Second Reformed Church

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Sunday Worship Service Cancelled

Due to the potential dangerousness of tomorrow morning's weather, we are canceling tomorrow's worship service at Second Reformed. Stay home, be safe, and we hope to see you next Sunday.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Reformed Wisdom

On Isaiah 19:19-22 --
"True religion is not people searching for God but people responding to revealed truth." -- J Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 169. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thursday Night Study

Join us tonight at 7 PM, D.V., as we conclude our study of I Timothy.  How serious should be take the Word of God?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Reformed Wisdom

On Isaiah 19:1-15 --
"The abiding message of a passage such as this lies not in the details, which are peculiar to its situation and date, but in its insistence that the problems of society, economics, and politics, have a spiritual causation.  They are the outworking of divine purpose and are directly traceable to the hand of God, not the outworking of sociological laws, market forces or political fortunes.  And it is only by recourse to the Lord that they can be solved." -- J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, 164.

"Beloved" Sermon: Luke 3:21-23

[Luke 3:21-22]
January 13, 2019, Second Reformed Church
            The second Sunday of January we particularly remember the baptism of Jesus.  Today I would like to expand our look a little, as we consider why the Father calls the Son His “Beloved Son.”
            There are two places in Scripture where God the Father called Jesus His “Beloved Son” – at Jesus’ baptism – this morning’s text – and at the Transfiguration.
            In Jesus’ baptism, we see that the Son is beloved of the Father because He dies for the people the Father gave Him.
            “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:21-22, ESV).
            Why was John the Baptist baptizing people?
            Baptism symbolizes the washing away of sin, and John the Baptist was calling all people – Jews and Gentiles – to confess and repent of their sins in the waters of baptism.  So, John was baptizing people who confessed and repented of their sins – it was a symbolic washing away of sin.  Just as the debt for sin is actually washed away by belief in the Savior with confession and repentance.
            Jesus, of course, never sinned, so why was Jesus baptized – why did He insist that John baptize Him?
            In order for Jesus to be our Savior – the Savior of all those who will believe – He had to experience everything that we experience – excepting sin.
            So, we are baptized, not because it washes away our sin, but because it symbolizes how Jesus paid the debt for the sin of everyone who would ever believe, so we are now actually washed clean of sin and its debt because of what Jesus has done on our behalf.  That is, Jesus took our place – He was our Substitute on the cross – He endured the Wrath of God as eternal Hell for each one who would ever savingly believe – He endured the Wrath of God – eternal Hell – He died, was buried, and then physically and victoriously rose from the dead, meriting victory over sin and death and Hell for our sakes and to the glory of God.
            Paul explains:
            “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
            “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:3-11, ESV).
            Jesus’ baptism was symbolic of the work that Jesus did in salvation for us – He suffered, died, was buried, and physically rose.  So, we will not suffer in the life to come, and after we have died and been buried, we will physically rise and be made like Him.
            And so the Father loves Him:
            Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18, ESV).
The Son is beloved of the Father because He dies for the people the Father gave Him.
            Second, in the Transfiguration, we see that the Son is beloved of the Father because He lives for the people the Father gave Him.
            “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matthew 17:1-5, ESV).
            Why didn’t God the Son just pop down on Palm Sunday and just be on earth for a week?  Why did God the Son come to earth by God the Holy Spirit through the womb of the Virgin Mary and live for thirty-three years?
            The reason God the Son didn’t just pop down on Palm Sunday is due to the fact that suffering the debt for our sin would not be enough to make us right with God.  God requires us to be sinless and righteous; we must be holy.  We must not only not sin, but we must also keep the whole Law of God perfectly.
            In Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, followed by His burial and physical resurrection, Jesus takes upon Himself all of the sin of all of those who will ever believe in Him and all of God’s Wrath for the sin – and, Jesus credits us with His sinlessness – God sees us as people who have never sinned against God’s Law.
