Every Christian believes that there is an acceptable and an unacceptable way of worshipping God. Every Christian has a regulative principle, a rule (or rules) which regulates the content and conduct of worship. Even the most extreme worship leader has some limit on what he or she deems acceptable in the worship of God. Some of the most common regulative principles that people use today are:
- The Past: This is the way we have always done it.
- Preference: This is what I like and enjoy.
- Pragmatism: This works, it’s popular, it draws people in.
- Prohibition: Everything and anything goes unless it is specifically prohibited.
- Prescription: True worship is commanded worship; we may only include what God commands.
This last principle, prescription, was recovered by Calvin at the time of the Reformation and was linked to the rediscovery of the Gospel. The reformers saw that the God-centered and God-glorifying salvation they had rediscovered, required God-centered and God-glorifying worship, and that this could only be secured by including in worship only what God had commanded. This principle was based on Scripture (e.g. Lev. 10:1; Deut. 12:32; 1 Chron. 15:13-15; John 4:23-24; Matt. 15:9; Col. 2:23) and the teaching summarized in the Westminster Confession:
The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture (WCF 21.1)
In other words, when we are considering the content and conduct of our worship, the biggest question is not “Does the Bible forbid it?” but “Does the Bible command it?” That makes things much simpler because any list of what God forbids in public worship would take an encyclopedia to cover all that the human mind has invented as “worship.”
In something as holy and serious as the worship of God, we cannot trust our fallen and foolish human natures to guess what pleases God in divine worship. Therefore, in His mercy, God has prescribed for us how we may worship Him acceptably. In the area of public worship, what Scripture does not authorize, it forbids – no matter how enjoyable it may feel.
Reformed churches have differed in how to apply that principle, but this basic idea should infuse every decision about what to include or exclude in public worship.
As John Knox put it: “All worshipping, honoring, or service, invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without His own express commandment, is idolatry.”
Instagram Tips and Tricks
I got to step one about a year ago, but this has me almost persuaded to jump in with both feet.
Caring for the Caregivers
Favorite Science Books
Recommendations for ages 4-12.
A Day Forever Etched
Julie Brooks, whose son took his own life, discusses six ways to experience life after suicide.
From Zeus to Zilch
Evangelism and post-Christian culture.
The Gospel and Godliness
Joe Thorn: “If the gospel you believe does not include obedience as a fruit of faith then it is short-sighted and you will end up spiritually crashing into a wall.”
One of the books I wish I’d read at the beginning of my ministry is The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. It is subtitled “A Biblical Guide To Resolving Personal Conflict” and if I’d known about it twenty years ago, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. I now make it a required text for my students and also recently decided to begin my new pastoral ministry by studying it with my congregation in the Adult Sunday School Class.
Why a priority?
Why make such a book a priority at the beginning of my ministry? First, because conflict will eventually and inevitably arise in every church; and the way we respond to it will make or break the church.
Second, it’s also a “pre-emptive” strike, trying to get ahead of any trouble, so that we have a pattern and model for handling conflict that we can use to keep one another accountable.
And third, it’s to re-teach myself. I was brought up in a large city, Glasgow, and attended large public schools where I learned the infamous Glasgow way of handling conflict – blunt fists or sharp tongues. Not having much in the pecs and biceps department I became quite skilled with the only muscle at my disposal – a sharp, quick, and aggressive tongue.
Tamed but Temptable
Though now considerably tamed by grace, my aggressive, confrontational Glaswegian nature has often resurrected and erupted, damaging myself and others in the process.
On the other hand, aware of my weaknesses in that area, I’ve sometimes over-compensated by avoiding dealing with issues, fearing that I will end up making things worse.
That’s why I need to read Sande again and again, in order to be constantly delivered from my “natural” sinful instincts and to seek spiritual and God-glorifying ways of responding to conflict.
My study guide handout for the introduction and chapter one is here, but I began the class with a general mixture of my own and Sande’s thoughts on conflict and peacemaking.
- Inevitable: It comes into the best of relationships.
- Helpful: Not all conflict is bad as different perspectives can stimulate productive dialogue, encourage creativity, and promote helpful change.
- Surprising: Sometimes it comes at the most unexpected times from the most unpredictable of people.
- Damaging: Conflict can damage relationships but also mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health.
- Revealing: It brings out the worst in us and exposes our hearts to ourselves and others.
- An opportunity: To learn how to manage oneself in stressful situations and to teach others how to handle conflict.
- Difficult: hard work, goes against our grain.
- Obligatory: Not an option for Christians.
- Hopeful: Can produce even better relationships than what was there before.
- Rare: Uncommon both in the world and the church, therefore opportunity for countercultural witness.
- Healing: restores relationships, improves health.
- Dependent: We need the Holy Spirit in us and in others.
- Modeled: Christ is our model and motivation for peacemaking.
- Conscience-satisfying: even if other person does not respond, we can enjoy the freedom of knowing we tried everything possible to resolve the issue.
Why not get the book and read along with us? I’ll aim to publish the handout here each Monday. It will basically be a summary outline of the chapter with some of my own thoughts thrown in. I’ll highlight what I think are the most important sections and sometimes re-arrange the order. Next week we’ll be looking at chapter 2.
Walk Like a Pilgrim
Tim Challies and Joel Beeke team up to read a major part of A Puritan Theology. And congratulations to Tim on a fantastic website re-design. I love it.
8 Ways You Might Be Losing People in Your Sermons
“After listening to thousands of sermons and preaching quite a few myself, I have learned 8 different ways that pastors lose people in their sermons.”
The Blessing of The Third Use of The Law
R. C. Sproul Jr. addresses Calvin’s controversial idea of the law showing Christians how to live in a way that pleases God.
Our People Die Well
Phillip Jensen reviews the lives and deaths of some dear Christian friends who recently went to be with the Lord.
Alex Chediak helps freshmen overcome this common affliction.
One Easy Thing All White People Could Do To Make The World A Better Place
Here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.
This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.
If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.
And here’s the second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.
And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.
Here’s an explanation of the plan.
And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.
Link to Jesus On Every Page Podcast
Many people have asked me to help them take the next step from the principles of interpretation that are outlined in Jesus On Every Page to the actual practice of seeing and enjoying Christ in particular Old Testament passages.
I figured the best way to do that was a regular podcast that would not only focus on particular Old Testament passages, but also highlight the best resources on this popular subject (books, blog posts, lectures, sermons, etc). The podcast format also allows some interactivity where listeners can leave questions and comments on the blog or via the new voicemail feature on the right, and I’ll follow up on them in subsequent podcasts. I hope to also host some interviews with various Old Testament teachers and writers.
The podcasts will be hosted at sermonaudio.com and also at the Jesus On Every Page Podcast archive. The best way to ensure that you don’t miss a podcast is to subscribe to the blog by email on the right side of this page. The first podcast timeline is as follows:
1:32 Quote of the week
2:31 Book of the Week
3:48 Lecture of the week
4:57 Blog of the Week
7.16 Question of the Week
9:09 Noah’s ark and the cross of Christ
Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament by Christopher Wright.
Go to iTunes and search for “Dr Richard Gaffin Christ in the Old Testament in Luke 24″ or click here.
Exodus 19:4-6 at Mathias Media.