Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Meditation

Christmas Meditation

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.

Our faith is particularly glorious. Many religions claim to have a prophet sent from heaven. And we have a great prophet, for Jesus truly is our prophet, priest and king. But if he is not Emmanuel, then He is the very worst of all the prophets, for he claims the Father as His Father. He told Thomas that if he had seen him, he had seen the Father.

Many men have seen the prophets of the earth. Through the ages, there have been many religious men, mighty men, emperors and kings to whom men seek to give great honor. These have received adulation and many have come to be worshipped as very gods themselves. But none of them are Emmanuel, begotten of God, very God of very God, very light of very light. Begotten, not made, full of grace and truth. The religions of the world seek to honor men as those men prove that they are worthy to be honored. But the one sent from heaven is full of grace and truth. He bestows honor on man because he has come to save him from his sins and set him free from sin and misery. It is all of grace lest any man should boast of his own worth.

If you see Jesus, if you behold him in spirit and in truth, then you have come to the know grace and truth. And it is not a special knowledge, a gnosis, that only a few can know. No, like the wise men, all that look upon this baby king in faith have come to see that God is with us. God has been kind to send Himself from heaven that He might take us to heaven. The Father’s grace is bestowed through the advent of His Son and continues with us through the Spirit of the Father and the Son. If you believe that Jesus is Emmanuel, if you believe that in Him, the power of the law to condemn is condemned, then you, like Him, will also be full of grace and truth. And this speaks to the glory of Emmanuel. God is with us. Let us rejoice and be glad.

Christmas Meditation

Luke 2:21 21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

When Mary and Joseph brough Jesus to the temple to have Him circumcised, they came in faith. It was not uncommon that a Hebrew child should be named Jesus(Latin), or Joshua, for the Jews believed that Yahweh would most certainly save. And so Jews named their children Joshua, Jesus in faith believing that God would supply the promises of their salvation and would deliver them, and this child that they brought to be circumcised, from all their enemies. But Mary had much greater faith. For her child was not to be saved but to be Savior, as was foretold by Zacharias when John was born.

Luke 1:68-75 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

So Mary named her child, not God will save us, but God, the Savior. And she believed and she treasured these things in her heart. So, let us believe that Jesus will save us. Treasure these things in your heart.

Our Father in Heaven, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Savior of the World. Grant that we would treasure this truth in our hearts and live this truth out in our homes. May the grace of Christ that was given to the world be present in us by Your great mercy. Let us not look to a man-made salvation but cling tight to all of Your promises to us in Jesus Christ, in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen. And may we walk in this great light for the Dayspring from on high has visited us and illuminated our souls. We thank You for Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Loving the Saints-Part VIII

Phil 4:6 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 1 Thess 5:18 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

One of the central duties of Christians is giving thanks. The failure to give thanks is the source of much trouble within the church. It is the fuel that feeds discontentment, discord, and schism.
It is very difficult to find fault with your neighbor when you are sincerely thanking God for him. It is very difficult to bemoan your circumstances when you are thanking God for them. Now, both of these examples are negative examples. I am encouraging you to thank God for those difficult things in your life, for the hard providences if you will. But that is not the best kind of thanksgiving.

God has showered us with innumerable blessings. They are all around us. In the house we live in, the breakfast we eat, the job we go to, the wife we come home to and the children we wrestle on the carpet with. Furthermore, he has given us brothers and sisters in Christ and spiritual mothers and fathers in the church. He has given us promises in baptism and the Lord’s Supper and He declares these promises to us again and again as we meet on the recurring weekly cycle of the Lord’s Day to also declare our allegiance to Him.In the regular course of life, if we remind ourselves to give thanks for all the good the Lord has done for us and is doing for us, we don’t have time to look at the few slights and difficulties around us. We are busy remembering God’s goodness instead of forgetting it. This forgetting is probably the chief sin in all of scripture. It denies the world that God has made and controls. So, let us remember that in everything, we must give thanks to God.

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord's Day 7

Matt 6:9-10 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Our Father, we magnify Your name in the earth. You have called us out to be Your people and made us part of that kingdom that you have established here on the earth. May we be faithful to You so that Your kingdom here will look more and more like Your kingdom in heaven. You have been faithful from the beginning. You created us for Your good pleasure, not to fulfill a lack in Yourself but to display Your own glory, the glory You had with the Son and with the Spirit before the worlds were created. You provided a way for us to return to You after our fall in Adam. This was Your plan from the beginning. You made promises to Eve of the coming Christ and to all of our fathers in the faith of that one who would bruise the serpent’s head. You have kept Your promise to them and to us by revealing Christ in us. We thank You that You keep covenant with Your people to a thousand generations. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.


Q. 20. Are all men then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ? A. No; only those who are ingrafted into him, and, receive all his benefits, by a true faith.

Q. 21. What is true faith? A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.

Q. 22. What is then necessary for a christian to believe? A. All things promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic undoubted christian faith briefly teach us.

Q. 23. What are these articles?
1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe a holy catholic(that is, universal)church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
11. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting.

