Worship – A Dress Rehearsal for Eternity

Every Lord’s Day serves as a dress rehearsal for life in our eternal home in heaven. Gabe Statom, our Minister of Music, has written a wonderful treatment of this in his book, Practice for Heaven. How wonderful to know that history is moving towards a great end: The worship of the one, true, living God. This is the goal and climax of human history. How do we know this?

Revelation 7:9 describes the heavenly scene:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

1 Peter 2:9-10 informs us that worship is not only the goal of human history, but also the goal of our salvation We are saved “to declare his excellencies” (1 Peter 2:9). If worship is what God has saved us for, then it is worship to which we ought to zealously devote ourselves. It should be the most important activity of our earthly lives

A steady zeal for worship comes as we remember why we worship. According to 1 Peter 2:9, there are three reasons why we praise the Lord:

  • He has “called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
  • He has made us His people.
  • He has given us great mercy.

John Calvin offers this rationale for why we should reflect on how indebted we are to God’s mercy: “Men will never worship God with a sincere heart, or be roused to fear and obey Him with suf cient zeal, until they properly understand how much they are indebted to His mercy ”

Reflections on “The Poor in Spirit”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

The sermon on the Mount describes what human life and human community

looks like when they come under the gracious rule of King Jesus… Still today

the indispensable condition of receiving the kingdom of God is to

acknowledge our spiritual poverty… Thus, to be ‘poor in spirit’ is to

acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before

God… Right at the beginning of his sermon, Jesus contradicts all human

judgments and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God. The

kingdom is given to the poor, not the rich; the feeble, not the mighty; to little

children humble enough to accept it, not to soldiers who boast that they can

obtain it by their own prowess.

– John Stott

We are beggars. This is true! – Martin Luther

The kingdom of God can only be received by empty hands. Jesus warns

against two things: Worldly self-sufficiency which leads you to trust yourself

and your own resources so that you don’t need God; and religious self-sufficiency

where you trust your religious attitude and moral life and don’t need Jesus.

– Michael Crosby

He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God,

is poor in spirit.

– John Calvin

Blessed are the spiritual zeros – the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and

deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of religion – when the

kingdom of heaven comes upon them.

– Dallas Willard

Three Benefits of Taking the Lord’s Supper from John Calvin

John_Calvin

Here, then, is the singular comfort that we derive from the Supper. It directs and leads us to the cross of Jesus Christ and to his resurrection, to certify us that whatever iniquity there may be in us, the Lord nevertheless recognizes and accepts us as righteous—whatever materials of death may be in us, he nevertheless gives us life— whatever misery, may be in us, he nevertheless fills us with all felicity.

The second benefit of the Supper is, that it admonishes and incites us more strongly to recognize the blessings which we have received, and receive daily from the Lord Jesus, in order that we may ascribe to him the praise which is due.

The third advantage of the Sacrament consists in furnishing a most powerful incitement to live a holy life, and especially observe charity and brotherly love toward all. For seeing we have been made members of Jesus Christ, being incorporated into him, and united with him as our head, it is most reasonable that we should become conformable to him in purity and innocence, and especially that we should cultivate charity and concord together as becomes members of the same body.

Therefore, we come to the Lord’s Table not because we are strong, but because we are weak. We come not because any goodness of our own gives us a right to come, but because we need mercy and help. We come, because we love the Lord and want to experience more of His love. We come, because He first loved us and gave Himself for us on the cross.

In light of this, the minister encourages us to lift up our hearts and minds above our cares and fears and let this bread and wine be to us the token and pledge of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, all meant for us if we will receive them in humble faith.

The Psalmist invites us all to “take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD…”

(Adapted from a communion liturgy printed in Worship Now, vol. 1 (Iona Community, Church of Scotland)

A Good Word from John Calvin on Spiritual Warfare

“We have been forewarned
that an enemy relentlessly threatens us,
an enemy who is the very embodiment
of rash boldness,
of military prowess,
of crafty wiles,
of untiring zeal and haste,
of every conceivable weapon
and of skill in the science of warfare.

We must, then, bend our every effort to this goal:
That we should not let ourselves be overwhelmed
by carelessness or faintheartedness,
but, on the contrary, with courage rekindled stand our ground in combat.”

The Purpose of Jesus’ Prayer in John 17

Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 serves as a pattern of His intercession that He carries on for us in heaven now. It also serves as an example for our own prayer life. In a nutshell, what Christ asks for us, we should ask for ourselves.

