Archive for the 'Preaching the Scriptures' Category

Genuine Worship–Acts 16.25-35

May 11, 2009

The Temple in Jerusalem
Referring to the Temple in Jerusalem, Tim Keller says, ‘The Temple was to be the center of a ‘world-winning worship’ (Worship by the Book, p. 218).

Psalm 105.1-2
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!

The psalm instructs the people of God to tell the nations about the wonderful works of God and to sing praises to him. These simple instructions, if followed, makes worship well-rounded.

The Well-Rounded Worship Service
Well-rounded worship includes two plains: (1) the horizontal plain and (2) the vertical plain.

Worship on the horizontal plain, speaks to people. Worship on the horizontal plain edifies the people who are there—that is, they are taught the truths of God and his marvelous plan of salvation and sanctification. Psalm 105.2 instructs Israel to ‘tell of all (God’s) wondrous works’ to the peoples of the world. Telling involves teaching. Israel was to teach the nations about God.

Worship on the vertical plain speaks to God. Worship on the vertical plain gives all the glory to God, praising his name and adoring him as God. Psalm 105.2 also instructs Israel to ‘Sing to (God), sing praises to him.’ Singing is an important way that believers glorify God.

On the horizontal plain, the people are edified by the words of the hymns, by the prayers of the people, by the liturgy of the sacraments, and by the preached message and the proclamation of God’s holy word. On the vertical plain, God is glorified in the hymns we sing, the prayers we offer, the sacraments we celebrate, and the sermon preached and his word proclaimed.

Both elements must be evident for a worship service to be well-rounded. If the people are not nourished through the proper teaching of the truth, then believers go away hungry and emaciated and, even more tragically, non-believers go away starving with no hope of eternal life. If God is not glorified through the praise and love of his people, then holy worship has not occurred.

Teaching the people who are present and glorifying the living God go hand-in-hand in the worship service.

Jesus Christ Replaces the Temple
The old, physical temple in Jerusalem (the building, the system of sacrifices, the laws that governed how the ceremonies were to be conducted) has been replaced by something better, Jesus Christ. Now the worship of God is not limited to one place (the Temple in Jerusalem) and one time (the Sabbath); since Christ has risen and is in heaven, worship is everywhere and always.

John 2.19-21
‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’…But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

A Testimony to the Power of God-glorifying Worship

A young man from a privileged family was living a life of reckless abandon—his nights were filled with drinking, partying, and carousing—when he woke one morning and remembered that it was Sunday. Dim memories of going to church as a child nudged him to go to church. But since he wasn’t familiar with any churches in his neighbourhood, he entered the first one he came across.

Entering the sanctuary, he was struck by the worship of the congregation. He intuitively sensed that the guest of honour that hour was God himself. The transcendence of the moment pierced his heart.

Tullian Tchividjian was impacted by the place of honour which God had in the worship service.

The Law and the Gospel: from the Perspective of Acts 10.34-43

April 20, 2009

One of the big questions that all Christians face at one time or another has to do with the law of the Old Testament. What role, if any, does it now play in the life of the believer? Unfortunately, when Christians attempt to answer this question, the law often suffers. Throughout the centuries, Christians have maintained that the law does have an important role to play in the life of individual, born-again Christians; sadly, though, Christians who totally dismiss the law from their life or downplay its importance are denying themselves a wonderful benefit. So long as they ignore in whole or in part the law, they will miss out on a deeper, richer, and more vibrant experience of God’s call on their life. How can I make such a bold statement? While it is altogether true that the law does not and cannot save us, it does provide us with an indispensable guide to living the holy life that is pleasing to God. As Peter exhorted Christians to be holy in our conduct for God our Father is holy. Peter said,

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (quoted from Leviticus 11.44) (1 Peter 1.13-16)

Peter was quoting from the book of Leviticus, which was at the very heart of the law of the Old Testament. Once Peter had been saved by grace and was trusting in that grace day by day, he gained a fresh perspective on the law. It was a guide that instructed Christians on how to live a life that is pleasing to God. But before we consider how it is able to help in this way, let’s consider how the law has often been mishandled.

