From Joe Thorn:

As we gather for worship this Sunday let’s consider that it’s called a worship “service” for a reason. Corporate worship is both the celebration and depiction of the gospel. In the gospel we believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who has made full and complete atonement for our sins. We receive him. Our Savior came to serve us (Mt. 20:28). Christianity is more about receiving than doing. It does not neglect duty. In fact what we receive empowers us to act. But ours is a faith that accepts before working.

And so our gathered worship is itself a service of the good news. We come together to receive the word and sacraments. We believe the gospel proclaimed in both. Yes, God’s people offer praise and prayer and even ourselves to the Lord, but he is already our Lord. Our offerings are to him who has already done all the work necessary to save us. He is our God, and we are his people.

This is not merely a worship event. It is not simply a worship gathering. It is God’s service to his people through the church. Come ready to receive what God offers freely in his Son Jesus Christ.

Why Worship On Sundays?

October 16, 2012

This past week I had a close encounter with a Seventh Day Adventist. It provided me with an opportunity to rethink the underpinnings of Sunday worship. Why did the day we worship change?

The Sabbath is about God entering his rest at the conclusion of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 says: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” The celebration of this rest became mandatory for God’s people in the Mosaic economy (Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”).

The Sabbath is tied to creation and has a lasting significance. On balance, the command to remember it comes from Moses. We have been released from the Mosaic Law (Romans 7:4 “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”). We can’t use the 10 Commandments as support for Saturday worship. We died to the law.

We derive our primary direction from the New Testament, the law of Christ (1Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 6:2). In the NT there are two things to note in relation to the Sabbath. First, Jesus seems to have at least relax the Sabbath requirement by allowing the disciples to harvest grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-27). He also said that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). Second, while the other nine commandments are reiterated in the New Testament, the command to keep the Sabbath is missing. So to summarize to this point, the Mosaic commands are no longer binding on believers and the source of our direction, the New Testament, doesn’t command us to keep the Sabbath. Paul in Colossians 2:16 tells his readers to “let no one pass judgment on you … with regard to … a Sabbath.” This verse is as clear as it gets. We shouldn’t let anyone judge us in regards to keeping the Sabbath. Our Adventist friends tell us that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast (Seventh-day Adventists Believe (2nd ed). Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 2005. p. 196.).

While we don’t have a specific command to gather on the first day of the week, we do find Apostolic evidence of this practice. Acts 20:7 says, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” It seems that the church is gathering for worship on Sunday. 1Corinthians 16:2 (NLT) says, “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.” Again, it seems that the church gathered on the first day of “each” week.

My Adventist friend the other day suggested that the apostolic direction was perhaps wrong. Maybe they didn’t have the authority to change the day. Of course, if the apostoles were wrong about this, why not other stuff? So, why was the day changed? Remember the Sabbath was about God resting from his work. Believers now rest not on the day God finished the old creation but rather on the day Christ finished his work of the new creation. Jesus rose on the first day of the week. We worship on Sunday, the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10), to celebrate his rest and to symbolize our rest in Christ’s work (Hebrews 4:9-10). Think of it this way: the New Covenant brought many changes. The place of worship, the priesthood, the sign of the covenant, and many other things were changed. Doesn’t it make sense that the day of worship changed as well?

So, how do we respond to this? First, there is a continuing place for the Sabbath principle. Remember, this principle goes back to creation. Look at my post from the other day. Remembering that the Sabbath was made for man, we neglect it at our own peril. I think (for what that’s worth) that evangelicals are much too cavalier with regard to this principle. Perhaps I’ve listen too much to the Puritans in this area. This is a gift from God to his people. Second, don’t let anyone judge you with regard to the Sabbath. Third, it seems the best day to practice the Sabbath principle is Sunday. Finally, it isn’t always possible to keep this Sabbath principle on Sunday. If this is true for you, find another day to rest and worship with God’s people.

Questions? Comments?


September 19, 2012

If you only click one link today, make it this one. It is about how believers often don’t understand that suffering is from God. Be sure to watch the powerful Piper video at the end.

