Selected Scriptures Series: Boom! #1 (Please note that the audio was not recorded for most of point three.) # Introduction The Weapon of a Worshipping Assembly The church of Jesus Christ is defined by its worship. We express our beliefs as we worship but, perhaps even more powerfully, our beliefs are shaped as we worship. Worship changes who we are. Worship is not a static result, where all the action happens before we start. Worship changes us, we walk away different than we were at the start. One year ago today our local expression of Christ's church held our first corporate service of worship, and we talked about the heavenly worship of the Worthy One in Revelation 5. When every eye is on Him, it's hard to be distracted or discouraged. Because of the timeline in Revelation, we observe that most of the churches addressed in chapters 2-3 were struggling, some even sinful. The judgements on rebels, the battles of chapters 6-19 remained to be fought. And still, in chapters 4-5, the celebrated coronation of the Lamb occurs *before* the final victory. Getting away to worship is *not* getting away from the battle. We do not meet together in order to distract ourselves from the righteous fight; we assemble together as believers in worship of the Lord Christ as an act of war. Worship isn't running away, it's running toward the roar. It's as if we said, We believe that things are so bad, we're going to do something about it. We're going to worship God. Originally, my burden was to lead us away from the F.O.G.--the fellowship of grievance. My burden was also to expand our worship horizons and challenge us to develop and diversify our praise arsenal. Because we've focused on it, because many elements of our service are unfamiliar, and because we've been trying it for a while, I think it's appropriate to pick up the subject explicitly again. Over the next month or more we're going to consider the people, the patterns, and the particulars of worship. Today we'll start with the purposes of worship. If you had to answer, how would you fill in the blank: the reason a church gathers on the Lord's day is for sake of __________. There are a variety of good answers, good but insufficient by themselves. Those answers may include: * obedience. Christians come because God commands us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:24). * liturgy. Christians come to make a symbolic demonstration of our commitment to Christ when we show up at church on Sunday. * evangelism. Christians come and bring their unbelieving neighbors (in the broadest sense) in order to hear about Christ. * equipping. Christians come in order to receive instruction from the Bible on how to live holy lives. * rest. Christians come in order to find refreshment for their souls. Christians may understand the Lord's day as a Sabbath. * exaltation. Christians come in order to praise God through giving attention and honor to Christ, as well as through depending on Him through prayer and adoration of Him through song. Certainly, each of these elements belong in our thinking. But we can do better. We must. In fact, there is a sense in which all of these could be done at home, by oneself, rather than assembling together. Also, I understand that there are not too many direct passages about church "services" in the New Testament, but I think we can demonstrate some principles that have immediate bearing on our services from both the Old and New Testaments, which we'll supplement over the next few weeks. I still believe that *the culture of our congregation grows out of the soil of our corporate worship*. What is the purpose of assembling together on the Lord's day? The answer comes in four objectives of our worship operation. # Objective One: Transforming We cannot skip this, and many things go into it. > And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18) See also Psalm 115. God, through the psalmist, wrote that "those who make [idols] become like them; so do all who trust in them" (verse 8). Men who worship senseless gods become senseless: dumb, deaf, unable to smell or feel or walk. They are senseless. They are lifeless. They are mere shells, dead weight on the shelf. The opposite is true, too. Those who worship the living God live. Those who worship a loving God love. Those who worship a righteous God obey. Those who worship a faithful God grow in faithfulness. Those who worship a patient God wait. Those who worship a glorious God bow before His glory and are being transformed into glory. Because we were made to reflect another's image rather than produce a self-image, we cannot know who we are supposed to be without examining the original. Copies depend on the master. In this case, we are not reading an instruction manual as much as we are looking at a Person. We're changed as we fellowship, as we spend time with someone else, as we linger in His presence, not by following a three step formula or accumulating more parts. We're not parts, we're persons. We're not outlines. If the outline is our focus rather than God, we fail. Why can't we be transformed in isolation? Why can't this first objective take place at home or work, any time we give ourselves to meditate on God's word and pray? To some extent, yes, any fellowship with God affects us. And yet, is it possible to be made like the Trinity all by yourself? Can you become a more accurate reflection of a relational God without relationships? Can you be social if you're out of communion? *We all* are being transformed. # Objective Two: Uniting As we are transformed, as we are made more like God, we will necessarily be knit more closely together. We are one body under Christ's headship. When do we demonstrate that? We demonstrate the many and one reality when the many are assembled as one. How are we united? As we draw near to God, we can't help but be drawn closer to each other like two lines moving toward the same point of a triangle. Our union with each other is part of God making known "*through the church* [His] manifold wisdom...to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places" (Ephesians 3:10). In context, Paul is explaining his ministry of making known "This mystery...that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). It isn't because we are all alike. It is because we are *not* alike. Even more than that, it's because we're with others we didn't like, with others we have sinned against and/or who have sinned against us, and the gospel reconciled us. We forgive one another and are restored to fellowship. We give up our grudges and criticisms. The world has no such happy assemblies. The unifying happens as we eat and drink the gospel. It happens as we join in the common work of worship. The more we do it together, the more we learn about and come to enjoy one