Death, Be Not Proud

May 1, 2022 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Meditations, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:51–57 

51Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

We are in Eastertide, the period when the Church has historically continued to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is too momentous an event to celebrate only one Sunday – for it is Jesus’ resurrection that eliminates for us the fear of death and assures us that the bodies of all those who believe in Him shall likewise be raised from their graves.

And it is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body must pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body must pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised all those who believe in Him from their graves, when He has transformed our lowly bodies into the likeness of His glorious body – righteous, incorruptible, and immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, because Christ has risen, we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. And this is what Psalm 27:13 articulates. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” Or as Paul writes in our text today, “Oh death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So how are we to treat death? With contempt. As John Donne would teach us to say, “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so…” Why? Because Christ is risen and has broken his power. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So what should characterize our lives? Fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed! )

So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and shrinking rather than fearless and bold, let us confess our lack of faith to the Lord and petition Him for renewed boldness. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Silence of Jesus

April 17, 2022 in Bible - NT - Luke, Cross of Christ, Easter, Meditations

Luke 23:39–43

39Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed [Jesus], saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 40But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” 

For nearly two millennia now our fathers and mothers have been celebrating the feast of Easter – the celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On this day, the first day of the week, nearly two millennia ago our Lord Jesus rose bodily from the grave to conquer sin and death.

So what is the meaning of the resurrection? Is the resurrection just a nice story about the tenacity of life over death? Is it like the fairy tales of old, a tale that’s obviously not true but meant to teach us some moral lesson? The Scriptures proclaim that neither of those answers is accurate – the meaning of the resurrection is, first of all, historical. Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. It is God’s proof to the world of the reality of His existence and the pledge of His willingness to forgive those who believe in His Son. It is then, second, theological. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He has conquered death and now reigns as the Messiah, the Ruler over all the earth, to whom all must give an account. As I said in our greeting this morning – Jesus Christ is “the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

The story of the two thieves in our text today helps highlight the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection for each of us. These two men were in desperate straits; they were in need of salvation as are we; but the way they interact with Jesus couldn’t be more different. The first just wants Jesus to do something for him – get me down from this cross. If you really are who you say, if you really are God’s Christ, then prove it. Rescue yourself and us. 

Many people treat God in this same way. Life is challenging and they make demands of God. If you really are God, then prove it. They treat God as though He is some cosmic vending machine who exists for human comfort and convenience. “Deliver me from my debt. Give me a good marriage. Heal me of my disease. Vindicate me from my enemies.” But notice something significant: Jesus doesn’t respond to this man. He doesn’t speak a single word to Him. God is no cosmic vending machine.

But now notice the second thief. He is in the same predicament. But unlike the first man, this thief acknowledges his own guilt; he knows that he deserves to die but that Jesus does not: “we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” But, by the grace of God, he also sees in Jesus the face of God and knows that this Man can grant Him forgiveness and reconcile Him to God. So he says, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus speaks to this man and says to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

So what of you? Have you been treating God as some cosmic vending machine, imagining that He has some obligation to prove Himself to you beyond what He has already done? Have you silenced your own conscience, suppressing your guilt and making God the guilty one? If you have, then beware the silence of Jesus. But now, hear the good news, if like the second thief you acknowledge your sin and seek God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, then He will admit you to His kingdom just as He admitted this thief – not because you are worthy but because Jesus died and rose again that He might reconcile you to the Father.

And so reminded that the only way that we can approach God is by confessing our sin and seeking His forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus, let us confess our sin together today. (Our confession this morning is an acknowledgement of the ways we have transgressed against each of the Ten Commandments.) 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.

The Coming of the King

April 10, 2022 in Bible - OT - Zechariah, King Jesus, Meditations, Uncategorized

Zechariah 9:9-10 (NKJV)

9“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. 10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’

Have you ever been taught that while Jesus came as Savior in His first advent, He is waiting until His second to arrive as King? He is waiting, so it is said, to establish His kingdom on earth. If you have heard or even, like me, embraced that kind of thinking in the past or perhaps still do, then you may have a hard time understanding Palm Sunday. For Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as our King come to establish His kingdom. As Jesus entered the city, our fathers and mothers laid branches of palm upon the ground and sang psalms in order to fulfill Zechariah’s summons, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you.”

But if Jesus entered Jerusalem as King, why, some ask, didn’t He appear very kingly? Why is He lowly and riding on a donkey? Yet such questions reveal that we often allow the world rather than Jesus to define true kingship. For Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to establish justice, to save His people, and to advance both the glory of God and the good of His people is the preeminent illustration of what it means to be a good king. What is it to be a good king? It is to be just and to bring salvation to your people; it is to be humble and lowly; it is to be a servant, to bring blessing and light to your people. And it was precisely this type of King that our Lord Jesus was and is. 

