Archives For October 2007
At the center of the requirement to honor God’s name is the requirement to worship God rightly. In Dt. 12, we saw last week that this meant gathering in the place where God has placed his name and eating and drinking and rejoicing there with the family of God. That is what we are doing here. We are gathered around this table to rejoice before the Lord as his family. We have just called upon the name of our God as ‘Our Father’ and now you are invited to sit down at this table as his children, his beloved sons and daughters. Rejoicing at this table does not mean that God is not also sanctifying you here at this table; in fact one of the central ways God is training you as his children, chastising you as his sons is by feeding you on the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Every week we gather here and rejoice, give thanks, and celebrate the lamb that was slain. We are here rejoicing in the greatest act of injustice in the history of the world, the greatest scandal, the most excruciating execution ever. We are here gathered around the table of Our Father, and he is serving up Christ Crucified for dinner. He is serving up the shed blood and torn flesh of his Beloved Son. This should cause us to pause. Jesus has called us to be his disciples, to follow him, to take up our cross, and we know that in Him, our salvation is already completely and unalterably accomplished and secure. He is the author and finisher of our faith. But this salvation that he has won for us is patterned after his life. We are called to follow him, and this means that rejoicing around this table is what we are called to. We are called to lives of joyful suffering. We are called to live with all the challenges, pains, hurts, disappointments of life and to offer thanks back to the goodness of God. This is a great mystery. But the cross is our pattern. We have been called to follow him who enduring great suffering for the joy set before him. Therefore as you come and eat this bread and drink this wine with joy; do not forget that you are eating and drinking the lamb that was slain and raised up to glory.
Opening Prayer: Almighty God, we come now to submit to your word, your name, to your lordship over all. We ask that you would teach us to honor your name, to disdain all vain uses of your name, and do all of this because we ask it in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!
We have seen that the Third Commandment is concerned with worshipping God rightly. God’s name is his mighty works, his provision, and his faithfulness. We worship God rightly by bearing his name honorably, calling on his name, and confessing our faith in that Name.
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Jesus taught his disciples to keep the Third Commandment in the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name…” We honor God and his name by praying to him, and when we pray to him we are to honor his name explicitly. This is one of the reasons why we begin worship with praise to God and to his name, following this pattern of prayer. Also notice the name that we are given to address God with: “Father.” This compliments what we have already said regarding God’s name being on those who have been baptized. To bear the name of God is to be part of God’s family, his covenant people, and therefore we honor that name when we call God “Our Father.” The fact that we pray “our” Father and not “my” Father should not be ignored either. This also emphasizes the corporate nature of prayer, worship, and the covenant.
Part of the Family
All of this means that honoring God’s name (and not taking it in vain) has a lot to do with recognizing where God has placed his name. He has placed his name on us as his family, his covenant people. This is what it means to have God as Father, and to honor the name of God as Father. This is what God has always intended (Lk. 3:38). But to honor our God as Father is also a call to receive his fatherly discipline. So much of the theology of Hebrews is grounded on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore the true high priest. But if the true and perfect Son and High Priest was made perfect through suffering (2:10) and learned obedience through his sufferings (5:8), so too all those who have been made sons should not expect any different. If you endure suffering, then God deals with you as with sons (Heb. 12:7), and if you do not suffer then you are illegitimate sons. This is why you are not to despise the chastening of the Lord.
Suffering for the Name
But much of the “suffering” that the sons of God are called to endure is related to their confession of faith in the Name of Jesus (Acts 5:41, 1 Pet. 4:12ff). Peter says that this suffering in some mysterious way partakes of Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 4:13). And this means that it is in suffering in particular that we bear the name of Christ. This is why we should not suffer for being foolish, sinful, or wicked (4:15). It is when we suffer as Christians we are exhorted to glorify God and rejoice (4:16). This may mean physical martyrdom, but may also mean suffering the consequences of faithfulness at work, in your families, financially, etc. Refusing to send your children to government schools means assuming the cost of some alternative.
