Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mission Commission

The Lord High Mission Commission of the Classis of Passaic Valley will meet, D.V., tomorrow, Wednesday, October 1st, 2014, at The Hope Reformed Church (RCA) in Clifton, NJ, at 1 PM.  Please feel free to avail yourselves and join with us in discussion about the missions-oriented needs of the Classis and her churches.  If Providence restrains your bodily presence, but have a request or comment, please be in touch with The Rev. Mr. Scott Nichols, The Faith Reformed Church (RCA) in Midland Park, NJ.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: "The VB6 Cookbook"

I have not read Mark Bittman’s book, VB6, but I have read and used his book, The VB6 Cookbook.  Based on the introductory material, his argument is that you will live a more healthful life if you eat vegan prior to 6 PM and then allow yourself, if you desire, small amounts of animal foods after 6 PM.

The cookbook is set up with a great deal of introductory information about different fruits, vegetables, and animal foods – how to choose and use them.  That, alone, is worthwhile information.  Then follow the recipes:  breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and deserts, and then a section on “building blocks” – recipes that can be built upon to make a meal.

The book is primarily creative and tasty vegan recipes, but there are enough with animal foods to make this a useful cookbook for any type of diet.  He also makes suggestions in the recipes about alternate ways one might make the food he has created.

I have made three of the recipes so far: 

“Good Morning Sweet Potato” (74).  I made this recipe the way he suggested and found it very tasty.  I would never have thought to eat a sweet potato for breakfast.  It is hearty and filling and very sweet – as the original recipe makes it.  He includes suggestions for making less sweet or without the walnuts.

“Slow Cooked Brussel Sprouts with Lemongrass” (121).  For this recipe, I used an alternate version he suggests, using eggplant rather than Brussel sprouts.  This recipe has a Thai flavor to it as the sauce base is coconut milk.  This was the best of the three I have made so far.  As I at it, there was a slight sweetness to it, but then the hot pepper jumped up and made it hot – a wonderful combination in my opinion.

“Eggplant Meatballs” (124).  This recipe came with a picture – the pictures are plentiful throughout the book.  However, I came away from it disappointed for two reasons:  first, the “meatballs” did not hold their shape.  Perhaps if I cooked them longer they would have.  I may try it again.  Second, it was too “eggplanty” – much as I like eggplant, it was overwhelming to the rest of the ingredients.  However, I like the idea, and may try fooling around with the recipe.

If you are looking for a creative vegan cookbook with recipes anyone can make and loads of guidance about cooking plant foods, this is one you should pick up.  If you just want vegan food before 6 PM, I suspect the animal food recipes would also be good based on my experience with the three I made.  (I did not make an animal meal, as I try to eat vegan as much as possible.)

[This review appears on Amazon.com and on my blog.  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.] 


"Two Guys" Sermon: Phillipians 2:19-30

“Two Guys”

[Philippians 2:19-30]

September 28, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            Do you have any heroes?  Do you have anyone you look up to and try to emulate?  Is there anyone you know that you want to become more like?

            Paul tells the Philippians that whether he lived or died – in a sense – it was all the same to him – since his goal was to advance the Gospel.  So, if his death advanced the Gospel – great, and if his life advanced the Gospel – great.

            Paul then turns to plead with the Philippians to become like Christ in His humility – to spend your life pursuing the Will of God the Father at any cost – that God would be glorified and that you would have His joy.

            And Paul tells the Philippians that God has given them the faith to receive the salvation that God gives them as a gift to be able to be His people.  And God has given all those who believe the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit as a gift, Who helps us to understand and remember and to do all that God has called us to do by the grace that He gives us – especially through the Word read and preached and the Sacraments.

            Paul tells them it is work – hard work, laboring before God Who instills us with awe of His Holiness and Majesty – still we know He loves us and has made all these things able for us to do through Him, for His Glory, and for our everlasting joy in Him.

            Are we striving after God, reading His Word, working with all that we have to become like Him – into the Image of His Son – as the Holy Spirit works in us to transform us?  Are we giving everything we have to God for the advancement of His Gospel in thanks for what He has done to save us – and for all the promises yet to come that He has made to us?

            Lest we say, “It’s too hard,” let us remember that God has gifted us with everything we need – including the indwelling of God Himself – to be able to accomplish all God has called us to do – all the works He has set out before each of us that we should do them.

            G. K. Chesterton was right when he wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried” (G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World, http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/13211-the-christian-ideal-has-not-been-tried-and-found-wanting).

            It’s hard, but it’s not too hard – when we consider the value of the Gospel.  When we consider that it was hard for God to become a human being and suffer – even to death on the cross – for the sake of all those who would ever believe in Him.  When we consider that God has gifted us and enabled us and indwelt us, so we are now able to refuse temptation and not sin, and to follow after all of God’s commands, and to continue in the transformation into the likeness of Christ that the Holy Spirit is working in us.

            It is hard work, but God is working in and through us, that we would become like Jesus – the Incarnate Son of God.

