The Heart of Worship

pexels-photo-213207.jpegTaken together, Psalm 111 and Psalm 112 are alphabetical psalms. There are twenty-two lines of three words with each line beginning with the following letter in the Hebrew alphabet. They are both psalms of praise to the Lord. Psalm 111 focuses on the great and mighty works of the Lord. It is a beautiful song about God’s greatness in what he does and how we should respond to his greatness. Psalm 111 teaches us a lot about the object of true worship, the nature of true worship, and the reason for true worship.

True worship is all about its object. Psalm 111 is about the works of the Lord and how great they are. Verses 3-9 serves as a litany of reasons why God deserves to be praised. Worship is extolling the person and works of God. It is seeing God for who he is and what he has done and praising him for it

What is the nature of true worship? First, it involves the whole heart. Worship is not about physical expressions, but about spiritual dispositions. True worship is about the direction of the heart’s delights. Asking who you worship is the same as asking what you delight in most. “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Ps. 111:2). The nature of true worship is God-centered, heart-directed, and joy-motivated. It is the natural response of a person whose eyes have been opened to see the greatness of the Lord.

Finally, the result of true worship is a life that is changed to mirror God’s glory to the world. We don’t merely see God’s great works; we share them. Those of us who have received the redemption the Lord sent to his people (Ps. 111:9) have been recreated in the image of Christ. We have now been enabled to image God to our neighbors.

In other words, through or words and works, we are to show the world what God is like. When we are righteous, we reflect his righteousness. When we are merciful, we reflect his mercy. When we are faithful and just, we reflect his faithfulness and justice. So, true worship flows into every area of life, as we seek to perform the works of his hands with faithfulness and uprightness with the purpose of seeing more glad-hearted Jesus-worshipers recreated in his image for his glory.

When you hear the word worship what is the first thought that comes to your mind?

For many of us, we think of worship as the thing we do on Sunday mornings as a faith family. We gather for a worship service in the worship room to sing worship songs led by a worship leader. But did you know it is possible to attend worship services every single Sunday and never actually worship?

It makes me think of the time I went to watch Duke play Indiana in the NCAA tournament in 2002. The game was played at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a great game! But I really didn’t care who won. Kentucky basketball fans hate few things more than Duke and Indiana basketball. My granddad and I joked that it would be awesome if they could both lose.

Even though I didn’t like either team, I found myself clapping for the first player who was introduced…for Duke! My granddad quietly leaned over and asked politely, but firmly, “What on earth are you doing?” I didn’t know! I definitely wasn’t cheering for Duke to win. I wasn’t a Duke fan. Being in the place where Kentucky played their home games and seeing Duke sitting on Kentucky’s bench and hearing the same announcer from every Kentucky game caused me to clap from habit. I had no love for Duke in my heart even though my hands made it look like I did.

Many people do the same thing I did at Rupp Arena in church buildings on Sunday mornings. Their hands, words, and actions make it look like they are worshiping God, but their hearts are far from him. True worship is less about physical acts and more about the direction of the heart. Worship begins in the heart and directs love, joy, and obedience toward God in every area of life.

Psalm 111 begins with three simple words: “Praise the Lord!” This psalm is all about worship. What do you notice about the psalmist’s worship in verses 1-2?

First, his worship is God-centered. The eyes of his heart are gazing on God and his awesomeness.

Second, his worship flows from his heart. While you can hide your heart from others by singing the lyrics of worship songs, you can’t hide the desires and motives of your heart from God.

Third, his worship is both personal and corporate. That means he personally worships the Lord with his whole heart, but he also worships the Lord “in the company of the upright.” It is important to practice personal worship every day without forgetting how important it is to worship the Lord together with your faith family.

Finally, his worship is not mindless or joyless. In verse two he says that those who delight in the works of God will study them. We don’t worship God because someone forces us to do it. And we don’t worship God without thinking. We think deeply about who God is and all the things he has done. This deep meditation on God fuels worship in those whose joy is in him.

Why Does David Ask God to Slay the Wicked?

pexels-photo-89837There are many places in the Bible people are just not comfortable with. They either don’t like what it means or are not sure what it means, so they just avoid it. We don’t have the option to only believe or deal with parts of the Bible that we personally like. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). Even the parts we don’t like.

