Second Reformed Church

Monday, May 29, 2006

Consistorial Dinner

We will be celebrating the service of Artie Beck, Doug Durgie, and Carlos Rivera on the Consistory, this Thursday, at 6 PM at the Appian Way in Orange. The cost for the dinner is $30. Please call the church for more information.

General Synod

Our General Synod will be in session from June 8 through June 14, 2006. Please be in prayer that God would restrain evil and that the Holy Spirit would cause the participants to make decisions that are glorifying to God and a joy to all the Christians who serve Him in the Reformed Church in America.

Our Anniversary

June 25, 2006 is Second Reformed Church's 90th Anniversary. We will be celebrating after morning worship with a pot-luck lunch. Please join us in celebrating the Word and Work of Jesus Christ at Second Reformed. (Worship is at 10:30 AM)

June Sermons

As the Lord is pleased, in June, I plan to preach:

6/4/06 Communion/Pentecost Mark 9:14-32 "If!"

6/11/06 Trinity Mark 9:33-50 "Are You for Him?"

6/18/06 Mark 10:1-12 "Becoming One Flesh"

6/25/06 Mark 10:13-16 "What Do Children Have that Self-Protective Older Men Might Not?"

Monday Puritan

"When we go about the performance of weighty and seroius duties, we should withdraw ourselves from all occaisions that may hinder or disturb us therein; especially, when we go about holy and spiritual actions and duties; as our Saviour now, being to give himself to Prayer, and withall inteneding to comfort his Disciples by revealing to them this extrtaordinary and miraculous Vision or Apparition of his heavenly Glory; he therefore withdrawes himself from all company except three of the Disciples and goes apart with them alone into a private solitary Mountain, where no unfit company, or other outward occaisions, might hinder or disturb him. So when we go about religious duties of God's Worship publick or private, we are first to separate and free ourselves from hinderances, we must ascend up above them, and leave them below us, when we are to pray, read, hear the Word, &c. ... The not doin og this is one main cause that we often find so many hinderances and distractions in performance of such duties."

-- George Petter on Mark 9:2

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

From a Real Conversation Had at Our Flea Market

She: "You're all so friendly; I've been looking for a church..."

We: "You should come and worship with us; our service is at 10:30 AM"

She: "Do you have saints?"

We: "No, we don't."

She: "Oh...well, do you have candles?"

We: "No. But we have the Bible and the Word of God Alone is preached!"

She: "That really doesn't do it for me; I'm a visual person."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday Puritan

"Screw the truth into men's minds." -- Richard Baxter

Sunday Sermon

"We Can Make Tents"
[Mark 9:2-13]
May 21, 2006 Second Reformed Church

"And [Jesus] said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.'"

Jesus had explained to the disciples that He had to fulfill all prophecy about Him, even that of rejection and suffering and death. And Peter had rebuked Jesus and told Him that it would never happen. And Jesus had rebuked Peter. And Jesus explained to the disciples and the crowd that following Jesus with all our heart and soul and mind and strength is of greater value than anything else in the whole world and it is greater than all of the fleeting sins we engage in. In fact, it is Jesus and following Him that makes our lives have value. The Christian can say that his life is valuable and purposeful because he exists to glorify God.

And Jesus explained that some of those standing there would be given the privilege, the honor, the responsibility of glimpsing the glory of the kingdom of God, coming with power. Today we hear God's Word where Jesus kept that promise. Today, we refer to it as the Transfiguration.

It was six days later that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on top of a high mountain. And we might wonder how it was that Jesus decided on these three apostles and why it was three. We can gather two reasons from the Gospels: First, Peter, James, and John were the leaders of the apostles. It is clear from the Scripture that they were leaders among the leaders in the company of the apostles. So, it would make sense to bring the leaders, who would then lead the others in understanding what they saw and heard. A second reason could be that God said, "On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness" (Deuteronomy 17:6). It was from this that testimony in Israel was accepted only if there were two or three witnesses. So, Jesus brought three.

When they reached a certain place, Jesus stopped and He was transfigured: a change occurred to Him such that His Body and clothes did not show their finiteness, but, instead bore something of God's Glory. It was a glimpse, not the full glory of God.

Remember, Moses asked to see the full Glory of God "But, he said, 'you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.' And the Lord said, 'Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen'" (Exodus 33:20-23).

And Jesus had not been fully glorified when Mary Magdalene met Him in the garden, "Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father to my God and your God"'" (John 20:17).

