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

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.


J.C. Ryle on Worship

J.C. Ryle’s conclusion from his chapter on worship in his book Knots Untied (10th ed. 1885), also published by Banner of Truth as Worship: Its Priority, Principles, & Practice.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. The best public worship is that which produces the best private Christianity. The best Church Services for the congregation are those which make its individual members most holy at home and alone. If we want to know whether our own public worship is doing us good, let us try it by these tests. Does it quicken our conscience? Does it send us to Christ? Does it add to our knowledge?  Does it sanctify our life?  If it does, we may depend on it, it is worship of which we have no cause to be ashamed.

The day is coming when there shall be a congregation that shall never break up, and a Sabbath that shall never end, a song of praise that shall never cease, and an assembly that shall never be dispersed. In that assembly shall be found all who have “worshipped God in spirit” upon earth. If we are such, we shall be there. Here we often worship God with a deep sense of weakness, corruption, and infirmity. There, at last, we shall be able, with a renewed body, to serve Him without weariness, and to attend on Him without distraction.

Here, at our very best, we see through a glass darkly, and know the Lord Jesus Christ most imperfectly. It is our grief that we do not know Him better and love Him more. There, freed from all the dross and defilement of indwelling sin, we shall see Jesus as we have been seen, and know as we have been known. Surely, if faith has been sweet and peace-giving, sight will be far better.

Here we have often found it hard to worship God joyfully, by reason of the sorrows and cares of this world. Tears over the graves of those we loved have often made it hard to sing praise. Crushed hopes and family sorrows have sometimes made us hang our harps on the willows. There every tear shall be dried, every saint who has fallen asleep in Christ shall meet us once more, and every hard thing in our life-journey shall be made clear and plain as the sun at noon-day.

Here we have often felt that we stand comparatively alone, and that even in God s house the real spiritual worshippers are comparatively few. There we shall at length see a multitude of brethren and sisters that no man can number, all of one heart and one mind, all free from blemishes, weaknesses, and infirmities, all rejoicing in one Saviour, and all prepared to spend an eternity in His praise. We shall have worshipping companions enough in heaven.

Armed with such hopes as these, let us lift up our hearts and look forward! The time is very short. The night is far spent. The day is at hand. Let us worship on, pray on, praise on, and read on. Let us contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and resist manfully every effort to spoil Scriptural worship. Let us strive earnestly to hand down the light of Gospel worship to our children s children. Yet a little time and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Blessed in that day will be those, and those only, who are found true worshippers, “worshippers in spirit and truth!”

2012 Desiring God Conference

I am excited to see that the theme for the 2012 Desiring God Conference is sanctification. It is subtitled, “God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification.” This is kind of a hot topic and debate in the Reformed theology community right now, and the timing could not be better. It is an extremely important topic, one that continues to be debated since the time of the Reformation.  I am looking forward to hearing it (though not in person). The video below gives an overview of the conference.

Sneak Preview of Our 2012 National Conference from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Today’s Reading List 3/6/2012

Al Mohler on After-Birth Abortion – “For years now, pro-life activists have been lectured that “slippery slope” arguments are false. This article makes clear the fact that our warnings have not been based in a slippery slope argument, but in the very reality of abortion. Abortion implies infanticide. If the unborn child lacks sufficient moral status by the fact that it is unborn, the baby in the nursery, it is now argued, has also not yet developed human personhood.”

What is a truly “relevant” church? – “The Welsh preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, was approached after a worship service by a woman who was visiting his church. She said something to the effect, “My marriage is falling apart, but I don’t need to hear another sermon on marriage. The sermon you just preached on the greatness of God will do more for my marriage than all those marriage sermons combined.”

Why children should worship in church with their parents – a list of sound, biblical reasons. I am looking forward to part 2 tomorrow.

Do not think on these things – We are to both put off our old selves and put on Christ. Both are necessary to grow in grace. I have always appreciated the Reformed confessions that discuss in great detail both the positive and negative commands in each of the Ten Commandments. Here, Paul Tautges provides a list from Phil. 4:8 of things NOT to think on. I think this is especially helpful for children. Which means this is required reading for my children.

Why we should read the Puritans – My soul has not benefited more from any written word, besides the Bible, than it has from the writings of the Puritans. I don’t know where I would be without them. Here is a short list of why they are so helpful and relevant today.


The Word of God in Your Technological World

Don’t let how you view and use the Word of God in your fight of faith be affected by our technological world, where all information is at our fingertips and not in our heads so much anymore. It must not be so with the Word of God. This article is a fantastic piece of advice and warning.

My point is this: one of the consequences of the internet-trained brain seems to be an inability to hide very much – not much of the Word of God, to be sure – in our hearts. That results in a crippling weakness in the battle for godliness.

