Tuesday, January 03, 2017


Our Father in Heaven, we have seen the star that is Jesus and we rejoice with exceeding great joy. We have come into this house to praise Your name, to see, know, bow before, and worship the Lord Jesus. We bring to You our treasures, our gold, frankincense and myrhh, all that we have, and all that we are, body and soul, and we lay them down at Your feet. We exalt You, O Most High, now and ever, world without end. Amen.

Matthew 17 Sermon Notes

Matthew 17:1-27
Believers Believe
Sermon Notes
January 1, 2017
Lynchburg, Virginia

         We have in this chapter three distinct events. One, The Transfiguration of Jesus. Two, the healing of a demon possessed child and three, Jesus paying the Temple Tax by way of a miracle.
         It may appear at first glance that these events are not clearly tied together but I believe they do form a complete pericope.
         The chapter breaks of Scripture are not inspired. They are not in the original Greek or Hebrew. But it is remarkable how often they do reflect the leading of God in scholarship. The chapter heads, with few exceptions, are excellent. Thus, we should not assume that several of seemingly unrelated events in a chapter really are unrelated. We should attempt to find the meaning of the Holy Spirit, of the writers and of those who divided the chapters as we read our Bibles.
         These three events are pointing in the same direction. They point at Jesus as the Messiah, as the Son of God on the Earth, as the ruler of the nations.
         The theme here is belief. Jesus’s disciples are exhorted to have faith in Him, believe in Him, believe Him. They should do so because the voice spoke from Heaven that Jesus is the Son of God in whom the Father is well pleased. They should do so because Jesus rules over the strongest of demons. They should do so because Jesus is the Lord of the Temple and even commands the dry land and the sea and all that in them is. He is ruler and creator, Lord of all.

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
This event is just a week after Jesus asked His disciples who He was. Some said John Baptist, some said Elijah, some said one of the prophets of old. Remember that Moses prophesied that a prophet like Him would arise.  So, just a week after these statements were made Jesus does appear with Moses and Elijah. Clearly, since He appears with them, He is not them. But He is the one greater than Moses, greater than Elijah. In His Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed as the God who is light. His face shown like the Sun, Son.
Law, Prophets in Moses and Elijah. Jesus makes the Kings. Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about His death that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Peter is overawed by the spectacle and determines to build tabernacles in honor of these great men. His heart was probably in the right place but he was missing the point again.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
God had bigger things in store than a tabernacle on a mountain. Jesus was to a universal ruler. The disciples had still not comprehended this great truth.
The Fathers is pleased in the Son. The Son pleases the Father. These are great parenting truths. They also fit well in the context of the church, a pastor and his congregation.
The cloud is the glory cloud, the shekinah glory of God. This is the Holy Spirit. We have here all three persons of the Trinity, The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.

6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
The fact that after hearing the voice and seeing Moses and Elijah, they looked and saw Jesus only, should have encouraged them that Jesus only was enough to conquer the world. No doubt, that is not how they felt. The disciples likely thought God was now establishing His Kingdom on Earth with Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. They would rule the world from this mountain. They were disappointed in their expectation. Moses and Elijah knew that Jesus must die for the people but the people did not yet understand this.
They did not respond in immediate fear to Moses or Elijah. They were great men but they were men. The voice from Heaven was the voice of God and it struck fear into them.
The only thing that can assuage the fear of God is the touch of Jesus. When they looked they saw Jesus only. Clearly, the Father has spoken. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. But there is a growing realization that Jesus is God Almighty. Jesus is Yahweh.
As we approach the cross, we can comprehend the disciples’ confusion. If Jesus is God, then He will rule. If Jesus is God, then He will not die. But Jesus is calling them to something altogether different, something that is outside of their reasonable ability to comprehend. He is calling them to faith in the Resurrection. They are not there and they do not get there until they see Him raised in person.

9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. 10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

This is more the humorous miscommunication between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus speaks to them of His death but they only hear that the Messiah has arrived. They do get that now. Because the Messiah was to come after Elijah’s return, they wonder if the scribes misunderstood that portion of prophecy.
No, says Jesus, they got it right. John the Baptist was Elijah and I am the Messiah. His disciples respond, Okay, we got it now.
But in doing so they missed Jesus’s main point in His saying to them. I am going to die. And don’t despair over this because I am going to rise again from the dead.
They could not get the Resurrection because they could not get the death of Jesus. Part of the reason that they could not get the death of Jesus is because they could not comprehend their own deaths. Israel was God’s chosen. He would come and save them. But what if they did not deserve saving. What if they only deserved to die? What if there was nothing left to save?
So, unless God intervened on their behalf, they would all have to die. The Pharisees who rejected Jesus, the Scribes who did not believe in spirits or the Resurrection, the elders who did not properly run the Temple, the chief priests, who ran the Sanhedrin in corruption, the disciple who turned from Jesus at a hard word, the Apostles who denied Jesus thrice, the Gentiles who were without hope and without God in the world. All must die.
And only on the other side of death can there be Resurrection to life. And this, too, Jesus promised them.