Many Christians try to ignore Psalm 139:19-22 because they don’t understand it. David goes from praising God for his amazing thoughts and how vast and deep God’s knowledge is to asking God to punish the wicked. Check out the strong words David uses:

“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies” (vv. 19, 21-22).

Wait a minute, did he just say what I think he said? Did David really just say he hates people with complete hatred? Help me double check…Yep, he said it! Why would David say this? Why would he want his enemies to be killed? Why does he hate these people? Is it a good thing? Is that something we should do?

When we approach difficult passage like this, we are tempted to spiritualize or theologize them away. We try to come to the Bible’s defense. We don’t expect to read what we just read, so we try to make it into something it doesn’t say. The problem is, we don’t have the authority to create our own meaning of difficult Bible passages just because we are uncomfortable with what they say. Instead of skating around difficult texts we must face them head on if we are to understand what they actually mean. The goal of Bible study is not to understand Scripture according to your own preferences or cultural hermeneutics.

The goal of Bible study is to discern the original meaning of the author by faithfully and diligently digging into the context of the passage. Though we can come up with many principles and theological truths from a tough passage like Psalm 139:19-22, we are misguided if those principles and truths don’t deal honestly with the passage itself. We can’t place meaning on a text. Rather, we must draw out the meaning that is already there.

So, for Psalm 139:19-22, we need to consider a few important contextual matters.

First, we need to remember is that the Psalms are songs, or prayers set to music. They also express so many different human emotions. In this one psalm, David expresses thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and anger. If nothing else, this psalm teaches us that it is okay to come to God with our emotions. It is good to express how you are feeling to God in prayer. God is not looking for you to be fake in your prayers. If you feel confused, tell God you feel confused! If you don’t understand how God could allow something to happen, tell him! Honesty with God in prayer is a sign of intimacy with God.

Second, we need to remember that God knows and sees everything. Why does David move from talking about God’s amazing knowledge to asking him to slay the wicked? Because David saw something in the knowledge of God that we need to see. God knows and sees everything. No one, not even the world’s most cunning criminal, can ultimately get away with evil. There are many injustices in the world. But with God there is no injustice, only justice. Because he knows all things and see all things, his power to judge is real and just as big as his knowledge. No one can get away with evil with God.

There will be a day of judgment. So, we should do two things.

Pray for God to judge evil (slay the wicked) and for him to show mercy (save the wicked). Praise God that he does both in Christ. You don’t have to seek revenge, because God will judge all sin for every person (including you and me), either in hell or in Christ.

Breathed Out by God: The Supremacy of Scripture

pexels-photo-250609All Scripture is supreme in the life of the church and in the lives of every believer. This truth is summed up in one phrase: All Scripture is God-breathed.

Scripture has a Divine Origin

What does the phrase “breathed out by God,” or “God-breathed” mean? Concerning the authority of Scripture, Wayne Grudem writes in his Systematic Theology, “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” There is an intrinsic and special connection between God and Scripture because Paul says that all Scripture is the very words of God.

“Breathed out by God” in this context seems to be a metaphor for speaking the words of Scripture. Unlike all other books that have ever been written, the Bible has at its core divine DNA. It comes to us through human agents, but its content is very specifically, the words from God. Notice that Paul writes that it is Scripture that is inspired by God, not the authors. Timothy can be certain that every word that he preaches is from God and not from man (2 Tim. 4:2). Because Scripture is God-breathed, this indicates that it is also completely truthful and holy.

Any book written today must stand the test of peer review and evaluation in light of similar works in that particular field in order to substantiate the claims of that book. This is because authors are flawed, no matter how gifted. However, when it comes to the holy Scripture, its Author is the opposite of flawed. The reason you see “Holy Bible” written on the front or side of your Bible is because it is the direct product of an infinitely holy God. The character of this Word reflects the character of the one who spoke it. And the supremacy of the Bible is self-evident as it attests to the supreme Being who created heaven and earth.

This means that when it comes to Scripture, there is no higher authority for the church and there is no higher authority for our lives as believers. We must submit to every single text of Scripture as it is all from God. To disobey Scripture is to disobey God.

