This simple meal of bread and wine which we eat and drink is a death knell to Death. It is a war trumpet declaring a decisive victory over Satan. It is a flag being raised to assert the dominion of King Jesus. He bled and died for this world & so it is His.
You are feasting on eschatological glory. This is no empty tradition. This is majesty. This is triumph. This is our victory, even our faith. All this being the case, it would be utter folly to simply partake in ignorance or unbelief. This is why Paul attaches warnings to his instructions about partaking of this meal unworthily.
To feast here in unbelief is to transform this blessing into a grievous curse. As we eat this we collectively proclaim the glad tidings of Christ’s total and sovereign reign over all things. Cherishing beloved sins, hiding your unbelief, scorning the Word of conviction which preaching reveals, are all ways in which you can go through the motions of this feast & yet eat unworthily.
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By Stephen Kneale — 1 year ago
There can sometimes be a reflex in churches that insists every effort must be made to include everyone all of the time. Certainly, if everyone can make one time and nobody can make another, it makes sense to think about that and make decisions accordingly. But in the end, no church can do everything.
Whenever talk of something a church is doing comes up, it doesn’t take long before all the whataboutery starts. It’s great that we’re providing X, but what about Y? It’s great that X is on at this time, but what about all the people who can’t make that time? It’s great that you are reaching this group of people, but what about that group of people? It’s great that you provide for this need, but what about that need? On and on and on it goes.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it can often be good to think about different things you might do as a church. Is it possible to meet a particular need that you currently aren’t is a good thought process to go through. If we are trying to serve people in the church, might moving times allow a different demographic to join in? Are people being unnecessarily excluded or are we doing things because there is only one particular way the thing will work? Are we simply blind to certain needs and people and knowing about them might alter what we do? All these are valid questions to ask and think through. The problem is not in their being asked, nor in their being thought through, but in the stymying effect whatabouttery can have on actually doing anything at all.
Let me offer you two very freeing thoughts when it comes to the church, its activities and what it might care to do. First, no church can possibly do everything. Second, not everything is for everyone. Both are absolutely okay.
First, no church can possibly do everything. If we build our church around a felt-needs approach, we will inevitably miss out some people’s felt needs. It is impossible for any church to perfectly serve the felt needs of everyone in it all the time. There will inevitably be times when somebody feels they have particular needs that aren’t being met. More to the point, the church does not exist to meet every felt need under the sun. It exists to makes disciple-making disciples and to equip them for works of service by allowing the Lord to do his work by his Word and Spirit. Whatever people’s felt-needs might be, the church is primarily there to meet a specific need.
If the result of putting on a women’s group is an immediate call of but what about the men? or what about the youth? we are essentially saying, unless we can run all these things, we will run none of them. Maybe we are in a position to run a youth group but aren’t in a position to run a men’s group. That doesn’t mean we don’t run the youth group. It just means we run what we are able, when we are able. The point isn’t to exclude and insist certain demographics don’t matter, it is just a basic response to the question, what is it feasible for us to do right now? If no church can do everything, we have to think about what we can do. If we are intent on doing what we can, it makes no sense not doing what we can do simply because there are some other things that we cannot do.
By Aaron L. Garriott — 2 years ago
The book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not include any direct reference to God at all.
Many have found this fact about the book of Esther troubling—it’s like reading an autobiography of Winston Churchill with no mention of Churchill. What are we to make of the fact that God is “missing in action” from Esther? Some thinkers have convincingly argued that the author’s intent is to deliver a message through the overt silence with regard to God. The omission is glaring—too glaring to understand it as a literary mistake; rather, the omission is the message. The author portrays God’s presence by not mentioning the presence of God at all.1 In other words, it’s the silence that proves His presence; the lack of theology is in fact the theology. In this way, the book of Esther teaches an important lesson for Christians today. In fact, rather than being a neglected book, Esther should be a significant part of our biblical diet.
