Second Reformed Church

Friday, June 30, 2006

July Sermons

D.V., during the month of July, I will be preaching:

7/2/06 Mark 10:17-31 "Is Salvation Possible?"
7/9/06 Mark 10:32-52 "And What Do You Want?"
7/16/06 Will Lampe, guest preacher
7/23/06 Mark 11:1-11 "Coronation"
7/30/06 Mark 11:12-26 "Hypocrites"

Bible Study

For the months of July and August, our Saturday Bible Study will be on hiatus. Our Sunday morning Bible Study, at 9 AM, will continue. Hope to see you then!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Jesus is Not Waiting for You

One of the blogs I frequent is "Pyromaniacs" www.teampyro.blogspot.com, and one of the team members, CenturiOn, blogged the following yesterday:

Jesus is not waiting for you to make a choice: Jesus is saving right now. The call is not "do you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior": the call is "Jesus is Lord and Christ! Be baptized and repent in His name!"

Isn't it amazing how, even in the Reformed church (RCA and other stripes), we get this wrong. I had one of our persistant visitors ask me recently if I was ever going to preach the Gospel. Once I recovered from my shock, I told her that I believed I had been preaching the Gospel, and she said, well, no, she hadn't heard me give a single altar call.

How many times will we wrench the passage from Revelation and have our Almighty God and Savior dressed in rags, pitiful and dying, standing just outside the door, knocking with His last ounce of strength, hoping that we will let Him in so He might "sup" with us and be saved, and in return, He'll give us eternal salvation.

Another persistant visitor, who likes to make huge doctrinal statements from minor and/or vague texts, argues that "we see through the glass darkly," so none of us can say we have the whole truth.

While I agree with him to a point, on the other hand, everything we need to know for life and salvation is clearly and abundantly stated in the Scriptures, so even we dumb sheep can understand.

One thing that we dumb sheep need to get through our thick skulls is that Jesus chose us, elected us, and saved us from all eternity. Then He created all that is -- and then we are saved in time, etc. etc.

If Jesus is waiting for us, He and His Salvation are worthless.

Bravo, CenturiOn.

May God forgive us for our sloppy and lazy theology.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday Puritan (for Scott P.)

from Edward Marbury's commentary on Habakkuk 1:6:

"Let us remember our lesson, let us live in the learning and the practice of it, feare God and keep his Commandements, and let Satan do his worst, and let the Catholick Bishop and the Chaldeans, his idolatrous, cruel and proud sonnes, use either wit or strength against us; si Deus pro nobis, if God be for us, all is well."

Sunday EVENING Sermon

"Don't Worry; It'll Get Worse"
[Habakkuk 1:1-11]
June 25, 2006 Emmanuel Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Tonight, we open the burden of the prophet, Habakkuk. We don't know much about Habakkuk, though it seems likely that he was writing during the sixth century B. C. -- around the same time that Jeremiah was writing. Habakkuk's name means "the embracer" or "the wrestler." And the prophecy that he delivered, the oracle that he spoke, was heavy upon him -- a burden. Habakkuk was a prophet who was burdened by what he saw and wrestled to understand God's Response to him.

Habakkuk began his burden saying, "O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, 'Violence!' And You will not save." The prophet had cried out to God, cried for help, and he had gotten no answer. He wanted to know where the Holy God that He preached had gone.

But Habakkuk knew He was there; God was just not answering. For God was the One who showed him iniquity and theft and violence and strife, and contention among all the people, and the prophet could do nothing to stop it. He preached to them. He called them to repentance. But before him, and before the Face of God, the people had neither respect, nor fear.

So Habakkuk cried out to God, "Do something! Defend Your Holy Name! Avenge Your Righteousness!" But God seemed to do nothing, so God's Law became powerless and justice never happened. If God never saw fit to enforce His Law, what good was it to have Law? Every righteous man was surrounded by wicked men, so justice was perverted, and the prophet cried and cried out to God, "How long?" He cried out like the slaughtered souls under the altar are crying out even now, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:10).

Habakkuk's ministry was almost the exact opposite of Jonah's: God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach repentance, but he fled, so God chased him down. And Jonah preached to Nineveh, and they repented of their sins. Habakkuk went straightway to the people and preached to them and called them to repentance, and they laughed and did whatever they wanted, and God seemingly did nothing about it.

