Proclaiming the Gospel to Ourselves in Corporate Worship

One of our main purposes of gathering corporately for worship is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. We aspire to do this throughout our whole worship service by cultivating in all who gather three things:

  • A dawning realization of the greatness of your God,
  • A growing awareness of your own sinfulness
  • But also a fresh and continual discovery of the pardoning grace of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ (This last phrase is adapted from Jack Miller and his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church.)

This is why we regularly confess our sins corporately and personally to the Lord. After our time of personal confession, we hear one of our pastors speak to us God’s assurance of pardon from the Scriptures. How can we be so bold to assure people of God’s forgiveness? God’s Word contains countless promises where He assures His people of His forgiveness.

One of the high moments of our worship service occurs when we hear right after the assurance of pardon: “…if your faith is in Jesus Christ this morning, then I assure you, based on the sure promise of the Word, that your sins are forgiven….”

Oh what a blessing to know that you are completely forgiven, totally accepted and profoundly loved by our Lord! Why not reflect on the wonderful and assuring promise of the prophet Micah: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity… who delights in mercy… You will subdue our iniquities; and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18-19)?

The Marks of a Redeemed Community – Worship Reflections

The below reflections come from studying Isaiah 56:1-8.

God wants his gathered people to seek him for Himself, not merely for His blessings, great though they are. He wants us “to minister to Him, and to love His name, and to be His servants” (Isaiah 56:6). Then, he promises to “make us joyful” in his house of prayer for all nations. He’s the one who is calling the nations to Himself. He wants us to know that we are never stronger than when we are most aware of our weakness, and therefore most dependent on Him.
– David Jackman

God values a heart for Christ. That’s how he defines spiritual authenticity… We draw lines of exclusion that God wants to erase. He throws the doors wide-open to all alike who will take Christ as their legitimacy.

What matters in church is what matters to God, especially the gathering in of outsiders (John 10:16), and nothing else matters. When we accept that and implement the implications in our churches, we move toward revival.
–  Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Try and make ourselves kings and we find only shame;
bow to become his slaves for love and we find ourselves wearing crowns.
– John Oswalt

Welcoming the King on Palm Sunday

There is something exciting about being in a crowd. A crowd came from Jerusalem to greet him… to welcome him into the great city of David as the long anticipated Messiah… the deliverer for whom they had hoped.

But Jesus rides into Jerusalem in a manner that shatters the expectations of his people of their coming Messiah. The term Messiah means anointed one. In the OT, there were three different ministries for which people were anointed… king, priest, and prophet. On Palm Sunday, Jesus comes as the ultimate King of Zechariah’s prophecy. He comes into the temple as the great priest. He speaks to his people with the authority of the great prophet.

This is the simple message of Palm Sunday. The Lord Jesus Christ comes in a manner very different than our preconceived notions. He comes to do things in our lives that we do not anticipate or expect.

Why are we to welcome Him into our lives? The text of Matthew 21:1-17 suggests at least three reasons…

First of all, Jesus comes as a humble king to liberate us from sin’s oppression and bondage. When the King comes, He delivers us from the dominion of sin (Zechariah 9:9), not from temporal oppression. He comes not to disarm political enemies (i.e. the Romans), but to disarm all the spiritual enemies of his people that oppress them.

Why does he do this? Matthew tells us why in verses 4-5, “This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet.” Thus, Jesus fulfills Zechariah’s prophecy who wrote 500 years before the birth of Jesus. By riding a donkey, Jesus declares what type of kingship He comes to institute. This means, yes, I am king, for that’s what the prophet says it means: “Behold your king.” “But,” he is saying, “I am gentle and lowly. I am not, in my first coming, on a white war-horse with a sword and a rod of iron. I am not coming to slay you. I am coming to save you.

How important was this for our Lord? The only personal characteristic that our Lord calls attention to in Himself is his humility, meekness, and lowliness of heart (Matthew 11:28-30). He wouldn’t lift up his voice in the street. He wouldn’t be domineering. Bruised reeds and dimly burning wicks… He comes not in wrath to take vengeance, but in mercy to work salvation. The wonder of his kingship is that it saves sinners.

How are you to welcome Him? Appeal to Him to save you. Petition Him to deliver you. The word hosanna means, literally, “O save us.”

This salvation is not merely a one-time decision, but a life-long battle against sin, temptation, and unbelief (Hebrews 10:39 – But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.).

How does he save us? The king comes to ascend a throne. It is not a throne of glory and power, but one of shame and humiliation. The eternal Son of God suffers in your place – the great sacrifice for sin is offered up – the great Passover lamb is slain. He is meek to suffer the greatest injuries and indignities for us, meek to endure the hostility and brutality of sinners against him. He comes at this point not to conquer but to die as the Savior of sinners in humiliation and indignity. He is a Savior marked by a gracious kindness and humility. Thus, He is precisely the kind of King you and I need.

(The King comes in deep humility and meekness, but his meekness is not a sign of weakness. Look at what happens next.)

Secondly, Jesus comes as the great priest to cleanse His house. He comes into the temple with cleansing power.

In verses 12-13, Jesus drives out the moneychangers showing forth His authoritative presence.  He evacuates the whole court of the Gentile claiming: ‘My father intended this place to be a house of prayer.’ This court will be devoted to worship.

Recently, the Barna Group reported on the spiritual involvement of twenty-somethings. The findings: only 20 percent of students who were highly churched as teens remained spiritually active by age 29.

The children who have been brought up in the church are abandoning the faith. Rather than lament this, let resolve to pray fervently that they would come to a place in their own journey where they will cry out “Hosanna – save me Jesus.”