            However, something more must happen for us to be seen as keeping all of God’s Law, and that is what we see in the Transfiguration and in God the Father’s declaration of Jesus being His “beloved Son” – Jesus kept all of God’s Law perfectly and credits that righteousness to us.  So, we are seen as sinless and righteous – as holy – in and through Jesus.
            Last week was Epiphany.  The Transfiguration was another epiphany – another revealing.  The three saw a revealing of the glory and the work of God in the Son in the event on the holy mountain.
            A bright light suddenly appeared – symbolizing the Glory of God, and Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus.  Why Moses and Elijah?  Why not Noah and Sarah?  Moses is the preeminent figure associated with the Law of God – the vast majority of the Law is given through Moses in the first five books of the Bible.  And Elijah is the preeminent figure associated with the prophets. 
And that may seem a little confusing since there is so little about the prophet Elijah in the Bible – there isn’t even a book of Elijah.  We might think of Isaiah or Jeremiah or Daniel before we think of Elijah.  But such is not the case. 
Why?  Well, we are given a clue – the book of Malachi – written about 400 B.C. – the last book of the Old Testament, ends with this prophecy:
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:1-6, ESV).
He is the prophet Elijah that God will send back – not any of the other prophets.  We can make guesses as to why this may be, but it is better to just receive the words of Jesus, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:1-15, ESV).
We are not going to explore all of what this means this morning; suffice it to say that God points us to Elijah as being the representative of all the prophets of the Bible.
From this, we can see that Jesus – in the Transfiguration – meets with the representative figures of the Law of God – Moses – and the prophets – Elijah.  Why?
Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20, ESV).
Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets – Jesus came to keep everything that God said we must keep in the Law and the Prophets.
And so, the Son of God had to live a real human life to keep all of the Law and the Prophets on behalf of all who would believe savingly in Him.
That is why the Father says that the Son is beloved by Him at the Transfiguration.
The Son is beloved of the Father because He lives for the people the Father gave Him.
Third, the Son is beloved of the Church because He lives and dies for us.
We read of the relationship between the Church – all those who will ever believe – and the Son:
“My beloved has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices, to graze in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies” (Song of Solomon 6:2-3, ESV).
Paul explains the love of the Son for the Church in living and dying in this way:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:6-11, ESV).
While we were spiritually dead, Christ, the Son of God, became our beloved by saving us from the Wrath of God through His blood – His death.  And, while we were enemies of God, Christ, the Son of God, became our beloved by saving us by His life, so we are now reconciled to God.  We have nothing to fear and every reason to be joyful.
The Son is beloved of the Church because He lives and dies for us.
So, how do we show the Son that He is our beloved?
Jesus tells us:
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21, ESV).
“Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’” (John 14:23, ESV).
“for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God’ (John 16:27, ESV).
If the Son is our beloved, we will obey Him as He obeyed His Father.
Jesus is the beloved of the Father for His life and death for the sake of the people the Father gave Him.  The Son kept the Law and the Prophets and took on God’s Wrath for our sin and credited us with His righteousness.  So, we are now reconciled to God, Jesus is our beloved, and in response to His love for us, we obey.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that You are One God beloved in Trinity.  We thank You for sending Your Son that He would follow Your will and be Your beloved.  We thank You that Jesus has reconciled us to You so He is our beloved.  Help us by the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit to live lives of obedience as fruit of that love.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thursday Night Study

Join us this evening as we continue our study of I Timothy.  What does Paul say about elders and slaves?  See you at 7 PM, D.V.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

"Worthy of Worship" Sermon: Matthew 2:1-12

“Worthy of Worship”
[Matthew 2:1-12]
January 6, 2019, Second Reformed Church

 This morning, we heard the history of the visit of the magi – how they prophetically recognize Jesus as the newborn King of Israel. We may remember that the magi were a class of astrologers out of what was then called Persia – modern day Iraq and Iran.

 These magi followed a star from Persia to Israel. They understood that the star signifies the birth of a king, so they go to Jerusalem, to the palace to look for the newborn King. But He is not there; they find King Herod.