The Tower of Siloam, the Blind Man, and Job
As we consider bearing the name of God and honoring God’s name (“Father”), in the midst of suffering, it is also worth pointing out that God’s purposes in hardships vary. We know that the Scriptures teach the blessings and curses of the covenant: what a man sows he shall also reap (Prov. 22:8, Gal. 6:7). This is the general broad framework of God’s dealings in the world, but it does not exhaust God’s purposes. The story of Job, the blind man (Jn. 9:2ff), and the incident with the Tower of Siloam (Lk. 13:4-5) are all in Scripture to remind us that God’s purposes also include calling people to repentance, displaying God’s glory, and teaching us wisdom.
Conclusions & Applications
You have been called to bear the name of God, and this is a high and noble calling. But you must not forget what it means to be a Son of God, a christ, and Priestly People. All of these are titles for those who are called to die. A “christ” is literally an ‘anointed one’ which applies to both priests and kings (cf. Rev. 1:6). But the common element in this calling to be a ‘kingdom of priests’ is the calling to suffer and die. In the ordination of priests blood is put on the priests, signifying their sacrificial ministry to Israel and the world. To be a king (a son of God) is a call to battle which ultimately means a cross. The question is not whether you will suffer; the question is only when and how.
But that is not the only certain thing. If the cross is the end of the story then we are of all people to be most pitied. No, the cross precedes resurrection. This is what it means to bear the name of Christ and to honor God’s name as Father as faithful sons. It means sharing in the sufferings of Christ, receiving his fatherly discipline with joy, and it means hoping and living in the light of the resurrection. Is the resurrection true? Then you are called to live this.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty and Most Merciful Father, your ways are far above our ways. Your wisdom is deeper than our wisdom, and your goodness is far beyond what we can imagine. Give us faith that we might glory in your name and honor your name in our words and lives.
This Sunday is celebrated throughout the Protestant Church as Reformation Sunday. It was on October 31st, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg. To celebrate the Reformation is to give God thanks for dividing his people. We are glorying in the faithfulness of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Huss, John Wyclif, William Tyndale, Martin Bucer, and many other countless thousands. We are grateful that God took out his sledge hammer on the gross idolatries and wickedness that had crept into the Christian Church. We stand today among one of those shards. Of course we must insist that in an important sense the unity of the Christian church is not dependent on letterhead or popes or denominational affiliation. The unity of the body of Christ is centered on the fact that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, and one Holy Spirit who is our bond of peace. This means that there is really only one bride, one church, and one body of Christ. At the same time, we are not Gnostics, and history has told a messy story of conflict within the church where brothers and sisters have divided and gone separate ways. But if we know our Bibles well, we know that division is how God always works to bring new and glorious blessing to his people. God divided a rib from Adam, and created Eve to be his bride and glory. God divided Joseph from his brothers and father and raised him to glory in Egypt to provide food for the world. God divided the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel in order that they might be scattered to the nations, forcing Israel to be a witness to the God of Abraham in exile. And finally, God took Jesus up into heaven, separating him from our sight, so that he might give us his Spirit to grow us up and lead us into all truth. Unless God divides we are not grown up, matured, or strengthened. Some people romantically think that the church is supposed to be a single piece of glass or pottery, all smooth and shiny and neat. But the church is a beautiful mosaic, a glorious work of art, pieced together over centuries with the lives of broken people, broken families, and even divided congregations. It is right to mourn over sin and all its ugliness, but today is a day of rejoicing in the goodness of God. “Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. (Hos. 6:1-2)
I’ve been enjoying the sounds of Radiohead’s new album ‘In Rainbows’.
It’s available here for … well … you decide.
South Carolina clings to the summer like a screaming toddler. Even the trees look tired of being green, but the air keeps sweating well into October. Today has been the first real Fall day with cooler temperatures, a steady drizzle of rain, and leaves dancing on the breeze, the first wave of the annual deciduous blood letting.
My daughter understands her maternal calling. She is of course not yet a mother. But she is practicing, training for the day when the glorious calling of Motherhood descends upon her home. For now she has a brood of baby dolls, and she takes this very seriously. My wife tells me that a day ago, our daughter spotted her brother in the midst of a some sort of military campaign which included that bombardment of one her babies. With the powerful maternal instinct welling up inside she burst through the ranks of knights, airplanes, and several disoriented dragons to the rescue of her baby. Grasping the child in her arms, Felicity patted her baby gently, caressing her forehead and even giving her several small pecks to her checks. Carrying the baby doll to the nearest shelter, my daughter gently laid the doll on her back on the couch. Then with that same maternal fidelity lifted both hands in the air and struck down with two fingers directly in the eyes of the baby doll. It is for this reason that I fear for our next child.
