Friday, May 20, 2016
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
A Father’s Pleasure
Your daily duty before the Lord is repentance. Repent, all of you, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
We do this here each Lord’s Day as a congregation. We repent of corporate sins, sins of the Church. We repent of National sins. And we make time to repent of personal sins. Do you? Do you repent?
You may think I am being impertinent or forward to ask such a thing, so early in the sermon. Maybe you want to build up to repentance? But you don’t have to build up, you just have to repent. And the more you don’t repent, the more you won’t repent.
Do you? Do you sin? What kinds of sins? Anger. Bitterness. Envy. Lust. Gossip. Fear. Anxiety. Unbelief. Drunkeness. Greed. The desire to be cool. Or maybe some other sin?
What is ailing you? What is under your skin? What is it that keeps you from dwelling with peace in the presence of God? Repent of that.
And what is the purpose of all this repentance talk anyway? Is it to make you feel bad? To inflame your guilt and shame? Well, maybe for a moment, if you are guilty and ashamed of your behavior. But only for a moment. The purpose is not to fill your bag of sins with more weight. Like Christian of Pilgrim’s Progress who stood staring at the cross, the purpose is to cut loose that burden of sin and have it fall from your slouching shoulders. But if you insist on retaining your sins or paying your own price for them, the weight will remain.
Repent and be forgiven. Forgiveness is the goal. Peace is the outcome. Joy is the result. This is the gospel. Here it.
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
This was an odd place to start a ministry. It is not clear how the word spread but John Baptist developed a large gathering in short order. Perhaps his rebuke to the Sadducees and Pharisees brought large crowds?
John preached repentance and Jesus preached the same thing. Matthew 4:17 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
This passage from Isaiah is very telling. It is not clear if John was quoting the passage but it is clear that Matthew wants us to understand what he is saying about Jesus.
Is. 40 begins with the forerunner of the Christ preaching but it quickly turns to extol the excellencies of the most high. Matthew wants us to see that Jesus is the Christ, that the Christ is God in the flesh and that all the honor and glory are due to Him. Is 40 ends with the much quoted passage, “Is. 40:27 Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? 28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
He wants us to see that God is among us and that He knows all. For those who call upon Him, there is abundant forgiveness, renewal, strength, life, health, like the mighty eagle soring in the skies. But to those who stubbornly refuse Him, a certain expectation of judgment. Thus, the Kingdom of God is both a comfort to God’s people and a threat to those who make God their enemy. The difference is those who will repent of their sins and those who will not.
John Baptist was Jesus’s cousin, the son of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. We never quite know if that is cousin once removed or second cousin but you get my understanding. He was somewhat of a wild man. He lived in the dessert. His clothes were made of camel’s hair and he wore a leather girdle.
It had been a while since a prophet had arisen among the people. The last time a prophet had spoken was in the days of Malachi, some four hundred years before John Baptist.
God’s anointing was clearly upon John. The people heard him and responded to his call to repentance, many from Judea, Jerusalem and all the area around the Jordan.
Isaiah tells us that John Baptist prepared the way for the Lord. How so? Through repentance. Turn from sinful ways and turn to the living God. This is ever the message of the gospel. Let him hear who has ears to hear.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
We are introduced to Jesus’s enemies early in the narrative, the Pharisees and Sadducees. We now know them as bad examples of religion. Even in their day, there was no doubt some controversy over their leadership.
The Pharisees were the strict adherents of the law. They were legalists. However, they did not simply stick to the law as revealed by God. They made up many rules that God did not give them. Jesus upbraids them for this.
The Sadducees denied the existence of angels or the afterlife. They were liberals. They only used the first five books of Moses and denied the authority of the rest of the Old Testament canon.
At this point in history, the Sadducees had control of the Temple. So, while, many would disagree with them on their interpretation of the law and the prophets, they also had to deal with Sadducees if they wanted access to practice their religion in the Temple.
Basically, the Sadducees and Pharisees are at odds with one another. We could almost imagine them as conservatives and liberals, or even Republican and Democrats. Or philosophical elitists verses so-called fundamental originalists. However, the one thing they both had in common was a hatred of God’s law implemented by anyone but themselves. They opposed John. They opposed Jesus. Why? Because they did not want to repent.
