Tag Archives: Worship

1 Chronicles 21

My devotions today where in 1 Chronicles 21. This is the story of the aftermath of David’s pride in taking a census of God’s people. As a result of this sin, God made David choose between 3 woes that were not to be poured out upon David alone but upon the Israelites (1Ch 21:11-12). We see here the seriousness of sin and the sovereignty of God over both Satan (1Ch 21:1) and our own sins (2Sa 24:1), yet we—as David—maintain moral responsibility for our own actions (1Ch 21:8). We see also that sacrifice must cost (1Ch 21:24), as religion that costs nothing is worth nothing (Luke 14:26, Luke 14:33, 1Jo 2:15, Luke 5:11). Yet these are not the particular things wherein I worshiped this morning. Instead I saw God in these:

The Fear of God (1Ch 21:20-21,23)

Ornan, who not only paid homage to David but was eager to donate his own property, was not an Israelite but a Jebusite: a people devoted unto destruction (Deu 20:17). Why was he so willing to help the cause of David? Because the fear of the LORD was upon him. He saw God’s sword and this compelled him to hide and to offer up his own property to his rightful enemy all in the name of appeasing such a God as this. Those who have seen God are willing to go to great lengths to assuage him and promote his causes. Would that God’s own people live up to the example set to us in this man. This is what the man acts like who sees Jesus as this man did.

Assuaged Wrath (1Ch 21:26)

Herein is the gospel thinly veiled: In the very time the wrath of God was pouring out upon the people of God as a result of David’s sin, God turned the force of his anger onto the sacrifice instead. So too with us: As a result of Adam’s sin did the anger of the LORD burn upon all (Rom 5:12), yet Christ in our place was consumed by the fire of the LORD that we might be reconciled to God (Rom 5:18). What a God is our God to hide his work for all to see.

Godly Zeal (1Ch 21:30)

Here we see the haste that the fear of God’s wrath put David to. Likewise, Aaron ran to make atonement for the Israelites (Num 16:47). When the wrath of God is the issue, we must make haste. Eternity is at stake. But what of God’s own law? There was one place alone where God permitted sacrifice to be made (Deu 12:13-14, Jos 22:29). Will God set aside his own law at times such as these? We would do well to remember that symbols are subservient to what they symbolize and thus not pit God against his own law. The altar was a symbol of the unity of worship, and that symbol cannot be made into the thing that opposes the worship which David was restoring. David’s altar, like Moses’ serpent (Num 21:8), was not raised in opposition to God’s law but for the fulfilling of it (Mat 5:17).

A Smiling Face (1Ch 22:1)

Here we see God’s smiling face that was hidden by a frowning providence. In the midst of all the woe and destruction God lays the foundation for his temple which will soon hold his glory. The eternal remembrance of this story will not focus on David’s sin nor on God’s wrath, but in God’s great kindness in giving his people a temple unto his own glory and unto their good. As the temple then was inaugurated by David, so now a cornerstone of the Church has been laid. It too was laid in the midst of sin and wrath. Yet those very things provide a backdrop that highlights the great grace of God in saving such as us. We see here God triumphing over all obstacles to save his people. He triumphs over sin. He triumphs over Satan. Never let us say then that anything is worth our faithlessness. These very things that tempt us to doubt will soon be cause for rejoicing—even our own sin.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

-William Cowper
 God Moves In A Mysterious Way

Combating a New Arminianism

The Arminianism of our day is decidedly not the Arminianism of centuries ago. Anyone who has studied the Five Articles of Remonstrance knows this. Yet we argue against Arminianism today according to the old arguments and paradigms.

The new root of Arminianism seems to be this: coming to God for salvation counts even if it is done sinfully. By this, the Arminian undermines all of reformed thought. The modern Arminian says, it may be true, that we are so sinful as to make us unable turn to God sinlessly, but God is glorified in us as we believe in Him, even if that belief is itself not a perfectly sinless one.

I bring this up not to show how we can better argue against heterodoxy (though that is important) but as this is something all churches need to think about (reformed and non alike).

Our churches are full of men who believe that going to church, singing, praying, tithing even if done partially sinfully, even if done lazily or routinely, is acceptable before the Lord. God HATES sinful sacrifice (Prov. 15:8). We see it in giving (Acts 5:3), in communion (1 Cor. 11:29), in prayer (Prov. 28:9), and in the feasts and festivals (Isa. 66:3).

Rather, we should offer up pure and perfect worship before him. How? By faith. Do you not know that the blood of the lamb can cover our sinful worship so that it is holy and acceptable before God Almighty? Believe this. Rise thyself up to faith in your worship or it does not count, just like praying the sinners prayer for fire insurance does not count.

How are we any less Arminian when we follow their same principles in our day-to-day lives? We try to rouse ourselves to the work of worship as if it was the work that God finds acceptable, just like the Arminian sees himself as rousing himself up to the act of faith. I claim that such acts are an abomination. What God finds acceptable is not the part of worship that we give (Acts 17:24-25, Mark 10:45, Psa. 50:9-12, 1 Cor. 10:26), but the part of worship that we receive.

To make sense of this, look at Andrew Fuller’s combat against Sandemanianism. Sandeman (1718-1771) asserted that faith must not be a work, for then we would be saved by works. Sanderman’s faith thus had no activity to it, it was instead a passive persuasion of the truth.

To combat this, Fuller introduced an analogy of a magnet:

Whatever holiness there is in [faith], it is not this, but the obedience of Christ, that constitutes our justifying righteousness. Whatever other properties the magnet may possess, it is as pointing invariably to the north that it guides the mariner; and whatever other properties faith may possess, it is as receiving Christ, and bringing us into union with him, that it justifies. -Andrew Fuller

Just like that magnet there is a part of faith that makes it saving, and that part is not to be found in us. A humble and receiving faith is that which saves. But that does not mean there is no part for us to play in our faith. Faith that saves is always working (Gal. 5:6), even though it is not the working part of faith that saves.

Now worship, like faith, must act. It must act love. Yet, also like faith, our acting is not that which makes it good and acceptable before God. Left to itself our actions are an abomination before him. Holiness can only be found in our actings as they are covered by the blood of Him who was slain. This blood is not our gift to God, but His gift to us. Thus, even though worship acts, holiness is not to be found in the acting and working but in the receiving.

Stated another way, worship should never be passive, but it is the passive part of worship that is pleasing to God. Love should never be without work, but it is the non-working part of love that fulfills the command. We are saved by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone.

We cannot add to the holiness that we have in Christ.

A brief history of Fuller’s fight with Sanderman can be seen here.