Here’s an interesting question: If Jesus came into the temple of my life, what tables would he overturn? Jesus never ignores sin and bondage in our lives. We are made to worship Him, yet we all too often have our own den of thieves – distractions and inordinate desires for other things that we seek to satisfy our longings rather than God’s glory. We need to be cleansed. Jesus did this to the Temple.  Would you ask him to do it to your own heart today? Could you says today that your life is a house of prayer?

How about you personally? Have you ever appealed to Jesus to cleanse you? Confess your need for His cleansing (Matthew 21:12-13). Have you ever welcomed him into your life?

Thirdly, Jesus comes as the great prophet who unmasks religious hypocrisy (vv.14-17) He comes to blow the whistle on the awful layers of hypocrisy that linger in our own lives. Outwardly and formally religious

The priests and the scribes were indignant to see needy people brought to Jesus and being healed and restored.  Religious people were indignant that ceremonially unclean and blemished people were coming into God’s church. They were indignant at children singing exuberant praise to Jesus.

Would you ask Him to unmask your own hypocrisy and free you to worship Him with the same enthusiam of the children long ago in Jerusalem? Praise Him with no pretense. If you’re like me, we at times struggle with a crippling self-consciousness that hinders our worship (Matthew 21:15-16).

Important application: God will see to it that the Son is praised and worshipped. Christ quotes Psalm 8:2 in order to demonstrate this reality. He gladly receives the worship of little children much to the indignation of religious people (Psalm 8).

The way we welcome Jesus into our lives—and into our church—is through praise and worship. He asserts that the stones would cry out if the children stopped.

C.S. Lewis reminds us what praise is? It is “inner health made audible…I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment:  It is its appointed consummation.”[1]

Is Jesus as fervently praised and as greatly rejoiced in among us as he was by the children long ago in Jerusalem? Oh the joy of Christ’s presence with his people. Oh, that we might have it in greater measure!

Let me close this post with two quick points of application on welcoming the King into your life. At the end of this story, the crowd did not want Jesus to rule over them. Thus, their praises rang hollow. “Those who take Christ for their King must lay their all underneath his feet.” What is it that the Lord is calling you to lay down at His feet this day in submissive surrender?

Also remember you too are coming to a great King today. Do your prayers express honorable views of the love, riches, and bounty of your King? John Newton summed it up best in this verse of his hymn “Come My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare:”

Thou art coming to a King, Large petitions with thee bring;

For his grace and pow’r are such, None can ever ask too much.

What large petitions are you bringing to King Jesus today?


[1] C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, (New York, NY:  Harcourt Brace & Company, 1958), 96-97.

The Calling of a Soldier of Jesus Christ

“Remember your high calling,
you are a minister and ambassador of Christ,
you are entrusted with the most honorable and important employment
that can engage and animate the heart of man.
Filled and fired with a constraining sense
of the love of Jesus and the worth of souls;
impressed with an ardor to carry war into Satan’s Kingdom —
to storm his strongholds and rescue his captives,
you will have little leisure to think of anything else.
How does the love of glory stimulate the soldier —
make him forget and forego a thousand personal tendernesses
and prompt him to cross oceans, to traverse deserts, to scale mountains,
and plunge into the greatest hardships and the thickest dangers?
They do it for a corruptible crown, a puff of smoke, an empty fame.
We likewise are soldiers,
we have a Captain and a Prince who deserves our all.”

John Newton

How Singing God’s Praise Changes Us

Have you ever wondered why singing is such a prominent feature in corporate worship?

  • Singing serves as a way to bless and thank our God for who He is and for all that He has done to love and rescue us.
  • Singing our Lord’s praise is a primary way that we enthrone Him in our hearts (Psalm 22:3).
  • Singing serves as a means of proclaiming the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. In singing, we commend to others the Jesus that we know and cherish ourselves (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
  • Singing enables us to savor God’s Word and makes it more memorable and vivid. The Apostle Paul admonishes us: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Colossians 3:16).
  • Singing changes us. It makes us kinder, gentler, and more reasonable. It also affords peace and joy to our hearts.
  • Singing galvanizes us to trust God in the midst of trouble (e.g. Paul and Silas sing hymns while persecuted and imprisoned for their faith – Acts 16:25).
  • Singing serves as a weapon when we are in the midst of spiritual conflict. Martin Luther claims that “the devil flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”

William Cowper, the beloved 18th century English poet and hymnodist, was right:

“Sometimes the light surprises the Christian while he sings. It is the Son who rises with healing in His wings.”

Oh that we might experience anew His healing and transformative work in our hearts as we draw near to worship our Lord!

Reflections on Spiritual Drifting

‘We must pay the greatest attention to what we have heard,
so that we do not drift away (Hebrews 2:1).’
Drifting is the besetting sin of our day.
And as the metaphor suggests, it is not so much intentional as from unconcern. Christians neglect their anchor — Christ — and begin to quietly drift away.
— Kent Hughes

If you examined a hundred people
who had lost their faith in Christianity,
I wonder how many of them would have been reasoned out of it
by honest argument?
Do not most people simply drift away?
— C. S. Lewis

When our anchor begins to lift from our soul’s grasp
of the greatness and supremacy of Jesus Christ,
we become susceptible to subtle tows.
— Alexander Maclaren

Advice to a little girl: If you continue to love Jesus,
nothing much can go wrong with you and I hope you always do so.
— C. S. Lewis

I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene …
No man can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus.
His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
— Albert Einstein

Why worship at Christmas time?

Wesley_C“Gaze on that helpless object of endless adoration!
Those infant hands
shall burst our bands
and work out our salvation;
Strangle the crooked serpent;
destroy his works forever,
And open set the heavenly gate
to every true believer.”

Charles Wesley