The reason for this has to do with how our experience relates to biblical narratives. Our everyday lives coalesce with the Esther narrative more than with the Exodus, Joshua, or Kings narratives. Not many of us have witnessed miraculous deliverance (Ex. 7–12) or attesting signs (Ex. 4:1–9). We’ve never witnessed manna falling from the clouds (Ex. 16) or the walls of a fortress collapse upon God’s enemies (Josh. 6). We’ve never gazed on a vast body of water dividing at the seafloor (Ex. 14) or witnessed a three-year drought miraculously ended following a soaking-wet altar being consumed by fire (1 Kings 18:20–40). No, the ebb and flow of our lives is more akin to that of life in Persia during the time of Esther—daily activities, coincidences, mundane events, misfortunes, mistakes—normal, everyday life where the overt presence of God is all but undetectable. We, like the exiled Jews who remained after King Cyrus’ decree (Ezra 1:1–4), sojourn through life with the silent presence of God—entirely dependent on His written Word for guidance (see Neh. 7–10, 13).
Sovereignty and Providence
Among other things, the change in the means by which God exercises His sovereignty can be accounted for by the distinction between sovereignty and providence—an important distinction to maintain. Sovereignty describes the attribute of God wherein He is in authority over all things. Providence describes the way in which God works out His will in history. To put it simply, sovereignty refers to His attribute—something He is—while providence refers to His action—something He does. Providence, then, stems from His sovereignty; only the Sovereign can exercise providence. The Westminster Shorter Catechism identifies God’s works of providence as “His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions” (WSC 11). He governs all—His creatures and their actions. Nothing is outside His rule, and nothing happens without His governance.
By Jacob Tanner — 1 year ago
We can rejoice when we participate in the sufferings of Christ, knowing that God has divinely ordered and appointed them for the good of both ourselves and Christ’s Body, and the strength to withstand the suffering steadfastly is made possible through our union with Him. God is making us perfect through both our union with Jesus and our participation in the sufferings of Christ.
One of the greatest joys of the Christian life is knowing that we have not only been purchased by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, but that we have been joined together to Christ by faith. We are counted as members of His very Body. The beauty of this consists in the fact that all who come to Christ—no matter who they were, what sins they committed, or where they’re from—are welcomed into His Body. We are made one with Christ and one with one another. As 1 Corinthians 12:13 succinctly puts it, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Yet, as glorious as union with Christ is, there is a neglected aspect of it that is ignored to our own peril: the fact that union with Christ means participation in the sufferings of Christ.
What Makes Union with Christ So Great?
Notice the language that the Apostle Paul used: “In one Spirit, we were baptized into one body, and we are made to drink of one Spirit.” In Romans 6:3-4, Paul elaborated on this idea by explaining that, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Therefore, our union with Christ consists of a spiritual baptism by the Holy Spirit, whereby we are counted as having been joined together with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection. Physical baptism symbolizes this great truth: as the minister takes us and lowers us into the water, our death is pictured. Held beneath the water, our death with Jesus is symbolized by the water surrounding us. Finally, as he lifts us from the water, our resurrection to new life in Christ is pictured.
We are, spiritually, now one with Christ. But our union with Christ does not end with a spiritual baptism by the Holy Spirit. Our union with Him is an eternal union, with covenantal bonds no less dissoluble or breakable than God’s love for us is conquerable. This is a union to which we are permanently and inseparably joined.
We share all things with Christ: His righteousness is ours, His peace is ours, His standing before God is ours…We are led to continually boast in Christ alone for, in Him, “All things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21). Now, clearly, that does not mean that we become as God, or share in His incommunicable attributes, like His sovereignty or aseity. But it does mean that He has graciously poured out an incredible number of gifts upon us—including the gift of participation in His sufferings.
What it Means to Enjoy Participation in Christ’s Suffering
There are various texts that point to the suffering that Christians can expect to experience when they are joined together to Christ. From the hatred of the world (John 15:18-25) to the persecution of the godly by the ungodly (2 Timothy 3:12), there is a great deal of suffering to be experienced in the Christian’s union with Christ.
Of course, Scripture not only warns us to expect suffering, but encourages us to delight in it. Now, that may seem strange and even impossible at times, but consider the following from James 1:2-4, which states, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
In other words, the suffering we endure on account of the trials we face is purposed by God to produce steadfastness, and steadfastness in Christ makes us mature in Christ so that we lack nothing. Therefore, we must rejoice! No suffering is without its purpose; all of it is divinely purposed and appointed for our good and God’s glory.
In Acts 5:41, we find the Apostles being persecuted for their faith in Christ.