To our fallen nature this type of kingship can seem utterly ineffective. Among pagan nations, might makes right. Rex lex. The king is law. No king who comes to serve rather than to be served will be great; no king who places the good of his people ahead of his own personal interests will really be successful. Pagan nations extol those like Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar who push and prod and pursue their own glory. It is kings like that who accomplish great things.

But the prophet Zechariah extols the glory of our King’s rule. Our just and humble King will so rule as to destroy warfare from Israel and bring peace to all the nations of the earth, “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations.” On the one hand, He eliminates warfare; on the other, He brings peace. And because He is a King of Peace, God promises to extend His kingdom throughout the earth, “His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’”

So what of you leaders out there – what type of kingship have you been exercising? Whether you are a husband, a father, a mother, an employer, a foreman, a manager – what type of rule have you practiced? Have you demanded, cajoled, manipulated, and wormed your way to the top? Or have you been just, looking to bless those whom God has entrusted to your care? Are you humble, considering others’ interests more important than your own? Are you living as peacemakers showing all humility in the fear of God?

Reminded that we have been unrighteous kings and queens, demanding our own way rather than imitating our great King and willingly serving others, let us confess our sin to our Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Speaking the Truth

April 3, 2022 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Meditations, Tongue, Truth

Ephesians 4:25 

25Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 

Last week we noted that one of the distinctive features of biblical and Christian worship through the ages has been the confession of sins. In Scripture and in history, both privately and publicly, God’s people have routinely confessed their sin to the Lord. And it is this pattern of confession that our liturgy reflects week by week. Having entered the presence of the Lord in praise, having seen with Isaiah the Lord of glory, we are reminded of our frailty and sin.

However, because we live among a people of unclean lips and are often ignorant of our own sin, one of our practices is these exhortations which focus on particular ways in which we and/or our broader society transgressesses God’s law. In our prayer of confession for Lent, we are reminded from Psalm 5 that the “Lord destroys those who speaks lies”and abhors the“deceitful” man. And so we confess, “But O Lord, we are evildoers. We are boastful, deceitful and bloodthirsty.”

It is this sin of deceitfulness that Paul commands us to shun in our text today, “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.” One of the deeds of the flesh, one of the tendencies of our sinful nature, which we are to put off is lying. But it is not enough to put off lying, we are to put on truth. We are to be known for our honesty and integrity. Our yes is to be yes and our no, no. Why? Because, Paul writes, “we are members of one another.” Lies, in other words, destroy trust, they destroy relationships, and, hence, lies destroy communities. Lies undermine unity and bring dissension in their wake. “Lying in a relationship is corrosive, and it is the kind of corrosive that will destroy the relationship” (Wilson).

So let us consider some examples. Just this week, President Biden reinforced his administration’s commitment to transgender ideology. This commitment was likewise on display in the refusal of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown-Jackson to answer the simple question, “What is a woman?” Such a commitment to transgender ideology is a systemic commitment to deceit. If we indulge such fantasy, lying to a man and telling him that he can be a woman or lying to a woman and telling her that she can be a man, then we are not being loving – for love speaks the truth to another even when that truth is hard to hear.

But while we are no doubt upset about transgender lies, we often lie to one another in our homes and mimic this same deceitfulness. We need to speak truth to one another and to cultivate hearts that want to hear the truth. We ought not to lie in order to maintain peace – for we are members of one another. We are to strive for peace by speaking the truth in love.

So husbands, you have been commissioned by Christ to sanctify and cleanse your wife with the washing of water by the Word of God (Eph 5:26) – and the Word of God is truth (Jn 17:17). So when your wife goes astray, you are to speak the truth to her in love, to tell her that she is being petty or bitter or hopeless or fearful. And the wise wife will listen to her husband and turn to Christ for forgiveness and newness of life. 

Similarly, wives, you are to imitate Lady Wisdom and to direct your husband “in the way of understanding” (Pr 9:6). So when your husband goes astray, you are to speak the truth to him in love, to tell him that he is being unjust or irresponsible or lustful or selfish. And the wise husband will listen to Lady Wisdom and increase in learning. 

Likewise, children, you are to put away lying and speak the truth to your parents for you are members of one another. Lies will destroy your relationship with your parents. So, if you stole the cookies, speak the truth. If you hit your sister, speak the truth. If you were looking at naked pictures of others, speak the truth. If you lied to your parents earlier this week, go back to your parents today and speak the truth. Few things are more important in your relationship with your parents than truthfulness for truthfulness establishes trust.

