Why and how to use creeds in worship

January 30, 2017 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Creeds, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Tradition, Worship
Isaiah 29:13–14 (NKJV)
13 Therefore the LORD said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, 14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”
Every Lord’s Day we have opportunity to confess our common faith with one of the ancient creeds. Currently, we are reciting the Apostles’ Creed but we use others at different times of year. In churches like ours that use the creeds – as well as other written responses and prayers – there is an ever-present danger – the danger of mindless repetition, of drawing near to God with our lips while our hearts remain far from him. As our passage in Isaiah illustrates, the prophets were stern in their rebukes of the people of God for this sin, the sin of failing to draw near to God in our hearts and substituting external ritual for an inward love for Him. So if common confession entails this danger why even do it? There are numerous reasons that we recite the creeds – consider just a few.
First, reciting the creeds enables us to declare boldly and clearly whom we worship. Amid a pluralistic society in which a variety of gods are honored, we declare our trust in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We do not worship Vishnu, nor Zeus, nor Allah, nor the Mormon deity; neither do we worship America’s idol, some general theistic deity. We worship the Triune God; in Him is our trust.
Second, by reciting the creeds immediately after the reading of God’s Word, we declare our trust in the Sovereign Lord who has revealed Himself in sacred Scripture. As God’s Word continues to be spurned in our culture and even in many churches, we confess openly, “We trust in God and His Word. He is God; we are not. We shall do what He says and follow Him.” With the creeds, we express our faith–we trust the One who has spoken to us in His Word.

Third, reciting the creeds reminds us to preserve the faith which has been handed down to us. Jude commands us to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). When we confess the creeds, we acknowledge our indebtedness to the saints who have gone before. We confess the faith because they preserved it; and this now is our duty for future generations. The God we worship is the God of Abraham and Isaac, Peter and Paul, Ambrose and Augustine, Luther and Calvin, Edwards and Whitefield, J. Gresham Machen and Francis Schaeffer. They lived, breathed, suffered, and died to preserve this faith for us and we are called to hand it down in turn.
While remembering why we recite the creeds, it is also important to emphasize how we are to do it. And this brings us back to our opening danger – the danger of mindless repetition. As we recite the creed each Lord’s Day we declare, “We believe…”It is important to ask, believe it or not, what we mean by the word “believe”? James reminds us: “You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe and shudder!” There is a certain type of belief that will not deliver in the day of judgment. So when we confess the creed, the belief that we should be confessing is not a mere admission of intellectual assent, “Oh, yeah, this is what I think,” but rather an expression of heartfelt commitment, “This is the One I love, I trust, I cherish, I adore.”
And so, how are we doing? Children, how are you doing? Are you embracing and cherishing the One who has called you His own in the waters of baptism? Are you approaching worship in faith, hungering to hear the voice of Christ, to be changed and transformed by His SpiritHHHeH? Adults, how are you doing? Is worship growing ever more sweet and lovely? Are you reciting the creeds intelligently and faithfully or merely by rote? Our confession should be robust, lively, and full of faith. Beware lipping the words and losing your heart.

Reminded of our propensity to draw near to God with our lips and fail to draw near Him with our hearts, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive us and make the fruit of our lips a pleasing sacrifice in His sight. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Epiphany – God’s Revelation of Himself

January 9, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, Evangelism, Meditations, Postmillennialism
Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)
6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
This last Friday was Epiphany. Since we don’t yet celebrate the day of Epiphany as a congregation, we delay our celebration to the Sunday following. Epiphany means “revelation.” On Epiphany Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Wise Men, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.
Consider, first, the coming of the Magi. The Magi were a powerful class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. What is perhaps most significant is that while Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Gentile rulers sought Him out and bowed before Him, acknowledging Him as God’s King. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles.
Even as God revealed His Son to the Magi, He also revealed His Son to the world in His baptism. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry and was washed in water to prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. God revealed His Son to the watching world.
Finally, God revealed the identity of His Son at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. This was the first sign that Jesus performed after His temptation in the wilderness. As Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry, He turned water into wine and, in the words of the Apostle John, revealed His glory – revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation and celebration.
Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God demonstrates how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and refusing His love. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”
So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us bow before our Christ, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Building a Cathedral

May 23, 2016 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Ecclesiology, King Jesus, Meditations, Prayer

The following exhortation was written for the installation of Kenton Spratt to serve as the lead pastor at Christ Church in Spokane, Washington. Kenton has been serving as a co-pastor in Spokane for the last couple years alongside Joost Nixon. Joost is now leaving to pursue mission work with Training Leaders International and Kenton will be staying to pastor the church by himself.