another. Obviously, we cannot do this in isolation. Two strands of yarn must be worked together by needles in contact with each other. Speaking the truth in love, we grow up into Him and the body is built up in love (Ephesians 4:15-16). # Objective Three: Directing We come together to get our marching orders, to see the map of the battlefield, to be directed. Week by week we watch His Word charge ahead of us. His truth plants the joy flag out in front for us to run after. It's His world, we are His body, and His word lights our path (see Psalm 119:105). There are responsibilities for individual Christians, There are also many plural imperatives, commands to the many, not just ones. That means we must gather to get our corporate assignment. Corporate worship does more than that, though, it turns us the right way, gives us our bearings, orients us. # Objective Four: Battering I mentioned it at the very beginning of the message. Our corporate worship *IS* battle. Our meetings are not merely preparation for the war, our meetings are a crucial offensive campaign. A couple passages tie this to corporate work. For all the interpretation challenges that Matthew 16:18 has provided through church history, a phrase at the end often gets overlooked. > And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18, ESV) **Gates** are *not* offensive, gates are defensive. If we make it to this part of the verse, we usually consider that the enemy is on the attack. And he is. But in this particular verse, the church is on the attack. Gates were a symbol of strength, but Jesus promises that His church is unstoppable. The **gates of hell** or "gates of Hades," "gates of death," represent the passageway from this life to the grave, the way of sin and unbelief. The meeting of the church for corporate worship, following the illustration of Doug Wilson, is a battering ram against the gates of hell. I love Wilson's description of it. > As we gather in the presence of the living God on the Lord's Day, He is pleased to use our right worship of Him as a battering ram to bring down all the citadels of unbelief in our communities. Just as the walls of Jericho fell before the worship and service of God, so unbelievers tremble when Christians gather in their communities to worship the living God rightly. Jesus promised us that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Church. It is not often noted that the gates of Hades are not an offensive weapon. Hades is being besieged by the Church; *it is not the other way around*. We need to learn to see that biblical worship of God is a powerful battering ram, and each Lord's Day we have the privilege of taking another swing. Or, if we prefer, we might still want to continue gathering around with our insipid songs, dopey skits, and inspirational chats in order to pelt the gates of Hades with our wadded up kleenex. (Doug Wilson, *A Primer on Worship and Reformation*, 32) This is not the work of individuals, but rather the work of the church. There is a handle on the battering ram with your name on it. **BOOM!** Some of the guys, many of the guys leading us in singing, greet each other with "Boom!" We talk about three days until "Boom!" A song starts and they think "Boom!" So, we need all the soldiers present. More than that, we need everyone to grab a handle and run. A worship service is war, not a performance. The war is fought, not by the few looking at the many, the few standing behind a guitar or a pulpit while the rest sit back and watch. We are an army that advances together. Are you advancing? If we take this perspective, we will be less likely to criticize. This isn't to say we can't run better or be more effective in our battering, but music style and sermon length and communion elements are not the biggest problem. The biggest problem are those who decide to "sit this one out." The arm-pew worship quarterbacks. Grab a handle and run. You may not have the best hold. We can talk about your grip. Mostly, let's get after the gates. Paul provides an interesting perspective in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. > For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:3–5, ESV) How are we doing that destroying? It isn't only with our apologetics and evangelism answers. It is with our worship. Again, running at the gates is the work of the one of many's, not the many ones. The church goes after the gates. # Conclusion We do not only come to worship on the Lord's day to prepare to do something else. We come to worship because worship *is* doing something. The purpose of Sunday is more than providing instructions for what to do on Monday. We are being changed so that whatever we do on Monday morning isn't done by the same person. God doesn't only tell us to be unified, He unites us. He doesn't only command transformation, He changes us. He doesn't only provide a map, He turns us in the right direction. Does it matter if you're not here? Yes and no. God never needs us. But He does use us. If the point of gathering together was gathering truth, sure, just stay at home and read a book. Download the sermon later in the week. Buy a good worship CD (whatever that is) or take banjo lessons for yourself, get a hymnal, and go for it. But worship is more than how you feel when we sing, more than counting accuracy points of the sermon. We don't gather to collect statements, we gather *to make a statement*. Worship is the work of the assembly announcing to the world our belief in and love for the Lord Jesus Christ. So, our statement isn't the same without you. We are an outpost of the heavenly throne room and every week we're knocking down more walls and occupying more of His territory. How does the purpose of Lord\'s Day Worship fit with the (shepherding) purpose of L2L groups? Among other things, here are some types of questions that are always appropriate: * How were we changed? Or, what did we learn about God's heart, His loves, His working in the world that shapes our hearts, our loves, our workings in the world? * How are we closer together now? What about our fellowship made petty squabbles and self-protection less appealing? * What direction are we supposed to go? As Christians? As His church? * What made the world nervous? If unbelievers knew what we did on Sunday, would they want it? Would they want to write laws to prohibit us from getting together? Did we worship in a way that wooed some and worried others? Our Lord's day assembling, if acknowledging our big God and the potent gospel, creates a gravitational pull around which our lives orbit. It is a group privilege, a group effort, and a group joy. We want every eye on Him, every ear eager for His word, every hand on the battering ram, and every shoelace tied as we run toward the enemy. Let's make it loud. Boom!
