7 February 2010
This week draws together several threads we have been considering recently. The need to pray without ceasing; the need to think of things as the Bible thinks of them, and not in the sterile terms so common in theology; the significance of the Lord’s Table to us.
Jesus tells us it is His memorial, and in biblical terms this means not just that it is for us to remember Him, but also that it is a reminder to God of what Jesus did for us, a reminder to God that we partake of Christ’s body and blood, and that we are what we eat. Theology tells us that God needs no reminders, and as far as it goes, this is true. Jesus tells us to remind God regularly. “Why?” we want to know. Perhaps for the same reasons that we pray without ceasing even though God knows our requests before we ask. Perhaps for other reasons. The most pressing thing, however, is not to know why, but to obey God’s command.
This is one of the necessary lessons of worship that must spill over into the world: the mysteries are many, our understanding is weak, and we obey in spite of it all. Not because we understand, but because we trust the God who guides us. In that trust God answers our prayer: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
24 January 2010
Last week, we saw that the Corinthians had permitted their actual practice of the Supper to become a way of reinforcing divisions in the Body of Christ. For this, many of them were weak and sickly, and some of them were killed. This week I’m offering you a similar warning, not about the practice of the Supper, but about our understanding of what is happening in the Supper.
God requires us to believe His word, and sanctified imagination is absolutely necessary to faith. But there are temptations here that we must avoid. When you allow your imagination to carry you so far that in doctrine or in practice, you are contradicting Scripture, you have gone too far. Even if you don’t do that, if you allow your particular way of imagining the thing to become a point of contention so that the argument divides the body, you have sinned.
There is a parallel temptation in the other direction: the temptation to say “It’s all a mystery” and then ignore the things the Scripture does say. You must subject yourself to the discipline of the Scripture; you must believe what it says, not cultivate a sort of devotional ignorance.
And so the charge is this: Submit to the Scripture. All of it, straight up the middle, with no fancy footwork. Whatever the Bible teaches you to believe and do, make it a part of you. Let your sanctified imagination roam free on the mountains of the Bible—but stay within the limits that the Bible prescribes for you. Sanctified imagination is only sanctified so long as it is obedient.
17 January 2010
The Corinthians’ worship was lacking. The flaws in their practice of the Lord’s Supper in particular were very real, and glaringly obvious. Paul does not sugar-coat any of this; he tells it exactly like it is. But he does this for a purpose, and the purpose is to restore them so that they will stop dividing Christ’s body, and instead unite with each other and worship God together in a way that glorifies Him.
The evangelical world is filled with bad worship. Many believers are disregarding what they do know about God’s requirements for worship, utterly ignorant of the rest, and terribly arrogant in their disobedience—which is to say, they are like the Corinthians. Do not dare to think that this is not your problem. Christ is not divided; these people are wounded and disobedient parts of the same body that you are a part of.
At the same time, do not dare to approach the issue in an arrogant, divisive way yourself. If you do this, your reformation in worship will drive other people away from whatever you are doing—and the more truth you are applying, the more truth you will drive them away from, and the more damage you will do to the body. We must not allow our obedience to become a weapon that further fragments the body. Listen to the Lord’s leading, look for an opening, and be very, very wise. The goal is to stir people up to love and good works, not to alienate them from the very good works they should be doing.