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Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Here’s an insightful and disturbing article.

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Here’s a post from Ray Ortlund, Jr. over at the gospel coalition blog. Thought it went well with my sermon from yesterday:

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I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness.  Do bear with me!  For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  2 Corinthians 11:1-3

I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness.  Sometimes the most important message of all can appear simplistic, unsophisticated, beneath us.

I am afraid.  As the apostle looked at this church, something worried him.  If Paul were to visit our churches today and look us straight in the eye and say, “Something about you bothers me,” we’d want to know what that was.

As the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning.  The devil has a plan for every church, he’s working his plan, and he never sleeps.  We’re no smarter than Eve was.  We’re no better.  We are in danger.

Your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  The virginity of a church consists in this — a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  It is so unimpressive to worldly eyes, in a way so unproductive and impractical.  But this is the very soul of authentic Christianity.  Everything else that is right and good flows from this sacred center.  Anything else, however “right,” if it displaces this sanctity, dishonors the Lord and violates a church.

It is possible for our thoughts, the corporate soul of an entire church, to be led astray without our realizing it, which is why Paul raises the matter.  Legitimate but secondary issues are constantly trying to claim the heart of a church.  Everything good is a potential enemy of this best.  And the nobler the distraction, the more difficult to discern.

Community is good, but it doesn’t come first.  Mission is good, but it doesn’t come first.  Sound doctrine doesn’t come first.  Marriage and family life don’t come first.  Etc.  Jesus himself comes first in the thoughts and heart and passion of a faithful church.  Whatever the claim or cause may be, if it won’t come first on that great and final day when we will be presented to the Lord himself, then it shouldn’t come first today.

Churches who have lost their virginity can get it back.  In the grace of God, purity is wonderfully recoverable.  “Remember from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:5).

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Here’s an article from Al Mohler on preaching. Beloved, pray for your church and for your pastor and for the preaching of the Word.

Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship

MONDAY • August 19, 2013

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Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years, sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation on what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has unfortunately resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A. W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.

Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some call for evangelism as the heart of worship, planning every facet of the service—songs, prayers, the sermon—with the evangelistic invitation in mind.

Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. When preaching the word retreats, a host of entertaining innovations will take its place.

Traditional norms of worship are now subordinated to a demand for relevance and creativity. A media-driven culture of images has replaced the word-centered culture that gave birth to the Reformation churches. In some sense, the image-driven culture of modern evangelicalism is an embrace of the very practices rejected by the Reformers in their quest for true biblical worship.

Music fills the space of most evangelical worship, and much of this music comes in the form of contemporary choruses marked by precious little theological content. Beyond the popularity of the chorus as a musical form, many evangelical churches seem intensely concerned to replicate studio-quality musical presentations.

In terms of musical style, the more traditional churches feature large choirs—often with orchestras—and may even sing the established hymns of the faith. Choral contributions are often massive in scale and professional in quality. In any event, music fills the space and drives the energy of the worship service. Intense planning, financial investment, and priority of preparation are focused on the musical dimensions of worship. Professional staff and an army of volunteers spend much of the week in rehearsals and practice sessions.

All this is not lost on the congregation. Some Christians shop for churches that offer the worship style and experience that fits their expectation. In most communities, churches are known for their worship styles and musical programs. Those dissatisfied with what they find at one church can quickly move to another, sometimes using the language of self-expression to explain that the new church “meets our needs” or “allows us to worship.”

A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God.

Thanks be to God, evangelism does take place in Christian worship. Confronted by the presentation of the gospel and the preaching of the word, sinners are drawn to faith in Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation is presented to all. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper and baptism are honored as ordinances by the Lord’s own command, and each finds its place in true worship.

Furthermore, music is one of God’s most precious gifts to his people, and it is a language by which we may worship God in spirit and in truth. The hymns of the faith convey rich confessional and theological content, and many modern choruses recover a sense of doxology formerly lost in many evangelical churches. But music is not the central act of Christian worship, and neither is evangelism nor even the ordinances. The heart of Christian worship is the authentic preaching of the word of God.

Expository preaching is central, irreducible, and nonnegotiable to the Bible’s mission of authentic worship that pleases God. John Stott’s simple declaration states the issue boldly: “Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.” More specifically, preaching is indispensable to Christian worship—and not only indispensable, but central.

The centrality of preaching is the theme of both testaments of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8 we find the people demanding that Ezra the scribe bring the book of the law to the assembly. Ezra and his colleagues stand on a raised platform and read from the book. When he opens the book to read, the assembly rises to its feet in honor of the word of God and respond, “Amen, Amen!”

Interestingly, the text explains that Ezra and those assisting him “read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading” (Neh 8:8). This remarkable text presents a portrait of expository preaching. Once the text was read, it was carefully explained to the congregation. Ezra did not stage an event or orchestrate a spectacle—he simply and carefully proclaimed the word of God.

