Sunday, August 10, 2008

What is at the center?

In astronomy, whether a person believes that the solar system (or universe) is heliocentric(centered around the sun) or geocentric (centered around the earth) or none of the above will greatly affect their understanding of the solar system (or universe) as a whole.

Think of a bicycle wheel. What would happen if you moved the location of the hub from the center to somewhere on one of the spokes? The bike would not function properly at all.

The same is true of theology and worship. "We just preach the Bible" doesn't work in real life. Everybody worships and preaches with something at the center. The center may be there consciously, unconsciously, or subconsciously. The center may even change from day to day. But you can't avoid the center!

Left to our own devices we could develop an infinite number of centers: the covenant, eschatology, the nation of Israel, moral teaching, etc. But praise be to God that he tells us where to find the center. God's Word tells us that Jesus Christ crucified must be the central point of all preaching:

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I did not resolve to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and this [Jesus Christ] crucified.

Failure to preach a crucified Christ is antichristian preaching. We also learn from Jesus Christ Himself that all of the Scriptures are about Him.

NKJV Luke 24:44-46 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day..."

Jesus Christ crucified is the central theme of all of Scripture and ALL of the Scriptures are about Jesus. Failure to recognize that ALL of the Scriptures are about Jesus results in a failure to comprehend the Scriptures.

NKJV John 5:39-40 "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Apart from Christ, the Scriptures bring death.

The same is true of worship. Worship must be centered upon Jesus Christ crucified. From the book of Genesis through Revelation we learn that true worship is centered upon the Lamb on the Altar--the crucified Christ.

NKJV Genesis 4:1-5 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD." 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

The offering of Cain was the offering of his own works to God. Cain worked hard to till the ground and bring forth fruit. God has no need for our good works. God is not benefitted by anything that we do. In true worship faith receives God's good gifts. God is the giver and we are the receiver. We are benefited by worship, not God. Abel offered up what God had given to him. Abel did no work to make the lamb. God made the lamb.

NKJV Exodus 12:3-11 "Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: 'On the tenth day of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4 'And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man's need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 'Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 'And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 'Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 'Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire -- its head with its legs and its entrails. 10 'You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 11 'And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's Passover.

In the Passover we find the lamb on the altar again. Each household was told to eat the lamb. Through the worship in the Passover, the Israelites were fed by God. God was not fed by the Israelites.

NKJV 1 Corinthians 5:7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Christ is our Passover lamb.

Revelation 5:6-13 And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living beings, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, being sent out into all the earth. 7 And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8 And when He took the book, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one of the elders holding a harp, and golden bowls filled with incenses, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sing a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the book, And to open its seals; Because You were slain, And purchased us for God by the price of Your blood From every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And made them kings and priests to our God; And they will reign upon the earth." 11 And I looked, and I heard as it were a voice of many angels around the throne and the living beings and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousands of ten thousands, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a great voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive the power and the wealth and wisdom, And might and honor and glory and blessing!" 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and the things in them, I heard all saying: "To Him who sits upon the throne, And to the Lamb, Is the blessing and the honor and the glory and the dominion Forever and ever. Amen!"

Revelation 7:9-17 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one was able to number, from every nation, and all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and they cry out with a great voice, saying: "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" 11 And all the angels stood around the throne, and around the elders and the four living beings, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying: "Amen! The blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the might, Belong to our God forever and ever. Amen." 13 And one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in white robes, who are they and where did they come from?" 14 And I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are those coming from the great tribulation, and they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits upon the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 They will neither hunger anymore, nor will they thirst anymore; nor by any means will the sun smite them, nor any scorching heat; 17 because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shepherds them, and He will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

In Revelation we find that the Lamb on the altar is still the central focus of all true worship. Worship is centered around the Lamb and recounts the deeds that the Lamb has accomplished. Worship is not centered around our emotions or what we do or plan to do. Worship is all centered around the Lamb!

In future posts I hope to explore the various topics of theology and how they relate to the central theme of the Lamb on the Altar.


Laura Wiese said...

You make an excellent point! I wish Christ was truly the focus of worship, sermons and daily living!!! ...but that is why I married you ;) Your good points! :)

Rev. Jim Roemke said...

My dear Laura, if you would finally become Lutheran your wish would be granted ;)
Excellent points, Chuck. Please keep me honest to this centrality of the cross. If I ever try to present something other than Christ crucified for sinners, sick Josh and Caleb on me!!
Keep up the good work of proclaiming the Gospel.