So reminded that we are to put away lying and to speak truth to one another as members of one another, let us confess that we have unclean lips and that we dwell among a people of unclean lips, that we have been guilty of lying to one another and need the forgiving grace of God to empower us to speak the truth to one another. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able and beseech the Lord to forgive us. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Confessing Our Nation’s Sins

March 27, 2022 in Bible - OT - Daniel, Confession, Meditations

Daniel 9:3–5 

3Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 

One of the distinctive features of biblical and Christian worship through the ages has been the confession of sins. Indeed, one of the signs of the cancer ravaging the modern church is that the confession of sins is often absent. In Scripture and in history, both privately and publicly, God’s people have routinely confessed their sin to the Lord. So when Isaiah sees the Lord, lofty and exalted, seated on the throne of His glory in the temple, Isaiah confesses privately, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Is 6:5). And when Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and restore the glory of Jerusalem, the Levites led all Israel to confess publicly, “You [O Lord] are just in all that has befallen us; for You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly” (Neh 9:33). Confession of sins is a routine feature of biblical and Christian worship.

It is this that we observe in our text today. Daniel is in exile in Babylon, meditating on the prophecies of Jeremiah. As he does so, Daniel is overwhelmed by Israel’s sin. So he sets himself to seek the Lord’s face with prayer and fasting and confesses Israel’s sin. He “made confession, and said… ‘we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” As we consider Daniel’s words, I would like you to note that Daniel was not personally guilty of the things that he here confesses. He had not rebelled against the Lord nor departed from the Lord’s ways. Indeed, the book of Daniel extols Daniel as a man of faith and faithfulness. Yet Daniel confesses the sins of Israel: “we have sinned… we have done wickedly” not, “they have sinned…” So why does Daniel speak this way?

The answer is that Daniel, unlike many of us, was not a radical individualist. He knew that he was not a mere individual; he was part of  a people, an Israelite. Hence, Israel’s sins were also his sins. So he confesses them on behalf of the nation, petitioning God to show mercy to Israel and modeling what all Israel should have been doing.

So too in our prayers of confession. Often we will find ourselves confessing not only our own personal sins but the sins of our people. Why? Because we are not mere individuals; we too are part of a people. We are Americans and America’s sins are our own. So we confess these on behalf of our people, petitioning God to show mercy to us and modeling what all America should be doing. 

So note our our prayer of confession for Lent. In just a moment, we will confess:O Lord, we are evildoers. We are boastful, deceitful and bloodthirsty. We have taken the lives of the innocent, abused the poor and the needy, exploited the helpless, approved perversity and immorality.”

I hope and pray that these things are not true of us personally; nevertheless, they are true of us all covenantally. We are a guilty people. We have taken the lives of the unborn, exploited the poor through the welfare state, used the power of government to confiscate by taxation what rightly belongs to others, undermined the covenant of marriage by legalizing no-fault divorce, and perverted God’s gift of sexuality through pornography, fornication, adultery, and LGBTQ deceit. We are a guilty people. As the church, we are to model a righteous response to such sin – and what is that response? It is to turn from it and to confess it as sin, seeking God’s forgiveness in the Name of Jesus.

So reminded that as we enter into the presence of the Lord today that we confess not only our own sins but the sins of our people, let us kneel before the Lord and beseech His mercy upon us and our people. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Curse of God

March 20, 2022 in Bible - OT - Malachi, Meditations

Malachi 4:5–6 (NKJV)

5Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 6And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

When God created the world, He created it a realm of righteousness and peace – a place of blessing. Yet God warned our first parents that were they to reject His Word this good world would fall under a curse. This should have been no suprise. God Himself is the source of life and light. Hence, to turn away from Him is to sever ourselves from all that is good and right, from that which gives us blessing; even as an electric lamp depends for its light upon an electrical outlet, the world depends for blessing and joy upon the living God. Hence, to reject God and yet imagine that we can preserve peace and joy is foolish. The ultimate end of rebellion is always death and judgment.

Yet our first parents listened to the lies of the devil and rebelled against God. Thus the entire creation became twisted and distorted, it came under judgment. Where once there was only blessing now curses touched all creation. And this had been the devil’s intention – to destroy all creation, to destroy that which God had designed and made, by bringing it like himself under God’s wrath and curse.

