The Confession of Sin from the Westminster Directory

The Westminster Directory of Public Worship rightly recommends a prayer of confession of sin before the preaching of the Word. It helpfully provides an example of the content of such a prayer. How our churches, and the people in them, would be blessed by such a confession Sunday after Sunday. The preface is most helpful in describing the purpose of such a prayer.

“AFTER reading of the word, (and singing of the psalm), the minister who is to preach, is to endeavour to get his own and his hearers hearts to be rightly affected with their sins, that they may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord, and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by proceeding to a more full confession of sin, with shame and holy confusion of face, and to call upon the Lord to this effect:

To acknowledge our great sinfulness, First, by reason of original sin, which (beside the guilt that makes us liable to everlasting damnation) is the seed of all other sins, hath depraved and poisoned all the faculties and powers of soul and body, doth defile our best actions, and (were it not restrained, or our hearts renewed by grace) would break forth into innumerable transgressions, and greatest rebellions against the Lord that ever were committed by the vilest of the sons of men; and next, by reason of actual sins, our own sins, the sins of magistrates, of ministers, and of the whole nation, unto which we are many ways accessory: which sins of ours receive many fearful aggravations, we having broken all the commandments of the holy, just, and good law of God, doing that which is forbidden, and leaving undone what is enjoined; and that not only out of ignorance and infirmity, but also more presumptuously, against the light of our minds, checks of our consciences, and motions of his own Holy Spirit to the contrary, so that we have no cloak for our sins; yea, not only despising the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, but standing out against many invitations and offers of grace in the gospel; not endeavouring, as we ought, to receive Christ into our hearts by faith, or to walk worthy of him in our lives.

To bewail our blindness of mind, hardness of heart, unbelief, impenitency, security, lukewarmness, barrenness; our not endeavouring after mortification and newness of life, nor after the exercise of godliness in the power thereof; and that the best of us have not so steadfastly walked with God, kept our garments so unspotted, nor been so zealous of his glory, and the good of others, as we ought: and to mourn over such other sins as the congregation is particularly guilty of, notwithstanding the manifold and great mercies of our God, the love of Christ, the light of the gospel, and reformation of religion, our own purposes, promises, vows, solemn covenant, and other special obligations, to the contrary.

To acknowledge and confess, that, as we are convinced of our guilt, so, out of a deep sense thereof, we judge ourselves unworthy of the smallest benefits, most worthy of God’s fiercest wrath, and of all the courses of the law, and heaviest judgments inflicted upon the most rebellious sinners; and that he might most justly take his kingdom and gospel from us, plague us with all sorts of spiritual and temporal judgments in this life, and after cast us into utter darkness, in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth for evermore.

Notwithstanding all which, to draw near to the throne of grace, encouraging ourselves with hope of a gracious answer of our prayers, in the riches and all-sufficiency of that only one oblation, the satisfaction and intercession of the Lord, Jesus Christ, at the right hand of his Father and our Father; and in confidence of the exceeding great and precious promises of mercy and grace in the new covenant, through the same Mediator thereof, to deprecate the heavy wrath and curse of God, which we are not able to avoid, or bear; and humbly and earnestly to supplicate for mercy, in the free and full remission of all our sins, and that only for the bitter sufferings and precious merits of that our only Saviour Jesus Christ.

That the Lord would vouchsafe to shed abroad His love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost; seal unto us, by the same Spirit of adoption, the full assurance of our pardon and reconciliation; comfort all that mourn in Zion. speak peace to the wounded and troubled spirit, and bind up the broken-hearted; and as for secure and presumptuous sinners, that he would open their eyes, convince their consciences, and tum them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they also may receive forgiveness of sin, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ Jesus.

With remission of sins through the blood of Christ, to pray for sanctification by his Spirit; the mortification of sin dwelling in and many times tyrannizing over us; the quickening of our dead spirits with the life of God in Christ; grace to fit and enable us for all duties of conversation and callings towards God and men; strength against temptations; the sanctified use of blessings and crosses; and perseverance in faith and obedience unto the end.

We Need All Three Spheres of Worship

a neglegted graceJason Helopoulos:
A Christian will find it most beneficial to practice secret worship, corporate worship, and family worship. They are all important for our life in Christ. They each bear a necessary weight, and they all inform one another. When my secret worship is lacking or even non-existent, then my worship in the corporate community and family will be affected. When my attendance at corporate worship is sparse, then my secret worship and family worship will suffer as well. These three spheres of worship are related, informed, and encouraged by one another, because in each I am meeting with the Lord and benefiting from His grace. As I grow in my enjoyment of the Lord in my closet, so my enjoyment of Him in corporate worship will increase. As I hear the preached Word of God in corporate worship, this informs and stimulates my heart and mind in leading my own family in worship. As I worship God with my family, my affection and love for the Lord increases, which encourages my secret and corporate worship. They all inform one another. If I am starving in one area, then as I function in the other spheres I will find that I am malnourished there as well.  
― Jason Helopoulos, A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home (Christian Focus, 2013),  p. 27

God is to be worshipped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or wilfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by His Word or providence, calls thereunto.