The Law

Typically, there are three ways that Christians may mishandle the law:

Legalism—is the mistaken belief that someone can save himself or, at least, nudge his salvation along simply by following the law perfectly. This belief is mistaken because it assumes that human effort is part of the grounds of salvation, rather than a fruit that grows out of the soil of salvation. Wherever legalism is in full force, God’s grace retreats. Legalism, and its ugly twin-sister moralism, asserts that people may storm the gates of heaven and wring favour from God’s heart simply by doing what is right. Yet the Bible declares that salvation is a free gift given by God and received by faith; it doesn’t depend on human effort at all (Ephesians 2.8).

Lawlessness (antinomianism)—is the misguided notion that the law no longer applies to Christians. Believers can do away with the law entirely because Jesus obediently fulfilled the law on our behalf; he lived the life of obedient submission to the commands of the law, so we don’t have to. In response to this misguided notion, Jesus replies, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5.17-19).’

Law unto oneself (autonomy)—is the incorrect idea that Christ set us free to do what we please. The autonomous person has crowned himself king of his own destiny. No sooner has Christ achieved liberty, then he is side-lined. Although this incorrect idea has an ancient pedigree, it has gained a new sense of life and purpose in the post-modern era of which we are a part. Autonomy literally means ‘self-law’ or self-rule’ and our world has certainly made the self the centre of the universe and the Lord of reality. Not only does the figure of Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords make no sense to self-centered people, he is offensive to them. How dare anyone other than myself tell me what to do!, the autonomous person cries out. Doing your own thing in your own way in your time regardless of how anyone else is doing it is the great preoccupation of the autonomous person. The antidote to the plague of autonomy is found in the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where the apostle explains just how glorious and powerful Christ is:

Ephesians 1.20-23: (God) raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

God crowned only one person King of kings and Lord of lords and it is not you or me. God’s only begotten Son, who is co-eternal with his Father, holds that singular office. As a declaration of Christ’s absolute sovereignty, verse 23 says that God put ‘all things’ under the feet of Christ. There is nothing in this universe, past or present, material or spiritual, that stands above Christ. Rather, he stands supreme over it all in its totality. This passage deals a death-blow to the spirit of autonomy in the church by stating that God gave the church to Christ making him ‘head over all things to the church’ (verse 22). Even (and especially) in the church, Christ is supreme ruler. Autonomy is rebellion against Christ’s crown.

We have considered how Christians mishandle the law. So, then, what is the proper way to relate to it? The proper way to handle the law once we are born from above is to treat it is a guide that directs us to live holy lives that please God and bring him glory.

The Holy Life

The holy life is based on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit with whom we cooperate.

God’s acceptance

Peter preached to Cornelius and his household a truth that applies to all humanity: God accepts anyone who

• Fears him

• Does what is right (verse 35)

Jesus Christ the Judge

Peter also stressed that God appointed Jesus Christ to be judge of the living and the dead (verse 42). What does the judgment entail? John’s gospel paints a picture of a world of darkness that has been pierced by heavenly light. Some are drawn to this light, while others are repulsed by it:

John 3.19-21: And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

The Witnesses

There are several witnesses who bear testimony that Jesus Christ is supreme judge. Let’s consider three of these witnesses.

The apostles (verses 39, 41, 42 [twice])

The prophets (verse 43)

The works that Jesus does (verse 38)

Jesus the Perfect Judge

There are two things to note about the Judgment:

First, Jesus will be the judge. He will be a fair judge for he knows the entire content of human heart:

John 2.24-25: But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

In this quote, ‘man’ means the breadth and depth of humanity. Jesus knows everything about all of us; nothing about humanity is unknown to him.

Second, the Judgment will be according to works:

Matthew 16.27: For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Let it be said loud and clear: it is by grace that we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2.8). It is by grace alone through faith alone. Our best works do not save. Yet, as was noted at the beginning of the sermon, the law becomes our guide, directing us to live holy lives that please God and bring him glory. The law can never save, but once we are saved it assists us in bearing the fruit that characterizes the children of God.

