Why should anyone join a Church? After all the Church is in disarray today. Prominent Christ leaders fall into scandalous sins. Many Shepherds offer “a diet of baby food, if not outright poison” to their sheep. Churches trivialize worship, the word, the sacraments. So why join?
Because unity and order trump isolationism and disorder. The Church is not a visiting center for tourists, it is a perpetual house of gladness for the people of God.
Membership in the local body is a testimony to the world that we treasure what God treasures. God commands that we meet together to worship before Him. In Exodus 23 the people of Israel were called to assemble before him. In Hebrews 10:25, the writer says that we ought not to forsake this holy assembly.
In Hebrews again, that great manual on Biblical worship, chapter 13:17 the apostle Paul says instructs us to obey the leaders who keep watch over your souls. “If God wants us to submit to the authority of a local Church government, He surely wants us to join a local Church. Otherwise, who keeps watch for our souls? Who warns us when we stumble?”
Furthermore, the Church is a covenant community. We are bought with a price. That price is the covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus. God knits a community together through His son, and that community can only succeed when there is a common bond, a common love for one another in a community of faith, and a common submission to the Lord who died for our sakes.
Finally, why should you join the local Church? Because Christ loves the Church. She is his Bride. He died for her and gave himself for her. He is purifying and washing her with His love. She may be imperfect, but He is still His eternal Bride, and we are recipients of this divine love.
 Some of these insights come from Peter Leithart’s Biblical Horizons’, No. 12, Copyright 1990, Biblical Horizons.
Our choices are shaped by what we believe, but good theology is not a fix-all when it comes to life. You can have good theology, but still not live as you should. We call that sin. Part of our task as Christians is to harmonize our thinking with our doing. This is what Proverbs does to us. It forces us to to consider that the options are living righteously or living unrighteously. And once we answer that question we gather together we ask God to forgive us when our lives have not harmonized with our theology.
As we come to confess our sins corporately and individually, we are coming because we lack harmonization. Confession is the realization of our brokenness and the hope that God would put us back together in a way fit for His service. Today, in this Covenant Renewal Service we are being put together by a God who delights in fixing brokenness.
Let us Pray:
Our Gracious God, be merciful to us! Guide and direct us to see if there is any wicked way in us and lead us to the way everlasting. Cleanse us we pray for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
We are coming to the end of our fiscal year. After worship this morning we will offer our budget for approval. This is a time of great joy for our Congregation. 2012 has been a good year for us. But to those whom God has blessed comes the responsibility to use wisely His gifts. One way we are using our money this year is by blessing some of our local ministries with a portion of our gifts. We would like to be a voice of blessing in our community, particularly in the city of Pensacola. Proverbs 11 says: “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.” Blessing a city means working for her good, and that means that we must be intentional about blessing her. A city represents the voice of its people. If the voice of the people is a voice of passivity towards those things the Bible considers important, then the enemy wins. But if we put into action our blessings, then as Solomon says “the city rejoices.”
My exhortation to you is “Bless the City.” Love the city. When we pray “thine kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” we are praying that God would transform this city, so that she may reflect the glory of heaven.
This morning we are beginning the task of blessing the city by worshipping the King of the City, Jesus Christ. Let us worship him together.
Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of
that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their
glory: Behold and visit, we pray, the city of Pensacola.
Allow your Church to be the voice of reason in an irrational culture.
Send us honest and able leaders. May peace prevail, may false balances be
eliminated, and your gospel change the hearts of dying man through Jesus Christ
We come this morning with a sense of our utter dependence on God to meet with us and supply our needs. Worship presupposes humility. Anyone who enters this worship space with a heart of pride will be utterly disappointed in this God we are worshipping, because God detests the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Worship implies the willingness as dependent creatures to place our souls under the knife of God’s grace that He may cut us by His word and heal us by His power. As we prepare ourselves for worship this morning, the humble will find a loving God, but the proud will be put to shame.
Almighty and everlasting God, creator of heaven and earth, who sees into the secret places of our hearts: make us aware that we stand in your presence when we think and act; let us not tire of confessing our hidden sins and our tediously repeated failures.