This evening, let us understand that we are right to be upset by the sin in the world and in our churches and in ourselves. The Psalmist wrote, "I see the treacherous and am disgusted, because they do not keep Your word" (Psalm 119:158). Peter tells us that Lot, living among the wicked, "Tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds" (II Peter 2:8b).

So we, as Christians, ought to be upset. Yet we ought also be in prayer for those who sin around us. We ought to be earnestly praying for them -- praying with zeal for God's Glory. We ought to be praying for those who sin, not so they can one day become wonderful people like you and me, but because the Glory of God is covered over and kept from view by our sin. And it ought to be our greatest longing as Christians to see the Glory of God in all its fullness. So let us pray for them.

"But how can we pray for them when they joyfully, unrepentantly run after sin?"

Daniel prayed amidst the lions. Jonah made his sanctuary of prayer in the belly of the fish. And Jesus prayed in the Garden, even as the torches lit up the evening sky. If we are the people of God, we will pray until sin is vanquished from the earth, because God is worthy, and to glorify God and enjoy Him forever is our purpose.

And if we have already brought the Gospel to them, let us bring it again. If we still have breath, let us tell them again and again that there is salvation in Jesus Christ Alone. Let us call them to repentance, warning them of their treacherous state until they believe -- or the time is past. And if they be Christians, let us exercise discipline, and receive them back in love.

That can be a great burden, especially when God seems to be far away. When it seems as though God is not listening. And we hear no word from God. One of the messages of the wrestling of the prophet Habakkuk is that sometimes God waits. Sometimes God says, "Not yet." Sometimes God says nothing and expects us to wait for the potter to work the clay.

God does answer -- sooner or later -- in His time, as He is pleased, according to His Will. And we see in verse five that God does answer Habakkuk: "Look among the nations and watch -- be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you." God says, "I will avenge myself for these sins, and you won't believe how I am going to do it."

"For indeed, I am raising up the Chaldeans." It's as thought God said, "Don't worry; it'll get worse." "I'm raising up the Chaldeans -- the Babylonians -- the Iraqis -- one of the most evil nations on the earth, and I'm going to send them after you. These are a people greatly to be feared -- they conquer nations, steal land and possessions -- they are completely arrogant and selfish. Even their horses are evil: they're swifter than leopards, more fierce than hungry wolves. They will come quickly and they will defeat you in an overwhelming defeat, like a hungry eagle swooping down to eat. They are coming for the joy -- the fun -- of violence. They will gather innumerable captives to take back to Babylon. They will laugh at your kings, scorn your princes, blow through your strongholds. And they will sin and offend Me, by ascribing their power to their own god."

God was right -- it wasn't the answer the prophet expected. Never would he have guessed that God would solve the problem of one evil by allowing another, greater evil to conquer it. But He did. God said, "Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle" (II Kings 21:12b). And Jeremiah also prophesied, "And the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city, and take it and burn it with fire" (Jeremiah 37:8).

Here is a hard doctrine: God sometimes uses one nation to punish another. Not only that, but God sometimes uses evil to accomplish His Will and chastize the wicked. God sometimes uses heathens to punish the Church. God knows all about our sin -- He has known about all of the sins of everyone who will every be -- from before the creation of the world. Because God is sovereign over our sin, and our sin is part of God's Plan.

Now, let us not get confused: God does not sin. God is not the author of sin. God does not force anyone to sin. When the Scripture tells us that God raised up the Chaldeans to slaughter and enslave God's people, we understand that what God did was let the Chaldeans, who freely chose after the evil inclination of their evil hearts to slaughter and enslave, God let them do what they freely and responsibly chose to do and did not stop them. God did not give mercy to His people, but allowed them to suffer justice.

So what do we do, how do we prepare, since God is not obligated to show mercy? Let us pray. Let us repudiate evil -- let us hate it with as great a hatred as we have zeal for God's Glory. And let us recognize God's Sovereign Lordship. God does not promise us health and wealth and beachfront resorts. This is a world full of sin, corrupted by sin, a world that is waiting and groaning with us for the restoration that will occur when God’s Kingdom has fully come (Romans 8:21-22) . That is our hope; we wait and long for that glory to come.

