How a Church Worships Reveals What a Church Truly Believes (About Scripture)

Show me how a church worships and I can tell you a lot about what they believe about God, His Word, there salvation in Christ, prayer, and a whole host of other matters. If worship is a response to God, then our theology will show itself through our worship. To put it another way, what we believe about God shapes our worship.

Let’s think this through by examining First Hypothetical Fellowship Church (FHFC) worshiping together. After attending several weeks, we have made many observations about how they worship, but for the sake of expediency, let us note just a few. Let us consider the place of Scripture, the place of prayer, and the role of music.

Here is what we have seen: At FHFC only one passage of Scripture is usually read. This passage is read by the pastor at the start of his sermon. At FHFC, there are a few prayers during the worship service, most of which are used as a means of stage transition and all of which are given in the spur of the moment. At FHFC they sing all the latest hit Christian tunes on the radio (or all the feel-good traditional hymns, the same problem will arise with both, as we will see). The songs are fun to sing, but seem to lack much theological depth. Much else could be observed at FHFC, but this will get us started.

So what does First Hypothetical Fellowship Church believe about the things of God? We might be inclined to run to their website to pull up their doctrinal statement, but we can know a lot more about what they believe by simply observing their worship. Remember, how a church worships reveals what a church truly believes. What is revealed to us by how FHFC worships?

In this post, let’s explore what FHFC believes about Scripture. By our simple observation, we find that, in general, they do not believe God’s Word has power, authority, or is sufficient. But wait, you might say, their doctrinal statement is very clear and very strong on each of those. If asked, members of the church would affirm these truths. So why do I make such a claim?

I make this claim because a church’s worship reveals what they truly believe. At very least, a church’s worship reveals what the people are being taught to believe. At FHFC, the people are being taught that the Bible is less than essential for worship and, by extension, less than essential for life.

Let me show you this by asking a couple of questions. If Scripture plays a small part when God’s people gather to worship, how big of a role do you suppose it plays when God’s people scatter during the week? If the people hear little of God’s word in Sunday Worship, do you suppose they feel a need to hear much of it Monday through Saturday? If the reading of Scripture only happens to start a sermon, do you suppose the people will find Scripture necessary to start their day, guide their decisions, humble their hears, or correct their sin? Will fathers feel they can read Scripture to their children and not have to give a mini-sermon attached to it?

If it is true that First Hypothetical Fellowship Church hold that Scripture is powerful, then let them be sure it’s power is let loose in their gathered worship. If FHFC affirms the authority of Scripture, let the God’s Word be given a place of prominence and have authority over them. If the leadership of FHFC would claim that the Bible is sufficient for faith and life, then let them show it by letting it be sufficient to lead God’s people to worship. (We should note that these issues are greatly exacerbated if the sermon preached has little or no connection to the Scripture read, that is, if the sermon is not an expounding of what this text means.)

How we worship reveals what we believe about Scripture. Is it essential or a nice garnishment? Is it prominent or an afterthought? Is it for the pastor or also for the people? Is it a lauchpad for a sermon, or the very foundation and substance of the people’s worship? How we treat Scripture when we worship and the place that we give it in our worship service will shape how we treat Scripture and the place we give Scripture in our private lives.

I suppose we could test this in our own churches. If next Sunday, no Scripture was read throughout the gathered time of worship, except for perhaps one verse to start the sermon would people notice? Would they leave claiming they had heard from God? Would they feel as though they responded in worship? (And here is a scary thought: if this were to take place, whose word would the people be responding to?)

We have other observations to consider from the worship of FHFC. We will turn to them in a future post.

Good Friday Service 2014

Welcome & Prayer

My Song is Love Unknown (verses 1-2)

Jesus’ Trial – Luke 22:66-71; John 18:28-38; Matthew 27:12-14

Prayer

Jesus’ Trial Continues –Luke 23:4-15; John 18:39-19:15; Luke 23:23-25

My Song is Love Unknown (verses 3-5)

Prayer

Mockery and Crucifixion of Jesus – Matthew 27:27-32; Luke 23:27-33

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

Jesus’ First Three Hours on the Cross – Luke 23:34-37; John 19:19-22; Luke 23:39-43; John 19:25-27

Prayer

How Deep the Fathers Love For Us

Jesus’ Final Three Hours on the Cross – Matthew 27:45-49; John 19:30

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?

Witnesses to the Crucifixion – Matthew 27:51-54; Luke 23:48; Mark 15:40-41

Where You There? (verses 1-3)

Prayer

Jesus’ Body is Removed from the Cross and Laid in a Tomb – John 19:31-42; Luke23:55-56; Matthew 27:62-66

My Song is Love Unknown (verse 6-7)

Prayer

The Gospel Song

A Simple Lesson on the Resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15

Verses 1-2 – How are we saved?

Verses 3-4 – What is the most important thing that Paul passed on?

Verses 5-8 – Who did Jesus appear to after he was resurrected?

Verses 9-11 – Why does Paul feel that he was not worthy of the grace God showed him?

Verses 12-19 – If there is no resurrection, what does that mean for us?

Verses 20-22 – What did Adam bring humankind? What does Jesus bring humankind?

Verses 50-58 – What hope does the resurrection give us?

Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Preconference Highlights

Here are a few of the highlights for me from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Preconference before the Together for the Gospel Conference 2014.

Ligon Duncan started it off by by discussing Biblical complementarionism between the roles of men and women. Men and women are of equal dignity and worth but have different God given roles. It is important to acknowledge this truth because:

  1. God has created men and women different and this must be recognized and taught.
  2. The Bible teaches so much and so clearly on manhood and womanhood.
  3. When Biblical manhood and womanhood is denied, altered, or not practiced, it wrecks ruin on marriages, families, and churches.
  4. It is at the heart of the current cultural shift.
  5. Denying or twisting this Biblical teaching runs afoul of Biblical inerrancy.

Russell Moore said two things that helped me:

  1. Women are not called to submit to all men generally, but only to their own husband (Eph 5:22).
  2. Our culture pretends to be egalterian while really it is a pagan patriarchy where men use women for there own ends.

Kevin DeYoung gave a very helpful summary of the differences God’s design of men and woman.

  1. Eager Posture – Women are made with a bent toward a willingness to help her husband. Men are made with a bent toward leading his wife. The posture or leaning of men and women are complementary.
  2. Body – Gender is God-given. Our gender corresponds with our anatomy, not our perceived preference. The bodies of men and women are complementary. (Romans 1; Leviticus 18:22)
  3. Appearance – Men and women are designed to have an appearance that is in keeping with their gender. That is, a man should look like a man, and a woman should look like a woman. Some of this is cultural, and we must not over-simplify this into stereotypes. (1 Corinthians 11)
  4. Demeanor – The virtue and demeanor of a woman is gentleness. That of a man is to instruct and give a charge. (1 Thess. 2)
  5. Character – The crown of a woman is her true beauty, which is foremost a Godly character. The crown of a man is his character of strength and protection.(1 Peter 3:1-7)

Reordered these make an A,B,C,D,E acronym.

John Piper looked at the statistics of violence and violent crime committed men. The fact that men commit such crimes far more often might lead us to think that men are more sinful. But this is not the case according to Scripture. Rather what we see is that even in the types and ways that men and women sin, they reveal that they have a unique bent. The nature of men and women shows itself in that men incline toward violence and cruelty while women incline toward manipulation, controlling, and doting. In Christ, both men and women are rescued from the deformation of male/female roles.

David Platt dealt with singleness.

  1. Singleness is a gift from God that portrays the Gospel of God. Singleness portrays our ultimate identity in Christ and our external identity in the church.
  2. We must exhort single people to use this good gift for God’s glory by being focused on the mission, setting their affections fully on God, and being undivided in their devotion.

In addition, Platt pointed out that Jesus, the fullest and most complete human who ever lived was single.

The CBMW conference had some helpful material and I enjoyed the fast paced, 20-mintue per person format.

 

 

 

 

Messengers of God (part 2): How Does One Recognize a Prophet?

In Scripture we find three tests that can be applied to know whether someone is a true of false prophet. By using these tests we can determine if someone claiming to be speaking on behalf of God, is, in fact, speaking on God’s behalf.

Test #1 – Predictive Accuracy

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 says:

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’- 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

How can I know if someone is speaking for God? Answer #1: Does what they say come to pass? If it does not, then I should pay no mind to that person or what they have to say. Notice, that if a prophet’s word fails to come to be, then not only should what he said be discredited, but the prophet should be discredited. “You need not be afraid of him.”

How many predictions must a true prophet of God get right according to this passage? All of them. How many wrong predictions makes someone claiming to be a prophet of God a false prophet? Just 1.

Test #2 – Doctrinal Accuracy

But it is not just predictive accuracy that makes for a true prophet. They must also be doctrinally accurate. Deuteronomy 13:1-5:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Did you catch what he says there? If a prophet speaks a word, and it comes to pass, should we assume him to be a true prophet? Well, no, not if he is calling us after another God. In other words, a person can get the prediction right and still be dead wrong.

Anything God would speak to us will always accord with who He is and what He has already revealed. God is consistent and does not change. He will not speak against Himself. So we can test what someone says against what God has already said. If what they say leads us away from what God has said, beware! Don’t listen to them.

This fact holds true for New Testament teachers as will. 2 Peter 2:1 warns, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”

Test #3 – Moral Accuracy

Jeremiah 23:11-15:

Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. 12 Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD. 13 In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. 14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” 15 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

What was the problem with the prophets here? Their lives did not match their message. The message they delivered was undermined by the lives they led. A prophets life should line up with the message the claim to give from God.

