First Sunday in Advent

December 3, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Bible - NT - John, Christmas, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Worship

1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue us from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who trust Him. It is this Son who is the subject of Peter’s epistle – for it is to Him that we come in faith. He is the One who was born of Mary; He who was conceived by the Spirit; He who is the object of our faith.

Peter describes Him as a living stone, the foundation stone of God’s Holy City Jerusalem, the cornerstone of God’s Temple. This stone, Peter tells us, was rejected indeed by men – rather than bowing before Him in worship and praise, we crucified Him. So deep is our ailment as human beings that we rejected the One who would deliver us, killed the physician who would heal us, trampled the shepherd who would lead us, and murdered the king who would rule us.

Yet it is this stone, Peter tells us, that was chosen by God and precious. The One we crucified rose again from the dead. He is the Living Stone chosen by God to build up a Temple, a spiritual house, to the glory of God’s Name and to establish a universal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. So how does He build this Temple? Establish this priesthood? As the Living Stone, Jesus builds God’s Temple out of living stones; He sends forth His Spirit and imparts His resurrection life to men and women and children who are, by nature, spiritually dead. He causes our hearts of stone to live, to beat again, that we might become living stones, members of a spiritual house, and priests of God Most High.

So why has God enlivened our stony hearts? Why is He constructing a spiritual Temple from us naturally lifeless stones? Why is He establishing a holy priesthood from us sinful men and women? Peter gives us the answer – to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In other words, God has enlivened us that we might worship Him. Listen to the 9th verse of this same chapter:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

God has chosen us that we might sing His praises, declare the wonders of His grace, and extol His excellencies. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is seeking people to worship Him.”

This Advent our sermons focus once again on Jesus in the Psalms. As we consider the psalms, I would remind you why God has given them to us in the first place – they are meant to be sung. God saved you that you might proclaim His praises, that you might offer up spiritual sacrifices, that you might offer up the fruit of your lips to God. Singing praise to God is not optional – it is the reason God delivered you from your sin. So sing – don’t be self-conscious. Sing; don’t make excuses. Sing; don’t deprive the assembly of your voice. Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!

As we gather in the Lord’s presence to praise Him, therefore, let us lift up our voices with joy remembering that God has saved us so that we might praise Him. Let us not mumble; let us not be silent in coldness of heart; let us not complain or grumble at God’s ordering our affairs. He saved us that we might offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. So reminded that we were saved to sing His praises, let us confess that we have failed to praise the Lord as we ought – and let us kneel as we confess our sin together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession in your bulletin.

The Living Stone

November 28, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Church Calendar, Meditations, Singing Psalms, Worship
1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue us from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who trust Him. It is this Son who is the subject of Peter’s epistle – for it is to Him that we come in faith. He is the One who was born of Mary; He who was conceived by the Spirit; He who is the object of our faith.
Peter describes Him as a living stone, the foundation stone of God’s Holy City Jerusalem, the cornerstone of the Temple of God. This stone, Peter tells us, was rejected indeed by men – rather than bowing before Him in worship and praise, we crucified Him. So deep is our ailment as human beings that we rejected the One who would deliver us, killed the physician who would heal us, stoned the king who would rule over us.
Yet it is this stone, Peter tells us, that was chosen by God and precious. The One we crucified rose again from the dead. He is the Living Stone chosen by God to build up a Temple, a spiritual house, to the glory of God’s Name and to establish a universal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. So how does He build this Temple? Establish this priesthood? As the Living Stone, Jesus builds God’s Temple out of living stones; He sends forth His Spirit and imparts His resurrection life to men and women and children who are, by nature, spiritually dead. He causes their hearts of stone to live, to beat again, that they might become living stones, members of a spiritual house, and priests of God Most High.
So why has God enlivened our stony hearts? Why is He constructing a spiritual Temple from us naturally lifeless stones? Why is He establishing a holy priesthood from us sinful men and women? Peter gives us the answer – to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In other words, God has delivered us that we might worship Him. Listen to the 9th verse of this same chapter:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
God has chosen us that we might sing His praises, declare the wonder of His grace, and extol the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is seeking people to worship Him.”
This Advent our sermons focus once again on Jesus in the Psalms. As we consider the psalms, I would remind you why God has given them to us in the first place – they are meant to be sung. God saved you that you might proclaim His praises, that you might offer up spiritual sacrifices, that you might offer up the fruit of your lips to God. Singing praise to God is not optional – it is the reason God delivered you from your sin. So sing – don’t be self-conscious. Sing; don’t make excuses. Sing; don’t deprive the assembly of your voice. Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!