So, right here at the beginning John sets the stage for what will be the true ministry of both John and Jesus. They will embrace the common people for God’s favor through the forgiveness of sins and they will oppose those who oppose themselves through a vain refusal to repent.
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
John delivers a crushing blow. The Jews claimed an ancient heritage. Were they not descendants of Abraham, the patriarch? Yes, but what does John say about? So what! I don’t care about your ancient claims. What does that have to do with your faithfulness now? Repent. And if you don’t, the Lord is going to take you out! That’s what I think of you being children of Abraham!
When John does this does he harm Abraham? No, not at all. What he does is undermine the claim that these men are children of Abraham. In the Bible, adoption is more important than blood birth. Those who become the children of God through faith like Abraham, these are the children of God.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
John baptizes with water for the washing of sins. Jesus himself institutes baptism for the same reason, the washing of sins to signify forgiveness for the repentant. But John cannot judge the way Jesus can judge. John warns because He is a prophet. Prophets always warn of the judgment to come. But John cannot judge. Jesus can judge. He can bring the fire.
When Jesus judges, the chaff will be burnt. The worthless olive branches will be burned. The tree will be cut down and cast into the fire. We often think of Jesus as that kind and gentle Savior, and indeed He is, to those who call upon Him. But there is a fearsome expectation of the judgment of fire for those who refuse Him.
The Bible teaches that rejecting Jesus is worse than the Old Testament rejection of God. And as such, the judgments are worse. If they refused to hear the prophets of old, that is bad. But if they refuse to hear the Son of God, that is ever so much worse.
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Why was Jesus baptized? He said, “To fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was willing to be baptized like a sinner because He was washed for sinners.
Think about this for a moment. Jesus is the one who never sinned. His wild cousin John is baptizing in the Jordan. John just rebuked the Sadducees and Pharisees for their willingness to be baptized but their unwillingness to be godly. That was bold.
But now Jesus arrives and John knows that Jesus does not need to wash His sins away and yet Jesus gladly identifies with sinners. He gets in the water just as if He needed to repent and be saved from the wrath to come.
I hope you feel the weight of the contrast. Jesus had no problem being reckoned with sinners and even being thought to be a sinner. He was not a sinner but He didn’t flee from the accusation.
And many of us flee from the very accusation. Me repent? What for? But we really don’t have to look very far.
The real danger in the Christian life is a failure to repent. Fail to repent and miss the Kingdom of God.
Save often or lose what you’ve written. The same is true of repentance. Repent often or lose what you have gained.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The Father is pleased with repentance. The Father is pleased with His Son who does not shrink from His calling of identifying with sinners. God is pleased when His people repent. Repentance keeps you from getting stuck in sinful actions and sinful thinking.
Remember that a fail to repent is always a turning away from Jesus and that repentance is always turning from your way to Jesus. Why would you hold on to your sins and keep your back to Jesus?
Repent, all of you, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
If God is pleased with Jesus, don’t you think He would be pleased with His friends?
The Father said “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus not only led the disciples. He befriended them. He was their constant companion for three years until His death. He called them friends.
It is possible for a son to bring home an unwelcome friend but Jesus is not an ordinary son. He is a Son in whom His Father is well pleased. He does the will of the Father. The Father is pleased with the actions of Jesus. Thus, when Jesus declares a friend, the Father will be pleased with the friend of Jesus.
This Table is about fellowship and friendship. You have identified with Christ in His life and death and life. And He has called you friend. And any friend of Jesus is welcome in the presence of His Father. Welcome friends. Eat and drink and be filled.
You are called to repentance every Lord’s Day. We sometimes simply refer to this as the Confession of Sins. Sometimes I talk about particular sin that might catch you, envy, bitterness, lust, and I hope the Spirit uses these little sermons to call you up short and turn you around.
When you refuse to confess sins and repent of them, you are walking away from the Lord. That is why it is so important to confess daily and repent daily. People often drift away from the Lord through a series of seemingly little unconfessed sins, a prideful self-rightousness here, a little internet time there, gossip with girls over there, and then you find yourself in a wilderness of sin and the things of God are a mile away.
But when you repent, you not only turn from your sins, you turn towards Jesus, you start walking towards Him and immediately He is with you once again. You had your back to Him but now you can face Him having received full forgiveness. That is the power of repentance.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Just finished Outlaws of Time, The Legend of Sam Miracle by N.D. Wilson. It was excellent. Our family members can't put it down until they get to the end. Good thing we had two copies!!
