Tag Archives: Worship

Preaching the Resurrection

 

Recently, we’ve been working through the introduction of one of the longest (and in my opinion, more difficult) chapters in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15.  We’ve seen the foundational importance of the resurrection of Christ, not only in proving the bodily resurrection of believers, but foundational to the Gospel message altogether.  In this post, we’ll return to Acts, where we first began with a look at the background for Paul’s missionary journey to Corinth, this time to explore the significance of Christ’s resurrection as it pertains to the development and growth of the early church.

Written by Luke, Acts picks up where his Gospel left off, namely with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the opening verses we read,  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3

Later in this same chapter we find being a witness to Christ’s resurrection as a requirement for apostleship, Acts. 1:22.  In the latter half of the book, Christ’s resurrection becomes a major stumbling block to Jewish religious leaders and the reason for the Apostle Paul’s trial in Acts 24.

The centrality of the resurrection theme in Acts cannot be understated.  Not only is it prominent in the introduction, and boldly proclaimed  throughout the missionary journeys of Paul, but it takes a preeminent role in the sermons of Acts which largely connect the book of Acts thematically.  Alan Thompson notes,

“In Acts the resurrection is the climax of God’s saving purposes, and it is on the basis of the resurrection that the blessings of salvation may be offered.  The reason for this appears to be that in the resurrection of Jesus, the hoped-for resurrection age to come has arrived already, and it is because of the arrival of the age to come that the blessings of that age may now be received.” (Thompson, pg. 79)

In that book, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, Thompson provides a table of each of the evangelistic sermons from Acts and breaks down the components of each sermon.  Common among them is proclamation (preaching) of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Every single sermon, if we may call them that, delivered with evangelism in mind, i.e. to an audience of unbelievers contained the components of the Gospel outlined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, culminating with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Among those evangelistic sermons identified by Thompson are Acts 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 – Peter; Acts 13, 17 – Paul.

With this intentional focus on evangelistic preaching in mind, we must ask a few questions by way of application.

How often do we hear evangelistic sermons?  My experience has been one of two options: 1. The sermon has an evangelistic appeal tacked onto the end 2. The sermon has no evangelism focus at all.

Second, are we to tailor our sermons in our Lord’s Day worship services towards evangelism?  If yes, then we run the risk of alienating the brethren who are there to worship and be edified.  If no, then where and when are these evangelistic sermons supposed to take place?

This of course is the dilemma of the modern worship service.  Should they be broad and attractional with an evangelistic focus or narrow and deeper for the edification of believers?

One thing is clear – the apostolic preaching of the resurrection was central to the growth of the early church.  It wasn’t an add-on and it wasn’t altogether neglected.

 

An affiliate link to Thompson’s book on Christianbook.com may be found below:

826285: The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke"s Account of God"s Unfolding Plan (New Studies in Biblical Theology) The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
By Alan J. Thompson

What or Who Determines How You Worship?

 

I’ve attended church for as long as I can remember.  For over 30 years as a Christian, I’ve sat in either a church pew or seat listening to the monologue of a preacher directed toward the audience of those who have come to share in the worship of God and hear the message of the Word.  The number of sermons and services that I’ve attended are most likely incalculable.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to an appreciation that church attendance is not optional, but mandatory.  Even still, as I’ve come to embrace Reformed theology, I can appreciate the emphasis on the sanctity of the Lord’s Day, as a continuation of the Sabbath ordinance instituted at creation.  Additionally, through many helpful ministries such as IX Marks, Grace to You, and Desiring God, I’ve come to see the importance of the local church, the emphasis on membership, service, and the centrality of the Word in a church service, the importance of discipleship of the body, et.al.  However, one critical component has been missing, until now.  All of this is not some sort of boast, but an example of how easy it is to accept tradition rather than Scripture.

Recently, through circumstances, and through my current seminary course on the Doctrine of the Church, I have been immersed in what God’s Word has to say about His Church, how He desires to be worshiped, and what a local church or gathering of the Lord’s people should look like.  I’ve come to wonder why it has taken me this long to examine what God has to say, rather than just assuming 30 years of experience and observation is in line with what God has ordained.