My son has announced that our next child is a boy. Lo, he has also spoken and told us that his name is ‘Mark’. When he first announced this, my wife and I were quite astonished and yet also fairly pleased. As it happens, my father’s name is Mark, and we thought, huh, I guess he remembered that and wants to name the next baby after his Opa. Well, it wasn’t long after when we were again on the subject of the baby and baby names, that we asked him what ‘Mark’s’ middle name ought to be. My son, playing with knights and animals and other various weapons and accessories, with the most casual, matter-of-fact voice stated, ‘Knopfler.’ He went on to explain that it was his full expectation to have another brother after ‘Mark Knopfler’ whose name would be ‘Johnny Cash.’ Thus far the wisdom of our three year old son.
The Lesson: “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior… ” (Is. 43:1-3)
In the Christian tradition baptism has always been considered a naming ceremony. In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We of course say the name as we put water on individuals, but this action is a formal way of putting that name on an individual. The name of the Trinity is not merely a decoration or something to say while we do this thing with water. It is actually the ritual of putting water on an individual which applies the name to them. Thus, it is customary to ask what a child’s Christian name is. In other words, we are asking who is this person who will in a moment have another name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Your son’s name is Graceson, and you have indicated to me that you named your son for the grace that God has shown to you. He is your son of grace. And that grace that God has shown you already is continuing today. To be called by name, to be united to the body of Christ, for God to make promises to you and to your son is nothing but the kindness and favor of God. Often people try to make this complicated. They try to figure out how God is uniting people to himself or they make grace into some kind of substance that gets pumped into you like some kind of medicine or a drug. But grace is the free and personal kindness that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit show to individual people and their families.
In our sermon today we are going to consider the third commandment, the requirement to use God’s name honorably, not to take it in vain. One of the central places that God places his name is on us, his people. And he places his name on us in baptism. This means that one of the fundamental ways that we honor the name of God is by wearing it well. Thus, you must teach your son all of his days that he is not first and foremost a Henry; he is first and foremost a Christian. First, he is a son of the covenant, a son of the King, a priest in the house of God. And only secondarily is he a Henry. God takes our children and puts his name on them and then graciously gives them back for us to care for. But we must always remember that they only belong to us because they first belong to God. This is a great and high calling, and you can only fulfill this calling by faith. Believe the promises of God to you and to your children. His word to you is, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior… ” (Is. 43:1-3)
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
When Jesus said, “this is my body… this is my blood” he was in affect re-naming the bread and the wine. This meal is a New Creation meal, and just as our worship takes place already within the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so too does this meal. This is why Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Just as this bread has been renamed the body of the Lord and this wine renamed the blood of the Lord, so too you have been renamed with the name of God, and in Jesus Christ, you are new creations. The old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. This is the case because Jesus rose from the dead. He was raised for our justification, Paul says. This means that the same verdict which raised Jesus from the dead has been reckoned to you. This is a new creation meal, a feast of the first fruits of the new creation. Therefore understand and believe that God accepts you here in the righteousness of Christ. Have you screwed up? Then God calls you his Son, and invites you to the table. Have you made major mistakes? Then God calls you his Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. Have you made the same mistakes over and over again like a fool? Then God rejoices over you with dancing, and promises to raise you up from the dead. Do not cling to any sin. Let it go. Confess it and forsake it completely and entirely. And come enter in to the joy of the Lord.
Opening Prayer: Almighty God, so often we think we already know what you have said or what we’re supposed to do. We ask that you would empower your word now so that we might see new things in your word, and that you would give us strength, courage and joy to take up old things and be faithful in them. Through Jesus our King, Amen!
The first commandments are centered on the worship of God. Christians must worship the true God, and they must worship him the way that he asks us to. The worship of God is also to be in the Name of God.