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Isaiah 61:4 (NKJV)
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Once upon a time there were two skilled stonecutters working diligently at their craft. A young man walked by admiring their skill and industry. The care they took with the stone, the intricacy of their work, and the nature of their tools enchanted him. But most he was struck by their intensity; they were absorbed in their task. The young man couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the first stonecutter. “What are you doing there?”The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a quizzical look. “Well, lad, as you can see I’m cutting stone.” And with that, the man went back to his work, chisel and mallet in hand, focused and intent.
The young man moved on to the second stonecutter. He watched the stonecutter for a few minutes; noted the calluses on his hands; the dust and dirt on his apron; the blood trickling down the knuckle that he had just caught on a piece of stone. “Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the second stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a smile. “Well, lad, I’m building a cathedral.” And with that, the man pointed behind him to the plot of ground that had been cleared for the new church.
Today is a momentous day. Today is a day of transition; a day of new beginnings; a day when the old things have passed away and, behold, new things have come! We are commissioning Kenton to serve as the lead pastor here at Christ Church and calling you, as the people of God, to support him and pray for him in this calling. For many years Joost has faithfully served this congregation; for the past couple years Kenton has been faithfully serving this congregation; now each is assuming a new role, embracing a new vocation.
As we inaugurate this transition, no doubt some young man is going to come up and ask us, “Excuse me, Sir, what are you doing?” So what are we doing? Are we merely cutting stone? Merely commissioning a new lead pastor? Merely making sure things run smoothly here at Christ Church? Or are we building a cathedral? Laying another stone in the construction of the Kingdom of God here in Spokane? Battering against the gates of hell?
Isaiah reminds us that the work to which God has called us is not merely cutting stone, not merely running organizations, not merely filling vacancies. The work to which God has called us is to rebuild the old ruins, and raise up the former desolations. Our task is glorious – it is to reverse the effects of the Fall by laboring for the expansion of God’s kingdom; to repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. This is what we’re doing.
Do you see that? Do you see that today in what we are doing and do you see that daily in the work that you are doing? Have you remembered the end for which you are laboring? Or are you, like the first stonecutter, just cutting stone? When someone asks you – be you student, plumber, nurse, teacher, homemaker, soldier, administrator – when someone asks you, “Excuse me, Sir,” or, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what are you doing there,” how will you respond? Will you say, “Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” or will you remember the end of your labor, the purpose of your labor, the goal of your labor, and declare with joy, “I’m building a cathedral? I’m laboring that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Reminded that we often fail to remember our true vocation, that we lose sight of God’s noble and glorious calling in our lives – to rebuild the ruins and raise up the former desolations – let us confess our lack of faith and vision. And as we confess, let us kneel together.
Our Father,
We confess that we often lose sight of our calling in this world. We become so focused upon our particular task that we lose sight of that for which we weekly pray – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and grant us grace to keep before our eyes the vision of Your kingdom, that we would be your instruments in the world rebuilding the ruins and restoring the devastation that our sin and others’ sin brings to the world. 
Amen.

The End of Education

May 22, 2016 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Ecclesiology, Education, Work

This was a commencement address for the graduations of some students at our Trinity Home Educators Cooperative. What a privilege to be invited to speak! May the Lord’s blessings rest on these youth! (The thoughts here are similar to those in my exhortation at Christ Church for Kenton Spratt’s installation. And the central image of the two stonecutters was borrowed from James K.A. Smith’s thought provoking book You Are What You Love.)