As we gather in the Lord’s presence to praise Him, therefore, let us lift up our voices with joy remembering that God has saved us so that we might praise Him. Let us not mumble; let us not be silent in coldness of heart; let us not complain or grumble at God’s ordering our affiars. He saved us that we might offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. So reminded that we were saved to sing His praises, let us confess that we have failed to praise the Lord as we ought – and let us kneel as we confess our sin together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession in your bulletin.

The Malevolence of the Devil

February 21, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Bible - NT - Colossians, Bible - NT - Mark, Cross of Christ, Meditations, Satan, Temptation, Word of God
Mark 1:12–13 (NKJV)
12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
1 Peter 5:8–9 (NKJV)
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
As Christians, God has called us to fight against three primary enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. And since we find ourselves on the 2nd Sunday in Lent, continuing to anticipate our remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, it is fitting that we look at the third member of this unholy triumvirate – the devil. Last week we considered the power of our flesh; today, the malevolence of the devil.
The devil was and is a created being, an angelic figure, who rebelled against God in the beginning. He was filled with pride and rebelled against the Good Creator, seeking to exalt himself rather than to exalt His Lawful Lord. In this rebellion other angels took part – and they are the demons whom our fathers worshiped in their idolatry. These demons often possessed hapless victims and drove them toward evil and to this day they feast on human suffering and misery. The devil is their leader and prowls about seeking whom he may devour, endeavoring to swallow us up in his own judgment.
It was against this malevolent being that our Lord Jesus waged war during His 40 days in the wilderness, an event that Lent recalls. Jesus did three things in the wilderness that we must remember.
First, Jesus fought against the devil. The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness to enter into the lists. He did not go into the wilderness for an extended vacation but to contend with the Evil One. So we are called to imitate Him in this. We too are to “resist the devil” – are to be sober and vigilant; to be on our guard like good soldiers. Why? Because, like Jesus, we are at war with the devil who would like nothing more than to destroy us.
Second, Jesus fought using the Word of God as His weapon. The Word of God was for Jesus (even as for us) the Sword of the Spirit with which He manfully attacked the perversions of the wicked one. You see only occasionally does Satan show himself in lurid displays like demon possession; more commonly he seduces us through sin, temptation, compromise, and mediocrity. He is content to destroy people from behind the scenes. And he accomplishes this chiefly by undermining the integrity of God’s Word and causing us to doubt God’s reliability and goodness. “Has God really said…?” was not only the question he posed to Eve in the garden but also the question he poses to each of us in the moment of temptation. So what is the solution? How do we fight him? By clinging tenaciously and faithfully to the Word of God even as Jesus did. In Peter’s words, we are to “Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” To Satan’s question, “Hath God really said…?” we are to reply like Jesus, “Thus it is written…”
Finally, we must never forget that Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness was but the prelude to the great contest between Jesus and the devil on the cross. The wilderness anticipated the cross even as Lent paves the way for Good Friday and Easter. On the cross, Satan believed he had achieved his greatest victory; in fact, however, it was his ultimate defeat. Paul writes that Jesus has taken away “the handwriting of requirements which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers [Satan and his minions], He made a public spectacle [a laughingstock] of them, triumphing over them in [the cross]” (Col 2:14-15). Hence, though Satan remains a bitter foe, we must never forget that he is a defeated foe. Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.

As we continue anticipating the coming arrival of Good Friday and Easter, therefore, let us (like our Lord Jesus) enter boldly into the lists and fight bravely against the wiles of the devil. And reminded of our call to fight, let us begin by confessing that far too often we have given way to our enemy. Let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord.