Or, The Purposes of Worship
January 8, 2012 • Sean Higgins
9: The End in Sight
Selected Scripture Series: Boom! #9 # Introduction Or, Where the Assembly's Worship Is Going As we finish our series on worship this morning, the end is in sight. But we really need to understand what the "end of worship" is, specifically, what God aims for in the assembly's corporate service. We will struggle to see the proper end of worship if we do not remember its beginning. The beginning of worship goes back before the creation of the world in the eternal, triune life of God. The love shared between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the intimate fellowship they enjoyed spilled over as a gushing fountain into the life of men. The world revolves around and by the power of Triune love. The nature of man is defined by Triune relationship. God created men to bear His image and share His life. God created men to enjoy His own love and joy, to know Him and fellowship with Him. It wasn't long until Adam sinned and the fellowship was broken. Even this, however, works for our ultimate good in God's revelation. The story of redemption shows that God's love is of such a kind that it overcomes our weakness and enmity. All three Persons serve to reconcile us. This is the gospel. Sinners may receive forgiveness, the separated may be restored to fellowship. The dead can be made alive, the mortal can share eternal life. In Christ, we can worship and our worship is even deeper because we know more about His righteousness, His patience, His grace, His sacrifice, and His love. In Christ, God is for us. In Christ, we are brought to the Father. God's eternal end is to share His life of loving, joyful fellowship with His people. Each Lord's day, He gives us a taste as He meets with us. This gets back to some of the questions we asked at the beginning of the series. Why come to church? Why all this stuff/liturgy? Why all this work? We come as an assembly to meet with God, our service should reflect and enable that meeting, and relationship always takes effort. Little wonder that so many Christians leave Sunday services hungry, discouraged, and doubtful. Too many services are God-less. Meeting Him isn't the expectation at all. Christians take a smorgasbord approach, filling their plates with spoonfuls of religious behavior: sing a song here, get some theological knowledge nuggets here, give an offering check there, and yet they are not satisfied. That's because the end of worship is supposed to be the blessing of being in God's presence. We all need to personalize (not individualize) worship, to grab the handle with our name on it. That requires everyone in the assembly knowing the purpose of assembling as well as then knowing and doing their part. God draws His people near in worship. He does not isolate Himself or keep His benefits for a selected few. He calls, cleanses, consecrates, and communes with us before sending us out as image-bearing ambassadors. The Old Testament sacrifices set the pattern that Christ established in the gospel. Our liturgy is ordered to reflect the end, to recognize God's desire to share Himself and His life with us. The final two liturgical divisions of our Lord\'s Day Worship are aimed in a different direction than most church services. The end of our series and of our service shows where the assembly is going. # Communion Meditation The peace offering in the Old Testament was regularly the final sacrifice. After the sacrifices for sin and the sanctification of the worshipper, another animal, and often grain and wine, was put on the altar. Unlike the other sacrifices, though, this sacrifice was not consumed. It was cooked and then taken off and passed around and eaten. It was a meal of peace, a shared meal between God and men, a meal of blessing and fellowship. Our meal at the Lord's Table similarly shares this communion of peace. Jesus established the communion meal with His disciples on the night He was betrayed. His sacrifice fulfilled the imagery of all the OT sacrifices, including the meal of peace. Earlier in His ministry, He taught that eating and drinking meant full identification with Him. Those who ate flesh and drank blood had *life*, they shared His life. > I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. ... Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. (John 6:51, 53–58) The communion meal directs the service. This is the aim of God for our worship: table fellowship enabled through the sacrifice of His Son. Though every preceding element doesn't need to have direct connection with the Supper, neither should the preceding elements lead away from the Supper. We are identifying and abiding by faith in Christ. When Jesus instituted the Supper He clarified the new covenant significance. > Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28) The key to note is that this is *not* a meal of condemnation, it is a meal that reminds us that Jesus bore our condemnation. We don't eat here because we're afraid for our lives, but because Jesus died and rose so that we could share His life! A couple practical things about our observance of this ordinance. It seems as if the early church celebrated (and it was celebration, not commiseration) the supper regularly. > On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread,... (Acts 20:7) The connection is obvious. The day is the *Lord's* day, it is the weekly anniversary of the *Lord's* resurrection, so commemorating His death and resurrection in the *Lord's* supper makes sense. Of course, while some churches may not do it weekly for practical reasons, more avoid it on principle. Who wants to go through *commiseration* every week? One argument against doing it every week is that it may become commonplace. Our hearts are easily dulled. But we can become dull in our inactivity. Neglect breeds contempt, too. If we feed on the true food and drink true drink (John 6:55), I don't think it will become stale. Do we really not need His confirmation of grace to us? We don't need the fellowship with Him? Our faith doing just fine, needs no strengthening? To help ourselves, though, we have a brief meditation each week. We remember what is set before us and we stir up thanks. Thanks is a powerful weapon against contempt, the two can't co-exist. # Communion Meal Because we always say something by what we do, there are a few things we're trying to "say" by how we practice this ordinance. Because we eat one loaf, because we are united in one body in Christ, because Jesus and His disciples sat at one table, we endeavor to have one table. The unity of the assembly should be reflected in our partaking. > The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16–17) We could pass it out from one table rather than invite people to the table, but we like that it brings us all together. While there are other hindrances to doing it "buffet" style, so to speak, we are in it together. We also wait for each other and partake together. It is a shared meal. It has more solemnity than Tuesday dinner, but it also shouldn't be untouchable. Our heads are up and our eyes are open because we are a communion-ity. The meal represents our being fed by the bread of Christ's body. So we slice our bread at least a little bigger than tiny crackers. You have to chew it; it's more substantial which should remind us that Christ is substantial. We have also bought cups that are a little bigger. We've considered even larger cups, but haven't been able to do it yet. Perhaps most importantly is our attitude at the meal. We have been conditioned to take the Lord's table in a joyless way, as if we were thinking, "If I can just get through this without God killing me, I'll be fine." We can be happy later (when He isn't looking). But God is not testing us at the Table. He's already tested His Son. He's not looking for a way to condemn us, He already has poured out condemnation on Christ. He's not inviting us near so that He can kill us, with guilt or with a permanent sleeping disease (though He will judge those who come without trusting Christ and confessing their sin, see 1 Corinthians 11:29-30). We don't clean