“I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly wouldn’t recommend Christianity.”
“It is inconceivable that we could be bored in a world with so much wrong to tackle.
Immortal God, we come to you and worship this morning. You are the all-powerful Creator; you have created all things and you sustain all thing. You have revealed your glory and majestic power in the world all around us. Your holiness and power are made clear to us in your providential care for everything you made, including us. We cry out with the host of heaven, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!” We join our hearts together this morning and give you the praise, honor and glory you are due.
Heavenly Father, we come to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. Like Peter we run to an empty tomb this morning marveling at what has happened. Can it be that Jesus crucified has now raised again to life? Yes, it must be for there’s no other way to be reconciled back to you. Hallelujah, we praise your name this morning. For you sent your eternal Son Jesus on a rescue mission to redeem us wayward sinners. You are a God of Love – and in this is love, not that we have loved you but that you loved us and sent your Son to be the Satan-defeated, sin-paying, wrath absorbing sacrifice for our sins. And this morning our eyes move from a bloody cross to an empty tomb; once condemned now freed; once broken by our sin now we are bought out from slavery too it; once confined to darkness, now living in the light of the world.
Yes, Lord we worship you this morning. And we come confessing our sins against you. We confess that we are people who do not always trust you. We are stubborn and rebellious, habitually unwilling to hear your loving instruction. We have trusted in our desires for physical and emotional comfort; we trust in approval from others; we look for happiness in health, wealth, success or sexual relationships. We have abused food, drinks, even other people to try to bring us peace. We often do not return to you; we frequently do not rest in you; we demand things from others we are unwilling do to for ourselves; we refuse to treat others the way we desire to be treated. Forgive us Lord. We trust not in our ability to make ourselves favorable in your sight; we trust in Christ alone; we trust in his atoning work on the cross; and we know this work is completely and sufficient because he rose from the grave. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!
We praise you for our brothers and sisters around this city celebrating this same truth this morning. We thank you for Washington International Church and 4th Presbyterian and All Nations DC. As they worship you at this very moment, remind them of the greatness of this gospel news. We praise you for Capitol Hill Baptist and Grace DC and The District Church and Pillar DC. Use them to herald the excellencies of Christ Jesus this morning. And we pray for Anacostia River Church as they gather to worship this morning for the first time.
Lord, we also pray for our brothers and sisters around the globe this morning. From those worshiping in houses in China to those worshipping in dilapidated buildings in Haiti; from the churches gathered in Los Angeles to the few gathered believers in Duhok, Iraq, hallow your name Lord God Almighty. And we pray especially for our brothers and sisters in Kenya. We pray for the 100 plus families grieving from the loss of loved ones. We pray for those who survived but are forever scarred physical and emotionally. Give them grace this morning Lord; give them hope. As they celebrate the resurrection this morning, remind them that the best is yet to come; remind them of the day when there will be no more tears, suffering, or death. By your Holy Spirit cast their eyes toward heaven that they might wave this time of immense suffering.
Father, we pray for those who are responsible for this latest attack; we pray Al-Shabaab this morning. Would you not only restrain their evil, but would you save them? Would you grant them repentance of their sin and faith in Christ Jesus? On Easter morning, we pray for those who are against us. We pray for the men and women who are a part of the Taliban and ISIS. We pray that the evil they seek to accomplish would be restrained. We pray that your grace would be upon them and would save them from their sin. Forgive them Lord and use them to help humanity prosper not suffer. Radically change them and use them to advance peace, not destruction. Lead these men and women to the narrow gate of life, not the wide gate of destruction.
Lord, we thank you for all you’re doing in our church body. Holy Spirit continue to build us up in gospel unity. Help us be quick to forgive one another; give us the grace to put the gospel above our personal preferences. Help us to selflessly serve one another. We praise you for the children among us; give us the grace to love and serve them well that they might taste and see and trust the grace of Jesus Christ.
We praise you Lord for this Easter morning season. By your Spirit, help us marvel over the truth of an empty tomb. That Jesus, the Sovereign Lord crucified is now risen and seated at your right hand. Use the songs we sing this morning and the prayers we offer and the preaching we hear to remind us this great gospel that provides hope and joy forever more. It’s in the name of our risen King we pray, the name of Jesus. Amen.
Let this except from John Piper’s 2005 Easter sermon warm your soul:
Christ came. He obeyed. He bore the wrath. He bore the curse. He bore our judgment. He bore our guilt. He bore our sin. He died. He rose again. And now he reigns and we have this description of its implication in verses 20 and 21 of chapter three [of Philippians].
Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And now we know how he got to heaven. He got there because God raised him from the dead. And now he is a God man in heaven. He is not just an ethereal spirit, he is a man, a God man in heaven who will transform our lowly body, our cancer ridden body, our addicted body, our depressed body into a body like his glorious body and how we know he got that body, because of the assumption. He got that body because he obeyed the Father and he came and he took human flesh on. He never laid it down.
Never, never, never does he cease to be the man Jesus Christ. He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.
John Calvin challenges us with these opening words in his magisterial work, Institutes of the Christian Religion:
The whole sum of our wisdom – wisdom, that is, which deserves to be called true and assured – broadly consist of two parts, knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves….
[W]e observe that no one ever attains clear knowledge of self unless he has first gazed upon the face of the Lord, and then turns back to look upon himself. Deeply rooted in al of us is an arrogance which persuades us that we are righteous, truthful, wise and holy. Only clear evidence that we are unrighteous, deceitful, foolish and vile will convince us to the contrary…And because there is nothing around us which is not greatly defiled, whatever is a little less grubby appears to us a purity itself, as long as we confine our attention to the limits of our own – debased – humanity. It is like the eye which, used to seeing only objects that are dark, judges things which are vaguely white or even semi-grey to be the whitest there is.
An analogy based on physical sight will help us better understand how badly we misjudge our soul’s powers. If in broad daylight we look down at the ground or attend to things which are round about us, we have no trouble believing our sight is extremely sharp and keen. When, however, we look straight up at the sun, the power that served us so well on earth is dazed and dazzled by so intense a light, forcing us to admit that our ability clearly to see earthly objects is weak and feeble when it comes to gazing at the sun. This is how it is when we estimate our own spiritual thoughts. As long as we do not look beyond earth’s horizons, we are perfectly content with our righteousness, wisdom and power.
We flatter and congratulate ourselves, are not far from thinking we are demigods! If, however, we turn our thoughts toward the Lord and realize how consummate is his righteousness, wisdom and power which are the stand to which we must conform, what we once took to be righteousness will appear foul and utterly evil…indeed, what we reckon to be perfectly blameless in us will never match the purity to be found in God.
Father…we bless your Holy Name, this morning. We praise your Name today, tomorrow, and forever more, because you, God are the only thing that is forever praiseworthy. Your Greatness is unsearchable, your graciousness and your mercy know no end…you abound in steadfast love…your Kingdom is everlasting and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
It is only by your Grace, Mercy, your Power that this church is able to survive a single day, much less 5 years. We believe you are the author of this church and every Gospel loving church. You sustain it by the power of your Spirit, through the proclamation of your word, the singing of your word, the praying of your word…you, Lord…are the hero of this church, your Son, Jesus Christ is our head…our King to whom we gladly submit our lives together as a body, here in Washington, DC.
And yet, we are mindful, of the throngs of ways we have assaulted the throne of Grace just this week. Many of us have forgotten that we covenanted together to be a body of Christ at all. Much less, many of us have forgotten that you Covenanted with US through the blood of your Son by our neglecting to meet with you in private prayer. How often, even when we have prayed…how often were those prayers focused on ourselves and our own personal comforts and how few of them were littered with your praises…or how little of them were infused with hearts that longed to see others relieved of suffering.
Though we covenanted to pray for one another, we haven’t. Though we covenanted to bear one another’s burdens, we haven’t. Though we covenanted to love one another in the same way your son loved us…we haven’t. Instead of being salt and light, this week…many of us have been sour and full of darkness.
But oh how relieved we are that we can come boldly to you…knowing, believing, pleading grace, mercy and forgiveness…and oh how glad we are that we come storming into your room asking you to love us though we have not loved you…because you are our Father…and you have proven that you love us by your offering up your Son. Thank you for the Forgiveness that is found in the pardon of the Prince of Peace. It is only by His grace we can stand.
Thank you, Lord for these 5 years and how they have shaped and molded a people here in NW DC. Thank you for the many ways this Covenant HAS been lived out in a thousand unseen ways. Thank you Lord for the college students that care for our families…thank you for the families that care for our college students. Thank you for how many have been bold and generous with the Gospel in the course of our time here…and how that has brought fruit in the lives of people like Amy, Cullen, and Josh…just to name a few.
Thank you Lord for the leaders you have given us…From Graham & John, to Chris & Deholo. Thank you for the tireless efforts of my brother Joey…and the dozens of CG leaders and others who open up their homes every week so we can spur one another on to this life of faith.
