Song of the Drunkards


JESUS FACED A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF OPPOSITION FOR HIS HARD WORDS AND UNFLINCHING DEVOTION TO YAHWEH. NO SURPRISE THEN IF WE FIND OUR NAME FESTOONED IN BARROOM BALLADS (CF. PS 69:12).


Jesus the Center of Our Calendar

December 17, 2023 in Advent, Bible - NT - Colossians, Church Calendar, Meditations

Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)

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

Last week we considered Paul’s admonition in Colossians 3:16 that we “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Today we consider his admonition in the verse immediately following that we do all in the name of our Lord Jesus. How can we practice this as the people of God?

One of the ways that we attempt to do so is by utilizing 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. And one of the great advantages of doing this is that the Church calendar explicitly places Christ’s Person and Work at the center of the year. It orients our calendar around 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 – 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 – to honor Him and to glorify Him – giving thanks to God the Father through Him – recognizing that all the gifts we enjoy all year long come from His loving hand. The Church Calendar puts Jesus exactly where He belongs – at the center of our Church life, at the center of our calendar, at the center of our celebrations and at the center of 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 push Jesus to the periphery; 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 the Father through 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, purity, 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. 

Psalms & Worship

December 10, 2023 in Advent, Bible - OT - Psalms, Christmas, Meditations

Colossians 3:16 

16Let 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 our tradition of preaching through the psalms. So let us review once again why this is a fitting tradition. Why should we devote considerable time and attention to the psalms? In our day, various ideologies have divorced 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 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 various types of songs found in the book of psalms. Paul’s categories of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are, in other words, different ways of directing us to one book, the book of Psalms. It 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 and through 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. As we sing the psalms, we teach and admonish one another.

Third, Paul identifies the motive of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts. True worship emerges from a heart that has been transformed by the grace of God. By nature, we are all sinners; we have hearts of stone, hearts that love neither God nor neighbor rightly. When God delivers us from our sinfulness by His grace, He changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh; He makes us true worshipers. By His grace, He transforms our loves and enables us to sing truly. While any sinner can sing the psalms with his lips; only a true worshiper, by grace, can join heart and lips together in song.

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 thank and praise Him, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Him, for He is worthy of praise.

So reminded that we are to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs that we might teach and admonish one another as we worship the Lord, we must confess that much of the church has abandoned the psalms in favor of songs that do not teach and admonish. We often speak to one another our own words rather than the words of Christ. But even when we do speak the words of Christ to one another, even when we sing the psalms, we often fail to learn from our brethren, we often fail to correct ourselves.

Penitential Singing

December 3, 2023 in Advent, Bible - NT - 1 John, Meditations

1 John 1:8–10 (NKJV) 

8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 

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 the world from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son, whom we now know as Jesus of Nazareth, shall return in glory to vindicate all who have trusted in Him. As the beginning of a new year in the church calendar, there are a number of changes that occur in our service of worship. We have already recited a different call to worship and greeting. Soon we shall recite a different corporate confession and creed.

But while we change some of the details of our worship, we retain the central components or basic structure of our worship. And one of those central components is the confession of our sins. John reminds us that if we say we have no sin, we both deceive ourselves and make God a liar. If we confess our sins, however, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins on account of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Thus, while the specific wording of our corporate confession changes depending on the season of the year, the fact of our confession does not. As John implies, the closer we get to God and the more we meditate on His word, His truth, the better we will get at seeing and confessing our sin.

One of the resources that God in His kindness has given to us that we might learn how better to confess our sins are the penitential psalms. These are psalms in the psalter that model faithful confession – psalms like numbers 5, 6, 13, 22, 32, 38, 40, 42, 51, 56, 63, 80, 130, 137 and others. Alongside these psalms, the Cantus Christi contains hymns that likewise share this penitential flavor. 

Historically our congregation has sung many of these psalms and hymns in our service of worship. However, because we haven’t had a slot to sing them during the confession of sins, we have included them elsewhere in our service. This has resulted in the odd phenomenon of confessing our sins, hearing God graciously pronounce our forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then confessing our sins again later in the service. To avoid that odd phenomenon, our elders have decided to adjust the order of our songs and to begin including a penitential psalm or hymn as part of our confession. 

So this morning as we enter the presence of the Lord and are reminded of our calling to confess our sins to the Lord, let us turn to Psalm 130 and cry out to the Lord for His forgiving grace.