Westminster Confession of Faith, XXI.6

The Benefits of Family Worship

In addition to honoring and glorifying God, and obeying the command to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Jason Helopoulos gives several practical benefits of family worship. It:

  1. Centers the home on Christ
  2. Encourages our children in the things of Christ
  3. Encourages Christian character
  4. Encourages peace in the home
  5. Binds the family together
  6. Provides common knowledge as a family
  7. Equips our children for corporate worship
  8. Reinforces spiritual headship
  9. Provides systematic discipleship

― Jason Helopoulos, A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home (Christian Focus, 2013)

Reading Your Bible in 2013

Well, another new year is here, and perhaps you need a plan for reading your Bible this year. You may already have a plan, or you may be continuing right where you left off on December 31, 2012. But daily Bible reading, study, and perhaps most importantly meditation, is essential for the Christian to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. (Meditation is a lost discipline; hopefully I will address this in a future post). If you need a plan, there are many excellent ones from which to choose. I was going to compile a list, but thankfully others have done it for me.

But first of all, consider these wise words on how not to read your Bible in 2013:

  1. Don’t Overextend. “It’s better to read one chapter a day, every day, than four a day, every now and then. Moreover, the value of meditation cannot be overstressed. Meditation isn’t spiritualized daydreaming; it’s riveted reflection on revelation. Read less, if you must, to meditate more. It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience.”
  2. Don’t Do It Alone.
  3. Don’t Just Do It Whenever. “It is imperative, then, to set a specific time each day when you will get alone with God. Even if it’s a modest window, guard it with your life. … If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you’ll read it never. And if you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you.”
  4. Don’t Live as if Paul Lied. “”For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Rom. 15:4). …Whenever you open your Bible, labor to believe that God has something here to say to me. Whatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, his cherished child, in view. So pursue God’s graces on the pages of Scripture this year. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow everywhere await.”
  5. Don’t Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit. “Your Father’s love for you doesn’t rise and fall with your quiet times. If you are united to Jesus by faith, the verdict is out, and the court is dismissed. You’re as accepted and embraced as the Son himself. Period. …So as another year dawns, commit yourself anew to becoming a man or woman of the Word. But don’t overextend, do it alone, just do it whenever, live as if Paul lied, or treat means of grace like means of merit.Your Bible is one of God’s chief gifts to you in 2013. Open, read, ruminate, and obey.”

The folks at Ligonier have complied an excellent list (and pdf downloads) of Bible reading plans.

Here is the strangely-named Bible Eater Plan at the Gospel Coalition.

The website and mobile apps YouVersion offers not only free Bibles for your mobile devices, but also numerous reading plans that you can track online and sync with your devices.

May God give us a hunger and thirst for Him in 2013, and may we be fully satisfied in Him as we feast on His Word.


Incredible Explanation of the Lord’s Supper from a 16 year old in 1554

Justin Taylor provides an excerpt from Lady Jane Grey’s defense of the biblical view of the sacraments, which she spoke in defense when she was 16 years old. Fantastic. How many of our teenagers can do the same? This should inspire us all the more to catechize our children.

Lady Jane. — By the sacrament of Baptism I am washed with water, and regenerated by the Spirit, and that washing is a token to me that I am the child of God. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper offered unto me, is a sure seal and testimony that I am, by the blood of Christ which he shed for me on the cross, made partaker of the everlasting kingdom.

Feckenham. — Why, what do you receive in that sacrament? Do you not receive the very body and blood of Christ?

Lady Jane. — No, surely, I do not so believe. I think that at the supper I neither receive flesh nor blood, but bread and wine, which bread, when it is broken, and which wine, when it is drunken, putteth me in remembrance how that for my sins the body of Christ was broken, and his blood shed on the cross, and with that bread and wine I receive the benefits that came by the breaking of his body, and shedding his blood for our sins on the cross.

Feckenham. — Why, doth not Christ speak these words, Take, eat, this is my body? Require you any plainer words? Doth he not say, it is his body?

Lady Jane. — I grant he saith so; and so he saith, ‘I am the vine, I am the door’: but he is never the more the door nor the vine. Doth not St. Paul say. He calleth things that are not, as though they were? God forbid that I should say that I eat the very natural body and blood of Christ; for then either I should pluck away my redemption, or else there were two bodies, or two Christs. One body was tormented on the cross, and if they did eat another body, then had he two bodies; or if his body were eaten, then was it not broken on the cross; or if it were broken on the cross, it was not eaten of his disciples.

Daily Reading 3/23/2012

Seeing sin for what it really is – Satanic. “Sin is not a thing we can just sweep under the rug. It’s not a little this or that. Oh no. Sin is most fundamentally our acting like Satan instead of reflecting the glory of God. Think about that for a moment. Fudging on the truth, spinning things a bit, ignoring God’s word, elevating our reason above what he’s said — these are neither struggles nor foibles, they are Satanic. It is to deny the most fundamental purpose we exist: to glorify God and bear the imprint of his holiness. One motivation to a life of repentance is to see our sin for what it truly is.”

What My Mother Did – Catechism – Another great story of a mother’s legacy. Part 2 of 5.

