A Promise Kept, a celebration of the ultimate metanarrative. Christmas uncorrupted is the ultimate, in your face protest, celebrating against the arrogant self-centered postmodern society’s anti metanarrative view (Matthew 1:22).
Worship style at New Life.
From where did the worship style of New Life Presbyterian Church come? I cannot honestly say. I am the new guy here having only been here 15 years as compared to those who have been here 25. However, I am the old guy here compared to the 4 new members who will be received this Sunday.
I do know the founding pastor has a passion for loving on the Lord God and a great reverence for God. He with those who founded new life were passionate in their worship and desired to communicate that to everyone who came and most especially to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This week’s scripture addresses the roots of the wars about worship styles that has haunted the broader church for its entire life. Romans 15:5-7 check it.
Recently a commentator wrote that there are always three thoughts about how the church worships.
First there is the idea that nothing should change since God is unchanging. Whatever style has been adopted the status quo must remain unchanged even if that status quo is to never to do the something twice. No moving off our adopted style.
The second thought is sometimes dubbed the “Conservative Christianity”. The idea is that we should be moving back to the styles of the past such as psalms only or traditional hymns, longer sermons less emotional display.
Lastly there is the thought that is always looking for something new with no boundaries.
Romans seems to say there is something more important that is to love or accept one another that our harmony, ( not uniformity ) might honor the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The means a diversity within a unity much like the trinity. In Worship this means blending worship styles while remain true to scripture as the final authority in worship as well as all of life. This treasures loving others above being comfortable in our style of worship. We seek to worship the Lord while being more concerned for others than ourselves. A certain style or song may move me much more than others. I am personally partial to “Almighty Fortress is Our God.” However, this may not strike another beside me. Whereas a brand new rendition of the heart of worship may speak powerful to my brother or sister in Christ. I may love the cerebral poetic hymn while my brother in the faith beside me may be moved to tears by the repetitive singing of Praise Him as in Psalm 118.
Romans 15 would not have us isolate ourselves in certain styles rather live in greatest love for each other as Christ has loved and accepted us.
I recently came across a outline of principles that have guided the worship of pastor John’s congregation for several decades. Here they are and I agree.
- God-centeredness. We put a high priority on the vertical focus of our Sunday morning service. The ultimate aim is to experience God in such a way that he is glorified in our affections.
- Expecting the powerful presence of God. We do not just direct ourselves toward him. We earnestly seek his drawing near according to the promise of James 4:8. We believe that in worship God draws near to us in power, and makes himself known and felt for our good and for the salvation of unbelievers in the midst.
- Bible-based and Bible-saturated. The content of our singing and praying and welcoming and preaching and poetry should always conform to the truth of Scripture. But more than that, the content of God’s Word should be woven through all we do in worship and will be the ground of all our appeal to authority.
- Head and heart. The elements of our worship service should aim at kindling and carrying deep, strong, real emotions toward God, especially joy, but should not manipulate people’s emotions by failing to appeal to clear thinking about spiritual things based on shareable evidences outside ourselves.
- Earnestness and intensity. We will try to avoid being a trite, flippant, superficial, or frivolous, but instead will aim to set an example of reverence and passion and wonder and broken-hearted joy.
- Authentic communication. We utterly renounce all sham, deceit, hypocrisy, pretense, affectation, and posturing. We do not pursue the atmosphere of artistic or oratorical performance, but the atmosphere of a radically personal encounter with God and truth.
- The manifestation of God and the common good. We expect and hope and pray (according to 1 Cor. 12:7) that our focus on the manifesting of God is good for people and that a spirit of love for each other is not incompatible with, but necessary to authentic worship.
- Undistracting excellence. We will try to sing and play and pray and preach in such a way that people’s attention will not be diverted from the substance by shoddy ministry nor by excessive finesse, elegance or refinement. Natural, undistracting excellence will let the truth and beauty of God shine through. We will invest in equipment good enough to be undistracting in transmitting heartfelt truth.
- The mingling of historic and contemporary music No church or service can be all things to all people. But we do not value stylistic narrowness. We believe there are affections owing to God that different tunes and different texts and different genres may awaken better than others. We will strive to be who we are without exalting our own tastes as the standard of excellence or power. We will see God’s guidance in each worship setting to be both indigenous and stretching.