ourselves up to eat, we eat because we believe that in Christ we're clean. The wrath was taken by Jesus so that we could have peace. *That* is something to *celebrate*! It may be the first time you've heard the history, but grape juice was created by Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch, Methodist minister who feared the abuse of communion by believers. In 1869, Dr. Welch used the pasteurization techniques developed by Louis Pasteur just four years earlier. He soon perfected a process for preserving grape juice and began marketing it with the label "Dr. Welch's Unfermented Wine." He produced it with the thought of providing churches with an alternative to alcoholic wine. His son Charles said that the company was born," out of a passion to serve God by helping His church to give communion [as] 'the fruit of the vine' instead of 'the cup of devils'." Without going into all the OT background, when Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11) it was a significant gift because wine was a celebratory beverage. I understand issues of fermentation, refrigeration, sanitation, and developing technology. But God isn't afraid of giving His people dangerous things for them to enjoy. [See here for more thoughts on wine from John 2][wine] [wine]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/celebrating-glory/ We don't know how to party/celebrate very well because we don't know how to worship. We don't know how to worship because we're not as mature as we need to be, or because we're afraid it's going to get out of control. We learned to fear from liturgy. We learned to fear and nibble on tasteless crumbs in life because we think that's what God wants. We learned to think that the Christian life is about thinking, not *eating* and *drinking* and glorifying God in whatever we *do* (see 1 Corinthians 10:31), not just glorifying God in Bible studies. Wine is a mature weapon, but a powerful one because it is given by God as a blessing and makes our hearts *glad*. > You cause the grass to grow for the livestock > and plants for man to cultivate, > that he may bring forth food from the earth > and wine to gladden the heart of man, > oil to make his face shine > and bread to strengthen man's heart. > (Psalm 104:14-15) I grew up being told, in words and in not so many words, that we get to be glad in heaven and probably not much until then. I was told, by catechesis and narrative and lifestyle, that alcohol was the devil's juice. Our enemy has certainly abused it, as he has sex and many other good things. But he himself will be drunk with the wine of God's wrath someday. Because of its history, grape juice misses the point of the Table; grape juice represents fear. Because of its blessing, wine better fits with the Table. At the same time, because of our long-informed consciences and cultural baggage, most of us are probably not comfortable with wine, and certainly not at church. Because of our rental agreement, we may not be permitted to use wine, even if we wanted. I bring it up as a practical issue, one that the assembly needs to consider. We are making a point no matter what. One of the points we're *not* going to make is to break Table fellowship over the way we fellowship at the Table. We're not wanting to crush tender consciences with the way we celebrate a conscience cleansing ordinance. We also don't want to miss the point while we consider the particulars. So we will continue to think, study, pray, and work to grow up. And for what it's worth, in heaven at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, He's probably going to serve something stronger than grape juice. The last part of our communion liturgy includes inviting the young men clean up the cups. We're enculturating them as part of the assembly. While there are ways to include the ladies, the young guys need to be given extra responsibilities to serve. They seem to love it. # Charge The final liturgical division is the Commissioning and it has two elements. First is the charge. The charge is a brief summary, encouragement, and/or exhortation from the assembly's worship. It often emphasizes a key point from throughout the whole service though many times it applies something specific from the sermon. Of course, the sermon should be tied to the rest of the service. Most of the charge focuses on the responsibility of God's people to go and live as worshippers in dispersion-mode. We assemble as disciples to meet with God together and then we go to make disciples (per Matthew 28:19-20). We've drawn near to God, now we disperse, having been changed in His presence. Note that the end of the service is not a call for people to believe as much as it is a call to go and live by faith. There may be unbelievers who visit or regular attenders who are hypocrites. In other words, there will be those without faith, whether that's confessed or concealed, who are present. But worship of the assembly is God's people. He dwells among believers. So many services aim to get Christians reconfirmed in salvation rather than encouraged for sanctification. We have a charge, not an invitation. The invitation comes in God's call to worship. One of the objections to liturgy, and to some extent focusing on believers, is that visitors (especially unbelievers) may not feel comfortable. Perhaps the most often quoted passage that proves that unbelievers should be considered is 1 Corinthians 14. But note how Paul expected them to respond: > if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:24–25 ESV) We want unbelievers to see the God who comforts Christians, not Christians who are comfortable. It should happen that God draws non-Christians to Christ as they watch us worship. The gospel is not only spoken, it is represented through all five Cs. God demands our worship. We can't because of sin, but He makes forgiveness and cleansing possible if we confess our sin and confess Christ as Lord. God changes us and shares fellowship with us. Then God sends us out to live out. But unbelievers won't have worship to watch if the aim is getting everyone converted, or through a guilt-gauntlet that affirms their conversion. # Benediction The final part is God's blessing (from the Latin *benedictio*, "to well-say") on His people. He loves to commission and then strengthen His people for success, even if the "success" isn't how we might have defined it. We go out with a reminder that God is for us, He has a plan to finish what He started. He is committed to us, and goes with us into our work week. After Jesus commissioned His disciples as witnesses to all nations (Luke 24:44-48), He blessed them. > Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. (Luke 24:50 ESV) The benediction isn't a prayer per se but rather a proclamation of His purposes for His people. # Conclusion What would happen if, week by week, we emphasized faith and sought to strengthen faith rather than ? Abuses, yes (Romans 6) *and* transformation! With the end of this series in sight, we must always see that the goal of worship in God's sight is meeting with the assembly. Once He enjoys fellowship with us, He gets us going to serve Him when we depart. Our worship, in practice and purpose, is the ultimate anti idolatry campaign. Boom!
8: Words Make a Difference
March 4, 2012 • Sean Higgins
