Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meal Means

Much can be accomplished by the means of a meal. What does a meal mean? It means you care about the hungry person. It means you want to sit down for fellowship. It means that past grievances are being temporarily or permanently set aside. It means that the host is glad to serve the guest. It means that the guest and host are satisfied by the same food.

Is it any wonder that God chose to show His love towards us by the means of a meal? When we begin to understand what this meal means we see the glory in His choice of means. This Table is a good way to deliver His love to us.

He grants us Jesus. We receive Him with thanksgiving. We are fed and satisfied. The Father, too, is satisfied with the offered food and drink, well pleased in His own Son and His Son’s friends. 

The Father is glad to eat with you. Eat with thanksgiving and be filled.

Sisters and Brothers

How do we become God’s children, the sisters and brothers of Jesus? It is all grace. In our own names, we cannot stand in His presence. We are fallen creatures and subject to sin and death. But in Christ Jesus, we have the forgiveness of sins and are recipients of eternal life. For those of you who have confessed sins and sought forgiveness through Jesus, you have already entered into eternal life.

Jesus is pleased to call you His sisters and brothers. Since you are now God’s children, the brethren of Jesus, is it any wonder that the Father, Himself, looks upon you with great pleasure? Some of you may wonder. But think of this for a second. How does the Father look at Jesus? Yes, His Son in whom He is well-pleased. And now, you too, are His sons and daughters, prodigal children returned home, children in whom He is well pleased.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

This Do Ye

We sometimes view communion as a memorial of an action. We do this because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And this is true. Our words of institution say that as long as we do this we show the Lord’s death till He comes. We are remembering something that is crucial to our faith.

But it is also more than that. Jesus said to do this as His memorial. It is more than just us remembering Him. It is also Him remembering us. There is a real transaction of faith and blessing that occurs at this Table. 

We also know from the text in Corinthians that some people got sick and even died because of the way they took the Lord’s Supper. It is powerful for both blessing and cursing. 

If it is so dangerous, should we then abstain? God forbid! No, rather, we should humble ourselves as suppliants at the throne of Jesus. For all such sinners are received gladly and blessed abundantly. There is no danger for God’s children who partake of the life giving blood of Jesus and the body healing stripes of His body. We show His death because His death is our life.

Thus, we partake of this somber remembrance with great joy as if it is a wedding feast, because it is.

Every Idle Word

Our recent political season has shown us that we are likely to be called up short for every idle word that we have uttered. However, we are not celebrities or politicians. We don’t have microphones stuck in our faces recording our every utterance. Thank God.
         But that does not mean that no one is watching. That does not mean there will be no account for our every idle word. There is Someone watching. There will be an accounting.
         Do you actually believe that your Heavenly Father knows what you say? Even what you think? Then it is imperative that you be transformed from the inside out to think and say what you should. You need to speak those things that are beautiful, true and good. What do your words say about you? God will decide.

         For now, for those words that you know that you should not have spoken, let us kneel before the Lord and ask His forgiveness.

Friday, October 14, 2016



I had a meeting with a friend, or so I thought,
Until he slugged me in the gut.
It wasn’t much of a blow at all.
He hardly raised his voice in squall
Nor coiled his fist into a ball.

His smack was subtle, it seemed to me.
Yet left me breathlessly out to sea.
In all honest recollection
I anticipated blows and consternation
And tightened my gut and clenched my jaw
And spoke sparingly withal,
To save my strength for perseverance
Of gut-crunching interference.

It went about as planned.
Friendships friends be damned.
The Bible makes a claim or two
That should not be forgotten.
If the Bible’s claims are true
Then not all punchings are rotten.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
The kisses of an enemy, deceitful.
If friends that wound are faithful,
Then why is my friend hateful?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

At the Mercy of the Host

When you are invited to someone’s home, you are at the mercy of the host, or sometimes the hostess. It is their food, their drink and you must act as if you are grateful, even if the food is not that great and the wine is cheap. We twist that word mercy here a bit. We don’t really mean they grant us mercy. We mean that they might be mean, or miserly, if they wish. But we hope that the host is kind and generous.

Here we are at the mercy of our host, God, the Father. We are thankful that He is both generous and kind. His kindness brought us here when we had no claim on Him at all. In fact, without His mercy, we could never have come to this Table. 