Thank you for our deacons Whitney and Matt…thank you for Brandi and Michelle and how they moved here for the sake of mission…thank you for all our children’s ministry workers and faithful disciplers that pursue others for the purposes of discipleship…oh GOD how KIND you have been to us…and so, since you have blessed us…may WE be a Blessing to OTHERS!
Yes, Lord give this church years and years of faithful ministries….may we raise up church planters to go to the Spanish speakers in Columbia Heights and to the Kurds of Northern Iraq…give this church financial provision and unity in the Gospel for decades long after we are gone until your Son returns.
Yes, Lord…bless our family of churches this morning. We pray your richest blessings on Shadowbrook Baptist Church in Suwanee, Georgia. Shine your face upon them and use them to bind up the brokenhearted of their community. North Wake Church…may they be the embodiment of the manifold wisdom of God in order that they would seek the lost and then equip them to join together in the process of becoming mature and ministering worshipers of God.
Bless Covenant Life Church this morning as they gather…give them a white hot passion to Worship the Lord their God…may they know what it is to DELIGHT in the Supremacy of Christ their King and may they then draw others into the Gospel and spread the news of your greatness into all the South Florida Region.
Be good to Exchange Church as they gather…make much of yourself through the proclamation of the word this morning…and unify them around the grace of the Gospel.
Be near to the Oaks Church Raleigh as they gather this evening…be pleased to grow them for the sake of your glorious name.
Finally, Father…would you attend to us, this morning as we ready ourselves to hear from your word? Guide our brother Justin that he might guide us into the throne room of your grace….change us we pray…through this sermon…that we might more rightly know you, worship you and live for you…in Jesus Name.
From the Feeding on Christ blog, here are 5 reasons to sing your heart out the next time our church gathers:
1. Singing Our Hearts Out to God is the Fruit of Redemption in Christ. The Proverbs tell us that “whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda” (Prov. 25:20). Singing praise is a human experience that belongs uniquely to the realm of joy in our experiences. Nothing produces joy so much as the truth of what Christ has done for His people through His death and resurrection. This does not mean that we never sing songs of lamentation, but the Scriptures always move believers from sorrow to joy (see Psalm 30:5; 42:5, 11; 43:5, Ezra 3:10-13 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13). Throughout the Scriptures we read of believers singing “a new song.” This has unique reference to the work of the new creation procured by Christ through His death and resurrection and established in full through the New Covenant (Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9; 14:3).
2. Singing Our Hearts Out to God is a Witness to the Gospel. The Psalmist prayed, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord” (Ps. 40:3).When Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison, people were converted (Acts 16:25-40). Just as my former employer mocked this church for their singing, and concluded that their singing revealed that they did not believe what they professed, so the opposite will be true. If unbelievers in our services on Sunday witnessed the unrestrained pouring out of the hearts of believers in praise they should be able to say, “There is something true and powerful about what God has done in the lives of these men and women.” No band or musical accompaniment can manipulate what God the Holy Spirit does through the heart-wrought praises that He enables His people to sing together to Him.
3. Singing Our Hearts Out to God Fuels Our Own Spiritual Growth. When I was a young believer, my best friend would teach me new hymns and choruses. This encouraged me to sing throughout the day–in the care, when I was walking around by myself, etc. As I sang the hymns and choruses he taught me, I meditated on the truths that I was singing. This, in turn, caused me to grow in my knowledge of the Lord and in my life for him. To this day, there are times when I am struggling spiritually, or downcast or complacent. Singing quickens my spirit and causes me to grow in fervent love to the Lord. The Puritans would sometimes speak of singing yourself into a state of worship. Singing Psalms and theologically sound hymns renews the mind and warms the heart to worship because theologically rich hymns are “mini-sermons for the soul to sing.”
4. Singing Our Hearts Out to God Fuels the Spiritual Growth of Other Believers. As mentioned in the previous point, my best friend’s singing aided my spiritual growth. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul charged the church with the following words: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16) and “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph. 5:18-19). Singing with other believers is a means of grace whereby we teach and admonish each other.
