The Liturgy of Worship at TEC
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.
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.
5: On Our Side
February 12, 2012 • Sean Higgins
Selected Scriptures Series: Boom! #5 # Introduction Or, When God Calls the Assembly to Order Men and women are never more human than when they are in fellowship, first in fellowship with God and then with others. Saying that we were made to worship and saying that we were made to bear His image is virtually saying the same thing, if we recognize that worship of God is ultimately about fellowship. What does it mean to be human? What distinguishes us from the rest of creation? We alone are created in God's likeness. So what does it mean to be created in God's likeness? In what ways do we reflect Him? Among other things, it at least means that we are formed to enjoy fellowship. God, in three Persons, the blessed Trinity, has never known an existence in isolation. Eternal life has been eternally shared life between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He made us to share that sort of life. We learn who we are by being with Him. We learn to reflect Him by being with Him. That's why "when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). So we can't image Him in isolation from one another, nor can we mirror Him without a clear path to Him; sin obstructs our line of sight. He could have created us to enjoy relationship with one another only on the horizontal level, on a plane running parallel to Him but never interacting with Him. Instead, He graciously shares the best thing in the universe with us: Himself. He is our God. He is our good. He is our help. He is on our side. At no other time do we more fully acknowledge or enjoy our privilege than when we assemble for worship. Worship, then, is not a one-sided affair, a one way movement. God meets with us in worship. We began this series on worship by considering some of the [*purposes* for corporate worship][purposes]. He shapes us as we interact with Him. He unifies the body. He orients us, not only individually but also as a group. And He spreads His heavenly will on earth, toppling idols and ideologies as we lift up His name. [purposes]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/boom/ He does all of that in, through, and with His [*people*][people]. We are a people for His own possession (1 Peter 2:9). We are His temple, "being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22). We have direct access to Him as a "holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5, 9). And we offer ourselves as sacrifices for spiritual worship (Romans 12:1). [people]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/all-together-now/ All of this follows a certain [*pattern*][otpat] as God draws us near to Himself. He gave instructions under the Old Covenant that not only enabled forgiveness for sin, but also that enabled fellowship. Through three types of sacrifices, sin was atoned for, the worshipper was consecrated for service, and peace was shared. The sin offering delivered, the burnt offering devoted, the peace offering drew together. [otpat]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/let-us-draw-near/ The Old Covenant sacrificial system was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. As our High Priest, He offered His own body once, took our sin, transforms us, and brings us to His Father. This is all part of the New Covenant work, the gospel. We are called to worship Him as Lord, which requires confession of our sin, then He cleanses us and sets us apart for service. We share fellowship and peace with Him and, as we go among the nations, we call more worshippers. The [gospel pattern][ntpat] fulfills the sacrificial progression and provides the pattern for our service. [ntpat]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/the-way-in/ The pattern is important because, again, what does God want with us? He does want us to know Him, to know the truth that He has revealed, to believe His Word. But verse by verse, line by line explanation is the door into the living room. Yes, going through the right door is important. But staring at the door or standing in the doorway isn't the aim of worship. Going into His presence is the aim. The door of truth opens the way. That's why liturgy matters. Liturgy is "the orderly, biblical way in which the congregation is drawn into God's majestic, life-giving presence" (Jeffrey Meyers, _The Lord's Service_, 154). I keep hammering this for a couple reasons. First, *if God wants fellowship with His people, then our liturgical customs should reflect His desire somehow*. I said a couple weeks ago that God has not provided His one-and-only order of service anywhere in Scripture. That means we do have a measure of freedom in what we do. We do not, however, have the freedom not to say something by what we do. In other words, it's not whether or not our liturgy will make a point, it's which point our liturgy will make. We necessarily make a point and, in light of the order of offerings and the gospel progress, we *get to* make a point that God loves to meet with and bless His assembly in worship. Most of us have learned from (low) liturgy that God wants listeners; long exposure to that sort of liturgy has shaped our beliefs. But the sermon is so much more than a weekly theology fix, or three steps to a better life. We meet with the Author over His Book. His living and active word cuts us up and cleans us up before Him, even if we can't remember (or write down) every detail. So whatever we do, we should try to practice what God prioritizes, especially to give form to God's desire for fellowship. Second, *if God wants fellowship with His people, then our liturgical convictions should not break fellowship with other believers that have different convictions*. This is a field sown full of tares. (In Romans 14 and 15) Paul refers to believers who thought that they found *the* key to sanctification, who push their convictions on others, who he calls the *weaker* brothers. The stronger brethren weren't living in license, giving no though whatsoever to their conduct. The stronger brethren knew that externals alone could never do what grace does, and that grace