- May God lead us into ways of worship that fit the uninterrupted and true historic witness of worshipping the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May He even lead us into new styles of worship which by the Spirit meets the people God has called unto himself and given His only begotten son to save in our day and the next generation.
Rosaria Butterfield was interviewed for World Magazine last month. She has written a new book titled “Openness unhindered”. The article is titled “No free passes.” There was one exchange that I want to share with you. The exchange catches the flavor and intent of the last verse of Romans 14. read the Holy Word of God from Roman 14: 18-23.
Marvin Olasky said to Rosaria; You write in this new book that it is not the absence of sin that commends believers but the presence of Christ in the midst of struggle. That’s what sets believers apart. You also say the doctrine of original sin is the most democratizing idea in all of human history. How So?
Rosaria answered; We are all on the same page, struggling with an indwelling sin. Some people see their original sin pattern as a cuddly tiger:” It’s a little tiger. If I buy it a collar and name it Fluffy, it won’t hurt me” Three months later , it’s destroyed your marriage and your family and eaten you alive. What if you buy a house with a beautiful garden and decide your method of gardening is, “let it flourish, no need to beat back the pests?”
Olasky; Hey, that’s my method of gardening. Why doesn’t it work?
Rosaria; The master gardener says, “It needs to be pruned. It needs to be battled. “That’s the nature of my soul, and my humanity after Adam. If I let go, I will become a danger to myself and to you.
“a very awful calling,” that is what Robert Candlish an 1800 Scottish minister called the verse from the end of Romans 12, “a very awful calling,”.
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
It is important to recognize that God has called you to a life that is just as impossible under your own steam as it would be to perfectly keep the Law of God as Christ Jesus alone has done. This is not a biblical lecture on civil behavior or family values, nor a plea to strive to be a better person.
Unmistakably this is God’s calling for you to be like Jesus Christ through the spirit of Jesus with in you. Candlish finished out the paragraph as quoted by Dr. Boyce saying;
“This surely is a very holy calling. It is a very awful calling. …, ‘Our sufficiency is of God’—of that God who has so dealt with us as he would have us to deal with our fellow-men and fellow-sinners.”
God who has so dealt with us as he would have us to deal with our fellow-men and fellow-sinners.” Remember Jesus teaching parable of the ungrateful forgiven servant who intern refused to forgive his debtor.
From this parable note that this awful calling is an act of gratefulness. We remember how this portion of Paul’s letter began in Romans 12:1 with “because of the mercies of God.” This is an obligation of love, and gratefulness, not a payment to obtain forgiveness. That is what the life of a Christian is and obligation of love and thankfulness.
We are asked to do what God has done out of appreciation. From this principle we ought to be enlightened as to the great principle God has acted upon in the universal scheme of his actions. God has and is in the process of overcoming evil with good.
The location is just outside the entrance to the perfect heaven on earth the garden of Eden. There God drives the stake of his promise in the ground and stands a great guard to prevent humanity from entering into eternity permanently captured in a life of death and alienation. By his sovereign power and an agreement with Jesus his son, God refuses to allow evil to overcome him or us. He sends Adam and Eve off into an earth where the seeds of destruction are growing. There our kind, we would grow, once becoming so full of destruction that all but a few in a boat must be cleansed from the surface.
However, the day came when God’s stake would bear his son on the cross. There triumphing over evil with the greatest and least expected act of good. Up from that grave he arose God’s good over evil to reign. We know for he lives today in our hearts.
From within us is to come the same triumph of good over evil. By the same means, not retaliation rather reconciliation. An awful calling, yes it is so grossly contrary to our human self and nature. It is an act only possible by faith in God who has done it. A faith in Christ Jesus not of ourselves. Rather faith the gift of God’s grace the victory of good over evil.
The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
So said President Lincoln upon his second inauguration. What terrified me is that every drop of blood spilled from an unborn, every dollar made or paid by providers should be required of us as a nation. It would not be unjust. I pray for grace for us all and cessation of hostilities upon our children.
A little knowledge is a fine opportunity to introduce Christ Jesus the person into Christmas the celebration. When seeing the abbreviation for Christmas as Xmas or hearing the common complaint about such knowing the origin of Xmas could be used to Joyfully point to Jesus the Christ.