5. Singing Our Hearts Out to God Makes War Against our Enemies. We tend not to view what we do in worship as spiritual warfare, however so many of the songs in the Old Testament were songs of victory penned immediately after God had given His people victory over their enemies (e.g. Exodus 15:1-18; 15:21; Judges 5; 1 Samuel 18:7) and sung by the people as they were gathered together. What better way to make war against Satan and his host of enemies than by singing God’s redemptive praises in light of His defeat of them. When Paul and Silas started singing hymns in prison, God sent a earthquake to release them and the spiritual chains of the jailor. In this way, Paul and Silas made war against the enemies of God and the church (Acts 16:25-40).
So, believer, sing your heart out to God whenever you are gathered together with His people to worship Him. Make a joyful noise–even if you fear that it will be more noise than sweetness–to our God! “It is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting” (Ps. 147:1). After all, our Father is enthroned on the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).
Gracious Heavenly Father, what a joy it is to gather before your throne this morning, Lord, to worship YOU for who you are and to celebrate, and delight in, Christ, our risen Lord and Savior! Yes Lord, we have reason to celebrate this morning for, though we were once dead in our trespasses and sins, YOU, gracious Father, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which you loved us, made us alive together with Christ! Yes, by GRACE we have been saved, not because of anything that we did, but because you’re a merciful and gracious God and because Christ was willing to humble himself to the point of death, that He might reconcile us to you. Yes, praise be to Christ for his humility! And praise be to you, Heavenly Father, for your grace and mercy! Yes, Lord, as we sing, pray, give, fellowship, and listen to your Word being faithfully proclaimed, Lord, we pray that you would be gloried and that Christ would be exalted!
Adoration. Heavenly Father, hallowed be your name in this place this morning, for you are deserving of ALL of our worship and praise! Yes, YOU who laid the foundations of the earth and determined its measurements, YOU who created the seas and told the waves ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,” YOU who commands the morning and causes the dawn to know its place, YOU who brings the rain to make the ground sprout with grass, YOU who gives wisdom and understanding to the mind, YOU whose love is steadfast and never failing, YOU whose word is always right and true, YOU who is perfectly righteous, perfectly just, perfectly loving and perfectly faithful, YOU who is holy, YOU who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Yes, Lord, YOU are deserving of our adoration!
Thanksgiving. And Father, we thank you for the kindness you have displayed to us in so many ways over the last month. We thank you for how you’ve continued to draw more and more visitors through our doors, that they might hear your word faithfully proclaimed and delight in Christ along with us. We thank you for growing our community groups both in spiritual maturity and also in number, such that many groups are on the verge of needing to birth new groups. Praise be to you, Father! We thank you, Lord, for how you orchestrated and used the Engage Conference to fuel our desire to reach the nations with your Gospel and to connect us with other local church bodies who are laboring alongside us. And we thank you for your Word, for the way it convicts us, encourages and transforms our hearts. We pray it would continue to do so this morning!
Confession. But Lord, we must also confess that, despite your goodness and faithfulness to us, O Lord, how often we question your sovereignty and trustworthiness. Sometimes we do this by not praying with confidence that you will answer, but more often, we do this by simply not praying at all. Lord, forgive our faithlessness. Forgive our thinking that you would sacrifice your only son to adopt us into your family, only to then leave us to fend for ourselves.
Petitions. So Father, this morning we come to you with confidence, knowing that you are willing and able to answer our prayers. And so, we pray for our children’s ministry this morning. We pray that your word would be clearly and faithfully proclaimed to those young minds, that the children would understand and retain what they’ve heard, that the teachers would be filled with much grace, love and patience, and ultimately, that you would give spiritual sight to those young children that they might be adopted into your family. We pray that as a body we will be faithful to carry-out our covenant with one another to responsibly steward our spiritual gifts to the service of this church and the community at large. Lord, please show us the gifts we have and give us a burning desire to put them into action for your glory and for the good of our church and community! We pray for our brothers and sisters at Washington International Church, that they too would be nourished by your word, would grow in humility and unity, would seek to make much of Christ in all that they do, and would be eager to make disciples who delight in Jesus. We pray for The Porch ministry, for increased attendance by the youth, for meaningful relationships to be established between the youth and the leaders, that the leaders would be filled with much grace and patience, that your Gospel would be made clear and that it would transform the hearts of many youths. We pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are at this very moment experiencing persecution for the name of Christ. We pray you would grant them peace which surpasses all understanding, and we pray you would restrain their aggressors and bring them to repentance and salvation. Lastly, we pray for Deholo as he preaches. We pray that you would help him to be faithful in proclaiming your word, bold, articulate and clear, and that you would you speak through him to grow our affections for Christ. For the glory of your name and the exaltation of Christ we pray these things in the name of Christ, Amen.