enabled them to bear with weaker brothers, too. I say that because we're setting ourselves up for serious discontent, if not actual disaster, by working on and so purposefully establishing liturgy for our worship. Do you know a lot of assemblies that follow the five Cs? That demonstrate in practice God's desire to fellowship with His people rather than merely speak at them from behind a pulpit? How will you respond to other Christians who worship elsewhere? Or when you've gone to another church on the Lord's day? Here is an area where we need to grow up. We ought not blow up because people don't get it, yet or ever. Our indignation won't win them to want our adoration. At the same time, we ought not give up our convictions. The way to handle others who don't think like we do is not for us to become thought-less. Let's be careful not to push people away by how we tell them that God draws us near. In order to straighten our explanations and strengthen our participation, I'd like us to consider some of the *particulars* of worship liturgy. These are implications that surround and include the pattern in the five Cs so that we know what to expect and how to enjoy it. We are an assembly of worship agents and actors, not auditors, so we all should know what we're doing and why we're doing it. This is a challenge, since we want to worship, not theologize about worship. We don't want to spend more time washing the car, changing the oil, reading the owner's manual; we want to drive. We don't want to get stuck studying the recipe, we want to eat. But sometimes it is beneficial, hence this series. # When We All Get Together We won't find a verse that tells us how to behave before our Lord\'s Day Worship service. Nevertheless, we can say a couple things based on who we are and what this time is for. In terms of who we are, we are an *assembly*, not a multitude under one roof. In other words, this is more "body" time and less believer time, a time for the church to worship. That means that when we gather as the assembly, we should be thinking about the assembly. It is unnatural for the assembly to act like it *isn't*, to act like strangers. In terms of what this service is for, the aim of the assembly will be a meal of fellowship with God. We gather for a feast, not for a fast, for a festival (so to speak), not a funeral. We ought to enter with energy and eagerness. God will draw us near, He is on our side, so we come with gladness. Yes, we have a time for confessing sin. But we really ought not to wait for that to get glad. Neither do we have doubts about His faithfulness to forgive us. As much as possible, confess individual sins before hand and then help carry the corporate confession. All of that to say, you don't need to be quiet when you come for worship. The church is not a collection of listeners, but a congregation of worshippers. Gladly greet one another, the rest of the assembly. We've come together for good things. Don't show up at the last minute, sneak in and keep to yourself the whole time. You will not find instructions in our bulletin to come in, sit down, and be quiet. Come in, get re-connected, and get ready to celebrate. This is why we have announcements at this time. Practically, it functions to finish up our greetings. The announcements end our gathering instead of start our worship. We look ahead at some of the body's calendar. I take a different attitude during announcements, with less formality and purposeful interaction. # When God Calls Us to Worship Believers assemble to meet with God at His bidding. He initiates and invites us into His presence. In our service, I usually give the same sentence, "Let's have Scripture call us to worship." When the assembly hears that signal, something different begins. This sentence could be called the *votum*, a Latin word for a solemn declaration or prayer, similar to the gavel pounding that calls the court proceedings to order. It is often a simple, short sentence, easily remembered and identified. > The votum, as an opening statement, turns a casual get-together of individuals into a united assembly and is intended to confirm "the presence of God" in the midst of his people. (Kuyper, *Our Worship*, 110) There are various votums/calls used in liturgy. Historically, the most common is Psalm 124:8, sometimes begun by the minister with the congregation responding with the second half. > Our help is in the name of the LORD, > who made heaven and earth. It's a great verse that considers how God has already delivered His people and now there is a corporate desire to honor Him as our help. The congregation faced death and may have been destroyed, but God delivered them through His great power. The psalm is a song of thanks and hope that He is our help. Another often used votum is Revelation 1:4-7. There are also other, non-inspired calls such as, "Come let us worship the Triune God." In our service, I strike the gavel and then select different passages that call for worship, even in the (imperatival) mood of the verb. For example, today, > Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! > Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; > make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! > Sing to him a new song; > (Psalm 33:1a, 2-3a) This meeting is for Christians, though it isn't a closed door meeting. The public are allowed, and here is part of our work of propaganda. We come in the name of Christ. Outside of Christ, there is no congregation, no body. Without Christ, there is no communion with God. # When We Recognize God's Call As happens throughout the service, God speaks and we respond. The prayer of praise acknowledges His call. It also acknowledges that He is worthy to be worshipped. In this prayer we also ask for His help to worship Him properly. We can't even fellowship properly without His help. So we acknowledge our dependence from the start. We also address Him as the Trinity, typically mentioning Father, Son, and Spirit. As you may notice, I emphasize "assembly," "come together," and "before You". This is the assembly's response. # Conclusion We'll see more particulars next week. Worship is our intentional recognition that He reigns over all the earth, and that His reign starts here.