“Jesus here shows teachers an example, that they should not only occupy themselves in sowing the Word, but, by mixing their prayers with it, should implore God’s help that his blessing should make their work fruitful.” – John Calvin

“It is in prayer, costly, sustained, and prevailing, that the Word of God is released through teaching and preaching. Prayer is the price of power, and the church of Jesus Christ is not likely to recover its lost authority until this basic biblical truth is recovered.” – John Milne’s commentary on John 17

Acts 14 – The Habits of the Heart of Gospel People

Devotional Guide – Habits of the Heart of Gospel People

The church is called to teach people how to talk, how to act, how to fight, how to love, how to see the world in a peculiar way – a Christlike way.

“The role of the church is to cultivate a people who can risk being peaceful in a violent world, risk being kind in a competitive society, risk being faithful in an age of cynicism, risk being gentle among those who admire the tough, risk love when it may not be returned because we have the confidence that in Christ we have been reborn into a new reality.” (Stanley Hauerwas, Against the Nations: War and Survival in a Liberal Society, p. 118).

What are the distinctive habits of the heart of gospel people?
A.    A radical God-centeredness with a keen sense of His divine orchestration of events (14:27).
What are some of the ways that these first missionaries experienced define guidance and protection?
“All that God had done through them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (14:27). Paul actively trusted the Holy Spirit to care for God’s people.
Hindrance: a pervasive self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.
B.    The centrality of the church in God’s plan (vv. 23, 27). What were some of the things that Paul and Barnabas did to make sure that the churches they left behind had a solid foundation on which to grow? (13:43; 49; 14:21-23)
Hindrance: a prevalent individualistic approach to the Christian life. Privatized faith syndrome.
C.    A commitment to a centrist’s approach to communicating biblical truth (Acts 14:22 –  remain true to the faith)
The gospel is “the word of His grace” (v.3). Jude 3 – “Contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
Signs and wonders (v.3). “God hardly ever allows them  to be detached from his Word. Their true use is the establishing of the Gospel in its full and genuine authority.” (John Calvin).
The relentless and fearless proclamation of the gospel (v.7). They continuing to proclaim the good news (v.7).
Missionaries must distinguish between the traditum (what we have  in fact received) and the tradendum (The essentials which must be passed on).
Here it is called “the faith.” The tradition, the deposit, the teaching, the truth. It includes the doctrines of the living God, the Creator of all things, of Jesus Christ His Son, who died for our sins and was raised according to the Scriptures, now reigns and will return, of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer and animates the church, of the salvation of God, of the new community of Jesus and the high standards of holiness and love he expects from his people, of the sufferings which are the path to glory, and of the strong hope laid up for us in heaven. (Stott, pp. 235-236).
Hindrance? Doctrinal compromise – Heresy

D.    A willingness to suffer for the gospel’s progress (vv.19-22). What might hinder us in this? Moral compromise. Tribulations that cause us to shrink back from taking risks (v.22). Insults, humiliation, slander, violence.  Paul’s steadfastness of character was neither upset by flattery nor by opposition” (Stott, p. 233).
Hindrance? Our nightmare emotions (fear, anxiety, etc) and the gravitational pull of our idolatrous hearts (vv.8-18).

E.    A willingness to share leadership and the responsibility of spiritual nurture with others (appointed elders for them in each local congregation).
Hindrance: Leadership vacuum. Lack of spiritual friendship, oversight, and care (v.22).

Happy Are Those Who Are Poor in Spirit – A Few Reflections and A Prayer

The Sermon on the Mount describes what human life and human community looks like when they come under the gracious rule of King Jesus… Still today the indispensable condition of receiving the kingdom of God is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty… Thus, to be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God…

Right at the beginning of his sermon, Jesus contradicts all human judgments and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God. The kingdom is given to the poor, not the rich; the feeble, not the mighty; to little children humble enough to accept it, not to soldiers who boast that they can obtain it by their own prowess.     – John Stott

We are beggars. This is true!                                                               –  Martin Luther

The kingdom of God can only be received by empty hands. Jesus warns against two things: worldly self-sufficiency which leads you to trust yourself and your own resources so that you don’t need God; and religious self-sufficiency where you trust your religious attitude and moral life and don’t need Jesus.           – Michael Crosby

He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit. – John Calvin

Blessed are the spiritual zeros – the spiritually bankrupt, deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of religion – when the kingdom of heaven comes upon them.                                                                                      – Dallas Willard

King Jesus, You have blessed us by causing us to see our need of You. Thank You for making us members of Your heavenly kingdom. But we continue to drink too deeply of the haughty, self-assertive, and self-sufficient disposition that the world so much admires and praises. We resist Your kingship and refuse to bow to Your lordship.We confess that too often we covet the honor and riches of the mighty. We ask Your forgiveness for the times that we have been proud and unmerciful to those we considered less fortunate than ourselves. Keep us ever mindful of our spiritual poverty and of Your amazing grace and liberating gospel that saves us from the power of sin in our daily lives. AMEN.