New Lloyd-Jones book on marriage from Banner of Truth – Lloyd-Jones’ sermons on Ephesians are wonderful, but take up seven volumes. If you want his sermons on Ephesians 5 and marriage, you still have to buy a rather large volume containing more material than you want. Now Banner of Truth has published just his sermons on marriage from Ephesians 5.

Reformation Study Bible notes now available on Bible Gateway – The Reformation Study Bible is one of the best study Bibles available. The notes are now available online for free at Bible Gateway.

Wasted Depression (HT: Tim Challies) – John Piper might say, “Don’t waste your depression.” “Charles Spurgeon called his depression his best friend and his worst enemy. The enemy put him in the slough of despond and incapacitated him in horrible ways. The friend  caused him to lean hard upon his God and realize that all the accomplishments really were not his doing.”

Fearfully & Wonderfully Drawn – Every one of our eight children is amazingly different. We are always surprised by this, and filled with joy at seeing their unique personalities emerge. Good to remember that God is also individually and uniquely working in each of their lives; it does not look the same for every child.

Daily Reading 3/22/2012

Christian Husband’s Only Option: Love Your Wife – This is all biblical and true: it is not an option to fall out of love with your wife (or husband for that matter). However, I wish the author had drawn the distinction between love as a feeling and love as a verb. True love, biblical love, is a verb. It is entirely possible for feelings of love to wax and to wane; however, it is impossible to fall out of love because love is a decision, a verb, an action. It is not predominately a feeling, especially as the word is used in Ephesians 5.

Is low self-esteem always beautiful? – The question of how to rightly view self-esteem is critically important for one’s own life, as well as parenting, and counseling those struggling with anxiety, depression, or even discouragement. It is right to think of ourselves as losers, because apart from God we are totally incapable of doing anything good or right. Our hearts are inclined always to evil, and in our flesh dwells no good thing. And we know that the positive-thinking, new age, good within you, philosophy is unbiblical. But that we are worms is not the whole story. There is a biblical view of and esteem for oneself that is healthy and necessary. Getting this right is essential to healthy Christian living. We are trying right now to teach this to our teens and pre-teens; this article is a good start.

Children Review The Quest for Comfort – Our family just finished a year-long study of the Heidelberg Catechism. It is wonderful, and more accessible for children, and more comforting and warm, than other Reformed catechisms. There is a new book for children on the history of the Heidelberg Catechism that I have been looking forward to making my children read. Here are a couple of reviews from children.



Daily Reading & Deals 3/21/2012

What Did You Expect DVD – On huge sale for a few days only, $15! Normally sells for $60 (at least that is the list price). I’ve already ordered two copies. I also just noted from the WTS website that the book is now available in paperback as well.

Ligonier National Conference Audio & Video now online – From what I heard when it was live streamed, this was a great conference. The theme this year is The Christian Mind.


Daily Reading and Deals 3/20/2012

Amazon 50% off deal – through Amazon Local, today only, buy a $10 Amazon card for $5. If you shop at Amazon, this deal is too good to pass up. Unfortunately, it is limit one per household. And like other local deals, there is (supposedly) a limited supply today.

Francis Schaeffer on Science and the Bible – or, even better, on getting them in the right order

Modesty Links – a good roundup of links to articles, etc. on Christian modesty

What My Mother Did – an excellent article on a mother’s legacy through her labors to make the Lord’s Day special to her children, at her own expense (like many other things mothers, and fathers, do)

Diapers, Nursing, Clinging to Christ – more encouragement for mothers in the fog of pregnancy and caring for young children. There really is only one thing to remember, because it all depends on him, not on us: “Do you hold fast to Christ? Are you thankful — in the midst of pregnancy and nursing, diapers and discipline? The details of last Sunday’s sermon might be foggy, or lost entirely. How much more so the teachings from a year or more ago. But don’t let that trouble you. If nothing else sticks, remember this: Cling to Christ. You have been united with him. Cling to him.”

Cultivating the Affections – this is the ultimate goal of education, particularly classical education. Or at least it should be. This is what is really going on in the minds and hearts of children as they grow up, which has profound implications on how we parent and educate our children. This is one of the primary reasons I believe classical education is by far the best model and method for educating (read: parenting and shepherding) children.

Re-defining Terms, Disobedience, and Deaconnesses in the PCA

Doug Wilson gets it exactly right, cutting to the heart of the matter:

But in the PCA, the egalitarian pressure is on, and the capitulations are in process. This means that the church order of the PCA is being altered by default, and it is not be altered by means of an honest constitutional process. It is being altered by a combination of ecclesiastical disobedience, passive agressiveness, and postmodern label shifting.

This is what has bothered me most about this whole issue. It is fine to disagree with our Book of Church Order and think that having women serve as deacons is acceptable biblically. But to disobey our constitution, after taking vows to obey it, is just wrong. People who disagree with it should labor to change it and obey it in the meantime. Or they should go to a denomination that supports their views if they insist on this practice. But how can it be anything but sinful to outrght disobey our constitution, or like a child try to re-define the terms and weasel around the rules?

I wish more people actually in the PCA had the boldness to put it in these terms.