I had a discussion with a pastor-friend about plans for remembering and celebrating the Passion Week of Christ in the corporate gathering of believers, the church. I discussed two items around this celebration: 1) the various services we have during this week and their emphases, and 2) the songs that we sing to support the biblical truth of Christ’s passion, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection.

As you will read, this discussion focused on the themes/truths emphasized in the services and the music that supplements and supports those truths/themes. What I noticed is that my pastor-friend desired to carry over the Good Friday truth/theme into the Sunday morning Resurrection truth/theme.

Here is what I wrote.

First, my sense is that when we come to Palm Sunday, passion week culminating in Jesus’ death and burial, followed by the glorious and victorious resurrection of Jesus, we observe in this one great act four scenes: scene 1 – triumphal entry into Jerusalem; scene 2 – passion week with His death; scene 3 – victorious resurrection; scene 4 – the transformation of the disciples/church, which continues to this day, rooted in the historical fact of the completed work of Christ.

The question then becomes, what do you want to emphasis and when in the preaching and teaching and singing as the corporate body gathers? Whatever is decided, it is helpful to frame the services in this way, and to communicate this with God’s people as well.

Second, it is important for the gathered body to sing the hymns of the church focusing on these various scenes in this great act of God. If you look at the rest of the songs that will be sung/confessed/professed corporately, besides the opening hymn emphasizing Jesus’ glorious resurrection (“Christ the Lord is Risen Today”), and the one focusing on the Good Friday theme (“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord”), all the others could be sung at any time of the year. There is something significantly missing when the church does not use these times of the Church Year to focus on the themes/truths of that time of the year in the life of the Church. Where else will the gathered church sing these songs, and how else will believers at all ages and stages learn these songs that have been sung by the gathered church for hundreds, for thousands of years

Regarding hymns and choruses, my pastor-friend could come up with three hymns related to the Resurrection truth. I included a number of suggestions and recommendations made by Bob Kauflin over the past few years. Kauflin serves as the worship pastor of Sovereign Grace Ministries, and author of the book, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). You might find some helpful resources in these links as well.

“Easter Service – Songs for the Resurrection”: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2006/02/17/easter-service-songs-for-the-resurrection/

“Reflections on Easter (With Some Song Recommendations)”: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2007/03/06/worship-leaders-reflections-on-easter-song-recommendations/

“Songs that Celebrate the Resurrection in View of the Cross”: http://www.worshipmatters.com/2010/02/26/songs-that-celebrate-the-resurrection-in-view-of-the-cross/

 

In reading Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Lk. 19:29-40), we see not only the jubilant, worshipful response of the disciples to Jesus, but also the Pharisees inappropriate response and request for them to be silent. Though stated with the religious weight of the Jews, their response and request revealed both their spiritual deadness and spiritual blindness. In fact, true worship of Jesus, the Messiah and King, cannot be negated. Even if human beings would have been silent, the stones would have cried out.

Here are a few thoughts, comments and applications.

First, Jesus is the agent of creation, which means all has been created through him and for him (Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11). Although not all recognize his Lordship at present, all will at some point in the future (Phil. 2:9-11). Even creation at present groans, including stones, longing to be set free from its bondage to corruption (Rom. 8:18-23). This is an eschatological statement of what will happen. And amazingly, Christ’s resurrection means that this eschatological reality is not only future, but is present, and through faith in Christ that eschatological end-time truth is experienced now in the present. It certainly awaits an future day, but it is also experienced in the present-day. 

Second, Jesus is also the Redeemer which means he is to be worshipped. It is fitting and appropriate to worship the king who brings peace. For who Christ is and what he has done, his words “it is finished” (Jn. 19:30), the last words uttered on the cross, are completed by some of his first words spoken after the resurrection, “Peace be with you” (Jn. 20:21). In other words, the peace Jesus offers is accomplished through the cross. This means peace is first and foremost “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and then, secondly, peace with others (Eph. 2:14-16).