———-

Isaiah 61:4 (NKJV)
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Once upon a time there were two skilled stonecutters working diligently at their craft. A young man walked by admiring their skill and industry. The care they took with the stone, the intricacy of their work, and the nature of their tools enchanted him. But most he was struck by their intensity; they were absorbed in their task. The young man couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the first stonecutter. “What are you doing there?”The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a quizzical look. “Well, lad, as you can see I’m cutting stone.” And with that, the man went back to his work, chisel and mallet in hand, focused and intent.
The young man moved on to the second stonecutter. He watched the stonecutter for a few minutes; noted the calluses on his hands; the dust and dirt on his apron; the blood trickling down the knuckle that he had just caught on a piece of stone. “Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the second stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a smile. “Well, lad, I’m building a cathedral.” And with that, the man pointed behind him to the plot of ground that had been cleared for the new church.
Today is a momentous day. Today is a day of transition; a day of new beginnings; a day when the old things have passed away and, behold, new things have come! You are graduating, entering into a new phase of your life. As you make this transition, I would like you to think about what you have been doing thus far and what you will be doing in the future.
Many young people are directionless and listless. They think that the purpose of education is to enable them to get a job; accomplish a task; fulfill a chore. But the education you have received and the tasks you shall yet pursue – whether that is further education or vocational training – is about far more than a job. It is about a vocation – a calling, a summons from God to use your gifts and talents for the glory of His Name and the growth of His Kingdom.
John Milton, the great Puritan author of Paradise Lost, wrote in an essay on education: “The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.”Milton reminds us that education isn’t just about the transfer of information but the process of formation – changing not just our thoughts but also our habits, our loves, our desires, our goals. Rooting out the ruins we’ve inherited from our father Adam and that we’ve created ourselves. The Spirit of God has been poured out upon us to shape us into men and women of virtue – which, when it is joined with faith in the Triune God, makes up the highest perfection, the summit of achievement, the end of education.
And the goal of being men and women of faith and virtue is that we might be instruments in God’s hands to advance the Kingdom of God in the world. God repairs the ruins of our own selves that we might be instruments in repairing the ruins of the world. Listen to Isaiah’s vision for you: And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Isaiah reminds us that the work to which God has called you is not merely cutting stone, not merely getting a degree, not merely doing a job. The work to which God has called you is to rebuild the old ruins, and raise up the former desolations. Your task is glorious – it is to reverse the effects of the Fall by laboring for the expansion of God’s kingdom; to repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. This is what you have been doing and what you are yet called to do. Not merely cutting stones, but building cathedrals.

Do you see that? When someone asks you in days to come – be you plumber, nurse, teacher, homemaker, soldier, administrator – when someone asks you, “Excuse me, Sir,” or, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what are you doing there,” how will you respond? Will you say, “Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” or will you remember the end of your labor, the purpose of your labor, the goal of your labor, and declare with joy, “I’m building a cathedral! I’m laboring that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!” That is your calling. That is your vocation. That is the end of your education.