So, perhaps it's not so astonishing that God would use an evil nation to punish a sinful nation. Perhaps it makes sense -- sad, heart-wrenching sense. To see God destroy the world in a flood; to rain down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, even to raise up the Chaldeans -- it makes sense.

What is surprising -- what is truly astonishing -- is that God decided not to wipe us all out. God decided not to throw us all into Hell. John is shocked with joy, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!" (I John 1a). And Paul sang a hymn, "[Jesus], being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father" (Philippians 2:6-11).

What is astonishing is not that there is sin in the world and that sin has consequences. What's astonishing is the God would incarnate and the Father would plan for the Son to be crucified by evil men, and that the Father would reign down His Wrath for every one of the sins of everyone who would ever believe, on His Beloved, Innocent, Holy Son. What is astonishing is that, on the cross, Jesus, the Perfect God-Man, suffered eternal Hell, the full Wrath of God, for each one of us sinners that He chooses to save. It's not a plan that you or I would ever have come up with, yet it is our hope and our salvation.

Will we continue to be shocked and angered by the evil in the world? Yes, and we should be. So, let us be a people of prayer, a people ever-ready to speak the Gospel, a people who know and believe that our God is Sovereign over all things, including our sin. And let our hope be in the astonishing Work of the Incarnation, and may it all be to the glory of the Father.

Let us pray:
Almighty and Sovereign God, make us hate sin more each day, cause us to rise up in prayer, putting our hope and trust in You, and in the Astonishing Work that saves us. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Sunday Sermon

"What Do Children Have That Self-Protective Older Men Might Not?"
[Mark 10:13-16]
June 25, 2006 Second Reformed Church

Jesus had been teaching, as was his custom, and parents began to bring their children -- their young children, even infants -- through the crowd, so the rabbi, Jesus, might reach out His Hand and touch them, bless them. But when the disciples saw what was happening -- all these children coming through the crowd -- children who wouldn't understand what Jesus was saying -- children who would disrupt Jesus' teaching -- the disciples sprang into action, and they rebuked the parents and turned them around and told them to get to the back of the crowd where they wouldn't be a distraction. They could wait in the back, not disturbing anyone, and wait until Jesus passed by, and they could touch Him then.

And Jesus saw what was happening and He became angry, "Permit the children to come to me, do not hinder them, for such is the kingdom of God." Notice, Jesus was emphatic about having the children with Him, before Him, as He taught. Jesus commanded the children to be brought front and center, both in the positive and the negative. "Let the children come to Me, and to make sure You understand, do not do anything to keep the children from coming to me. Because the kingdom of God is for these little children."

Jesus was reminding the disciples and the crowd, that God made His Covenant -- God made His Promises -- not just to adults, but to children. God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, which you shall keep between me and you and your offspring after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant" (Genesis 17:9-14). Peter reaffirmed this covenant promise before the crowd at Pentecost, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" (Acts 2:38-39).

We are told in the Old and New Testaments that children are part of the covenant; children are equally part of the worshiping community with their parents. Children born to parents who are part of the covenant or who are adopted by parents of the covenant are children of the covenant. The sign of being a member of the covenant in the Old Testament was circumcision. The sign of being a member of the covenant in the New Testament is baptism. In the Old Testament, children we received as members of the covenant and circumcised at eight days old. That is why we baptism infants and children, by this example, that children are part of the covenant.

Now, let us not forget and let us not get confused: Does circumcision save? No. Does baptism save? No. Does being a member of the covenant save? No. Jesus Christ Alone saves. When a child was circumcised, or baptized, or recognized as a member of the covenant, we understand that they were received as a member of the community of faith -- persons who needed to be taught the teachings of God and His Messiah. People who may or may not yet believe in Jesus Alone for salvation. People who may or may not be part of the elect of God. Being a part of the covenant, being circumcised, being baptized, for a child, is a sign that the child is a member of the community of faith and that the community has a responsibility to raise the child in the faith.

Jesus said, "Let the children come in; don't send them away. Children ought to be where they can hear the Word of God and His Salvation taught -- they are members of the covenant community of faith."