4: The Way In
January 29, 2012 • Sean Higgins
Selected Scriptures Series: Boom! #4 # Introduction Or, What God Wants with the Assembly Understood correctly, worship is an end not a means to an end. When we offer acceptable worship to God, we're not waiting for something else to happen. The thing we want *is* happening *while* we worship. So what is the "thing" we want that we get as we worship? There are a number of things that we want that are good: * we want to praise/thank/honor/glorify Him * we want to learn about Him * we want to identify ourselves with Him (to our families, neighbors, to each other) All of these things are good and right. Each one is included in what we really want. But by themselves, even added together, without the glue and ultimate goal, these are not the end of worship. Again, what is the "thing" that we want? What is the thing that we get during worship, not after worship? Whatever it is, it ought to be the same thing God wants, right? Our expectations should match God's expectations. The end that we have in mind shouldn't be different than His or either we'll fall short or we'll end up in a different place. What is the "thing" that God wants when we worship? What does God want from the assembly? Certainly He wants *recognition*. He wants to be *known* and honored. All men are required to acknowledge Him. This is the fundamental suppression of the truth by godless men who, though they know God, do not honor Him or give Him thanks. Certainly He wants *righteousness*. He wants to be *obeyed* and served. All men are responsible to obey His law. According to Romans 2, even those without God inspired revelation have God-given conscience that either accuses or excuses according to His standard. But neither our recognition of Him or righteousness before Him is the end of worship. What, then, does He want with us? In order to answer that question, we must go back to who God is, His nature, His eternal existence before Genesis 1:1 as triune Life. Did the Son recognize the truth about the Father? He knew with omniscience, with all wisdom. Did the Spirit serve in righteousness? He served perfectly and will total holiness. If God wanted righteous recognition alone, He should have kept to Himself. Even if finite beings had never sinned, they still could never put their minds around infinite attributes. We do not add any understanding to His. And even as redeemed people, we do not make His righteousness more clear. What are we good for? What does He want with us? What do we get when we worship? **RELATIONSHIP**. All our systematic theology doesn't add anything to His truth. All our combined good works and praise songs, over generations and across the globe, add nothing to His holiness. But, we do add to the pool, so to speak, of eternal life. We do increase the fellowship of the Trinity. God wants relationship with the assembly. The thing we want is to enjoy being together with Him, to meet with Him, to share in His goodness and love. Adam lost fellowship when he sinned, both with his wife and with God. Sin separates. Yes, sin makes stupid. Sin keeps men from recognizing truth. And yes, sin soils. Sin keeps men from righteousness. But the first and worst work of sin is to remove us from God's fellowship. Likewise, the first and best thing the gospel does is restore us to God's fellowship. Corporate worship is meant for fellowship. Fellowship is built on God's revealed facts, the Word. We do learn about Him. Fellowship is built on God's redemptive forgiveness, Christ's sacrifice. We do offer humble praise to Him. But the goal of revelation and redemption, the goal of worship, is loving relationship. If fellowship is the goal of worship, how do we communicate and enjoy that in our service? Is there a pattern for us to approach Him? Last week we observed the three main categories of offerings in Israel's sacrificial system. Aaron and his sons performed these sacrifices in a particular order in Leviticus 9. The progression of the offerings makes the same point we've considered so far this morning. The goal of worship was fellowship with God, and that's what their liturgy expressed. We didn't read all of the instructions for each offering, though the initial explanations for the various offerings is found in Leviticus 1-7. For that matter, Israel's own understanding (or disregard) increased throughout their history. Nevertheless, the sin offering, burnt offering, and peace offerings outlined how God's people draw near to Him. * The Sin offering represented the penalty for sin (death) put on a substitute. The sin offering always came first because sinful men could not approach the holy God otherwise. * The Burnt offering also represented the worshipper. But this was not another sin offering with a different name. This offering did not represent cleansing from sin, but rather consecration for service. The sacrifice was cut up, placed on the altar, and burned up as a symbol of the worshipper's complete devotion to the Lord. * The Peace offering, likewise, was not simply another sacrifice for sin. The peace offering represented the aim of dealing with sin (forgiveness) and dedication (service): fellowship, enjoyed in a shared meal. Worship followed this sequence because worship was more than simply people ascribing "worth-ship" to Him. Worship was about His people meeting with Him. Israel's liturgy focused on drawing near to God. As great as the sacrificial system was, however, it was only a shadow. The animals couldn't completely substitute for a sinful man, so they were offered over and over again. The priests who offered the sacrifices weren't perfect, so they had to sacrifice for themselves first. And even when all of God's instructions were followed exactly, the people still couldn't get into the holy of holies, the place of God's presence. > These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing... (Hebrews 9:6–8) The priests represented the people, but the people could not draw near. They weren't welcome "inside" with God. Before we move on to the realities, by way of summary, the OT sacrificial system represented not less than, but much more than forgiveness of