Selected Scriptures Series: Boom #8 # Introduction Or, Effects on the Assembly in Worship Seventeen years ago I had a medical procedure called a myelogram CT scan. My back was hurting and, since I had previously had back surgery that included the insertion of metal screws and metal bars, I was unable to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imagery). A myelogram uses x-ray technology along with a special dye called contrast material which is inserted into the spinal canal so that the space between the bones that contains the nerve roots and spinal cord can be seen more clearly. The insertion of the dye requires the use of a needle. Shortly after the procedure began I felt a shock to what seemed like every nerve ending in my body. Every part of me jolted on the table. The needle had accidentally touched a nerve in my spinal cord. I cannot remember a more intense or consuming pain than that in my life. You can imagine how it rubbed me the wrong way when one of the assisting nurses said at that point, "Well, at least now we know we're in." I'm sure the procedure has matured by now and yet I cannot imagine putting myself in that position again, no matter how convincing a doctor might be. To some degree, when God's Word goes to work on us, every nerve ending in our body reacts. His Word isn't a needle, but it is a knife. > For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12–13, ESV) His knife gets into places no needles could. His knife cuts into our hearts and makes our body jolt. His Word exposes us, it reveals us before God better than any MRI, x-ray, or myelogram. We are on the operating table, or better, the offering table every Lord's day. You may remember a few weeks back when we considered the [progression of sacrifices in the Old Testament][progression]. After the sin/guilt offering, the ascension or consecration offering involved killing another sacrifice, casting the animal's blood on the altar sides, and then cutting the animal into pieces so that it could be arranged on the altar top and burned in its entirety. This cutting and consuming symbolized the complete dedication of the worshipper in service to God. [progression]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/let-us-draw-near/ In our Sunday morning service, we also have a time of consecration. We also offer sacrifices in complete surrender to the Lord. But we offer no animals. We offer ourselves. His Word, His knife cuts us. So in Hebrews 4:13, the word "exposed" (ESV) or "laid bare" (NAS) is a form of the word, τραχηλίζω: "to lay bare *the neck*," as in, to pull back the head and slit the throat as the sacrifice is prepared. His Word cuts and His Word consumes: "'Is not my word like fire,' declares the Lord?" (Jeremiah 23:29). I've introduced this message this way for two reasons. First, it is time for us to consider the consecration part of our liturgy and God's Word takes a central role in preparing and setting apart the assembly. Second, based on various conversations over the last few weeks, I'd say, "At least now we know we're in." Some nerves are being touched, some hearts exposed, some pain in the offering. A lot of that is good for the assembly. That mean's He's consecrating us for His service. Previously we've considered the particulars in and around the [call to worship][call]. Last week we considered our [corporate confession of sin][confession] along with God's declaration of forgiveness and cleansing for those believers who confess. As with the OT pattern, once the worshipper's sin has been dealt with, he is dedicated to God. [call]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/on-our-side/ [confession]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/getting-it-right/ It should be obvious how singing fits with this division. We offer musical praises three times, but I've already preached a message about our work in [musical worship][singing], so let's work through the remaining particulars. [singing]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/sing-and-shout/ # Reading the Word The reading of God's Word does not occupy any liturgical place in many corporate services even though Paul gave Timothy explicit instructions about it's public priority. > Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13, ESV) Undoubtedly *one* reason why the public reading was so important is that most of the church members wouldn't have had their own copy. Unless they had access to read a copy for themselves, hearing it read was crucial. (For some examples, see Exodus 24:7; Nehemiah 8:3, 8, 18; 9:3; 13:1; Acts 13:27, 15:21; Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27) But *hearing* God's Word read has it's own benefit. We honor God by giving attention to Him as we listen. As if a father who was on an extended trip sent a letter home to his family and they gathered around the table to hear it read. The children honor their father by listening, to hear his heart and to hear any instructions he may give to them. In the case of corporate worship, we hear our Father's heart, we hear His instructions, and we are drawn near to Him. We Bible-toters have no doubt heard some Bible-teacher say, the reading of God's Word is the only time in the service guaranteed to be without error. While that doesn't give us permission to be sloppy in our songs, prayers, or sermons, we cannot claim our words to be God-breathed. Paul provides no instructions on *what* to read, what plan, if any, to follow. With that freedom there are at least a few reasonable possibilities: reading through the OT or NT or both, reading key passages on a rotation, reading the passage to be studied later in the sermon, or perhaps a passage connected or complementary to the sermon. We believe that some combination of this latter approach best suits our body's worship. We also, though, want to demonstrate our dependence on His Word throughout the service, even printing key passages in the bulletin that often weave together with a thought or two for the morning. Reading and hearing His Word honors Him as we purposefully let Him speak. # Prayer of Supplication We also honor Him by purposefully expressing our dependence on Him, casting our cares at His throne, seeking His help. Paul wrote to Timothy in chapter 2: > First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1–4, ESV) For what it's worth, note verse 8: > I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; (1 Timothy 2:8, ESV) Based on the last part of the chapter where women are told not to teach or to exercise authority over a man (verse 12), Paul's instructions appear to be for corporate gatherings. [And does "lifting holy hands" mean lifting literal hands from a holy heart or does it mean offer prayers upwards with holy thoughts?] While this isn't the only passage that commends supplication and, while there are elements of supplication in other prayers throughout the service, this prayer teaches (by liturgy) that we cannot do it on our own. Not only do we recognize He is worthy to be praised, not only do we recognize that He is holy and righteous, we also recognize that He is our good and providing Father. He bids us to ask, and to ask for our needs and the needs of His people in the flock and in the church around the world. Our praying in dependence is part of consecration as we are fully given over to Him. We do not have the resources to serve Him without Him. He is drawing us to Himself in fellowship and this is our communication of happy reliance on Him. # Preaching the Word The sermon. Many sermons have been preached on preaching the Word. I have heard many sermons, paid money to multiple schools so that I could learn to dissect and assemble sermons, and I've preached many train-wreck sermons. I hope, by grace, to stay qualified, get better and preach a bunch more sermons. A good portion of my dualistic life was spent thinking about the importance of preparing and proclaiming sermons, viewing almost every temporal responsibility as an enemy of the *really* important work. I still fight the tractor beam from that ditch, though I'm also not running toward the ditch of holding conversations on couches with strategically placed ferns around a candle lit room. I've tried to limit myself to a few thoughts directly connected to sermons and liturgy. ## The liturgy *IS* a sort of sermon and a sermon by itself is insufficient liturgy. We say something by what we do and how we do it, not only by the sentences we say (during a sermon). While the preaching of God's Word is crucial for good worship, the sermon as liturgy has effectively taught us that good Christians worship by 1) showing up to hear the sermon, and 2) listening closely to the sermon. A Christian is more "godly" to the extent that he listens better and that he listens to better sermons. As I've argued throughout this series (of sermons), though, the worship of the *assembly* is not the same as gathering an audience for a lecture. Stated differently, Paul's exhortation to "preach the Word" does not mean preach the Word and that's *all*. ## Sequential exposition is *NOT* the only type of God-pleasing sermon. I love studying and teaching through books of the Bible. I'll give a few reasons why I think it is the wise choice for most messages after this short rant. However, the irony is thick, that we Bible-teaching lovers have no verse that requires verse-by-verse sermons. We want verse-by-verse but have no verse. We have no verse that commands it, no verse that demonstrates it. That said, verse-by-verse is good. It makes it easier to stay in context. It wrestles with the flow and argument of the author. Selecting a passage for the following week doesn't become such a panic. Building a commentary library is more feasible. Modeling how to study a paragraph from context rather than modeling how to read a concordance (or the *Treasure of Scripture Knowledge*) can help the people "rightly divide" their own copies at home. It requires an honest preacher to deal with subjects he might otherwise avoid, for preference reasons or cowardice. It respects the way God revealed His Word. There are inescapable and profitable benefits. But again, there is no mandate to or model of verse-by-verse preaching in the Bible. Nor are we limited from making canonical (whole Bible) conclusions about a doctrine, say, like worship. The "Prince of Preachers," Charles Spurgeon, who himself was a poor practitioner of sequential exposition, said: > To affirm of any human production that it contained many great and instructive truths which it would be impossible to systematize without weakening each separate truth, and frustrating the design of the whole, would be a serious reflection upon the author's wisdom and skill! How much more to affirm this of the Word of God! ... No one can say that the Bible is his creed, unless he can express it in his own words. (*The Forgotten Spurgeon*, 9) I'll say one more time: I *prefer* teaching through a book of the Bible. I'm passionated about providing a steady diet of line upon line, precept upon precept, paragraph by paragraph sermons. But there are times when we do well to address God's Word on certain subjects. ## Word-driven sermons affect the assembly. Sermons assume that the flock are at various levels of immaturity, hunger, uncleanness, and dislocation. Consider some of the things that the Word effects. ### The Word grows believers and the body. > For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, > making it bring forth and sprout, > giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, > so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; > it shall not return to me empty, > but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, > and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. > (Isaiah 55:10–11, ESV) > Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— (1 Peter 2:2, ESV) That means we *need* to grow. ### The Word corrects and equips the assembly. > All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV) That means we aren't always headed in the right direction or fully prepared. ### The Word washes the Bride. > Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27, ESV) That means that we aren't clean enough already. So, Paul told Timothy to devote himself: > Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13, ESV) Why "*exhortation*"? Because God is changing us and charging us. This work of exhorting the body toward maturity is to be done with authority and patience. > Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:15, ESV) > preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV) We don't need to freak out. We need to take God seriously and not ourselves. We need to trust Him and hear Him and do what He says. One of the things that makes it less grating is that the preacher is supposed to be growing obviously (1 Timothy 4:15). Don't think that you can enjoy watching a preacher grow from your spot on the couch. C.S. Lewis said somewhere that God is easily pleased but not easily satisfied. Just because we *need* to grow in a particular area doesn't mean everything we did previously was unacceptable to Him. ## Not everything can be said in one sermon. # Presenting Our Offerings The last particular of our consecration is the corporate offering which recognizes the pattern of the tribute offering or grain offering in the OT. It was an offering that represented the grateful receiving of God's provision. Giving money is a token of giving ourselves. > On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper,... (1 Corinthians 16:2, ESV) > The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6–8, ESV) I haven't said it in a while, but we love the opportunity to present *one* offering, an assembled offering to the Lord. That's why we bring one bucket forward. Another point we're glad to make is that we have no interest in sending out collectors to pass plates up and down the pews. We don't think that's unrighteous, but we love the statement it makes that the church isn't grabby. An assembly, our people are totally devoted to the Lord as are all our goods. That's the consecration of the body. # Conclusion If we can't or don't get our worship mature, then we have little to offer others. God does not call us to make converts, but to make disciples, to make worshippers. If we have a weak view of worship, a listening definition of discipleship, that's what we'll make. That's part of the reason we need worship, to be grown and washed and made more mature as individuals in Christlikness and as a body until we "grow up every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15, ESV). Some of this may hit a nerve. If it's the right nerve, that's good. I'm picking on *us*, poking at our sore spots, because we can't push our worship off onto anyone else. Why would we want to?
7: Getting It Right
February 26, 2012 • Sean Higgins
Selected Scriptures Series: Boom! #7 # Introduction Or, Presenting the Body as a Living Sacrifice We're a people who want to get it right, and that's good, and right. Especially as Christians, we know that God is Lord, that the Lord has standards, and that we, His servants, are happily obligated to serve Him how He says. We want to get it right. To say that worship is something He cares about is to say that the ground is down; it's true and there's more to it. If we don't know what direction the ground is, or if we claim it's in a different direction, the problem is ours and we have work to do. When it comes to worship, most of us aren't saying it should go in a different direction, but sometimes we take for granted that we know enough (or everything) about it simply because we know God's wants it. So, in defense of this ongoing series, we're trying to get it right. Stated differently, worship should be tasty; in it, we should taste that the Lord is good. If it's *not* tasty, we messed something up in the recipe. While recipe study isn't the end, it is necessary in order to prepare the meal properly. I'm eager to jump back into John's Gospel but this series needs a little more time to bake before we take it out of the oven. As I continue to work through the doctrine of worship and discuss it with the flock, more and more I'm convinced that one of the greatest obstacles to us getting it right is a covert but powerful *dualism* that shapes our thinking. Dualism is a confusing and fear creating master and we must not serve him. What is dualism? Generally, dualism refers to the division of concepts into two opposed or contrasted sides. More specifically, in philosophical and religious discussions, dualism refers to the division between mind and matter, between the touchable and the invisible. Extreme expressions of dualism include those who believe that spirit and stuff have been in an eternal battle, with Spirit in one corner wearing the white hat (an *imaginary* hat, of course) and Stuff in the other corner covered head to toe in a suit of black. It was dualistic thinking that caused certain men to deny the Incarnation. If Jesus were truly God, they argued, no way would He take on flesh and soil Himself. If Jesus were truly man, they