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
May 8, 2016
This sermon title is False Worship, referring to Herod and perhaps also to the scribes and leaders and people mentioned in this chapter by Matthew. But there is also true worship, the Magi from the East.
Part of what we should see in this chapter is the contrast of worshippers. Herod ruled Israel, even though he was an enemy of the people. The religious leaders of Jerusalem were not much better. In fact, Herod represented them well. Herod was aware that a Messiah was to arise among the people Israel. Such an one would be a King and the Savior of the people. This fact did not encourage Herod. His interest was not in the salvation of the people but in the domination of the people. The scribes and leaders are like their hated leader. Matthew leaves them all without excuse in his opening chapters.
But there are those who will worship Jesus in Spirit and in Truth. They are the wise who come from the East, from the rising of the Son on the sons and daughters of Eve. They will bring gifts to Him, prostrate themselves before the Lord and will be worshippers indeed. Their national connections do not matter. Their blood line does not matter. What matters is whether or not they believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Promised One, the deliverer of His people. And having believed, are willing to bow themselves before Him in worship and submission. All who do this are the true children of God.
Matt. 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
It took a series of remarkable circumstances to get Jesus to Bethlehem. Remember that Matthew’s main audience is Jews who would understand the fulfillment of the prophecies about the Messiah.
Luke tells us that Augustus Ceasar made a decree that the world should be taxed. He was lord of the Earth and commanded the earth to submit to him. And God used this decree to bring about an ancient prophecy of where the true Lord would be born.
This Herod is Herod the Great.
The wise men were from the East. They bore the name Magi. We derive our word magicians from this but it was also used for Persian philosophers, the wise men of the land. So, wise men is a fitting translation.
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
It is clear from their having seen His Star in the East that they were into astronomy. Some might call this astrology. But the Lord, Himself, has told us that He set the stars in the sky for signs and seasons. These wise men clearly read the star aright. They came to pay homage. It seems that from their language they assume this baby will be a great king. They pay obeisance for that reason. However, the text lends us reasons to have even higher hopes. If even the wise men from the East come to praise Him, what might this child be? Who is He?
Some traditions speak of these wise men as the descendants of those who were left in Babylon. They maintain that they kept up a scientific community and studied the scriptures along with their sciences to ascertain the date and location of the arrival of the Messiah. There does some to be some great importance to their travel and worship of Jesus so this conjecture is not too far fetched.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
Of course Herod was troubled. The wise men may have wrongly believed that Herod and the leading Jews would have rejoiced at the revelation of the Messiah. Why would all Jerusalem be troubled? Perhaps Matthew says this to condemn the inhabitants of Jerusalem along with Herod.
Herod gathers the chief priests, sribes and people to demand of them where the Christ would be born. He at least knew enough to know that the Scriptures said something about it. But he didn’t know what or where.
John Calvin quote, “Let us therefore learn, that the chief cause of blindness in the enemies of truth is to be found in their wicked affections, which change light into darkness.”
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
John Calvin, “This reason has induced some commentators to read the passage in the prophet as a question, Art thou little among the thousands of Judah? But I rather agree with those who think that Matthew intended, by this change of the language, to magnify the grace of God in making an inconsiderable and unknown town the birth-place of the highest King.”
You can see from their reply and quote from the OT, why Herod was troubled. The Governor would rule the people Israel. Herod was not willing to release his rule to the rule of the Messiah.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
Herod sought the wise men privately. Obviously, he did not want the other leaders or people to get behind the idea that the Messiah had arrived. He saw his danger and sought to find the Messiah on his own in order to kill Him. He attempted to deceive the wise men but the Lord protected them.
Matt. 2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
There seems to be a miracle happening here. The wise men had lost sight of the star but now find it again. Why this interlude? Perhaps the Lord allowed this to show how wicked Herod was and how the chief priests, scribes and people were complicit in this rebellion.
The star, which had lately disappeared, now reappeared to them and they rejoice greatly.
Some have speculated that this star was an angel.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
The wise men prostrate themselves and worship Jesus, presenting Him gold, frankincense and myrrh.
