First Baptist Church, Cobden IL
Saturday, August 17, 2019
200 South Walker St. Cobden, IL 62920

Study in the Scriptures: Matt Hartline

                 A Study in the Scriptures 
                      -with Pastor Matt
[The following is a transcript of a sermon that I preached on the Lord's Day on June 23, 2019.]
What is the nature of the Lord's Day service? What is the goal and purpose of the corporate gathering of God's people on His Day? That is what I want you to see and understand this morning. Why do you come and do what you do on the Lord's Day gathering? Is it just because God commands it? Is it because it is a biblical tradition? Is there a reason, meaning, and purpose as to why God commands it? Is there a reason, meaning, and purpose why it is a biblical tradition?
My purpose as a minister is to present every person, whom God has put under my care, mature in Christ. To administer the mysteries of God to His people, that is, to administer the very means whereby we mature and grow in our faith. And, we will get to these means in just a moment. But, I want to shape and form Christians with a worldview of worship. That is, a worldview that is not mere intellectual knowledge of having the answers to the right questions, which is very important and good, but more specifically, I want a worldview that seeks to live a life in daily awareness, experience, and communion with God. And, to always be growing and maturing in that awareness, experience, and communion for the rest of their lives. I want you and me to live a life of awareness, experience, and communion with God that begins now and one that will continue into eternity as we are transformed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another. This worldview of worship will be gained and shaped by our practices, disciplines, and liturgies flowing from what we supremely love and is then lived out in our lives. I say that this will be gained through these because all worldviews are shaped and formed by our practices, disciplines, and liturgies stemming from what we desire and love supremely, religious or secular.
So, I want you to ask yourselves these questions, "What is the purpose of my life? Why was I created? Why did God save me? What is He doing with me now? Where am I going?" We are right in saying, "For the glory of God." As, the Westminster Catechism says, "What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." That is the answer. For it is ALL about Him, and it will ALWAYS be about Him. But, let me suggest to you that while that is correct, there is actually something behind that answer. Or, maybe a commentary on that answer. I want to ask the question: How do I glorify God? Who teaches me to glorify God so that I may follow? How do I enjoy God? Who teaches me to enjoy God so that I may follow? The answer to these questions is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the one who has perfectly glorified God, and it is the Lord Jesus Christ, who has perfectly enjoyed God.
Therefore, I must learn from Him, I must follow Him, I must obey Him, and conform myself to Him. For, it is only by being like Christ will I then be able to glorify God truly and to enjoy Him forever fully. And, I believe that this is a Biblical understanding of these questions. The Scriptures tell us in Romans 8:29 that, "For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son." Ephesians 1:4-5, "Even as He [God the Father] chose us in Him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20-21 says, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." 1John 3:2, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is." Lastly, 1Thessalonians 4:3, 7, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification, or your holiness… For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness."
So, what is the chief end of man? Answer: Christlikeness. For the inner man to be made like Jesus Christ (cf. 2Cor. 4:16; Eph. 3:16; Col. 3:10). Glorifying and enjoying God is Christlikeness. This is the goal, the end of the Christian life. If you have a different end or purpose for your life, or, greater love, you need to change it right now. Get on your knees and pray that God would so move upon you to change your heart and your affections to treasure Him, to supremely desire and delight in Him. Because, this is what we are to be striving and reaching for. This is the will of God for your life, and this is what God has promised to do and complete with His own. He did not promise to make us healthy, wealthy, famous, successful, and wise on this earth. He promised us that, through any and by all means necessary, He would make us like His Son. As Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that above all things, we must gain Christ and be found in Him. That we may know Him and the power of His resurrection, becoming like Him in His death, and that by any means possible attaining the resurrection of the dead. This is what we are to be pressing on to. To obtain and make Christ our own, because Christ Jesus has made us His own. We press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And, as we are conformed more into Christ's image, as we grow in Christlikeness, we will then more fully be able to glorify God and enjoy Him. This is true because we will become more aware, experiencing more, and communing more in pure and blessed beatitude in Christ. We will be more like the one who supremely manifested the glory of God and the enjoyment of God in their life, Jesus Christ.
