When we think about God’s mercy being shown, usually we look to passages in the gospels where Jesus is speaking gently to sinners, or the didactic teachings of the apostles clearly speaking on God’s great mercy and grace. But in reading today’s selection for Scripture Sunday, I want to point out that God’s mercy is shown even in these early Old Testament passages. So many people deserved to be destroyed, but were blessed with prosperity and family. And most clearly, God’s mercy is seen in His saving of life on Earth in the face of impending judgment through His command to Noah to build the ark–an early image of Christ and His role as the one in whom all are to be saved from final judgment.
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Our new Scripture Sunday feature is continuing, this time with a series that will take a little more time. God willing, we will be making our way through the entire Pentateuch three chapters at a time.
What is the Pentateuch? It’s the term for the first 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those books contain so much: history, poetry, and law just as starters. My desire as we dig into these books is that we will worship God together as we see how He has planted and tended the seeds of redemption that was to come in Jesus.
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So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 CSB
We’ve been livestreaming readings of Scripture on the Spurgeon Audio Facebook page for a few weeks now, and as originally planned I want to start releasing them on the podcast feed as well. If you don’t currently follow the page on Facebook, please consider coming on over and following us for more content!
This week we read the entire book of Colossians. You can learn more about the translation used here as well as read for free or buy your own copy.
Do you want to join a perfect Church? You must die. You will not do it otherwise. And if you were to join a perfect Church, I am sure it would not be perfect after you had been admitted into it. You had better give up that idea and just believe what God says about His own Church, “You are my flock, the flock of my pasture, you are men.” Come, then, with us, and we will do you good.
I’ve talked about the unity the church has in the most central issue of the gospel of Jesus. I’ve talked about the unity we have in crucial areas of love, humility, and suffering. This time my desire is to talk to you all about the unity we have in the central and primary practice of the church, as a group and individually: unity in worship.
Now, I want to set the boundaries of this idea first: this is not about music, though music and singing are inexorably part of the church’s worship of God. Likewise, this isn’t going to be a rant about musical styles or certain groups and churches, though inevitably that will be a point to discuss later on as a fruit of this. I invite that discussion, in fact, either here in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter, or through email if you’d prefer to discuss your thoughts privately. There are practices that even my own church uses, like instruments, that Spurgeon himself would not have approved of.
What I want to do is define worship, its purpose, and its ends in the body of Christ. As one body and as individual churches, we join together weekly to bare our hearts before our Lord. We cry out praises to Him for who He is, and our need for Him to strengthen us to obey His Word, to die to ourselves and to live to Christ.
When the church worships together, it declares its confidence that God will fulfill His promises and remembers how He has already done exactly that. We confess our faith that lies in the cross, we instruct the weaker brother to pursue God boldly, and we correct the erring brother who may fear that the Lord’s mercies are not sufficient to cover him. We confess our sins and weaknesses to God and we embrace His great and glorious grace, and remember that His love and patience will long outlast our sin.
Worship is not just music. To be honest, I’ve never liked the phrases “worship team” or “worship minister” to refer to those who are involved in music for a worship service. That’s just it: all of a service is worship. We worship through raising our voices in song; we worship through hearing the Word preached faithfully; we worship through sacrificial giving to strengthen our own body and for the needs of others; and we worship through observing the ordinances of the church. When a brother or sister is baptized, we rejoice and cry out in worship of God for the faith demonstrated both in the finished work of Christ and in the promise of the day when we will see Jesus face to face, free from sinful weights and made totally new. And I cannot think of a more worshipful time than for a church to take communion together, to take part in a physical remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ.
The psalms display so many facets of what the worshiping believer’s heart cries out. We join our voices with David in Psalm 27 when we declare our complete confidence and faith in God’s work for our salvation:
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— whom should I dread? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.
Psalm 27:1-3, CSB
When our hearts ache for intimacy for God, when He feels far and when fear presses in, we can let the light of the Word drive back the darkness alongside the sons of Korah:
I will say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?” My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:9-11 CSB
And when sin wounds, when we stumble and fall and need His restoring hands to heal us, David again comes to aid us:
God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God— God of my salvation— and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.