Third, more specifically to this incident, in asking Jesus to silence the disciples from praising and worshipping him would have been asking them to respond inappropriately to him. He is the Messiah, the king, the one who brings peace. The Pharisees are, whether they realize it or not, asking Jesus to renounce who he is.  

Fourth, it is impossible to squelch praise and worship of the Messiah, the king. Even if Jesus were to silence the disciples, which he would not do, even the stones would cry out. The stones cry reflects two truths. Not only would they cry out in praise and worship of their Maker, the Lord Jesus Christ, but they would also cry out in judgment (cf. Hab. 2:1) against the Pharisees who attempted to silence the appropriate response to the Jesus (cf. Lk. 3:8, where John says “God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”)

Fifth, Jesus’ person and presence generate a response, and it requires an appropriate response. Silencing Jesus or disciples will not negate that he is the king nor will it negate God’s purposes. The response will manifest the person’s true condition.

Sixth, since no one remains exempt from responding to Christ, there are only two responses: one of praise and worship, the other of silence. As aptly concluded by C. S. Lewis, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” 

Finally, and in sum, there is “deep irony” in Jesus’ response. “In an ardent refusal to stop the messianic confession of his followers,” concludes Darrell Bock (Luke, vol. 2, 1560), “he says that if they ceased, creation would cry out in testimony to him. Creation is aware of Jesus but the leadership of the nation is not. That which is lifeless knows life when it sees it, even though that which is living does not. Luke portrays their rejection as a tragic, stinging indictment of their lack of judgment.”

Luke 19:29-40: When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near– already on the way down the Mount of Olives– the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Yesterday we remembered and celebrated Palm Sunday, the day in the church year in which we focus on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This is the beginning of his final week prior to the cross, the culmination of his earthly ministry he came to accomplish.

This is one of my favorite texts as I ponder these last days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Consider the following:

  • Jesus gives a task to his disciples and informs them what they will find even before it happens.
  • Jesus requests what the disciples are to do and what they are to say when they request the colt from its owner (notice that this colt is specific, one that has never been ridden).
  • The disciples do what is requested and the owner grants the request without any questions (at least the text does not inform us of any objection). The statement “The Lord has need of it” was sufficient.
  • All the behavior toward Jesus was reflective of a triumph. This response was given to a king.
  • All those following him, “the whole multitude of his disciples,” worshipped and praised God for what the mighty works they had seen performed by Jesus.
  • In this worship, the disciples’ response reflects the Old Testament Scriptures as they quote from Psalm 118:26. This text is sung in light of all that is happening with and around Jesus.
  • One of the key truths to this quoted expression from the Psalms, this “worship” song, was the blessing given to the king. This is a royal psalm, one which was recited during the enthronement of the king. This informs and prepares them for the Messiah and the nearness of the eschatological fulfillment.
  • Since Jesus comes in the name of the Lord, to praise and worship him is to praise and worship God. To deny this praise and worship is not only to reject Jesus, it is also to reject God.
  • This text also indicates that Jesus is associated with peace, much like Luke records the peace that accompanies Jesus’ birth (Lk. 2:10-14) and the peace that he brings and offers after his crucifixion and resurrection (Lk. 24:36).
  • In contrast, the Pharisees were scandalized by this expression of praise and worship given to Jesus. To them, this response was completely inappropriate and needed to be corrected immediately. They demanded of Jesus that he silence the disciples.
  • Jesus gives the divine response: this response was fitting and appropriate, and if not expressed by human beings, those created in the image of God, then “the very stones would cry out,” God’s inanimate creation.

A few questions:

  • What do you highlight as you read this text?
  • What do you appreciate about what it teaches?
  • What are the applications in your life?

In tomorrow’s blog post (Part 2) I will conclude with a few comments and applications.

EFCA Ordination: An Example

Greg Strand – March 27, 2015 Leave a comment

The Board of Ministerial Standing recently approved John Kuvakas for ordination. It was encouraging for me to be the one to do so on behalf of BOMS. 

