Song of the Drunkards


Baptized into Christ Jesus

March 10, 2024 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations

Romans 6:3–6 (NKJV) 

3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 

In our exhortations, I have been exploring various traditions that appear in our corporate worship services. Since we have the privilege of baptizing Josiah, Rebekah, Matthew, and Daniel Bursese later this morning, I thought it would be beneficial to use our exhortation to explain the meaning of baptism which Paul discusses here in Romans.

In Biblical Theology sacraments are visible words. Even as God communicates to us in His written Word, the Bible, so He communicates to us in visible words, in covenant signs and seals – what we call sacraments or ordinances. One of the earliest covenant signs was the rainbow – God placed the rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant that He made with Noah. The rainbow visibly proclaims God’s promise to Noah and to us that He will never again flood the earth. So every time we see the rainbow, God invites us to believe His promise and trust Him. In other words, the rainbow isn’t our word to God but God’s word to us.

What is true of the rainbow is also true of other covenant signs: they are primarily God’s Word to us, not our word to God. Paul emphasizes this by using the passive voice to describe baptism. He writes that the Roman Christians “were baptized” (passive) into Christ and “were baptized” (again, passive) into His death. So why the passive voice? Because, first and foremost, baptism is God’s act, God’s word, not my act, my word. Thus, we do not baptize ourselves; we are baptized by another. 

Paul further declares that as many as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death. Every baptized person has felt God’s word of condemnation for his sin, God’s word of pardon through Christ’s crucifixion, and God’s call to newness of life through Christ’s resurrection. In baptism, God speaks to each of us individually – He claims us as His own and assures us that, so long as we trust Christ, we are cleansed of our sin as surely as water washes our bodies and are anointed with His Spirit for newness of life as surely as the water makes us wet. While the preaching of the Word holds that promise out generically, baptism makes that promise personal. Today, God speaks to Josiah, Rebekah, Matthew, and Daniel and assures each one of them that His promise is reliable for them; even as He spoke to you in your baptism and made the same promises to you.

Baptism, therefore, is an invitation to trust God’s Word; it is a call to faith; a call to believe God’s promise in Christ personally. Paul declares that baptism unites us with Christ’s resurrection such that we also should walk in newness of life. We should walk. Whether we were baptized as an infant, a child, or an adult, God speaks to us through our baptism, unites us to Christ, and calls us to trust Him, to love Him, and to walk in newness of life by the power of Christ’s resurrection. We are to respond to His grace with faith and obedience – thus I will be asking these young folks today to profess their faith in the Lord’s promises.

So reminded that in baptism God has claimed us as His own, has put His Name upon us, and summoned us to walk in newness of life, let us confess that we often respond to His Word with unbelief, that many of us have despised our baptism and forgotten the call that He has issued to us in it, and that we have need of His forgiving and cleansing grace as even our baptism signifies. Let ys kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.

Presenting Our Tithes & Offerings

March 3, 2024 in Bible - OT - Malachi, Giving, Meditations, Worship

Malachi 3:8–10 (NKJV) 

8“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 

Martin Luther once remarked that every Christian undergoes three conversions: the first of his mind, the second of his heart, and the third of his wallet. Of these three, it may well be that we find the conversion of our wallet to be the most difficult. Charles Spurgeon writes, “With some (Christians) the last part of their nature that ever gets sanctified is their pockets.”

Last week we began exploring various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. As we continue in this vein, let us address our practice of presenting our tithes and offerings before the Lord. You may be unaware, but we have a box in the foyer where you can deposit your tithes and offerings. Each Sunday during worship we sing a song about giving. And, as we sing, the man who will be offering our prayer of thanksgiving brings that tithe and offering box to the front of the sanctuary. So why do we do this?

Consider just a few of the many reasons: first, presenting our tithes and offerings to the Lord in worship reminds us that God lays claim to our wallets. God is the owner of all we possess and appoints us as His stewards to manage all our wealth in a way that honors Him. And Malachi insists that one of the ways we honor Him is by giving Him a tithe, or ten percent, of our increase. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse. Alongside such tithes are offerings, free-will gifts above and beyond the tithe which can be the fruit of vows we have made, an expression of gratitude for the Lord’s generosity, or an effort to help others who are in need. Presenting our tithes and offerings reminds us of God’s claim on our wallets. 