Amazing Grace

Will you just stop with me for a moment to consider and marvel at this thought? The book that you hold in your hand is not just any book. It is a book in which every single word is God-breathed or uniquely intended by God to be written in a specific time by a specific writer. We should hold this book in the highest esteem and approach it with fear and trembling. It is not a plaything to be tossed around or a worldly work to be treated lightly. These words that we are reading and studying are from the One who created the Milky Way galaxy and the amoeba. May we never be flippant or silly with this Word. And may we always fall before this Word in submission and worship because of its unbelievably God-like nature. What unfathomable love! What amazing grace!

Three Striking Implications

In light of the supremacy of Scripture, there are three striking implications for the church and Christians today.

1. No text of Scripture is insignificant

All Scripture is God-breathed, and therefore contains a divine element that demands attention and submission. It is all-important and all vital for our faith and for the satisfaction of our souls. Man cannot live on bread alone (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

2. No text of Scripture is more authoritative than any other

For example, if Jesus did not say something, but Paul did, this does not mean that it lacks authority because Jesus didn’t say it. All Scripture is God-breathed.

3. No text of Scripture can be ignored

This impacts our preaching and Bible study. Do not only preach or study the four Gospels. Do not only preach or study the New Testament. Instead, recognizing that all Scripture is God-breathed, we must give ourselves to the preaching and reading and studying of both testaments and all 66 writings. If the pastor asks you to turn to Ezra or a Psalm or Leviticus, do not turn him off. If your daily reading is in Deuteronomy or 2 Chronicles or Romans, do not blow it off. Two lines out of Leviticus or two pages of genealogies out of Nehemiah contain more intrinsic worth and power than an entire book written by C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling because Leviticus and Nehemiah have the imprint of God himself.

We are not at liberty to pick and choose to obey only those passages that agree with our finite philosophies or wishes. Scripture is not subject to our will, but rather to the will of the one from whom it is breathed out! All Scripture is from the Spirit of God and because of this it is all holy and good and true. This means that when we come to difficult passages, we do not have the option to disregard it or deny it, for when we do so, we are denying God himself. It is therefore important to learn how to study the Bible. Yes, you want to wield a sword when an enemy attacks you, but if you do not know how to wield it correctly, you are great risk of maiming yourself. In the same way, if we do not know how to properly wield the Sword of Truth, we will only be maiming our souls.

Nothing Can Cut You Off From God’s Love in Christ

nature-forest-waves-treesFor various reasons and purposes, dams are constructed almost anywhere there is a significant body of water. Sometimes dams are created to prevent flooding. Other times they are constructed to create lakes. But always, dams are constructed for the purpose of blocking water from reaching a certain area. Dams trap water in a certain area and prevent water from reaching another area.

Paul is finishing his answer to a question he has posed in verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul isn’t asking if God loves us. He’s asking if there is anything that can block God’s love from reaching us. He’s asking if there are any dams that can prevent the river of God’s love from flowing to us. He lists ten possible dams that might separate us from God’s love in Christ. Let’s look at each of them in three categories.

First, can life or death separate us from God’s love? No, because God’s love busts through each of these dams since “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20). Even death is used by God’s love to only increase your experience of it.

Second, can angels or rulers or powers separate us from God’s love? No, because even Satan himself, the highest evil ruler and power, only serves the expansion of God’s love. Satan tempted Judas to betray Jesus to his own demise. God’s love crushes these supernatural and evil would-be dams. They cannot keep God’s love from you.

Third, can height or depth or anything else in all creation separate us from God’s love? No. Nothing. Nada. Goose egg. Not one conceivable person or thing can separate us from God’s love. There isn’t one single ruler, power, person, angelic or demonic being that can block God’s love from incessantly flowing to his people. Even death itself is a pawn in the hands of a loving God used for the ultimate good and joy of his people.

So, those of us who have unstoppable access to the river of God’s love must be rivers of living water (John 7:37-38). The love of God in Christ that has freely flowed to us must freely flow through us to others. Don’t construct any dams between you and others. Freely offer the love that has been given to you. Love relentlessly. Love incessantly. Love like your Father.

Morning Mashup 04/24

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place | Andy Crouch

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Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture | David Murray

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ARTICLES

A Legacy of Forgiveness | The Washington Post

Jemar TisbyHe was walking home from an Easter meal on Sunday when a man walked up to Robert Godwin Sr., asked him to say a name and then shot him in the head. To add to the horror, the killer recorded the shooting and uploaded it to Facebook. Thousands of people saw the slaying before it was removed over an hour later.