 King Herod was the wicked puppet-king of Rome, and the magi ask him where the newborn King is, that they might worship Him – that is, that they might bow before Him in recognition of His rightful Authority. God had chosen the magi to be witnesses and heralds of the birth of God’s King – and more.

 Herod is concerned about his position on the throne, and his supporters are concerned about a rival to the throne, especially with Rome watching. Herod calls for the priests and scribes to tell him where the prophets say such a king will be born, and they find for him a prophecy from the book of Micah, “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler, who will shepherd my people Israel.”

 Herod is not about to let his throne be taken – prophecy or no prophecy, and he meets with the magi in secret and gets them to tell him when the star appears, and he sends them on to Bethlehem, according to the prophecy, and tells them to go and find the Baby that he might also worship the Baby. Herod is no fool. He wants the magi to find the Baby so he will not waste his time and resources looking for Him, and so, when the Baby is found, he will take care of the threat.

 The magi leave Herod’s palace, and the star appears before them and leads them towards Bethlehem. And the magi rejoice that they will soon be in the presence of this mighty, newborn King. And the star moves ahead until it stops over the house where Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus are staying.

 When the magi enter the house and see the Child with Mary, they fall down and worship Him. They understand He is the newborn King, a mighty authority, and One to Whom they owe respect. Do they understand that He is God the Savior? Probably not.

 But the Truth has been revealed to us; we know that Jesus is God the Savior, our King, and the Sacrifice that makes us right with God. Jesus is worthy of our worship because He is God and because He has given Himself for the sake of His people.

How do we worship Jesus? How do we show the worth of Jesus to others and glorify Him for His worth?

We join together in worship – in the services that we hold here in the sanctuary. We join together in prayer and singing, hearing what God has said and meeting with Jesus in the Sacraments. We encourage each other and point out the truths of the Gospel to each other. We rejoice when we have reason to rejoice, and we mourn together when we have reason to mourn.

When we are apart from each other, we still ought to worship Jesus through living lives that are pleasing to Him. We ought to do those things which improve our mind and body and soul and heart. We ought to do those things which are pleasing to God and joyful to us and refrain from doing those things which are against God’s Will. We ought to submit to Jesus as our Sovereign King and let others know that He is our Sovereign – that we trust Him and have our hope in Him, not in the plans and pursuits of humans. And in thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us, we ought to do all we can to make others’ lives better. We ought to be honest and helpful to those we come in contact with.

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? I have set some goals for myself for the coming year...

Let us make this resolution together: in all that we do and say and think and are, let us do everything in worship and to the glory of Jesus. How might we do that? Let us get in the habit of asking ourselves – before we act, before we speak – will this attract people to Jesus or turn them away? Will my saying this, doing this, becoming this, attract people to Jesus or turn them away? And, yes, the answer is not always easy. And, yes, we will stumble and fall and not always do those things which attract people to Jesus.

If we have the choice between picking an empty beer bottle up off of our neighbor’s lawn, or looking the other way, what might we do? If we have the opportunity of keeping the extra change we were given at the supermarket, or telling the cashier that he gave us too much money, what might we do? If we have the time to read our Bible or watch another soap opera, what might we do? If we have the opportunity to voice a concern about our town, or assume someone else will do it, what might we do? If we have the opportunity to invite someone to worship, or to just keep quiet, what might we do?

Does it matter that Jesus is King? Does it matter that He is God?  Does it matter that He Alone is Savior? Are we thankful for Him? Does our thankfulness make us desire that others would believe in Him?

The magi not only worship Jesus, they bring Him gifts; they bring Him three of the most precious gifts to be found at that time in the Middle East: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They bring Him three gifts that symbolize three reasons that Jesus is worthy of worship – and again, they probably did not realize this as they gave the gifts.

First, the magi gave Jesus gold. We know what gold is. Gold has always has a value and an economic stability about it. Gold is a gift for a king – it symbolizes kingship, wealth, and power.

We remember what the angel said to Mary, “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33, ESV).

