Why Easter Sunday Is Not (and Shouldn’t Be) Drastically Different Than Other Sundays

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I like Resurrection (Easter) Sunday. Primarily for what happened. The first Resurrection Sunday was a pinnacle point in the redemptive history. Its significant has profound implications for today and tomorrow. Hence, as a church this day is an important day, not only for our congregation, but for all Christendom. It is special.

At the same time, it is not greatly different (and shouldn’t be drastically different) than any other Sunday. The minister still calls the “call to worship.” There’s still praying, singing, giving, reading, and preaching like other Sundays.

For churches that regularly preach and teach the gospel, this Sunday is no different (at least not drastically). Our liturgy reflects the cross and resurrection every Sunday, not just this Sunday. The songs we sing and the hymns we cherish reflect the message of resurrection and we do so every Sunday. We pray certain ways every week because of the resurrection. We preach what we preach and the way preach because of the resurrection. We think, we hope, we trust, we choose, and we live every week in light of the resurrection. Hence, for churches that are gospel-driven, this Easter Sunday is not drastically different than other Sundays.

The gospel includes not only what happened on the cross, but what also happened afterwards. Moreover, the redemptive story does not end with resurrection. It further includes the ascension and the future return of Christ. Hence, the gospel or God’s redemptive history includes the fulfillment of the past, and the present and future realities. This belief is nothing new. This is what the churches have been confessing all throughout her history. For instance:

I believe in God the Father… And in Jesus Christ…suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried…the third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

Our weekly confession of faith depends on what happened in the past. For that reason, it has profound implications both presently and eschatologically. Hence, the churches that are true to the gospel regularly preach, teach, sing, pray, serve, fellowship, discipline, and partake and fence the table, not only on Good Friday or Easter Sunday. They do what they do every Sunday precisely because of the gospel. Hence, Easter Sunday is no different than any other Sunday. In fact, to worship on the first day of the week (and doing so every week) is to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). That is why churches gather on the first day of the week and that is why it is called the Lord’s Day. Thus, every Sunday is Lord’s Day precisely because of Christ’s resurrection. That is why if you are a member of gospel-loving, gospel-preaching, and gospel-driven church, chances are this Easter Sunday is not drastically different than other Sundays.

Theology & Applications of Corporate Worship

Theology matters in worship. Even those who deny it will have some display of theological worldview expressed in and through their worship service. This is because every liturgy is shaped by some theological convictions or worldview. To say one doesn’t believe in liturgy is itself a liturgical statement. Hence, every worship service (regardless of what church tradition or style) will express some theological views about God and man. I didn’t say every theological view expressed are necessarily orthodox, but every worship service will display some theological views about God and man.

Recently, I preached a sermon on “Theology and Applications of Corporate Worship” at Lighthouse Bible Church, where I pastor. I also published this message as a series of blog posts at Reforming Churches, and I want to repost them here. I hope you find it to be helpful.

What Can the Book of Numbers Teaches Us Today?

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What can the Book of Numbers teaches us today? According to Ron Allen:

Since the Book of Numbers presents the story of the rebellion of the people of Israel in the Desert of Sinai, there is a sense in which the book stands in the middle of the salvation experience of the people of God. The generation that was delivered from slavery in Egypt did not continue to respond to the Lord with faith and gratitude. Instead, they forfeited their part in the Land of Promise. Only their children would experience the blessing of conquest.

Provisionally, we may state that the original recipients of the book were the people of Israel in the second generation from the Exodus, awaiting the command of God to cross the Jordan to conquer the land of Canaan. The book describes the affairs of the people of the first generation, but its teaching is for their children who are now mature and are about to enter Canaan.

We may also venture the purpose of the book in this manner: To compel obedience to Yahweh by members of the new community by reminding them of the wrath of God on their parents because of their breach of covenant; to encourage them to trust in the ongoing promises of their Lord as they follow him into their heritage in Canaan; and to provoke them to the worship of God and to the enjoyment of their salvation. Thus the book that describes the “Desert Years” is designed to encourage spiritual confidence on the part of the people who are about to leave the desert. Despite its sorry record of blemish, betrayal, and benighted living, the Book of Numbers as a whole portrays a confident life of faith in the fear of Yahweh. Further, this confident living, this triumphalism, becomes a major element in the worship of Yahweh.

From “Numbers” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 662-3.

A Preacher’s Prayer

A Preacher’s Prayer:

O God, break me just now; I feel pride in my heart. God forgive me, for I find myself more consumed with thoughts of how well I will do rather than trusting completely in what you alone can do. I repent of all prideful thoughts and impure motives that place the focus today on my own glory rather than your glory. Kill within me that part of me that pressures me to perform and do well when I preach because I have a desire to be liked, a reputation to uphold, or a title before my name to fulfill. Help me preach like a man who has been crucified with Christ so that the sheep see that it is not I but Christ who lives within me preaching today. Remind me constantly today that I am a sinner saved by grace – no more, no less.

O God, teach me afresh what it means to die to self – even in a pulpit! Remind me again today that preaching your Word is a gift and a grace. I did nothing to earn it, and I’ve done nothing to deserve it. Indeed, I am not worthy to proclaim the riches of your glory. As you humbled Isaiah in his day, humble me before I preach, before your throne of glory. As I prepare to step behind the pulpit today and break the bread of life, remind me that I am called to this family of faith to serve bread to your hungry people. Give me a love for my flock, and make me a blessing to them today. As your herald, help me to proclaim with boldness the truth. Remind me even now that I am not in this to make a name for myself; I am in this to make much of Jesus.