So, I come back to my original question: What is the nature and goal of the Lord's Day service? What is taking place in the corporate gathering of God's people on the Lord's Day? And, what is the person sinfully rejecting, to their own detriment, who would willfully neglect corporate worship? I submit to you this morning, that the corporate gathering of God's people for worship on the Lord's Day is the primary way in which God conforms us into the image of His Son. For, what is worship, other than joyfully communing with God as He comes down to meet with His people, and us coming to Him as His people to receive from Him all His gracious and salvific benefits provided in Christ Jesus. The Lord's Day gathering of God's people in prayer, praise, word, and sacrament is the primary means whereby God manifest His presence with His people. It is the time and place where He supremely sanctifies, feeds, nourishes, strengthens, communes, dwells, equips, fills, empowers, satisfies, and pours out His glorious life-changing love, mercy, and grace to His people. And, I believe that Hebrews 2:12-13 gives us a justification for such an understanding.
Hear me this morning, I feel like I have to qualify what is being said, I'm not talking this morning about those who cannot make it to the corporate gathering. There are those who are shut-ins and those who are providentially hindered from being able to gather. I'm not talking about works of mercy, your child is sick, and you have to take care of them, your aunt's water pipe busted, and you had to fix it before her house flooded, or you helped someone fix a flat tire on the side of the road. I'm not talking about works of service, hospitals, police departments, prisons, military engagements, ambulance service, services for the sojourner, things that must remain functioning and running 24-7, 365. What I am talking about is willfully and habitually neglecting coming and gathering with God's people. That is, putting and giving unwarranted preeminence on something above corporate worship.
So, we come to our text. The book of Hebrews is all about Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the center and focus of the book, and that He is better. He is better than the angels. He is better than Moses. He is better than Joshua. He is a better High Priest. He is a priest of a better covenant. He is a better sacrifice. He is better than all the faithful saints. And, He is the founder and perfecter of our faith. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the fullest revelation of God.
And, in chapter 8 of Hebrews, the writer is wrapping up a series of arguments. And, in Hebrews chapter 8:1-2, we come to an "ah-ha" moment that sheds light on what was foundationally laid for us in the previous chapters. Hebrews 8:1-2 says, "Now the point in what we are saying is this:" [meaning, "This is the reason, the point, the purpose of all that I have said so far is this…], "we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man." That word in verse 2, "minister," is the Greek word from where we get our English word, liturgy. Jesus Christ is not only our High Priest, but He is our liturgist, or, we could say that Jesus Christ is our worship leader.
And, so we come back to chapter 2, having been shown in chapter 1 that Jesus is better than the angels, who are ministering spirits (cf. Heb. 1:7, 14), Jesus is now demonstrated that through His incarnation, sufferings, and death He has been crowned with glory and has become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God (cf. Heb. 2:17). He has done so by becoming incarnate (v. 7-8), tasting death for everyone (v. 9), by destroying the one who has the power of death, that is the devil (v. 14-15), by making propitiation for the sins of the people (v. 17), and by helping those who are being tempted (v. 18). And, the centerpiece of Hebrews chapter 2 are verses 10 and 11, that through the sufferings of our High Priest, God the Father perfects His Son, and through His Son's perfection, He will bring many sons to glory (v. 10). This is done by the working of our minister who sanctifies those who are sanctified (v. 11).
So, here is the question that needs to be answered, "How does God the Father, through, our High Priest and liturgist, bring us to glory, perfectly sanctified by His Son?"
First, I want you to see that Jesus gathers us together and brings us to God as His own family! Verse 13, quoting Isaiah 8:18, "Behold, I and the children God has given me." The primary way in which the New Testament describes the church is that of a family. It is sad to see the church, mainly Western Evangelical Christianity, plagued with this high view and practice of radical individualism. In doing so, we have elevated the private devotional time, which is good and necessary, above the gathering of the assembly. The private devotions are good, but they are what the confession calls a "due and necessary preparation of the heart." The private devotions are not the center of the Christian life. It is the preparation for the corporate gathering. If you get nothing out of corporate worship, it is because you are not preparing yourself for corporate worship during the week. And, if you are not gathering for corporate worship, you are probably not doing private devotions during the week. But, if you are, one of two things will happen: 1) God will not honor it or accept it, or 2) He will crush you with conviction in your own time to be with His people.
Christianity is not individualistic. God is Triune. Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son, and by the Holy Spirit, God the Father adopts us, in Christ, as sons and daughters into one family. Through Christ, we are sons and daughters, crying "Abba, Father." We now pray, "Our Father, who art in heaven." God the Father has given a people to the Son, and the Son has redeemed them. Jesus says in John 6:37-39, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out…And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day." And, John 17:2, 6, "Since you have given him [Jesus] authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him… I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world." And, Galatians 4:4-6, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, 'Abba Father!'" Christ is not ashamed to call us brothers, because He has robbed Himself in the flesh, partook of our very own flesh and blood, and was made like his brothers in every respect, shed His own blood and ransomed the church, in order that we may be brought to God and adopted into the family of God.