Matt. 17:14   And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
A certain man was in desperation. His son was possessed of a devil that had tried to kill him many times. The disciples tried to cast out the devil but could not.

17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
Mark tells us that the scribes were questioning the man and the crowds about this event. That puts a different light on Jesus’s comments of the faithless generation. It is no doubt directed at the man as well as His disciples but it is in also directly aimed at the scribes. The disciples fail to cast out the demon and the scribes are right there to gloat about it. Furthermore, the people seem to be turning to them instead of to Jesus. But Jesus intervenes. He upbraids them but He also does the miracle.
The response here by Jesus seems particularly harsh. He condemns a faithless and perverse generation. But weren’t they trying to have faith? Did they not appeal to Jesus and His disciples for the cure? Why would Jesus upbraid them so vehemently?
How long was Jesus going to be with them? Not much longer.
How long should Jesus have patience with them? Well,  it appears that His patience was growing thin. Yet, he healed the boy and taught the disciples with patience.
How was the faithless and perverse generation? It was a general condemnation but seemed to fall particularly hard on the Apostles. They were the ones who did not have faith to cast out the devil. They only needed a little and they failed.

18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
Jesus has immediate and absolute power. He rules over the demons. It is clear from this that the demons are not the rulers of the world. They had run rough shod over God’s people but Jesus is bringing that to an end.
The disciples tried to cast out the demon but could not. They are eager to learn what they did wrong.

20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief:
Jesus gives them a twofold answer. 1. Because of your unbelief. This is an internal frame of mind and heart. In one sense, this is not something you do. Belief is something you think and feel. It comes from your inmost being. But belief is accompanied by action. The kind of belief it takes to cast out this kind of demon will also pray and fast. The disciples come up short.
We must add that what Jesus says to them also reveals the immature level of their belief. He encourages to just have as much faith as a grain of mustard, a very tiny seed. He is not exhorting them to have mountains of faith. Rather, He is exhorting them to have even tiny faith that can move mountains.
So, at least by Jesus’s measurement, their faith at this time is not even as big as a grain of mustard seed.

for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
2. Here is the second part. This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. Jesus has prayed and fasted. He spent 40 days in the wilderness. Of course, He also has direct power to rule over the demons.
The disciples need to summon the power of God to do their work. That is what Jesus is driving at. They need to have faith in God, faith in Jesus, that they can do this work in His name and in His power. The faith they need to have is not faith in faith, or faith in themselves. It is faith in God. Up to now, then, according to Jesus, they have exhibited very little faith.

Matt. 17:22   And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
Jesus speaks plainly now and they understand Him. He had just exhorted them to have faith. He is now calling on them to believe Him both about His death and Resurrection. We know that their faith in Jesus fails. The sheep scatter and dessert the stricken shepherd. But when the Holy Spirit comes in power at Pentecost, these all become men of great faith.
Faith comes from God in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is God breathed. Part of what needed to be revealed to the disciples is their inability to even have faith in and of themselves. They needed to be animated by God’s Holy Spirit to exhibit great faith. Thus, God receives the glory of our salvation and of our works from beginning to end.

Matt. 17:24   And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
This tribute is not a Roman tax. This is a Temple tax. It is listed in Exodus 30. Every person 20 years old and up had to pay it. It called an atonement for your souls. They are asking Jesus, Do you pay to have your soul atoned for? This is God’s irony.
Jesus is the one who atones. He is the atonement. He pays with His life to cover all the Temple taxes, all the atonements. He is therefore exempt from paying to atone for His own soul since it is His soul that atones for all others. Nonetheless, He submits to the authorities.
He does so even though He is disgusted with the rulers of the Temple. They have made it a den of thieves even though it should be a house of prayer for all nations. Jesus could have argued something about failing to support these wicked men in their duties at the Temple. He does not do so and pays the tribute anyway.
Exodus 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls. 16 And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls.

25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? 26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. 27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Jesus now claims kingship over the land and He performs another miracle to prove it. Jesus is the Son of God, the Son of the Ruler of all the Earth. Therefore, He is exempt from this tribute tax. However, He has subjected Himself to all things, not grasping equality with God. Therefore, He became a man under tribute in order to free men under tribute.
He also rules the sea and the fish of the sea. This is an indication that Jesus rules all things, particularly gentiles and gentile nations.

Believers Believe
         Believers believe in Jesus. That is what they do.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, ruler of Heaven and Earth? Do you believe that without Him you are lost in sin and without God and without hope in the world?
If so, then believe Him for everything. Believe Him to take away your sins. Believe Him for encouragement. Believe Him to enable you to suffer for Him. Believe Him to provide your daily bread. Believe Him to give you a way to lead and love your spouse. Believe Him to raise and educate your children. Believe Him to give. Believe Him for work. Believe Him for trials that seem impossible. Believe Him for the forgiveness of sins that enable you stand boldly in His presence. Believe Him to cover the sins of the past, the duties of today and the challenges of tomorrow.