If you want to, test yourself. What do you do, where do you look, when you want to find “that verse,” you know, the one on the tip of your tongue? Do you flick to BibleWorks or Logos, pull up some Scripture text on your e-platform and do a quick search? Was it ever stored in your heart? Are you looking merely for a reminder, or have you become so accustomed to ready accessibility and easy search that you no longer bother storing it in your heart, unconsciously succumbing to the suggestion that since it’s right at your fingertips you don’t need to worry? Have you forgotten how to remember?

How long was Christ in the wilderness? Forty days and forty nights. (You know the batteries on pretty much any device have died by then.) What state was he in? Desperately hungry and thirsty. Who came to him? The arch-enemy, the Adversary. What were flung at him? A series of pointed and powerful temptations striking at his very identity and destiny. And what did the Lord do, without the help of any electronic aids or ready-references? He dug into the depths of Deuteronomy to bring forth three perfectly-forged weapons with which to smite the foe, three mighty “Thus says the Lord” declarations which shattered Satan’s assault and sent him from the field a beaten foe. The word was hidden in the Saviour’s heart, and he did not sin against God.

Look more closely, and you understand what that means. Satan takes and twists Scripture to make his perverted case. The Lord Christ not only knows enough to see through those corrupting quotations, but he has upon his holy lips the fruit of a heart in which the Word of God is thoroughly hidden, the truth stored up in order to be brought forth as occasion demands in order to keep him from sin and in the path of righteousness.

What of you? You have one primary offensive weapon with which to do battle against sin: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6.17). Can you afford to have that potent blade wrapped up in the electronic cobwebs of some computer programme when you need it for the fight? Do you not know from bitter experience that you do not have time to draw the sword from the depths of your electronic device when Satan comes roaring in against you? You need it sitting in your hand, you need it stored up in your heart ready for immediate deployment when the enemy comes upon you unawares. To use a more modern metaphor, you cannot afford to wander this battlefield with all your ammunition stored at the bottom of your backpack; you need your weapon locked and loaded at all times.

What to Say to the Spiritual Debt Collector

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” (Revelation 12:10, ESV)

Clark Howard, and I suppose other consumer advocates, commonly talks about what to do when debt collectors call. In particular, he discusses deceptive debt collectors who try to collect a debt that does not even belong to the person, or may not legally be collectable because it is too old and the statute of limitations has expired. These deceptive collectors don’t care if the debt is legitimate or not; they just want to get money out of you any way they can, even if the debt does not belong to you. He goes on to give advice about the proper legal way to notify them that the debt is not yours, and they legally cannot bother you about that debt again.

Satan is the ultimate debt collector. He is our adversary, the accuser of God’s people. He prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He will come to you today to accuse you; he likely already has, as soon as you woke up this morning. The author of lies comes to you to tell you of your guilt, of the debt you owe. He comes to tell you that you are a worthless sinner, undeserving of God’s love, a disobedient rebel who owes a debt to God for your sin, a debt you can never repay. Well, you are a sinner who does not deserve God’s love, and so am I. But if we are Christians, in Christ we are of infinite worth to God. We are united to Christ, and every spiritual blessing is ours in Christ Jesus. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

So how should we respond to the accuser, to the spiritual debt collector? Thomas Watson offers this advice, from Song of Solomon, where we are presented as the bride of Christ, and He as our Husband:

Make use of this marriage relationship with Christ… when the law brings in its indictments against you. The law says, ‘Here there are so many debts to be paid’, and it demands satisfaction. Acknowledge the debt, but turn over all to your Husband, Christ. It is a maxim in the law that the suit must not go against the wife, as long as the husband is living. Tell Satan when he accuses you, ‘It is true that the debt is mine, but go to my Husband, Christ; he will discharge it.’ If we took this course, we might relieve ourselves of much trouble. By faith we turn over the debt to our Husband. Believers are not in a state of widowhood but of marriage. Satan will never go to Christ — he knows that justice is satisfied and the debt book cancelled — but he comes to us for the debt so that he may perplex us. We should send him to Christ and then all lawsuits would cease. This is a believer’s triumph. When he is guilty in himself, he is worthy in Christ. When he is spotted in himself, he is pure in his Head.

When your adversary comes today or tomorrow to accuse you, to tell you of your sin and the debt you owe, say to him, “Yes, the sin is mine, but take that debt up with my Husband, Christ. He has made full and complete payment for it. You may not bother me about it again.” Fight the flaming darts of the evil one today with the shield of faith and the sword of the Word of God.

Together With All the Saints

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14–20

In Paul’s prayer here for the Christians in Ephesus, which is a good one to pray for any Christian that you know, Paul prays for their spiritual growth. He prays that they would be rooted and grounded in the gospel, that they would be strengthened, that they would realize more and more the love of Christ for them. But he adds an interesting phrase that struck me this morning as I was praying this passage for my family: “together with all the saints.”

Continue reading “Together With All the Saints”