O God, save souls today as I lift up Jesus before the eyes of the lost. Burden me even now with their eternal state. Empty me now of all the vain things that charm me most; I sacrifice them to his blood. Fill me with the Holy Spirit, and empower me to preach your Word with conviction and power. And when the message is over and the people begin to leave, I pray none would leave saying, “What a great preacher we heard today.” Instead, I pray that all will leave in awe of you, saying, “What a mighty God we serve!”

(From: Greg Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching [Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007], 113-114).

The Weekend Is Not All About You

Many long for the weekend to come. For some I don’t blame them.

When most people in the world work 6 days (and even 7 days) a week to barely put food on the table, most of us (North Americans) have the privilege of working only 5 days, namely Monday through Friday. Even at that, many of us complain or look forward to become an escapist. While this may be the reflection of those of the unregenerate, clearly Christians have higher standards in our attitudes and actions when it comes to our vocation. Since I recently blogged on this I don’t want to rehash it here.

I do see the need (even as necessities) for recreation, shopping, chores, entertainment and so on. But at the same time, the weekend is not all about me or you. If you’re interested in some biblical and theological reminder, read here.

When You Miss Church On Sunday

Like many pastors, I too would like to see everyone be present at Sovereign Grace Bible Church for the Lord’s Day worship service. Is this too much to ask? This is especially true when the congregation is small as a church-plant, where having one family absent is very noticeable. Also, it doesn’t help the fact that during the certain season a low attendance is somewhat expected.

Please don’t misunderstand me. There are times when parishioners will be gone, including the pastor. And I’m a full supporter of taking a family vacation, a weekend getaway for married couples, Bible conference(s), etc. Hence, this post is not about missing church. It is, however, about how to go about missing church.

Although no pastor would admit that numerical growth is the ultimate goal, a low numerical presence can be discouraging at times, especially, when people fail to communicate if they are planning to be absent due to vacation, etc. Hence, to alleviate some of the discouragements that pastors face, I’d like to recommend the following:

  1. Please communicate to your pastor if/when you are planning to be gone and why. God placed him in your life to watch your soul. Hence, be respectful, responsible, and accountable.
  2. If/when you are planning to be gone, make sure to find a legitimate substitute for your ministry responsibility with the approval from your pastor or elder(s). Be responsible regarding your ministry duty(s).
  3. Make sure to listen to the recorded sermon(s) that you’ve missed. If possible, don’t read the sermon notes. Sermons are to be heard, not read. And when you do, give the same respect and attentiveness as you would when you are at church. In other words, don’t listen to the message with an attitude like it’s a chore or when you’re doing multiple-tasks. Remember, it is God’s Word that you’re listening to, not some…
  4. If you are married and have kids, have the whole family listen at the same time. Think of it as you leading a family worship. After all, if you are husband and/or father, you are the spiritual leader of your home.
  5. Find out what you’ve missed in your Sunday School. Don’t expect your instructor to inform you. You have to be the proactive one, not the class instructor.
  6. If you have children, why not have them send a family card to the pastor, stating something like “We missed you and the church today, and we’ll see you this coming Lord’s Day.” This way the children would learn from their parents some manners of common courtesy when they miss church on the Lord’s Day. If not, they would grow up just like their parents and act the same ways – e.g., being indifferent, irresponsible, and unaccountable.

Before you cry out for foul or accuse me of legalism, please think of it as wisdom, namely training God’s people for godly disciplines toward maturity. What pastor would not like to see the church do things better? Hence, some of the points may not be an issue of right or wrong, but doing good things even better, for God’s glory. The difference between legalism and wisdom is wide as the ocean. But again, in this individualistic and anti-authority culture, even those in the church may have an issue with this counsel.

[Note to fellow pastors: if you have other practical counsel or wisdom to add, I would love to hear it and add it to the list.]

Some Aspects of Worship from Exodus 19:10-15

This particular narrative points out a few but very important aspects of worship.

1. It is God who mandates specific regulations on how the people should approach him. That is to say, worship is not carried out whenever, however, wherever, and whoever the people want. Rather, it is God who sets the policy and procedures, not man. That is to say, it not only matters who we worship, but also how we worship.

2. God wants his people to actually spend some time preparing to meet their God (vv. 10-11). In fact, God commanded the people two days of special preparation. Such preparation was both inward and outward preparations. Inward preparations included Scriptural meditations, prayer, singing, confession of sins, repentance, and so on. The outward preparations included getting some adequate physical rest, sleep, personal hygiene, and even taking time to have proper attire for the occasion.

3. God should be approached with fear and reverence. The fact that God had set up bounds indicates that there are limitations, such as what is permissible and what is not permissible, and that there is a consequence if those God-given bounds are ignored, namely, a death penalty (vv. 12-13a).

4. It is God who calls the people to come to him, including when and where (v. 13b). Not only God calls us to salvation, namely, with his effectual call, but also it is God who calls us to a sacrificial and holy worship. For us at Sovereign Grace Bible Church, I usually remind the congregation with a biblical text during the “Call to Worship” that it is God who officially summons us by his word to worship him. It is a wonderful reminder at the onset of worship service that God chose us, we didn’t choose him; he sought us, we didn’t seek him; he first loved us, we didn’t first love God; and he first called us, we didn’t first call him.