So, Jesus gave them a glimpse of the glory of the kingdom and its power. As John wrote, "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known" (John 1:18). Yet, this glimpse was enough to nearly blind them: and His clothes were white, whiter than the white of the strongest and best bleacher's bleach. And as if that weren't enough, Moses and Elijah appeared, standing with Jesus, alive, in the glory.

Why Moses and Elijah? Because Moses is the chief representative of God's Law and Elijah was one of the greatest prophets, a representative of God's Prophetic Word. Jesus met with them and spoke with them as He was transfigured to show that He is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, and to show that those were wrong who said that He was Elijah -- or that He was possessed by the soul of Elijah.

And what did they talk about? Mark doesn't tell us, but Luke does: "[they] appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31). They talked with Him about how He was going to be rejected and suffer and die. They talked with Him about these things to confirm that what Jesus had told Peter and the disciples was true -- they were necessary.

And how did the disciples react? How might we react if we glimpsed the glory of the Kingdom and saw two of the greatest figures in history, alive? The disciples were terrified; they didn't know what to do. But, finally, Peter came up with an idea: "We can make tents." "Lord, why don't You let us build a shelter for You and Elijah and Moses, and You and we can spend the evening together." They were terrified, but they didn't want it to stop, either. They didn't want them to leave.

Immediately, a cloud overshadowed them, and God in His Mercy, spoke to them through the cloud. (Even though they were still filled with a greater fear at hearing the Voice of God through the cloud.) Rather than exposing them to the bare Voice of God -- the Voice that called all of creation into existence and will one day say, "Enough." God filtered His Voice through the cloud and said, "This is my son, the beloved, listen to him." "Stop talking. Hear what My Son, the Son of God, the Son I love, hear what He is saying, and listen to Him."

And immediately, Moses and Elijah were gone and Jesus was there, alone with them, no longer being transfigured. And Jesus told them not to tell anyone what had happened until after the Son of Man rose from the dead. He told them that this word had to wait until after the resurrection to be heard by the rest of His disciples and others.

George Petter writes, "That although we ought never to deny or conceal the Truth or Doctrine of God, when we have a Calling to profess or make it know to others; yet all Truths are not to be utter at all times, but then onely when it makes for God's Glory, and the good of others. There is a time in which it is better to conceal and hide the Truth (or some part of it at least) from others, than utter or make it known" (592).

This revealing was only for them for the time being. Jesus did not want it to be spread around until after His Resurrection, because, then, it would serve the people well, to comfort and encourage all those who believed in Him Alone for salvation, as they deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow Him (Mark 8:34).

But the day would come, when Jesus would rise from the dead, and then the word of the Transfiguration would spread throughout the world. As Peter wrote to the Christians scattered across the world, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain" (II Peter 1:16-18).

And as they went down the mountain, Peter and James and John discussed amongst themselves what Jesus might mean when He said that He would rise from the dead. And they asked Jesus, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"

They were remembering what the scribes had taught them regarding the prophecy of Malachi: "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 the fathers to their children And the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction" (Malachi 4:5-6).

Jesus told them, it was just as Malachi prophesied, Elijah was coming to restore all things -- to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers and the hearts of the fathers to their children. Jesus said that the one who came in the spirit of Elijah -- because the Scripture does not teach reincarnation -- the one who came in the spirit of Elijah -- who was like him in his zeal for the Word of God, he would make the way for the Savior.

And Jesus told them that just as it has been prophesied that Elijah will return before the Savior comes, and this prophecy was fulfilled, so also it is prophesied that the Savior would be rejected and suffer and be put to death, and this also must come to pass. "But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they desired, according to what was written." Jesus told them that Elijah had, in fact, already come And prepared the way. And as Matthew tells us, "Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist" (Matthew 17:10).

As Jesus said, "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 11:11-15).

"Peter, as it was prophesied, so shall it be: the Savior will be rejected and suffer and die -- and then rise again."

What does the Transfiguration teach us?

It teaches us that Jesus is holy, the Beloved Son of God. So, we ought take John's warning seriously, "Nothing unclean will ever enter [the New Jerusalem], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Revelation 21:27).

But along with the warning, let us take comfort and be of sure hope, when we hear the promise, as Paul wrote, "So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself bears witness that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him" (Romans 8:12-17). Just as Jesus was glorified, all of us who believe will be glorified like Him, made eternally holy.