There is a brand new review of the book (Eyes Wide Open) we are reading in our men’s study. The book is so good that I’d recommend it even to those who aren’t part of our study. Here are the opening words of the review:

Eyes Wide Open not only opened my eyes. It also opened my mind and my heart. So enjoyably, that I’ve now read it three times in just over a month.

Speaking of books, The Hour That Changes the World: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer is free today for Nook and Kindle.

How do you think of Sunday morning worship? I hope for you it is the best hour or so of the week. Here is a perspective I hadn’t thought of before: worship as play. Good thoughts.

Finally, Joe Thorn offers direction about how to pray for your pastor. Personally, I covet your prayers for me. The work God has called me to is way beyond me. I need help not only for ministry but for my life.

In the halls of University College London, a wandering visitor may chance upon a strange sight: the skeleton, hay-stuffed clothes, and wax head of Jeremy Bentham, an 18th century philosopher and the spiritual father of University College. (It seems an odd fetish to me, but to each his own I suppose.) It’s even reported that at the 100th and 150th year anniversaries of University College Bentham was wheeled into board meetings where he was recorded on the minutes as “present but not voting.” At least they didn’t ask him to give the closing address….

Now, here’s the question: when we gather on Sunday mornings, how often is our functional view of Jesus something like “present but not voting?” Yes, we know we’re singing to Him and talking about Him, and we’re sure that He’s pleased with what we’re doing – but do we think of Jesus as anything more than a spectator at a party someone else has thrown for Him? Is our view of the Sunday gathering a mostly bottom-up, us-to-God kind of endeavor, the sort of thing Jesus might notice, smile down on, and say, “That was thoughtful of you!”

The reality is that Jesus is not “present but not voting” in His church. Listen to how Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck describes Jesus’ ongoing ministry as our resurrected and exalted Savior:

“In the state of exaltation, consequently, he has also been given the divine right, the divine appointment, the royal power and prerogatives to carry out the work of re-creation in full, to conquer all his enemies, to save all those who have been given him, and to perfect the entire kingdom of God….It is the living and exalted Christ, seated at the right hand of God, who deliberately and with authority distributes all these benefits, gathers his elect, overcomes his enemies, and directs the history of the world toward the day of his parousia” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. III, p. 474).

The next time you gather together with the people of God at your local church, meditate on this fact: Jesus is present and active among us by His Spirit. He is present and active to break through layers of unbelief, hard-heartedness, and sin’s deceitfulness to change us from the inside-out through the preaching of the Word. He is present and active to open the eyes of those still blinded by Satan and to bring them into the glorious light of His gospel. He is present and active to stir and animate and deepen our praise as we sing. You have never been in an “ordinary” Sunday meeting. Sometimes quietly, sometimes obviously, but always actively and faithfully, our risen Lord Jesus  Christ is at work in our Sunday gatherings to sustain, equip, and transform the people He bought with His own blood until the day when “the kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord.”

Could there be a better reason to gather on Sunday mornings?

(HT: Josh Blount)

Free eBooklet

February 29, 2012

Terri Jorgensen over in Willow Creek alerted me to this free ebooklet (PDF, discount taken at checkout) by Phil Ryken. It discusses work and rest and fits nicely with what we talked about last Sunday in regards to the law. Ryken uses a New Testament hermeneutic when thinking about how the Sabbath should look in our lives. Here’s an excerpt:

At this point many Christians still want to know what they can and cannot do on the Sabbath. Can I watch TV? Can I play frisbee? Can I go to a restaurant? Can I catch a flight back home? Can I play Monopoly, or do I have to stick to Bible trivia games? The danger in making universal applications is that we are prone to Pharisaism, so it is easy for us to slip back into legalism. In keeping the fourth commandment there is room for Christian freedom, the wise exercise of godly judgment. For example, even the Puritans recognized that there were times when it might be appropriate or even necessary to dine at a public inn.

However, when we start asking these kinds of questions, it is usually because we want to know what we can get away with. We want to know how far we can go without actually breaking the fourth commandment. But if we are looking for a loophole in the Lord’s Day, then we are missing the whole point of the fourth commandment, God is calling us away from our own business to transact the most important business of all, which is to glorify Him in our worship. And when we try to make as much room as we can for our own pleasures, then we miss the greatest pleasure of all, which is fellowship with the living God.