sin. The sacrificial system represented God's covenant in which He made provision to forgive them and fellowship with Him as they served Him. The liturgy of their offerings demonstrated that aim. So does our liturgy. We have a time of confession to lay hold of Christ's completed sacrifice. We move on, forgiven in Christ, to consecration where He transforms us for His service. Then we commune with Him in a meal of peace before going back out. In Christ, who fulfilled the sacrifices, we are forgiven, sanctified, and drawn near to God. Because of Christ, we draw near ourselves, not through a man-mediator. We know *the way in*. > Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, (Hebrews 10:19–20) The "holy places" were previously out of bounds. They are no longer off limits in Christ. So "let us draw near" (v.22). The worship of the assembly is a meeting with God, and the goal of worship is also the goal of the gospel. # The Gospel as Liturgy It shouldn't surprise us that the Gospel follows the same pattern. The New Covenant realities fill in the Old Covenant outline. Perhaps part of the reason whey we have a hard time seeing the point of the OT offerings is that our Gospel understanding is slim. When we reverse engineer the Gospel, we should see the OT sacrifices, the liturgy pattern, the aim of men meeting with God. We rightly understand the gospel as Paul summarized it. > Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. > For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1–4) But these verses summarize Christ's sacrifice on the cross that secures the new covenant. They don't describe what do we do with the gospel or what it does to/for us? ## First, the Gospel calls us to worship God. Jews and Gentiles, obviously immoral and hypocritically moral, disobedient and dead men everywhere are called to repentance and faith in the gospel. The gospel calls them, not only to forgiveness, but to life, to worship. The gospel upsets people, not as much because it offers forgiveness, but mostly because it calls for submission to Christ as Lord. The gospel summons all men everywhere to come to God. > Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20) The call of the gospel is, "Come and worship." > Who will not fear, O Lord, > and glorify your name? > For you alone are holy. > All nations will come > and worship you, > for your righteous acts have been revealed. > Revelation 15:4 We begin our service with the same call: Come, now is the time to worship. Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker. ## Second, the Gospel cleanses us from sin. This is the first, though not the only, part of the good news. The wages of sin is death, Jesus died as a substitute so that all who believe would be saved. In order to participate in His sacrifice, we must confess our sin, turn from it, and receive His forgiveness. He promises all those who confess and believe that they will be saved, they will be justified, counted righteous in God's sight. > For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Believers also confess their sins. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). > If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) ## Third, the Gospel consecrates us for service. Justification is the beginning of salvation, not the end. He forgives our sin and then, through His indwelling Spirit, begins to form us into the image of Christ. The gospel delivers us from the penalty and the power of sin. That's part of the reason Paul was eager to preach the gospel among the Roman *believers* (Romans 1:15), a letter with the theme of the gospel of righteousness. Christ's sacrifice fulfilled the burnt offering, too, and in him we "present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1). We're not sin offerings, we're burnt offerings. Rather than being consumed as dead, we're consumed as living. We died with Christ and we live with Christ (Romans 6:1-11). With sacrificial vocabulary, Paul exhorted the Romans: > Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13) ## Fourth, the Gospel enables communion with God. God doesn't demand worship, forgive those who repent, begin changing them, and then keep them at arm's length (which for Him could be a solar system's width). When He saves a man, He shares His eternal life with that man, He dwells in and with that man, He identifies with that man with intimacy like that of a husband and wife. If I come home and blow up at Mo, then come back before dinner and ask for her forgiveness, what am I wanting at that point? I should want more than her legal declaration that she won't bring up my offense again later. I should want more than being told I'm forgiven while she keeps her back turned from me. I (should) want an embrace! I want to sit down for dinner and enjoy being together. I want the relationship restored. That's why we have communion every week. We share a meal with God every week. He does not reluctantly forgive us because He said He would, hear our songs from across the universe, and leave it. He meets with us in a glad meal. (see 1 Corinthians 10:16-18) We're the wrong side of humble when we're afraid of glory. We all, "beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of *glory* to another" (2 Corinthians 3:18; see also 1 Peter 1:7; 5:10). > If God alone is all glorious, then no one else is glorious at all. No exaltation may be admitted for any other creature, since this would endanger the exclusive prerogative of God. But this is to imagine a paltry court. What king surrounds himself with warped, dwarfish, worthless creatures? The more glorious the king, the more glorious the titles and honors he bestows. The plumes, cockades, coronets, diadems, mantles, and rosettes that deck his retinue testify to one thing alone, his own majesty and munificence. He is a very great king to have figures of such immense dignity in his train, or even better, to have raised them to such dignity. These great lords and ladies, mantled and crowned with the highest possible honor and rank are, precisely, his vassals. This glittering array is his court! All glory to him, and in him, glory and honor to these others. (Thomas