We should notice one more thing: what did Jesus say the point of the Transfiguration was? To prove that He must be rejected and suffer and die and rise. And what would He do to prove that the prophecies were true? Listen again: "And [Jesus] said to them, 'Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.'"

Jesus showed them that the Kingdom is already here. It is not fully here, but it is already breaking in. So we know that Jesus has won, and in life and in death, no matter what happens, we are secure in His Salvation. Glory be

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for being patient with the disciples and with us. We thank You that You spoke clearly to them and have left Your Word and the Holy Spirit with us, that we might understand as well. We thank You for the glimpse of the glory and the power of the Kingdom that You gave the Peter, James, and John, and for the great hope and security that it give us in knowing that we are eternally secure in Your Salvation Alone. May we be a glory to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Monday Puritan

"In the coming of Christ, in his Transfiguration on the earthly Mount, were in such powerful manner; how much more shall the great Power of God be manifested in his last coming from Heaven in the Cloud, with all his Angels, to execute his Judgment. Mat. 24.30. They shall see the Son of Man coming in the Clouds of Heaven with Power and Glory: But this also before sufficiently. It makes for terrour of the Wicked and comfort of the Godly."

George Petter on Mark 9:1

Sunday Sermon

"What's Your Life Worth?"
[Mark 8:21-9:1]
May 14, 2006 Second Reformed Church

It was the most important revelation -- a revelation that Jesus said that God gave to Peter -- it was not something that he figured out on his own. Peter confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And Jesus said, "Yes, I am."

And then Jesus began to teach them what must happen to Him. He began to teach the disciples that He had to suffer and be rejected. He explained to them, for the first time, that for Him to fulfill His Work as the Promised Savior, He had to suffer and be rejected. So we see, from the first, that Jesus was willing to fulfill the prophecy that was made about Him.

Jesus explained that he would be rejected by the religious leaders and the religious scholars of the day -- the very people who logic would say would recognize who He is. But they would not recognize Him. Just as the prophets said. Instead, they would persecute Him and seek to trap Him and, eventually, the would succeed in having Him put to death. Jesus explained that this is what had to happen, to fulfill the prophets, and He was going to fulfill all the prophecy about himself, willingly, even to the point of death. Paul wrote, "Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8).

But death would not be the end. No, death would lead to the beginning, because He would rise from the dead three days later. Jesus spoke these things to His disciples clearly, plainly, not in parables, so that they would understand, so there would be no confusion. They understood exactly what He was saying to them -- at least they understood the words. And then Peter jumped up, again, and he rebuked the Man that he had just confessed to be the Savior and the Son of God, as Matthew recorded it, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22b)

And Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan. You do not have your mind set on the divine but on the human." And Jesus still says the same thing to us, "Get behind me, Satan. You do not have your mind set on the divine but on the human."

Yesterday we had our Flea Market. Why? "Because we need the money. Because we want to be able to give Christmas gifts to the General Fund and to the staff." While those things are true, was there anything that made this a different Flea Market than one held at Florence Avenue Elementary School? "Well, we wanted people to know the church is here. Some people were even invited to the church." That's more on track, but what is our purpose here -- for everything that we do? If our minds are set on the divine, and not merely on the human, we have our Flea Market to glorify God. We gather together as the church to glorify God. Our purpose is His Glory. And to whatever extent our main purpose is not to glorify God, Jesus says, "Get behind me, Satan. You do not have your mind set on the divine but on the human."

Peter was not possessed by Satan, but he was following after Satan's agenda, rather than God's. Jesus had to fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecy, otherwise He is a fraud, and Peter wasn't thinking about that. Peter was thinking, "I will not lose my rabbi; He can do too much good alive. This will not happen." And we hear that little hiss, because the devil is happy when we depart from God, when we turn our minds from Him, even just a little. We must build on God's Word Alone. Jesus said that the prophets said that He must suffer and die and rise again, and that was what He was going to do, to the glory of His Father.

Notice that Peter took Jesus aside to rebuke Him, but Jesus turned to the disciples and rebuked Peter in front of all of them. He did this to make sure they understood that they were to be focused on God and God's Will.

And Jesus told the crowd that anyone who wants to follow Him must do three things: he must deny himself, he must take up his cross, and he must be willing to follow Him in suffering like Him.

