Posts Tagged ‘Lord’s day’
A lot of good stuff here. Generally speaking, it is sad that it should be considered a dilemma. A challenge perhaps, but it ought to be no dilemma.
Responding to an article in which the author claimed that Easter prevents his being a Sabbatarian, Iain D. Campbell at Reformation21 responds graciously with a piece on precisely why Easter makes him hold to a Lord’s day, concluding:
This has become something of a test case for interpreters and theologians, but I still feel obliged to argue for the abiding moral authority of all ten commandments; our point of departure is that the law is ordained by God, and recast in a new form in the new covenant era, as the law is now engraved onto new hearts by God’s Spirit. After all, that is what the Old Testament anticipated in Jeremiah 31:33: ‘I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts’.
It seems to me that the position that bests suits the biblical evidence is precisely that of the Westminster Confession of Faith, that the Sabbath of Sinai becomes the Lord’s Day of the resurrection, joyfully set apart by God’s people as their day of special witness and corporate worship. If we deregulate our time and make times of worship according to our own minds and consciences, we descend into the worst form of subjectivism and indiscipline in our Christian lives.
Christ deserves much more. He is our Lord. He is Lord of the Sabbath. He is Lord of all our days. Let us observe the rest he offers and the time for worship and devotion which he gives, that all our days shall be spent in happy service for him until he comes and brings the final Sabbath rest with him.
I am teaching through this topic in the church in Crawley at present, and – while I would doubtless have some slightly different nuances to Iain – I think we arrive at substantially the same place. Read all Iain’s brief piece here.
But when we are told that this is the time of year when Christians begin to think again about the death and resurrection of Christ, does it not prompt the question of what we are supposed to be doing for the rest of the year? When men speak after their so-called Holy Week of the abating euphoria of the resurrection, surely they are explaining why a merely annual remembrance is insufficient? Christ Jesus is the risen Lord for 365 days of every year (plus the extra one when required), and we have a weekly opportunity for the distinct recollection of his death in an atmosphere conditioned by his resurrection. To flatten the whole year, perhaps rising only to a few unnatural annual peaks, is to miss so much, to lose so many things, to gain so little.
Christ died to set us free from empty things. Men died to liberate us from the rigamarole of unscriptural traditions and man-made routines and performances of religiosity. I hope that you will hear a voice from the blood-washed streets of the Old World, where those battles and the cost of their victory are ground into our consciousness, where the issues and enemies are neither distant nor tame, and where the lines remain clearly drawn in the collective memory of some of the Lord’s people, and consider whether or not the prizes so hardly won ought to be so quickly abandoned.
The conclusion of a heartfelt plea at Reformation21.
Some years ago a man who had attended our church announced to me that he thought it was legalistic to have and to ‘require’ an evening service. I said to him, “Well, let me tell you what we will be doing Sunday night. We will gather together with the saints, who are the excellent one in the earth in whom is all my delight (Psalm 16:3). We will gather as living stones to form a spiritual temple in which the Spirit of God will come and inhabit. We will have the words of the living God read and expounded to our needy hearts. We will sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs. We will have our hearts and our minds lifted toward heaven and be reminded of that eternal Sabbath Day.”
I then asked a simple question, “Are your plans for the day better than that?”
I am not saying that the Bible commands an evening worship service, but when one is available and those dynamics are in play–what is better?
Every church I’ve ever been a part of has had a Sunday evening service. I’ve always gone. It’s what I grew up with. It’s part of my rhythm as a Christian and I am immensely grateful for it. I hope this brief blog post will encourage other Christians and other churches to consider making an evening service a part of your Christian walk and worship.
Read Kevin DeYoung’s complete recommendation for morning and evening worship. Good stuff!
Christmas is coming. The waterfowl belonging to the tribe Anserini of the family Anatidae are becoming appetisingly tubby; you might wish to provide some kind of charitable donation to the elderly gentleman holding out his headgear in the hope of a handout (work with me on the folk song/nursery rhyme, please). However, this particular Christmas comes on Sunday 25th December. And with Christmas come all the demands that generally get loaded on the Christmas season, and Christmas day in particular. The gifts. The cards. The decorations. The food. The fun and games. The festive films. The family gatherings. Oh, and for some of us, if we have time, maybe a bit of church.
