by Mike Ratliff
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2 ESV)
My wife and I attended an Orthodox Presbyterian Church in our area this morning. I have been a Baptist as long as I can remember and this was my first time in a Presbyterian Church. The congregation was on the small side, but every pew was full. I’m not sure what I expected, but I want to share with you my brethren that this heart worshiped God in spirit and truth this morning. Also, I found myself saying ‘Amen!’ (silently) quite a bit during most of the service. The order of service was something I have never experienced before, at least not like this. It was divided into four parts.
After the prelude and announcements we entered part one which was “Our Service of Praise & Adoration.” It began with the Pastor reading from Matthew 28:1-10 in the Call to worship. Then he prayed. I have heard sermons with less theology in them than this prayer. My heart began to burn within me about that time. Then we sang a hymn called “Thine Be the Glory.” I had never heard that hymn before. However, it directed our hearts upward to our God. After the hymn the pastor and all of us read Chapter XIV, Section II from the Westminster Confession of Faith. Here is the text.
“By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatening, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principle acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”
Then we sang a hymn by Isacc Watts called “As When the Hebrew Prophet Raised.” It was very edifying. This ended the first part of the service. Then we entered the second part which was “Our Service of Renewal.” The Pastor read from Luke 6:20-26 then he prayed for himself and us in our ‘”Confession of Sin.” Then He read from Luke 6:37-38 which was our “Assurance of Pardon.” Then we sang a hymn called “My Faith Looks Up to Thee.” This ended part two of the service.
Part three was “The Means of Grace Employed.” The Pastor read Luke 16:19-31. This was the text from which he took His sermon. After reading the text, he preached. His sermon was one of the best examples of expository preaching I have ever heard in which he exegetically showed us how each part of our Lord’s teaching on the rich man and Lazarus referred to the Jewish Religious leaders of our Lord’s day as the ‘rich man’ while Lazarus referred to the publicans and prostitutes and to all those the Pharisees looked down as ‘sinners.’ Again, my heart is still burning within me during all this. Why? Could it be that the focus of the service was to glorify God and edify the flock through the preaching of the Word? He ended his sermon with prayer and this ended part three of the service.
Then we entered the fourth and last part of the service which was “Our Service of Thanksgiving.” This was the time the collection or offering was taken. Then we sang a hymn called “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!” In the bulletin there is a line directly under this part of part 4 which states, “Please be seated at the end of the final stanza and prayerfully meditate upon the Word Preached!” The last part of part four was “Our Lord’s Benediction.”
Well, that was my Sunday morning. As I stated earlier, my heart was burning through all of it. Why? Well, God was in focus the whole time. I didn’t count how many times the Pastor referred to our Lord and salvation and grace, but I know it was way up there in the double digits. As I stated, the focus was on God through it all from the perspective of our service to Him from a grateful heart. His grace and mercy as being necessary for us was always in focus as well. Our utter unworthiness for this salvation was understood and expressed as well. However, one of the most important things I came away with from this was how the Word of God and prayer were used specifically to put us in the right focus before our Holy God.
Lastly, there is a right focus in this church on prayer as a vital part of our relationships with those all around us. It is understood that our sanctification includes all of our relationships and circumstances being lived out within the context of obedience and service to God. Humility on our part is crucial in this. My wife and I agreed, God willing, to return next Sunday.