Preach the Word: Exhort!

September 10, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations, Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

For the last few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A couple weeks ago, we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition, “exhort.”

The Greek word behind “exhort” is parakaleo. In English translations of the NT, the word is variously translated as exhort, plead, beg, urge, beseech, or even encourage. Whereas the one who rebukes stands in front of another and points out his error, the one who exhorts comes alongside him and urges him to imitate Christ in his daily life. So Paul writes to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father…” (5:1). While to “rebuke” is to deliver a short, verbal thrashing, to “exhort” is to appeal, to sidle up beside a fellow believer and direct their eyes to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Exhortations, therefore, are grounded in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. The minister of the Gospel is to “exhort” people to remember Jesus Christ and to imitate His character in their own lives. So consider various “exhortations” that Paul gives in his letters:
· Romans 15:30 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,
· 1 Corinthians 1:10 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you…
· 2 Corinthians 10:1 — Now I, Paul, myself am “exhorting” you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ….
· 1 Thessalonians 4:1 — Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
· 2 Thessalonians 3:12 — Now those who are [busybodies] we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

Note carefully that in each “exhortation” Paul brings us back to Christ’s salvific work. As the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes, “The exhortation is distinguished from a mere moral appeal by this reference back to the work of salvation as its presupposition and basis.” Consider Christ – consider who He is, consider what He has done, consider what He has promised – and in that knowledge, act.

So reminded that Christ is our example and that we routinely fail to imitate Him in our attitudes and actions, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Proving the Immortality of the Body

April 24, 2017 in Bible - NT - Romans, Easter, Meditations, Quotations, Resurrection
Romans 8:11 (NKJV)
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
There once was a boy named Jack whose family was very poor. His father had died and he and his mother lived alone on their small farm. But the crops had failed and Jack and his mom had only one choice left: they’d have to sell their cow so they could get enough money to buy food and seed for the next season.
So Jack’s mom sent him to market and Jack, like a good boy, made his way to town. But along the way he met an old man by the side of the road. “Beans, beans, magic beans!” the man cried. Jack was curious. “What do these beans do?” he asked. “Ah, plant these beans,” the man replied, “and they will grow into a huge vine that will rise to a massive height and take you to the giant’s castle where he holds the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Golden eggs! Well that was just the thing for Jack. If he could get those golden eggs then he and his mom would be free of their troubles.
So Jack made the trade – his cow for the old man’s beans. Whistling happily Jack returned home and proudly showed his mom the beans he had obtained in exchange for the cow. But Jack’s mom – as you may recall – was none too pleased with her son. “You foolish boy,” she declared. “Those aren’t magic beans – that old man has fooled you and now we have nothing left either to eat or to plant in the spring!”
Jack was upset that his mom was disappointed with him – for he was a good boy. So what did Jack do? He determined to put those beans to the test. Late that night, when the full moon was shining on their farm, Jack went out and planted the beans, watered them, and then returned to his bed. “Perhaps now my mom will see that these beans really are magic.”
Early the next morning, before his mom was awake, Jack got up, put on his clothes, and ran outside to check on his beans. Normally, of course, this would be pointless – beans don’t grow overnight – but these were magic beans. And there before Jack’s eyes, reaching high up into the sky, was the biggest bean stock Jack had ever seen. It soared up into the clouds, far out of Jack’s sight.
Jack had been right – they were magic beans. And how did he know they were magic? He planted them, he put them to the test.
This is Eastertide, the time of year when we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So why was Jesus raised from the dead? The early church father Eusebius explained one reason:
Suppose one desired to show us that a vessel could resist the force of fire; how could he better prove the fact than by casting it into the furnace and thence withdrawing it entire and unconsumed? Even so the Word of God, who is the source of life to all, desiring to prove the triumph over death of that body which he had assumed for man’s salvation… pursued a course consistent with this object. …delivering [his body] up to death in proof of its mortal nature, he soon redeemed it from death, to demonstrate the immortality of the body accomplished by His Divine power and the powerlessness of death.
Even as Jack proved his beans were magic by planting them, Jesus demonstrated the immortality of the resurrection body by dying and then rising from the dead. With this key difference: Jack and his beans are a mere fairy tale but Jesus’ death and resurrection really happened; they are historical. They are, in C.S. Lewis’ words, the fairy tale come true.
Brothers and sisters – Christ is risen! Let us rejoice! Death no longer has the final word. The sting of death has been broken; the power of the grave has been shattered. Hades has given up his captives and we can now rejoice in the power of God and face our defeated foe, death, with hope. There is no cause for fear. The Lord Jesus Christ has proven that even as His body was raised glorious from the dead so too the bodies of all those who trust in Him shall be raised from their graves.

