Confession of Faith

Last year we used the Children’s Catechism and Westminster Shorter Catechism as a means of affirming and confessing our faith. We have also used the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. And this year we are using the Heidelberg Catechism. This practice raises a number of questions. This week we will tackle the questions, “What are the documents?” and “Why are we not using the Bible?” Next week we will tackle “why” we use them.

First, as far as confessions go, everyone has a confession.

The short answer to the first question is that these are an historic expression of the Christian faith handed down to us by the church, which codify for us what Christians believe and why we believe it. Christians believe certain things about what the Bible teaches. If we reject those … Read More »

Assurance Of Pardon

Having confessed our sins is there a way to know that we are forgiven? The assurance of forgiveness comes from the pronouncement of the minister: “Your sins are forgiven.” If the confession of sin makes low-church evangelicals uncomfortable, the assurance of pardon makes them downright concerned. Can the minister really pardon sins? That is the real question we need to take up. The answer is both yes and no. The minister inherently lacks the ability to pardon sin. That is a prerogative of God alone because of the work of Christ applied to the believer. Therefore, the answer is no. Viewed differently, however, the answer is yes. God has entrusted the keys of the kingdom to the church so that “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and … Read More »

The Confession of Sin

An element of traditional worship has curiously dropped out of much Protestant worship. I am speaking of the confession of sin. After my conversion I never attended a church service wherein the congregation confessed their sins during worship until coming to New Life. For many, the confession of sin smacks of sacerdotalism, at best, and Roman Catholicism, at worst. Therefore, to avoid all things sacerdotal the confession of sin has been deleted from many liturgies. What is so striking about this, however, is that Scripture is replete with examples of God’s people confessing their sin and seeking his mercy. One thinks of the Psalms and hears the Psalmist over and over again crying out for God’s mercy and confessing his sins (cf. Ps. 32; 51; 130). We are reminded of Daniel’s prayer (Dan. … Read More »

Regulated By Scripture II

Recently I had an interesting and enlightening experience. One of our high school students was given the opportunity to receive extra credit for a class if she would attend an Ash Wednesday service. So I took Trinity along and we joined her family in attendance at a local Episcopal Church. You might be thinking my interesting experience related to the ashes placed on our foreheads. Nope. What was interesting was the amount of Scripture we were exposed to. As far as I can tell this was a liberal Episcopal Church (is there any other kind? There are a few ones still). And yet, in spite of that, we heard read and read responsively together almost five entire chapters of Scripture (Ps. 51; 103; Joel 2; Matt. 6; 2 Cor. 5).

At one level … Read More »

Regulated by Scripture I

These are not good days for worship in evangelical and mainline churches. While the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and high-church Episcopalians/Anglicans have for the most part stuck with their traditions, evangelical and mainline churches have opted for a “newer” and “fresher” approach. There seems to be no end to their “creativity.” I have been awestruck by what I have seen taking place in evangelical and mainline churches during worship. In one worship service I viewed online a man led the congregation in song while two women painted him!

In a church in our area the Forth of July service has actual fireworks in the sanctuary during worship!

IOur tradition has always insisted that we must worship in a way that is acceptable to God (Heb. 12:28)

There is of course the ubiquitous drama “teams.” I have seen syncopated dance “teams”, … Read More »

Holy Day or Holiday?

The practice of setting aside one day in seven for the worship of God, the rest of the body, the extension of mercy and the refrain from “worldly” activities enjoyed nearly universal acceptance in American Christian practice from 1776 until 1960. Obviously, no longer is this the case. What happened? A lot. Theological liberalism and dispensationalism happened. Television, sports and malls happened. As a result Sunday has become less of a holy day and more of a holiday.Sunday has become less set aside for mercy, worship and rest and more for errands, entertainment and recreation. That’s not to say Christians have stopped worshipping. They haven’t done that. But worship has become an “add-on.” For some worship is done on Saturday so as to leave all of Sunday “open” for other activities. For others worship is, in fact ,reserved for Sunday … Read More »

The Great Dialogue

Liturgies are like excuses: Everybody has one. Simply put, liturgy is what people do when they worship. So no matter how much a church may insist that there is no liturgy, one will inevitably emerge. Equally important to recognize is that liturgies are shaped by a theological paradigm. Therefore, Presbyterians should not expect to worship like Charismatics and Anglicans and Roman Catholics because our theological convictions differ.

What is it that shapes, most fundamentally and at the most basic level, our worship? The answer is: The Covenant of Grace. Our system of doctrine as articulated in the Westminster Standards is arranged according to the doctrine of the covenant. Hence we confess a robust covenant theology. Likewise our worship is to be arranged accordingly.

A covenant in Scripture is the expression of God’s voluntary condescension wherein he bridges … Read More »

Preparing For Worship

“…God is to be worshipped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in public assemblies…(WCF 21:6).” Notice the three-fold pattern of worship in the Christian life highlighted by our confession: private, family, corporate. This WWDWWD is about the first two. My greatest times of success in athletic competition were always during seasons of great success in my practice sessions. Similarly, what we do during the week as Christians profoundly affects what happens when we gather corporately on Sundays.

“…God is to be worshipped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in public assemblies…(WCF 21:6).”

Personal or private worship is that worship done in secret wherein our souls are disciplined to lean upon Christ and freshly appropriate … Read More »

Why We Do What We Do

Why do some churches have a drama presentation and we don’t? How come we don’t have announcements in the middle of the service? Why does the pastor lead the service and not a “worship leader”? Why do we confess our faith and pray the Lord’s Prayer? Why do we confess our sins? Why do we have a call to worship followed by an invocation? Why does the pastor lift his hands at the end of the service and pronounce a benediction? Why do we sing Psalms? Why does the pastor pay such close attention to the text of the Bible when he is preaching? Why do the elders offer such detailed and thought out prayers, rather that spontaneous prayers that are shorter? Why do we take and offering instead of … Read More »

The Lord’s Prayer

Honestly, I feel a little weird defending the practice of reciting the Lord’s Prayer in our services.  No one seems to mind when an elder prays one of Paul’s prayers or when we recite the Psalms, but when the Lord’s Prayer comes out, the Catholic meters start going wild.  This was driven home to me recently when I heard a message wherein the preacher mocked churches that pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Hopefully, this will not only explain why we do what we do, but also encourage you and infuse your prayer life with freshness.

Rather, he said, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, hallowed by your name…’” (Luke 11:2-4).

Jesus instructed us to use the Lord’s Prayer as a model for our own prayers.  On one occasion, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk. 11:1).  He neither give them the … Read More »