The family’s grief, particularly that of Godwin’s children, was on display, too. But so was their love. In a baffling demonstration of grace, three of his children publicly forgave their father’s killer the next day.

Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?| Ligonier

Albert Mohler: In a time of cultural conflict, the enemy of our enemy may well be our friend. But, with eternity in view and the gospel at stake, the enemy of our enemy must not be confused to be a friend to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Truthing in Love | GoThereFor

Lionel Windsor: Truthing in love means speaking the gospel, speaking the implications of the gospel, and speaking in a gospel-shaped way within the whole network of loving relationships characterized by God’s love for us in Jesus.

Three Lessons from an Intentional Life | ERLC

Lauren McAfee: I have the privilege of working in the company that grandpa started more than 40 years ago. There are many things I’ve learned from him over the years, but here are three specific lessons I’ve gleaned from his life:

10 Reasons to Be Humble Toward Opponents | TGC

Andrew DavisGod doesn’t will for us to give in for an instant on issues of biblical truth. It’s not humilty but self-serving cowardice that causes us to back down from doctrinal attacks. We must fight like lions for the truth of the gospel—the souls of our hearers are at stake. 

I think it’s unlikely for a work of church revitalization to go on without overcoming significant human opposition. But God commands us to be humble toward our opponents, entrusting ourselves to him. This is among the greatest displays of grace. And it’ll be instrumental in transforming your church.

As personal conduct goes, I believe there are at least 10 reasons we should be humble toward our opponents.

VIDEOS

Expositional Devotions: Mark 16:1-4

aaron-burden-113284Do you want to know what I hated most about school? I hated the end of PE and recess. You know what it’s like. You are running and playing and laughing. Maybe you just started a new game with your friends. But whatever the case, you hear that loud whistle! Or, that loud shout, “Line Up!” You have to stop what you are doing and go back to class. Nothing would upset me more than leaving a game unfinished. When recess or PE was over, it dampened my day.

Well, on a much, much greater level, all of Jesus’ disciples were deeply saddened when Jesus died. They didn’t know all we know about Jesus’ death and what it meant for them. They thought Jesus was going to save the world and rule as a King, but they never thought he would take his kingdom by dying.

When Jesus died on the cross it was like a loud whistle blowing to stop all of the disciples’ hopes and dreams. Their leader, friend, savior, and God was dead. They saw him arrested. They saw him mocked. They saw him beaten. They saw him crucified. They saw his body taken off a cross. They saw him placed in a tomb. As far as they knew, it was all over.

Can you imagine what must have been going through their minds? Jesus had made claims to being God and the Messiah who would save his people from their sins. They must have at least thought, “Maybe he was not who he said he was.” Now, they trembled alone and afraid. They were scared because they knew what was probably coming. Their leader had been arrested. The religious leaders hated him. Their next move would have been to silence Jesus’ followers. I’m sure the disciples could not understand why the one they had fully trusted and followed for three years was lying dead in a tomb.

But that is exactly the point of our passage today. Jesus was dead and buried. Dead. Buried. Three women tried to honor the body of Jesus by bringing spices to anoint him. They waited because they were not able to buy the spices and oils necessary to anoint the body on the Sabbath. When they arrived at the tomb, they were wondering how they would be able to move the stone to gain access to Jesus’ body. What is the main point? Jesus is clearly dead.

The difference between the first disciples and us is massive—about 2,000 years! We have the privilege to know just what the death of Jesus means. While the first disciples were afraid when they learned of Jesus’ death, we can be confident and courageous! Satan’s day ended the day Jesus died.

As Jesus’ lay dead and motionless in the tomb on Saturday, he was in the process of unleashing all the power that sin and death hold over us. As you read about the death and burial of Jesus, do so with total joy, knowing what those first disciples did not know—that the one who lies dead in the tomb has given new life to all who come to him in repentance and faith.

Main Idea

As Jesus’ lay dead and motionless in the tomb on Saturday, he was in the process of unleashing all the power that sin and death hold over us.

Discussion Starter

Why is it important that we have this evidence that Jesus was actually dead?

Prayer Points

Thank the Lord that Jesus was truly dead, so that we can truly live.