Howard, *Evangelical Is Not Enough*, 87) ## Fifth, the Gospel commissions us to make more disciples. In other words, we go out to call more worshippers (of all nations, Matthew 28:18-20; Psalm 86:9). He is our God. He covenants to forgive us and take care of us and eventually bring us to Himself. In the meantime, He blesses us for our image-bearing work. He blesses our relationships and our responsibilities so that we honor His lordship everywhere. The process will continue for as long as His wisdom determines, over generations and among all peoples. As His redeemed, reconciled people say so, God topples death and rebellion and unbelief. # Conclusion Why do we do what we do each Lord's day when we assemble for worship? Why do we do we follow this particular order of service? Why does it matter? Our liturgy communicates the eternal aim of the Trinity. He calls us to worship, forgives us, changes us, communes with us, and blesses us for serving Him in dispersion-mode. Our liturgy embodies the potent progression of the gospel which itself is the fulfillment of God's aim to draw men near. The form functions to communicate the goal. The *evangel* pattern shapes our expectation of what happens here. When we assemble, we don't do less than offer humble thanks and praise. We don't do less than learn about Him and identify ourselves with His name. But we do all of those things because we're "in." Christ brings us into the holy place of God's presence. We do this, we follow this progression because it communicates that God wants fellowship with the assembly, and it communicates it with our practice not only by our proclamation. Our kids learn *every week* that God wants fellowship with His people, not only because we tell them, but because they **WATCH** us. They watch us enjoy gospel realities, not merely hear us explain them. They will watch and, by God's grace, will *want* what we have. This ends up being an evangelistic service after all. The Gospel fingerprints are all over it. In our liturgy, we celebrate the gospel as: * God **calls** us to worship.He summons us to acknowledge Christ as Lord. * God **cleanses** us for worship.He forgives us in Christ through confession of sin. * God **consecrates** us by worship.He transforms us in Christ by the Word and prayer. * God **communes** with us in worship.He fellowships with us in Christ at the Table. * God **commissions** us from worship. He sends us for Christ into the world. > Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28–29)
3: Let Us Draw Near
January 22, 2012 • Sean Higgins
Leviticus 9:1-24; Hebrews 10:1-25 Series: Boom! #3 # Introduction Or, Ordering the Offerings of the Assembly God's people assemble for worship according to His instructions and, since the sin of Adam, worship required sacrifice. The shedding of blood was necessary in order for sinful men to fellowship with the holy God. God made covenants with His people, He promised not only to forgive them, but also to care for them and commune with them. These covenant agreements always included sacrifices. His people are defined by their worship, their worship is ordered by covenant sacrifices. So is our worship, even if we don't think about it that way. We are studying and hopefully stimulating our own corporate worship. Things happen when the *corpus*, the body, gathers in His presence that do not happen in isolation. Serving God together shapes us, unites us, orients us. We are His people, His temple, His dwelling place. We are a priesthood, enjoying direct access to Him. We are His sacrifices, offering our lives to Him in Christ. True worship wages war against idolatry. Through the church, God batters down unbelief and rebellion and death. The church is His propaganda, His point to heavenly rulers and His battering ram against the gates of hell. As I emphasized last Lord's day, worship is the work of the assembly. Some men may lead the assembly, but the *corpus*, the whole body meets with God. What are we to do for worship? Are there particular components that are required? Elements that are allowable? Practices that are prohibited? Once we know the components, do they follow a particular pattern? A couple qualifications before I try to answer some of these questions. *First, God has not revealed His one-and-only order of service anywhere in Scripture*. We won't find the ultimate inspired bulletin for Israel's worship at the temple, let alone for a local church's Lord's day gatherings. There is, therefore, a measure of freedom in what we do and in what order we do it. *Second, God has revealed some explicit priorities for corporate meetings*, not only in the example of the early church but also in His instructions to church leaders such as Timothy and Titus. In particular, there is a heavy emphasis on the Word. Timothy was to be devoted to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13). Timothy was to "preach the Word, in season and out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2). Paul required attention on the instruction components, though he did *not* say that they alone should receive attention. *Third, we always say something by what we do and how we do it*. This is the liturgical opportunity. It's *not whether but which*. It's not whether there will be liturgy, but which liturgy it will be. Most of us have learned that learning is the point of corporate gatherings, not only because that's what we've been told, but also because that's what we've seen. Singing prepares our hearts in order to learn. Praying asks God to make our hearts ready to learn. The Scripture reading is often what we're going to learn about that day. And then the sermon takes center stage as the main attraction. Preachers work overtime to say that sermon listening is worship because we devote so much time to it. The message is the bus that takes us to the learning destination, and everything else is just trying to get everyone on the bus. Without doubt, elders should be apt to teach and always ready to preach the Word. The pastors and teachers equip the saints just as they themselves are fully equipped by the inspired Scriptures (see 2 Timothy 3:17). But more happens during