Believers believe in Jesus, that’s what they do.

A Voice From Heaven

When the disciples heard the voice from heaven they were afraid. When they looked up they only saw Jesus and He told them not to be afraid. 

So, we are gathered here in the presence of God. His Spirit is here in power. The power is so strong that we might be afraid. If we were sitting here in our own names we would even have reason to be afraid. But when we think about the frightening prospect of being in the presence of God, the Father, we turn and look and only see Jesus.

He is the one that came to save us from our sins. He bids us to not fear the Father, for any friends of Jesus are also friends of His Father. Have you heard the voice from Heaven that says Jesus is the Son of God? Do you know that the Father is pleased in Jesus and His friends?

Believe. Do not be afraid. Come to His Table and Welcome.

Bent Knee Start

It is another new year. Many of you are making new resolutions. You want to eat better, get in shape, not be cynical, read your Bible more, pray more, excel at your vocation, love your wife as Christ loved the church, respect your husbands as if they were Jesus, love and discipline your children according to God’s standard, serve the saints without envy, malice or division.

These are all admiral goals. To the extent that they are good and wise or even spiritual duties, you should do them. But you will surely fail. Your 'want to' will likely not measure up to your performance. Is that anything new? Since when did we do all that we want to do or all that we should do? We are but dust and ashes. And our God is a holy, consuming fire.

Begin this year in the only safe and sure place, the place of humility before our Holy God. Unless you humble yourselves before Him, He will not raise you up. Before every endeavor, bow and give reverence to the Almighty. After every failure, bow and revere the Lord of glory. He will not despise the humble and contrite heart.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Machen, Christianity and Liberalism

Machen, Christianity and Liberlism, as pertinent today as 1923. 

The liberals of his day were in the Presbyterian Church. They are still there as well as other historic mainline denominations that have drifted away from their honest creedal past. Evangelicals have long recognized that. But do we recognize liberalism, as Machen defines it, in our large, independent Evangelical Churches? Thirty or forty years ago those churches were what we called Bible Churches and were the bastions of Biblical Orthodoxy. Now, many of them look like the very liberals that Machen was arguing against in 1923 within the Presbyterian Church. 

When will realize that true Christianity, true Christians, if you will, are, at their core, merely Bible people. And honest ones at that. The Bible is the only ultimate and infallible source of faith and practice. All other pretenders peddle a hopeless salvation.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A.D. 2017

Just wrote January 1, 2017 for the first time in preparation for my Sunday Sermon. The years don't wait for anyone, they just keep coming and going. I am so glad that they are all A.D., Anno Domini, The Year of the Lord, the Lord's years. That way, as they rush by, He holds them all in His hand and I can rest in peace.

The Puritan Dilemma

Just finished The Puritan Dilemma- the story of John Winthrop by Edmund S. Morgan. This is an excellent book. If you have Congregationalist or Presbyterian roots, then you should read this book.

It was eye opening to me in the sense that I consider myself Presbyterian. But the early stages of the battles between Congregationalists and Presbyterians show that my denomination, at least, the CREC, is more Congregational than Presbyterian. That explains a lot actually. We are a hybrid and would do better, methinks, to lean more towards true Presbyterianism in the future.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Repentance- Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is the classic Puritan. His Doctrine of Repentance is a thorough treatment of the topic. The book is not uplifting. It hits you between the eyes.  But Repentance lifts, and that is Watson's point. It is worth the read.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Lord's Supper by Thomas Watson

Just finished the little book, The Lord's Supper by Thomas Watson.

Great book.

Christ's blood to an unbeliever is like aqua vitae in a dead man's mouth; it loses all its virtue.

Let us weep for those sins which shed His blood, yet rejoice in that blood which washes away our sins.

A weak faith can lay hold on a strong Christ.

Zeal loves truth most when it is disgraced and hated.

Wicked men, while they live, are blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). But when they are dying, the eye of the conscience will begin to be opened and they shall see the wrath of God flaming before their eyes; which sight will be a sad prologue to an external tragedy.

Christmas Eve Homily- Scripture Compilation

Christmas Eve Homily 2016
Providence Church
Lynchburg, Virginia
All Scripture (except bold italics)

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Matt. 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
1John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Luke 24:25 Then he (Jesus) said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
John 9:35   Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Jesus said, John 12:36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.
John 12:44   Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. 45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. 46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
John 14:1  Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
John 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.
John 14:29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Acts 16:31 And they (the disciples) said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Rom 3:3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? 4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar;
2Tim. 2:13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
Heb. 6:9   But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
Rom. 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
1Th. 2:13   For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
Heb. 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
1John 3:23  
And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.