John Calvin quote “Almost all the commentators indulge in speculations about those gifts, as denoting the kingdom, priesthood, and burial of Christ. They make gold the symbol of his kingdom,—frankincense, of his priesthoods,— and myrrh, of his burial. I see no solid ground for such an opinion.”
Calvin is always careful to not read more into the text than is there. However, there is also a danger of not getting out of the text what the Spirit intends. When very specific items or numbers are mentioned, we should pay attention. I think the common commentary view here makes a lot of sense.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
God warned them not to return to Herod and they headed home.
Matt. 2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Again, there is a series of events here that all conspire together to fulfill the Word of God. Herod is out for blood and God warned Joseph. Joseph makes a flight to Egypt that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.
Calvin points out that we should be humble about how God chooses to save us. He could have wiped out Herod and his army. Herod does in fact die in short order. However, the Lord provided a way of escape. We should hold our plans loosely and follow God’s Providential care as it unfolds before us.
Jesus is the New Israel. Israel is saved in Egypt and returns from there inherit the promised land. Jesus exactly repeats this history of Israel.
Matt. 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
Herod the Great’s father, Antipater, was an Edomite. The Edomites were the ancient enemies of Israel.
Herod is enraged that the wise men did not return. His response is shocking in the extreme. Herod orders the murder of all the boys in Bethlehem age two and under.
Herod was a murderous leader who had killed several members of his own household, including three of his sons, one of his wives and her mother.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
How many children were killed? This is unknown. However, the following might be helpful. Josephus recorded much about Heroed. However, he does not mention the massacre. Why?
Bethlehem was a small, rather insignificant town in the hill country of Judah, about five miles south of Jerusalem.When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity, only 123 men settled in Bethlehem (Ezra 2:21).It probably did not have more than a thousand citizens at the time of Christ’s birth.It has been estimated that, at the beginning of the first century, there likely would have been only about ten to thirty boy babies under the age of two in the little hamlet (Michael J. Wilkins, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Clinton Arnold, Ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, p. 19).
Matt. 2:19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
Herod died in March or April of 4 BC, shortly after the killing of the innocents. By this timeline, it is likely that Joseph, Mary and Jesus did not spend much time in Egypt.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Joseph assumed that Herod’s son Archelaus would have the same intentions towards Jesus as Herod the Great. Thus, he sought to live further from the throne of Herod. Nazareth, of Galilee, the land of the Gentiles.
This last phrase is a bit confusing. There is no clear place where the Messiah is called a Nazarene. That is, the Bible does not say that the Christ is from Nazareth. However, there are places were it says that the child shall be a Nazarite from his youth. That refers to Samson. Calvin thinks this might be the Scripture that is referenced here.
The Hebrew word for Nazarite is Nazir. A Nazarite was one who was set apart, holy, for a particular purpose. A Nazarite vow could be made and one was not to drink wine, touch a dead body, shave his head, or be made unclean for any purpose.
Num. 6:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: 3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. 4 All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. 5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
We know that Jesus was not a Nazarite. John came neither eating nor drinking and they said he had a demon. Jesus came both eating and drinking and they said he was a glutton and winebibber.
Is this a new kind of Nazarite? Yes, Jesus is the Holy child. He is set apart from His mother’s womb. He is of the Holy Ghost and is Holy. Jesus is a different kind of Nazarite. In His case, He cannot be made unclean. Instead of defiling Himself with drink or by touching a dead body, those He touches are made clean.
Or, is He the branch? Netser? Branch from Tsemach, sprout, branch?
Is. 11:1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
Branch here is Netzar.
In the blessing to Joseph it is said, Gen. 49:26 “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.”
It is my contention then, that this reference in Matthew signifies these two things, that a Branch shall Spring up who shall be set apart, holy, from the womb. He shall be like the branch Netzar, from Nazareth, and He shall be separate unto me,g a Nazarite.
God desires true worship. This worship starts with submitting yourself to Jesus. Do you bow before Him? Do you realize that He is the Holy One of Israel? Do you understand that it is Jesus who takes away sins? Do you believe that if you only touch the hem of His garment you shall be clean? Do you believe that Jesus is holy and all that He must do is touch you and your sins are forgiven so that you can dwell in His presence without fear of condemnation?
This is Jesus. Believe in Him. Amen.