Except that this particular Christmas comes on Sunday 25th December. And because it falls on a Sunday, it raises a question of priority. My point here is not to question – either for assault or defence – the validity of the Christmas celebration. In a Western society we recognise that – love it, like it, or loathe it – this particular season and this particular day come loaded with all manner of cultural baggage, and a fair weight of at least nominally Christian freight as well.
There is nothing inherently wrong with gift-giving, card-sending, thankful feasting, and family gatherings, and much that is inherently good and pleasant. Furthermore, the incarnation is one of the most glorious mysteries of the Christian religion: “our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man,” as Wesley phrased it. Which child of God would not pause to delight in the wonder and excellence of the Godhead veiled in flesh, the incarnate Son – our Immanuel? In some senses this is the foundation of the atonement. There are depths of delight to be plumbed and high songs of praise to be sung. In addition, even in our degraded Western culture there may still be a few whose wish to go through the motions of worship, and that might bring them within earshot – we pray, within heartshot – of the truth of the Son of Man who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 19.10). It may even prove a particularly profitable day in performing acts of mercy for those for whom Christmas is an appropriate (if merely moralistic to some) occasion for such.
But those good and pleasant things ought not to displace the things of first importance. The incarnation ought not to be a doctrine reserved for any particular time of year, and neither is it the particular focus of the Scriptural commands for the worship of Christ Jesus and the commemoration of his work. And while we embrace our opportunities for gospel witness, there are other realities that govern and condition our embrace of those opportunities. And even if you argue for a degree of Christian latitude in the fact or manner of your celebration (or not) of Christmas, there is nothing that requires a Christian – or anyone else – to make the 25th of December a day of particular focus.
But there is something that requires a Christian to make this 25th December a day of particular focus. It is the Lord’s day. It is that one day in seven, that first day of the week, that resurrection day, the day on which the church can and should gather in order to worship their living Lord. And that act of privileged obedience takes precedence over every act of liberty.
That imposes certain demands and pressures on us, on some more than others. For some, we face the desire to ‘do Christmas properly,’ a desire that might need to be toned down or put aside, at least for the day itself. However, for others it is the pressure of making it a real ‘family day,’ as if the family of God should take second place (Mark 3.32-35, anyone?). Such pressure will be painful, especially if many or all of the family are unconverted. But is this an opportunity to show where your priorities lie? It may be the sense of a lazy day, when you get up late and just mooch around, the temptation to minimise or even do away with the public and private exercises of worship. It may be the pressure, especially with young children, to flood the day with gifts and treats, and – even if you do seek to be in church – the forms take precedence while the substance is washed away on a tide of weariness, carelessness and greed. It may be that Christmas trumps Christ altogether, as services of worship and private devotions give way to the fact that, “It’s Christmas, after all.” Indeed, ironically, where in most years saccharine nativity scenes and pappy Christmas sermons rule, this may be the very year when some decide to give church a miss altogether.
However, if we are believers in God and followers of Christ and indwelt by the Spirit, worshippers of the Most High in all his majesty, might, and mercy, then Christmas must give way to Christ. Our attachment to the Lord Jesus must take precedence over all cultural and other pressures. Let the day be, before it is anything else, the Lord’s day. Plan and prepare around that priority, and let that which does not fit within such a framework give place. Indeed, a fairly simple solution might be to postpone or promote the occasion by one day.
So by all means enjoy a feast of good things. By all means take advantage of the trend of thought and feeling to do good to others, body and soul. By all means preach the glories of the incarnation of the eternal Son to those who may, under God, be primed to hear the truth of the Saviour, born of a virgin, born in the city of David, who is Christ the Lord.
But by no means forget the feast of soul that is laid up for the saints of God on the day and at the times when God, in a distinctive way, draws near to bless his gathered people. By no means forget that the best good you can do to a man is to speak the truth as it is in Jesus. By no means fail to declare that this infant born in Bethlehem, weak and helpless, was the mighty God, and that this God-man came into the world for the purpose of salvation through his death and resurrection. Be where you ought to be, doing what you ought to do, seeking what you ought to seek, and in so being, doing and seeking, may God truly bless us, every one.
Euan Murray, the Scotland prop forward, playing at the Rugby World Cup, has made it plain that – despite the cost – he is not prepared to play on the Lord’s day. He told the BBC:
It’s basically all or nothing, following Jesus. I don’t believe in pick ‘n’ mix Christianity. I believe the Bible is the word of God, so who am I to ignore something from it?
Those who honour God, God will honour. Euan’s faithfulness may earn scorn from some, but those who love the Lord esteem him highly, as does his Master.