And so reminded that our Lord Jesus died and rose again to attest the immortality of the body and to enable us to live without fear of death, let us kneel and confess that we have often been overcome by our fears instead.

Why baptize babies?

February 26, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Quotations
Romans 6:3–6 (NKJV)
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
In our exhortations, I have been exploring various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. Since we have the privilege of baptizing a baby later this morning, I thought it beneficial to use our exhortation to explain our rationale for this action. Why do we baptize babies? I’ve written on this elsewhere, but consider a few more thoughts.
In Biblical Theology sacraments are visible words. Even as God communicates to us in His written Word, the Bible, so He communicates to us in visible words, in covenant signs and seals – what we call sacraments or ordinances. One of the earliest covenant signs was the rainbow – God placed the rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant that He made with Noah. The rainbow visibly proclaims God’s promise to Noah and to us that He will never again flood the earth. So every time we see the rainbow, God invites us to believe His promise and trust Him. In other words, the rainbow isn’t our word to God but God’s word to us, God’s promise to us (Gen 9:12-17).
What is true of the rainbow is also true of other covenant signs: they are primarily God’s Word to us, not our word to God. Paul emphasizes this in Romans 6 by using the passive voice to describe baptism. He writes that the Roman Christians “were baptized” (passive) into Christ and “were baptized”(again, passive) into His death. So why the passive voice? Because, first and foremost, baptism is God’s act, God’s word, not my act, my word.
We do not baptize ourselves; we are baptized by another. In baptism, God speaks to each of us individually – He claims us as His own and assures us that, so long as we trust Christ, we are cleansed of our sin as surely as water washes our bodies and are anointed with His Spirit as surely as the water makes us wet. While the preaching of the Word holds that promise out generically, baptism makes that promise personal. Today, God speaks to Piper and assures her that His promise is reliable for her; even as He spoke to you in your baptism and made the same promise to you.
Robert Rayburn illustrates this powerfully while explaining why it is that we have ministers of the Gospel perform the baptism:
The reason why no one [but the minister] baptizes someone in our churches… is so that it be absolutely clear that baptism is not our act; it is Christ’s…. Suppose we were to have an infant baptism here next Lord’s Day: and suppose on this moment alone of all the moments in the history of the Church since the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ this was a sacrament by sight and not by faith: Just as the minister was prepared to begin, with a loud, tearing sound the roof of the building parted; and lo and behold, the Lord Christ Himself descended to where I am standing right now. There were seraphim hovering above His shoulder. We were all on our faces before the glory of God, but He told us to arise. He took the baby in His arms and He pronounced the Divine Triune Name over the child and made the promise of His Gospel and covenant to this child by name and then by name summoned him or her to the life of faith and godliness and consecration. He then spoke a word to this child’s parents about the sacred stewardship He was now entrusting to them and how they would answer to Him for this child’s faith and this child’s life on the Great Day. Then He spoke a word to this congregation about your responsibility and then a word to the minister about his. Then He blessed the child and poured water on its head and ascended back into Heaven and with a loud crash the ceiling came back to where it was before and everything was as it was.
Let me tell you a few things that would be inevitably true. One is that that child, though he or she would be too young to have any personal recollection of that moment, would remember his Baptism forever and better than he would remember any other event in his life because scarcely a day would pass without his parents telling him what happened in the church when he was three weeks old and what the Lord Christ said and demanded and promised. He would live as he grew up—at 3, at 4, at 6, at 8. at 12. at 18, at 26—he would live under the specter and under the mercy, the glory of Baptism. His whole life would be colored and shaped and formed by it. That’s what Baptism is. That’s exactly what happens in the Baptism of a child or adult when it happens in this church. The only difference is that it is by faith that you see it and not by sight.
Baptism is an invitation to trust God’s Word; it is a call to faith; a call to believe God’s promise in Christ personally. Consequently, it is fitting to apply it not only to believers but also to their children – for God graciously names our children as His own and summons them to trust Him along with their parents.
And note that baptism does demand something of us. Paul declares that baptism unites us with Christ’s resurrection such that we also should walk in newness of life. We should walk. Whether we were baptized as an infant, a child, or an adult, God speaks to us through our baptism, unites us to Christ, and calls us to trust Him, to love Him, and to walk in newness of life by the power of His resurrection. We are to respond to His grace with faith and obedience.