This text is a sobering indictment of much contemporary Christianity. According to the text, a demand for biblical preaching erupted within the hearts of the people. They gathered as a congregation and summoned the preacher. This reflects an intense hunger and thirst for the preaching of the word of God. Where is this desire evident among today’s evangelicals?

In far too many churches, the Bible is nearly silent. The public reading of Scripture has been dropped from many services, and the sermon has been sidelined, reduced to a brief devotional appended to the music. Many preachers accept this as a necessary concession to the age of entertainment. Some hope to put in a brief message of encouragement or exhortation before the conclusion of the service.

As Michael Green so pointedly put it: “This is the age of the sermonette, and sermonettes make Christianettes.”

The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the word, opens eyes, and applies that word to human hearts.

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“The true Christian cannot bear or even survive a divorce between the emotions and the intellect, or between devotion to od and the doctrine of God. According to the Scriptures, neither our emotions nor our experiences provide an adequate foundation for the Christian life. Only the truths of Scripture, understood with the mind and communicated through doctrine, can provide that sure foundation upon which we should establish our beliefs and behavior as well as determine the validity of our emotions and experiences. The mind is not the enemy of the heart, and doctrine is not an obstacle to devotion. The two are indispensable and should be inseparable. The Scriptures command us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind (Matthew 22:37), and to worship God in both spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The study of doctrine is both an intellectual and devotional discipline. It is a passionate search for GOd that should always lead the student to greater personal transformation, obedience, and heartfelt worship. Therefore, the student should be on guard against the great error of seeking only impersonal knowledge, and not the person of GOd. Neither mindless devotion nor mere intellectual pursuits are profitable, for in either case, God is lost.”

Paul Washer, The One True God, vii

By the way, if you are looking for a good, devotional study that prompts you to look up Scripture and write down your thoughts, pick up a copy of this book. You won’t regret it.

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Have you ever read Exodus 20? If you are a Christian or interested in religion then you have. Remember, it’s the chapter with the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments. Movies have been made about the Ten Commandments. People have gone to jail over the TC. Shops and businesses post the TC on their walls. They are some of the most famous words in Western (and Middle Eastern) culture, let alone the Bible. But how well do you know the last five verses? I read them again this morning and actually paid attention this time to the whole chapter. See, sometimes the only thing that gets noticed in the 20th chapter of Exodus is the first twenty-one verses. Understandable. But here’s the last few helpful and insightful verses (with my comments).

Exodus 20:22-26 [22] And the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. [You should go read Deuteronomy 4 as well. There you will find the same principle God is embedding into the understanding of the people. What principle? That God’s people live by the ear and not by sight. That is, we live by every word that proceeds from his mouth. God has spoken. This is the age of the ear, not the eye. That’s why he tells them … ] [23] You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. [In other words: “Since this is the age of the ear and not the eye, don’t make any gods of silver or anything like it because what you will end up doing is fashioning something in your own image. You may think this is like God or represents the one true God, but it will be a misrepresentation. Simply let me define who I am. Let me tell you.”] [24] An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. [Interesting isn’t it? I guess he says this because altars of earth are less likely to become a little god or idol. Hey, it’s just dirt. I know you could make a clay god but it just doesn’t have the same appeal or temptation. God is ruthless about keeping his people from idolatry … thankfully. After all, they always enslave and destroy, or you could say that steal, kill, and destroy.] In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. [Great promise huh?] [25] If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. [Get it? In other words, “If you put a chisel to a piece of stone you will end up drawing a picture of me and you never saw me. That means you will just imagine what I look like. That means you will make it up. Not good. Don’t do this. I don’t have a physical appearance but I do speak. That’s right. I have no throat, larynx, sinus cavities to help with nasal attenuation and speech, teeth or tongues for forming sounds, but I speak. So don’t try to draw me. Just record my words and believe them and obey them.]  [26] And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ [I could guess what this means, but I’m out of time. What do you think?]

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Westminster Catechism, Question #1: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. God has given us a life to be lived for his glory, to spend ourselves and be spent for his service and worship, to center everything we have upon Him. Think of verses like this:

1 Cor 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

However, “We often succumb to the mistaken idea that ‘God’s chief end is to glorify me and help me enjoy myself forever’ and that Jesus’ death was to pay for my sins so I can keep on enjoying my life without God getting on my case.” (Our Triune God, p76, Philip Ryken)

O Lord, how we can turn things upside down. Make us new and turn us rightside up again and again.

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Loved this quote:

“There are at least two kinds of irrelevance. One is the irrelevance of offering a bicycle to an oyster. But there is another kind of irrelevance entirely, and that is the practice of setting forth the gospel of light and righteousness to those who love their darkness and iniquity. We are commanded to be irrelevant in this second sense. We are called to worship God in a way that is pleasing to Him, and to which unbelievers will be attracted only if God moves them in a sovereign and mysterious way” (A Primer on Worship and Reformation, p. 13).

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