If we want to follow Christ, we must deny ourselves. Paul told Titus that God is "training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12). If we are to follow Christ, we must deny all those things that lead us into sin and we must deny ourselves the freedom to sin. It's simply a matter of deciding what is of greater value to us: our sin or Christ. Which is greater -- which is of greater value: the infinitely glorious salvation in Jesus Christ, or the fleeting pleasures of sin?

If we want to follow Christ, we will take up His cross. Paul warned Timothy, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (II Timothy 3:12). Notice, it's a promise. If we live as Jesus has called us to life, we will be persecuted, just as He was persecuted as He obeyed the will of His Father. What is of greater value: the infinitely glorious salvation in Jesus Christ, or being perceived as sane and wise in the eyes of the world?

If we want to follow Christ, we will follow Him in suffering like Him. Paul wrote, "Whatever gain I had, I counted everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith -- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in death" (Philippians 3:7-10). If we are to become like Christ in all things as we continue on this road to sanctification -- to being made holy -- to be made like our Brother, Jesus, all things includes suffering. Physically. Fatally.

The commentator George Petter notes that suffering, even for Christ, is not a natural or easy things to do. But as we prepare for the affliction that will come in one way or another as we are made like Him in all things, Petter suggests that we meditate on Christ's Cross. John Piper's book, Fifty Reasons Christ Came to Die , that we handed out for Easter, would be helpful to read. Petter also suggests that we pray for strength and wisdom in suffering and that we increase in spiritual strength, through worship -- in reading and hearing the Scripture read, and also preached, and through the sacraments.

It's not optional for Christians. Peter wrote, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps" (I Peter 2:22). And Paul also wrote, "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2).

It really comes down to understanding what your life is worth. Jesus went on, in this morning's Scripture to say, if we save our lives for ourselves, if we live only for ourselves, and not for God, even if we gain the whole world, power and pleasure and prestige -- after a life of frivolous please, we will be lost. You won't be saved, you'll be lost. But, Jesus said, if we're willing to lose our lives, if we're willing to suffer and die, if we're willing to lose everything we have, if we're willing to lose our friends and family and our reputation -- everything -- for His Sake and for the sake of the Gospel -- if we are totally enraptured with the things of God, then we can be assured that we are and shall be received into the infinitely glorious salvation in Jesus Christ.

Jesus spoke these words to John and the angel of the church in Smyrna, "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you in prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. But be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). That doesn't make sense to the world; it doesn't make sense to the natural man. If we believe in Jesus Alone for our salvation -- if we have faith that it was His suffering on the cross that paid the debt for our sin and it was His Obedience to the Law that makes us righteous, through His Gift to us -- then nothing that happens to us, not even the worst torture the devil can bring down on us, not even death itself, none of these things will trouble us in the end, because it is only through Jesus Alone that we have life -- eternal life.

If we are ashamed of Jesus and His Gospel now, if we do not want to live as He has called us to live, if we don't find our joy in Him and His Word, then He will cast us away on the last day. But if our greatest joy is Christ, then, in the long run, we can say, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18) and "our lives are worthwhile and worthy in Jesus Christ, and since He is our Infinitely Glorious Salvation, it is nothing to lose our lives for His Sake and for the Gospel."

Let us notice one more thing this morning:

Then Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God come in power." What does this have to do with the discussion Jesus was having?

Jesus understood that the Gospel sounds like foolishness. We have the ability to look back and know that the resurrection has occurred and our salvation is secured. But Jesus had not fulfilled that prophecy at the time that He spoke these words. What Jesus was telling them was that some of them would be given the honor of seeing the curtain pulled back. Some of them would be allowed to glimpse the glory of the Kingdom of God and it's power, before it has fully come to earth. Jesus was saying that some of them would be allowed a glimpse of the glory of His Kingdom that He was saying is worth more that everything this world and sin can offer. Six days after He made this promise, it was kept.

And if the Lord wills, we will hear God's Word on that next Sunday.