argued, no way could He be perfectly divine. Our brand of dualism is not expressed like that, primarily because it is not so clear. Our dualism thrives in its subtlety; it thrives in the fog. Our version says, there are works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit, so what we do with our hands doesn't matter or is suspicious at best. However, the fruit of the Spirit doesn't cut off our hands, the Spirit enables the work of our hands not to be fleshy. By the Spirit, we use our hands for worshipping the true God, not a false one. Our brand of dualism insinuates that truly spiritual people sit on their hands, or lawfully use their hands to carry their Bibles, but the hands will never be as godly as our brains. Dualism reluctantly lets us out of quiet times in order to earn a pay check so that we can pay the mortgage and electric bills so that we have a place and light to read the Bible. But the rest of the day, dualism sits on our shoulder and whispers to us about how guilty we should feel for not doing the important, spiritual things. That's similar to saying that meaningful diaper changing happens in one's mind, actually dealing with the mess is a necessary evil. Someone might object, "But serving my kid is different than serving God." Sure, in ways, but isn't it God who says to serve our kids? If God didn't want to be served with our bodies, why did He make us with them? Are bodies just a necessary evil? Did the Trinity intend for our days to be filled with meaningless busy work? It's His planet and He can make us with eyes that cry if He wants to. And why did the Second Person take on flesh, die in flesh, and be resurrected bodily? Perhaps some of us grasp that God wants us to use our bodies Monday through Saturday while we work but have fallen into belief that our bodies don't have anything to do on Sunday in worship. That's dualism again, just riding a different horse. We struggle with some of this because dualism is such an effective story teller. Dualism loves to tell tales of highly external religious hypocrites, clean on the outside but full of dead men's bones inside: phylacterized Pharisees and pompous popes and your uncle that cleaned up nice for church and beat his wife as soon as they got home. Dualism parades pretender after faker before us. But why? Is it not because Christians who serve God in their head alone are much less of a threat? If dualism can convince us that we are more godly the more time we spend meditating on a Bible verse in the corner, he can win a lot of ground while our eyes are closed. He also paralyzes us with guilt at how much time we spend doing "things." "Shouldn't you be back in the corner?" He paralyzes us with despair that all the "things" we do will just burn anyway. So good Christians sit around playing conscience tennis, beating themselves back and forth between feeling bad that they're never doing the right thing. Dualism presents a false dichotomy, it divides wrongly. Dualism says, "Pharisees were clean on the outside, dirty on the inside, therefore, a clean outside doesn't matter." Dualism says, "If your doctrine isn't right then you can't please God, so the only way to please God is with correct doctrine." Applying Jesus' words, these you ought to have done and not neglected the others (see Matthew 23:23). Or, what God has joined together, let no man tear asunder (see Matthew 19:6). This is why the [worldview wheel][wheel] that Dave spoke about is so crucial. Our thinking, our Bible answers, our *catechesis* spoke matters. So does our *lifestyle*, what we do with our hands and with dirty diapers and stuff. So do our *narratives*, the sorts of stories and heroes we present. And so does our *liturgy*. [wheel]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/propositional-hypocrisy/ Dualism has infiltrated our worship so that, on one hand, we think that worship is mainly about our minds and, on the other hand, we think worship that can be seen or tasted or enacted is probably hypocritical. We've all seen hypocrites. It is easy to act righteous without be righteous all the way down. But, isn't it even easier not to act righteous and not be righteous and protest, "You don't know what's in my heart." In other words, hypocrisy has gotten smarter over the years, adapted her approach. She used to get herself in trouble with grand displays. Now she saves herself the hassle and weaves her clothes of inaction and indignation. Brilliant, really. So how do we fix our problems? How do we fight dualism? How do we avoid hypocrisy? How do we get it right? We worship. We meet with God. We *hear* His Word and *taste* His goodness and *bow* before Him and *stand and lift up our hands* to Him. As Paul urged the Romans, we present our *bodies* as living sacrifices which is our *spiritual* worship. That's all of life and that includes liturgy. As we're moving through the particulars of our liturgy, we've talked about how happy handshakes and hugs are part of the assembly gathering. With the *votum*, the assembly stands together and verbally acknowledges the beginning of our corporate privilege. We hear God call us into His presence, we cry out for His help, and then we sing and shout our praise. That call to consider God's glory, to give thanks to His *holy* name (cf. Psalm 30:4), to come into His fellowship in light (cf. 1 John 1:5-7) will have the effect of humbling us and causing us to want to get it right, to be right before Him so that we're not consumed (cf. Hebrews 12:28-29). That's why confession is next in our liturgy. # Exhortation to Confession Following the same pattern can be done helpfully or hypocritically. Because we recognize that confession is a crucial step as we draw near to God, we want to do it regularly without it becoming rote. To keep ourselves from mouthing confession mechanically, we include a freshly prepared exhortation every week rather than use a historical holdover from previous centuries. If you prefer a different illustration, there are a variety of spoons that can scrape the burnt parts off the bottom of the pot. Until our glorification, we are in a fight to mortify our sin. God calls us to this battle for our good, otherwise He could transport us to heaven immediately after we "pray the prayer" (which, if it worked like that, would make it easy to tell whether not you really *meant* it). Or, He could sanctify us completely and leave us here as perfect witnesses. But He doesn't, so somehow the process of confession and repentance followed by forgiveness and reconciliation makes the fellowship sweeter. When we love our sin we do not have a hearing with the Lord. > If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, > the Lord would not have listened. > (Psalm 66:18, ESV) Yet we don't confess each week because we are uncertain about His willingness or gladness to forgive us and receive us into fellowship. Just the opposite. We confess *because* we believe. > If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8–10 ESV) We believe Him for two things. First, we believe Him when He says we have sin. Verses 8 and 10 say that *Christians* have sin and have sinned. If we don't believe that, we're deceived and we're blaspheming, calling the true God untruthful. We confess our sin because we believe He's truthful about what's wrong with us, about what keeps us from fellowship. We also confess because we believe He is faithful to *forgive* our unrighteousness and to *cleanse* us. He loves to do it. The exhortation to confession addresses a variety of ways Christians get dirty, and doing it corporately reminds us that Christ loved the *church*. His Bride is corporate, and "he gave Himself up for her that he might sanctify her...that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27). The church has some trouble spots, some blemishes that He's restoring. There's plenty for Him to work on. At the same time, we don't spend the majority of our liturgy here because Christ is risen and forgiveness is secure. Our feet need cleansing (cf. John 13:10), but we don't require a full body bath every time. # Prayer of Confession After the exhortation to confess, we