The Son of God with Power

April 12, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Church Calendar, Easter, Eschatology, Glorification, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Postmillennialism, Resurrection, Sovereignty of God, Worship

Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1
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 most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have cathedrals. Because of the resurrection, we have new life, forgiveness, and peace with God – all because of the resurrection.

It is this world transformation that Paul highlights in the introduction to his letter to the Romans. 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.

As we have been learning in our series on the Biblical Hope, Paul is telling us that Jesus not only had a claim to the throne of His father David but that He has now been installed as King in fact. He was born of the seed of David – in other words, he had the natural right to rule as God’s King. But simply having the natural right to rule does not establish that one does in fact rule. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim does not make one king and Charlie never had the power. But not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a rightful claim to the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power. He is now seated upon His throne, ruling as God’s King, and will continue to rule until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet.

So what is the significance of Easter? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago Jesus 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. Jesus is Lord; Jesus reigns.

And so as we come to this Easter on which we are worshiping together virtually, unable to gather together as we would wish, unable to breakfast together as is our wont, unable to commune together at the Table of the Lord, let us remember that this hard providence comes to us from the hand of our Risen and Exalted King. Not one hair falls from our head apart from His will; how much more does this inability to gather together on Easter come from Him?

So what does He intend? First, He intends to remind us what our sin deserves. While we often take sin lightly and don’t suppose the evil great, our exalted King Jesus uses such hard providences to teach us to measure its nature rightly. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and death in all its forms – death which is separation, isolation – is the just consequence of our sin. Let us embrace it; let us acknowledge it.

Second, He intends to remind us of the greatness of His mercy toward us His people. Jesus endured separation from His Father, from the Father who had never turned His face away from Him throughout His life, in order that we no longer have to be separated from God. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God and assured that if God is for us, nothing can be against us. Can this virus separate us from one another for a time? Yes. Can it separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? Never.

So as we enter into the presence of our Risen and Exalted King, Jesus, let us not harden ourselves in our sin; let us bow the knee and acknowledge our guilt, seeking His forgiveness. And having received the forgiving grace of God through faith in Christ, let us rejoice in His mercy. Reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confessions followed by the corporate confession in your order of service. (Our confession this morning is an acknowledgement of the ways we have broken each of the Ten Commandments.)

Your King Has Come

April 5, 2020 in Authority, Bible - OT - Zechariah, Church Calendar, Justice, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Postmillennialism, Thankfulness

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. 10 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; 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 or, perhaps, still do, then you may have a hard time getting your mind around Palm Sunday. For Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as our King come to establish His kingdom. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you.”

But if Jesus is entering Jerusalem as king, why, some ask, doesn’t He appear very kingly? Why is He lowly and riding on a donkey? Such a question reveals how distorted our concept of kingship has become; how we have allowed the world to define true kingship rather than allowing our Lord Jesus to define it. 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 king. What does it mean to be a king? It is to be just and 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. 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 good 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 coming glory of our King. Immediately after proclaiming the character of the coming King (the King is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey), Zechariah declares that this King will destroy warfare from the earth and will establish universal peace under His rule. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off.”

How effective shall Christ’s Kingship be? 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.’”

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 kingship have you practiced? Have you demanded, cajoled, manipulated, and wormed your way to the top? Or have you been just, looking to bless and serve those whom God has entrusted to your care? Are you living as the servant of the servants 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.

Cultivating Hope

October 7, 2018 in Bible - NT - Romans, Ecclesiology, Lord's Day, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Preaching, Resurrection, Word of God

The following was my exhortation for the worship service which Trinity Church held during the 2018 Knox Presbytery (CREC) Stated Meeting. It was a privilege to host presbytery here in Coeur d’Alene and to worship with old friends and new. May the Lord continue to bless our presbytery and give us men of hope to preach in our pulpits and people of hope to fill our pews.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV)

4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

As ministers of the Gospel and officers in Christ’s Church, our fundamental duty is to give our people the Word of God. The Good Shepherd makes His people lie down in green pastures and leads them beside still waters. So as under-shepherds we are to teach our people to love and cherish the Word of God, to drink deeply of the law and the prophets, to chew regularly on the psalms and the Gospels, and to feast freely on the epistles and Revelation. The Word of God is to be our meat and drink.

Paul’s words to the Romans in our text today remind us how we should teach the Word of God. First, he writes that whatever things were written before were written for our learning. The Scriptures were written for our instruction. As we preach and teach the Word of God, therefore, we must do so in such a way that our people grow in their understanding of the Word. The greatest commandment includes loving the Lord our God with all our minds. Therefore we must instruct God’s people, we must engage their minds with our teaching.