            Does it sound odd to your ears to say, “Jesus is my hero – I want to be like Him”?  Whether the wording sounds odd to us or not, the truth is – becoming like Jesus is the goal we are called to – we cannot see God – we cannot dwell in the fullness of the Kingdom with God – unless we are like Him.  But He has promised to make us like Him until and on that final day when the fullness of the Kingdom is ushered in.

            As we work with everything we are – striving – and growing in our ability to be like Christ – by the Power of the Holy Spirit – God has given us men and women who – in ways that they are like Christ – we may look to as persons to imitate.

            Paul already told the Philippians about himself and his Christ-like desire to see the Gospel advance above even whether he lived or died.  And we have Christ Himself – living on the pages of Scripture for us to imitate.  And we have those who are more mature than us in the faith – or more mature in some area of the faith – that we may imitate – as they have imitated Christ.

            To that end, Paul presents two guys in this morning’s text – Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Paul did not write about them and what they were doing at this point in the text, merely to tell the Philippians about them, but to provide them – and us – with examples of two men who exhibited Christ-likeness in ways that we ought to emulate.

            First, Paul writes about Timothy – a familiar Scriptural character to us:  Timothy had, as a young person, professed faith in the God of the Bible and His salvation.  He was one of Paul’s closest companions.  He received Paul’s letters to Timothy continued in the Scripture, and he is mentioned throughout Paul’s writings.

            Paul tells the Philippians:

            “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.”

            Paul tells them that he is going to send Timothy to them soon, if God is willing.  Paul wants Timothy to be a help and an encouragement to them and to bring news of them to him sometime in the future when Timothy would journey back to Rome to see Paul again.

            And Paul tells them that he doesn’t have anyone like Timothy with him – he is genuinely concerned about their welfare.  Timothy cared about these Christians and their struggles and seeing that they get the help that they needed.  Timothy loved them like family.

Now, Timothy wasn’t from Philippi.  This wasn’t his church – these weren’t his people – his relatives.  Why did he care so deeply about them? 

Is it because Paul cared so much about them?  That may have had some influence on him, but there is a greater reason – something we can look at and emulate – something we can look at and understand that he was acting like Jesus acts – he was being like Jesus – which is Who we should be like.  He was genuinely concerned about them and desirous to help them, because they were fellow believers – they were brothers and sisters in Christ.

How much does Christ care?  He came to earth and lived for us and died for us and rose for us and is coming back for us – do we love our fellow Christians genuinely – do with love our fellow Christians enough to give our lives for them if it was necessary for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Do we love and seek the welfare of the people in this church?  Do we love and seek the welfare of other Christians?  Do we pray for Christians around the world and seek out other ways we might help them in their desire to live like Christ and advance the Gospel to the whole Creation?

It’s hard, isn’t it?  We’re busy people.  We have our own lives.  We have our own interests.  It takes time to get to know people – especially if they are at another church or around the world.  Who has time for that with so many good things on TV?  Going from Rome to Philippi was about 750 miles – as the crow flies – across land and sea.

Are we able to remember times other Christians have reached out to us in genuine concern – caring for us and seeking to meet our needs?  Not because we’re so wonderful, but because we are some of those Christ died to save.

Let us make the effort to know each other and other Christians and to genuinely care about them – like Jesus does.  Like we ought to – as brothers and sisters and members of our Body – the Church.  Let us each do something this week to show we really care about another Christian – and let’s keep being genuinely involved with each other and other Christians.

Paul tells the Philippians that they know Timothy – they know that he is like a son to Paul and worked side-by-side with Paul as co-servants of Jesus Christ – working together to advance the Gospel together.  Timothy had proven his worth in his loyalty to Paul as a co-laborer in the advancement of the Gospel, and as someone who sought the interests of Christ above his own.

We need to have the mindset that asks ourselves, “What would Christ have us do – what would best advance the Gospel?”  Not, “What would Jesus do?” – we are not Jesus, but what would He have us do.  Because He is worthy of all obedience and glory, what ought we do?

Timothy is an example to us of someone who loved his brothers and sisters and sought the interests of Christ above his own.  We ought to be people like that – like Jesus – Who loved us so much that He Incarnated, lived, died, and rose to make us right with God, and Who seeks the Will of the Father, first, even though it should mean a most horrific death to the Glory of the Father.

Paul tells the Philippians that he will send Timothy as soon as he finds out what the result of his preaching the Gospel to Caesar is, and he trusts, if it is the Will of God, he will join them soon as well.

The second person Paul raises up is Epaphroditus.  We only know what Paul tells us about him in this letter: 

            “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”

            Epaphroditus was a native Philippian who had been sent to bring the church’s gift to Paul – which we will see more about later in the letter – and to bring greetings to Paul and to see how he is – that Epaphroditus might report back to the church in Philippi.

            Paul describes Epaphroditus as a brother – a fellow Christian, a fellow worker – possibly a missionary – probably a pastor, a fellow solider – one who is advancing the Gospel “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12b, ESV), the messenger from the Philippians – the one they had sent to minister to Paul’s needs at this time.