The Sign and the Thing Signified

September 30, 2014 in Baptism, Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Ecclesiology, Federal Vision, John Calvin, Justification, Quotations, Reformation, Regeneration, Sacraments, Sanctification

When Peter writes “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh” (1 Pet 3:21) in reference to baptism, “he speaks not of the naked sign, but that the effect must also be connected with it… the external symbol is not sufficient except baptism be received really and effectually…

“But the fanatics…absurdly pervert this testimony, while they seek to take away from sacraments all their power and effect. For Peter did not mean here to teach that [baptism] is vain and inefficacious, but only to exclude hypocrites from the hope of salvation, who, as far as they can, deprave and corrupt baptism. Moreover, when we speak of sacraments, two things are to be considered, the sign and the thing itself. In baptism the sign is water, but the thing is the washing of the soul by the blood of Christ and the mortifying of the flesh. The institution of Christ includes these two things. Now that the sign often appears inefficacious and fruitless, this happens through the abuse of men, which does not take away the nature of the sacrament. Let us then learn not to tear away the thing signified from the sign. We must at the same time beware of another evil, such as prevails among the Papists; for as they distinguish not as they ought between the thing and the sign, they stop at the outward element, and on that fix their hope of salvation. Therefore the sight of the water takes away their thoughts from the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit. They do not regard Christ as the only author of all the blessings therein offered to us; they transfer the glory of his death to the water, they tie the secret power of the Spirit to the visible sign.

“What then ought we to do? Not to separate what has been joined together by the Lord. We ought to acknowledge in baptism a spiritual washing, we ought to embrace therein the testimony of the remission of sin and the pledge of our renovation, and yet so as to leave to Christ his own honour, and also to the Holy Spirit; so that no part of our salvation should be transferred to the sign.”

John Calvin, Commentary on the First Epistle of Peter, pp. 118-119.

Called to Sing

December 2, 2013 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Christmas, Meditations, Singing Psalms, Worship
1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue us from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who trust Him. It is this Son who is the subject of Peter’s epistle. Peter describes the Son as a living stone, rejected indeed by men – so deep was our ailment as human beings that we rejected the One who would deliver us, killed the physician who would heal us, stoned the king who would rule over us, crucified the Lord of Glory. Yet it is this stone that was chosen by God and precious.
So Peter calls upon us to remember the life of our Lord Jesus as we consider our own plight in the world. As Christians we dare not assume that we shall be treated better than our Master. Sometimes in His kindness God grants periods of peace and prosperity to His Church. But when He chooses to send trial, hardship, or persecution we dare not grumble or imagine something strange is happening. For we, like Jesus, are living stones, stones which are often rejected by men but chosen by God and precious. It is with these stones, with us, that God is building a spiritual house, a holy priesthood.
So why has God rescued us from sin and death? Why is he constructing a spiritual Temple from these living stones? Why establishing a holy priesthood from these sinful men and women? Peter gives us the answer – to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. God has chosen us that we might worship God. Listen to the 9thverse of this same chapter:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
God has chosen the Church in order that we might worship Him, sing His praises, declare the wonder of His grace, join our voices in the congregation of the righteous and extol the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
This Advent our sermons focus on Jesus in the Psalms. As we consider the psalms, I would remind you why God has given them to us in the first place – they are meant to be sung. God saved you that youmight proclaim His praises, that youmight offer up spiritual sacrifices, that youmight offer up the fruit of your lips to God. Singing praise to God is not optional – it is the reason God delivered you from your sin. So sing – don’t be self-conscious. Sing; don’t make excuses. Sing; don’t deprive the assembly of the righteous of your voice.

And as we gather in His presence to sing, let us acknowledge that we often put the cart before the horse. We often imagine that it is we who are the center of salvation – but it is not we who are the center but God. God saved us so that we might praise Him – because He is worthy of praise. Does this benefit us? Absolutely! Our greatest delight as human beings comes when we learn to extol God’s wonder more fully and completely. Is it centered on us? Absolutely not! We were delivered to sing His praises, not our own. Yet often we put ourselves at the center. So reminded of this, let us kneel and seek the Lord’s forgiveness through Christ.

Baptism Meditation – Why Infant Baptism?