And He is also generous. He might have invited us in and then just given us a little morsel of bread and a little sip of wine. But that is not what He did. Instead, He seated us at His High Table in the seat of honor next to His own dear Son. He gave us all the privileges of His Son, who is the heir to the throne of grace. And He made us joint heirs with Christ that we might receive all the blessings of His Kingdom as His own dear children. What a privilege to be at the mercy of our host.

Belief Ain't That Hard

Belief ain’t that hard. In fact, it is so easy it doesn’t even count as work. It is a gift. God is so gracious and kind that He doesn’t even expect you to believe Him without enabling you to believe Him.

Well, there is only one thing hard for the sinner when it comes to belief and that is humility. A sinner finds it hard to kneel down before the Lord, confess sins and simply receive the Lord’s pardon. He wants to fight for it, or earn it or be proud of it. Give it up already. Just kneel and confess. The Lord has granted you the grace of repentance and the glorious privilege to stand before Him without guilt or shame. Receive His free grace. It ain’t that hard.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Matthew 11:1-30 Sermon Notes

Matthew 11:1-30
Sermon Notes
Worse Than Sodom
October 2, 2016
Lynchburg, Virginia

         In this section we see the passing of the old and in with the new. John has been arrested and will soon be killed by Herod. John is now wondering if Jesus really is the Christ. Various commentators explain John’s sending of these disciples to Jesus as if it was John’s desire to exhort and encourage them by thus doing. These commentators do not like to lay any accusation of doubt upon John at this time.
         That seems inconsistent with the text. Jesus is again making a contrast between belief and unbelief. John has made the good confession about Jesus. He declared Him the Lamb of God. But now John is in prison and it looks like his days will end there. John knows that he must decrease and Jesus must increase. But is it any wonder that John is wavering at this moment? Things look bleak and it is likely that John did not have a clear understanding of the course that Jesus would take.
         Jesus upbraids John at this question before He praises him. It is a danger that we make the good confession for a time but wave when trouble arises. Jesus is blessing those who do not waver in the midst of trouble. Thus, he chides John for his wavering but then bolsters him with words of assurance and praise. We need both.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. 
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 
John had been arrested for resisting the political authorities. The king had taken his brother’s wife and John Baptist had told him that it was against God’s law. John’s faithfulness cost him his head.
Apparently, John was able to receive his disciples. It is interesting at this point that John still has disciples. This point is the point at which Jesus must increase and John must decrease. John’s disciples must become the disciples of Jesus.

3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 
Why would John doubt? He already confessed that Jesus was the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Now, John hears about the good works of Jesus which are a confirmation to John’s own witness of Jesus.
Perhaps even John Baptist was somewhat mistaken about the nature of the kingdom? He is now in prison and not likely to get out. Is Jesus going to save him? Will Jesus take over the kingdom of Israel? Is Jesus the King to sit on David’s throne? Herod, who locked John up and will soon cut off his head, is the one sitting on David’s throne. But not even as free king in Israel. He is a puppet king of the overlord Romans. Will Jesus dethrone Herod and the Roman occupation?

4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Quote from Old Testament, Is. 35 and 61 about the promised Messiah. This was said to reassure John, but not without a jibe. Jesus is about to condemn Tyre, Sidon and Capernaum. His own brothers refused to believe in Him. Now, his cousin is having doubts, too.
Blessed is the one who is not offended by knowing Jesus. Are you ashamed of Jesus? Are you despairing because the kingdoms of this world still act worldly? There is an antithesis between God’s kingdom and the kingdom of men. It runs right through every institution and government. Jesus is challenging John, His disciples, the various cities, the very governments of this earth, to take sides. Will you be in the kingdom of light or darkness, good or evil, heaven or hell?

Matt. 11:7   And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
John must have been a bit of a spectacle. Jesus asks the crowd what they went out to see. Did you seek a reed shake by the wind? That would be a frightened man afraid of the times and the men of the times. John was not shaking reed. Or, did you go out to see a refined fellow in fine clothes with careful words? John was no Eunuch. He was a bold man who spoke the word of God without apology. This is a spectacle and the powerful people came out to see how it would go with him.
John was a prophet and more than a prophet. The prophets all spoke of the one who was to come. They pointed to a distant future. John saw that future with his own eyes.

10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
John was more than a prophet because he was the forerunner of Christ. He preached repentance like all the prophets but he was able to point to Jesus in the flesh and declare the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Jesus and John fulfill this prophecy from Malachi.

11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
After taking a brief moment to chastise John Baptist, Jesus then gives him the highest praise. This is not uncommon for Jesus. Remember when Peter gives the good confession that Jesus is the Christ, how Jesus praises Him. Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you but my Father in Heaven. Then immediately afterwards, Peter tells Jesus not to go to Jerusalem to die for the people. And Jesus calls Peter Satan. He gives him the highest praise and the most base rebuke. Peter was not Satan but when he says, No, Lord, he is acting like the devil.
John Baptist has the same temptation. He is a most extraordinary man. He has been faithful, even to the point of blood. And yet, John Baptist doubts whether Jesus is the Christ. Doubt and fear are great enemies of faith. Furthermore, when doubt and fear the driving forces in one’s decision, faith is directly assaulted. Faith grows weak or may even flee. Jesus gives John reassurance and from this is confident that John will remain faithful.
Momentary doubt or weakness of faith is not inconsistent with fidelity to the Lord Jesus. Peter’s denials were egregious. May the Lord grant us grace to never utter such denials of Jesus. But when Jesus looks upon Peter, Peter is broken in repentance and later strengthened in the power of the Holy Spirit. While God wants us to be men and women of great faith, brokenness is the necessary component to such faith. Only then will a man or woman understand their great need for a great Savior.

12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
This passage has been variously explained. It is commonly understood to mean that Christians strive for heaven, taking heaven by storm. It is with great force of action to enter into heaven.
I have never been able to wrap my mind around that definition. It seems out of accord with the text which is about to pronounce woes on the unbelieving cities and citizens. The violent are those opposed to Christ and His Kingdom. They might even be men who seize the churches power by force, laying claim to the kingdom of heaven. However, Jesus is making the point that this is not the way to enter heaven. Not by force but by faith.

Matt. 11:16   But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
This is a childish generation, one that cannot see the truth directly in front of them. They always do the inappropriate thing. When it is time to dance, they mourn. When it is time to mourn, they dance.
Their time of rejoicing is upon them. The Christ has arrived. The crowds line the streets and welcome Jesus crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
But the call for rejoicing is not heeded, not in Chorazin or Bethsaida, not in Capernaum, not in Jerusalem. The wedding song is called for but the chief players prefer a dirge.

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
Unbelief will find any excuse to resist God’s ministers.  An unbeliever says that God’s ministers are too austere, too fundamental, too legalistic. Or, if the minister is kind and broad minded and liberally free, then they accuse of him of riotous sin, a glutton and a drunkard. Unbelief resists God’s men not for their particularities but for their bold proclamation of the truth.
But time will tell. Wisdom is justified of her children. This proverb works in reverse. Foolishness is revealed of her children. The wise in heart will be revealed in time and so, too, will fools.

20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:  21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
This is a horrendous indictment of the unbelieving cities of Israel. He tells them that they are worse than Sodom. Such a charge could be made to many of our cities. The Lord has blessed this nation beyond belief. And yet, many if not most of the men and women in our country reject Jesus. And this rejection is not mere ignorance. Many know who He claims to be or even Who He really is, and yet they refuse Him anyway. This is worse than Sodomy, worse than rape, worse than all the vile sins in a heap.

Matt. 11:25   At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
Are you among the self-proclaimed wise and prudent? Or, are you a wee little babe. Given Jesus’s words here, you would be wise and prudent to take the humble route.
We cannot know God unless Jesus reveals Him to us. We are wholly reliant upon His grace and mercy.

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Some people act as if they need rest from Jesus. Jesus is a burden to them. His ways constrict. But this is a lie. Jesus is the rest. His ways are not burdensome.
For those of you who have been Christians a long time, you have seen this puzzling fact. The way of the sinner is hard. The way of the Christian is excessively easier and better. And yet men, women and children love their sin. It seems hard to give up earthly vices. It seems hard to deny oneself pleasure. But if you do not apply Christian discipline to your life, you find that things go from bad to worse.

Why not open your eyes? Why not see the truth? Why not take the yoke of Christ?