            Paul tells them that Epaphroditus was longing for them – which is another indication that he was their pastor.  The pastor ought to long for his flock – love his flock – desire to see his flock grow in the Grace and Image of Jesus Christ.  A pastor is a shepherd and ought not only to lead his flock in person, but spend time in prayer and preparation, growing, himself, in the likeness of Christ that he might lead his people well.  A faithful pastor desires and longs for his people – for their prayers – for their advantage through the Gospel.

            Also, a faithful pastor is distressed when his flock is distressed – as was the case with the Philippians about Epaphroditus, because word had gotten back to them that he was ill.  And Paul confirms that he was ill – in fact, he almost died of his illness, which was received in his work for the church and Paul and the advancement of the Gospel.

            It has been a blessing to me to be cared for by this church – most of you know about my health concerns, my being alone, and my desire to see us all faithfully obey Christ and grow in conformity to His Image.  I pray for you and long to see you and see progress and growth in you.  And I ask that you pray for me and my ministry and my conformity to the Image of Christ.  If you love Jesus, you will love those pastors who are seeking to be faithful to Him, and you will pray for them – please pray for me.  Pray that I, too, as well as you, will desire and value obedience to the Will of the Father and the advancement of the Gospel over life itself.  Pray I will strive – as I pray you will strive – to be more like Jesus.

            Paul loved Epaphroditus, and told the Philippians that God had mercy on Epaphroditus and him, because God granted him mercy and spared him from death by this illness, and God also spared Paul the great sorrow it would have been to lose his brother.

            So, for the good of the church in Philippi – for the good of their hearts – that they should have their pastor back, safe and sound with them, that they might rejoice and give thanks to God for his return and for his restored health – for his ministry to Paul – Paul said he was going to send him back to them now – possibly he even carried the letter to the Philippians back with him to the church.

            And Paul gives them instruction – not only how to receive Epaphroditus – but all pastors – all ministers of Word and Sacrament.  Paul tells them to receive men who are called to the ministry with joy and with honor.

            We ought to receive ministers – pastors – with joy when they bring the Word of God to us.  What more joyful thing is there to have the Word of God delivered to us by a messenger that God has chosen for this purpose?  God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word of God and to live it out in obedience, and He has also given us faithful pastors to help us understand through the reading and preaching of the Word that we would live it out in obedience.  We may be joyful in seeing and being with a specific pastor, but the greater joy is hearing him deliver the Word of God to us.  Our joy is in hearing from God, and only secondarily from any man.

            And we ought to receive faithful pastors with honor.  And again, this is due to the fact that God has called them to preach God’s Word to us.  The call to the ministry is a strict one – one for which all those who accept the call will receive a greater judgment.

            Don’t misunderstand – ministers – pastors – are sinners, just like everyone else, but they have been given a heavier call in the sense that, if they are faithful, they are speaking for God.

            Consider, if the President was to write us a letter, and he sent one of his officials to read the letter to us and greet us in his name, we would honor the message-bearer for the message he bears and for the person whom he represents.  The messenger would – effectively – be speaking for the President – delivering his message.  So, we would honor him as the one who brings the message from the President.  We may know nothing more about him – but because he brings us word from the President, he is worthy of honor.  The messenger ought to have a real humility about him, since the message is not his, but the President’s – the honor and joy he receives is due to the word he has to bring from the President. 

The same is true of pastors – and all the more so, because their message, when faithfully delivered, is from God.  And so, they should exhibit a Christ-like humility, knowing that it is not they that cause us to rejoice and honor them, per se, but the Word of God and the God of the Word, Who is behind the faithful pastor.

            Paul continues by saying they should especially honor and rejoice in seeing Epaphroditus again because he almost died “complet[ing] what was lacking in [their] service to [Paul].”

            Don’t think that Paul is insulting the Philippians!  What this phrase means is that Epaphroditus completed the work that the Philippian church had promised Paul on their behalf because it was not feasible that they should all come to Rome to deliver their gift and to tend to his needs.

            And so, we have the example of these two guys and how they were striving to live unto Christ-likeness:  Timothy, a faithful pastor and comrade of Paul, who was genuinely concerned about his fellow Christians and sought to minister to them for the sake of the Gospel.  And Epaphroditus, a faithful pastor, who came from the church in Philippi to minister to Paul and bring him a gift from the church and almost died, yet who thought the advancement of the Gospel worth more than his life, and yearned for the good of his flock.

            Let us emulate people like this – seeking the advance of the Gospel as we minister to each other, genuinely caring for each other, working together that the One Salvation of Jesus Christ would be known, and let us advance the Gospel as we show our care for the pastors that God has given us for the sake that they are appointed by God to bring the Word of God to us.

            And may we all continue to seek to be like Christ in His humility in all that God has given us to do, but especially in the advance of the Gospel to the whole Creation.

            May God give us the grace to grow in these ways.

