diseases? Why is it that God uses the wicked to overthrow one more righteous than he? Why?

We find ourselves on the cusp of a national election. The outcome is in the hands of God. He rules through good and evil men to accomplish His holy and righteous judgments. Are you prepared to worship the Lord and to praise His Name regardless the outcome? Have you settled your heart in the Lord’s Sovereign power leaving to Him the mysterious ways of His Providence? Or are you demanding of God that He rule in accord with your desires?

Beware lest you stare too deeply into the judgments of the Lord for they are a great deep. Reminded of this, let us confess that we often try to pry into those things which God has not revealed to us and dictate to God how He must rule the world. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

Tree-Like Growth

October 25, 2020 in Bible - NT - Luke, Church Calendar, Creeds, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Tradition, Worship

Luke 13:18–19 (NKJV)

18 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”

Routinely at this time of year, I have invited us to consider the nature of Christ’s work in our lives. As Americans, we tend to have a love affair with that which is spontaneous or new or different. As American Christians, therefore, we tend to grow tired of what we call the “same old thing” and hanker for some new fad to bring life back into our Christian walk.

But what Jesus articulates for us in His parables of the kingdom is that the way the Holy Spirit works both in our individual lives and in the life of His Church is better pictured by the growth of a tree than the lighting of a sparkler. Sparklers, of course, are fun and exciting – they burn bright and shed their fire on all around them. But sparklers soon burn out while trees, planted and taking root, slowly grow over time; growing almost imperceptibly, soaking up the nutrients in the soil and increasingly displaying the glory of their Creator.

This steady, slow, natural growth is the way Christ typically works in the lives of His disciples. Normal Christian growth involves long periods of steady plodding – plodding that brings prosperity but plodding nonetheless. Typically God works in our lives through steady plodding, slow growth, gradual transformation – through what theologians have called the ordinary means of grace: reading and hearing the Word of God and participation in and meditation upon the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Steady plodding. Few sprints; mainly marathons. A long obedience in the same direction.

You may not know, but the last six months in the Church Year – roughly June through November – are called “ordinary time.” There are no special feasts and celebrations; just the regular time of the Spirit’s work in the Church. After the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, the Spirit began working in the Church, gradually transforming the people of God into the image of Christ. Hence the color of this period is green, a color of growth. Tree-like growth.

In several weeks we’ll be introducing some liturgical changes: entering a new church year when Advent arrives. We will have a different Call to Worship, a different Confession, a different Creed. Before we change, I wanted to draw to your attention the fact that for the last six months we have not changed these things.

Why have we done this? There’s no biblical requirement that we do so. We could have changed them weekly, monthly, or periodically. God has left such decisions to the wisdom of church officers. And for six months we’ve chosen to use the same ones. Perhaps you noticed; perhaps you’ve wondered if this is ever going to change. And perhaps you’ve thought the same thing about periods in your own life and spiritual development. And the message of Jesus is that He is at work growing His kingdom and even growing you – so trust Him and keep plodding.

Reminded that Jesus’ work in our lives is often gradual, like the growth of a tree, we are alerted that often our hankering for something spontaneous or new or different is not an impulse of our Christian faith but our Americanness. And this reminds us that we need to confess our fickleness to the Lord and ask Him to enable us to practice a long obedience in the same direction. So let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.