confess. We confess sin both as individuals and as an assembly because we are many and one. I have my blemishes and we have ours. Many prayers in the Bible are for the sin of the people (Daniel 9 is a great example). It's good to consider our connectedness and how our corporate witness to the world falls short. One biblical and beneficial part of our prayer is still missing. I've become increasingly convicted about it over the last 14 months and believe we would do well to consider it. Namely, we ought to consider *kneeling* before the Lord when we pray. Our bodily position matters, not exclusively, but neither is it excluded. We necessarily embody what we believe, one way or another. We stand out of respect when God's holy Word is read, probably because we don't know of a theological tradition that has abused that practice. Perhaps some day, Christians will refuse to stand when Scripture is read because they saw so many "truth-tubers" play at honoring it. "They must not really respect God's Word. If they really did, they'd *obey* it." In the Russian churches I've worshipped with, they won't pray without standing. The point is, we embody our respect in various ways, why not take the opportunity to embody our submission by kneeling before His holy majesty? Though not limited to confession, when we come into the presence of our great God, the "great King above all gods," we are appropriately called: > Oh come, let us worship and bow down; > let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! > (Psalm 95:6) Interestingly, one of the common words in the NT translated "worship" is προσκυνέω which means "to gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure, to fall down, to prostrate oneself before" (BAGD). In Scripture, when men realized that they were in God's presence, they usually fell down or bowed before Him. Especially when we get a sense of our sin, our body responds. > My wounds stink and fester > because of my foolishness, > I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; > all the day I go about mourning. > For my sides are filled with burning, > and there is no soundness in my flesh. > I am feeble and crushed; > I groan because of the tumult of my heart. > (Psalm 38:5–8 ESV) Historically, the Reformers knelt in their worship at a time when their battle with Rome's ritualism was the fiercest. It appears that kneeling fell out of practice as some of the Puritans objected to ongoing abuses and feared the power of ritualism. But this is a sad example of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Can a person kneel on the outside and yet stand with their fist raised toward God on the inside? Of course! It happens all the time. But in response to that, we've basically taken the approach that God doesn't care how we show respect as long as we're thinking respectful thoughts. "God, we think so highly of You that we will think highly of You." We don't try that with our employer. "I know it *looks* like I was sleeping, but I was working really hard in my head." Or with our spouses, "I know it seems like I was looking around at other ladies, but the whole time I was thinking about you." We don't let our kids slouch or sleep at the dinner table. Our posture, our eyes are part of us. So are our knees. When every tongue confesses and every knee bows (cf. Philippians 2:10), those tongues and knees aren't virtual or figurative or mental. His throne, His rule, and our submission to Him are as real as our knees. Maybe we should use them. A few more things, because liturgical baby steps can be wobbly and the coffee table corners hurt. First, the fact that people *can* fake and *do* fake does not mean that they *should* fake or that they *are* faking. Second, if a person doesn't *feel* like doing something, we don't want them to violate their consciences. We do want to give them opportunity to have their consciences changed by the gospel. Similarly, if someone doesn't *feel* like standing to hear God's Word, if someone doesn't feel like responding in the *votum*, if someone doesn't feel like walking forward for communion or eating and drinking the Lord's supper, if someone doesn't feel like showing up for a 10:00 start, that person shouldn't. But these are all opportunities we have to meet with God and participate in worship as a corporate Body. These are opportunities to present the bodies God gave us as living sacrifices. Whether we kneel or not, sing loudly or not, stand when Scripture is read or not, we must worship in body *somehow*. I'm arguing that the body has more to do than transporting the brain. Third, some won't be *able* to kneel for physical reasons and those persons shouldn't kneel and they shouldn't feel bad about it. Some can't assemble for physical reasons and there is no judgment. It isn't a rule, it is a way to express our hearts. It's not a *have to* as much as a *get to* because we are persons, not minds. But again, if you *can't*, that's different than saying you *won't*. Related to personal ability, not all church buildings allow for it. For example, if the pews are too close together or if a congregation uses bleachers, these make it more difficult or even prohibitive. Fourth, the elders believe that this is an appropriate liturgical opportunity AND we plan to *discuss* it at Men to Men tomorrow night, to encourage the Life to Life groups to discuss it this week, and we'll talk with the Life to Life leaders at our our meeting next Saturday. We're interested in developing the desire to do it, not to develop a ritual for external sake. For some the idea may already resonate because you've read all the verses about kneeling and they body's positions before the Lord. For others, the bitter taste of their background brings up serious concerns. We don't have a tradition in mind. We're ritualistic in our hatred of ritual for ritual sake. But we want to get it right. We also want to avoid exegetical gymnastics that turn the literal meaning of certain verses into spiritualized imagery. # Declaration of Forgiveness and Cleansing Without this part, the worship service cannot go on in gladness. Without the proclamation of the gospel, we have no relief, no confidence to draw near to Him. So we need to hear Him say that He forgives sinners through His Son by His grace. The first few weeks of our corporate worship (a year ago) I wrongly failed to include this crucial part. Not only that but, after more thought, I've decided to put the Scripture promises in the bulletin as another way to emphasize it. Printing the passages demonstrates the importance of God's Word throughout the service, not merely in the sermon. Even more, it emphasizes that *God* declares His forgiveness. We stand to be received by Him into fellowship and reconciliation. It isn't that the minister forgives. However, the minister declares God's part, His certain forgiveness for the assembly. # Conclusion We tend to confess the bodily manifestations of our sin more, the sins others might see, and less the mental motivations for sin. Yet we tend to measure our worship more by mental motivations and less by bodily manifestations. Why? Because sin divides and hides. Sin separates what should be together and makes excuses for it, even with Bible verses if it can. When this series is over, and it's 20 years from now, what will our kids remember if we start kneeling or lifting our hands or responding in reading? The thing is, they're going to remember something, they will have a taste of something no matter what we do or don't do. They will learn what's important by watching us. "My dad was a really good sitter when he listened to sermons." They will also know if we're just fakers, and there is more than one way to feign. I realize that we have hardly any good examples to imitate which, incidentally, shows the limits of sentences. Let's give our kids, and the unbelieving world, an example of no spin confession and full-bodied worship. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds, especially by the word, *and* our bodies, our lives, are presented in worship. One day we will fellowship with Him, not mind before Maker, but rather face to face.