Here are my observations of what the majority of American evangelical churches look like:

  1. Most have an identified “Lead Pastor” who is responsible for the vision and direction of the church, primary teaching responsibilities, and otherwise operates as the face of that local assembly.
  2. Most have at least 1 paid staff member, generally identified as the Lead Pastor, though many have additional pastoral staff and administrative support.
  3. Most have acquired a building, or property, in which to meet and hold their services.  Most have either purchased or are renting, though I’ve noticed more are becoming inclined to utilize existing spaces such as schools, meeting halls, or movie theaters.
  4. Most operate as a non- profit (501 c) organization that has registered with the government as a tax-exempt business.
  5. Most have a pre-orchestrated script for how the worship service will proceed from beginning to end; some include the times that each transition will occur.
  6. Most have a preacher delivering a monologue derived from either personal experience or anecdotes, an exposition of God’s Word, or a combination of all of the above.  Generally speaking, the congregation is passive in her participation, but is expected to be proactive in her listening.
  7. Most last from 1-1 ½ hours and include announcements, worship music, prayer, preaching, and a benediction of some sort.
  8. Most offer a separate time of worship for children and sometimes teens.
  9. Most offer programs throughout the week to encourage people to return to the church building.
  10. Most offer an additional time of study or fellowship through the use of small groups, bible studies, or classes.

These are 10 fairly common observations and please note that I’ve not determined if one is inherently wrong or unbiblical, they are just simply observations.  It doesn’t necessarily assume they are good or bad, just that they exist.  Perhaps more could be added and some deleted or tweaked a little here or there, but largely this is probably similar to what you have observed as well if you have spent anytime in an evangelical church.

As I stated earlier, until now, I have just assumed that many of those points listed above were universal among churches and were simply the established patter of “how to do church” regardless of where one might attend (though admittedly these elements may be more common in baptistic churches).  Only until recently have I stepped back to say, Who said any of those things are how God desires to be worshipped on His Day?  What Scriptures are the bases for how these things are derived?  Who has said that this is how church should be?  What or Whom is regulating our worship services, form of church government and structure, and the general look and feel of our churches?  If God has not said, then there needs to be a serious reevaluation to determine if what is being done week in and week out across this country, and elsewhere, anywhere resembles what God desires and has either described or prescribed in His Word.

The Puritans held commonly to something called the Regulative Principle of Worship, even more accurately, the Regulative Principle of the Church, which simply states that God has prescribed in His Word how He will be worshiped.  While its formalized origin can be debated, one can see it in the ministerial writings of Luther and Calvin.  The former held that God has allowed whatever He has not specifically forbidden in worship, while the latter held that God has allowed whatever He has specifically included in Scripture, all else is forbidden.  For Luther, worship would essentially be wide-open, with the exception of those things which God has expressly forbidden.  For Calvin, a much more limited, narrow focus of worship would be guided by Scripture only allowing for those things which one observes in Scripture.

Often times this principle draws its biblical basis from passages such as the following:

Exodus 25:40 “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.”

Genesis 4:1-5 “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Exodus 20:4-6 ““You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Matthew 15:3 “He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”

2 Kings 16:10-18 ”

10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. 11 And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. 12 And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it 13 and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. 14 And the bronze altar that was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. 15 And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” 16 Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded.

17 And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands and removed the basin from them, and he took down the sea[a] from off the bronze oxen that were under it and put it on a stone pedestal. 18 And the covered way for the Sabbath that had been built inside the house and the outer entrance for the king he caused to go around the house of the Lord, because of the king of Assyria.”

See also: Lev. 10:1-3; Deut. 17:3; Deut. 4:2; 12:29-32; Josh. 1:7; 23:6-8; Matthew 15:13; Col. 2:20-23 for the Bible’s explicit condemnation of all worship that is not commanded by God.

In this post, it is not my intention to condemn any church or service that contains any of the elements mentioned in the list above.  Only that if we believe everything in our lives should be guided and informed by Scripture, and above all how God desires to be worshiped, then we must turn there to see what His Word says.  The heart of the question being asked is, Who has said that what you participate in and observe on your Lord’s Day worship is how God has desired worship of Himself?  We should all be Berean-like in our diligent search of the Scriptures to see if these things are so.  Reform of a local church can only happen if we know what form it should’ve been in the first place.

