So we shook things up yesterday. We have a pretty set order for what we do at New Song Inland Hills and yesterday that was completely tossed out the window. So let’s chat about why did what we did. And here are the songs to listen to while we chat about it:
God is Great (Hillsong United) – This tune is a a nice bombastic opening to a service. It’s loud, fast, energetic. It lifts our eyes from our own glory to God’s glory and the glory of His name alone. By opening and closing the service we boldy declare that what matters is not our hard work and efforts but His and His alone.
Behold Our God (Sovereign Grace Music) – Last week I quoted 2 Corinthians 3.18 about how as we behold the Lord we’ll be transformed into His image. Last night I was in a Bible study with two of my favorite students at Inland Hills and we were having a great conversation on the John 1.1-34. I told them that the whole point of the Bible, that the center piece of scripture, all of what we believe and all that we should do is summed up in half of a one verse:
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1.29b ESV
Their translations each had that opening verb as “Look!” which feels lame and half-hearted compared to “Behold!” And I asked the students why I thought the “Look!” wasn’t a strong enough verb, even with the exclamation mark. And one of them said that the word “behold” communicates this:
Stop! Drop everything you’re doing and pay attention!
We don’t get better from our sin-sickness by managing ourselves well. The root of sin is self-thoughtfulness. St. Augustine and Martin Luther had this wonderful Latin phrase, Incurvatus in se, meaing that we are curved in on our selves. Sin is inherent naval gazing. But, when the Spirit lifts our heads and we behold the glory God the light of Christ washes out the darkness in our hearts.
Communion – Once a month we remember the mystery of Christ made man, dying our death, rising again, and coming back to reign by receiving communion. One of the mind blowing aspects of Christianity is it’s specificity. Jesus entered into our world at a specific moment, in a specific place. We can walk the same streets as Christ, and the same dust that coated his feet coat ours. Communion is a time when we remember that the omnipresent, omniscienct, immaterial, sovereign Lord of the universe became material. Bread and wine are very real. When we take communion all of our sesnses are engaged with the material reality of our God. He is a God intimately involved in our communal and personal history, our present tense, and in our future histories.
We’ve begun taking communinion differently at Inland Hills, instead of passively receiving communion and individually contemplating in our seats we stand and join together at the table. Psalm 23.5 say that the Lord prepares a table for us before our enemies. The communion table is where God has a set a table for His enemies, and we’re all invited to that banquet. At the table there is no difference between rich and poor, liberal and conservative, young and old, sick or well, male or female, sinner or saint. All of our dichtomities are false at the table. While we wait in line to receive the elements we stand together as one, and for at least a moment, it doesn’t matter who goes first.
There Is A Fountain (William Cowper; arranged by Norton Hall Band) – I love this hymn for so many reasons. But in our tradition it’s a bit macabre out of context, so I’m happy to have introduced it during communion as we begin to understand what is meant by blood.
(Except filled with blood)
This song takes us from the moment of salvation to when our feeble bodies fail and we breath our last. In our short time on planet Earth we have a great hope of life everlasting because of Christ’s blood shed on the cross. I love the fifth verse of this song, Cowper’s lyrics when sung sound like what they are. It’s hard to sing “lisping, stammering” without lisping and stammering.
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave
Then in a nobler, sweeter song I’ll sing thy power to save
The song leaves us silent in the grave, which is the reality we all face. But again, we have a great hope…
Christ Is Risen (Matt Maher) – Christ is risen from the dead and death has been defeated. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the grave dwells in us.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15.26
Our flesh will fail, but God will not. And He has proven Himself trustworthy by going before us in death and defeating it on the third day. How can we keep from worshipping:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the ressurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishablem, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you. 1 Peter 1.3-4a
Cornerstone (Hillsong United) – When we behold the glory of God we realize our wretchedness and have cause to tremble. And this is a universal fear. But at the table God makes a way for all, there we are washed in the fountain of God’s love, and we have a great hope that we will rise with Christ. That hope is not built on how good we seem, how hard we try, how rich we are, who we voted for, what church we attended that hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. In our darkest moments of sin and heartbreak God is all the more trustworthy because we know He’s strong to save and never changes. Death was not the end of God and it’s not the end of us, it is only the beginning. And because of Christ’s blood and righteousness we can boldly go before the throne of God and be declared “faultless.”
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4.16 ESV