A Solemn Covenant with God and His Church—Part IV


Over the last few days we have been looking at the membership vows that church members take when we become a part of a local Presbyterian Church in America congregation. The first two vows speak of the justification that we have in Christ through no merit of our own, but established completely through the finished work of Christ. The third vow was a general promise that said, “I do,” to the following question, “Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ? In other words, depending upon the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, we promise to seek to live as a Christian should live.

The fourth vow consists of a promise to live like a follower of Christ by seeking “to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability.” I once knew a man who was serving as a school board member and was confronted by a parent who had just heard that the School Superintendent was going to retire and in great concern asked, “What are we going to do if Dr. _______ retires?” My friends response was: “How are we going to know?”

Just as we should know that a School Superintendent is doing his job by seeing the results of his work, we also should be able to tell that someone is a follower of Christ because he supports the worship of the Church. Gathering with God’s people on the Lord’s Day is not something that he does if he finds the time, but it is at the top of his priority list. My Dad was not a perfect man in any way, but I appreciate the fact that I was raised knowing that on the Lord’s Day we would be in church to worship the living God with His people. I never once asked, “Are we going to church this Sunday?” because that would be a stupid question. Of course, we were.

We can also tell that someone is a follower of Christ because he supports the work of the Church. We support the work of the church by being involved as much as possible in ministering and loving people with our lives, but it also means that we are involved in supporting the work of the church through God’s tithes and our offerings. A police detective once said that he could tell if someone was a faithful Christian by simply looking at their checkbook (yes, there was a time when people wrote checks for everything). He said it was not the extravagance of the giving to the church that was the key, but the consistency of the giving that gave it away (Remember the widow’s mite).

The Christian’s relationship to God and His Church is not a discretionary relationship, but it is at the heart of all that he is and all that he does. There is one last way of “living as becomes a follower of Christ” mentioned in the last of the membership vows, which I will cover in my next post.

Tuesday Hymns: “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray”

Philip Doddridge (1702-1751) was the youngest of twenty (yes, twenty) children to a man who dealt with “oils and pickles” in London, England. His grandfather had the Biblical and spiritual integrity to resign his pastorate when the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662 and became a non-conformist minister.

Doddridge followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, becoming a non-conformist minister, educator, and author of books and hymns. He died of tuberculosis in 1751 in Lisbon, Portugal. This past Sunday night we closed our worship service with his beautiful hymn, “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray,” which is our Tuesday Hymn for this week. The hymn speaks of the Christian Sabbath (the Lord’s Day); its blessing to man now, and its prophetic look at a future “nobler rest above.” It is sung to the tune, GERMANY.

Lord of the Sabbath, hear us pray,
In this Your house, on this Your day;
And own, as grateful sacrifice,
The songs which from Your temple rise.

Now met to pray and bless Your Name,
Whose mercies flow each day the same;
Whose kind compassions never cease,
We seek instruction, pardon, peace.

Your earthly Sabbaths, Lord, we love,
But there’s a nobler rest above;
To that our laboring souls aspire
With ardent hope and strong desire.

In Your blest kingdom we shall be
From every mortal trouble free;
No sighs shall mingle with the songs
Resounding from immortal tongues.

No rude alarms of raging foes;
No cares to break the long repose;
No midnight shade, no waning moon,
But sacred, high, eternal noon.

O long expected day, begin,
Dawn on these realms of woe and sin!
Break, morn of God, upon our eyes;
And let the world’s true Sun arise!

“The Ordering of [Our] Common Affairs Beforehand”

 NAS The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (John 19:31)

The preceding verse reminds us that the Jews spent the day before the Sabbath day getting ready for it (that is why they called Friday the “Day of Preparation”). There were many things that had to be done in order to prepare to “remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” Things are not that much different for us as we prepare for the Lord’s Day (and I have no problem calling it the “Christian Sabbath”). For our family, we make sure to fill up our two vehicles (I usually need to get there before Dixie and the boys), get anything from the grocery store that might be needed, work diligently to get the boys in the shower on time in order that they can get to bed on time (and so can we), checking to make sure Sunday clothes are clean, and trying to take some time to prepare our hearts to worship the Lord with God’s people. We usually prepare “crock pot” meals so a large amount of time does not have to be spent cooking, cleaning up the kitchen, etc. and we are better able to focus on the Lord on His day.

Granted, every family is different, and it is not for me to add extra-Biblical laws for your lives, but I would encourage you to ask yourself, “What can I do on Saturday that will better prepare me to worship the living Lord on His special day?” The last two paragraphs of Chapter XXI of the Westminster Confession of Faith gives great direction concerning this issue:

As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

 This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

“The Market Day of the Soul”

The Sunday before Christmas, as I headed home from worship, I looked over at Parkdale Mall and noticed that there was nary a parking place to be had. The Sunday after Christmas (which was the day after), as I headed home from worship, the same parking lot was filled to the brim with automobiles, as people fought to get after-Christmas deals, use their gift cards, and return all those clothes that were too small.

However, on Christmas Day, I drove past the same mall and not a car was to be seen; except for a few news vans parked outside of KJAC channel 4. Granted, I realize that I live in a fallen world, and that I can’t expect non-Christians to reverence the Lord’s Day, but I could not help but wish that the same respect given to Christmas Day, would be given to the day each week that the Lord commands us to “keep.” Because we are “prone to wander,” it is imperative that at least once every seven days, we are reminded of our need to worship the Triune God, and to think about His grace that has been poured out upon sinners.

As 2011 draws near, may we as God’s people take seriously His day; for His eternal glory, and for our eternal good.