Eternal Roots

pexels-photo-2A truly blessed man is a man who has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. In fact, the ultimate example of the blessed man of Psalm 1 is Jesus himself. This psalm is a great description of Jesus, the one in whom his Father was well pleased (Matt. 3:17). By God’s grace and the sinner’s God-initiated faith in Jesus, a man is saved. Through union to the Blessed God-man is a man truly blessed.

Psalm 1 is very figurative and eloquent in its description of a truly happy person in God. This glorious Psalm is a continuous contrasting distinction between the righteous and the wicked. One way leads to life, and the other leads to death. The difference is where the righteous and wicked have been rooted. The righteous are rooted in God, while the wicked are rooted in the world or themselves.

Rooted in God

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (Ps. 1:3).

The Psalmist compares a blessed and righteous person to a tree. All trees have roots. The stronger and healthier the roots, the stronger and healthier the tree will be. The same goes for fruit on a vine. The fruits of a vine are utterly dependent on the strength and health of the vine. The reason a man is blessed is because he has been rooted in the Word of God by meditating on it and delighting in it (Ps. 1:2). He has therefore rooted himself in God, sinking into the rich soils of his delightful Word.

The psalmist continues the metaphor by saying that the tree (the blessed man) is planted by streams of water. This water, this stream, flows directly from the heart and mind of God. We can be certain of this since the tree yields proper fruit for the season, and the leaves do not wither. The resourceful supply of the life-giving stream produces fruit in this tree.

If fruit did not yield from this tree, then there is an issue with the roots. There is no negative issue with God, and therefore fruit is yielded; “its leaf does not wither.” Commenting on Psalm 1, John Calvin writes, “[T]he children of God constantly flourish, and are always watered with the secret influences of divine grace, so whatever may befall them is conducive to their salvation.”[1]

Those who are in Christ Jesus will produce fruit because of the Soil they are rooted in. It is good soil, and it is planted beside the stream of life flowing from the fountain of God. These fruits greatly benefit others and glorify God. God is glorified greatly when it is clear that without him there would be no fruit. Without the stream flowing in an otherwise dry land, the tree would indeed wither and not bear fruit. The tree is utterly dependent on the life-giving streams of water.

Likewise, those who are in Christ are utterly dependent on God for life and for fruit bearing. We only prosper by his grace for the sake of his glory and the sake of others. Blessed is the man who is rooted in God, for he indeed will know God and know eternal life (Ps. 1:6; John 17:3).

Rooted in the World

The only alternative to being rooted in God in this life is being rooted in either the world or being rooted in self. These two are basically the same, as ultimately what the man is rooted in rather than God is sin or wickedness. Verse one describes men who are not rooted in God as “wicked,” “sinners,” and “scoffers,” which directly contrasts the way of the righteous and blessed man who is rooted in God. It can easily be deduced from the psalmist’s images of a blessed man that a wicked or sinful man is a tree in a dry land, not by streams of water.

Therefore, this tree will not produce good fruit, and it will ultimately die. Living a life filled with wickedness, sin, and scoffing is a life rooted in the world, and it is a life that is slowly decaying under the hot sun of fleeting pleasures. The wicked are also described as chaff, which is the husks and straw removed by threshing.

There is another place in Scripture where the wicked and sinners are compared to chaff. In comparing those who repent with those who do not, John the Baptist describes how Jesus is both a Savior King and a Sovereign Judge: His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat [blessed men; righteous men] into the barn, but the chaff [wicked men] he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12, emphasis added).

Now that is a picture to behold! Jesus gathers his people to himself, and the rest he burns with an unquenchable fire. This is evidence that Jesus clearly believed hell is most definitely real. The illustration of the chaff is indicative of the truth that the wicked will not see the kingdom of God. All who are not tied tightly to Jesus Christ, and all who are not rooted in the Word of God will perish eternally. Period. There are no questions asked.

If you are rooting your life in sin, in this world and in yourself, take a long look at this text and see that you are a tree without fruit; a tree in a dry land without a supply of water; and a chaff that is blowing about in the wind only to be tossed out and burned with a fire that is unquenchable, for you have forsaken the living water of King Jesus.

Drink and Be Satisfied

While both trees in this metaphor are in a dry land, one will live and one will die. The tree by the streams of water will live, and the other will die in the desert. This world we live in is a massive desert, and we are all trees in it. The deciding factor for our eternity will be whether or not we are rooted in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, delighting in him beside the streams that flow from the overflowing spring of God’s grace which leads to eternal life.