this time than information transfer. As we examine it's place in corporate worship, we'll see why the Word is so important and it's more than a data download. So, because we have liturgical freedom and priorities and opportunities, this is more of a "get to" than a "have to" discussion. We don't "have to" eat steak. And again, this is a "which" not "whether" discussion. We will make some point, what point will we make? Having considered the [purposes of corporate worship][purposes] and the [people][people], we're going to consider the patterns of worship today and next week. This morning we'll consider the predominant pattern of Israel's worship as ordering the offerings of the assembly. [purposes]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/boom/ [people]: http://trinityevangel.org/sermon/all-together-now/ In the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant, the Lord gave His people specific instructions for their corporate worship. He provided an order for their sacrifices intended to draw them near to Him in fellowship. We have almost no appreciation for their sacrifices, except as a reason to be thankful that we don't need to go through all that anymore. Leviticus is a killer, not of animals as much as of our Bible reading motivation. Who can keep track of all the sacrifices, all the blood, all the mess? We thank God for Christ. Of course, the reason we give thanks for Christ is because He fulfilled what the OT sacrifices symbolized. But that doesn't make them unimportant, that makes them paradigmatic. They are the pattern that Christ's offering fit perfectly. Though we read about many different types of sacrifices under the Old Covenant, the regular offerings can be summarized under three main categories: 1. Sin (or Guilt, or Purification) Offerings 2. Burnt (or Ascension) Offerings 3. Peace (or Fellowship) Offerings What also stands out is that when these sacrifices were performed together, they *always* follow the same sequence. In other words, there is an predictable order of offerings as His assembled people draw near. All three categories are found in Leviticus 9. Aaron, his sons, and the elders inaugurated worship at the tabernacle, starting with these daily sacrifices. Moses instructed Aaron to offer sacrifices for his own sin first, and then for the people. > On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the LORD. And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the LORD will appear to you.’” (Leviticus 9:1–4 ESV) Notice the sin offering, burnt offering, and peace offering (the grain offering is mentioned, but connected). Aaron offered the sin and burnt offerings for himself and his sons (verses 8-14) and then "he presented the people's offering" (verses 15-24). # The Sin (Guilt) Offering The point of worship was to "draw near" to (v.7), to "meet" with (v.23) God. The point was so that "the glory of the Lord may appear to you" (v.6). Before men can approach God their sin must be addressed (see verses 8-11, 15). In all of God's covenants with men, the starting point is man's sin. The penalty for sin is death. God's offer of forgiveness always required a die-er, and sacrifices were substitutes. Priests slaughtered animals and spread blood on the altar to show that death had occurred. This was part of the covenant. God demanded confession and repentance from sinners as well as a substitute sacrifice represented in the guilt offering. The sin offering, therefore, always came first before men could draw near to God. "Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the of the sin offering, which was for himself" (v.8) and then "he presented the people's offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one" (v.15). One reason Christ's offering is so significant is that He did not need to offer for Himself before the people because He was perfect. He had no sin that needed forgiveness. # The Burnt Offering Once sin was forgiven, the sacrifice was cut up, placed on top of the altar by the priest and then burned in its entirety as a sign of total consecration. > Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar. (Leviticus 9:12–14 ESV) The fire burned the entire sacrifice and represented the complete consummation of the worshipper. The symbol was total consecration, whole devotion to the Lord. The smoke from the fire drifted up into the Lord's presence and this is why we read about some aromas pleasing the Lord. The meat was being cooked and consumed. Just as the animal represented the guilty worshipper in the sin offering, so the animal represented the consecrated worshipper in the burnt offering. Connected with the burnt offering was the grain (or Tribute) offering. > And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning. (Leviticus 9:15–17 ESV) The grain offering was a consecration of the fruit of one's work, a recognition of the Lord's provision. It was placed on top of the burning animal and connected with the consecration of the worshipper. # The Peace Offering The third sacrifice in the liturgical sequence was the peace offering. Another animal was killed and then cooked on top of the altar, on top of the burnt offering. > Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron’s sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver— they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded. (Leviticus 9:18–21 ESV) The difference between the burnt offering and the peace offering was the the burnt offering was consumed in flame, the peace offering was consumed as food. The burnt offering represented the worshipper's entire *devotion to God*, the peace offering represented the worshipper's *communion with God*. It was a shared meal, a feast, between parties now at peace. Verse 22 summarizes the whole service. > Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. (Leviticus 9:22 ESV) Three categories of offerings. Then observe what happened. > And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 9:23–24 ESV) The worship brought God and His people together in meeting. The meeting brought God's blessing and they saw His glory revealed. As His people saw His glory they responded with more worship and honor.