Christmas Homily 2015

December 25, 2015 in Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Bible - OT - Jeremiah, Bible - OT - Zechariah, Christmas, Church History, King Jesus
The passages before us today from the prophets and from the Gospel of Luke share a common theme – the arrival of the Branch of the Line of David. Isaiah first heard God’s promise of the Branch – a king who would rule and reign in righteousness. The Branch would not be like the false shepherds in Isaiah’s day – kings who looked out only for their personal interests, pursuing personal gain at the expense of the sheep. Rather, He would be filled with the Spirit of God, filled with wisdom, knowledge, and discretion – modeling the character of God Himself. But for a time God’s people had to endure the darkness of kings like Manasseh and Amon.
Over a hundred years later, Jeremiah picked up on this same promise. Disgusted like Isaiah with the selfishness and folly of the kings of Israel he reminded his readers of God’s promise through Isaiah. One day God would raise up to David a Branch of righteousness. This king would reign and prosper, saving and protecting His people, upholding righteousness and purity in His person. But for a time God’s people had to endure the darkness of kings like Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.
Another hundred years later, Zechariah returned to the same promise. Though Israel then lacked a king and was subject to foreign rule, God told Zechariah to set a kingly crown upon the head of the High Priest Jeshua. For the Branch would be not only Israel’s king but also her high priest. “He shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne” and, “The counsel of peace shall be between the two offices.” This priestly king would not abuse the authority granted to Him but would rule and reign in righteousness and justice, bringing light to all the world. But for a time God’s people had to endure the darkness of Persia, Greece, and Rome.
But then, over four hundred years later, an angel spoke to some shepherds. The long-promised Branch of righteousness, the Shepherd of Israel, the One who would rule and reign in justice was to be born. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” And this would be good news not just for Israel but also for all people, for all the nations of the earth, for all the families of the earth. The light is coming, the world will change. Then glory filled the sky, the light and life of the Messiah’s rule reflected itself in the voices and faces of the angelic host as they declared that the prophecies of Isaiah and of Jeremiah and of Zechariah were coming to fruition. Praise filled the sky as the angels marveled that the mercies of God would now extend to all the peoples of the earth. Light had come!
So what do these words mean for us? Just this: the darkness of the Judaic Age has come to an end. The Judaic Age – when God’s presence was by and large limited to the land of Israel, closeted behind the veil in the Holy of Holies – the Judaic Age has passed. Now the Age of the Messiah has come – all nations have been given to Him and so the Word of Truth, the light of life, is going forth to all the nations of the earth. The Spirit of God has been poured out on the Church and is now pouring forth from her into the world bringing life and salvation in His wake. God has begun to fulfill the promises He made long ago through the prophets. He has given a King to rule and reign in Justice; He has given a High Priest to minister in the Temple. And this King, this High Priest is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Branch from the Stem of Jesse.
It is this transition from darkness to light that we sung of just a moment ago. In the darkness of the ancient world, amidst the rot and decay of paganism, amidst the folly of apostate Judaism, came the Root and Branch of David.
Isaiah ‘twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half-spent was the night.
And from this Root, this Branch, planted by the hand of God, a great tree has grown which shall one day fill the entire earth.
“This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.”

It is the planting of this Branch, the Branch of Righteousness, which we celebrate today. The light has come – let us feast! Our King sits upon His throne – let us rejoice! Our High Priest has offered up a perfect sacrifice on our behalf and offers up prayers and petitions for us continually – let us give thanks! And let us start even now. Let us pray together:

The Folly of Anti-nomianism

October 18, 2015 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Sanctification
Isaiah 59:21 (NKJV)
21
“As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”
There was once a boy who imagined that when he was 18, he wouldn’t have to do any of the things his parents had taught him when he was young. This boy was particularly irked that his parents made him brush his teeth each evening. Getting the toothbrush out of the drawer, squeezing the tube, brushing for a minute – it was all such a nuisance, so time consuming. And what was the value of it anyhow? He just ate the next day and got his teeth dirty again. What’s the point!
Eagerly the lad awaited his 18th birthday. His 16th came and went; his 17thcame and went; and finally, his 18th birthday arrived. He was free. He got a job, moved out of his parents home, and commenced his long coveted practice of not brushing his teeth.
Ah, he thought with pleasure on his first night in his new apartment, this is the life. No one to tell me what to do! No more brushing my teeth! Joy and gladness wrapped their way around his heart. And joy and gladness stayed with him – for a time. But soon he began to experience the consequences of his decision. His teeth took on a decidedly brown appearance; he found it hard to get a date; his teeth began to ache from the cavities that filled them. In the place of joy and gladness came doubt; in the place of doubt, frustration; in the place of frustration, anger; in the place of anger, despair. Until the day he found himself facing the mirror, extracting his long-neglected toothbrush from the drawer, scrounging for that toothpaste tube with the dried paste around the top, squeezing the requisite amount onto his brush and scrubbing with all his might. But try as he might, he couldn’t get those stains off and he couldn’t fill those cavities.
Many suppose that the reason God has poured out His Spirit upon us is to free us from observing God’s moral law. “The Spirit has come, we no longer need the law.” Such people are foolish and naïve, totally misrepresenting the relationship between the Spirit and God’s moral law. The Spirit was given not to deliver us from God’s moral law but to deliver us to His law – to give us hearts that want to obey it. God’s law is not the problem; we are the problem. Though God’s law is good and wise, we imagine ourselves wiser than God and reject His precepts. But we merely display our foolishness, showing ourselves no wiser than our non-toothbrushing teen.