Here is what Wikipedia says ;
Xmas is a common abbreviation of the word Christmas. It is sometimes pronounced /ˈɛksməs/, but Xmas, and variants such as Xtemass, originated as handwriting abbreviations for the typical pronunciation /ˈkrɪsməs/. The “-mas” part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for Mass, while the “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός which comes into English as “Christ“.
There is a common belief that the word Xmas stems from a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas”, but its use dates back to the 16th century.
Since the time of the reformation X has been at the center of Christmas. Is he central in your life and celebration? Who is He?
In the bible there are 4 books recordings of Jesus earthly life and many other testimonies. Matthew the first begins “ the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” Matthew begins on earth to show mostly for his historic Jewish listeners. For us it demonstrates that Jesus coming was God’s plan all along. Some of you are history buffs. History can help make sense of what is going on in the present and help us get a handle on the future. Like going to a funeral home and realizing that the person is only a couple years older than me. You are looking at what lays in my future sooner than I want to think about.
Mark, the second New Testament account of Jesus life on earth hits the floor running. If I can’t sleep I might as well go to work. Mark does not bother with the history of Jesus birth he hits the floor running by beginning with Jesus ministry right away. Mark then moves rapidly through the history.
Luke is more of the true historian. His account is actually a commissioned writing. He begins with a note perhaps to the man, Theophilus, who is the commissioner who supported Luke’s research in the life of Jesus.
John, the author of the 4th gospel is one of Jesus closest disciples. John perhaps knew Jesus as a man the best. In this book john is called the disciple whom Jesus loved. John and Jesus were very close personally.
It is thought-provoking to me that John starts out boldly in his account. John starts with a hammer, a statement of reality that changes everything. John begins his account with the demanding reality that makes all the rest worth hearing. John begins by saying Jesus, this one I knew personally, I heard him, saw him, and touched him. This one is God himself. You remember the first verses of John; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
This makes all the difference. If this be true that Jesus is God himself then every detail is important. If not than the story of Jesus may be important in other ways but not nearly the critical value it has if he is God.
We have begun seeing the testimony which John records so that we might know that this Jesus born in Bethlehem is God himself.
We can see a week’s worth of witness in the very beginning. We read of John the Baptist Jesus older cousin by half a Year.
John begins in direct terms by saying that Jesus is God in all that God is. Yet he was in relationship with God for all eternity. For God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God has always be fulfilled, happy in this beautiful relationship of love, three person in perfect love being one God.
Next John goes directly to the testimony of John the Baptist cousin. In verse 6-8 he introduced John the Baptist saying; 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
A few words later John returns to what John the Baptist cousin and his testimony to the truth. In verse 15 to 19 he says
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
Again John punches you with directness of a straight arm, he is straight forward; He says here it is John testified concerning him.
Here is the essence of John’s testimony about who Jesus is; No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
There can be no doubt that the claim is that Jesus is God. The importance of that cannot be estimated. Jesus is not another religious teacher telling us we ought to be better people and here is how.
Anyone, anyone who does not teach and believe that Jesus is actually God is not Christian, as the bible defines and does not have eternal life. If Jesus is not God then all he says and does is not as important or demanding upon us.
If Jesus is God than none of us are all that much in comparison to him and so must bow before him.
Many of you are fine athletes. You have the physical attributes, the heart and soul of a competitor, the commitment to work and study. I am none of those. I loved wrestling in High School and even became an undefeated MAC champion in my senior year. I might think much of myself in those days. A Couple of years ago I was talking to a relative at funeral in this area. As I talked to him I discovered just how insignificant I was. He happened to be a 4 time NCAA national champion wrestler Mike E’s grandson in law, Brian K. Comparatively I had nothing to contribute to wrestling.
Even Cousin John the Baptist recognized that being God the Son, the Messiah, Jesus was way more, infinitely more, important than he. We read how the religious people wanted to know who John the Baptist was. John kept saying I am really no body except this; “John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
John said to them, I am just the messenger telling you that you better get ready because the Lord is coming. We read of John saying not only had you better get ready to receive him, he is here. There he is! He who is God the son and here is what he came to do.