But God had other plans. God intended to reveal His glory by rescuing the world; He would not abandon it to the folly of our first parents or to the malevolence of the devil. And it it this intention that is announced in our text today. God promised to send Elijah to prepare the way for the Messiah’s arrival and to restore family harmony under Christ, Lest,” He declares, I come and strike the earth with a curse.” John the Baptizer was this Elijah. God sent John as the forerunner of His plan of salvation, His plan to rescue the entire creation from the curse of judgment.

So Jesus declared to Nicodemus. For God so loved the world – the kosmos, the creation which He had so lovingly and thoughtfully crafted – that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world but that the world through Him might be saved(Jn 3:16-17). God acted in Christ to rescue all creation from its bondage to decay, from the curse of death. 

So how did He accomplish this? He did this by making Jesus a curse for us. The ultimate end of rebellion is always judgment; God could not just overlook our injustice. To uphold justice, rebellion must be judged in order to uphold justice. And so, wonder of wonders, the eternal Son of God took on human flesh and gave Himself over to death for us; He became a curse for us, bore the just judgment that was due to us for our rebellion. And then Jesus rose from the dead, broke the power of death, and reversed the curse that once enslaved all creation. He died and rose again lest the earth be struck with a curse; He died and rose again to reconcile all things to Himself in heaven and on earth.

So now what of you? The ultimate end of rebellion is always judgment. Either we face that judgment ourselves – the end of which will be condemnation and death – or we turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, who bore God’s judgment for His people, and so receive the blessings of justification and life. As we enter into His presence this day, He commands us to seek refuge from judgment through Jesus lest we be struck with a curse. 

So reminded this morning that we can only escape the curse of judgment if we trust in Jesus who became a curse for us, let us confess our sins in Jesus’ Name, trusting that God will indeed forgive and bless all those who come to Him in faith. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Origins of War

February 27, 2022 in Bible - NT - James, Meditations, Sin

James 4:1-3 (NKJV)

1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

This week many of us have watched with dismay as Russian President Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine. Many of our contemporaries believed that we were beyond such barbaric times; that our new global economy would prevent a full-scale national war. But such a belief reveals that many of us have not reckoned with the depth of human corruption. 

What is the basic problem in the world? Is it poverty, ignorance, religion, economic inequality? Where do wars and fights come from? The question James poses is a question that the modern world continues to ask. Unfortunately, the answers given are rarely helpful, usually only partial truths. Consequently, our solutions are impotent. We put a band-aid on the visible wound but fail to stop the bleeding within.

So where do wars and fights come from? James tells us plainly: they come from covetousness, envy, desiring the good things that God has given to others. “Wrath is cruel,” Solomon informs us, “and anger is a torrent, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Pr 27:4) How does James describe this for us?

First, he says, “we lust and do not have.” We look around at all the good things God has given our neighbor and, rather than rejoice for them, we lust for ourselves. Whether what we desire is their Tonka truck, their mp3 player, their nicely proportioned body, their spouse, their car, or their mansion on the lake– we hunger for what they’ve got. And this hunger, this lustful desire, is the source of wars and conflicts – on a personal level and on a national level.

How so? James tells us. “You murder and covet and cannot obtain.” In other words, having eyed your neighbor’s car, his intelligence, or his new sneakers and having desired them for yourself, you proceed to wish ill for your neighbor. “Oh, if only he would die and leave his money to me.” “If only his wife would die, and I’d come comfort him and he’d marry me.” 

And then, having wished this evil upon our neighbor, it is simply a small leap to perpetrating the evil. Imagine you’re envious of a new game that your sibling received but won’t play with you. “Oh, I’m sorry brother, I didn’t realize that was your game I was stepping on.” Imagine you want that promotion at work but Jenkins stands in your way. Why not just lie to remove him? “Boss, I thought I should let you know, that I’ve observed Jenkins playing games on his computer during work hours.” Imagine you’re Putin longing for the glory days of the Soviet Empire; why not just lie to justify your ambition? “The Ukrainian people are mistreating the Russian speakers within their borders, and so now I am justified in invading their country like I have wanted to do all along.”

What is the solution to this type of lustful desire? It is to turn one’s eyes to God and trust Him to supply all one needs. “You do not have,” James declares, “because you do not ask.” But beware. Why are you asking? Are you asking for the glory of God and the good of His Kingdom, or are you asking simply to satisfy your lusts? Because if the latter James declares, “You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Reminded that covetousness is a sin and that it is the source of quarrels and conflicts in marriage, in the home, in the workplace, in the church, and in the world, let us kneel and confess that we have coveted our neighbors’ goods. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Authority to Forgive Sins

February 13, 2022 in Bible - NT - John, Forgiveness, Meditations

John 20:21–23 

21So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 

One of the great controversies that surrounded Jesus’ ministry was the forgiveness of sins. Some men brought a paralytic to Jesus and let him down through the roof into the house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus looked at the man and declared, My son, your sins are forgiven you.” Immediately, the Pharisees began questioning among themselves, Who does this man think he is? Who can forgive sins but God alone?