This instruction, however, is never to be merely academic. Jonathan Edwards reminds us, “Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched; and they stand in greatest need of that sort of preaching which has the greatest tendency to do this.” So Paul reminds us that the Scriptures were written in order that we… might have hope. The end of our instruction is to foster hope in our flocks – hope for God’s work in the world and hope for God’s work in their own lives.

So how do we cultivate this sense of hope among our people? Paul writes that we do this through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures. First, through the patience of the Scriptures. One of the ways that we are to feed the hope of our people is by reminding them of God’s patient and persistent work in history and in their lives. When we fail to perceive immediate change – either in our personal fight against sin or in the advance of the Gospel in history – we can grow discouraged. Is there no hope of victory? One of the glorious things that the Scriptures do is remind us that God is patient. He works slowly over the course of our lives, growing us in holiness and righteousness as we walk by faith. And He works slowly over the course of history, causing the Name of His Son to be exalted in the earth. As Isaiah assures us, God’s Servant will not fail nor grow discouraged until He has established justice in the earth.

Second, we feed the hope of our people through the comfort of the Scriptures. We are to remind them regularly of God’s mercy and grace, to direct their vision again and again to the loveliness of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When discouraged by their sin, we point them to Jesus who died on the cross. When overwhelmed with daily tasks, we point them to Jesus who has poured out His Spirit upon us. When despairing of historical progress, we point them to Jesus who sits enthroned at God’s right hand.

So how are you doing? If you are a minister of the Gospel or the head of a family, have you been teaching your flock the Word in such a way that you are enabling them to have hope? And do you embody that hope in your own life? Or have you become discouraged and overwhelmed with the tasks of the day, forgetting the patience and comfort of the Scriptures?

Reminded that we often lose hope, becoming discouraged by our own indwelling sin or disheartened by setbacks in God’s work in history, let us confess our lack of hope to the 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.

The Crisis of Unbelief in the Church

September 16, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Judgment, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Sovereignty of God

Proverbs 10:23–25: To do evil is like sport to a fool, But a man of understanding has wisdom. 24 The fear of the wicked will come upon him, And the desire of the righteous will be granted. 25 When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.

It is important to understand that increasingly we live amongst a people who act as though there is no God. We live amongst fools; for it is the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.” He runs up debt with no intention to repay; he makes promises and does not fulfill them; he commits sexual immorality, performs lewd acts, divorces his spouse, violates his oaths. He does not believe there is anyone who will call him to account, “I am my own master.”

Consequently, in Solomon’s words, doing evil is like sport to a fool. Life is just a game where decisions are not a matter of life and death; not a matter of heaven and hell; everything will turn out fine. “It’s all good,” so the saying goes.

A man of understanding, however, has wisdom. He understands that his choices have consequences – not only in the next life but also in this life. God is the Lord, rewarding the just and judging the wicked. The wise man lives his life aware of this fact; lives his life in the fear of the Lord.

Though the fool may claim that there is no God who rules in the affairs of men, the wise man knows better. God does rule; God does see; and He shall reward the righteous and judge the wicked – both in this life and in the next. The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by – when God’s judgment falls – the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation. As Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 11:31,“If the righteous will be recompensed on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner.” God is just and His justice will manifest itself in the course of human history.

Today Christians are facing a crisis of unbelief: it’s not that we don’t believe in God, it is that we do not believe that God’s justice will triumph in human history; we do not believe God executes justice in space and time. As a result of pessimistic end-times teachings about the nature of history, we have become convinced that wickedness is going to triumph in history. “The world is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

It is understandable that unbelievers think this way. The unbelieving worldview is cynical by nature. This week Peter Hitches wrote a review of Game of Thrones, highlighting the way in which it basks in this unbelieving cynicism. He writes:

In [the author’s] imaginary country, virtue and trust are always punished… almost everyone associated with honesty, selfless courage, and justice is doomed…. Bravery and charity toward others are rewarded with death or betrayal. The simple poor are raped, robbed, enslaved, and burned out of their homes. Chivalry… is… a fraud. All kinds of cruelty and greed, typified by the House of Lannister, flourish like the green bay tree. Treachery and the most debauched cynicism are the only salvation, the only route to safety or advantage.

While this debauched cynicism is not surprising in unbelievers, believers should know better. The Scriptures assure us that God’s justice will triumph in history. Though the wicked may temporarily triumph, God shall cause their fears to come upon them.

So what of you? Have you become cynical, believing that God’s justice will sleep forever? Have you become discouraged, longing for God to reveal His justice on your schedule? Do not give way to this unbelief but be a man, a woman of wisdom. Trust in the Lord. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Reminded that the wise man lives His life in the fear of God, knowing that God’s justice will triumph, let us confess that we have often been cynical, often been discouraged. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able.