Let us pray:
Sovereign God, we thank You for making it known to us that You have a Glorious Plan that You are bringing about that includes Your people. Make the Holy Spirit lead us in understanding and in keeping our mind and heart and soul and body set on the divine, looking always for the full revealing of Your Kingdom and the completion of our salvation, when we are fully sanctified and then glorified in Your Presence. Fill us with awe and humility and make it our joy and our goal to say, "Have Thy Own Way, Lord." In Jesus Name, Amen.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Possible Mother's Day Scriptures/Topics

Genesis 27:1-17 "Mothers: A Child's CEO"

II Kings 9:30-37 "Mothers: Lovers of Beauty and Animals"

Psalm 51:5 "Conception and Its Gift"

Jeremiah 20:14-18 "The Joy of the Womb"

Revelation 17:1-6 "Active Motherhood"

Monday Puritan

"Cold prayers always freeze before they reach heaven."
-- Thomas Brooks

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Another Serious Question Asked of the Pastor

"She's a Christian, right; she goes to church?"

Sunday Sermon

"What Do You See?"
[Mark 8:22-30]
May 7, 2006 Second Reformed Church

Who do you see when you look at the records of the history of the life and works of Jesus? What do you see?

Jesus and the disciples went to Bethsaida. And there, we see they encountered what had become to them, and should be to us, a familiar sight: friends of a sick person brought the person to Jesus and begged Him to heal the person. We see this again and again in the Gospels.

Jesus and the disciples arrived and some people brought their blind friend to Jesus and begged Him to heal the blind man. They had heard or seen what Jesus was able to do. They had faith that He was able to restore the sight to the blind, and they begged Jesus to do this for their friend.

Jesus took the man by the hand and led him outside of the city gates. Why? Jesus wanted privacy; He didn't want to attract a crowd. As we have seen before, it was not yet time for Jesus to be glorified, so these healings that He did, though He did them as witnesses to Who He is, He also did not want to have throngs following after Him every moment of the day. It was not yet His time.

And Jesus led the man by the hand, showing His Compassion and Mercy. Jesus could have spoken the word, and the man would have been healed, but, instead, He chose to touch Him, to lead him, to reveal something of His Character to him.

And again, we see Jesus using physical means: He did not merely proclaim Him well, as He had done for others, but He spit, and He placed the spit on the man's eyes, and touched his eyes. Like with the deaf and dumb man in chapter seven, our Savior touched the sick; He showed that He loved with His Body. Remember, the great commandment says that we are to love God with our strength, with our body. There is a holy way to show love to God and each other with our bodies. And Jesus spit and touched the man's eyes.

And Jesus asked him if he saw anything -- not because He didn't know, but to strengthen the man's faith and to make sure the man realized just what was happening. And the man said that the saw people, but it wasn't clear, they looked like trees. So Jesus touched his eyes again, and He fully opened his eyes, and the man proclaimed that he could see clearly, very clearly. He had been completely healed.

Why did Jesus touch him twice to heal Him? Couldn't Jesus have healed him by touching him once? Yes, Jesus could have healed him completely the first time, but Jesus wanted to strengthen the man's faith and make sure that the man understood Who was healing him.

And we wonder what this has to do with us today: Jesus is not physically here; He is not going to come in and spit and lay His Hands on us. Yet God does still heal. We are right to believe and have faith that the God Who created everything is able to heal us as it pleases Him. So we ought to have that faith, based on the truth of the Scriptures -- that God can heal us now. But let us understand, God will not heal everyone in the same way, and some may not be healed in this lifetime.

Let us understand that we are right to pray for the sick. We are right to bring our friends and our concerns for our friends into the sanctuary and lift up those prayers for them to God, because God may heal them, simply by His Word, and it also shows that we recognize that He is the Healer, the One Who is able to heal.

Along with this, we ought to go to doctors. It is not a sign of a lack of faith to go to doctors. God has given us doctors and given them insight and ability with regards to disease. So, it may be that God chooses to heal through the means of doctors, just as He chose to heal through spit and touch. God may heal a person through pills, or an operation. In such a case, we have the doctor to thank and God to thank. For God is the One Who gave the doctor the ability and the knowledge to do those things by which God healed.

What we must be careful of falling into sin in attributing our healing merely to the doctors, as if God has nothing to do with it, or as if mere humans can heal without God's intervention. If we are healed after a doctor's intervention, we still also have been healed by the Hand of God.

We ought also to understand from this healing, that God may heal us in stages. For whatever reason, to increase our faith, or something else. God may heal us in stages. Or God may only partially heal us. It all depends on God's Perfect Will. Let us by patient and wait on God, believing that He knows best.

So, Jesus healed the blind man and sent him home, telling him not to go back into the city -- not to tell the people of the city what had happened to him. Why? Because it was not yet Jesus' Time.