2: All Together Now
January 15, 2012 • Sean Higgins
Ephesians 2:22 Series: Boom! #2 # Introduction More than likely, if you've spent most of your church life in a Protestant, Bible-reading places, you've heard a hundred times that the church is not a building, it's the people. This is true, mainly. Worshipping God does not depend on a particular place. Worship can, and should, happen in all places. God doesn't accept some worship because it takes places within a certain set of four walls. But, worship does involve a building. Worship can't happen without walls, it's just that the walls of this building have faces. *We* are God's building, *we* are the place for worship. Our assembling together makes a worship center. One unfortunate by-product of right thinking about the spiritual reality of the church is the wrong thinking that the church has no physical manifestation. We have confined church and worship to our cerebral gray matter and, therefore, anything outside the brain doesn't matter. Following that way of thinking, we eventually come to think that we can be an assembly without assembling. The disconnect kills our fellowship, not only with each other, but also with God. Our lives are disconnected, within and without, because we do not really know who God is, what God is doing with us, or who we are. Our lives are disconnected because we do not really understand worship. It's no surprise that a disconnected church of disconnected people who worship in ignorance makes such little impact in an unbelieving world. Our Boom! can't help but be muffled. This series is an attempt to evaluate and fuel our corporate worship. Last week we examined some of the purposes for a worshipping assembly. When we gather to worship, God transforms us, He unites us, He directs us, and through us He batters down unbelief in the world. Things happen when we get together that do not happen when we're apart. That's because of who God is, what God's doing with us, and who we are. That's what we'll consider today: the *people* of worship, the *who?* of worship. On a worship train, Who is the engine that pulls the What, When, Where, and How cars. Stated another way, doing always comes out of being, even in God's case. God does what He does because of who He is. So do we. And as we consider our part in corporate worship, who are we? # 1. We are God's people. From eternity past, God planned to make a people for Himself. In particular, He chose to redeem a group of rebels through His Son, for His Son, by the work of His Spirit. The story's timeline starts in Genesis. God chose Seth, Noah, then Abram. God promised Abram, in particular, that He would make Abram into a people (Genesis 12:2-3). From Abram, God chose Isaac (not Ishmael), then Jacob (not Esau), and renamed Jacob, "Israel" from whom came the twelve tribes. What is it, from a human perspective, that set God's chosen people apart? Worship. God gave them His law, the covenants, the sacrifices, the temple, the Sabbath. All those things defined Israel's worship (see also Romans 9:4). God's promise to Abram extended to all the nations. Though many Jews didn't understand it, God intended to make Gentiles His people as well. "Scripture, forseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.'" (Galatians 3:8). That group of believers are known as the Church. The Church doesn't replace Israel as God's chosen nation, but the church (of Jews and Gentiles) is God's people. Paul describes this in Ephesians 2:11-22. > You were...separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (vv.12-13) You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone... (vv.19-20) Peter makes the same point in 1 Peter 2:4-11. > But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (vv.9-10) Being God's people means what? It means that we have *relationship* with Him. We are not far off, we are close. We are not strangers, we are well known. We're no longer enemies, now we have peace. We are not separated, we "have access in one Spirit to the Father." The point of being His people is that we get to have fellowship with Him. Fellowship is what Adam and Eve lost, fellowship is what sin destroys, fellowship is what Jesus Christ came to restore. We are, in Christ by grace through faith, God's people. We are defined by our worship of Him, which means we are defined by our fellowship with Him. # 2. We are God's temple. In the Old Testament, God set aside a certain place for His people to be with Him, to fellowship in His presence, to worship Him. As we already studied in John, though, Jesus said *He* was God's temple (John 2:19-21). People meet God in Jesus because the fulness of deity dwells in Him bodily (Colossians 2:9). That's part of the reason that Jesus told the woman from Sychar that true worship, true fellowship with God, can't be restricted to one mountain. When He told her that she would have a living fountain inside of her (John 4:14), He was saying (without these words) that she would be a temple, that God Himself would dwell in her (see more explanation in John 7:38-39). Paul later wrote that we are, each individual believer, the temple of God because God's Spirit lives in us. > Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16) > do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, (1 Corinthians 6:19) I can say, "I am God's temple," but that's not the whole story. *We* are God's temple. > So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole *structure*, being joined together, grows into a *holy temple* in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a *dwelling place* for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19–22) > As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a *spiritual house*. (1 Peter 2:4-5) God redeems persons into a people. He saves individuals into a body, into one Bride for His Son. Yes, we are, each Christian, a temple, but we are, all of us Christians, His temple (see also 2 Corinthians 6:16-18). > We are the Ship of Orthodoxy, not three-hundred fifty separate rafts in a lagoon. (Monte E. Wilson, quoted in *The Lord's Service*, 140). What happens in/at the temple? This is really important. All the temple activities facilitated fellowship with God. So, for whatever else we do on the