Those of you familiar with this will recognize the answer. It is the Apostle’s Creed. It is often ascribed to the apostle’s themselves but probably was not penned by them. However, it is one of the most ancient confessions of our faith and we would all do well to know it by heart as we confess with the Christian Church through the ages.

Question 21 speaks of true faith that is the free gift of God. The freer this gift the more binding is our duty and desire to obedience. We must get a handle on this. Those who oppose free grace often oppose it because they think it does nothing to bind the recipient to obedience. If grace does not cost anything, then why should we obey God? Dear ones, it cost a great deal. It cost the life of our precious Lord Jesus. If you really get a handle on this, then you must contemplate on how truly the free the grace is. You have no claim to it. You cannot purchase it. You cannot even really understand it. It is given to you by a gracious God merely because He is kind. And we stand there dumbfounded. A thankful man, woman, or child will immediately respond to that kind of grace with absolute fidelity, loyalty, and obedience. Any shortcomings will be immediately, confessed and repudiated. Remember, the freer the grace the more binding the obedience. And His grace is truly free and our love and thankfulness places upon us the most joyful burden of obedience. Who could not love such a kind Master?

Matt 6:12 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Our kind Father, teach us how free your grace is. Teach us to see the enormity of our debt and so, the enormity of the cost to forgive it and so, the enormity of the forgiveness. We confess to You that we have not rightly understood Your grace. We have either made light of it and have given ourselves an excuse for sin or refused to rightly believe it by refusing to forgive others. Your wrath and anger against us has been removed in Christ and through Christ our wrath and anger against those who have wronged us ought also to be removed. Let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouths. Forgive us for our spiteful words. We pray that You would reveal our own sins to us and we confess them to You now. Amen.

Matt 6:13 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Dear Ones, God has been very kind to us and forgiven our sins. Just as we forgive, may he forgive us. This may scare us realizing that we do not forgive as He does. However, we must learn that by faith in Christ, we are forgiven, freely, fully, and forever. When we grasp this, we will be able to freely and fully forgive others. And God’s forgiveness will be with us forever. So, come and honor him now. Amen.

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord's Day 6

Gen 3:14-15 14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Our Father in Heaven, we give honor and glory to Your name. Our race forsook Your kindness when we sinned in the garden. However, you did not forsake us. Instead, you intimated the promise of one who would one day crush the serpents head. You saved mankind in Noah so you could be faithful to that promise and you continue to remind yourself regularly in the rainbow that you will fulfill your promises to us. You promised the nations to Abraham. You gave your wonderful law to Moses and began to more clearly reveal Christ in the shadows of the law. The kingdom was established with David and you taught us of Christ in and through him. The prophets afterwards declared that one would come who would put an end to wars and that peace would reign. Your people waited and were not disappointed as you brought us Messiah, the Lord Jesus. In Him are all the promises yea and Amen. In Him, we see the serpents head crushed. Our Father, these things are too wonderful for us but they are glorious and we rejoice in what you have done in Christ, our perfect sacrifice. Amen.

EXHORTATION 6. Lord's day

Q. 16. Why must he be very man, and also perfectly righteous? A. Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned, should likewise make satisfaction for sin; and one, who is himself a sinner, cannot satisfy for others.

Q. 17. Why must he in one person be also very God? A. That he might, by the power of his Godhead sustain in his human nature, the burden of God's wrath; and might obtain for, and restore to us, righteousness and life.

Q. 18. Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man? A. Our Lord Jesus Christ: "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."

Q. 19. Whence knowest thou this? A. From the holy gospel, which God himself first revealed in Paradise; and afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets, and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and lastly, has fulfilled it by his only begotten Son.

Our God has left no room for human boasting outside of Christ. Our fall was wholly our own but our rise to prominence is all of grace. The Father promised throughout our wanderings from Him that he would one day bring salvation by a redeemer. He was always faithful though we, as men, were ever unfaithful. But God is not slow to bring about His promises. In good time, he brought forth Christ, born of a virgin, to fulfill all that He promised from ages past. We ought to be able to understand from the events in history that man’s every attempt to save himself was only a heaping up of more sin and misery. His vainglorious good deeds made it worse, not better. We would not have figured out the purpose of God in His Messiah. The best religious scholars of the day and the closest associates of Christ, Himself, could not comprehend the will of God in salvation. It is not our work or merit or intellect or wisdom that leads us to salvation, but rather, the kindness of God in Christ. Until we see that the beginning, middle and end our faith is the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, we have not rightly understood the gospel. Lay down your vain attempts to save yourself. Only one who is very God and very man can handle that task, and He has done so. Receive it and rejoice.