Soli Deo Gloria

Part 3: Build your House in ’09

The Roof

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve worked on our “house”.  First we laid the foundation with the Word of God, http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?p=5 next we built the walls through the Power of Prayer http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?p=26 .  Now it’s time to put the roof on and start to tie the house together.  The roof of our house will be built through the worship of our Lord and Savior.  For this discussion, I want to focus on the act of “corporate” worship and posture of our heart as we individually worship throughout our daily activities.  So what is worship, where do we worship and how do we go about it?  Why is it so important?  One author says this about worship:

“Worship in our time has been captured by the tourist mind set. Worship is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church. For others, it’s occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for Christian entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies and conferences. We go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so, somehow, expand our otherwise humdrum lives. We’ll try anything — until something else comes along.”

Does the tourist mindset describe your worship?  Hopefully you’re not just going through the motions, dragging yourself into church once or twice a week because you feel obligated.  No, instead it should be an opportunity to come together as a church body and worship God.  Just as we mentioned in the Prayer blog, worship is all about the posture of your heart.  17th century author Matthew Henry describes it this way, “It is not enough for us to be where God is worshipped, if we do not ourselves worship him, and that not with bodily exercise only, which profits little, but with the heart.”  Our heart should be defined by gladness and joy, seeking to worship the Lord in the “splendor of His holiness”. Psalm 29:2 Psalm 96:9 Psalm 100:2  We read in Hebrews that not only should we be filled with joy, but likewise present ourselves before the Lord with a reverent heart.  Hebrews 12:28-29 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.'”  Because of this attitude of our hearts, worship need not be confined to a building or structure, although this is primarily where our corporate worship takes place.  In Acts 17:24-25 we learn that, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”  When we come together in corporate worship, the church “body” not the church “building” serves as the place of worship.  After all, the church body is the body of Christ. 

When we unite in the House of the Lord for corporate worship, with the correct posture of heart, the Bible gives us some insight into how to act or what should take place.  Our worship is a time to glorify the Lord through song, prayer, and to receive instruction from the Word of God.  I Corinthians 14:26 describes it the following way, “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”  But is this worship merely confined to one day of the week?  I think one common misconception is that a “church service” is the only time of worship; before and after service we continue on with our daily lives.  I’ve been guilty of this attitude in the past.  We sit through an hour or two of service, feel somewhat convicted for the sins in our lives or the distance that’s come between us and God due to that sin and then we leave going on with our “old self” until the next week’s service.  Worship simply cannot be a week to week “activity”.  Early 20th century preacher/author A.W. Tozer illustrates it this way, “If you do not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week. There is no such thing known in heaven as Sunday worship unless it is accompanied by Monday worship and Tuesday worship and so on.”  That’s pretty a profound statement.  Think about exactly what that statement says.  More importantly, think about it next time you feel worship is only on Sunday mornings.

Worshipping the Lord throughout our daily lives can sometimes be difficult because we allow ourselves to be consumed with work and routine activities.  But what I think the problem for so many of us is perspective.  Rather than trying to create a specific time for structured worship, we should focus on creating an atmosphere of worship.  Much like the prayer discussion, I think we can worship without ceasing when this atmosphere is created.  What I mean by this is that it’s ok to go to that meeting or write that paper, bathe the kids, or prepare dinner.  But when we create the atmosphere of worship, we can carry a song of worship in our hearts, praise the Lord when we’re walking to that meeting, or pray just to praise Him.  Hey there’s a concept – praying without asking for anything, but just to glorify the name of the Almighty!

There is no doubt that a lack of worship in our lives, just like prayer, can significantly impact our walk with God.  A house cannot have just a foundation and still stand.  It has to also have strong walls, and a well-built roof that pulls everything together.  Each part is dependent on the other.  It’s this “roof” of worship that allows us to glorify the Lord in song and praise and to also receive His instructions for our lives.  Worship can be corporate with the church body, but should also be something individual that’s not only on Sunday, but everyday.  Andrew W. Blackwood offers this reflection, “The time has come for a revival of public worship as the finest of the fine arts…While there is a call for strong preaching there is even a greater need for uplifting worship.”  The Bible tells us that in everything we do, do all for the glory of the Lord I Corinthians 10:31, this includes worship.  In closing, I want to leave you with the divinely inspired words of the Apostle Paul, Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Have a Blessed Day!