Saturday, February 24, 2007

Worship - More Corporate Than We Realize

Worship – More Corporate Than We Realize.“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” Heb 12:22-24Have you ever seriously consider these verses? In this section the writer of Hebrews is encouraging these stunted and persecuted believers to press on in their Christian faith and commitment by reminding them of their privileged status under the New Covenant. He reminds them that they no longer must come with dread and a trembling uncertainty to a God that they must worship from a distance (vs 18-21). Instead, now that they are in Christ (and Christ in them), they have full and free access into the heavenly city of God, Zion (vs 22) where there are myriads of angels gathered in festal dress, departed Christians, God the judge of all, OT saints, and Jesus - the mediator of the New Covenant. These verses give us a small glimpse of what the redeemed will see and experience in heaven. It is hard to even imagine what this will be like – the perfect, undistracted worship of God, accompanied by literally innumerable angels collectively echoing their unique and eternal praise (Rev 7:12). Along with the redeemed from every age who also loudly cry out their praise (Rev 7:11). Collectively they all stand before God the judge of all, and before Jesus their mediator. To just think of this as something still future, as an event yet to come, is to miss the point. The writer tells us that we have come now to this state, or to say it another way, we have entered into this reality even now. Though we are not yet present in our glorified bodies, we do however participate today in spirit. This is the reality of New Covenant worship! Think of this, because of Jesus our New Covenant mediator, it is now possible for us to be ushered directly into this scene described above during our times of worship – “you have come” into the very presence of God as described above. This is not imaginary stuff here – it is real, as real as anything we see around us now. Our duty is to believe it, and by faith receive it as real, and enter into it joyfully. The next time you find that your heart dull and maybe even cold during times of worship, remember that you are not alone, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” Heb 12:22-24Knowing this should enrich our sense of reverence and sense of wonder and joy as we privately and collectively enter into the very presence of our redeeming God.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Just Do It?

How many sermons have we heard begin with an appeal from Romans 12:1-2 for us merely to do something, never considering that God’s righteousness as seen in the gospel [Romans 1-11] is God’s power for accomplishing God’s work? The beauty of the gospel is that, although we are the means by which God is pleased to diffuse His glory, He is the end. If we are the beam, He is the sun. If we are the echo, He is the shout. If we are the appetizer, He is the meal.
I love how Paul puts it in I Corinthians 15:10 when he says: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” This is an astonishing admission! It was Paul’s understanding of an “alien righteousness” that was not his own that enabled him to work harder than any of them.
Often in our pragmatic evangelical age, the “knowledge of the Holy” has been replaced [not necessarily denied] with the “knowledge of the How to” – How can I have a better marriage? How can I be a better parent? How can I beat my addictions? The tragedy with this sort of humanly-preoccupied thinking is that the person [the infinite worth] and work [the glorious fruit] of Jesus Christ as the answer for those important questions is sidelined.So instead of beginning with Romans 12:1-2, let's ignore chapter divisions and start with verses 33-36 of chapter 11:
33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

The Virtue of Single-mindedness

One of my favorite professors, Dr. Rembert Carter, used to say, "I am so narrow-minded that I can look through a keyhole with both eyes." He had a way with words. He would spark our thinking by taking common words and using them in a specific biblical context. A some point, we've all encountered those single-minded companions, who are so focused, so convinced of their rightness, so persistent … and oh so ready to help you to see things more clearly, the way they do! The last thing you want is to be as single-minded as they are.The good news is that you can be single-minded the way God is rather than the way men are. James tells us that God gives wisdom haplos "single-mindedly" in contrast to men who won't receive the gifts of God because they are "double-minded" (James 1:5-8). God's grace has no motive or motivation; He gives freely, simply because it is His nature to give. God gives singly, without strings attached, and without reproach. Because of our nature, we find it difficult even to receive gifts in this manner. We are double-minded, we doubt, we wait for the other shoe to drop. When do I get The Lecture?Why won't we give and, more importantly, forgive single-mindedly? "I can forgive, but I can't forget." "If I just forgive, they won't learn!" A little later in the book, James reminds us that not many of us should seek to be teachers (James 3:1). Are you a lover of men or a teacher of men? "If I just forgive them, they will do it again." Of course they will! That is why we forgive quickly, before the offenses start to pile up and we become bitter.We don't forgive single-mindedly, because we have a second option: "I've been wounded." The wounded brother or sister is the one who gets the attention. The church musters her resources to help the wounded and doesn't have the time or the energy to help the dying. We involve ourselves in conflict resolution because we won't accept the simple solution: give and forgive the way God does.Single-mindedness narrows our options and keeps our eyes upon God. This kind of single-mindedness is not characterized by intensity, but, rather, it is characterized by simple intent. Jesus, teaching about our attitude toward money and giving, said. "...if your eye is single, haplous, your whole body will be full of light" (Matt 6:22). We walk in the light when we see things, simply, single-mindedly, as God has shown them to us.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

What is acceptable worship? Part 1

I'm at the office [it's 9:00 a.m. and it's the Lord's day] thankful that in Christ I can "offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe."Hebrews 12:28 looks back to the beginning of the paragraph that begins in verse 25. It looks back because vs. 28 begins with the word "Therefore." So perhaps, in context, vv. 25-27 and even vv. 18-24 will help us answer the vital question, "What is acceptable worship?"1. Acceptable worship begins with hearing and receiving the One who is speaking. Notice that vs. 18 speaks of the "hearers" at Sinai. The glory of God, on Sinai and in Christ, is not a negotiable conversation. In fact, if we refuse and reject the voice of God who is speaking through the Bible His gospel from heaven, we are in greater peril than those who rejected when God spoke on earth at Sinai.I like how David Wells puts it: “Revelation is not the human being reaching up to seize the meaning of life, or gazing into itself for that meaning, but God reaching down to explain life’s meaning.” David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World [2005]So my desire is to hear and receive the One who is speaking. I'll continue later with a part 2. If I don't leave, I'll be late and risk not hearing and receiving the Word from our pastor.I'm thankful, commonly, for Starbucks coffee. Since Jordan and Jen both work there, I am the undeserving recipient of much free and delicious caffeine.Doc