So reminded that in baptism God has claimed us as His own, has put His Name upon us, and summoned us to walk in newness of life, let us confess that we often respond to His Word with unbelief, that we have despised our baptism and forgotten the call that He has issued to us in it, and that we have need of His forgiving and cleansing grace as even our baptism signifies. And, as we confess, let us kneel as we are able and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession in your bulletin.

Whatever Things are True

October 9, 2016 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and, in our text, Paul catalogues some of them. He calls us to meditate on these things – to give them our attention, mull them over, and let them shape our attitude and actions.
So let us meditate on whatever things are true. “Truth is an attribute of God. As such the term speaks of His integrity, His trustworthiness, His faithfulness” (Holmes, 827). As the psalmist declares in Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” The Triune God is the true and living God, not a mere idol, not a figment of the imagination, not a pipe dream.
Because God is true, the world which He has created reflects His nature and, therefore, it has a distinct and definite nature. Our calling as human beings, is to understand the way God has made us and the world and to conform ourselves to this reality. We are to live truly not falsely – to live in accord with the way the universe really is. This implies, of course, that the world has a fixed nature, reflecting God’s own nature. This fixed reality characterizes empirical observations, intellectual and mathematical principles, and moral obligations. Boys are boys; girls are girls; animals are animals; gravity is real; 1+1 does in fact equal 2; multiplying the length times the width of a rectangle tells you its area; if all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, then it follows necessarily that Socrates is mortal; murder, adultery, and theft are grievous crimes; love suffers long and is kind.
All these statements are true, and Paul calls us to meditate deeply on these things. He summons us to rejoice in the regularity of the world that God has made. We are to rejoice in empirical truths, intellectual truths, and moral truths. And we are to rejoice in these truths wherever and by whomever they are discovered. All truth is God’s truth and we are called to meditate upon it; indeed, to rejoice in it.
However, when we are in rebellion against God, we don’t like to acknowledge the truth. Paul declares in Romans 1:25 that in rebelling against God, we “exchange the truth of God for a lie.” Having given ourselves over to this first-order lie, we find ourselves tempted to lie in other areas. We try to hide from the truth – for truth points us inevitably to the Truth Giver. As Jesus declares, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth come to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn 3:20-21).
This is why our culture has increasingly embraced the folly of relativism – whatever is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me. There is no such thing as absolute truth – except, of course, for the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. So we have begun calling evil good and good evil; justifying to ourselves our sexual licentiousness, our slaughter of the unborn, our greed, our loss of a moral compass. We have set ourselves up as the standard of truth. The result? We can no longer tell the difference between male and female; we have announced that men are able to wed one another; we have declared that a woman can be trapped in a male body; soon we shall claim that pigs fly.

