Christ is Isaac, the beloved Son of the Father who was offered as a sacrifice, but nevertheless did not succumb to the power of death. He is Jacob the watchful shepherd, who has such great care for the sheep which He guards.
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There are some songs that simply have the power to overwhelm you emotionally. At certain points in life, you may have heard a song that connected with you during really great or really difficult times or you associate a song with your childhood. For me, one of those songs is Mozart’s Moonlight Sonata. When I was a toddler, I remember well my mother playing this song and sitting there in amazement at how the song made me feel, not really being able to explain or verbalize it all that much, but knowing and feeling its sadness.
“The Gospel does not abrogate God’s law, but it makes men love it with all of their hearts.” – J. Gresham Machen
If Jesus is (right now) and was (during His earthly ministry) a perfect lover of the law of God, a lover of the commandments of God (and He is, as He is the One who gave the law to Moses on the mountain, since it is a very reflection of His character and nature), just as the same love of God’s laws and rules is laid out in multiple places in the Psalms, but very clearly and repeatedly in Psalm 119, for example; and if Jesus is speaking to the churches in the early church in the beginning of Revelation banning them from “sexual immorality,” because it does indeed displease Him; does it not follow that just because a particular sin or issue isn’t spoken of directly in the words of Jesus, recorded in the gospels, that there is enough evidence to surmise that yes, indeed, Jesus was opposed to every form of sexuality that doesn’t conform to the pattern instated in the very beginning, man and woman in covenant marriage, in Genesis, re-iterated by none other than Jesus Himself?
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” – Hebrews 10:1
“When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” – Hebrews 10:8-10
The law, religious piety and practice have fallen on hard times these days in the church. The modern day status quo stance of many professing evangelicals seems to be something of, “I’m free in Jesus to do what makes me happy while not hurting anyone else and to follow the way of Jesus as he outlined in the Sermon on the Mount,” etc. etc. This may be the kind of stance red-letter-only Christians tend to possess. However there’s a big problem with this.
This is the time of contemplation and remembrance in the church calendar when we consider the intentionality of Christ in pursuing the cross. The love of God is magnified and displayed in its brilliance at Calvary: the complete and total orchestration, pre-planning, ordering, and sovereign, loving providence surrounding the events leading up to and fulfilled in Christ’s incarnation, life, death, and resurrection on behalf of His people, unto the ultimate restoration of all creation.
If you ever had any hope of trying to please God with your good, moral behavior, put that notion to rest. Psalm 14:2-3 should lay you flat.
3They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
How then will you be able to stand in the last day, when God judges the thoughts and intentions of the hearts of all, when all must give an account? Especially in light of the passage above, that there are none righteous?
Paul Krugman wrote an article today that hits on something many have observed for quite some time: the spreading wave of despair and darkness over average Americans’ lives, in this case, particularly middle-aged whites. This is not a new revelation, but it is something mainstream economists and commentators like Krugman are starting to catch wind of in their thought, at least in the academic/statistical realm. On a side note, while eschewing any exacerbation of this problem by the left and then subsequently blaming the “volatility of right-wing politics,” he still makes some good points, without offering any solutions. Regardless, to point, Krugman writes this:
Originally posted at blog.myspace.com on Friday, February 17, 2006, archived here http://old.westerfunk.net/archives/personal/Dave%20Sermon%20Notes/
A. Read Philippians 4:4-7
B. ILLUS. Chaplaincy. Summer 2002. I was assigned to the reception station at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. I was counseling teenagers just about to step into Basic Training. The ones who stopped by my office were stressed and anxious about girlfriends they left behind, mean drill sergeants, the radical culture change, etc. and I did my best to soothe their worries and give them hope. One afternoon, halfway through my assignment, the Deputy Assistant Installation Chaplain and my Brigade Chaplain (my boss) entered my office. They told me that the Red Cross just informed them that my dad had had a massive coronary and was being care-flighted to a hospital 100 miles away and that my mom was in a car trailing them. I was to be released immediately to fly home and take care of family business. The counselor had now become the counselee.
The whole point of worship is looking outside ourselves to another, namely Christ. When you’re caught up in the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, you’re caught up to something outside yourself, its particular heights and depths, its colors, its sheer size. You’re not thinking about yourself or what you’re going to get out of it as a means to an end, emotionally speaking. You’re simply caught up in that object in itself. Now the effect of being caught up to an object so beautiful is emotion. Standing on the top of Long’s Peak causes me to weep, not because I went there for the emotional high, so to speak, but because it is awesome in itself. Emotion and the experience of it is the result though, not the end. Emotion happens naturally because the object of your focus is so incredible.
So it is with worship of God, particularly in a worship service, but even more generally in our daily lives. To the degree we’re enraptured by, or caught up in, the truth (doctrine) of who Christ is and what He’s done on our behalf, and to the extent we encounter Jesus himself in prayer in our daily lives is the extent to which we’ll be rightly emotive in our response at our worship services, I’m convinced. Music aids in that, but it is not an end unto itself (as most of us know), nor is it primary in kindling those emotions. Now music can be extremely encouraging of that goal when good or distracting if it’s bad and therefore should be done with excellence, absolutely. But my concern for the church is larger than the production of things: people can seem unresponsive in worship services because we’re not caught up in the excitement of the truth of the drama of the gospel and encountering the person of Christ in our lives. When we sing “God is good,” yes that’s absolutely true. But how is God good? What is it that makes Him so amazing and good? The job of the pastor and worship leader is to create these categories of thought as it pertains to the gospel. Being caught up in who He is and what He’s done, explained in a literary manner, with awesome music and a sermon centered on the Person of Christ? That’s a recipe for worship that’s honoring to the Lord, that looks outside ourselves to Another. There’s joy there, there’s excellence in music, which translates into some form of a response, which could be sitting down and weeping, or standing with arms lifted, or in some cases not showing emotion and yet exploding with joy inwardly.
This is where the hymns come in, as an example, particularly the more theological hymns. Sure, there are some dreadfully bad hymns, both musically and lyrically. But why are the hymns so great? Let’s take In Christ Alone, a modern hymn. The whole song, verse by verse, is a progressive explanation of the gospel, with a final crescendo of exuberance in our hearts at what God has done. That sings, that produces joy. Love Constrained to Obedience is about Christ fulfilling the law on our behalf, turning our duty into joyful choice now, something we desire to do out of love for the One who saved us. How Deep the Father’s Love is about the depth of His love, literally the theological nature of it, what composes it, its characteristics, its properties. Revelation Song is deeply theological and really just quoting Scripture to a great degree. Before the Throne of God is all about imputed righteousness, how Christ is our advocate, our high priest, how the Father sees us as He sees His own Son! When we think on these things in depth and combine that with the experience of prayer in our lives, it produces a something that wells up within us of love to God and sets our hearts ablaze with joy … and thus a response.
What I desire to see more of in my own life, as well as the larger church, is that we’re all becoming more gospel-centric, meaning marinading ourselves, our teaching and our music in these truths. Let every sermon point there as an application for the motivation unto obedience and worship, as opposed to being motivated by law. Let every song drip it. How does Christ fulfill the law for us? How is His obedience transferred to our account? Why is that amazing? How does that truth apply Wednesday afternoon? How can we take that application into our music? How does Jesus’s blood appease God’s wrath? Resurrection? On and on. These are themes that cause us to well up with joy. And joy is the end goal of the gospel. Joy in the face of Christ, seen in Scripture, experienced through the Spirit.