What is your greatest treasure? Of all the material wealth you have – of all the gifts and blessings and abilities God has gifted you with – what do you consider the greatest, the most valuable to you? What is the last thing you would want to see taken away from you? Do you have something – or maybe even someone – in mind?

How are you using your “gold” to worship the King, to give thanks, and to acknowledge before the world that He is your King? If you don’t know how, ask me – ask another Christian – let us help one another.

Second, the magi brought frankincense. What is frankincense? Frankincense is a type of incense that was burned in the worship of God.

Now, we are not a tradition that burns incense in worship, and it is not mandatory in the Scripture that we burn incense in our worship. However, there is a way that we can offer up incense to God, even without physically burning incense: John writes, “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8, ESV). Our prayers are received as incense before God – they are sweet smelling in the nostrils of God. God loves to smell our prayers coming before Him.

And we pray during the worship service. Do you pray during the week? Alone and with others? It is a good practice to begin the day with prayer – asking God for all those things we want to accomplish that day, asking that God would be glorified in our day, that He would forgive us for the sins we have committed in the previous day, that He would guide us and protect us, leading us in the paths that He has prepared before us. Do you have someone you can pray with?  Do you have someone who will pray for you?  Do we pray for each other and those on our prayer list?

God is pleased to hear our prayers when they are according to His Will. We have seen before that prayer is the practicing of aligning our minds and desires with God. Prayer is not a magic formula to get what we want from God, it is the way in which we learn what God wills and how to ask God for what God wills. And we have the promise that if we pray for anything that God wants, God will do it – without fail.

For example, God wants us to witness to the Kingship and the Salvation of His Son, Jesus. And if we pray that God will help us to witness to Him in word and deed and character – with everything that we are – God will help us to become the witnesses that He wants us to be.

We worship the King when we offer up prayers asking that we might be and do all that He would have for us.

The third gift of the magi is myrrh. Myrrh is a spice for embalming the dead – a rather strange gift to give to a newborn. They gave it because of its worth, but it also foreshadowed the death of Jesus and the embalming He would receive – part of His becoming our Savior.

Jesus, our King, gave His Life for us, and He has called us to live our lives for Him – even to death. Are we sure enough of Who Jesus is to die for Him? Are we sure He is the Sovereign King of all Creation? Are we sure that He will raise us from the dead to live forever with Him? Is life with Jesus worth more than everything on earth?

Jesus said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39, ESV). That’s not an easy word, is it?

I hope no one here is trying to find a way to die. I hope we are all seeking to live as long as we can and as well as we can. We live in a relatively safe nation, but there are countries around the world where converts to Christianity are put to death. We may never be called to that, still, are we willing to live and even die for Jesus – to show Him to be Who He is?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was executed by Hitler, wrote, “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.” What Bonhoeffer is saying is that when God calls us to Salvation in Jesus Alone, He calls us to die to ourselves, to live for Jesus and His Gospel, and to be willing to give up our lives for the sake of the Gospel.

As we begin this year, let us remember what is revealed to us in the visit of the magi: Jesus is the King, the rightful heir of the Throne of David.  Jesus is God, the One God Who is worthy of all worship.  Jesus is the One Savior, Who died to save us and make us right with God now and forever.   In thanksgiving for Who He is and what He has done, let us worship Him, trusting Him with the things that are most valuable to us, through praying according to His Will, seeking that we might become more like Him, and through living for Him, as witnesses to Him, in the way He has called us to live, that we might joyfully die for Him, whenever He calls us.

Let us come to the table of our Lord, remembering what He did for us, receiving the bread and the cup, meeting spiritually with Jesus, receiving grace and strength and wisdom from Him in that meeting, and believing, looking forward in hope, that this year – and all time and space – is under Jesus’ Sovereign Rule. He is our King, He is our God, His is our Savior, and so we are safe in His Hands. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, on this Epiphany Sunday, as we remember the visit of the magi and the gifts they brought in worship of the newborn King, we ask that You would continue to make us into the likeness of Your Son. Help us to live lives of worship to You – that we would always find Jesus worthy of worship for all that He is. And may Jesus Christ be praised, Amen.