Keep the light of conscience alive in us, that we might see and love what is good, prize integrity above success, and do what we know to be right, though no-one see us, but you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
We live in a sad world. We turn on our tv’s or read the paper and we are confronted with a barrage of images that can devastate our moods. In some ways, the Lord’s Day worship is the antidote to a sad world. The world of the Church provides a model for joy that ought to be then perpetuated in our lives as we go back to our homes and labor. The reason the Church is so crucial in the plans of God is because she is the instrument of joy God uses to rescue the world from her perpetual sadness. This is why God is so gracious to host us this morning. He does this not out of pity, but out of love. In fact, God is guided by the attribute of love as He considers His children, and such love brings us together this morning.
Let us prepare our hearts:
Most merciful God, we thank you for hosting us and for showing your favor to us as your people, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The Gospel has a magnificent way of destroying our pride. It provides for us a strong antidote to the vicious cycle of sin, our own sin. Jesus died to forgive us, but at times we are oblivious to this reality, and we go on living without that historical and spiritual knowledge. Jesus is the Mediator between God and Man. He continues to bless you and keep you, even when we do not deserve to be blessed and kept. He does this because of His Covenant promises to us. In his death he secured our death to sin, and in His resurrection he secured our life to godliness and righteousness.
We gather today because we want those promises to be Yes and Amen in our lives. We want our Mediator to guide us into green pastures after He pardons us from our sins. So, let us prepare our hearts as we enter into the presence of our God.
Karl Menninger, the author of the great classic Whatever Became of Sin, observed that humans have become less aware of their own sinfulness. Menninger, as far as I know, was not an Orthodox Christian, but he has a far better grasp of the nature of sin than many in our own day. He writes: “Humans have become more numerous, but scarcely more moral.” We are barely aware of our own sinfulness in our culture. As the mainline denominations continue to shrink, religion scholars are wondering what in the world is going on? The answer is simple. If you do not preach sin, you will not preach the need for salvation. If you do not make parishioners aware of their shortcomings, confession becomes meaningless. But as Paul said to the Hebrews, “ I expect better from you.” As we come and kneel for confession this morning, let us come aware of our faults, but also confiding in the grace of Jesus Christ.
One of our great projects as a new society in Jesus Christ is to shame the wise and the strong of this world. Paul addresses this in I Corinthians 1. He is writing in the context of a very elite and sophisticated society. But Paul is not afraid of their knowledge or their strength; in fact, he comes to their town, and says that their supposed wisdom and strength are nothing more than a beautiful garment on a corpse. There is no substance. You may beautify it with the mythology of the Greeks, but you fall short of the wisdom of God. In fact, God’s weakest point, if such a thing can ever be conceived, is greater than all the strength of this world put together.
This is why we need to be a people who do not fear the world’s latest scholarship, because in the end, apart from Christ it is all rubbish; but we preach Christ crucified our hope of glory, the wisdom of God to the world.
Prayer: Glorious Father, Son, and Spirit, in the fullness of time the God/Man came for us to redeem us and to conquer the wisdom of this world by dying on a tree. Teach us to see your strength and power in the way you have manifested wisdom to the world, and not the way the world defines wisdom. We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, the only wise God. Amen.
We are this morning in a sacred space. This is a place where holy things happen. But don’t confuse holiness with neat and tidy. We are not neat and tidy people. We are rather messy at times. In fact, this is why we are here this morning. Our hearts are prone to wander from the wisdom of God and his forgiveness, so He brings us together to clean us up a bit, and re-orient our hearts to purity and wisdom.
Worship is holiness; a holiness that conflicts with the messiness of our lives. This is why worship has a mediator. The mediator is the Holy Spirit who draws us into the heavenly places. There, our hearts are made clean. Our orientation is transformed, and wisdom is given from above. There, Jesus forgives and makes all things new. We are in holy space today, so let us then hear the call of God who is the very definition of holiness.
Prayer: Holy, Holy, Holy. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Cleanse our hearts and instruct us to pursue the One who is Wisdom made flesh, even Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13 ESV)
As we gather this morning, God provides for us a time of solemn confession both corporately and privately. Why? So that we may come into his presence filled with his forgiveness, with his mercy. Yahweh promises to give mercy to those who confess their guilt, and who acknowledge that they need the grace of God. During our time of confession, let us obey wisdom and confess our faults before God, and He will act righteously, justly, and in equity toward us. Let us pray.
Prayer: Our God, you promise that if we confess our sins you will forgive us and cleanse us. Teach us not to hide from you, for you see all things. Teach us to forsake our sins, so that you will be ever closer to us. This we pray through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.