Let us all be reminded of the good counsel that the Westminster Larger Catechism provides about hearing sermons:
Question 160: What is required of those that hear the word preached?
Answer: It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.
Dr Derek Thomas recently wrote of his love for the church – I couldn’t agree more! Ponder his warm, even passionate words…
“Love me, love my dog,” they say, and my poor dog has been sick all summer and continues to be in bad shape. But it is not dogs I am writing about here; it is the church. Jesus seems to say, again and again: “Love me, love my church.”
Something is terribly wrong when professing Christians do not identify with the church and love being a part of her. Something is wrong when professing Christians fail to be passionate about every aspect of the church and long to invest themselves in her, taking all that the church represents and does to heart. Listen, for example, to the way Paul instructs the Ephesians: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).
I fell in love with the church the moment I was converted as a freshman in college in 1971. Having never attended any church until then, I discovered a community that was, to me, like a family: caring, loving, and nourishing. The church I found was able to tell me that I was wrong about some things without driving me away. I knew that I was loved. The church showed me acts of kindness and fellowship that I recall with affection to this day. I was introduced to expository preaching from the start – a style of preaching that puts the Bible above the personality and idiosyncrasies of the preacher. I discovered communal prayer times, and joyful singing, all of which have been the mainstay of my Christian life ever since. True, I have had my share of worship wars, when Christians disagree over important things and sometimes trivial things; but for all that, I have taken delight in her rituals of song and sacrament, prayer and proclamation, more times than I can relate. I love the church. I fully endorse Calvin’s way of putting it (and the shadow of Cyprian that lies behind it): “For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels” (Inst. 4.1.4). In the church, I have discovered saints and angels (though not, as far as I know, real angels). I have witnessed deeds of extraordinary kindness done to myself and to others, and I have been the beneficiary of kindnesses done to me by those who remained anonymous.
Yes, there is a dark side to the church as there is to all things in this fallen world. The church is not perfect. It has her share of malcontents and killjoys, her energy-sapping attention-getters and despondent hearts. Adullam’s cave has nothing on some churches I have seen, but none of this robs me of my love for the church. Even at her most eccentric – the King James Version’s rendition of 1 Peter 2:9 as “ye are … a peculiar people” is painfully accurate, if quaint — she is still Christ’s body. “Love me, love my church” is what Jesus seems to say in the Bible. I would not have it any other way. Would you?
…and not enough of our God!
Here is a great, heart-piercing excerpt from a sermon from Ephesians 1 by Martyn-Lloyd Jones published in God’s Ultimate Purpose (temporarily out of print):
The Bible is God’s book, it is a revelation of God, and our thinking must always start with God. Much of the trouble in the Church today is due to the fact that we are so subjective, so interested in ourselves, so egocentric. That is the peculiar error of this present century. Having forgotten God, and having become so interested in ourselves, we become miserable and wretched, and spend our time in ’shallows and in miseries.’
The message of the Bible from beginning to end is designed to bring us back to God, to humble us before God, and to enable us to see our true relationship to Him. And that is the great theme of this Epistle [Ephesians]… We must not start by examining ourselves and our needs microscopically; we must start with God, and forget ourselves. In this Epistle we are taken as it were by the hand by the Apostle and are told that we are going to be given a view of the glory and the majesty of God.
Wow. Seek the Lord while He may be found.
Sunday was one of the best Father’s Days I’ve had — with all seven kids (and a wonderful wife) treating me like a king, and showing old dad lots of love. There were some great gifts for me (including a homemade rap music dvd about me), and a menu to make your mouth water (featuring brats cooked on the grill, and key lime pie for dessert). There were times of sharing and saying “the meaningful stuff” behind the hugs and kisses (eg: “I love you and appreciate all you do”). I am really blessed!
Yet even more satisfying are the blessings of a day spent with my Heavenly Father. Our morning worship, time in the Word and fellowship with the saints were all sweet things for my soul! The Lord’s Day (Sundays) is a “Father’s Day” every week for those who are in a right relationship with their Creator God. It is our opportunity to praise and honor Him as our gracious Provider, great Protector, and loving Lord. The Lord’s Day is our time to say to our God: “we love You, and appreciate all You are and do.”
Let your minds think on this a little while. May we not be ungrateful or presumptive spiritual offspring, but spritiual sons and daughters filled with a deep sense of awe and unmerited honor if we know the one true and living God as our Father in heaven.