Do We Need Grey Heads in the Church?

1grace_colorThere is a tremendous emphasis today to slow down aging or at least look like you’ve hit the paused button on your advancement in years. Secular society has frowned upon many things and one of the main ones is the process of aging. To many, being young is associated with being healthy, free and believe it or not, being educated and wise. You may find that last part hard to believe but let me explain. The idea of someone being “old” represents to many in our society as being out of touch with modern thinking. The elderly seem to be stuck in those olden days when people raised kids differently, ate differently, didn’t go to the gym and seem to understand Apple/Blackberry as fruits. Seems they have nothing more to offer than a short history lesson on how things “were” to make us feel more intelligent and sophisticated. These people are about to die and the era they represent will enter into the grave alongside with them.

Unfortunately, this ideology has leaked into the church.   I once heard an individual state that the sign of the impending death of a church is seeing the sea of white heads when you walk in. Churches today are trying to win over the young through a multitude of venues and methodologies. Some are using the ol’ bait them with entertainment trick or attempt to meet their spiritual needs, not with good biblical exposition, but with a multitude of self help programs for every need. The elderly, who are far wiser with their money, are around to pay for this stuff to happen.

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Ecclesiastical Contentment: In Spirit and In Truth

18 Luiken Woman at the Well Book Title: Historiae celebriores Veteris Testamenti Iconibus representatae / Author: Luiken, Caspar, 1672-1708. Image Title: Woman at the Well Scripture Reference: John 4 Description: Jesus converses with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar.

We’ve spent a substantial amount of time focusing upon how we should be approaching our glorious God in worship. We’ve dwelt to this point upon two little words;  reverence and awe and explained that approaching God in awe and reverence is the proper manner in which we are to approach Yahweh. It is also the root of how we should express our worship and we believe the foundation to finding ecclesiastical contentment. Keeping with what we have seen in the last few posts, let’s move on to introduce two new words that should be engrained in our worship vocabulary. Those two words are found in the following passage:

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)

The two words I would like to spend a few moments unpacking are the words Spirit and Truth.

En route to Galilee, the Lord Jesus made a stop in the forbidden lands of Samaria. Samaria was frowned upon by the highly respectable Jewish clergy of the day and the Samaritans had about the same type of respect for the Jews. This disassociation was due to their respective religious views on Judaism and their theological hostility against one another. Basically both Jerusalem and Samaria believed they were the true worshipers of God and each held the proper geographical place of worship (The temple in Jerusalem and Mt. Gerizim in Samaria). Hmm, a monopoly on truth…Sound familiar? The Lord met a woman by a well while she was drawing water. The woman was startled by the fact that a Jewish man would even talk to her since she was a Samaritan.  Since the Lord Jesus isn’t a racist, the conversation seems quite appropriate and it carried on. The woman had no idea who she was really talking to. She probably viewed our Lord as a mere tourist who seemed to have lost His way.  The promised Messiah stood before her and while she was familiar with the Messianic promises, she was unaware who it was that was asking her for a drink of water. The gift of God of eternal life was then presented to her in the Lord proclaiming to her about the living water. She probably visited this well on a daily basis and it was precious to her because it came from Patriarch Jacob who had left it to them to provide them with water. She was a true traditionalist and could not fathom that the man she was speaking with could be greater than Jacob. Not only was the One with whom she was speaking greater than Jacob but the water He offered was a far greater water than the water Jacob left for her. Christ was offering her the water of life. It was this water that would satisfy her forever. She still didn’t understand what on earth He was saying to her because, much like Nicodemus, she interpreted all of the Lord Jesus’ words in a physical, materialistic sense rather than in a spiritual sense. Notice that the Lord didn’t just go ahead and give her the water.  The Lord asks her about her husband. Talk about a change of subject! The Lord was in fact dealing with her sins. Her sins needed to be dealt with before she could drink from this fountain. Her answer to the Lord’s inquiry was an honest answer in that she had no husband. The problem was that it she wasn’t telling Him the whole story. The Lord commends her for her truthful statement yet reveals to her what she had neglected. She had been married five times and the man she was with now wasn’t her husband. Her response to His declaration was to call the Lord a prophet. Now again, this was a true statement but it was the response He was looking for.

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More on Ecclesiastical Contentment: When the Lord Jesus Shows Up

Disappointments can come in many forms and you better get used to experiencing them since they are pretty consistent throughout life. They start at childhood with mommy not being able to buy you a motorized bicycle due to budget limitations all the way to becoming an adult and not being able to purchase your new Ferarri for the same reason. Life is full of disappointments. There is a disappointment that is less of a major concern but that happens more frequently than we would like and that is the famous no show. How many times have you made plans with someone and your meeting gets high jacked at the last minute. Sound familiar? Things happen in life that may cause a person to scratch you out of their calendar because life is just as unpredictable as people are.

There is one person however that makes plans to be with us on a regular basis that you can rest assured will never fail to “show up”. This rendezvous happens every  Sunday when Christians gather together. That person is none other than Jesus Christ. Christ has promised to us before His ascension into the Heavens that He would be present with His Church whenever they meet together. This may be in the form of worship, decision making or discipline (Matthew 18:20) What Christ was referring to is that His presence would be with them whenever they meet since He would never leave them nor forsake them. This is a magnificent blessing that serves as a wonderful encouragement to Christians. What a joy to know that when we get together as God’s covenant people that we have the promise that the Covenant head will be present.