Works

Earlier we saw that Scriptures assures us that God accepts anyone who fears the Lord and does what is right. But what do these terms mean—fear of the Lord and doing what is right?

Fear of the Lord: summarizes the first four of the Ten Commandments:

• You shall have no other gods before the Lord God Almighty
• Do not make idols
• Do not profane God’s name; it is holy
• Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy

Doing what is right: summarizes in the final six of the Ten Commandments

• Do not murder
• Do not commit adultery
• Do not steal
• Do not bear false witness
• Do not covet your neighbour’s life

Jesus intensified the demands of the law when he taught that anyone who thinks murderous thoughts is considered a murderer. Those who think wicked thoughts has broken the law and Jesus taught that breaking one law is the same as breaking all the laws

The Holy God must act righteously and judge those who break God’s law.

The Good News

The law of God drives us back to the grace of God. When we consider the impossible standard that the law demands of us, we are forced to turn back in humble submission to our heavenly Father. While we may think that God will deal harshly with us, we are met with something unexpected.

Peter proclaims the truth: God sent the word of Good News of peace through Jesus Christ (who is Lord of all) (verse 36). The prophets witnessed to the forgiveness of sins through the name of Jesus (verse 43). Jesus was hanged on a tree, becoming a curse for us (verse 39).

Galatians 3.13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Did Christ Descend to Hell, Part Two

March 10, 2009

Did Christ descend to hell? In an earlier post I opened a can of worms by looking at this topic. The Apostles Creed says he did…or, at least, some versions of that creed say as much. Obviously, the topic is considered by many to be a doctrine near and dear to their faith. But is it warranted by Scripture? After all, the word of God must be the ultimate and final authority in all things, especially subjects that are concerned with the Christian faith.

turretin1Francis Turretin, probably the greatest Reformed systematic theologian of the 17th century denies the belief that Jesus went to hell. Instead, he affirms that the soul of Christ, after separating from the body, went immediately to paradise (1).

This is the reverse of the position of the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches (to this day) that Christ descended to hell. The Roman Catechism, published in 1566, states, ‘Christ now being dead, his soul descended into hell, and remained there just as long as his body was in the sepulcher.’ To make the point perfectly clear, it further states, ‘It is to be entirely believed that the soul itself really and by presence descended into hell’ (2).

Lutherans agree with this statement, but stress the fact that the descent isn’t part of Christ’s humiliation; it exhibits, rather, his triumph over hell.

In one section of his monumental work, The Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Turretin turns his attention to this doctrine and provides a detailed argument against the idea that Christ descended to hell. In what follows I’m highlighting some, but not all, of his points.

1. Turretin points out that the earliest forms of the Apostles Creed do not include the phrase, ‘…and descended to hell’ (3). Not only is this phrase missing from the earliest forms of that creed, but it’s also absent from the Nicene Creed. Some foundational leaders of the early church don’t mention the descent either; they include Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine. Cyril of Alexandria summarizes the belief of many church fathers when he writes, ‘The innocent above, the guilty below; the innocent in heaven, the guilty in the abyss; the innocent in the hand of God, the guilty in the hand of the devil.’

2. Turretin affirms that Jesus went immediately to Paradise after his soul separated from the body. On the cross, Jesus promised the one thief, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23.43). Turretin states that in this instance ‘today’ means the very day on which Christ made the promise. No delay is indicated. So, when Christ promised that the thief will be in paradise with him, he meant the literal day on which he spoke. Darrell Bock says that by saying ‘today,’ Jesus is not indicating the unspecified future, but the immediate present (4). There won’t be any lapse in time, that is, between the separation of the soul from the body and the entry of the soul into Paradise. The move from one state to the other will be instantaneous.

3. Next, Turretin builds the case for Christ’s human soul going immediately to Paradise. According to the Roman Catechism, it was his human soul that descended to hell. But Turretin draws attention to the fact that Christ commended his soul to his Father (Luke 23.46) (5). How could he commend his human soul to the Father, who is in heaven, if it was scheduled to spend three days in hell? (6). Obviously, it is impossible for his humanity to be with the Father and in hell at the same time.