Rom 5:12 12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Our Father, sin entered into the world through a man and death by sin and that death passed upon us all and we all sin. Our very nature, apart from your grace, is to sin and death. And thus, by our nature we are objects of your wrath. How can we ever think that we can bring good gifts to you in our own stained names? This so belittles the free gift that you have given us in Christ, Himself. Teach us to look to and trust in Him alone for our salvation, sanctification, and glorification. Forgive us when we think too highly of ourselves and our goodness and thus think little of our Lord Jesus. Teach us complete reliance upon Christ and lead us into the everlasting way. Thus, we are not objects of wrath by nature any longer, but objects of mercy by grace. Father, we pray that you would reveal our individual sins against you and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We confess them to you now and turn away from them by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Rom 5:10-11 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

We are reconciled to God in Christ. We are given life and are enabled to live righteously before our Father in heaven. We are joyful because Jesus died for us and bought us. You saints, who honestly seek His favor, your sins are atoned for. There is no separation between you and God. So come and worship Him now. Amen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Army of God

Do we wear the armor of God to fight or only defend? Much of the armor of God is defensive. The truth shields us from falsehood. Righteousness keeps us from falling into lasciviousness. The gospel gives us a clean conscious before the Lord. Faith gives us the ability to stand fast in the face of overwhelming odds. Salvation is assurance of God’s kindness to us.

Having laid this foundation of defensive works, the Lord then gives us the instrument of conquest. Our defensive weapons keep us from retreating but our goal is not merely to stand fast but to march out and defeat the enemies of God. For this endeavor we need the mighty sword of the Lord, the Word of God. We must fight according to His Word. We do this by embracing all that He has said and exhorting Him to fight on our behalf through the mighty offensive weapon of prayer. When we do this, we are empowered to believe that the gospel really does conquer every foe.

In 2Chronicles 20 we get the great story of Jehoshaphat defeating Ammon and Moab. These are ancient enemies that remain a thorn in the side of Israel down to the return of the captivity. They are too strong for Judah to fight and Jehoshaphat calls upon God to fight for him. This was better than his father did, who called for Syria to protect him. But God heeds Jehoshaphat. God is his refuge and shield. Jehoshaphat employs the offensive weapon of prayer in this fight, particularly in singing. When Israel began to sing before the Lord, God defeated Ammon and Moab.

We must remember that our praise of God as we pray and sing to Him and before Him is the chief element in defeating His and our foes. We cannot win the battle in our own strength. So we must call upon Him to win for us. We must come to see the glory in this truth so that we realize that what we do on the Lord’s day is not some irrelevant and personal event. We call upon our God to be faithful to His covenant with us, to His promise to subdue the earth under the feet of Christ and to advance His gospel over the face of the entire earth. When we do this, God rises up and fights. When we sing psalms to the Lord, we are fighting. It is not merely preparation to fight. It is warfare. So, engage the enemy. Praise God.

Eph 6:10-20 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

2 Chron 20:19-22 And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high. And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father

It is interesting how the Lord’s Prayer begins. We might expect the prayer to begin, “Dear Lord” or simply “Father in Heaven” but it does not begin that way. It begins with “Our”. This is a prayer that we pray together or in a representative fashion. Granted, it is the model prayer and ought to be used that way. It was the answer for how to pray, so we should use this model in our own private prayers as well. However, the Lord taught us how to pray. He told us to pray in this manner and then began the prayer in the first person plural.

This must be reconciled with what immediately precedes this instruction. The Pharisees prayed in public in order to receive the approbation of men. Men were impressed by their prayers and Jesus tells us that they had their reward, namely, the esteem of men. He warns them not to pray like that. He teaches them to seek the favor of God in privacy and God will reward them openly. We make the mistake of assuming this privacy is seclusion, aloneness. He does not say that. In fact, by the prayer that He gives, He makes it impossible. We are to pray together in secret.

This does not rule out individual private prayer. This should be an important part of our daily routine. At the same time, it points to our need to gather as praying groups. This would include family prayer, prayer groups, bible studies and prayer at the Lord’s Service of public worship. The preeminent problem with the Pharisees is not that they prayed in public but how they prayed. Their prayer was for men rather than for God. May we learn to pray before our Father in heaven and seek His favor here on earth. This will keep us from ostentatious display so that we might receive our reward from heaven and not from men.

In Mathew 6 and Luke 11, the Lord gives some practical teaching on what things to pray for and how to pray.

We ought to pray in faith, believing. God knows our needs before we pray them. He has already promised to provide our daily needs of food, clothing and shelter. However, He still enjoins us to ask for these things. However, we should not ask without faith. In Matthew, the Lord tells us to pray these things but without any care for what we will wear or eat.

We ought to pray persistently. The Lord will answer if we continue to pray in His will. Part of the purpose of prayer is to figure this out. Some things are clearly the Lord’s will and we know this from the Scripture’s themselves. It is God’s will for the gospel to overspread the earth. It is God’s will to feed His saints daily. It is God’s will for the saints to forgive those who have wronged them. We must pray these things until they happen.

We ought not to pray frivolously. The Lord knows what we need before we ask. Our prayers should not be a frantic reaction of our present circumstances. They should be a calm response to the favor of God. We don’t spend our time pleading for basic necessities and personal pleasures. The Lord knows what we need along these lines. It is enough to simply acknowledge that they come from the Lord and ask Him to provide. Give us this day our daily bread.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord's Day 5

The Second Part - Of Man's Deliverance

Q. 12. Since then, by the righteous judgment of God, we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, is there no way by which we may escape that punishment, and be again received into favour? A. God will have his justice satisfied: and therefore we must make this full satisfaction, either by ourselves, or by another.