But all this is folly, all this is falsehood, all this is lies and deceit and a sham. And Paul calls us to see it as such and to meditate instead on whatever things are true. So have you? Are you meditating deeply on what is true, are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind, or are you being conformed to this world by meditating on falsehood and filth? Reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are true, let us confess that we often embrace what is false. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Meditate on These Things

October 3, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations, Truth, Word of God
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
As we begin to preach through the book of Philippians, I decided to begin a simultaneous series of exhortations from Paul’s words here in the fourth chapter of that book. Paul is keenly aware that believers are ever susceptible to false ideas, doubts, sinful attitudes, and Satanic lies. Even as our tastebuds can, over time, become accustomed to foods that at first offend our palate, so our souls can become accustomed to filth that at first violate our conscience. Consequently, Paul commands us to meditate on those things that will build us up in the faith and empower us to excel still more in the service of Christ.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that the Philippians “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). Clearly if they are to “approve the things that are excellent”, then they must acquaint themselves with what qualifies as excellence. They must develop a taste for what is truly worthwhile. So Paul gives them a list here in Philippians 4 and urges them and, by implication, us to meditate on these things.
Before we consider the specific things, however, let us first consider Paul’s call to meditateupon them. He commands us, meditate on these things – in other words, give them your attention, mull them over, and let them shape your attitude and actions. Paul’s summons reminds us that meditation takes considerable time and effort. In the Scriptures to meditate is to consider deeply, to turn over in the mind, to reflect carefully. It engages the mind, the heart, the imagination, the emotions. While eastern religions like Buddhism liken meditation to emptying the mind, purging one’s passions, the Scriptures liken it to filling the mind or perhaps cleansing the mind of deficient ideas, thoughts, and assumptions, and shaping one’s passions.
So Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Paul wants us as Christians to be distinct, to have our character transformed into that of the Lord Jesus Christ so that in any situation we can discern what God would have us do. He wants us to be able to prove, to test, to approve the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. This will only happen if we do not permit ourselves to be conformed to this world but instead find ourselves transformed by the grace of God. So how does God go about transforming us? By renewing our minds. And how are our minds renewed? By meditation on whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy.
So what of you? Have you been filling your heart and mind with what is excellent so that you can approve what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God? Have you been meditating on these things, turning them over, mulling on them, glorying in them? What are you permitting to shape your thoughts? Are you regularly singing the psalms and chewing on them? Are you regularly reading the Word, memorizing it, and meditating upon it? Are the things of God filling your soul? Or have you instead been meditating on evil things? Turning the sin of another over and over in your head? Anxiously worrying about the future? Assiduously feeding your doubts and fears? Becoming consumed with your social media feed? Conforming your thoughts to Hollywood’s view of the world?

Paul exhorts us to meditate on excellent things that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Reminded of our frequent failure to do so, let us confess our tendency to be conformed to this world. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Promises of God are Yes and Amen in Jesus

April 25, 2016 in Bible - NT - Romans, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection
Romans 8:31–35, 37 (NKJV)
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
We have been emphasizing in our worship that the celebration of Easter continues in this period known as Eastertide. We continue giving the liturgical greeting, Christ is Risen! And we have devoted our exhortations to the topic of the resurrection. Why did Christ rise from the dead and what does this mean for us?
As we continue on theme, let me remind you that it is the hope of the resurrection that has invigorated Christian witness throughout the ages. In the verses just prior to the ones we have read, Paul reminds us that all those whom God has predestined to life, he will call to faith in himself; and all those whom he calls to faith, he will justify; and all those whom he justifies, he will glorify. The culmination of God’s work in us is glorification: God will raise us from the dead and present us before Himself spotless and blameless.
It is in response to this promise, this promise of glorification and resurrection, that the words of our text are written. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
The promise of the resurrection assures us that all the promises that God has ever issued to His people will be fulfilled. God commands children “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth.” So what are we to think when a child loves and serves the Lord by honoring his parents and then suddenly dies? Will God’s promise fail? No – for in the flesh that child will serve God and with his own eyes and not those of another he shall see his Redeemer and worship Him.
Jesus promised, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this age…” What are we to think of this promise and its application to the martyrs who lost life in the service of God? Will Jesus’ promise fail? No – for in the flesh those martyrs will serve God and with their own eyes and not those of another they shall see their Redeemer and worship Him.
The resurrection assures that all the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus. Because Jesus has risen and by His resurrection has overcome sin and death, because through Him and the power of His Spirit all creation will one day be renewed and resurrected, all the promises of God will reach their fulfillment. Not one promise will fall to the ground. So we can cry out with confidence: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

This is our privilege and right as children of God – to live in hope of the resurrection. Too often, however, we live in fear – pressed down by the cares of this world, overwhelmed with the needs of the moment, forgetful of the promise of resurrection. We stand in need of the mercy of God and the empowering grace of God’s Spirit to enable us to live resurrection lives in the here and now. So let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His mercy.

Easter 2016

March 27, 2016 in Bible - NT - Romans, Easter, King Jesus, Meditations, Trinity
Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Today is Easter – the most significant of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the single most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have iphones. Because of the resurrection, we have new life, forgiveness, peace with God. All because of the resurrection.
Paul highlights the world transforming nature of the resurrection in our text today. After assuring us that Christ’s coming was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and that he came as was foretold a son of David, Paul goes on to declare that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead. What does he mean by this turn of phrase?
Many have supposed that Paul is here outlining the two natures of Christ – according to his human nature he was of the seed of David but he was also the Son of God, had a divine nature. Now while it is true that Jesus is both God and man, this text does not prove it. After all, our text declares that the resurrection signals some sort of change in Jesus as the Son of God. But Jesus’ divine nature has never changed. He has and ever will be the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. When Paul says that in the resurrection Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, he is not speaking of Jesus’ deity.
So what is Paul saying? He is telling us about the transformation that has occurred in Jesus’ calling as a result of the resurrection. First, note that Paul tells us that Jesus was born of the seed of David. In other words, Jesus possessed the natural right to rule as King. He had a legitimate claim to David’s throne. But simply having a legitimate claim does not make one the ruler. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim means little if one does not actually have the throne. So it is this that Paul addresses with the next phrase. Not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a legitimate claimto the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power– that is, the resurrection was Jesus’ coronation as King. God, as Peter says elsewhere, made Jesus to be both Lord and Christ by the resurrection from the dead.
What is the significance of Easter then? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago he was crowned King of the Universe, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him and this includes, because He conquered death, authority over death itself. He has the keys of death and hell. He opens and no one shuts. So death is conquered; death is destroyed. Christ is risen and those in Him shall arise as well. Death is no more the final word.
Is this not good news? Brethren, Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) Let us shout Alleluia! (Alleluia!)

And so reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel and acknowledge our rightful King, asking His forgiveness for our sins against Him. 