We have done this as a society – endeavoring to replace God’s law for sexuality, marriage, and divorce with our own precepts – but more tragically we continue to do this as the people of God – picking and choosing which portions of God’s law to obey. So reminded that we frequently pit God’s Spirit against His law, that we frequently imagine that maturity means freedom from responsibility rather than the love of the same, let us kneel and let us confess our sins to God.

The Need for Humility

September 27, 2015 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Confession, Meditations, Politics
Isaiah 39:8 (NKJV)
8 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.”
Hezekiah is appropriately remembered as one of the great heroes of the Old Testament era. When Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, surrounded Jerusalem with his armies and attempted to destroy the city, King Hezekiah entrusted himself to the Lord and the Lord delivered Jerusalem in his mercy. But like all biblical heroes other than our Lord Jesus, Hezekiah had his noticeable faults; and these faults became more pronounced with age.
The text before us today illustrates one of these faults. Hezekiah had just committed a severe sin by kowtowing to envoys from Babylon. Rather than placing his trust in the Lord and treating the envoys with appropriate discretion, Hezekiah gave the envoys a royal tour of the entire palace, including the treasury. For his folly, God announced through Isaiah that the kingdom would fall to Babylon.
“Hear the word of the Lord,” Isaiah declared, “‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
This was Isaiah’s message of doom. So how would you expect Hezekiah to respond to such a message? Don’t you expect him to show contrition, repentance, sorrow, and confession of guilt? After all, even King Ahab, the husband of Jezebel, knew the importance of contrition when hearing a rebuke from the Lord! When told that he would witness the destruction of his own family, Ahab humbled himself and went about in mourning. As a result, God mitigated the punishment, delaying it until after the close of Ahab’s life.
But how does Hezekiah respond to Isaiah’s message? Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.” In other words, rather than repenting in sackcloth and ashes, and perhaps averting the judgment of God on his posterity, Hezekiah rejoices that he doesn’t have to worry about it personally. “It’s not going to happen while I’m alive, so it’s no big deal.” Talk about a self-centered attitude!
Yet often our culture thinks and acts – and we ourselves think and act – in this same self-centered fashion. The current national debt is approximately 18 trillion dollars – and yet our representatives are passing additional “stimulus” packages to tax us into prosperity. In addition to the skyrocketing national debt, average household debt has reached unprecedented proportions. But our self-centeredness is reflected in more than our pocket books. It is reflected in our attitudes as well. How often do we consider the way in which our actions today will impact the next generation – especially the next generation of our own family? Adultery and covenantal unfaithfulness are rampant, the educational failure is acute, understanding of God’s covenant blessings and curses is all but lost. And yet we comfort ourselves, reasoning, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in our days?”

As we come into the presence of our Lord today, let us not act like Hezekiah. Let us bow before him and confess that we have often failed to consider the way in which our actions will affect future generations. Let us ask him to forgive our transgression and grant us godly repentance. And let us kneel as we do so.

Responding to Obergefell

June 28, 2015 in Bible - NT - James, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Bible - OT - Psalms, Homosexuality, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Politics, Ten Commandments
James 4:12a (NKJV)
12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.
Isaiah 5:20–21 (NKJV)
20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!
Psalm 94:20–23 (NKJV)
20 Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, Have fellowship with You? 21 They gather together against the life of the righteous, And condemn innocent blood. 22 But the LORD has been my defense, And my God the rock of my refuge. 23 He has brought on them their own iniquity, And shall cut them off in their own wickedness; The LORD our God shall cut them off.
God is the Lord. He is Himself the embodiment of all that is good and beautiful and true. As human beings, however, we often go astray, seeking to define these things for ourselves. This inevitably results in evil, ugliness, and lies. The brutality and wickedness of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Romans, the Huns, the Vandals, the Mongols, the Turks, the Japanese Empire, the Nazis, the Soviets, the Saudis, and, increasingly, the United States of America are well known and grievous. Woe, says Isaiah, to those who call evil good.
This past week the Supreme Court of the United States continued to exalt itself against the Most High God and pretend that it can make laws contrary to the moral law of God. It declared that same sex unions are a constitutional right. Such a declaration is an abomination to God, an affront to our forefathers, a violation of our Constitutional Republic, and a further invitation of divine judgment. God will destroy the throne that devises wickedness by law.
CREC Response to the Obergefell Decision
In light of the Obergefell decision by the United States Supreme Court on June 26th, [our denomination] the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches makes the following declaration.
All the varied expressions of transgressive sexuality currently being celebrated in our culture, and now by the highest court in the land, are out of accord with God’s creational design for human sexuality, and are therefore sinful in the eyes of God. Whenever men set themselves up arrogantly to challenge God’s holy standards for sexuality, seeking to teach contrary to what God has taught us in His Word, they are vainly attempting something that is not within their authority to accomplish. We cannot bestow dignity where God has withheld it, and we cannot join together what God has determined shall remain forever separated.
Because we in the CREC submit to the full and complete authority of Scripture, we accept our responsibility to reach out in true compassion to those caught in the snare of such sexual sin. At the same time, we refuse to accept that false compassion which leaves men and women alone with their sin, and so we declare that Jesus Christ died and rose, and we plead with all such to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ so that they might be forgiven, just as we have been forgiven.
In light of this decision, the CREC calls upon the leaders of these United States, whether elected or appointed, whether legislative, judicial, or executive, whether local or national, to repent of this egregious and arrogant sin of attempting to define reality contrary to how God has defined it. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.