            Let us pray:


            Almighty God, it is hard for us to be so humble as to truly consider the needs of the whole Church and all Christians throughout the world.  We ask that You would help us to love each other and seek each other’s good – to work together to proclaim Your Gospel.  Help us to look out past ourselves at other Christians and truly care.  Help us to see You in the lives of these two guys and other Christians that we would be inspired to strive to be more like You.  Revive us, O Lord; may we be a joy to You.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Amazon Smile Supporting 2nd Reformed Church

I think I have fixed the problem with the link to Amazon that some of you have had.  Please shop and support Second Reformed Church, IRVINGTON, NJ 07111.  Thank you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September Sermon Schedule Change

Our plan for the rest of the month, D.V., is as follows:

9/21/14
pulpit exchange with Eric Farrar

9/28/14
Philippians 2:19-30  “Two Guys”

Join us at 10:30 AM for worship!


Free Community Lunch

Join us Saturday, September 20th, D.V., for our next free lunch from 12 - 1 PM.  If you are able to help with set-up, cooking, and/or clean up, please show up around 11 AM and/or hang around after.  Your participation is much appreciated!

"Work Out Your Salvation" Sermon: Philippians 2:12-18

“Work Out Your Salvation”

[Philippians 2:12-18]

September 14, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            In the section before this morning’s reading, we looked at the hymn of Jesus’ humility and the call on us to live lives of humility patterned after the example of Jesus’ life.  In this morning’s text, Paul instructs the Philippians and us in what this looks like.

            He tells us:

            First, we are to be fruitful in our salvation.

            Second, God is our hope for being fruitful.

            Third, sin mars our witness.

            Fourth, we are to always be proclaiming the Gospel.

            Fifth, we are to always be ready to give all for the Gospel.

            “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,”

            First, we are to be fruitful in our salvation.

            There is a phenomenon – a common phenomenon – where we start well – in faith and in other matters – we start strong, working hard to do what we need to do – what we are called to do – but then we get lazy – we don’t think it matters – we assume someone else will pick up the slack. 

            If we think about a job we have or have held in the past – we may have begun our work diligently, working above and beyond expectation, but, eventually, we saw we didn’t have to try to impress – we didn’t have to work so hard to get our work done – to be accepted at work, so we began to let things slip – to take short-cuts – to do just enough to get by.  We probably all know people who have “progressed” like that.

            Paul compliments the Philippians on how well they responded to the preaching of the Gospel – how it filled them and how they responded by going out and working hard with the gifts and blessings that they had been given – both among each other and in the proclamation of the Gospel, but they had begun to get lazy.  Sin had slowed down their progress in the faith.

            Paul urges them to continue in the obedience to God and His Word that they first obeyed – as they obeyed when he was with them – not to slack off – not to get lazy, but to continue to work hard to obey God until He called them home.  Paul tells them to continue to be fully obedient to the Word of God.

            And really, we can’t be partially obedient, can we?  That’s like being partially pregnant.  We are either obedient or disobedient.  Are we striving after being obedient to the Word of God with everything we are?  What is our excuse if we are not?  There is no part-time Christianity.  There is no retirement from Christianity and obedience to God’s Word.

            Paul tells them to “work out [their] salvation.”  And that is not the same as “earning” their salvation – Paul is telling them – and us – to work out the salvation that we have.  Paul is telling us that receiving salvation is only the beginning.  If we have been saved by God, we are to work hard to be fruitful in our salvation.  We are to prove our salvation’s reality by the way we live, and we are to grow it through obedience and through receiving the means of grace in the Sacraments and through the hearing of the Word of God read and preached.  We are to exhibit the humility of Jesus as we live obedient lives to the Word of God and proclaim the Gospel to all people.

            And we are to do so in “fear and trembling.”  That is, we are to have the right, respectful awe of God as we seek to follow Him in obedience and to follow after Him and His Will seriously while fighting temptation to sin against God.  We are to make a “continuous, sustained, strenuous effort” (O’Brien, Philippians, 279) to wholly follow after God’s revealed Will – just as we pray we will do in The Lord’s Prayer.  We do not become Christians and lay down – we become Christians and work harder than we have every worked – to follow after God’s Will in all things and to resist the temptation to sin.

            That is an enormous call on our lives, but it is the call every human has received – it is just that Christians have the hope to do as God has commanded us.

            “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

            Second, God is our hope for being fruitful.

            Because Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, all humans are born sinners, unwilling and unable to desire to obey God, much less to actually obey Him.  As Paul quotes from the Psalms:  “as it is written:  ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’” (Romans 3:10-12, ESV).

            Yet, Christians have been enabled to obey God, as Ezekiel prophesied, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20, ESV).

            Christians still sin, yet, God indwells us, and God is working in us – to make us into the Image of Jesus – and He is working in us that we would desire to obey His Will – and He is working is us – enabling us to be able to do His Will.  So, our hope is in God – our Savior – He Who dwells in us and is transforming us into the Image of His Son.

            As Paul explains as he writes about the gifts of the Holy Spirit:  “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, ESV).

            Our hope to be obedient – to bear fruit consistent with the salvation that God has given us – is given to us by God.  God indwells us and makes us desirous – willing – to obey God.  And God gifts us and enables us to do those things which He has commanded us to do.  That is a great and sure hope we have!