Second, presenting our tithes and offerings reminds us that worship is not confined to Sundays. What are our tithes and offerings but tokens of the work that we have done throughout the week? They represent the fruit of our work – all of which is done to the glory of God. They remind us that there is no division between “secular” work and “sacred” work – all our work is sacred, performed in the presence of God to the glory of God. Presenting our tithes and offerings reminds us of this.

Finally, presenting our tithes and offerings to the Lord reminds us that we are only able to prosper by God’s hand. David prayed after collecting supplies for the construction of the Temple, “But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You” (1 Chr 29:14). Did you catch that last phrase? “Of Your own we have given You” – it is God who gifts us with intelligence, with opportunity, with ingenuity, and with skill to get wealth. So we are to give Him thanks – and one way we do so is by giving Him a portion of the wealth He gives us. 

Presenting our tithes and offerings weekly reminds us, therefore, that God lays claim to our wallets, that all our work is to be done to the glory of the Lord, and that we are only able to prosper by His gracious gift. So as we bring our tithes and offerings to the Lord, how ought we to do so? The Apostle Paul reminds us to give “not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). We are to give thankfully, freely, and cheerfully. We are to give, not because compelled to do so, but because we recognize God’s generosity to us. God has freely given to us, so let us give freely to Him and others. He has saved us from our sin; He has provided for our daily needs; hallelujah, what a Savior! 

Reminded that we are to present our tithes and offerings to the Lord generously and thankfully, let us confess that we often fail to give, that we close our fists to those in need and rob God of that which is His due. As you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.

The Gift of Forgiveness

February 25, 2024 in Bible - NT - John, Forgiveness, Meditations

John 20:21–23 (NKJV) 

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. Recall that when a paralytic was brought to Jesus and let 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?” (Mk 2:7)

The Pharisees’ question was entirely reasonable. While I can forgive you for intentionally breaking my nose, I cannot forgive you for breaking my neighbor’s – I wasn’t the one wronged, so how can I forgive you? The same principle applies for sins against God: only God can forgive those who sin against Him. So how can we know whether God has forgiven us? Who speaks for God on earth?

In the old covenant, the Aaronic priests spoke for God. God used the sacrificial system and the priests to assure people of forgiveness. 

5‘And it shall be, when [someone] is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; 6and 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. (Leviticus 5:5–6) 

The priest shall make atonement for him; over the sacrifice, the priest would announce, “Believe God’s promise! He has provided a substitute to bear the guilt of your sin. You are forgiven!” This feature of the old covenant helps us understand why the Pharisees were disturbed by Jesus’ forgiveness of the paralytic: Jesus was not an Aaronic priest, nor was He at the temple where a sacrifice was being offered. So how dare He presume to speak for God? “Who does this man think he is? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus knew the Pharisees’ 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” (Mk 2:9-12). According to Jesus, the healing of the paralytic proved that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. Jesus now speaks for God. With these words and actions, Jesus was announcing the end of the old covenant, the sacrificial system, and the Aaronic priesthood. Now, in the Messianic Age, the forgiveness of sins is declared in Jesus’ Name, based on His once-for-all sacrifice. Jesus speaks for God.

So that brings us to our text in John 20. After Jesus had been crucified and then risen from the dead, He spoke to the Twelve. “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you…”  Jesus commissioned the Twelve as His representatives; they were to speak for God in the world and to declare the forgiveness of sins in His Name. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus said. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” In other words, the sacrificial system has forever come to an end and the forgiveness of sins is now preached to all nations based on the sacrifice of Christ alone.

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. If you acknowledge your sin and turn from it, seeking God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, then you are forgiven. My word does not grant forgiveness; only the sacrifice of Jesus can do that. My word simply reminds you of God’s promise and summons you to believe His word: all those who trust in the once-for all sacrifice of Jesus shall be forgiven and cleansed. Your calling is to hear that promise, even as the paralytic heard the words of our Lord, and to believe Him. “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

So reminded that God offers forgiveness only through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, let us continue to confess our sins in His Name, not denying or hiding or minimizing or medicating them but trusting that God will indeed forgive all those who confess their sins in Jesus’ Name. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins.