Watchamakalit

Our species (Homo Ignoramus) likes to think that it can understand all things just by categorizing them and then hanging neat little tags around their necks. Our principle strength is nomenclature. Understanding the named thing is a horse of a different color. The conventional wisdom seems to suggest that the shorter the word, the broader our understanding of it. Time? Space? Matter? Check. Check. Check. Of course we know all of their intricate details and out-workings! We defined them didn’t we?! In reality the scientist in his laboratory knows only a fraction more than the child in his sandbox about the complexities of our material world.

The same sort of presumptuous arrogance pervades theological discourse. We love to name things! From doctrines and decrees to councils and creeds, we are first-rate title-slingers. If we name it then we must know it! Sadly though, we have almost defined ourselves to death.

We have come to a place where we have lost the ability to wonder at the sheer incomprehensibility of our great God. We hardly ever just sit with our mouth agape reveling in the mysterium tremendum. This is a sort of poverty. It is the saddest kind of poverty because we have the treasure in our hands and don’t even know it. We are shooting marbles with diamonds. We have named them after all.

P.S. It’s the short words that we usually don’t understand.
Time…
Space…
Matter…
God…

Going Up, Anyone?

The problem with much modern worship is that it just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. People gather (or they don’t) just to gawk. They come as mere spectators rather than has happy participants in the worship of God. They have “come to church” but that seems as far as they are willing to go.

For some of us, however, our liturgies are designed to take us somewhere. Some of us actually think that when we are called to worship we are actually called to come near. We believe that we assemble to worship. We also believe that we assemble in order that we might ascend.

That is, we believe that Christians have an enormous privilege of ascending into heaven in their worship on the Lord’s Day. This consecration, this lifting up, is what happens when the call to worship is given. When John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” he was caught up into heavenly places. The same thing happens to us—on the first day of every week. “And the smoke of of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand” (Rev. 8:4).

Paul told the Ephesians that they were located in two places. The first was obvious—Ephesus (1:1). But their second location is something he emphasizes strongly throughout the book. They are in Christ, who in turn is at the right hand of the Father in heaven. According to Paul, we were co-crucified, co-resurrected, and co-enthroned “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). We read these passages but we individualize them. We go off to heaven in our private prayers and rarely wonder where everyone else is.

Why should we not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Heb:10:25)? Too often this verse is quoted as simply meaning that a man should “go to church.” It means this, of course, but it neglects the riches involved when we go to church with a scriptural heart and mind. This is really a command to not neglect going to heaven in worship. The preceding context makes this clear. We have boldness to enter into the Holy of Holies in heaven (10:19). How holy must that sanctuary be? But because we have this boldness, let us draw near with true hearts (10:22).

In our public worship, we do not come to a mountain that can be touched (12:18), but we do come to a mountain, a heavenly Zion. What happens when a small group of saints gathers together in a clapboard community church somewhere out in the sticks? At their call to worship, they ascend to the City of God, to the heavenly Jerusalem. They walk into an innumerable company of angels in festal gathering. They come to the general assembly of the universal Church, whose names are written in heaven. They come into the presence of God, the judge of all. They gather with the Spirits of just men made perfect. They approach the Lord Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant and the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

When we start understanding what is happening in our worship service, our contemporary flippancy evaporates. Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, we are to have grace so that we can worship Him with reverence and godly fear.

As we gather in the presence of the Living God on the Lord’s Day, He is pleased to use our right worship of Him as a battering ram to bring down all the citadels of unbelief in our communities. Just as the walls of Jericho fell before the worship of God, so unbelievers tremble when Christians gather in their communities to worship the living God rightly. Jesus promised us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. It is not often noted that the gates of hell are not offensive weapons. Hell is being besieged by the church; not the other way around. We must learn to see assembled worship as ascended worship. Then we must learn to view that ascended worship as an assaulting worship. The worship of God is a battering ram and each Lord’s Day we have the privilege of taking another swing. Or, if we prefer, we might still want to continue gathering around with our insipid songs, dopey skits, and fire-side chats in order to pelt the gates of hell with our wadded up kleenex.

Come, and Welcome, to Jesus

 

I listened attentively as the old preacher paused, bowed his head, cleared his throat, then fixed his steely gaze upon me.

I have told you of a crucified Savior. What do you have to say? There are only really two responses: yes or no.

You say no? And why? You say that the way is hard. You do not wish to begin, only to fall away from Him. But I say to you that salvation is from the Lord. The One who saves is the same who keeps. If you call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved. Not for a time, and not temporarily. Saved. You will have eternal life, as a present possession, bestowed in eternity for all eternity.
You say that you are defiled? That you are not worthy to come? But there never was a sinner who was worthy! Defilement must not keep you from coming; defilement is the reason you must come. Come, and be clean! Come, and be washed! Come, and welcome!

You say that God does not want you. You say that you are not predestined to come. But the Lord says that whoever comes will not be cast out. What prevents you from coming? Those who do not come, refuse merely because they love their sins more than God. Is this true of you? Then stay away, and welcome to it. If your confused and stupid heart wants nothing more than to gnaw on bones and blackened crusts when the table is set, and the bread of life awaits, then refuse the invitation. But do you want to be free of your lusts and desires, your weariness of heart, your malice and bitterness? Then come.

You say that you do not yet believe? Ah, but you do. There are no unbelievers; there are simply those who believe and hate, and those who believe and love. Which are you? I have set before you a Savior, hung on a tree, drawing all men to Himself. What do you make of Him? You do believe, but a question does remain. Do you love this Savior or not? Yes or no?

You say you are uncertain as to whether He loves you? The question is an impertinent one, and proceeds, just like the rest of your sinful life, straight from your black heart. As though any sinner ever deserved His love! I come back to the question that must be answered today; it is not whether He loves you, but whether you love Him. If you love Him, you will keep His commands and do His work. And what is His work? It is that you believe in Him, and only Him. And when you have come to this love, through faith, you will realize that you only love Him because He first loved you.

You say that some of your sins are too great to be forgiven? Your pride, at least, is great. What! You, a mere creature, capable of sinning in a way that would bankrupt the grace of God? He offers you this grace; do you want to accuse Him for a cheat? Do you think you could come, and find God’s storehouse empty? Proud man, your sin is great enough to damn you, but it is not greater than the grace of God.

You say that a loving God would not send you to judgment? But is God love, and nothing else? Is He not also just? And how can a just God allow someone like you into His presence? The judgment is simple; there are no problems caused by it. Sinners deserve to be cut off, and they are. But grace! There is a problem. How can a God of justice tolerate proud men? The answer to this problem is the cross. God sent His Son to die on the cross, so that He could be just and the One who justifies. So we come to this place again. Do you believe or not? Do you do the work of God at this place or not? If you turn away, then God remains just, and you are undone. But if you call upon Him, the One who died, God remains the One who justifies, and you will be the one justified. What do you say to this? Yes or no?

You say that you need time to think. Maybe you will come later. Maybe this is not the right time. Remember as you turn away, that your heart is deceitfully wicked. It is lying to you. It sees you looking at the cross there, and it sees you thinking. But for it, that is the way of death and only death. Tomorrow, it whispers. Not now. Do not be hasty; do not run. What does Scripture say? Does God know what your heart is saying to you? Aye, God knows. And what does He say? He says that today is the day of salvation. No one ever got saved tomorrow, and not one soul was ever pulled from the edge of the pit yesterday. Today you hear, and today you must believe. Which is it; yes or no?

You say that your friends will mock, and that your family may not come with you. That is true; they may not. They may all turn from you, and reject you. But again, what does Scripture say? If you love father or mother, wife or children more than the One who died for sinners, then you cannot come. God does not want you on your terms. He commands you to count the cost; thus far you are doing well. But He also commands all men everywhere to repent. Why do you hesitate at this? Why do you halt? He commands it. And what do you think of His commands, oh creature? Which is it, yes or no?

You say that the church is full of hypocrites? I say that everywhere you turn you see the cross, and so you turn again. So how, proud sinner, do you differ from the hypocrite? He knows what is true, but does not do it. You do the same. Christ is the Savior of the world. You know it, but you do not repent. You know it, but you do not believe. You hypocrite! Will you posture and make a show of how much you hate hypocrisy? It is only covering for your hypocrisy. Or do you only hate hypocrisy when it belongs to another? So, I will not leave it. The Savior is there; He has died, no, more than that, He has risen to life. What say you? Yes or no?
You say you want a preacher who will make you feel good about yourself. Ah, but is there any good reason why you should? Should sinners be told they are not sinners? Should sinners be left in their blindness? But the truth is unpleasant, you say. So it is. But it remains the truth, and what do you say? Yes or no?

You say that people should not come to Christ out of fear of hell. I say that this is an excellent reason to come, and the One who sent me agrees. Did He not say we were to fear the One who can throw both body and soul into hell? I fear Him! Do you not fear Him? Consider the logic of your unbelief! I do not think people should take medicine merely because they are sick and are going to die. I do not think a man should appeal to a judge for mercy simply because he has been condemned. I do not think…ah, away with your folly. What do you say, yes or no?

You say that there are people who have never heard about this Christ? You wonder if God is just in His condemnation of them? He is just, for these people you speak of do not love the truth any more than you do. But God is full of mercy, and has commanded us to preach to them, as well as to you. When you have believed, perhaps you will be sent to them. It is clear you have a great compassion for them; you still hate God yourself, and are yet concerned for them. So what will it be, yes or no?

You say there are many religions. You wonder why I press this one on you. Because you need saving and this is the only one which has the power to save sinners. And why does it have the power to save? Because it is God’s truth, and nothing to be ashamed of. It is the power of God unto salvation, for everyone who believes, and in that “everyone” is an invitation for you.

I would continue, but I am impatient with your excuses. But that is no matter, I am only an old preacher. What does it matter if I do not want your excuses any more? But there is a day coming, and it is coming for everyone who hears my voice, when God will have had His fill of your excuses. What is that Day? It is the day you leave your life here, and walk into His Presence, naked, alone, sinful, and ashamed. What will you say? You have no Advocate. Will you successfully present the excuses of your heart here today? Or will they be consumed in the Judgment, along with you?

If you say no, and leave this place, then do you say that you are willing for this to happen? I suppose it is good, for it will happen. You will have no ground for complaint when it does.

But if you say yes, then what is the gift? You, out in the cold of your malice, out in the dark of your lusts, have been shown a great house. The Master of the house has invited, no, more than that, commanded that you come and fellowship with Him at His table. But there, out in the night of your sin, you have hated Him; for years, you hated His wealth, you hated His charity, and you hated His sons and daughters. But now, by the Spirit, beyond your understanding and mine, that hatred is gone. You approach the door, trembling and afraid. But no, it is not locked; it swings open. Bright, warm, yellow light streams out. The heads at the table turn, and you wonder why you hated them. No one rises to set a place for you; the place is already set. The Master beckons for you to take your seat. You try to protest; your clothes are filthy, and you have not washed. But then you look down and see that you are dressed in clothes you have not seen before, and they are white. Your hands are clean.

You turn around, and look back out the door. You remember now, with burning shame, all your excuses. You remember now all the times the Master of the house invited you to come – but you would not. You remember the mystery of your own sinfulness, and wonder at why you did not come before. You turn back to the table, and take your place, your eyes full of grateful tears.
You look at the food, and wonder at the simple fare. There in the middle is the bread of life. The one who eats will never be hungry. There in the goblet is a deep, red wine. The one who drinks will never thirst. You shake your head in wonder at your own blindness, and at the mercy of God in removing it.

Truth is bread, and it feeds the hungry.

Truth is wine, and it takes away the dry parched thirst in mouths of sinners. You, dear friend, bow your head to say grace, and you will say it forever and ever. Amen.

 

You that have nothing but creature joy, hunting after butterflies, feeding upon carrion, why do you spend money for that which is not bread? You that are afflicted, tempest-tossed, and not comforted, look to a manifested Jesus. According to your faith so be it unto you. Believe none, and you will have no joy. Believe little, and you will have little joy. Believe much, and you will have much joy. Believe all, and you will have all joy, and your joy will be full. It will be like a bowl running over, good measure, pressed down, and running over. Amen.
– Robert McCheyne