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7: Getting It Right

The Particulars of Worship (Pt 3)

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.

More from Boom!

9: The End in Sight

Sean Higgins

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?

6: Sing and Shout

February 19, 2012 • Sean Higgins

Selected Scriptures Series: Boom! #6 # Introduction Or, The Joyful Noise of a Worshipping Assembly I didn't want to do it, but I changed my mind and am going to take an entire message to address our corporate worship in song. We started moving through the particulars of our Sunday morning liturgy last week, covering some of the details in and around the five C pillars: Call to worship, Confession/Cleansing, Consecration, Communion, and Commissioning. We began by considering our approach to the gathering time. We're in this together. It's right for us to gladly greet one another because we're an assembly about to meet with our gracious God. We include some announcements about the body's upcoming calendar as we wind up to receive God's call to worship. Then the gavel bangs, so to speak, and God invites His people to begin drawing near in His presence. In our liturgy thus far, we hear His call from various Scripture passages, often Psalms that urge the recognition and declaration of His greatness, like today: > Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; > let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! > Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; > let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! > For the LORD is a great God, > and a great King above all gods. > (Psalm 95:1-3) Then we respond in a corporate prayer of praise. In this prayer we acknowledge His prominence, we commit our service to the thankful worship of Him, and we ask for His help as we approach the Father through the Son by the power of the Spirit. Then we sing. We sing during three of the five liturgical sections. I thought I'd deal with the subject now, early on, for a couple reasons. I understand that the musical parts of worship could take up multiple sermons, but we'll aim for just this one. Some Christians, some churches, in some traditions, define worship as the singing or musical parts of a service *alone*. Most of us don't limit it, I believe, and rightly so, since we understand that God is worshipped as we pray, read and hear His Word, are transformed by the preaching of His Word, as we give offering, and as we follow His ordinances, especially the regular eating at the Lord's table. In fact, perhaps from the opposite perspective, we ought to notice that the church in the New Testament is *never commanded to sing corporately*. There is one command to sing. > Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (James 5:13) That command isn't to the church, it's to "anyone cheerful." Otherwise, "sing," "singing," "sung," or "song" are found only 18 additional times (in the ESV) from Matthew through Revelation, with seven of the 19 total occurring during heavenly worship described in Revelation. [translating three Greek verbs: ᾄδω, ψάλλω, ὑμνέω] The most mentioned passages regarding singing in the NT are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, both of which *apply* to our assembly-mode context, but neither of which are explicitly addressed to church in worship context. Spirit-filled people can't help but be "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with [their] heart[s]" (Ephesians 5:18-19). Likewise, Word-indwelt people can't help but be "teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [their] hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16). Three brief observations about these two verses. 1. Singing is a *result* of being Spirit-filled and Word-indwelt, *not a preparation* for either. 2. More songs are *spoken to one another* and sung in the heart. So, Paul has in mind lyrical mutual edification and cheerful living, not corporate God exaltation. 3. The Psalms ought to be the first verses out of our mouths. This last point hurts. Paul assumed that the church, filled with the Spirit and the Word, will learn and love the Psalms so much that Scripture songs just fall out of our mouths in conversation. But, have you read the Psalms...closely? The Psalms have an uncomfortable amount of history, sin, enemies, war, shouting, and victory. They are all written by men, some of whom are sad about their sin, some who are crying out for God to crush their enemies. Are we supposed to sing about *that*? But we're not Israel! Neither were most of the Ephesians or Colossians. We could learn a lot about the sort of songs God enjoys by examining some of the songs God inspired for His people to sing. Now is also a perfect time to remember the *get to*, not have to, liberty we have. We have more singing opportunities than obligations. Though God hasn't assigned us a song list, lyrics and melodies and harmonies and volume have always found a powerful voice in the worship of God's people. So, in light of our being an assembly working on our liturgy, what are some priorities that we have in mind for our corporate worship in song? # We are working to focus on the many. Unlike discipleship proper, singing is best an assembly activity. That's not to say that choirs or soloists are never appropriate. Rather, what we want to say liturgically is that, when it comes to corporate worship, we'd rather have the joyful noise of the assembly than the spectacular singing of a soprano. We are wrestling to communicate through liturgy that worship is more than instruction to the assembly but includes the participation of the assembly. While there are many sedans that take the congregation into God's presence, singing is certainly a double-decker bus that requires less trips. > Oh, magnify the LORD with me, > and let *us* exalt his name together! > (Psalm 34:3) > Oh come, let *us* sing to the LORD; > let *us* make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! > Let *us* come into his presence with thanksgiving; > let *us* make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! > (Psalm 95:1–2) > Oh sing to the LORD a new song; > sing to the LORD, *all the earth*! > (Psalm 96:1) I should mention that many Psalms were not only written by individuals, they were also written from that individual's perspective, written in 1st person singular, and they were still meant for the people, plural, to sing. Think: Psalm 23 ("The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures."). > The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, > my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, > my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. > I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, > and I am saved from my