The Pharisees’ question was entirely reasonable. While each of us can forgive those who sin against us, we dare not presume to forgive their sins against God – only God can do such a thing. So the dilemma of our human condition is this: we all have sinned against God, so how can we know whether God has forgiven us? Who speaks for God on earth? In the old covenant, God appointed the priests to speak on His behalf through the sacrificial system:

And it shall be, when [someone] is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; and he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin. (Lev 5:5-6) 

The priest shall make atonement for him – the priest shall sacrifice the animal and announce to the sinner, Believe God’s word! He has provided a substitute to bear the guilt of your sin. My son, your sins are forgiven you.”

So why was Jesus’ forgiveness of the paralytic controversial? Precisely becaue He was not an Aaronic priest, nor was He at the temple offering a sacrifice, and yet He was declaring the forgiveness of this man’s sins. How dare He presume to speak for God? Who does this man think he is? Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Jesus knew their doubts; He knew their questions. So He asked, Which is easier to say to this man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or, ‘Arise, take up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” (he said to the paralytic), “’Arise, take up your mat and walk.’ And immediately the man arose, took up his mat, and walked.

According to Jesus, the healing of the paralytic proved that He has authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus was announcing the end of the temple and the sacrificial system; declaring that the Judaic Age was over. In the Messianic Age, this time where Jesus rules over all, the Aaronic priests no longer speak for God; Jesus, the Son of Man, does. And He has commissioned His disciples to announce the forgiveness of sins to all peoples in His Name, through His sacrifice. 

So every Lord’s Day, following our confession, I have the privilege of reminding you, assuring you, that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, there really is forgiveness with God. My word does not grant forgiveness; only the sacrifice of Jesus can do that. But the good news is that God promises to forgive all who acknowledge their sin and turn from it, seeking His forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Your calling is to hear that promise, even as the paralytic heard the words of our Lord, and to believe it. “My son, your sins are forgiven you.”

So reminded this morning of the gift of forgiveness that God grants through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, let us confess our sins in His Name, trusting that God will indeed forgive all those who come to Him in faith. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Keep the Traditions

February 6, 2022 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Meditations, Tradition

1 Corinthians 11:2

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.

Our culture has institutionalized the tradition of anti-traditionalism. Yesterday’s clothes are outmoded; yesterday’s ideas are passé. No sin seems more grievous than being behind the times.” Each new generation is expected to originate something totally new and eagerly jump on board the new train. Beanie babies have come and gone; Tickle me Elmos have lost their flare; Cabbage Patch dolls are a long-forgotten craze; and fidget spinners have lost their luster. 

Unfortunately, the Church has imbibed much of this cultural food. Several years ago, I read a story about a Trinity Church in Connecticut. It had been founded by folks who were dissatisfied with the traditions in the churches and who wanted something new, something hip, something relevant. However, ten years into their project they discovered something disconcerting: they had developed their own traditions. The Wall Street Journal remarked that these churches were founded by people in rebellion against established institutions. Ten years down the road, they have become the establishment.” Consequently, the pastor decided to step down. You don’t want to become ossified,” he said. You have to keep thinking freshly on how to do church.

Contrast this way of thinking with Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians in our text today:Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. Paul praises the Corinthians not for their novelty but for their faithfulness to that which they had been taught. In other words, the Word of God teaches us to value a godly inheritance – to take what is given in one generation and to pass down what is good and precious to the next; to tell our children and grandchildren the wonderful works of God so that they in turn can tell their children and grandchildren.

Paul’s words reveal that traditions are not inherently bad; in fact, as I have emphasized before, traditions are inevitable. It is only when our traditions undermine what is biblically important that they become destructive. And the tradition of anti-traditionalism is biblically destructive – the constant pursuit of some new style of worship, the longing to be relevant, the overthrowing of older generations because younger ones always know better – what do any of those things have to do with the Word of God? Hence, it is critical that our faith and our worship not imbibe this mentality, not reflect an opposition to a godly inheritance. 

As we gather to worship, therefore, let us do so with joy, celebrating the great work that the Spirit of God has done in leading and guiding His people to this day – treasuring what is good in our inheritance and passing those things down to the next generation. And the first thing the Spirit does in bringing us into the presence of our thrice holy God is awaken in us a sense of our own sin – today, in particular, our sin of undermining the Word of God through our recent tradition of anti-traditionalism. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.