This brings us to another point on the subject of ecclesiastical contentment. We previously said that for a Christian to find ecclesiastical contentment that they would need to find a church that is theocentric and pursues theocentric worship. In addition to thinking theocentrically, we must also pursue a church that is Christocentric. Our ecclesiastical contentment must be centered around Christ and His presence in the church.  There is only one problem and that is that the majority of people just don’t understand this or more frequently they simply don’t seem to believe it. Let me explain…

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More of Fear and Reverence…

080102613xIn continuing on in the spirit of thinking about worship and what was previously said in our brief discussion on Psalm 89:7, let me offer a few more thoughts on this subject since I feel it is of huge importance.

I have had the privilege of reading John Piper’s Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions and I have found some real gems to ponder at a time when I needed them. The book should be a “must read” for anyone contemplating missions to make sure they are approaching this responsibility for the right reasons. The very first line in the book goes a little like this

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t”. [i]

The first chapter is devoted to the subject of the glory of God in worship. Piper does a fantastic job at demonstrating what we had tried to unpack in the text of Psalm 89:7 that worship should be approached in fear and reverence if they wish to approach Him as His people with the intent of worshipping. Piper explains that in many pulpits in Christian churches, the preachers have failed to present to the world the grandeur and majesty of God. Christians have often failed to really lead the nations to see what Paul wrote about in Romans 1:20. Piper proceeds give an example of someone who had been repulsed by the lack of the proclamation of God’s greatness. He goes on to quotes Charles Misner regarding Albert Einstein’s view of the church as followed.

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Ecclesiastical Contentment: Thinking About Worship

We have already made the point that there are allot of Christians who don’t seem content with church. Some of these come in the form of church hoppers while others are members of churches who have grievances and are happy to make them known to others. They are simply not satisfied wherever they go. What we have argued so far is that for a Christian to search for ecclesiastical contentment, he/she must begin by establishing that joy can only be had in a church that looks to be theocentric as opposed to centered around men. God and His glory must be the focal point of the church. A big part of the way this is manifested is in how a church worships. Again, this is not simply what hymns are sang or how eloquent the preacher is or whether you have a large congregation participating in the worship, we are talking about how people approach God in worship.

The scriptures tell us that God is seeking men and women who will worship Him (John 4:23) and this is the primary purpose of the church. God’s people are privileged with the ability to approach the God of eternity through our Lord Jesus Christ with praise and adoration. This must entail more than just a physical demonstration of worship in that it must also include Spirit & Truth (John 4:24) . It is the spirit of a person that must enter into the worship of God in truth. Ecclesiastical Contentment must begin with worship but again, not simply “how we do things” but more importantly in what spirit we do things. I don’t want to diminish the importance of what we do and this will come out loud and clear in future posts but for the moment we must build a foundation as to how this all works. It begins with the inner and expresses itself in the outer.

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Ecclesiastical Contentment

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:10-13)

The apostle Paul was thrilled by the renewed care for him by the Philippians. Paul’s rejoicing however was in the Lord since it is in His providence that this concern found its root. Their provisions were gladly received by the great evangelist as a sign of their concern for him. In v.11, Paul begins with an emphatically negative statement in order to clarify that his interest was not in their provisions but in their concern for him. The term “for” gives the reason why he’s not thinking about the provisions. He is content in whatever circumstance that has been placed in front of him. Whether he was rich or poor, filled or hungry, having plenty or suffering need, Paul was a man who was content. Paul was not looking at what he could get but was happy with whatever he had. He knew that all that would be provided to him in both having his needs met or being without came from God. Paul learned that it would be God who would get him through every circumstance. Notice in the text that Paul mentions nothing about depending on himself or on the Philippians but it was God’s power to strenghten him to learn to live in whatever circumstance that would be his boast. The apostle was content with very little. He writes to Timothy If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. (1 Timothy 6:8). This was also Paul’s thinking with the question how we should view persecution. Paul writes Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10) The great apostle understood that in our tribulations Christ is at His most glorious to us since this is the time we cling on to Him more and seek Him.

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The Prayer of Adoration

 

images3KHUL2V2Pondering the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who has given us the breath of life and redeemed us from our bondage to sin to glorify us is a necessity for spiritual growth, blessing and health. This meditation upon God is also a means of entering into prayer especially when we ponder who it is we are praying to.

The attributes of God are many and each can be the focus of many years of examination through biblical study and living as a Christian. Let us, in love and adoration focus our prayers upon:

God as creator: God is the essence of life and being for all that does exist. We owe our very existence to Him and every breath we take each day can be attributed to His sustaining power.

God as Sovereign: God is the king of eternity and sovereign Lord over all the earth. He holds the hearts of kings and rulers in his hand, He rules the nation and especially He is sovereign over the salvation of His people. Without God’s sovereign hand in bringing us to the Son we would still be trapped in our rebellion.

God as immutable: The very security we possess is found in the reality that the God of eternity cannot change. He is the unchanging God whose promises we can find comfort and we can rest in Him as our rock.

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Richard Baxter on Worship

ibaxtei001p1“Remember the perfections of that God whom you worship, that he is a Spirit, and therefore to be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that he is most great and terrible, and therefore to be worshipped with seriousness and reverence, and not to be dallied with, or served with toys or lifeless lip-service; and that he is most holy, pure, and jealous, and therefore to be purely worshipped; and that he is still present with you, and all things are naked and open to him with whom we have to do. The knowledge of God, and the remembrance of his all-seeing presence, are the most powerful means against hypocrisy.”