The only alternative is that we are rooted in the desert of this world and the sin that corrupts it which leads to eternal death.In the words of the psalmist, “the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Ps. 1:6).

Delight in the Word of God today, and drink living water at the spring of God. It may take deep reading and meditating, for the fight against temptation and sin is real and tiring, but the joy at the end of the journey is more than sufficient and is truly satisfying, as God will be greatly glorified. The spring flowing with living water is high at the top of a mountain, and the trek is difficult and wearisome. But when the climb is over, those huge gulps of water will be so satisfying, and the Spring will be glorified.

Read. Meditate. Delight. Live.

*This post originally appeared as a chapter in my book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God.


[1] John Calvin, Commentary on the Psalms, Abr. ed. David C. Seale (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), p. 2.

Morning Mashup 04/18

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul | HANNAH ANDERSON

 

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No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God | AIMEE BYRD

 

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ARTICLES

MOVIE REVIEW: THE CASE FOR CHRIST | THE BLAZING CENTER

Zach Bartels: Be prepared: it kind of wrecked me, but then again, I’m easily affected by movies. And I was inspired by this one. Upon leaving, I kind of wanted to start a huge investigation of some kind that would result in a complex web of photos and string in my basement.

TWO KEYS TO FLOURISHING IN THE DIGITAL AGE | DESIRING GOD

Tony Reinke: Always connected to the web, always connected to social media, a smartphone with a camera is the most addictive tool of communication ever invented.

 STOP CALLING HEBREWS 11 THE HALL OF FAITH | J.A. MEDDERS

J.A. Medders: The Hall of Fame, in every sport, is an incredible but temporal accomplishment. By faith we look to a heavenly city where duds, the forgotten, the overlooked, are welcome by faith in Christ’s accomplishments. His and his alone.

2017 BOSTON MARATHON | THE BOSTON GLOBE

Proud of one of our Trace Crossing members, Jim Brown, for running and finishing the Boston Marathon.

10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CATECHESIS | CROSSWAY

Joe Carter: Catechesis a form of religious instruction, typically presented in oral form. The instruction is usually based on a book or document known as a catechism, which contains a summary of principles, especially of religious doctrine, often in the form of questions and answers. 

VIDEOS

THE CASE FOR CHRIST MOVIE PREVIEW

A SNEAK PEAK OF NEW CITY CATECHISM

 

Expositional Devotions: Mark 15:33-39

aaron-burden-113284The gospel, which means “good news,” is the ultimate story of an innocent man taking the place of the guilty. It is the story of a man who never sinned, taking the punishment of sinful men and women. Mark 15:33-39 tells the story of Jesus’ death. As an innocent man dying for the guilty, Jesus proved himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God, sent from God to bear God’s wrath against sin and sinners. He also proved himself to be the Savior who brings sinners back to God. There are two images we see in this chapter that show Jesus as our sacrificial Lamb and our great Mediator.

First, look at Mark 15:34. Mark writes, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice…”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This means so much for you and me. Jesus was about to die. With the last bit of strength he had in his dying body, he shouted loudly that God had “forsaken” him. This means that God had abandoned him. In this moment, the wrath of God was pouring out on Jesus. It was like God the Father turned his back on God the Son.

For the first time in eternity, forsakenness existed within the Trinity because as Jesus took his final breaths, the weight of human sin was on his shoulders—your sin and my sin. Jesus took our sin upon himself (2 Cor. 5:21). He was forsaken or abandoned by God so that all who believe in him will never be forsaken or abandoned by God.

Second, look at Mark 15:37-38. Mark writes, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” John tells us that loud cry was, “It is finished” (John 19:30). As Jesus breathed his last breath on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem, a curtain in the temple in Jerusalem tore in two pieces.

This curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the temple. It was in the Most Holy Place that the presence of God dwelled, and where the high priest would go to make sacrifices for the people. When Jesus died, he offered himself to God as the once for all perfect sacrifice for sin. Through his death, the veil separating the people from the presence of God was forever torn.

Main Idea

Jesus was forsaken or abandoned by God so that all who believe in him will never be forsaken or abandoned by God.

Discussion Starters

Based on Mark 15:33-39, write out the gospel in your own words in one sentence.