And, so I ask, when is our weekly family reunion? Every Lord's Day. Our weekly Day of Resurrection is but a foretaste of the consummation of all things when the saints on earth and the saints in heaven are perfectly united, presented gloriously as one without spot or blemish on that Great Day!  
Second, Jesus leads us and gives us God in praise! This is found in verse 12c. "I will sing your praise." This is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking to God the Father, about Himself and the children of God. Christ is our High Priest and minister who is leading in corporate singing of praise to God the Father. When we sing praise to God in faith, in spirit, and in truth, Christ is in the midst leading and singing with us.
Third, in verse 12a, Jesus not only leads us in praise, but also Jesus leads us and gives us God in the proclamation of the Scriptures. Jesus says to God the Father, "I will tell of your name, [this is one Greek word which means to proclaim] "I will proclaim your name to my brothers." The Name of God, all that encompasses the knowledge of God, who God is, what God's will for life and godliness, all that is needed to glorify and enjoy Him. When the word of God is preached, in the power of the Spirit, and with full conviction, the one who is truly doing the preaching is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Verse 12 is a quotation from Psalm 22. And, Psalm 22 is that great Messianic Psalm that begins with, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This Psalm documents the entire passion, death, resurrection, ascension, enthronement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the consummation of all things. This Psalm was on our Lord's heart as He hung upon the cross. In the seventh and eighth verses of Psalm 22, we see the mocking that was thrown at our Lord as He hung naked and ashamed. The fourteenth and fifteenth verses describe His anguish and torture that He underwent. Verses 16-18 are fulfilled at the time of the crucifixion. But, then in verse 22, "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation, I will praise you. Verse 25, "From you comes my praise in the great congregation. Verse 27, "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you." Lastly, verse 28, "For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations." 
And, in verses 12 and 13 of Hebrews 2, where does all of this take place? Take note where Jesus Christ is at with His family, verse 12b, "In the midst of the congregation." The word congregation is the word ekklesia [assembly, congregation, church]. The sense of the word is the congregation of the faithful; the local, religious gathering of those allied with and trusting in the Triune God of heaven and earth.
Jesus Christ, in the gathered assembly on the Lord's Day, He is the one leading us. He is present, unlike any other time, degree, or manner. He is in the midst of us gathering us together as the one family of God, joining us with saints on earth and in heaven, and He is leading us in songs of praise to our God. Try to keep silent knowing this reality. Or, as John Calvin said, "And it is a truth, which may serve as a most powerful stimulant, and may lead us most fervently to praise God when we hear that Christ leads our songs, and is the chief composer of our hymns." In His word proclaimed, it is Jesus in the midst of His people preaching, teaching, instructing, and giving us God to be received. In baptism, it is Jesus who is baptizing us with His Spirit, cleansing us from sin, robbing us with Himself, and marking us with His Name, whereby we are adopted by God the Father. In the Lord's Supper, it is Jesus who is at the table serving us, just as He served His disciples. Jesus is present, and He is giving us His body and salvific benefits to be received from His perfect and incarnate life. And, He is giving us His blood and salvific benefits to be received from His sufferings and death.
Is there any wonder why the writer of Hebrews commands us, "Not to forsake the assembly of ourselves together" (Heb. 10:25)? This is because it is in the assembly of the family of God that we receive the fullest measure of the grace given by God to live the Christian life, to grow in Christlikeness, and be conformed into the image of Christ. Corporate worship is the ever growing and increasing awareness, experience, and communion with the Triune God of heaven and earth. And, as we participate, by faith, in the assembly we are being built up until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. And from there we will continually be transformed from one degree of glory to another throughout all eternity.
So, to summarize what has been said, it is safe and biblical to say that God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is supremely manifested and given to His people in prayer, in the proclamation of the word (sung and preached), and in the administration of the sacraments. Therefore, the church is nevermore the church, whereby she is sanctified and satisfied, than when God's people are assembled together on the Lord's Day to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
We come and gather because it is here that God is in the midst. We come and gather because it is here where God supremely gives us Himself. And, to willfully neglect the Lord's Day gathering is to neglect Christ and all His salvific benefits high-handedly. It is to neglect the very means whereby the Father said He would be with His children, and where Christ said He would be with His brothers and sisters. It is to neglect how God the Father promised to bring His sons and daughters to glory. It is to neglect His great salvation. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, but receive Him as He is given.
For the supremacy of Christ in all things,

Brother Matt