Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: A Taste of Heaven by R.C Sproul

What is God's intention for worship in the New Testament church?  We know of course that we are under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ and we no longer are required to practice the sacrifices and rituals as the Jews living under the Old Covenant would have.  However, does that mean that God's design for the reverence and meaning of worship have changed too?  Sproul argues that, while we obviously want to be very careful to consider the context and usage of anything from the Old Covenant before bringing it into the Church today, we can glean much deeper insight to how serious God takes the worship of His Name and how specific He was about the way we approach Him.

Though we don't go to the temple or burn incense on the altar, or take a lamb to the priest once a year to be slaughtered... the importance of those symbols (and others) hasn't simply gone away.  They serve to teach us that God expects us to approach Him with reverence and not flippantly.  That He desires sincere worship and that self-righteousness or works-boasting has no place in His courts.

This is important to consider because we live in a church culture that says pretty much anything goes.  We see so much irreverence in so many so-called churches these days.  Everything from using carnal means to get people through the doors to dumbing down the Gospel so much so that it becomes no Gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-10). 

But we must exercise careful prudence in planning how worship is structured in our church.  I'm not calling us back to a strict liturgy that would resemble the old-traditional Roman Catholic, rather saying that we need to approach everything we sing, do, and say in worship by asking the question.  Does this glorify God and point sinful man towards the Savior OR does this point sinful man towards a carnal world and excuse his sinful behavior?  

Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 10:31, that we should do all things to the glory of God.  This does not mean that we take a carnal thing (such as a secular song) and Christianize it for use in the church or on our local family friendly radio stations.  On the contrary it means that we need to consider all we do and filter it through whether or not this thing brings glory to God.  How we intend it isn't what determines what brings glory to God, whether or not it glorifies God is what determines whether or not it glorifies God.  We don't assign that meaning.  To get a better understanding of this, we look to Christ's words in Matthew 6:33, He said to seek first the Kingdom of God and HIS Righteousness... 

So that's the focus, seeking first that which glorifies God and that which strives after HIS righteousness... and not that which pleases us and to clear our consciences we tag God's name to it...

Lastly, He brings up the importance of the sacraments that have been ordained for the church today.  Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  Sproul presents the popular views on each and makes his case for which he ascribes to.  He and I fall pretty well in line with our belief on the Lord's Supper and it being only for a believer.  On the issue of Baptism we depart in view because, as a Presbyterian, Sproul teaches the practice of infant baptism.  Let me be clear that he absolutely rejects the idea that paedo-baptism (infant baptism) saves.  He believes infant baptism to merely be a sign of the New Covenant and not salvific.  On that we agree, it is a sign of the covenant.  But I would make the case that the New Testament teaches that Baptism, just like the observance of the Lord's Supper, is for the Believer only.

This is a great read, I give it 5 out of 5 stars for sure.  You can pick it up from Ligonier.org.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Reformation Trust <http://Ligonier.org > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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