8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

The Valley of Vision: “Lord’s Day Morning”

In preparation for the Lord’s Day tomorrow, I wanted to share another prayer from The Valley of Vision. May we be “encouraged by [His] all-sufficient grace” and “go to [His] house with a lively hope of meeting [Him], knowing that there [He] will come to [us] and give [us] peace.”

O maker and Upholder of all things,

Day and night are thine;
they are also mine from thee-
the night to rid me of the cares of the day,
to refresh my weary body,
to renew my natural strength;
the day to summon me to new activities,
to give me opportunity to glorify thee,
to serve my generation,
to acquire knowledge, holiness, eternal life.

But one day above all days is made especially
for thy honour and my improvement;
The Sabbath reminds me
of thy rest from creation,
of the resurrection of my Saviour,
of his entering into repose.

Thy house is mine,
but I am unworthy to meet thee there,
and am unfit for spiritual service.
When I enter it I come before thee as a sinner,
condemned by conscience and thy Word,
For I am still in the body and in the wilderness,
ignorant, weak, in danger,
and in need of thine aid.
But encouraged by thy all-sufficient grace
let me go to thy house with a lively hope
of meeting thee,
knowing that there thou wilt come to me
and give me peace.

My soul is drawn out to thee in longing desires
for thy presence in the sancturary, at the table,
where all are entertained on a feast of
good things;
Let me before the broken elements,
emblems of thy dying love,
cry to thee with broken heart for grace
and forgiveness.

I long for that blissful communion of thy people
in thy eternal house in the perfect kingdom;
These are they that follow the Lamb;
May I be of their company!

The Lord’s Day: “Not a yoke, but a blessing.”

Last Lord’s Day, the following was on the front of our Worship Bulletin. It is a reminder to all the people of God that the Lord’s Day is His gift to us to be able to turn aside one day in every seven to worship Him in Spirit and Truth as the people of God.

I will now let J. C. Ryle speak for himself:

“The Sabbath is God’s merciful appointment for the benefit of all mankind. It is not a yoke, but a blessing. It is not a burden, but a mercy. It is not a hard wearisome requirement, but a mighty benefit. It carries with it its own reward. It is good for man’s body, mind and above all, his soul.

I do not want anyone to misunderstand my meaning, when I bid him to keep the Sabbath holy. I do not tell anyone that he ought to pray all day, or read his Bible all day, or go to church all day, or meditate all day, on a Sunday. All I say is, that the Sunday rest should be a holy rest. God ought to be kept in view; God’s Word ought to be studied; God’s House ought to be attended; the soul’s business ought to be specially considered; and I say that everything which prevents the day being kept holy in this way, ought as far as possible to be avoided.

I am no admirer of a gloomy religion. Let no one suppose that I want Sunday to be a day of sadness and unhappiness. I want every Christian to be a happy man: I wish him to have “joy and peace in believing.” I want everyone to regard Sunday as the brightest, most cheerful day of all the seven; and I tell everyone who finds such a Sunday as I advocate a wearisome day, that there is something sadly wrong in the state of his heart. I tell him plainly that if he cannot enjoy a “holy” Sunday, the fault is not in the day, but in his own soul.”

More Words from “My Favorite Anglican”

Another short quote from my favorite Anglican, J. C. Ryle:

Why are we told so pointedly about the “first day of the week” and the “Lord’s Day,” if the Apostles kept no one day more holy than another, is to my mind inexplicable.”

The Market Day for the Soul

“The Sabbath day is God’s market-day for the week’s provision, wherein He will have us to come unto him, and buy of him without silver or Money, the Bread of Angels, and Water of life, the Wine of the Sacraments, and Milk of the Word to feed our souls: tried Gold, to enrich our Faith: precious Eyesalve, to heal our spiritual blindness: and the white Raiment of Christ’s Righteousness, to cover our filthy nakedness.”–Lewes Bayly

Chariots of Fire Redux

I came across an interesting article in The Daily Record which speaks of one British sports star who takes seriously the command to “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” (Actually, a message board pointed me to the article and I decided to share the article with you.) Read here about Euan Murray’s decision not to play rugby on Sundays.

Keep Christ in Christmas?

First of all, let me announce at the beginning of this post, that it is not my desire to rain on anyone’s Christmas parade. I am not in the business of telling people how they must celebrate Christmas, or for that matter, how they should not celebrate Christmas. While I have many Puritan leanings, I am not the type to make a big production of purposely going to work on Christmas, just so everyone knows that I am not celebrating Christmas. (I do celebrate Christmas with my family so don’t think of me as a “Christmas hater.”)

However, I do have a bone to pick with many (not all) of those who constantly cry out, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Why? Because many (not all) of those who chant that particular mantra get incensed when someone says “Happy Holidays,” instead of, “Merry Christmas,” yet throughout the rest of the year they seldom take seriously the Biblical command to:

 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:  11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

It is funny to me (funny, strange; not funny, ha ha) that those who shout the loudest about Christmas (a holy day not commanded by God), are the ones who often think little about heading out to the mall, to the grocery store, to a softball or soccer tournament, to a football game, or to a restaurant on the Lord’s Day (a holy day which God has commanded that we observe). It is not my intention to become the Sabbath Police, determining what everyone can or can’t do on the Lord’s Day, but I desire to shout from the housetops that God has given us fifty-two holy days every year in which to turn aside and worship Him, and His Son, and to be strengthened by His grace through the hearing of His Word by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Feel free to think about Christ at this time of year, but be sure that you do not forget about Him through the rest of the year. As the writer of Hebrews has written:

 22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:  25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:22-25)


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