enemies. > The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, > and exalted be the God of my salvation— > (Psalm 18:2–3, 46) > Whom have I in heaven but you? > And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. > My flesh and my heart may fail, > but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. > (Psalm 73:25–26) > Bless the LORD, O my soul, > and all that is within me, > bless his holy name! > (Psalm 103:1) You don't really want to give up those inspired songs, right? While it's possible to get me-centered with too much "I" and "my" in song, we have inspired patterns before me/us. Don't tag something as selfish if the "I" carries the corporate voice. # We are working to develop diversity and variety. Just as the body of Christ is one with many members, each with a giftedness to serve the body, so we want our worship in music to enjoy different instruments and voices in parts, even a variety of styles. In Scripture, especially in the Psalms, we hear about harps, lyres, organs, horns, trumpets, strings, timbrels, and cymbals. > Praise him with trumpet sound; > praise him with lute and harp! > Praise him with tambourine and dance; > praise him with strings and pipe! > Praise him with sounding cymbals; > praise him with loud clashing cymbals! > (Psalms 150:3–5) The Trinity is the theological foundation for many parts working together in unison (not uniformity), and His creation is a pattern for variety. That said, there are still limits of appropriateness for given situations for sake of truth, goodness, and beauty, as well as formality and majesty. We're not bringing Lady Gaga before the Lord's throne. But even in our own Christian heritage, we've made missteps. For example, Psalm 42, forsakes a style that fits the content. > As a deer pants for flowing streams, > so pants my soul for you, O God. > My soul thirsts for God, > for the living God. > When shall I come and appear before God? > My tears have been my food > day and night, > while they say to me all the day long, > “Where is your God?” > These things I remember, > as I pour out my soul: > how I would go with the throng > and lead them in procession to the house of God > with glad shouts and songs of praise, > a multitude keeping festival. > (Psalm 42:1-4) # We are working to boost intensity and battle-mindedness. If idols and ideological strongholds are being toppled when the church worships (think 2 Corinthians 10:3-5), then we are not looking for the most navel-gazing, quiet, contemplative, kleenex-reaching music. We are charging at the gates with a battering ram (Matthew 16:18). Boom! The church today is awash in girly, gushy, "Jesus is my boyfriend," junk. Not that there's never a time for more contemplative, but in general, we're aiming for vigorous, participatory, fight songs. So much of contemporary singing is like a threadbare sweater, see-through and anything but flattering. In much of the Contemporary Christian Music industry, the only ones more girly than the women are the men. We don't utilize lots of repeats, breathy, slow, etc., *on purpose*. We are gospel warriors, therefore we are not cultivating timidity and muted sounds. Our leaders are leading the charge with aggressive, vigorous sounds. I have no doubt that some Israelite complained that the Levites used too many cymbals or banged them too loudly on particular psalms. Grab a bar of music and run! > I will also praise you with the harp > for your faithfulness, O my God; > I will sing praises to you with the lyre, > O Holy One of Israel. > My lips will *shout* for joy, > when I sing praises to you; > my soul also, which you have redeemed. > (Psalm 71:22–23) Shout! Advance! Onward Christian soldiers! > Sing aloud to God our strength; > shout for joy to the God of Jacob! > Raise a song; sound the tambourine, > the sweet lyre with the harp. > Blow the trumpet at the new moon, > at the full moon, on our feast day. > (Psalm 81:1-3) If all the other things are in order, watch out, Sunday is going to sizzle. There is something strong and resounding about an orchestra, even though an oboe could play the same song solo. One match can spark a fire fire; it can't burn with the heat and intensity like a whole heap of sticks. # We are working to advance Gospel orientation. Our singing should be with gospel bearings, which is far more than saying that we should sing songs about the sacrificial death of Jesus that brings life to others. Yes, songs full of accurate gospel content should abound. So should we sing songs practicing gospel sacrifice. We are a diverse body. Not everyone's preferences and tastes can lead. We may sing a song that you *hate*, or sing it in a style that offends you. If it's keeping others from Jesus, you should be fired up and do something about it. If it's not keeping others from Jesus, you may need to die to serve others. Music is one of the easiest things to judge according to preference. It is one of the easiest emotional fixes or disturbances. It is one of the easiest things to miss (or break) fellowship over. Fussiness is a way to demand change, to make your convictions known, just like a little two year old terrorist. Shrill anathemas are another approach sure to get an audience. But not only is it inconsistent with the gospel, fussy or shrill reformers undercut the good news they claim to fight for. Don't sing about the glories of dying to bring life as long as you don't have to do it. If you do, don't be surprised if others ignore your calls for reform. Our worship is for fellowship. If there are hindrances, let's work at maturing rather than fixing the distance between us by how we criticize and complain. # Conclusion That's not to say that we don't have work to do. Man, do we have work. We're going to have some Sunday night training sessions, hopefully learning some Psalms, learning some parts, increasing our adoration arsenal and passing on some musical culture to our kids. But work is hard. Reformation is hard. Growing is hard. We need humility and joy as we sharpen our worship. Some of the things we try may not work. That's okay, we have the gospel. No matter what, I want to sing my guts out. Guys should sing their guts out. > Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, > for you judge the peoples with equity > and guide the nations upon earth. *Selah* > Let the peoples praise you, O God; > let all the peoples praise you! > (Psalm 67:4-5) Are we really going to win our enemies with weaksauce singing? Are we going to make Israel jealous with insipid songs? We knock down idols like we punch those play boxing blow-up toys that pop back into place. Instead, we need Trinitarian, idol-topping, joyful, loud, melody-making singing. Our assembly should be robust, relieving, refreshing, full of rejoicing. The gods of this world cannot stand against this sort of worship.