 Prayer Points

Thank God for his saving grace by sending Jesus to die for the ungodly.

4 Ways to Be a More Authentic Christian

pexels-photo-241332Why is there often a disconnect between our knowledge of God and our experience of God? What is the difference between knowing stuff about God and knowing God on a personal level? Do you feel that you have grown content with knowing all the right answers about God, the Bible, and the Christian faith? Have you ever wondered why your head knowledge of God hasn’t translated into obedience to God?

What does it mean to be an authentic Christian? In an Instagram-filter world, we want to put on our best face and present ourselves as Christians to one another and to the world in a cookie-cutter manner. We have our own ideas of what an ideal Christian looks like. Some of those ideas are biblical. Some are more culturally informed. Maybe more than anything, we are afraid to let our spiritual doubts or depression show. We can’t let anyone know we are in a spiritual rut, or else they may doubt the legitimacy of our faith or our God. We believe the lie that true Christians don’t feel spiritually dry.

The truth is that authentic Christian experience comes through a combination of honesty and humility. Authenticity moves into our lives when we are honest with God and other believers about our own doubts, demons, and despair. I believe there are four ways we can move toward greater authenticity in our Christian journeys.

1. Don’t ruin your spiritual appetite for God.

Don’t substitute the source of your spiritual appetite with lesser pleasures (Jer. 2:12-13). What do mothers tell their children when they want to eat dessert before dinner? You’ll ruin your appetite. Don’t eat those cookies! You’ll ruin your appetite! I’ve already learned this firsthand with Jude. Just between us, there have been times when Jude has been really fussy before dinner. When Mama won’t give him anything to eat, trying to teach him patience and to wait for his dinner, the boy knows where to turn. “Dada,” he’ll say. And if he says it enough, I might give him a small snack. I’ve had to learn the hard way that when Jude eats something sweet before dinner, he doesn’t eat his dinner. He doesn’t feel a need to eat broccoli or chicken when he’s had a cookie.

The same is true for our spiritual appetites. We can ruin our spiritual appetite for God by seeking spiritual nourishment in other, lesser sources. In God, we have a feast of spiritual sustenance. But, we are prone to settle for sin, which gives the appearance of satisfying us, but only leaves us wanting more.

The worst thing you can do for your soul is seek in other people or things what can only be found in God. Authenticity begins by satisfying your spiritual appetite with the only source that will do. Don’t ruin your spiritual appetite for God.

2. Meditate on the character of God (Ps. 63:6)

David says he knows he will be satisfied in the Lord and his lips will praise him when he remembers him and meditates on him. So, one important step in moving toward greater authenticity in your Christian walk is to meditate on the character of God. In order to crave and be content in your God is to know him. For Christians, the more you know about God, the more you will know God. The more you think about God with your mind, the more your heart will be kindled with affections for him.

3. Preach the gospel to yourself (Ps. 63:7)

We are prone to forget. Those of us with children are doubly prone to forget. When you are in a spiritual rut and don’t understand why God feels absent, feelings of doubt will creep in your mind and heart.  Become a seasoned preacher to your own soul. Use the truths about God and the gospel to your advantage. Remind yourself of God’s righteousness and how he gives it to us freely at great cost to himself.

4. Don’t waste your Sunday mornings (Ps. 63:2)

Jonathan Edwards: “The duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections.”

When we gather as a redeemed community to sing praises to God, read and proclaim his Word, confess our sin, and partake of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we are beholding the glory and power of the Lord. We are able to see the glory and power of the Lord in our weekly gatherings far more clearly than David could in the Tabernacle. We see the glory of God revealed in Scripture and through our songs of praise. We see the power of the Lord’s grace through confession, baptism, and the Table. We behold the glory and power of the Lord every Sunday morning through the ordinary elements of our worship service.

When you see Sunday mornings in this light, they will begin to serve you as reminders of the Lord’s presence and power when you are spiritual despondent. Being satisfied in God begins with beholding God as he truly is. Our goal as pastors is to help lead you to see God as he truly is. That’s why we sing God-centered songs that teach the gospel and preach expositional sermons that teach the gospel—to help you behold the glory and power of the Lord. Our weekly gatherings should create both fainting for and feasting of the riches of God’s grace in Christ. May each Sunday morning be a fresh drink of water for your soul.