Saturday, April 23, 2022

Once More unto the Mountaintop: Fresh Ruminations on Public Worship

This week, I was at a pastors' fellowship where this year's theme was heavenly mindedness. It was wonderful. The fellowship also has a very strong ordinary-means-ministry emphasis built into its DNA. Also wonderful. The pastor of the host church gives a talk on it each year that is superior in its annual variety and closeness of application to the talks of his predecessor. This year's talk was marvelous. So with this year's theme on heavenly mindedness and the perennial theme of the means of grace, it felt disconnected to have so many 'Episcoterian' (my term; excuse the shorthand) elements in the worship times. 

The day after I got back, our family worship time was in Exodus 19. It was a reminder that until Christ, the church could gather to God but not even touch the bottom of the mountain; just the one man could go up—and then throughout the Sinaitic administration only one man could ever go all the way in. But Hebrews 12 celebrates that with our risen, ascended, enthroned High Priest we go all the way to the top of the mountain and all the way in through the veil; hallelujah

The regulative principle is not only about making sure that we regard God as holy whenever we come near (cf. Lev 10:1–3); it's also about doing only those things that actually enter into the worship of heaven, only those things that are led by Christ from heaven, only those things that join the assembly of the firstborn, only those things through which we have confidence that the Spirit Himself is bringing us through the veil by the new and living way that is Jesus's flesh, with our bodies washed and consciences sprinkled.

Then last night, I had great fellowship with a brother whom the Lord has brought so far. From evanjelly to fundamentalist baptist, to 'reformed' baptist that was more refordamentalist, and then by Lutheryterian podcast to a church/place of that flavor. Knowing his journey, I understood why he had difficulty processing my views on simplicity and purity of public worship. I wrote him the next two paragraphs, which I've now modified slightly, which is what precipitated this blog post.

When you start to understand what worship is, where worship goes, who leads it, who are joined in it, and what specifically are the worship actions that participate in all that by the Spirit... the believer who understands these things embraces the regulative principle not as a boundary within which we do what we feel like is helpful or meaningful to us, but as a mission on which we hotly pursue in worship only those things that Christ Himself is leading from glory.

So when I talk about public worship, I'm coming from a different angle than just about anyone in "liturgical" circles. I believe in liturgy, but I think that Jesus actually has one (elements and forms though not necessarily sequence) and that to whatever extent we add that which is from man, to the same extent we disconnect ourselves from the worship of heaven and the true church through the ages and throughout history. Ironically, even true churches add things to try to create more connection across history and around the world; but, the very things they add end up taking away from the worship-unity that Jesus Himself had provided.

For further (better!) consideration, maybe take a listen to yesterday's family worship lesson or the "How God Wants to Be Worshiped" sermon series in which I tried to open these things from Scripture. And of course, others have done it better before me.

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