4. Finally, Turretin states, Christ accomplished all aspects of his atoning work on the cross; there was nothing more to be done following his cross-work. This is indicated by his statement, ‘It is finished’ (John 19.30). Yet the doctrine of the descent to hell asserts that more work was still to be done after the cross—namely, there was another job to be done which involved going to hell. Among those who hold to the doctrine of Christ’s descent to hell there are different thoughts as to what job it was that still needed to be done. Of those who believe the doctrine, some maintain that Christ went to hell to put to shame unbelievers, others think he went to liberate Old Testament saints (8). But the phrase, ‘It is finished,’ which Jesus spoke on the cross, is a translation of the original Greek word tetelestai which denotes ‘the perfect completion of the whole prophetic image.’ In other words, with his statement, ‘It is finished,’ Christ was saying that his work on the cross was fully and completely done. There were no loose ends still needing to be tied-up. No job needed his further attention or effort. Surely if still more work needed to be done, Christ would not have expressed himself in the perfect tense. He would have said, ‘It is almost finished,’ or ‘It is nearly done,’ or words to that effect. A paraphrase of the perfect tense would be, ‘It is totally done.’ By expressing himself in the perfect tense, he was indicating that all of his work on the cross was finished. He didn’t need to descend to hell to finish one last job.

EndNotes

1. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 2, 13th Topic, 15th Question, p. 356.

2. Catechism of Council of Trent, Art. 5 [translated by J. A. McHugh, 1923], pp. 62 and 64. This catechism was written in 1566 in response to the growing influence of Protestant catechisms.

3. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol III, p. 413, states that it is impossible to determine precisely when the term first appeared based on existing textual evidence.

4. Luke, Vol. 2, p. 1857.

5. Soul and Spirit are often interchangeable in the Bible. However, there are distinctions between the two. But is this an instance when the distinction is in effect? Turretin would answer, ‘no.’

6. By stressing that it was Christ’s human soul that went to Paradise, Turretin is trying to clarify a subtler problem of a more theological nature. Christians had been asking the question, which part of Christ’s nature went to Paradise? Was it his divine nature or his human nature? This is not splitting hairs. Rather, this question goes to the heart of Christ’s true nature. It is, therefore, a Christological question, having to do with the nature and reality of Christ. Both the Roman Catholic Church and all Protestants share a common belief that Jesus Christ is the God-man. That is, two natures—the divine and the human—are united in one person, Jesus Christ. These natures are not mingled or confused. They remain distinct. Yet they are united in one person. This teaching was accepted as orthodox by the Council or Chalcedon which, as I’ve said, both Roman Catholics and Protestants adhere to.

7. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, 339. These are the two most common teachings, others also exist.

How does God Convey His Grace to Us?

February 13, 2009

Herman Bavinck

bavinckHerman Bavinck was one of the great Christian thinkers of the last half of the 19th century. He had important things to say about Scriptures and the Word of God. In saying them, he didn’t mince words, but pointed out errors. So, his criticisms of Roman Catholicism are said to point out deviations from the truth, as it is revealed in God’s word. For Bavinck and other Protestants, the Word of God stands head-and-shoulders above the authority of the church and, at the same time, is the foundation of the church. This is a long quote, but worth every word.

…(T)he relationship between Scripture and the church is totally different in Protestantism than in Roman Catholicism. In Rome’s view the church is anterior to Scripture; the church is not built upon Scripture, but Scripture arose from the church; Scripture does indeed need the church, but the church does not need Scripture. The Reformation, however, again put the church on the foundation of Scripture and elevated Scripture high above the church. Not the church but Scripture, the Word of God, became the means of grace par excellence. Even the sacrament was subordinated to the Word and had neither meaning nor power apart from that Word. Now, in accordance with Christ’s ordinance, that Word was indeed administered in the midst of the congregation of believers by the minister, but this did not alter the fact that the Word was (also) put into everyone’s hand, that it was plain to everyone who studied it with a desire for salvation, that it exerted its power not only when it was proclaimed in public but also when it was studied and read at home. In that way Christians, who accepted that word with a believing heart, were liberated from sacredotalism. No longer did any person or thing stand between them and Christ. By faith they appropriated the whole of salvation, and in the sacrament they received the sign and seal of that reality. Thus the Reformation changed the Roman Catholic doctrine of the means of grace.’ (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, pp. 444-445).