            Do we see, then, why sin is so heinous?  God has saved us, changed us, is transforming us, makes us want to obey Him, gives us the ability to obey Him, and then, when we sin, we turn our backs on everything God has done for us – all that He has done for us simply because it pleased Him – not because He owed us anything for any reason – and then we choose to disobey God and sin.

            Our salvation is all of God.  Now that He has made us desirous and enabled us to be obedient, whether we bear fruit consistent with salvation or choose to sin is on us.  Although God saves us Himself for Himself, the work of the Christian life in one where we work with God for His glory and our joy.

            “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation,”

            Third, sin mars our witness.

            The world does not understand how we, Christians, can be both sinners and justified at the same time.  How can we be sinners and legally ruled innocent?  It does not make sense to them.  So, when we proclaim the Gospel and tell others that Christians are called to treat each other as equals and love each other, and then the world see us sinfully arguing with each other – grumbling against each other – they doubt out witness – they laugh at the Gospel.

            Grumbling and arguing was a problem in the early Church – as much as they gathered together as One Body of Christians – rich and poor, slave and free, Jew and Gentile, male and female – there were times when they got on each other’s nerves and allowed it to snowball into grumbling against each other and arguing sinfully.

            It was not just the Philippians:   Peter wrote to the Christians in Greece and Turkey, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9, ESV).

            Paul wrote to Timothy – probably in Ephesus, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” (1 Timothy 2:8, ESV).

            We are to give the world no reason to turn away from the call to believe the Gospel.  If the way we treat each other causes a non-Christian to dismiss the Gospel, we have sinned.  And we are to be seeking to obey God’s Will with joy and diligence, because He has saved us and gifted us to be able to accomplish all that He has called us to do.

            We are to emulate the humble life of Jesus Who is innocent and was unjustly condemned by the world.

“among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

            Fourth, we are to always be proclaiming the Gospel.

            We have been chosen and called to be lights to the world – to be those who point to God the Savior and His Gospel.  We are to be all about showing others that there is salvation in Jesus Alone.  We do that, as Paul explains, by telling others what the Word of Life is – what the Gospel is – the only way to be spiritually raised from the dead, made right with God, and survive of the Judgment at the end of the age.

            What do we say to our friends – especially our non-Christian friends – when they ask us why God would allow the continuing violence in the Middle East.  Why would He allow women and children to be slaughtered?

            Do we say that the problem with the world is the sin we, humans, brought into it?  Do we tell them we don’t know the specific reasons why certain things are happening in the Middle East and elsewhere, but we know that humanity’s choice to sin has corrupted everything and we are born at odds with God?  Do we tell them that the most important question we can ever find the answer to is, “How can a person be right with God?”

            Do we tell them that there is an answer – only one possible answer – God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under His Law, died for the sins of everyone who would ever believe, and physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne?  Do we tell them that their only hope for this life and the life to come is to believe in the historical facts of Jesus and have faith and believe in Him as Savior?  Do we tell them that Jesus will pay the debt for their sin and make them right with God?

            Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV).

            We have been made lights to shine out the Word of Life – the Gospel.  Don’t hide your light under a bushel!  Don’t buy into the lie that we ought to keep what we believe to ourselves.  Right now, the first Amendment guarantees our right to free speech – before it is taken away – open your mouth!  Work out your salvation.  Do the good works that God has called us to do.  Be obedient to the Will of God.  Be different so the world notices and we can point them to Jesus and God will receive the glory.

            When we shine as lights to the world – holding forth the Word of Life – the Gospel – God is glorified as we proclaim His One Way of Salvation.  As we tell others – we – the Body of Christ – rejoice and glorify God that the Word of Life is going out from person to person.  We rejoice and glorify God for the work that He does to save people and to transform us into His Image.  We see the worth of the work we have been given to do as we rejoice and glorify God that our labor has been profitable to the glory of God.

            We understand that, don’t we?  If we tell our children not to put their hands on a hot stove, and they listen to us and obey us, we rejoice and glorify God that our work has proved itself and because our children have been saved the pain of burning their hands on the stove.

            If a pastor preaches the Word of God, and we, in turn hear the Word of Life preached and respond appropriately to it – if we believe – if we do those things that God has called us to do – it is to the glory of God – and the pastor will rejoice and glorify God for the work that God gave him to do and the fruit that it has borne.  So, Paul looked forward to seeing the obedience of the Philippians that at the end of the age he would rejoice in the work God set before him and the fruit that it bore to the glory of God as the Philippians obeyed the Word of God delivered by Paul to them.

            Peter wrote, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12, ESV).

            Work out your salvation – not to gain salvation but in obedient response to the salvation we have received – do the good works that God has set before you – obey His Will – and people will still condemn us as evil, but – at the end of the age – they will glorify God – they will bow the knee and acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior – the One they denied – and they will glorify Him for our witness to Him and His Gospel on earth.

“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

            Fifth, we are to always be ready to give all for the Gospel.

            Remember, at the time Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he did not know if he would survive his encounter with Caesar – and we know that he was executed sometime after presenting the Gospel to Caesar.

