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Preaching: An Act of Worship

March 1, 2011 2 comments

 

 “Hear the word of the Lord,
all you of Judah, who enter by these gates
to worship the Lord!”

Jeremiah 7:2

 

I pray that your Lord’s day was uplifting and that each of you were blessed as you offered yourselves holy and living sacrifices before His throne of grace.

 
I’m sure that many of you have spent long hours contemplating the act of worship –  what it involves . . . why you come before God each Lord’s Day . . . how you are to present yourself to Him, etc., etc.  But have you spent much time thinking about the centrality of the Word during the worship  service?  What  is  the  purpose  of  the  preacher  standing  in  front  of  the congregation?  What is he really doing?  How are we, sitting in the ‘congregation’, supposed to receive his message?  Whose message is it intended to be?

 
I have spent hours over the past 20 years (and will continue to spend much more time)  thinking about just that,   i.e., preaching as as an act of worship. If preaching is not an act of worship then the church will end up worshiping the preacher and what he says rather than worshiping God and what He says.

“When I declare the Word of God I offer sacrifice.”

Martin Luther

 

  “When thou hearest the Word of God with all thy heart, thou dost offer sacrifice . . . Preaching, if not sacramental, is profane.  By this we mean that a true sermon is an act of God, and not a mere performance by man.  In real preaching the speaker is the servant of the word and God speaks and works by the word through his servant’s lips.” 

J. I. Packer and R. J. Coates in their book Beyond the Battle for the Bible

 

The act of preaching is an awesome responsibility. The witness to God, the witness to the church, and the witness to a lost world are all brought together in the proclamation of the Word.  The Pastor is called to be both a prophet in that he proclaims the Word of God and a priest in that he also administers the Word and its sacraments.  Paul viewed his ministry of the gospel as a “priestly ministry.” He used the word latreuo (“priestly service of God”) in Romans 1:9 to describe his ministry of the gospel; and in Romans 15:16, he used leitourgos
which gives us our English word liturgy.  Both words have priestly overtones. (It’s interesting to note that these are these same words used in Revelation 22:3 describing our service before God and the Lamb in the New Heaven and the New Earth!)  Paul viewed his evangelist ministry as that of a priest, bringing the people won to Christ as sacrifices on the altar, to the glory of God.  He sees himself  as “a  minister (leitourgos) of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles,  ministering as a priest offering the sacrifice of the gospel of God, praying that the offering (prosphora, a sacrificial offering) of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16).

What a high and holy view, not only of preaching, but the sacrifice of worship and also of personal evangelism!  When we look at preaching and evangelism as acts of spiritual worship, it ought to change the way the preached Word is heard. It certainly ought to have an impact on the way the Word is preached.  If preaching is an act of worship, then the preacher must not present to God that which has cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).  Malachi reprimanded the priests of his day because they were not giving God their best. They put defiled food on God’s altar and brought sacrifices that were lame and sick (Malachi 1:6-8).

May that never be said of those who teach and stand in the pulpit of Covenant Reformed PCA.  It is my prayer that as we worship each Lord’s Day, as you hear the Word taught and as you hear the Word preached, that each one of you might be brought face to face with the living God through our Lord’s preaching ministry, which is

“an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”

Westminster Confession of Faith, ShorterCatechism Q. #89

 

May God richly bless you as you serve Him this week through the knowledge of His Son, Our Savior Jesus Christ, and in the power of His Spirit.

In His Service and Yours,

Pastor Mark

Gracious Provision

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

No one can come to Me
unless the Father who sent Me draws him,
and I will raise him up at the last day
John 6:44

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature’s night
thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
Amazing Love! How can it be that thou,
 my God, shouldst die for me?

 

These words from the hymn by Charles Wesley (1738) remind us that our salvation coChains that Bind Usmes to us, not by works of our own hands, but by the gracious provision of a holy God through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God effectually clothes those who would be saved with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, effectually calling them to freedom from the binding chains of sin.

 The Reformed or Augustinian doctrine of election is grounded in the fact that man is so sinful, so depraved in his fallenness, that apart from the irresistible grace of God no one could ever turn to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

Notice he didn’t say some people can come. He didn’t say only a few people can come. He said NO ONE is able to come to Him. Absolutely no one can come unless God does something first.

Notice that Jesus said “can.” Can means “is able,” while may means “has permission.” Jesus did not say that no one has permission to come to Him, or no one may come to Him. No, he said that no one is able to come to him. No one is able because man is totally depraved. Every faculty – mind, will, emotions – has been corrupted by sin. No one seeks after God because no one is good, holy, and righteous even in the least.

Jesus said no one can come to Him “unless.” An exception is introduced. Apart from this exception, no one could ever come to Christ. It is God the Father who “draws” men to a saving knowledge of Christ. This word “draw” doesn’t mean to “woo” or “entice.”

Some people think that God gives grace to everyone, but that grace has a limited effect. It does not force people to come but only woos them. The final decision rests with the sinner. This view says that God foresees who will accept the gospel. Then because God foresees that particular person will accept the gospel, he regenerates him when that time comes. This makes regeneration a reward conferred rather than a gift which enables.

God “draws” to himself those He effectual regenerates. In John 6:44 we read, “Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” Acts 16:19 says, “They dragged them into the marketplace.” The same Greek word is used in all three verses. Obviously, mere enticement is not meant.

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament tells us that the word translated draw in John 6:44 means “to compel by irresistible authority.” It was used in classical Greek for drawing water from a well. When was the last time you enticed or persuaded water to come up from the well? Of course, this could never happen! We force the water to come to the top of the well, drawing it up in a bucket against the force of gravity. So it is with us. We are so depraved that God must “draw” us to Himself. While we were dead in transgression, He made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).

G.I. Williamson in his study guide for The Westminster Confession of Faith writes: “Regeneration is something that man has no part in, so far as doing anything is concerned. He is wholly passive therein. He is not performing or operating in regeneration. Rather, he is operated upon, and the result of that operation is that he has another heart, mind, or soul. This regeneration is closely associated with the preaching of the gospel (in ordinary cases) but it is not the gospel which regenerates. It is the Holy Spirit. We may think of the Word of God as the instrument employed by God to effect his regeneration, but the regenerating is done, not by the gospel itself, but only by the Holy Spirit who is pleased to operate through it.

This regeneration effects an essential change in the whole soul – the reason, the emotions, and the will. Such a one who is regenerated begins, immediately upon regeneration, to think differently, to feel differently, and to will differently than before. And because this is so, he will thankfully accept the free offer of the gospel. So God’s call becomes effectual. It is effectual in every such case. Every such elect person repents and believes. And he does so because he begins to act out of a new nature created or implanted by generation.” p. 90

 

No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th’eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Every time you pray this week, thank God for His sovereignty in salvation. Thank Him for His unconditional love. Stand in amazement of His total provision. Know with certainty the reality of heaven. Express your gratitude and joy for God’s work of redemption in your life.

May God richly bless you this week as you rejoice in His eternal provision,

Pastor Mark