Though Jesus' Time came, we still do well to watch our tongues, to be careful what we say about the glories of Christ, in this sense: Jesus said, "Do not give to the dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you" (Matthew 7:6-7). Jesus is warning us that there is a time and a place to discuss everything that God has revealed to us in His Word, but we must be careful and wise about when and what we say. For, there are some things, some mysteries, like the Doctrine of Election, for example that, at best, are meaningless to a non-Christian, or at worst, will cause them to blaspheme God and/or attack us. Just as we would not throw the holy things or pearls before beasts, for whom they are meaningless, we ought to be careful what we say and whom we are saying it to.

Then Jesus and the disciples left for Caesarea Philippi, and Jesus asked the disciples who the people said He was. And again, Jesus knew what the people we saying, but He wanted to see what the disciples had come to understand. So they told Him, "John the baptizer, Elijah, or one of the other prophets." Remember we said that there were some who believed that just as demons can possess a human body, they reasoned that the soul of a deceased person could also possess a human body. The people were saying, then, that Jesus was possessed by the soul of one of the great Old Testament prophets. Remember that Herod believed that Jesus was possessed by John, whom Herod had killed. They, of course, were wrong.

Today, most people, most religions, will say that Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher, a controversial rabbi, who interpreted the Torah in a new way. Of course, most people today are wrong. Why? Because Jesus makes it impossible for us to merely call Him a good man, if we read the Scripture. C. S. Lewis, of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe fame, said that if we read the Scripture, we only have three options: He was either a lunatic -- claiming the He is the Son of God (Luke 22:69), or He was a liar -- on the same charge, or He is in fact Who He said He was, the Incarnate Deity, God in the Flesh, the Second Person of the Trinity.

The fact that so many people deny that Jesus is the Son of God and refuse to take one of the other two positions, is normal -- it is just what we should expect, as Paul tells us, "There must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized" (I Corinthians 11:19). Paul is saying that these various conclusions as to Who Jesus is are signs to us that we might know who is a Christian -- a genuine Christian -- and who is not. We know by comparing what God has said in the Bible against what people are saying, and then, we "must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that [we might receive] instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it" (Titus 1:9). To do that, we must know the Word of God and pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to understand it rightly. And we must "in our hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (I Peter 3:15).

Jesus then asked the disciples what they saw Him as -- what their understand was. And good, old, impulsive Peter jumped forward and said, "You are the Christ." "You are the Messiah, the Savior, the One we have been waiting for, for four thousand years. You are the One Who provides eternal salvation for His people; You are the Mediator between God and humans. You Alone make us right with the Father."

And Jesus told them that Peter was right, and not to tell anyone, because His Time had not yet come.

Who do you understand Jesus to be? Who is He, really? If you can answer that He is the Christ, the Son of God, then God has not only opened your eyes and given you sight, but He has raised you from spiritual death to spiritual life.

John wrote, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:30-31).

What do you see?

If you have seen the Son of God and believe in Him Alone for salvation, then our Lord invites you to His Table. And the Savior Who created everything that is, and heals us and preserves us, and makes Himself know to us through His Word, this Jesus is here, ministering to us now, and as we receive the bread and the cup.

So, let us pray:
Almighty God and Savior, Healer, Preserver, Mediator, and Word, we thank You for raising us from the dead and causing us to see very clearly, that Jesus is the Christ. Draw us to Your Word, and make us understand it. Help us to defend Your Word against unbelievers, and keep our sure Hope before us. In Jesus' Name.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Monday Puritan

"Of all Sins, beware of this obstinate and wilfull sinning against conscience; and especially of persisting and going on in such a wilfull Course. This is that which will bring heavy and swift Damnation upon such as are guilty of it, and so continue without Repentance.

"Remedies against it: 1. Pray unto God to keep us from this fearfull and high degree of Sinning wilfully against Conscience: Psal. 19.13. David prayes to God to keep him from presumptuous sin, &c. So should we, to be kept from obstinate Sinning against light of Conscience, with a high degree if presumptuous Sins.

"2. Consider the hainous Nature of this Sin, and God's heavy Judgments &c.

"3. Take heed of custom in Sin, which hardeneth the Heart, and at length brings to wilfull sinning and going on against Conscience.

"4. Beware of smoothering the light of thy Conscience, or going against it in the smallest matters; but in all things follow the light of thy Conscience directed by the Word of God: ..."

George Petter (on Mark 8:12-13)