Someone recently reminded me that advocacy is a big deal to God [1 Jn. 2:1; Prov. 31:8-9; Heb. 8:1-2]. As in all things, there are good ways to go about advocating, and there are bad ways to go about it. The bad versions of advocacy are those efforts founded upon, and fueled by arrogance, anger, fear, and/or fretting. The good versions are those that humbly receive the invitation from the King of kings to join the most powerful Persons in existence (the triune LORD God Almighty Himself) in lamenting our wickedness and wretchedness – seeing with increasing clarity just how desperate and needy we are – and thereby acquiring the undeterable taste & appetite for a Crucified Savior & King; boasting (Gal. 6:14; 1 Cor. 2:2) & savoring how He miraculously transforms sorrow into joy, lamentation into laughter, and grief into glory. This miracle of miracles which happens when we marvel at the person and work of Jesus Christ – fixing our eyes on Jesus as the Author & Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God [Heb.12:2].
One of the best, and most regular ways, we are invited to participate in Christ-appointed advocacy is in letting ourselves be REGULARLY ADVOCATED FOR via the faithful and thoughtful work of our asaphs on Sundays. Now some of you are thinking to yourselves, “Isn’t the only thing happening on Sundays professional football?” I can’t really provide a comprehensive answer to that question (especially not at the moment), but suffice it to say: [a] NFL football is – as a matter of fact – the #1 preference for most Americans when it comes to Sunday worship (it’s also becoming quite popular in Europe it seems), and [b] it has nothing to do with advocacy (at least there are no substantive and sustainable versions of advocacy happening in that particular context). …So, now that we have enjoyed a brief adventure down a random rabbit trail, let’s get back to the Real – and Regular – diet of learning advocacy. As I said before, the first and most fundamental thing to do is: regularly receive advocacy. While you might think that everyone would be eager to receive such a benefit, the reality is – being advocated for forces us to face the fact that we are small, vulnerable, & weak …and that is something human beings work very hard (and oftentimes with a good bit of hostility and hatred mixed in) to avoid coming to grips with.
So now I will get right to the point… It is a miracle that anyone would regularly show up to an elementary school gymnasium on the same day that the professional football worship services are happening in order to admit their weakness and wretchedness in order that they might learn to relish a crucified and risen Advocate!
Let me wrap up this blog post with two specific examples of what it looks like to participate in the Christ-appointed advocacy diet experienced on Sundays in the context of particular and local churches all over the city. This past Sunday [11.13.16] the flock of ECPC was led by asaphs JeDarius Shotwell & Brad Craver in two versions of substantive, sustainable, and Christ-centered advocacy:
#1. Jesus’ people allow themselves to be led in a corporate confession of their sin, and receive Christ’s assurance of pardon:
Father, we confess that we love to listen to ourselves more than You. In fact, we have often downright refused to listen to You. Our preference is to trust ourselves. We confess that this makes us miserable, but we are too proud to admit that we are the problem, and so we live lives ruled by anger & fear aimed at others. We confess the sin of trying to cope with our shame and wretchedness without Your help. We attempt to downplay, dismiss, or deal with our shame on our own – and this is evil and arrogant, because we are not our own Savior. Father, please hide Your face from our sins, and blot out all our iniquities. Create in us a clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. Cast us not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from us. Restore to us the joy of Your salvation, and uphold us with a willing spirit.
Assurance of Pardon: Luke 5:20
#2. Jesus’ people allow themselves to be led in a corporate pastoral prayer (prayer = admitting we are small, weak, and in massive trouble unless God meddles in our lives and supervises us constantly …Jn. 15:5):
Good morning members and visitors of ECPC. We’ve come to that time in our service when we worship God, in accordance with our denomination’s Book of Church Order, by conducting a “full and comprehensive prayer.” Given such a demanding task, I take solace in 2 Corinthians 12:9 where it is written, “But he said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Let us now go to our Heavenly Father in prayer, as we are clothed in the majesty of Christ and strengthened with power through His Spirit.
Lord, how can I stand here and consider myself fit to worship you without first appealing to the mercy that you have shown us through the gift of your son, Christ, dying a death he did not deserve. To the undiscerning audience, Christ’s death is a reflection of cosmic injustice, but for those of us in whom the grace has been granted — the grace to grasp our sinful state — we see the pathway to redemption in the presence of a just God.
We wake up each day to a world that we did not create, nor do we fully comprehend. An honest assessment of our situation illuminates both our smallness and the immense power and wisdom of the God that we are not. So Lord, we are here and You are there… we are very far apart. Were it not for the knowledge that You have bestowed upon us to grasp even this, we would be not only lost, but also ignorant of our condition.
And rather than worship Your majesty, I confess that I focus on what I have wrongly identified as my chief deficiency — that I am not You. Daily I lose in my fight against the temptation to soothe — or even deny — my smallness. The effects of my losses can be seen clearly: I revel in what I consider primarily my accomplishments; I am comforted by what I believe I have provided myself; I am discontent with what I do have; I covet things that are not mine; I feel anxiety about losing, or not getting, things that I believe I need; and I avoid submission to your written word.
Lord, I am unable to glorify and enjoy You when I identify with my fleshly desires, the desires of the world, and the desires of the devil. I confess these sins and pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ so that, as it is written, we may be healed. Lord, continue to use our struggles, failures, and sorrow over sin to remind us of Your singular majesty, to lead us to repentance, and to bear the fruit of Your Spirit in our lives.
Make us thankful for your gifts. It is good to see the baptism of another covenant child in Owen, and it is good to hear of the birth of another covenant child in Harris Bonnema. We probably should be more thankful than we are, not only for these children, but also for all of the other children in our church family. Make us more thankful for our opportunities as parents to discipline and sacrificially love our children. Make us continually thankful for our growing children’s ministry and the opportunities to volunteer there. Make us more thankful for the place here where we meet and the work that we get to do together in transforming this building into a place of worship.
Help us to be more thankful and thirsty for the scriptures. Give us patience and peace as we try to understand it. Give us your wisdom as we study it and then apply it to our lives.
Strengthen the leaders in your church. I pray specifically for the Elders and Deacons here, for the seminary professors at RTS, and for the leaders of the Urban Eagles’ ministry. Make each of these people to use their time effectively and to rightly prioritize their commitments to devotional time, family time, work, and ministry. Give the seminary students perseverance in their studies and clarity about what you have planned for them.
Lord, give wisdom and pure hearts to the newly elected civil officers in our communities and country.
Continue to provide for those in this congregation who are experiencing underemployment, give them opportunities to work, clarity to identify those opportunities, and skill to serve their customers. And where there is work to do, make us to do it joyfully.
Father, I pray that you would help us to focus now as we study your word in Micah chapter 1. Fill our brother Tyler with your words. Bring forth Your wisdom during this sermon.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.