Our problem is that we find it so hard to take genuine delight in the sanctified pleasures of God. Dare I say it? God bores us. We are willing to spend some of our time worshiping Him, but then we feel like we need a break, and so we go right back to the world’s lesser pleasures. But the more we learn to delight in God, the more willing we are to keep His day holy. And then we discover that we are able to answer the questions that once seemed so vexing: Can I take a job that will require me to work on Sundays? Is it okay for me to catch up on my work? Should we let our kids play Little League on Sunday? Is it a good day for watching commercials? Most of the practical applications are easy when we want to honor the Lord on His day. The strain and struggle come when we want to use it to do our own thing.

Dr. Robert Rayburn once told the story of a man who was approached by a beggar on the street. The man reached into his pocket to see what he had. Finding seven dollars and feeling somewhat sorry for the beggar, he held out six bills and said, “Here you go.” Not only did the beggar take the six dollars, but with his other hand he struck his benefactor across the face and grabbed the seventh dollar, too. What do you think of the beggar? Don’t you think he was a scoundrel? Then what do you think of a sinner, saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, who insists on taking seven days a week—or even six and a half— for himself?



February 28, 2012

What is the most important thing a pastor needs? You are probably ahead of me on this one. A pastor needs prayer. I make many decisions throughout the day that impact not only me personally, but also my family and those whom the Lord has entrusted to my care. Here’s a reminder of this vital ministry and how specifically to pray.

In a similar vein, here is a post about spiritual gifts. In this piece Timmy Brister is saying that the presence of gift in the church points to our neediness as saints. Overall the reader is encouraged to connect and serve in the body of Christ.

In the wisdom of God, He has designed that we are all ministers to one another in various ways through a variety of gifts.  Have you considered what God is saying about us with the equipment of so many gifts?  We are a needy people! You are a needy person. We do not realize how profound our spiritual needs are, but God does, and He has made provision for our needs through the gifts of His Spirit exercised through the lives of His people.

Here Kevin DeYoung partially tackles everyone’s favorite verse (Matthew 7:1 – “Don’t judge). He encourages his readers to not assume they have the facts before becoming judgmental. At least scan his “don’t assume” list.

Some people in the church seem to have the spiritual gift of discouragement.” Obviously, we want to be people of encouragement. I want to be like Barnabas.

Little Miss Red Shoes.

So tonight please pray for JUSTICE, for Little Miss Red Shoes and the countless little African girls (and others all over the world) who are raped, beaten, blamed, sold. Lord have mercy on them.


Turkey Stew Tomorrow

February 11, 2012

Don’t forget that tomorrow is Turkey Stew Day at Bowman. The food is free; if you’d like to contribute all the money goes to send kids to camp. Great food, great cause, great fellowship. Hope you can stick around after church tomorrow for a great time.

Call me slow but I’ve never understood the fascination with New Year’s parties. To me they are akin to a celebration on the deck of the Titanic after it struck the iceberg. They mark the passing of one year of life. Put differently, death is one year closer. Anyway, here, Erik Raymond, one who does enjoy a good party marking the New Year, reminds us that the real party is tomorrow morning.

For most of us church attendance is a given. It’s not something we “have” to do but something we “get” to do. But biblically, how should we look at the day? Is our attendance optional or is it a requirement? Here Mike Horton discusses the issue. Here’s a quote:

The key to a Christian use of the Lord’s Day is not drawing up a list of what can and cannot be done, but to give the whole day to basking in God’s Word, loading ourselves up with the treasures of Christ.

Good stuff.


What Is Sunday Worship About?

November 18, 2011

You thought it was the music? Here’s a great, concise reminder that our worship gatherings should be about edification. Here’s a quote:

What does this mean for church leaders who are responsible for planning and leading corporate worship? For one, it means that one of the main grids through which you should filter everything in the service is, “Does this edify God’s people?” It’s a question we can use to help ourselves and our members understand what “worship” is.