The Cross of Christ–Part Two

February 7, 2009
Mike Horton

Mike Horton

Michael Horton has this to say about Preaching Christ:

The purpose of the sermon is not a devotional or inspirational pep talk; nor is it a course on theology or an autobiographical account of the preacher’s life and times. It is not a moral lesson in how to be good, nor is it a practical seminar on how to have a happy life. The purpose of the sermon is neither personal self-improvement nor national salvation, but to preach Christ and him crucified.

Stirring words, for sure. And a challenge to all preachers, since most of us wish, deep down, to be liked by our people. But should the truth of the gospel be comprimised for the sake of friendship or popularity? Shouldn’t preachers make things relevant? Attractive? Entertaining? Horton goes on to say:

But will that (the preaching of Christ crucified) be perceived as relevant, with so many practical problems in our troubled world? Won’t they consider such a message impractical and foolish? And the Apostle Paul answers, ‘Sure, the Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.’

Mike is the host of The White Horse Inn, editor of Modern Reformation magazine, and professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California.

The Cross of Christ–Part One

February 7, 2009

the_cross

For some reason, I’ve never been able to read one book at a time. I always have several books going at once. One of the books I’m reading right now is In My Place Condemned He Stood, by Mark Dever and J.I. Packer. The book reprints a handful of essays on the cross of Christ; three by Packer, one by Dever, and an annotated bibliography by Ligon Duncan that describes other books that deal with the cross. Don’t let the slender size of the book fool you, this small tome packs an enormous punch.

How often have you, when you’ve actually paused to think about the cross, wondered what it was really about? Has the bloody and brutal death of Jesus puzzled you? It certainly puzzled me at one time. And, I’m sorry to say, I believe it still puzzles many Christians. They confess Christ as Lord and believe he was raised from the dead, but they are foggy on what exactly happened on the cross. For me, one of the people who helped to clear things up was John Piper. Others also helped, including R. C. Sproul, John Owen.

cross-book-dever-packer1Unless we grasp what God accomplished on the cross—in the death of Christ, the perfect sacrifice; in the pouring out of God’s wrath on his sinless Son; in the substitution that Christ made on our behalf, suffering and dying instead of us—we will never flourish as a church. No program will ‘fix’ us, no matter how well planned it is. Only the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world will save us. This is what should, first and foremost, be sung by the congregation, taught by parents and taught in the Sunday school, and preached and preached and preached from the pulpit.

New Life–Part One

February 5, 2009

I really enjoy hearing the story of someone’s conversion. It’s such a blessing to hear how God works. This one is great. I hope you read it. Let me know what you think.

‘For God who said “Let light shine out of darkness” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4.6)

Children in Worship–Part Three

February 5, 2009

kids-jumpingOur church is thinking about some big changes. One of the areas under consideration is worship. It’s being suggested that we combine our two services into one. Also, that we combine the various styles of music. And, finally, that we move the time of our children’s Sunday school to the hour before or after the worship service. If we did so, it would mean that our children would be in the sanctuary with us during the entire service. Chew on that thought for a moment. In this post, I’m going to focus on children in worship. Here is an outstanding short piece on children in worship.

Children in Worship–How will we cope?

If you are like me, then the first question is, ‘How will the poor parent of the child who stays in the sanctuary for the full service cope with the change?

That’s a very, very important question. How will parents of young children cope with their little one being by their side for an hour of worship. How will the child sit through four or five hymns, an anthem, offering, prayer, and a sermon?

A Fresh Perspective

It’s good to remember that not all churches have Sunday school. That is, there have always been churches where kids stay with mom and dad or grandma and grandpa (or another loving, caring adult) during the full worship service. These congregations have never dismissed the children. And, these congreagation don’t exist half way around the world, on another continent. They are right here in Canada. The reason I point this fact out is to give us some perspective. The way we have done things in the past is not the only possible way of doing things. There are alternatives that work well. We may be able to learn a thing or two from them. But in order to do so, personal humility is required.