            Yet Paul encourages the Philippians and us to remember that our purpose in this life is to Glorify God and enjoy Him – especially as we put forth the Word of Life – as we advance the Gospel – as we tell others the Way to Salvation.  Whatever else happens in our lives is small peanuts in comparison with our obedience to advance the Gospel by telling others.

            And Paul tells them that if it is God’s Will that he be “poured out” – that he would be sacrificed for the Gospel and put to death after meeting with Caesar – he was glad and willing to die for the Gospel – and he commends to them and to us – that we ought to be willing – and glad – to die if it is for the sake of the Gospel.

            That is a hard message, is it not?  We don’t want to die – and we shouldn’t.  But we ought to be willing to die for the sake of the Gospel if it is necessary.  If we are told to keep our mouths shut or to renounce Jesus, then we must suffer at the hands of ungodly men in humility and to the glory of God. 

            Do you remember what we read last week?  “And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross” (Philippians 2:7b-8, ESV).

            We are called to have the same humility.  To seek the advancement of the Gospel, and if it should cause us our lives, so be it, because we must be obedient to God in proclaiming the Gospel.

            Remember what happened to Peter and what he said:  “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him’” (Acts 5:27-32, ESV).

            Let us work out our salvation – seeking to obey God more and more as we joyfully advance the Gospel to His Glory – let our obedience to the Will of God be the fruit which proves our salvation and growth in the faith before men and causes them to look to Jesus.  Let us live lives of humility, treating each other as Christ has taught us to treat each other – not giving the world an excuse to dismiss the Gospel.  And may our lives be for Christ and our deaths be for Christ, as God would best be glorified, and as the Gospel would best be portrayed in our lives.

            Let us pray:


            Almighty God, we thank You for saving us and enabling us to love and obey You and to love each other.  Help us to be humble as Your Son lived before us.  Help us to strive to be obedient to Your Will at all times and in all ways.  Help us to stand strong for You as a witness to Your Gospel wherever we may be.  And may You be glorified in each one of us, as we live and as we die.  For this is our joy and our glory.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

"Have This Mind" Sermon: Philippians 2:5-11

“Have This Mind”

[Philippians 2:5-11]

September 7, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            Last week we saw that since we – as Christians – are united with and in Christ by His Work and benefits to us, we ought to fill up each other’s cup of joy by doing everything we can for each other’s good – standing strong together – united – in the doctrines of salvation in the Scripture.  We are not to be prideful – seeking our own interests above each other – but for the sake of the advancement of the Gospel – as members of the One Body of Christ – we are to be humble, loving servants of one another.

            The next section of the text which was read for us this morning is often considered the heart of this letter and, perhaps, a hymn of the early Church.  In it, Paul gives the Philippians and us the greatest possible example of humility – that is, in Jesus.

            The overarching point of this text is that we are to strive to have the same humility that Jesus exemplified before us.

            Paul begins:

            “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,”

            John put it this way:  “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, ESV).

            We who believe have been saved, we have been justified, we have been sanctified, and yet, we are still becoming what God has called us to be in Christ.  Christ is our Head, and we have been given His Mind, through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, yet, we are not fully in the Image of Jesus yet.  We are still being transformed into the Image of Jesus.  We are still striving towards holiness.  We are still striving towards being like Him.  The fact that we will be like Him is assured, because God has saved us – we are not – in time and space – there yet – but we are counted are having accomplished all things through Christ, because He has accomplished them on our behalf.

            We are called to strive to be like Christ – to work hard to be like Him and to become in His Image, yet, it is guaranteed that we will be like Him, because His Work cannot fail.  We have to struggle through the length of our lives until Jesus comes and perfects us in His Image, but we have the assurance and hope that it will happen, so we do not lose hope, but continue to strive to become what we will be.

            We have begun to become like Him, and we are called to strive – to work hard – to become like Him – and we shall become like Him, because He is our guarantee.

“who, though he was in the form of God,”

Here, Paul points to the fact that Jesus is God and has always been with God.  As John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, ESV).

The word “form” indicates that Jesus the Incarnate Son of God is the same Image and Glory as the Triune God.  They are One and the Same Being.

Before anything was created, before time and space existed, God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit –  is.  The Three Persons of the Godhead have always existed and are in perfect harmony and love with One Another.  The Son of God Who incarnated in the Person of Jesus is always God – before the Incarnation and forevermore.  We believe in One God Who exists in Three Persons.

 Paul wrote, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV).

Although the Three are distinct Persons, Jesus is the One God.

Jesus was condemned for claiming to be God, as John records:

“This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18, ESV).

Jesus is God – the Incarnate Son of God.

“did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

What is Paul telling us here?

This is a complicated phrase – of which much has been written.  What makes sense is to understand that Paul is saying that God the Son saw nothing wrong with hiding His Majesty and Glory in the Incarnation; it was not wrong or unlawful for God to take on human flesh – to become a real human being – because the created world, including the human body, is good.