Q. 13. Can we ourselves then make this satisfaction? A. By no means; but on the contrary we daily increase our debt.

Q. 14.Can there be found anywhere, one, who is a mere creature, able to satisfy for us? A. None; for, first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man has committed; and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God's eternal wrath against sin, so as to deliver others from it.

Q. 15.What sort of a mediator and deliverer then must we seek for? A. For one who is very man, and perfectly righteous; and yet more powerful than all creatures; that is, one who is also very God.

Dear Christians, you can see that apart from Christ we are in a miserable condition. We have offended God and incurred an unpayable debt. There is no mere man that we can seek as a benefactor. All the gold in California or the diamonds in Africa could not satisfy the debt. God cannot be bought off the way an unrighteous judge can be bought off. He is merciful but also just. His justice must be satisfied. The debt must be paid. And yet it cannot. What can we do? Of course, the answer is our refrain in Christianity. We turn to Christ. He is our all. In Him, our debt is satisfied. He paid the price for all those who receive Him. We can never have assurance in our deeds, especially if we think those deeds have earned the favor of God. They are always lacking and usually presented to Him with questionable motives. But in Christ, we are assured of perfect pardon.

No mere man could save us from the punishment we deserve. But Christ is no mere man. He is fully God and fully man. We do not pretend to comprehend this mystery but we receive it by faith. Our God paid the debt against Himself through the subsitutionary death of God the Son, Jesus Christ. Believe this; live this; receive this; lay hold of Christ by faith and your debt is paid in full.

Loving the Saints-Part VII

We should not neglect our duties in witnessing to the truth of Christ, His death, burial and resurrection. But we must also realize that it is not when we are doing those things that we are being good Christians. Good Christians change diapers, cook dinner, read to the children, hammer nails, balance books, teach children and mow the lawn to the glory of God.

If we were more comfortable with the biblical idea of a holy calling being whatever the Lord has called us to, we would be strengthened to do it much better. Many Christians treat work merely as a means of sharing the gospel. They don’t see the work they do as a declaration of the gospel. They want to get their work done so that they can get on to the Lord’s work. This is a great mistake. Furthermore, we would not feel so compelled to be so busy in the frenetic culture of the modern church that we forget to focus on the primary duties that the Lord has given us. If you are performing your primary callings well, the duties of a faithful Christian, of work, of a spouse and of a parent and still have some energy and talent left over, then by all means serve the church in some capacity. However, if this is not the case, the addition of more duties done halfway is no benefit to Christ’s kingdom. Let us seek to do a few things well that we might be deep and abiding Christians at church, home, and work. Then we can expect the Church to return to her proper depth. Then we will be able to once again dive and swim in the safety that is Mother Church.

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

Friday, August 06, 2004

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord's Day 4

Q. 9. Does not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in his law, that which he cannot perform? A. Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man, by the instigation of the devil, and his own wilful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts.

Q. 10. Will God suffer such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished? A. By no means; but is terribly displeased with our original as well as actual sins; and will punish them in his just judgment temporally and eternally, as he has declared, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them."

Q. 11. Is not God then also merciful? A. God is indeed merciful, but also just; therefore his justice requires, that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.

In the creation man was free to choose life and resist sin. Similarly, in the recreation God has granted us freedom to walk after the Spirit. Our bodies have not been fully made new. That will not happen until the resurrection. Consequently, we have remaining sin in our bodies that wage war with our renewed inner man. This battle is evidence of a man made new. But don’t be deceived. To wage war with sin is not the same as giving in to sin. Sin still lingers in our flesh but God has made a way of escape for us who are in Christ. There is no longer excuse for sin. We are not slaves of sin but rather slaves of righteousness. No sin will go unpunished. Either, God has punished Christ in your stead or He will punish you for refusing so great a salvation.

God is indeed merciful but for those who reject His mercy He is also wrathful to the uttermost. Do not be deceived brothers and sisters. God is not mocked. You will reap what you sow. If you sow to the flesh you will reap the fruit and rewards of the flesh. If you sow to the Spirit then you will put to death the deeds of the flesh and be made alive by and to the Spirit to do the deeds of the Spirit.

We do not rightly see our own sin. We think everlasting punishment is far too harsh. Leave it to man to make light of his own behavior. The reason is that we do not comprehend the majesty, glory and holiness of God. If we did, we would begin to understand why our earthly sins require an eternal punishment. They cannot be paid for by us, ever. Until we see this, we will not have the need for the perfect Christ, who takes away all of our sins for all time. You are separate from God and nothing that you can do will bring you any closer to him. Pergatory is a myth created by men who imagine some goodness in themselves. You must rely upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ or you will be left eternally to pay a debt that you can never pay. You must embrace grace in Christ and forsake your own merits. This is the mercy of God.

Loving the Saints Part VI

One of the problems in the modern church is that it is wide but shallow. We may rejoice in its width but if you want to dive into the life of the church, the shallowness is a huge detriment. It would be better for swimming if the river were narrower and much deeper. Part of this problem is because a misunderstanding about calling. One of the doctrines that the reformers revived was the doctrine of calling. Each man’s work, whatever it is, is holy service to the Lord. It is not just the work of the clergy, the priestly class, or the preacher that is holy. Every man’s work is holy to the Lord.