28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”[
“ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One…” John points a finger at this real person in front of them. He is the one, the son of God “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Even though John is the older cousin and a very successful prophet by this time. This Baptist cousin John had stirred up the entire country. People were pouring out to the country side to hear him. The authorities were asking who he is. Even so, knowing who Jesus is, John say I am not even worthy to tie his sandals.
If Jesus is God and he is, we can only bow before him. We have no grounds to judge him or argue with him, to ignore him or dishonor him. When the President steps out from behind the curtain at a Christmas gathering of military men there is no question who is in charge and what the appropriate response is. We have nothing to offer him that he needs, he is God. He came because we need him.
John the writer here and cousin, John the Baptist both begin with the bold recognition of who Jesus is. Every Christian believes Jesus is; Our God and Lord.
As God, everything Jesus does takes on extreme meaning because of who he is. He is the eternal “X factor”. (X in the “Xmas” is very specifically the first letter of Jesus title “the Christ”.)
What will Jesus, Do? John, both of them, go right to the core of Jesus reason for coming. Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
I have no idea what you think of when you hear that. But I can tell you with the certainty of history back to Adam what was flooding the memory of the people there.
The Lamb of God, What? What did you say John? The Lamb of God. From the beginning of the history of humanity there has been this concept and reality, the Lamb of God. It has shown up in a distorted form in many many, if not every religion.
It began with Adam and Eve. When they first offended God they were cowering in the woods hiding. They were hiding because God had told them that the day they disobeyed they would die.
Did Adam and Eve die that day? Not physically. They did spiritual for that day humanity was separated from God because of sin. Still today, every human is born separated from God because of sin.
But someone did die that day. Who? After God told them about all the consequences for sinning against him, like that men would have to work hard and women suffer much pain to sustain a family and keep humanity going. God then promised he was coming after Satan and was going to crush him. Then God himself killed. Some think that for the first time God destroyed a life he had created.
God killed an animal to cover up their nakedness, their shame before him.
They remembered that God provided a substitute for Adam and Eve’s death.
Then there was Abraham, the great father of the nation of Israel. Abraham had one special son, the promised one of God. He actually had another son born outside of God’s design but part of God’s plan.
One day God came to Abraham and asked Abraham to demonstrate his love for God and thankfulness by taking this special special son up on a mountain and killing him as a sacrifice.
After tremendous struggle Abraham took Isaac up on the mountain. Isaac even carried his own wood for the sacrifice. Isaac asked his Dad, where is the Lamb for the sacrifice they were going to make? Abraham answered Isaac, knowing what God had asked him to do. Abraham said God will provide the sacrifice. God had given Isaac when Abraham and his wife were way too old to have a child.
Abraham took his son, got the fire wood ready, tied up his son and put him on top. Just as he was about to plunge the knife into Isaac as a sacrifice God stopped him. God provide a substitute there in the bushes caught by its horns.
The people who heard Baptist cousin John remembered, a son, a substitute, an animal who died in the place of Adam for sin.
Then Moses and the Passover. In John B’s day they celebrated the Passover every year. Much like our Christmas and the 4th of July together, it was the biggest celebration of the year. By the Passover they had been set free from slavery.
How? God told Israel that he would go through the land of Egypt and kill the first born of every family. Every family, even Israel’s who were slaves in Egypt at the time. Your sin, our sin makes all of us guilty of sin justly deserving God’s just penalty as much as Adam.
However if the slaves, Israel, would sacrifice a lamb and mark their houses with its blood the angel of death would Passover their house accepting this lambs blood in their place.
All of this flooded back to the memory of those who saw John point to Jesus, God the Son, and say look there is the lamb of God.
The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Christmas, Jesus coming, is God himself providing an adequate sacrifice to pay the penalty of our sin. That sacrifice was his unique son, God the son who came to die for us and he did.
Him we must trust as God and honor as God himself if we want to know who God is. Him we must love and appreciate for he paid the penalty of my sin.
To know him is eternal life. John the author here wrote a few verses earlier; 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Jesus, this Jesus prayed hours before he was crucified and said; Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Living a right life, or living rightly out of fear of hell or judgment and consequences is real but self-centered by nature. For living such away is purely for one’s own good even if it is just avoidance of pain. This living in fear of doing the wrong thing is full of anxiety because it is rooted in self and fear.