We know from the Scripture that is it not possible to look upon God and live.  So, for God the Son to come to earth in the Person of Jesus, He had to hide the Majesty and Glory that would kill a human to look upon.  With few exceptions – like the Transfiguration – Jesus kept His Divine Glory from being seen, so humans could look upon God and live.  God the Son humbled Himself by keeping back the Majesty and Glory that He has and which shows the greatness of His Worth to be worshipped, for the sake of all those who would see Him and believe that He is the Promised Savior.

Jesus prayed that the Father would restore Him to His prior place of Glory after the work of salvation was done:  “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5, ESV).

And the Son of God humbled Himself by taking on the human person of Jesus – God became a real human being – while not being any less God.  Although God humbled Himself by hiding His Majesty and Glory and joining together in the human person of Jesus – He remained fully God and He was also fully human.  And He was able to do that because the body is good.  If the body – if the flesh – were inherently evil – God could not have become a human being, but He did, so that is confirmation of what God said in the Creation – the body – the Creation – the physical world as created – is good.

We live in a time when people tend to think that the physical is evil – that it will all be done away with in the end – that we will live as spirit beings in the Kingdom – but that is not what God has told us:  Paul tells us in Romans that the whole Creation will be restored to its pre-Fall state and perfected.  After the Judgment, all of the physical Creation – including our bodies – will be made perfect and eternal in His Kingdom – without sin and death and decay.

God came to earth in the Person of Jesus to accomplish His Plan of Salvation.  He humbled Himself by hiding His Majesty and Glory and by taking on the real human person Jesus – the One True God and a real human being, united in One Person.  He denied Himself all that He was due as God – for a time – that He might save all those He intended to save.

Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, ESV).

And so we see that – to be like Him – we are to put aside our glory for the sake of each other and for the advancement of the Gospel.  You and I do not need to sit at the best tables.  You and I do not need to be recognized and have praise heaped upon us.  No, the best that we are is to be pointing back to our God and Savior, Who is so much greater than us – our only hope and salvation.

Bob Dylan got it right as he sang:

 “You may be an ambassador to England or France

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You're gonna have to serve somebody,

It may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you're gonna have to serve somebody.”  (“Gonna Serve Somebody”)

Rather than being focused on how great we are, let us turn the eyes and hearts of all people to how great He is.  Let us make sure that nothing about us keeps others from seeing that Jesus is God the Only Savior.  And let us buffet our witness by serving each other as we have been gifted and blessed.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Having volunteered to be the Savior of all those who will believe and Incarnated as the human being, Jesus, He also submitted to the will of the people – as per the Will of the Father.  Jesus allowed Himself to be mistreated and falsely condemned to death by the most horrific of deaths.  He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Will of the Father and for the sake of His Will, submitted to the hatred of a world that rejected Him.

On the night of His betrayal, we read, “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39, ESV).

And Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] 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 10:18, ESV).

Although Jesus, in His humanity, did not desire to suffer the cross, for our sake and to glorify the Father, Jesus chose and accepted God’s Will.

Peter explained, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22-23, ESV).

The submission, humility, and servanthood of Jesus combined with the sin of unbelieving humans to be the means that God used to save all those who will ever believe.

Jesus said, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28, ESV).

As Paul explained, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4, ESV).

Through living as a real human being and keeping the Law of God perfectly and taking on the sin of everyone who would ever believe, Jesus made us right with God:  He paid the debt for all of our sins and gave us the credit for His perfect keeping of the Law.  Theologians call this the double-imputation:  our sin was imputed – credited – to Jesus, and Jesus’ Righteousness – His perfect keeping of the Law – was imputed to us.

Paul explains:  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5, ESV).

And John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV).

And the author of Hebrews calls us to be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV).

The joy that was set before Him was the salvation of all those who would believe – to the Glory of the Father.  The Son of God humbled Himself and lived a humiliating life and died a horrific death, because the joy of what would be at the end of it was greater than all He would suffer during His thirty-three years on earth – even more than death on the cross.

How much are we willing to endure for the sake of the salvation of others?  How much are we willing to endure to help a brother or sister in Christ?  How much are we willing to endure that God would be shown to be as worthy as He truly is?  How much are we willing to endure for the joy of everlasting salvation in Jesus’ Kingdom?

The Psalmist prayed, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1, ESV).

We do well to be obedient to all that God has commanded us.  But even if we were obedient to everything, we would only have done what we should have done.  Let us endure all for Christ’s Sake that we would show that there is One Way of Salvation through Jesus Christ and His Work Alone.

“Therefore God has highly exalted him”

The humiliation of the Son of God took place in stages:  He was Incarnated – born of the Virgin Mary, lived a perfect life under God’s Law, suffering all the temptations that we suffer, but never sinned, was betrayed, mocked, crucified, died, and was buried.  But then, since Jesus did all the Father sent Him to do, the Father physically raised Him from the dead and He ascended back to the throne at the Right Hand of God, from whence He had descended.

It was only right that the Incarnate Son of God return to the glory and the power He had had with the Father from before the Creation, since He had accomplished the plan of the Triune God – the Savior had come – the way of salvation had been made in prophetic fulfillment – all that God had promised about making the Way to Salvation had come to pass.  So, God was right to glorify in Himself and exalt Himself in joy.