What does that mean for us today? Children ought to be in the sanctuary hearing the Word of God read and preached. We ought not to forbid or discourage, but encourage them, and parents, guardians, ought to require that our children be in the worship service.

"Well, how young a child should we bring to the worship service?" Remember what happened when Mary visited her sister Elizabeth? John the Baptist, who was not yet born, was allowed to understand that Jesus, the Messiah, was in the womb across from him, and he leapt for joy (Luke 1:44) And Abraham was told to bring the child beginning on the eighth day.

"But what if the child becomes disruptive?" Understand, it is our duty as adults to teach our children and the children in our care to sit and listen as best as they can. They surely can listen to cartoons for hours on end without moving; they can learn to listen in worship and learn to worship. But there will be times when a child, especially a very young child will need to temporarily be removed by the adult to quiet the child. Such is life, yet they will adjust quickly. I grew up in a church where children, certainly by the age of three, we present in the sanctuary for the whole service. We must train our children -- it is our responsibility.

"Does it really matter that young children and infants be in the worship service?" Yes. From the youngest age possible, we must be teaching our children that Salvation is in Jesus Christ Alone. They may or may not ever believe that is true, but since they are children of the covenant, they belong here in the sanctuary, being taught. Our children ought to be in worship.

If we do not bring our children to worship, we neglect our duty as the church to educate them in worship. Sunday School is good and necessary and everyone -- everyone -- ought to be involved in Christian Education -- because we all have more to learn -- but our children must also be taught how to worship, how to come before the Almighty and Living God. Surely, we've all heard people say, especially in mixed religious marriages, "We're not going to impose our religion on little Johnny, we're just going to let him grow up and decide what to believe." How poor and worthless is our faith if we do not teach it to our children Do we say, "I'm not going to teach Sally what to eat, I'm just going to let her decide what to eat and how to get the food"? Of course not How dare we shirk our responsibility and leave our children to fend for themselves before a Holy God.

Paul reminds Timothy, "from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through Jesus Christ" (II Timothy 3:15). And Solomon reminds us to "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Bring the children Teach them, instruct them, pray for them, correct them, comfort them, but bring them Jesus said, "Permit the young children to come to me, do not hinder them, for such is the kingdom of God."

Then Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a young child, shall never go into it."

What did Jesus mean? What does it mean to "receive the kingdom of God like a young child"? Certainly it doesn't mean to be "childish." Jesus is not telling us to be unfit, immature, ignorant, and so forth. Nor is He telling us to be like the Pharisees and the scribes who knew the Scripture backwards and forwards, but had hearts of stone. What did He mean? What, as the title of the sermon asks, do children have that self-protective older men might not?

Listen to what David wrote in Psalm 131: "O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever more."

David said, "I don't wrack my brain trying to understand those things that God has kept as mysteries; I humbly receive the truth that there are things that God has reveal this far, but no further, and I am satisfied with that. I am not anxiety-ridden over the things of the world; I neglect the depths of the depravity of the world. Instead, I calmly and quietly trust You in my soul, I trust what You have revealed. I rest on You like a weaned child. I am satisfied in You; I need nothing more. I am at peace having faith in You. I trust You. I have hope in You."

If we want to receive the Kingdom, we must receive it on God's terms. We are children of our Heavenly Father. And as we, as little children, ran to our mothers and fathers and trusted in them without a second thought, but had faith in them, that they knew what was good and right and true, so God says that His children will receive the Kingdom in the same way.

If we want to receive the Kingdom, then we will hear that Salvation is in Jesus Alone, we know God's Word and believe Him at His Word and do not seek to push God's Word beyond what He has said and revealed to us. Instead, we will trust Him and find our comfort and hope and eternal salvation in Him. Children have a trust and a faith that is second-nature; may God be pleased to instill that in us.

Let us notice, finally, this morning, that Jesus picked the children up and blessed them, and lay His hands on them. Let us not be afraid to show children our love. Yes, we must be careful to respect each others' boundaries and the scruples of parents. Yes, we must be careful not to do anything that misleads children -- or adults -- about our intentions. But, let us still not be afraid to show children our love.