The King of kings – Palm Sunday 2017

April 9, 2017 in Bible - OT - Zechariah, Church Calendar, Confession, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Postmillennialism
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. 10 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; 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 or, perhaps, still do, then you may have a hard time getting your mind around Palm Sunday. For Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as our King come to establish His kingdom.
Advocates of a delayed kingdom will ask: if He is entering Jerusalem as king, why doesn’t He appear very kingly? However, such a question reveals how distorted our concept of kingship has become and how we have allowed the world to define true kingship rather than allowing our Lord Jesus to define it. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, His entry into Jerusalem to suffer and to die for His people, His entry into Jerusalem to serve, is the preeminent illustration of what it means to be a king. What does it mean to be a king? It means to be humble and lowly, to be a servant, to give your life for the benefit of your people.
And it was precisely this type of King that our Lord Jesus was and is. He came to give His life a ransom for many. He came not to be served but to serve. He came as the prototype for all the kings of the earth – this is what it is to be a ruler. It is to be a servant to your people.
To our fallen nature this type of kingship can seem utterly ineffective. No king who comes to serve rather than to be served will be respected and honored; no king who acts in this way will really be successful. Rather it is those like Alexander the Great who push and prod and pursue their own glory who accomplish great things.
But the prophet Zechariah gives the lie to such thinking. Immediately after proclaiming the humility and lowliness of the coming King (the King rides on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey), Zecharaiah declares that this King will destroy warfare from the earth and will establish universal peace under His rule. How effective shall Christ’s Kingship be? 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 kingship have you practiced? Have you demanded, cajoled, manipulated, and wormed your way to the top? Or have you served and given and made yourself the least of all the servants of God? For the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Reminded that we have been unrighteous kings and queens, demanding our own way rather than serving others, let us confess our sin to our Sovereign 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.

Why use leavened bread in the Supper?

April 2, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Exodus, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Communion, Lord's Day, Meditations, Postmillennialism
Luke 13:20–21 (NKJV)
20 And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
For several weeks, we have been explaining some of the traditions that we include in our corporate worship. Last week we touched upon our practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly; this week let us consider our practice of using leavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. Why use yeast? Why leavened bread?
Given that the Lord’s Supper has parallels with the old covenant rite of Passover, some have argued that Christians should use unleavened bread in the Supper. Passover was the last day in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, given to celebrate the exodus from Egypt. Since the Lord’s Supper was inaugurated during that feast, some have argued that we should use unleavened bread in our celebration. What should we think of this?
Let us say, first, that there is nothing wrong with a church deciding to use unleavened bread in its celebration of the Supper. “The kingdom of God is not in eating and drinking but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). Further, Paul exhorts us in Corinthians, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:8). Unleavened bread can be used to convey such an exhortation and there is nothing wrong in its use.
That said, throughout Scripture both leavened and unleavened bread were used in sacred rites. While unleavened bread was used at Passover, leavened bread was used for the peace offerings (Lev 7:13) as well as for the celebration of Pentecost (Lev 23:16-17). Given that the Lord’s Supper is the new covenant feast that centers all these rites in Christ’s death and resurrection, it is important to recall why unleavened bread was used at Passover to determine if that rationale applies to the Lord’s Supper.

According to Exodus 12, unleavened bread highlighted the “haste” with which our fathers were to leave Egypt. God wanted them to leave quickly and so they didn’t have time for the yeast to rise. This sense of haste was confirmed by their dress – they were to eat the meal prepared to travel. “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waste, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste” (Ex 12:11).
So does the Lord’s Supper commemorate this same sense of “haste”? I don’t think so. The only haste seen at the Last Supper is that of Judas who is told, “What you have to do, do quickly!” That is hardly the type of haste we want to imitate! So what does the bread of the Lord’s Supper commemorate? It commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus’ body and the commencement of His kingdom. At the Supper Jesus took bread and broke it; He then shared it among his disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is My body.” The bread points not to haste but to Christ.
And this brings us back to the parable I read earlier. And again [Jesus] said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Jesus uses leaven to illustrate the pervasive influence of His kingdom, His rule. His kingdom shall operate in the world like leaven, slowly, organically permeating the world until the entire earth is leavened. And it is this characteristic of Christ’s rule that we are attempting to emphasize by using leavened bread: Jesus’ kingdom is like leaven. Slowly, organically the reality symbolized by this bread will become realized throughout the world. Jesus will spread His rule throughout the nations of the earth.

The use of leavened bread, therefore, summons us to be like leaven, to be instruments of God’s work in our families, communities, and workplaces. We are so to live and labor that the entire loaf becomes leavened. Reminded that God has called us to be leaven; to live so that through our witness Christ’s rule on earth is established; let us confess that we often fail to live in this leavening fashion. 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.

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.