This has important ramifications in the life and work of the church. Much of the biblical instruction to believers is centered around doing mundane tasks to the glory of God. Whatever you do, do to the glory of God. Let wives be workers at home. Slaves, honor your masters. Bosses, pay your workers on time. There is no hint in scripture that everyone needs to be sharing the four spiritual laws or leading their neighbor to Christ in order to be doing the ‘work of the Lord’. All work done self-consciously as a Christian is work for the Lord.

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord's Day 3

Q. 6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse? A. By no means; but God created man good, and after his own image, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise him.

Q. 7. Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature? A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.

Q. 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness? A. Indeed we are; except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

This is the first part of understanding the difficult but sweet doctrines of Reformed Theology. This question directly states the doctrine of Total Depravity. However, that doctrine is not the sticking point for most people. The sticking point with most Arminians is the issue of L in TULIP, Limited Atonement. They imagine that Christ died for every last man, woman and child, IF only that every last man would simply turn his will to the Lord’s. The problem with this is that the Scriptures say that men are dead in their sins and have no way to make themselves alive. Now, a dead man cannot respond to the Lord. Lazarus was just such a man. He was dead in the tomb. He was not able to respond to the Lord and come forth until Jesus spoke to him and commanded him to live. This is the truth of the state we are in. Because of Adam's sin and our sins, we have fallen from that initial estate of freedom into an estate of sin, misery, slavery, and death. We cannot be righteous, happy, free or even alive unless the Lord intervenes and grants light where there is darkness and life where there is death.

What does this have to do with Limited Atonement? Namely, that the Lord is not under any obligation to call life to any such sinners. His passing over some in no way damages His justice. Justice is having us passed over. We deserve nothing less than to be left in our sins. But God’s grace does not come to us by our merit. It is His mercy that reaches down to men who are not worthy of that mercy. For this reason, the doctrine of Limited Atonement would better be called Particular Atonement. Christ’s mercy is given to those whom He particularly loves. He grants them life so that they can come out of the tomb. He makes them alive so that they can live. He regenerates them so that they can respond to Him in obedience. The amazing thing is not that some are passed over and left in their sins. The amazing thing is that any of us are regenerated. And what is more amazing yet is that number of the elect will be one that is incalculable. This is the free gift of the Father in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Glory be to God. May we simply rejoice in God’s goodness to us, embrace it and come out of the tomb to new life.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord’s Day 2

Q. 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery? “How do we know our misery?” A. Out of the law of God.

Q. 4. What does the law of God require of us? A. Christ teaches us that briefly, Matt. 22:37-40, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Q. 5. Canst thou keep all these things perfectly? A. In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbour.

We know our misery from our failure to keep God’s law.  Jesus taught us that the law requires us to love God and love our neighbor.  We think this sounds easy enough but that is because we have a low bar as to what love is.  We think love is having warm feelings towards someone.  But that is not at all the Biblical definition of love.  Love is doing right by them.  Love is obeying God’s commands.  Love towards God is exhibited by worshipping Him and no one or nothing else.  Love towards God is exhibited by worshipping Him according to His pattern and no other way.  Love towards God is exhibited by honoring His name by the way that you live.  To fail to do so is to have His name placed on you in vain.  Love towards God is exhibited by honoring the Lord’s Day as the Sabbath, pledging every day to God by the way that you live this day.

Love towards your neighbor is not feeling sentimental about him.  It is primarily understood in the way that you honor your parents.  If you do not honor your parents, you cannot love your neighbor as you ought to.  It is here first that you learn what it means to honor.  It means to obey.  You obey God by obeying your parents and you must not obey with reservations.  Your obedience must be cheerful and willful.  You don’t submit because you have to.   You submit because you want to.  And as you leave the immediate authority of your parents, you honor them by continuing to follow God all the days of your life. 

Working down through the law, we find points of failure at every level.  Have you thought ill of another?  The Bible calls this murder in the heart.  Have you lusted after a woman or man who is not your husband?  Have you wanted someone else as wife or husband?  This is unfaithfulness in heart and mind and is spiritual adultery.  Are you honest in all business dealings and transactions of money?  If not, then you have stolen.  Do you always tell the truth, especially in a legal setting or when the reputation of another is on the line?  Are you content with the abundance that the Lord has given you?  If not, then you must surely covet the life and things of others.

It is clear that the law condemns us on every single point.  If we have sinned in one, we have sinned in all. But we have not sinned in just one, we have sinned in all.  And we continue to fall short and sin, even though the Holy Spirit has come to set us free from sin and death.

O wretched men that we are! Who will set us free from the body of this death?  We are here to celebrate the Lord and His kindness to us, so I will not leave you hopeless.  The Lord Jesus Christ desires to lift us out of sin and misery.  He has made the way through His own blood. It is true that by nature we are objects of wrath, but by grace we are objects of mercy. Let all those who love life lay hold of Christ for there is life in no other.