Psalm 51:10-17 CSB
While worship serves to bring our hearts before God, and seeks His ministry (as it should!), worship is not about us. So often worship becomes a thing where men seek to bring glory to themselves. I won’t belabor this with many examples, except to say, this is an area where we all must guard our own hearts. We are going before the holy God who made you and who bought you for the price of His Son’s precious blood. It should not be a light and easy thing, nor should worship be simply an emotional high. That is not to say that it should be emotionally dead; I think a lot of times this becomes something of a false dichotomy for churches, where we feel we either have to be this over-the-top rock concert for Jesus, or a dour congregation that goes through the motions with Vulcan-like self-control.
Overwhelming joy in Christ is a wonderful thing! I can think of many beautiful times where joining in the body of Christ brought me to joyful tears or overflowing happiness. But we need to be careful that worship does not simply become the method by which we seek our next “hit” of an emotional high. If worship is designed simply to seek this over and over, I think it is wise to ask the question: is this worship about Jesus, or about me?
I am looking forward to joining the body again and again to seek the Lord’s face, and I hope that the same desire is in you. Above all, I want the unity in worship that the church shares to drive us to greater heights of unity in the areas I mentioned in previous episodes: in love, in humility, and serving and suffering. Worship should never terminate on ourselves, and it should never conclude with the final chord or the benediction. It should be a refreshing draught that lets us rejoin the outside world ready to display the love of Jesus to those around us, full of faith and peace.
I’ve enjoyed interacting with people through the podcast’s social media platforms. One of the most enjoyable and yet exhausting methods has been livestreaming through Facebook. I have on a couple occasions livestreamed the recording of the sermon audio for an episode, but since I normally don’t just read straight through stumble-free in a single sitting this was a somewhat exhausting venture.
However, I had an idea recently I’ve decided to implement: Sunday afternoons around 3pm Central, I will be livestreaming a live reading of Scripture on the Spurgeon Audio Facebook page. What and how long I read may vary, and I am also wide open to suggestions. Scripture will be read from my current favorite version, the Christian Standard Bible (in the form of my Spurgeon Study Bible). I’ll also post the audio from this on the podcast feed.
Obviously, this is not a Charles Spurgeon sermon. But my lovely wife gave me this idea, to record the passages of Scripture commonly read as part of “the Christmas story.” And there is so much here that we can reflect on as we gather with family to celebrate, as Linus would say, “what Christmas is all about.” Look at the great mercy shown in God’s actions by sending His Son. Look at the great glory of the heavens torn open to reveal the angels singing the praises of God in the act of the incarnation. Look at the people driven to worship by the leading of the Holy Spirit at the coming of a mere child. And look at how God makes His grace known to His people through this incredible outpouring of His love in the sending of His Son.
Christmas is probably one of my favorite times of year, but it is also a severely confusing time in our culture. We as a culture celebrate a holiday explicitly named after Christ, and yet when you look at what most people, even Christians, think about when Christmas comes, it seems that what we have in our minds is a celebration of a baby being born in a barn one night. We should not be so light in our remembrance of this, but we should rejoice in it! God the Son humbled Himself to the point of entering creation, becoming man–humility beyond imagination! He was born and lived most humbly to be sure, but certainly the text does not stop with that implication. It is only the beginning: there is so much worship each step of the way, from the recognition by the unborn John the Baptist of the unborn Jesus, to the coming of the angels and the shepherds’ report of them, to the prophetic words of two people who had lived for so long seeking only to know the coming of the promised one. And even in seeing Him, at the time I don’t know if they fully understood Who they beheld. I can only imagine the worship they would have known had they heard the words of Paul decades later to the Colossians:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.–Colossians 1:15-20
Let us take this Christmas and remember what this season really is all about. It’s not just a time for family and vacations, it’s not just a time for giving and receiving, and it’s not just a time where we get warm fuzzies over the birth of a baby. It is a time to remember the most amazing act in the history of the world, the incarnation of God, to serve as the perfect sacrifice, and the destroyer of death. And that, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.
If you’ve liked the music from the last few episodes, please visit the Bandcamp page for my church’s band, The Loverlies, for links to these and more songs.