November 25, 2013 in Baptism, Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Children, Covenantal Living, Liturgy, Responsibility

1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter reminds us that the Church which God is building throughout human history is not essentially a physical structure but an organic community. The foundation of this Church is not concrete but the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. As members of that Church, those who confess Christ are living stones, living members of the living Temple of God. So it is fitting as we dedicate this physical building to the glory and service of God that we have the privilege of baptizing a stone and bringing him to new life in the Church of God. When John the Baptist preached his baptism of repentance, he declared that God was able to raise up from stones children of Abraham – and so today we have the privilege of baptizing ———, by nature a stone, so that he might become a living stone, united by faith in the working of God to the Church.

By why baptize a baby? Because, as Peter goes on to remind us, we, the Church of Christ, we are the Israel of God, a holy nation, God’s special people, the inheritors of all the promises that God has made throughout His Word. And these promises include not only believers but also our children. Nations include children; peoples include infants. And so God always establishes his covenants with generations. He covenants with Noah and his descendants; with Abraham and his descendants; with the Israelites who stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai and with all their descendants after them; with David and his descendants. And the New Covenant into which we are incorporated is no different. God welcomes believers and their children into this organic community, this Church which He is building, and calls all to love Him, to trust Him, and to serve Him with joy and reverent fear. So we baptize —— because God extends His promise to this child even as He extends His promise to us.

So what is this promise? It is a promise that God will be our God and we His people through faith in Christ. God promises in the waters of baptism that though we have rebelled against Him, though we are by nature stones, He will forgive us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and will make us living stones by pouring out His Spirit on us. The waters of baptism promise these very things – even as water cleanses the body, so the blood of Jesus sprinkled upon us cleanses us from our sin – hence, sometimes baptism is by sprinkling; even as water is the source of life, so the Holy Spirit poured out upon us grants us new life in service of God – hence, sometimes, as today, baptism is by pouring.

Forgiveness and new life are the promises God holds out this day – so as you witness this baptism and renew your own baptismal covenant, let me urge you to believe these promises.

Hungering like Infants

November 6, 2009 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Ecclesiology, Meditations

1 Peter 2:1-3 (NKJV)
1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Last week we considered the words of David, acknowledging the wonder of God in little babies. Today we learn that there is more to babies than their incredible design. Not only do their mouths reveal the glory of their Master Craftsman, they also reveal the hunger that is to characterize us as the people of God. For no truth is more manifest in the lives of infants than that they like to be fed and are quite adept at letting others know their need.

When God by His grace converts us and adopts us as His children, it is as infants that we begin our journey. The word of God comes, convicts us of sin, enlightens our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and we are born again. Peter notes earlier in his epistle that his hearers have “been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” In general, when Scripture speaks of this new birth it then exhorts us to grow from that point. We are not to remain infants, to remain immature, but are to grow into a full grown man, able to discern between good and evil.

However, in one respect, we are to retain the quality of infants. Peter urges us, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” Even as a newborn infant cries out for milk, we are to cry out for instruction from our Lord throughout our lives.

Infants know when they’re hungry and know what to do in order to let others know as well. The time of day doesn’t matter. The location doesn’t matter. The inconvenience to others doesn’t matter. When that baby is hungry, he cries out. So what of us? Are we disturbing God’s rest to obtain from him instruction and direction? Are we hungering and thirsting for righteousness, pushing and pulling and grabbing everything else out of the way so long as we get that food? I fear not. After all, who wants to be seen screaming in the check-out aisle?

So what does this mean practically? First, are we preparing to receive the preaching of God’s Word every Lord’s Day? Every Lord’s Day God meets with us, instructs us, directs us from His Word. Do we come eager to hear? Rested and refreshed, alert and eager to hear the voice of Christ and to have His Word change us and transform us? Or do we simply come each week out of habit? Perhaps to stroke our ego and make us feel like righteous people? Do we come worn out and frazzled from failing to prepare ahead of time? Peter reminds us – long for the pure milk of the word. Do everything and anything you can to get the full benefit from the food.

Second, are we reading and studying the Word of God on our own? Do we take the Word preached and discuss it as families? Do we read other portions of the Word of God and let them shape and mold us. I’ll guarantee you that an infant wouldn’t be content being fed for one hour once a week. So why are we?

Reminded that we are to imitate the littlest members of our community by hungering for the pure milk of the Word, let us kneel and confess our lack of passion to the Lord.