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord's Day 1, too

Q. 2.  How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily? A.  Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

It is quite astonishing that we are so often in the dark regarding our own sin and misery.  We can grasp some aspect of this by looking at the current culture sinking in the mire around us.  In the midst of horrible crimes against God and man, they liken themselves the happiest men and women on earth.  Their hearts are darkened in the most extreme of sins.  So much so, that as a culture at large, these dark sins are now mainstream and respectable.  Not only do they not know that they are in rebellion against God, they flatter themselves that their horrible behavior is, in fact, pleasing to Him.  This is nothing less than measuring man by man’s standard.  When we do this, we always come out looking good.  The current travesty is that we now measure with such a perverse measuring stick that what is evil is considered good.

As Christians, we are not so debauched.  We understand that there is good and evil in the world, right and wrong, decency and indecency.  However, we have been so influenced by our culture that we often measure by the wrong standard also.  We compare ourselves to the rebellious lot that I mentioned above and we come out smelling pretty good.  However, that is the wrong standard.   You can always find a greater sinner than you are, but does the presence of a Stalin make Hitler a saint?  Of course not.  We must measure by God’s standard.  When we do this, we are always called up short in relation to our own self-righteousness because we haven’t got any.  Our only righteousness is in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, our culture fails to see its misery.  What they call happiness, is merely being punch-drunk with perverted pleasures.  Beware the adulteress women.  She is death.  Again, we Christians are not so far gone, but we often fail to see that our sins cause us great grief.  We will not give them up because we love them so.   What would we complain about if we forgave our brothers and sisters in the Lord?  How would we entertain ourselves if we applied God’s standards of not lusting after women in the heart?  We enjoy these things and think they bring us good and do not see the misery that they bring.

In our flesh, by our nature, we are objects of wrath, utterly lost and wholly unable to respond to God.  However, the Holy Spirit bids us repent and believe.  The law condemns us all as guilty and yet Christ proclaims all His own as righteous.  We merit nothing and in Christ gain everything.  What a gracious and merciful God we serve.  Let us forsake those things that lead to death and embrace Christ in new life.

As we are reminded of our sin and misery without Christ, let us confess our sins, repent of them, lay hold of Christ, and rejoice in His kindness to us.

Loving the Saints Part V

We strive to have relatively few events in our Church.  This is so that you can be faithful in your homes and also so that you can meet the needs of the body when they arise without feeling overworked.  At times, the work may be hard and the sacrifice deep but God is our rewarder.  We must do this work in faith trusting Him.  These things should not be seen as burdensome but rather both as a ministry to serve others and as a means by which God seeks to bless us so that we can serve others even more.  Weariness is often a state of mind, not a state of the body.  We are to endure, trusting God who brings the endurance.  Do we believe this?  Then don’t grow weary.  Keep giving and you will always have more to give. 

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

Friday, July 23, 2004

Heidelberg Exhortations-Lord's Day 1

Question 1.  What is thy only comfort in life and death? Answer. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

This first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism offers so much grace, faith, hope and joy.  It declares that we are not our own but owe a great debt to our Savior Jesus Christ.  He has bought us with His own blood and so we have been made slaves of righteousness.  In purchasing us, he set us free from the dominion of the devil.  Many Christians act and speak as if the devil were still master but he is not.  Christ is king indeed and has set at nought the wiles of that foul fiend.

This first question also declares the complete sovereignty of God that not even a hair can fall from the head of one of His saints apart from His will.  If we think about the answer, we realize that even hairs falling from our head work together for our salvation.  They do this because God has determined these things.   He has determined them for His purpose of blessing you and of glorifying His own great name.  The Holy Spirit of God comes to us to speak of the life that now is and the life that is to come.  He assures us of our place of honor before the Father.  We doubt when we see our sins but the Holy Spirit calls us to look upon Christ’s blessed cross and wipe away the doubt.  When we do this, we are assured of our salvation and are enabled to walk in this new life without threat of banishment.  This produces more faith in Christ, hope of His calling, and love for Him.  We grow in His likeness and by His righteousness are ever pleasing to the Father.

One area we often fall short is in our assurance of salvation.  We do this because we look at our own sins instead of at the finished work of Christ.  Let us confess this lack of faith in looking at ourselves and not Christ.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Heidelberg Exhortations-Intro

We have a wonderful heritage in our faith.  It is an ancient faith that stretches back to the very dawn of time.  We find our kinship, not only in the second Adam, our perfect savior Jesus Christ, but in the first Adam, as well.  We all descended from him and he is our first earthly father.  Not such a good one.  But we identify with him in his fall and are his fallen seed.   You all sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression.  God did not forget that Adam and brought forth a heritage from his stained seed that a perfect seed might come to redeem us from our sin and misery.  The story of redemption has been told through the ages and has found full fruition in Christ.  In our redemption, we are thankful to our God and understand that He requires holy living from us.  How dare we neglect so great a salvation? 

This identity with the past is very important to us.  We must know who we are and where we come from.  This tells us much about what we believe, why we believe it, and what we ought to do.  It tells us about how our thoughts have changed, what we have learned from our mistakes, how to correct them, and where we go from here.  The Scriptures tell us this marvelous story. As we learn the story of Scripture better, we will be informed from the past and equipped for the future. 