Lord's day, we assemble as God's temple to meet with Him. Jesus is the cornerstone. We are the living stones, the faced-walls. That means that we are not being built as an assembly when some of the stones don't show up. It also means that we are not being built as an assembly when some of the stones think that worship is done by other stones. We worship together, we assemble to meet with God. As Christians, we don't have to go to a worship center, but we do have to gather as a worship center. # 3. We are God's priests. A people are known by their worship. They meet with God in a temple and we meet God together because we (together) are His dwelling place. We are also His priests. In the Old Testament, God set aside certain persons to be priests to Him and for His people. What was the primary purpose of a priest? A priest, for all his assignments and duties, for all the singing or sacrificing or speaking, was a go-between, a fellowship facilitator. A priest's work was to mediate from God to men and from men to God. The ultimate priest was Jesus Christ, the God-Man. He is our high priest (Hebrews 2:17; 4:14), whose work not only mediates but brings us to God. > For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (1 Peter 3:18) That isn't the end of the story. He has made us priests. > you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). [He, Jesus Christ] made us a kingdom, priests to his God and father (Revelation 1:6) One of the glories of the Protestant Reformation was an understanding of the priesthood of all believers. We no longer depend on someone else for our access to God. We don't need any human mediator. We have direct, firsthand access to God in Christ. This does not mean that all of us have the same tasks or must do the same thing. We do not depend on men to go between us and God, to do worship *for* us. But we do depend on men to lead us in worship to God. Are you being led or are you depending on the leaders? Do you view corporate worship as the one work of the many or as the work of one (or a few) for the many? Do you come to meet God, or to hear someone else talk about meeting God? Are we an assembly or mostly an audience? # 4. We are God's sacrifices. People are identified by their worship. Worship involves a temple, priests, and sacrifices. In the Old Testament, God provided His people with a number of sacrifices, some of which we're going to examine next Lord's day. For now, what was the reason for the sacrifices? They were for fellowship. Sin/guilt sacrifices dealt with the hindrance to fellowship with a holy God. Peace sacrifices were to share communion with God. The offerings weren't merely a means to the end of worship, they were part of it. Just as Jesus replaced the temple, just as He is the high priest, so He fulfilled all the animal and grain sacrifices. In His sacrifice, we are forgiven, we are sanctified, and we commune with God. And also, as with the temple and the priests, so we are now the sacrifices. Peter said, > to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5) In that sense, we *offer* sacrifices. But consider Paul's appeal: > I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1) > For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Corinthians 2:15–16) We *are* sacrifices, not in order to redeem ourselves or others, but because we have been redeemed. As our lives are burned up for God, there is a certain smell about us. Someone may point out that we are individual sacrifices, true. But this worship isn't mean to be separated from the whole body, so the following paragraph in Romans 12:3-8. # We are God's propaganda. Worship usually includes a temple as the place to meet God. Worship involves priests who bring God and men together. Worship involves offering sacrifices that make fellowship possible. All of this defines a people. * We don't go to a temple - now we are God's temple. * We don't go through a priest - now we are God's priests. * We don't offer sacrifices - now we are God's sacrifices. * We weren't God's people - now we are. How does the world know that? Because the church is a Trinitarian worship center. > In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22) In the Son we are being built into a dwelling place for the Father by the Spirit. That's who we are. And in our worship, as His temple, His priests, His sacrifices, we are His propaganda. > through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10) > But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9) In 1 Peter 2 verse 5, we are a temple/priesthood "to offer spiritual sacrifices." In verse 9, we are a priesthood/nation "to proclaim His excellencies" in a dark world. In other words, the church's worship is the ultimate "anti-idolatry campaign" (John Witvliet, "Series Preface" of *Our Worship*). When the believing, submitting, living assembly fellowships with God, it is an act of war against the world of unbelief, rebellion, and death. # Conclusion It is little wonder that our lives are so disconnected. We've boiled down meeting with God into listening to a message. Fellowship for us, then, basically means we don't disagree with their sentences. No wonder we don't know how to relate to others, we have no practice relating to God. We don't know how to communicate love. Worship isn't about corporate enjoyment of God. We don't share anything, we do our own thing at the same time under the same roof. No wonder conversation is so hard at the dinner table. No wonder everyone prefers to hang out in their own rooms at home. We're a spectator people. The godly ones are those who really pay attention, not those who participate. We love when other people do things so that we don't have to. We learn that attitude right here. In all of this, we don't make a dent in the domain of darkness. If the enemy can keep us sleepy and separated and spectating, the gates of his domain have no worries. Maybe we need to know who we are, an assembly of worshippers, not an audience. When God builds up His people as a dwelling place, as a kingdom of priests who give themselves as living sacrifices, God knocks down unbelief and rebellion and death. All together now, Boom!
January 8, 2012 • Sean Higgins
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!