As Isaiah prophesied:  “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (Isaiah 52:13, ESV).

The author of Hebrews notes Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation:  “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9, ESV).

And Peter explains the exaltation as being the reason for the day of Pentecost coming to pass:  “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, [Jesus] has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33, ESV).

“and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,”

Two questions here:

Why was the Name bestowed on Jesus?  Wasn’t the Son of God always God?  Wasn’t Jesus fully God and fully human at all times?

The Name was bestowed on Jesus because God the Son did not have a human self prior to the Incarnation, and now, having been restored to the throne of the Son of God at His Right Hand, what it true is announced and affirmed:  the Name belongs to the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus, the unparalleled honor and universal authority which belonged to the Son of God belongs to the Incarnate Son of God, Who continues in His real human body in Heaven.

The other question is:  What is the Name that was bestowed upon Him?

Perhaps answering the prior question has lead you to guess – if not, consider that it is the Name that we are commanded not to take in vain.  If we talked about the Name in Jesus’ day, they would have known it referred to One Person – especially in its most sublime form – that Name of God – that most personal of names – revealed to Moses – YHWH.  In this exaltation and bestowal upon the Incarnate Son of God, the Father is affirming that Jesus is the same God Who met with Moses in the burning bush.  He is the same God Who created everything that is and reigns sovereignly over all.  Jesus is the One Almighty God.

 Do we see how this might affect our conversation and our witness?  If someone says to us, “Yes, I am a Muslim, but we all worship the same God, right?”  Or, “Yes, I am a Jew, but we all worship the same God, right?”  That’s not true, is it?

We have the declaration here and throughout the Scripture that Jesus is the One God and Only Savior, so, if someone says that Jesus is less than God, or one of many gods, or just a prophet, we do not worship the same God.  If the God someone worships is not Jesus, they worship another god – a false god.

That is not to forget or put down the other Two Persons of the Trinity.  We believe in One God and the Father is God and the Son is God and the Spirit is God – all Three are the same One God.  Anyone who denies that there is One God, anyone who denies the Trinity, anyone who denies that the Father is God and the Son is God and the Spirit is God and They are the same One God, is not a Christian – and they are worshipping a false god.

In love and humility we must show others who believe less that what the Scripture says that they are wrong and need to be saved.  If we love our neighbors, we must tell them that there is only salvation through Jesus – the One and Almighty God.  We must lovingly and humbly correct those in our churches who say that there is One God, the Father, and Jesus is a good example of what a person can be, and the Spirit is the force of love that God gives us to be good people – that is not Christianity – that is some pagan religion.

Jesus is the One God – One Person of the Three Persons of the One God.  He is YHWH, the Only God.

 “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,”

At the end of the age, when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead – all those in heaven and one earth and under the earth – all will be raised for the Judgment, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord – He is God – He is the Promised Savior.  Some of those who kneel and confess will do so out of love and humility and thanksgiving for what their Savior has done for them; some will do so, being forced to confess the truth that they have always hated and eternally despise – those who never believed in God the Savior.

As Isaiah prophesied, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return:  ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance’” (Isaiah 45:23, ESV).

Paul portrays Jesus’ Sovereignty like this:  “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:20-23, ESV).

Jesus is God.  He bears the Name of the One God – YHWH.  He is worthy of all praise and glory and worship from all of the Creation – past, present, and future – from the first moment of Creation until the end of eternity.  And God chose you and me and all believers to witness to His Salvation that He might bring people to faith and repentance and belief in Him as Savior.  How well might our efforts go over if we live as prideful, arrogant, ladder-climbing people who don’t care and show love to our fellow Christians, much less anyone else?  Might it not be better if we lived lives of humility like Jesus did – as a witness to Him – and in thanks for our salvation?

“to the glory of God the Father.”

How is Jesus’ exaltation, naming, worship, and Sovereign rule to the glory of the Father?

Remember, the Three Persons are the One God, so in glorifying Jesus as God for what He has done and Who He is, the Whole Godhead is glorified.  Can we imagine that final day and all the days into eternity as we join together in worshipping God and enjoying Him in all His fullness?

God gave John this vision of the joy we look forward to in glorifying God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:

            “Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

            ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!’

            “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

            ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’

            “And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:11-14, ESV).

            Let us seek to live lives of humility as Jesus exemplified to us.  Let us desire to show our believe and worship of Him as our God and Savior.  And let us seek to do all we can in love and humility for each other and all those we come in contact with, with the gifts and blessings that God has given us – praying for the salvation of all those we know and seeking to glorify God in Three Persons, as we look forward to that glorious day when all is restored and we are forever with our God and Savior in the Kingdom and in eternal joy.

            Let us pray:

           Almighty God, we thank You for our salvation, and we ask that You would make us more like Jesus in His humility.  Thank You that You have guaranteed through Jesus that we will be like Him.  Cause the Holy Spirit to move us more and more after His Image that we would have joy, You would be glorified, and all the world would know there is only salvation through Jesus Christ Alone.  For it is in His Name, the One of the Greatest Name, we pray, Amen.