We have other friends of the past to inform us for today and for tomorrow.  We spent a couple of years going through the Westminster Shorter Catechism in our exhortations so that we could better understand the rudiments of the Scripture.  This proved very helpful in shaping our thoughts along the lines of those great men who came before us.  We learn from them and we go on to teach our children and those who will come after us. 

Another great body of divinity is the Heidelberg Catechism.  Written in 1536, it has one hundred twenty-nine questions giving us great pastoral instruction about the fundamentals of our faith.  The first part teaches on the sin and misery of man and covers the fall.  The second part teaches on man’s redemption and covers God’s requirement for justice, our inability to pay it and the need for Christ.  It covers God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Sacraments Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  The third part teaches on thankfulness and covers the requirement of good works as new men and women in Christ, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.  

This is a wonderful way to view the story of the Bible.  We will spend some time going over these one hundred twenty-nine questions in our exhortations.  May God bless us as we do so.           

As modern Christians, one of our great failures is having so much extra time and knowing our Bibles so poorly.  May this remind us of our need to confess our sins to God regularly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Loving the Saints Part IV

Think about how you give.  The Bible says that if you give grudgingly and sparingly, God will give to you the same way.  Are your cupboards empty?  Are your bills piling up?  Is ninety-percent of your income twenty-percent too little?  Does nobody have time for you?  Then, perhaps you have not learned this fundamental lesson.  You must learn to give.  Yes, the tithe is part of this but we have many other opportunities to give in the life of the saints.  This giving can be financial but it can also be service oriented; giving to the deacon’s fund for pressing needs, meals for new mothers, taking the kids when a family is sick, help moving, cleaning the church, helping saints do work on their homes, hospitality on the Lord’s Day and throughout the week.  There are many ways to give and we must look for them.  The Lord will repay. 

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Hopeful Gospel

As the apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians, he qualifies his prayer with an explanation about what God has done in Jesus Christ. Namely, that we are to hope in Christ because God has exalted Him to His right hand in the heavenly places. Then he says something very interesting. He says that Christ is far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also that which is to come: and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.(Eph. 1:20-22).

We often read our systematic right over scripture. What is interesting about this is that even when we have adopted a new systematic, the old one often still does the driving. The scripture tells us that Jesus is far above powers and authorities, not only in this world. We read it that Jesus is far above principalities in the other world, in heaven. But that is not the emphasis. The emphasis is that He has been raised above all authority here and that it even extends to heaven. We want to say that He has authority in heaven and He might have some here, if men, governments, churches would just let Him.

We misread the Lord’s Prayer in a similar fashion. Jesus told us to pray that His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We often read that His will is to be done in heaven as it is in heaven. But that is not what He said. Jesus is King of earth and even heaven. May we take encouragement in this as we pursue the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Covenant of Creation

The current flap in reformed circles about the initial covenant with Adam as a covenant of works vs. a covenant of creation is unfortunate. Adam was not promised life if he obeyed what God said. He was promised death if he disobeyed. Gen 2:16,17. It is most certainly true that death entered through Adam's disobedience. Because of this, his offspring did not inherit the life that Adam once had and lost. Adam was in a state of righteousness at the creation. Although we do believe that this was a probationary period that God would have honored, like He did the elect angels, it does not at all follow that his obedience would have made him righteous or brought(bought) him eternal life. His obedience was a condition of maintaining that righteousness that he already had and in fact, inheriting eternal life. In the initial covenant God granted, by grace, life to Adam and Eve. Their job was to continue in that grace until the end, obeying all that God had commanded about the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their failure to continue in obedience brought the consequences of the covenant upon them. They were to persevere, by grace, and thus receive the fulness of the promise.

This is analagous to our situation. God grants us life by grace. He chooses us in Christ, giving us promises of life if we obey. There is life in Christ for those who maintain fellowship with God in Christ, for those who do what God says. This is not maintaining 'getting in by grace' and 'staying in by works'. The getting in was by grace, the staying was also by grace. Adam rejected the grace of God when he disobeyed Him. We must not do the same. Otherwise, we will receive the sanctions of the covenant.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Loving the Saints Part III

Tithing helps us to understand the principle of giving in faith. When we tithe faithfully, we are enabled to live contentedly on ninety-percent of our income. Some Christians don’t tithe, not believing that they can live on ninety-percent of their income. That is not really the issue. Do you want to live on a blessed ninety-percent or an unblessed one hundred percent? For a Christian, ninety-percent equals more than one hundred percent. It does so because we learn a lesson in contentment that those who insist on spending one hundred percent of their income never learn.

It also does so because we don’t expect that ninety-percent to stay static. Faithful tithers expect that ninety-percent to grow. We expect God to bless our giving and give us more. The result is that our ten percent increases and our ninety percent increases, as well. We cannot out give God. He gives to us and we give in return. This is not blab it and grab it theology. This is not making God in the image of a cosmic slot machine, hoping for some big payout to spend on personal pleasures. It is taking Him at His Word and believing Him to bless us as we learn to be obedient to Him in blessing others with our blessings. The more we give the more He gives and the more He gives, the more we give. This is a wonderful game.