The Name of God is put in a particular place in the Promised Land which consequently prohibits the worship of God in other places (Dt. 12:5, 11). The name of God is concerned with the location of worship. There is also a focus on the relationship between the central sanctuary and the practices at home (Dt. 12:15-16, 21-24). This establishes the principle that worship flows out into all of life. Finally, honoring God’s Name means honoring his Word (Dt. 12:28). We are not to add to or take away from it (Dt. 12:32).
God begins the pattern of naming in Genesis 1. God’s word is the name of individual creations (Gen. 1). But as redemptive history goes on, it is clear that God’s name is what he does. Yahweh is the God who sees and provides (Gen. 16:13, 22:14). Yahweh is the God who wrestles with his chosen ones (Gen. 32:27-30). Yahweh is God Almighty who makes covenant promises, and he is the I Am who fulfills his promises and delivers his people from bondage (Ex. 3:14-15, 6:3). Yahweh is a man of war and banner over his people (Ex. 15:3, 17:15). Yahweh later declares his name to Moses when his glory passes by (Ex. 33:17-34:7). To name is to reveal, to promise, to tell a story. And therefore to honor God’s name is to honor his words, his works, and his story. This makes sense of the many Psalms which ascribe praise, honor, and power to the name of God.
We Believe in One God
Leviticus also insists that the way God’s name is profaned/honored has a lot to do with worship. People who worship false gods profane God’s name (Lev. 20:3). Aaron and his sons have to keep themselves holy because they offer the holy things of God and may not profane God’s name (Lev. 21:6, 22:2). Every week we confess our faith in the Trinity. We begin and end many aspects of our worship and prayer in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is not merely an affirmation that these things are true. Rather, we are confessing also that we can only believe them and affirm them from within the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To worship in the Name of the Trinity, is to join the communion of the Trinity. This is fundamentally true because that is the name that all Christians are baptized into (Mt. 28:19). It is to confess that all worship takes place within the Godhead. This means that faith is always a gift. To confess faith is to confess that we are already in the fellowship of this God we are affirming.
Where is the Name?
We saw in Dt. 12 that God was concerned that proper attention be given to the place where he put his name. The people of Israel were told in Exodus that the Angel of Yahweh had the Name of Yahweh in Him, and therefore he was to be feared and obeyed (Ex. 23:21). Thus we assume that when the sanctuary came to rest, the Angel of Yahweh took of residence in that place. We do not have a central sanctuary in the New Covenant, and that is because God has begun a New Creation. When God begins naming/re-naming things, we know that he is creating/re-creating the world. The first act of the New Creation was the incarnation where God the Son became man and was named Emmanuel, God With Us (Mt. 1:23). He was also called “wonderful, counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.” All of these and all of the names of God (all of his acts) came together in the name Jesus which means savior (Mt. 1:21). In the incarnation God took upon himself the form of a servant even though he had every right to demand equality with God. And instead of grasping for that greatness, he waited for it to be given to him. And therefore God has exalted him and given him the Name that is above every Name (Phil. 2:9).
Conclusion & Applications
The gospel is that God has kept his promise to Abraham to make his name great and to bless the nations of the world through him. He has made Abraham’s name great by exalting one of his descendents, even Jesus, to the glory of the Father. And in his infinite kindness and wisdom, He has put his Name on individual believers and promised to be present where two or three are gathered in His Name. This was true in the Old Covenant (Num. 6:24-27), but we have been given an even better name. We gather as those named with his Name, and his name is the location of where we gather together. This is what it means to worship in Spirit and in the Truth (Jn. 4:24).
The Glory of Duty
We have been brainwashed into believing that doing our duty is in someway less than glorious. Of course there is a way to perform one’s duty with bitterness, but there is glory in obedience, there is glory in doing what you’re supposed to do. Modern culture glorifies spontaneity because it worships the self. This is why we are taught that it is evil to teach obedience and we need to just let people ‘express themselves’ or ‘be authentic’. But if Jesus has been raised from the dead, then he is king, and we are bound to serve him with thanksgiving. This begins with worship in the Name of God, in the name of Jesus.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Closing Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, teach us to be faithful servants of Jesus. Give us hearts that are grateful to obey, and teach us to hate all idolatry and foolishness. Give us wisdom and grace to teach this to our children. And we plead with you to do this for the glory of your name; for your name is a strong tower and flee to you for refuge and strength.