Why Kneel in Worship?

January 11, 2015 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Bible - OT - Psalms, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Rome, Tradition, Worship
1 Kings 8:54 (NKJV)
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
In its public worship, every church has traditions. Whether it is a tradition of spontaneity or a tradition of regularity, traditions are unavoidable. They are an inescapable part of human life. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles.
Among the traditions we have as a congregation, one of them is kneeling when we confess our sins. In just a moment I will invite you to kneel with me as we confess our sins to God. Many people, visitors especially, find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable – in fact, many have refused to return and worship here because we kneel during our service. The preaching is fine; the music is acceptable; the fellowship seems sweet – but why do you kneel?
This question often causes me to scratch my head and wonder what in the world is happening in the church today. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholic worship. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading, prayer, and public singing as well. So I’m not sure that’s the real issue. I think the real issue is deeper.
Kneeling is an act of humility; it is to bow before another and acknowledge that that other is greater than I, more important than I, and hence worthy of my respect and honor or even my adoration. It is also sometimes a visible expression of wrongdoing, a plea for mercy as it were. Hence, there are times when kneeling is inappropriate. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to kneel before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; God reserved 7,000 in Israel who would not kneel to Baal. There are times when kneeling is compromise and sin.

But there are other times when kneeling is glorious: all Israel bowed the knee to King David; a leper kneeled before Jesus begging to be healed; a man kneels before his beloved and asks for her hand in marriage. In such situations, how can one do anything but kneel? So what about worship? We have entered into the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose glory fills heaven and earth; the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to rescue His people from sin and Satan and death – how could we imagine that to kneel before this One is unfitting or inappropriate? Uncomfortable at first? Maybe. But profoundly wise and biblical.
So in our passage today, we see that Solomon – the Son of David, the King of Israel, and the wisest of men – kneeled before God to make supplication and prayer. And Psalm 95 summons us, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! And note that this isn’t a summons to private but to public kneeling – O come, let us kneel ­– let all of us together bow before God for He is worthy! And so the four living creatures and the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall down before the Lamband they sing a new song saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

So this morning, as we consider that we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.

Justification and Sanctification

July 24, 2014 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Romans, Cross of Christ, Federal Vision, Justification, King Jesus, Law and Gospel, Rome, Sanctification

“Of course, we must also teach good works and love, but it must be done in the right place – that is, when we are dealing with works, not justification. Here the question is how we are justified and attain eternal life, and so we reject and condemn all good works, for this passage will not allow any argument based on good works.

“Indeed, ‘the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good’ (Romans 7:12). But when we are dealing with justification, it is not the time or place to speak about the law. The question is, who is Christ, and what benefit has he brought us? Christ is not the law; he is not what I have done or what the law has done; he is not my love, my obedience, my poverty. He is the Lord of life and death, a mediator, the Savior, the redeemer of those who are under the law and sin. By faith we are in him and he in us….

“Christ is no law, and therefore he does not exact the law and its observance. He is ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). It is only faith that takes hold of this, not love. Love, however, must follow faith, as a sort of thankfulness. Victory over sin and death, then, and salvation and everlasting life too, did not come through the law, nor through the observance of the law, nor yet through the power of free will, but through the Lord Jesus Christ alone.”

Martin Luther, Galatians, p. 91.

Justified by Faith and Love?

July 24, 2014 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Federal Vision, Justification, Quotations, Rome, Sanctification

“The right way to become a Christian is to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the observance of the law. Here we must stand, and not upon the wicked interpretation of those who say that faith justifies when love and good works are combined with it. That interpretation obscures this and similar sentences in Paul in which he clearly attributes justification solely to faith in Christ. When people hear that they should believe in Christ, yet faith only justifies if it is formed and accompanied by works of love, eventually they fall from faith and think along these lines: ‘If faith without love does not justify, then faith is empty and pointless, and only love in action justifies, for faith is nothing without love….’

“They say that faith in Christ does not make us free from sin, but only faith combined with love. this is to say that Christ leaves us in our sins and in the wrath of God and makes us guilty of eternal death, whereas if you keep the law, faith justifies you because it has works, without which faith is no help. Therefore, works justify, and not faith, they claim. What pernicious and cursed teaching is this!”