Summary

So we find from Scripture that a prophet of God should have 100% predictive accuracy, their message should square with what God has already said, and their lives should be consistent with the righteousness of the one whom they speak for. These three tests were given by God to protect His people from false prophets and teachers who would lead people astray even as they claimed to speak for God. Let us apply these test today to anyone who would claim they have a message from the Lord.

 

*Note: This message from Nathan Busenitz’s was helpful in writing this article.

 

Messangers of God (part 1): What a Prophet Is and Is Not

Deuteronomy 18:9-22 paints a powerful picture of what a prophet of God is and is not. Let us first see what a prophet is not and should not be. Deuteronomy 18:9-14 reads:

“When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’ 13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.”

So what is a prophet not to be? Simply put, a true prophet does not seek to hear a message from or speak a message for anyone other than God. A true prophet does not look to a generic “divine”,” “nature,” “the spirit world,” “the dead,” or anywhere else other than God for the truth to be revealed to him.

We find that those who listen to such sources not only will be in error and disobedient to God, but will bring harm on themselves – “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering.” How do you get to such a heinous place that you murder you own child by fire? All it takes is listening to those who say that the stars, or the dead, or the spirits, or the future world, or their inner self, or a tree told them it was a good idea.

So what is a prophet? Deuteronomy 18:15-22 says:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers- it is to him you shall listen- 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’- 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

Verse 18 has nice, simple summary of what a prophet was. A prophet was one whom:

  1. God gave a message to – “I will put my words in his mouth”
  2. Spoke God’s message to the people – “he will speak to the all that I command him”

So a prophet received a message from God and spoke it accurately to the people. Throughout the Old Testament we see this modeled by the prophets as they say over and over “Thus says the Lord…” Sometimes this included a predication of the future, but at other times it was a call to repentance, a pronouncement of woe, or simply commands to be obeyed. A prophet forth-told God’s message, more than he fore-told the future.

In one sense, a prophet was nothing more than megaphone. They were not at liberty to change the message, only to accurately pass it along to others.

So in summary: A prophet was one who was given a message by God (and Him alone), and who accurately relayed the message to the people. A prophet sought a message only from God and not from any other sources.

 

 

Discipled and Discipling

Every Christian should be discipled. Every Christian should be discipling. Let me explain what I mean.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This is known as the Great Commission, because it is the commission, or mission, we have until Jesus comes back.

Though it is masked by how it is worded in English, there is really only one command in this passage. The command is to “make disciples.” That command is accomplished by “going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching.”

So what should we be doing these days? Jesus gives us the answer: Making disciples. So what is a disciple? Simply: A disciple is someone who follows Jesus, someone who believes Him and obeys Him. But notice, the making of a disciple is not a “once and done” type of task. It is not a task that can simply be checked off the to-do list. At what point does one say, “I have taught them to obey everything Jesus has commanded” or “I have learned to obey everything Jesus has commanded.”

Being a disciple is an on-going task of constantly growing in our knowledge of Jesus and in our obedience to Him. Someone who is a disciple is a work in progress. So, for those of us who are disciples (believers and obey-ers of Jesus), we have the need to continue to learn to “obey everything Jesus has taught us” and a responsibility to teach others to “obey everything Jesus has taught us.” So we are learners and teachers at the same time.

When we are learning to obey everything Jesus commanded us, we are being discipled. When we are teaching someone else to obey everything Jesus has commanded us, we are discipling. Notice, being discipled and discipling are both tasks that cannot be accomplished in isolation. It is inherently something that involves us in the lives of other people.

So I ask, who is discipling you? Who is teaching you to obey all that Jesus commanded? And who are you discipling? Who are you teaching to obey all that Jesus commanded?

If you are like many, you might be realizing that somewhere along the lines the discipling chain was broken. You may find that you have gotten so caught up with life that you are not pouring yourself into another disciple. Or perhaps you look around and wonder why no one is pouring themselves into you. Let me give you three ideas to jumpstart the disciple making process and get it going again, or perhaps for the first time.

1. Sunday School is the perfect opportunity to come under the teaching of another mature believer, to study God’s word together with a group of believers, and to get to build relationships with other disciples. We have Sunday School classes for every age group, not just children. Why not try one out next Sunday?

2. 1-on-1 Discipling Relationships sound scary but are easier than you imagine. Would you like the experience of reading a few chapters of the Bible or a chapter or two of a Christian book and getting together with another believer over lunch or coffee to discuss it and pray together? The highlight of my week is often the lunches I have with other guys as we disciple one another.

3. Christian books and resources can be helpful tools to grow in obedience to Jesus. Pastor Noah and I recently put together a list of some of the top resources we know of and posted them to the church website. Go to tremontbaptist.org and click on “Resources” from the left hand menu to see it. And if you plan to read a book like this, why not read it together with another disciple?

I’m praying this month that you would overcome your fears, doubts, and past and step out to walk in greater faith and obedience as a disciple of Jesus.