John was also greatly encouraged. It was a delight for me to read of his journey in his recent blog post. He describes the process very well. He also strongly affirms the process and its importance. For these reasons, I include reference to it here so that you can hear it from John himself. What follows are some of the highlights about which he wrote.

John was called to ministry in 2002, and did not have much experience and with no formal training, either pastoral or theological. He and the elders determined that in light of not attending seminary he would learn through attendance at carefully chosen Conferences (many of those were our Theology Conferences), purchasing and reading of many books and going through GATEWAY in the District. At the conclusion of GATEWAY, he had written a doctrinal statement which prepared him to write the licensing paper and appear before a District credentialing council. 

Once he received the license (at this time it was a three-year temporary license, which is now a five-year renewable), he continued to study, write and refine his theology and doctrine. At the end of this time John wrote an ordination paper and articulated his doctrinal beliefs before a District credentialing council. (I appreciate his honest description of this.) This led to a conditional approval in which he was required to study further five doctrinal issues. At the conclusion of this further study, his material was sent to the national Board of Ministerial Standing, who approved John for ordination in the EFCA.

John writes, “It is not a degree and does not allow me the honor of placing any letters before or after my name. However, it does say that I’ve been thoroughly examined in my theology and endorsed as a minister of the gospel and shepherd of the flock by a rigorous council of peers and highly educated men. . . . I give all praise and honor to God! In Him, all things are truly possible!”

I rejoice with him (and many others licensed and ordained in the EFCA)!

 

As we ponder the doctrine of the church, our next year’s Theology Conference theme, it is vital that we know who and whose we are. Apart from this truth, we will become nothing more than another dying organization or institution. Like in the days of Samuel (1 Sam. 4), it will result in the church being referred to as Ichabod, the glory of the Lord has departed.  

Here is how John G. Stackhouse, Jr., ed. Evangelical Ecclesiology: Reality or Illusion? (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 9, powerfully makes this point:

When we, the church, are confused about who we are and whose we are, we can become anything and anyone’s. We can become a goose-stepping, Hitler-saluting abomination, as we were in the middle of the last century in Germany. We can become a self-righteous, self-centered, and racist boot on the neck of our neighbors, as we were in South Africa until the end of apartheid. We can become a machete-wielding, genocidal horror, as we were in Rwanda just a few years ago. We can become a corpulent, self-important irrelevance, as we are in so much of America today. And we can become a sad, shrunken ghost pining for past glory and influence, as we are in Canada, Britain, and most of Europe. When the church is confused about who it is and whose it is, it can become just another institution, just another collective, just another voluntary society. So we need ecclesiology – the doctrine of the church – to clarify our minds, motivate our hearts, and direct our hands.  We need ecclesiology so that we can be who and whose we truly are.

In our day of tsunami-like moral and cultural changes, we need to be reminded of the doctrine of the church. And although this is a doctrinal truth, it is necessary not for the sake of doctrine alone. This doctrinal truth has practical implications. When we forget this doctrine, we, as the church of Jesus Christ, follow the cultural winds, or we follow after the spirits of the age, or we are coopted by someone else for the propagation of their own agenda. History is replete with examples, a number of them mentioned in the Stackhouse’s quote.  

In contrast, and positively, we need this doctrine so that we can “clarify our minds, motivate our hearts, and direct our hands. . . . so that we can be who and whose we truly are.” As the church, we are the transformed people of God who influence and impact culture, not follow the mores of culture, we follow the Spirit of the ages, not the spirit of the age, and we are preeminently given to living under the Lordship of Christ in His kingdom and making His name great, not fitting in someone else’s agenda.

The heart of the doctrine of the church is the gospel. It is the gospel that creates the church. It is the church that proclaims and propagates the gospel. It is the church that manifests the gospel.  

This will be our theme and focus of next year’s Theology Conference. Please plan to join us!