Reminded that the Sovereign Lord is the Lawgiver and Judge, let us confess our own sins and the sins of our nation this morning. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession in your bulletin.

God’s Holiness and Ours

March 1, 2015 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Creation, Holy Spirit, Judgment, Meditations, Sanctification, Sovereignty of God
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul reminds us that the One who claims to love God and does not keep God’s commandments is a liar. Though the world would claim that such an idea is harsh and judgmental, the Scriptures make it quite plain: the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Why is this? The Bible grounds its answer in the holiness of God: the one who serves the Holy God must himself be holy. Why? Well what does it mean that God is holy?
The word “holy” conveys the idea of “separate, distinct, or different.” Theologians note that God’s holiness is both metaphysical(referring to God’s being) and ethical (referring to His character). First, God is holy metaphysically – He is the Creator and everything else is created. He is holy – fundamentally different from His creation. There are two basic realities: God and non-God. God, in other words, is transcendent: He is not part of the created order but distinct from it. As Paul says, “Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath and all things.”
Not only is God holy metaphysically, He is also holy ethically. God’s ethical holiness is His love for all that is good, righteous, just, and pure – it is His love of that which reflects His own character. As a result of our rebellion against God and our attempt to defy the metaphysical holiness of God, to breach the distance between Creator and creature, to become “like God” – as a result of this rebellion, we became morally corrupt / unholy. Hence, not only do we stand before God as creature before our Creator, we also stand before Him as sinner before our Judge.

And it is this twofold reality of God’s “otherness” as our Creator and His “righteousness” as our Judge explains why we must be holy ourselves. God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil. He cannot just wink at sin and overlook our rebellion.
Consequently, when the prophet Isaiah saw God lofty and exalted and heard the angels crying aloud to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is full of His glory!” – when Isaiah beheld this holy God, all He could do was cry out, “Woe is me! For I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Glory!” God’s holiness leaves us feeling not only small but also unclean for He is Holy – He is our Creator and our Judge.
So have you reckoned with this God? Have you considered that you live your life ever before His eyes? That He created you and has given you life, breath, and all things? That He evaluates you and speaks to you regularly in the world, in your conscience, and in His Word? And what’s more, have you reckoned that you know you have not done all He would have you do? That you have unclean lips and that you dwell among a people of unclean lips?

For if we reckon with God’s holiness, with our Creator and our Judge, then our only possible response will be to bow before Him and to seek His mercy and forgiveness. And the good news is that God has provided a way in which He can remain holy and yet restore unclean sinners to fellowship with Himself. How so? By sending His Son to live a holy life on our behalf and then to endure the punishment which our sin deserved; so for all those who seek God’s mercy and forgiveness through Jesus, He promises to forgive us, to receive us into His presence, and to give us His Spirit that we might become holy. But for those who reject Jesus there is no forgiveness but only a fearful expectation of judgment. So this morning as we enter into the worship of the Holy God, let us seek His forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ – and let us kneel as we do so.