Living a right life, or living rightly out of thanksgiving, (a response of love to having been loved) is more powerful and another centered. This living is living for another by its essence and therefore more God like, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This living is by nature Joyful in its essence as it seeks joy of another and experiences joy inside.
Paul recommends and the Spirit of God calls us to live out appreciation for the mercy of God, Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
“We cannot hesitate to believe that the great mission of Christianity was in reality accomplished by means of informal missionaries.” Adolf von Harnack.
In our time a great fear has spread across much of the western world. This fear is caused by the Father of fear who came to kill and destroy while stealing away any semblance of peace. This great fear is that unknown “sleeper cells” of wicked men direct by the father of lies will rise up and strike terror.
Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full, according to John 10:10. We live in a day of great contrast, Christian. We who trust in the sovereign Lord Jesus have the opportunity to be informal missionaries. We by courage may demonstrate the peace that passes understanding to our neighbor, point them to the God of peace. Our God came to give life by dyeing in our place that we might have eternal life. “ this is eternal life that they know the true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) This is Jesus Prayer and must be ours.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
In the book “Foundations of the Christian Faith, JM Boice quoting Harnack writes; “The most numerous and successful missionaries of the Christian religion were not the regular teachers but the Christians themselves, in virtue of their loyalty and courage… it was characteristic of this religion that everyone who seriously confessed the faith proved of service to its propaganda.”
We are called to be the agent of His Love bring righteousness, peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit everywhere we are.
Immanuel Kant a philosopher from the 1700 said; By applying the pure forms of sensible intuition and the pure concepts of the understanding, we achieve a systematic view of the phenomenal realm but learn nothing of the noumenal realm. Math and science are certainly true of the phenomena; only metaphysics claims to instruct us about the noumena.
Today many are decedents of Immanuel Kant, much as Jesus pointing out in John 8:44r There are some today who would tell you that the blue chair at which I am looking may not be real. That the Noumena which is the reality of the chair, is perceived by me as a Phenomena. What I see or what appears may not be the reality at all and so you can never know for certain it is a blue chair. It might just look like a blue chair.
I might be seeing a blue chair but because I am slightly color blind it may actually be a green chair or not a chair at all. Today with the amazing powers of the computer generated graphics we can make a whole reality appear so realistic that we do not know the difference as in a movie. Many are so confused by this that they are uncertain about the most obvious realities. We have headed down a path of extreme skepticism as an excuse to live make believe lives. Many live lives made up of what they choose to believe is reality untethered to anything real.
Is there some truth to this teaching? Certainly there is for we are not infallible or inerrant in our perception of reality. I have been fooled many a time by those who told a believable lie. However saying that means that I believe there is actually truth as opposed to a lie.
However, God himself has crossed the border of the uncertainty between the reality, the noumena and the phenomena the medium or perceived. God Sent his Son Jesus who is ultimate reality (John 1:1) and came in reality a man that we might know the one who is beyond our perception and comprehension, God himself. God transmitted the truth about Jesus and therefore about himself in the bible, his Word to us, infallibly and in errantly. His word was transmitted by the person of his Holy Spirit. Jesus he took on our reality as humans and then transmitted to us this reality infallibly by himself, God the Holy Spirit.
What is left is simply to sit in the chair. How might we know, really know the truth about God, who he is, who we are and how we might be rejoined? Our own observations are corrupted and distorted by our very nature. How can we know him? We simply sit in the chair.
Faith is sitting in the chair. I may look at the chair before me and say I believe it will hold my weight. I might even examine it or have someone else tell me that it holds them. However I will never know with any certainty that the chair will hold me until I entrust myself to him. Sitting in the chair is trusting Him and what he has communicated to me through his infallible word.
I can know only by faith, sitting in the chair, entrusting my life, all I am and hope for, my feelings, my senses and all I am ashamed of, I entrust to him. Taking my feet off the floor and entrusting myself to him I discover the Joy of eternal life, knowing truly knowing God Jesus calls this eternal life. (John 17:2) by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone as revealed in the bible alone.
Ahhhhh, carrying what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders and the burden of my own guilt was really hurting my feet of clay. It was crushing me. Now I know reality as a gift from the really and only true God.
May God the Holy Spirit convince your sinful soul to trust Jesus for the forgiveness or your sins that you might be rejoined to God who made you.