The Seriousness of Sin

February 14, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Numbers, Church Calendar, Meditations, Sin
1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 (NKJV)
6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as [our fathers] also lusted… 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. As I mentioned in my newsletter this week, Lent is a period of preparation like the season of Advent. It is time to anticipate the arrival of Easter and the glorious good news of new life as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection. As the historic acclamation declares, Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ shall come again.
So let us consider in the next few weeks what focusing on Christ’s death and resurrection teaches us. First, Lent serves as a reminder of the true severity of our sin and the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross. While we often treat our sin with a breezy familiarity, Jesus’ death on the cross forces us to reckon with its true gravity and pervasiveness. We simply cannot save ourselves but stand ever in need of Christ – in need of His substitutionary death on the cross for forgiveness and in need of His resurrection power for obedience.
This week for my OT Bible reading I was in the book of Numbers. Because of their sin and unbelief, our fathers were doomed to wander 40 years in the wilderness. While wandering, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram compounded this sin by organizing a mass demonstration against Moses and Aaron. They complained that Moses wasn’t being sufficiently democratic; that they should be able to perform the same duties as the priests. “You take too much upon yourselves,” they complained, “for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Haven’t you ever heard of the priesthood of all believers, Moses? God didn’t look kindly on their protest and judged their rebellion, commanding the earth to swallow some of them alive and consuming others with fire.
One would think that our fathers’ response to God’s visible and powerful judgment would be contrition and repentance. But not so. “On the next day,” Moses writes, “all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the Lord.’” Rather than acknowledging the real cause of the calamity that had struck them – their persistent and ingrained sin and rebellion against God – our fathers chose to blame Moses and Aaron. “The calamity that struck Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was your fault, Moses and Aaron! You are to blame!” Because of this renewed sin, God acted in judgment once again – plague began to make its way through the camp. So Moses urged Aaron as the high priest to enter into the camp and to burn incense, intervening between God and the sinful people. Aaron listened to Moses, God listened to Aaron, and the plague was stopped.
This story reminds us of two things – two things that Lent was crafted to highlight. First, it reminds us of the ingrained and serious nature of sin. As Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). And this sin deserves the wrath and judgment of God for it is an attack on His Lordship and an affront to His holiness. Second, the story reminds us of the mercy which God has displayed in raising up a Great High Priest to stand between Him and His sinful people. Just as Aaron stood between God and Israel, interceding on Israel’s behalf, so Jesus stands between God and us, interceding on our behalf. Jesus stands between God and us, covering the guilt of our sin by His sacrifice and assuring us of God’s blessing rather than His curse. As we sing in the communion hymn:
“You who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great here [in the death of Christ] may view its nature rightly here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load, tis the Son the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.”

And so reminded of the seriousness of our sin but also of the greatness of God’s mercy in Christ, let us confess our sins to the Lord – our sins and the sins of our people – and seek the Lord’s forgiveness.

The Justification of God

September 21, 2015 in Bible - NT - Romans, Book Reviews, Election, Sovereignty of God

Just finished reading John Piper’s The Justification of God: An Exegetical & Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23. It was excellent but not for the faint of heart. His study pays close attention to the Greek text, the Old Testament background, and the New Testament cultural mileu. His central thesis – worked out more popularly in his books like Desiring God – is that God’s chief end is the exaltation of His character and Name in all the universe. Even as the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, this too is God’s chief end – exalting His Name in all the universe. And His determination to exalt His Name in all the earth is good news for His people.

Some quotations from Piper:

“Therefore these prophetic writings… impress upon the careful reader of the Old Testament that all God’s saving deeds spring ultimately from his loyalty to his own name…. the righteousness of God consists most basically in God’s unswerving commitment to preserve the honor of his name and display his glory. Thus if God ever abandoned this commitment and no longer sought in all things the magnifying of his own glory, then there indeed would be unrighteousness with God.

“…the righteousness of man in relation to God is (reflecting God’s righteousness) to love the honor of God’s name, to esteem above all things God’s glory (especially as it has been mercifully experienced in his saving deeds), and, finally, to do only those things which accord with this love and esteem. Thus human actions may be described as righteous not because they conform to an ‘ideal ethical norm’ (like impartial distributive justice, though this may often be righteous), but rather because they are fitting expressions of man’s complete allegiance to maintain the honor of God’s name and display his glory.” (p. 119)

“Thus God’s glory and his name consist fundamentally in his propensity to show mercy and his sovereign freedom in its distribution. Or, to put it more precisely still, it is the glory of God and his essential nature mainly to dispense mercy (but also wrath, Ex 34:7) on whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God.” (p. 121)

“For God to condone or ignore the dishonor heaped upon him by the sins of men would be tantamout to giving credence to the value judgment men have made in esteeming God more lowly than his creation. It is not so much that he would be saying sins do not matter or justice does not matter; more basically, he would be saying that he does not matter. But for God thus to deny the infinite value of his glory, to act persistently as if the disgrace of his holy name were a matter of indifference to him–this is the heart of unrighteousness. Thus if God is to be righteous he must repair the dishonor done to his name by the sins of those whom he blesses. He must magnify the divine glory man thought to deny him.” (148)