Parenting from the Pew

book-parenting-in-the-pew1Also, there are resources that can help us re-think the situation. One book that Terri, my wife, has found particularly helpful has been Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman, the mother of two sons, now grown. She speaks from experience as she provides advice to parents with little children. Her advice is simple, solid, and practical. Along the way, she offers an extremely valuable insight. Worship is never easy, contrary to popular myth.

Worship is work, hard work. It is also rewarding work. To worship the Lord ‘in spirit and truth’ does not come easily, and it certainly does not come naturally to us. It is difficult to worship on the leftover energy of a long week and a late Saturday. The Sunday morning encounter is worthy of our best energy, not our least.

The Lord of life promises to accompany us in worship. we will come upon unexpected stores of energy when we remember that worship is a joyous privilege. His mighty energy will be at work in us to revitalize our weary spirits. We will find rest for our souls.

The King’s House

cross-and-crownWhen Terri prepares our children for Sunday morning, she begins the process Saturday night by laying out the outfits the children will wear the next day. They see her do this and usually ask what’s going on? She’s then able to explain that we all are getting ready for tomorrow. ‘What’s tomorrow?,’ they ask. ‘Oh, well,’ their mom replies, ‘That’s the day we go to the King’s house, to worship the King of Kings.’ This plants the seed in their mind. Sunday is no ordinary day. Great things await them.

This isn’t a fabrication. Terri is not spinning a tale of make-believe. Her remarks are based on the witness of Scripture. The Lord God is King and his people, who are sealed by the Holy Spirit, are the new temple of the Lord. Christ promised that whenever two or three are gathered together in his name, he will be there. So, in a very real way, when we gather in the sanctuary as the people whom God has redeemed through the shed blood of the Lamb, we are, in fact, in the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. We are in the Kings house.

What an awesome and thrilling, humbling and mysterious thing we do when we come to worship him in our sanctuary. If we convey this to our children, they will slowly begin to appreciate being with you, in the pew, to worship their God, too.

What’s It All About?

February 5, 2009

What is the main purpose of the church? Is it to be:

  • a social club? (where people may form friendships with one another)
  • a service agency (where people may do good works for the needy)
  • a worship centre (where people may praise God)

How we answer this question will shape, to a large extent, our congregation in the years to come. In many ways, we already have been answering that question. Every time we come to church or do something in our life that springs from of Christian convictions we answer what our purpose is.

When when we stay after the Sunday morning service to chat with friends and catch-up with old acquaintances, we are answering the question (by saying, in effect, that our purpose is fellowship).

Also, when we come to mid-week events at the church (whether its a Bible study, outreach program, service organization, musical group, etc), we are answering it (again, by saying, in effect, that our purpose is doing good works).

Finally, we gather in the sanctuary on a Sunday morning for the service of worship, we are answering it (by saying, in effect, that our purpose is to worship).

So, we already have been answering the question about our purpose. Now, with our attempt to revise the plan of our church by revisioning the future of our congregation, we are doing something slightly new. We are re-thinking what we have already been doing. We have been having fellowship, doing good works, and worshipping all along. Now we will be asking ourselves the question: how will we do these things in the days to come?

Will we fellowship in the same way in the future as we do now? Will we do good works the same way? Will we worship the same way? The answer may be ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

These are big questions. But we are not alone as we answer them. The grace of God, the Headship of Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are with us. Through prayer, the study of and meditation on God’s eternal word, and patient waiting, I believe the way forward will be made sufficiently clear to move forward. But it requires faithfulness on our part, not simply an action plan.

Great Old Hymn–Part Two

February 4, 2009

My Song is Love Unknown

The words, by Samuel Crossman, are, I think, among the best on the atoning work of the cross in English sacred music. I prefer John Ireland’s tune to the other possible ones. I was part of a choir that sang this version at a summer camp many years ago and the words of the final verse have never left me.

My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.