Martin Luther, Galatians, pp. 90, 93-94.

Against the Church

July 24, 2014 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Ecclesiology, Quotations, Rome, Tradition, Word of God

“No one willingly says that the church is wrong, and yet it is necessary to say that it is wrong if it teaches anything besides or against God’s Word.”

Martin Luther, Galatians, p. 59.

The Church is our Mother and to be treated with respect and honor. But the Church is to honor the Word of our Father. When the Church fails to do so, then the disciple must follow the Father for the sake of the Mother. This is how Luther conceived his calling. Unfortunately many modern self-proclaimed “reformers” do not have a proper respect for their Mother and make themselves the sole arbiters of truth rather than the Word. Luther writes earlier in his commentary:

“Since the church is such a soft and tender thing, and so soon overthrown, we must be quick to watch against these people with their mad ideas. When they have given two sermons or have read a few pages of the Holy Scriptures, they reckon they are in control of all learners and teachers and are answerable to no human authority. You can find many such people today, bold and impudent persons who because they have not been tried by temptations have never learned to fear God, nor had any taste or feeling of grace. Because they are empty of the Holy Spirit, they teach what they like best and such things as are plausible and pleasant to the common people. Then the uneducated multitude, longing to hear news, soon joins them.” p. 47

Educating Our Children

February 22, 2008 in Biography, Plutarch, Rome, St. Anne's

For those of us who homeschool our children, it is imperative to remember the goals toward which we are striving. What is it we are endeavoring to achieve as we educate and train our children?

As we answer this question, it is helpful to consider the answers of others who have gone before us, Christian and non-Christian. Among the latter group was the ancient Roman senator and statesman Cato the Elder, who lived during and after Hannibal’s attacks on Italy.

Cato is perhaps best known for his unflinching commitment to economy and industry both in private and in public life. He was a great politician – serving in various public offices throughout his life. But Plutarch tells us that Cato himself reckoned a man’s handling of his family more important than his management of public affairs. After all, a man’s treatment of his family was reflective of the way he would treat the state. And so he considered a good husband worthy of more praise than a great senator and maintained that he who laid violent hands on his wife or child, violated that which was most sacred.

In keeping with these sentiments, Cato took his responsibility toward his son very seriously, considering it his highest calling to train his son personally. Unlike many Roman fathers who preferred to observe their sons from a distance, Cato often joined his wife as she bathed and changed him as an infant. When his son was old enough to learn, Plutarch tells us that “Cato himself would teach him to read, although he had a servant, a very good grammarian, called Chilo, who taught many others . . .; [Cato] himself . . . taught him his grammar, law, and his gymnastic exercises.” And when Cato found himself in need of curriculum to teach his son the history of Rome, he himself wrote it out: “he wrote histories, in large characters, with his own hand, so that his son, without stirring out of the house, might know about his countrymen and forefathers.”

Not only did Cato train his son intellectually, he also mentored him physically. As it came time for his son to train for war, Cato took the task upon himself. “Not only did he show him how to throw a dart, to fight in armor, and to ride, but to box also and to endure both heat and cold, and to swim over the most rapid and rough rivers.”

Nor did Cato overlook the importance of moral education and example. He was extremely careful “to abstain from speaking anything obscene before his son, even as if he had been in the presence of the sacred virgins, called vestals.” And he took the time to write a series of precepts for his son to guide him on the path of life.

As we examine the training that Cato offered his son, we see that it was full orbed – hitting all aspects of his son’s life – mentally, physically, morally. But the training was simply that – training. It was not the end, but a means to the end. Cato hoped to see cultivated within his son a desire for virtue that would establish him as a man worthy of praise in his own right. And indeed, “though delicate in health, his son proved a stout man in the field, and behaved himself valiantly . . . when his sword was struck from him by a blow, he so keenly resented it, that he turned to some of his friends about him, and taking them along with him again fell upon the enemy; and having by long fight and much force cleared the place, at length found it among great heaps of arms, and the dead bodies of friends as well as enemies piled one upon another.” Thus, Cato had the satisfaction of seeing his labors come to fruition when his son became an admirable soldier and later a fine jurist.

The Apostle John sets before us the same basic expectation for the training we offer to our children. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”