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

Loving the Saints Part II

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38

This is the essence of the life of the saints. We are to give not expecting return from men. The Pharisees only gave to those who could give back. They wanted an earthly and measurable return on their investment. We, too, want a return on our investment but we are people of faith. We believe in things we don’t see. Such is the case with giving. We sometimes make excuses, “I am too tired, I don’t have enough to give, It is too expensive.” But the man who lives by faith does not have to receive by faith. What do I mean? When we live in faith, we look to a reward that is yet future. It is not here now so we must take God at His Word. That is the principle of faith. But since we put our faith in action, we should expect God to keep His Word. When God does so, the result is something tangible, something that we can see. The things that we see do not require faith. They are with us.

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

Loving the Saints Part I

One of the central duties in the life of the church is for the body to minister to itself. Formal worship and the ministry of the elders and deacons should prepare and set the stage for this ministry but it cannot replace it. The life of the body as the body is vital to the health and growth of any church. The body lives together the entire week through as they prepare to come again as the people of God on the Lord’s Day. This life together should weave them into a tight knit body that is not easily separated.

There are many ways that this ministry can take place. One of the most obvious and important is in breaking bread together. This forces us to be together in a way that reveals who we really are. This revelation is not so that we can assure ourselves that we are better off than our neighbor but so that we can know him, love him and serve him. Because the modern Church is so full of surface Christians, these kinds of relationships are rare. We don’t want to get to know anybody because we might not like them and worse, they might not like us, and then we find ourselves separating from the very ones we wanted to draw near to. This is why a good understanding of the Church is needed. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all different but part of one body. We must grow in our love not only for the parts of others that are like us but even for and perhaps especially for their particular quirks. We serve a diverse God, Unity in Trinity, and we should rejoice in the diversity of His body, the Church, our Church. This is nothing less than loving God and loving our neighbor, particularly our closest neighbors, the brothers.

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Proverbs 8

Wisdom is not silent. Many Christians act as if they do not know how to live in this modern world. They are as confused as the culture around them. But that is not the fault of wisdom. She cries out and the righteous hear and answer. This current confusion in the Church and in our culture at large is proof that men will not hear. Wisdom can be found. It is found in the Scriptures. It is found in wise men. It is found in the Church. However, the simple love folly. They ask but with closed ears. Wisdom tells us to hear instruction and be wise and refuse it not. Some Christians even ask for counsel but in pretence. Their minds are already made up. They are not hearers of the Word but judges of it. They refuse to listen because their own sinful ways are what really matters to them. They seek to justify themselves by claiming to have asked of wisdom. They lay claim to Christ, they lay claim to the Church, they read the teachings of wise men, but they do not do what they hear. They have not really learned wisdom. They may be able to mimic wisdom or pass a theology exam but they prove who their god is when they continually choose their own ways and not the way of Wisdom. So, listen and heed. Wisdom is not silent.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Proverbs 1

Proverbs 1
Wisdom is not so mysterious as some would make it. Where are the wise of our day? They are not to be found. Why is this? Is it because wisdom is particularly hard to come by? Not according to Proverbs 1. Wisdom cries aloud in the streets, in the opening of the city gates, and throughout the city. She harkens to simpletons to take note and apply themselves to her wares. Wisdom is not aloof. She is hospitable and willing to entertain all that would listen to her. But men love simplicity. They love scorning. Fools hate knowledge. They will not be instructed nor turn from their own self-deception. They may not excuse themselves with ignorance in the time of their calamity. Wisdom wanted to pour her spirit on them in abundance but they would not. So, when calamity comes, wisdom changes her tune. No longer does she speak timely words of encouragement but the laughter of scorn. She will not answer. The foolish shall eat the fruit of their own way. They will reap what they have sown. They have sown folly and they will reap destruction

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Psalm 81

Psalm 81:11-16
The people of Israel would not hearken unto the voice of God. Thus, he gave them over to their own heart’s lust and to their own counsels. In addition to this, God did not subdue their enemies. He would have if they had been faithful. But they were not faithful and the result was that the enemies of Israel, the enemies of God, prevailed. This was God’s doing.

This is a striking parallel to our own situation in America. We are in the midst of an unclean people. They are following hard after the god of their stomachs. But what is really occurring? It is no doubt that these people are the enemies of God, so why isn’t God destroying His and our enemies as He promised to do? Is it because they are so wicked? Is it because they refuse to bow down to Him? Of course not. The wicked have always been wicked. The enemies of God have always refused to honor Him. The reason is what is stated in Psalm 81. God would have subdued these enemies if His people had been faithful. The first part of this Psalm warns them against worshipping strange gods.(v.9). That is exactly what we have done. As the American church has drifted away from Scriptural revelation, we have replaced the one true God with a god of our own imagination. We have become idolaters. God is judging us. Homosexual marriage, rampant promiscuity, beasts in the land in the form of sexual predators, and adultery are all a result of God’s people playing the harlot. This may sound too strong but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to run a weather station. Red sky in the morning…. Matt 16:3-4 ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.