The minister of the church I grew up in had what he called "a ministry of touch," and in his final sermon, he talked about touching people, about how he hugged those who were willing to be hugged, about how out Savior reached out and touched. And Dr. Dunderdale said, "Is it dangerous? Oh, yes. But how much more dangerous is it to let a young person come into the church, grow up in the church, go out of the church, never knowing he's loved. Not by one of us, and not by God." Let us not be afraid to show children our love.

Let us bring the children to worship as members of the covenant community. Let them hear the Word of God read and preached, and let us teach them and guide them as the people of God. Let us be like children, in their faith and trust in our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who Alone is never to be doubted. And let us not be afraid to show our love to the children -- and each other.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father, as we celebrate our 90th Anniversary as a church, a church that we built for the sake of the great overflow of children from First Reformed Church, make us understand the importance of bringing the children into the sanctuary to worship and learn from You. Make us more like children in our faith and trust, for these shall receive the Kingdom. And teach us to show our love to each other, meaningfully, safely, and concretely. And may Jesus Christ be praised, for it is in His Name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bringing the Gospel to the OPC

I plan to preach the Sunday evening service this Sunday (D.V.) at Emmanuel OPC in Whippany at 6 pm. I will be preaching on Habakkuk 1:1-11 "Don't Worry; It'll Get Worse." All are welcome.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Consistory

The Consistory will meet tonight at 7 PM (D.V.) This is our final meeting before our summer hiatus. Don't forget to show up, Consistory members!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday Puritan (with slight commentary)

"That the common custom of the times in any sin or unlawfull practice, doth bring men at length to make question of the lawfullness of those things whereof no question ought to be made; yea, to think such sins to be no sins, &c. So here the corrupt Jews in this unlawfull practice of putting away their Wives for every small occasion of dislike, did bring them at length to make question of the lawfullness of this practice; yea, to think it lawfull: and therefore those Pharisees come and move this question to our Saviour; and they so move it, as that they seem in their Judgment to incline (as no doubt but they did) unto the common Custom and practice then in use. Therefore Matth. 19.7 they urge our Saviour with the Authority of Moses for the justifying of this unlawful practice. The like may be said of Polygamy, or of the marrying of many Wives at once, which being in itself a sin, yet by common custom therein, the Fathers of the Old Testament were brought to make question of the lawfullness of it. So Fornication among the Gentiles by common custom, came not onely to be questioned whether lawfull, but to be holden as no sin. In the times of the Ancient Fathers of the Christian Church, there were sundry corrupt customs and practices in use, which by reason of the commonness of them, grew not onely to be questioned whether lawfull, but also to be holden and reputed so to be; as Praying for the dead, giving of the Communion to young Children, deferring Baptism till sickness or old age, &c. So in our times there are many unlawfull and unwarrantable practices in use, which by reason of the common custom of the times, are grown now to be questioned as touching to be holden lawfull. For example, the custom of profane swearing, especially of some common Oaths, as by Faith, Troth, &c., the Customs of drinking Healths, the practice of mixt dancing of men and women together, of usury, &c. See how dangerous it is for us to follow the common customs and practices of the times and places where we live, farther than they are warrantable. For by this means, we may soon be brought, not onely to err in practice, but also to be corrupted in Judgment; so as we shall begin to make question of the lawfullness of such things that are simply unlawfull, and whereof no question ought to be made at all; yea, we shall be so blinded and besotted, as to think some gross sins be no sins &c. Take heed therefore how we live; make not the outcome of the times, or the example of the multitude, but the Word of God the rule of thy life. Remember Exod. 23.2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evill, &c. And Rom. 12.2 Be not conformed to this World, &c. but prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. Great is the force of evill custom, especially when it groweth common and ordinary amongst many, or the most part of men in the times and places where we live; it is not able, not onely to pervert us in life and practice, but also to blind and besot us in Judgment, causing us so make question of the lawfullness of thing utterly unlawfull, wicked, and sinful; yea to think sins be no sins at length, when they are commonly practiced, &c. Such evill customs are like Epididemical diseases, which, where they once begin to prevail, are apt to over-run all or most of the people in those places: or like wild Fire, apt to lay hold on everything that comes near it. Therefore let us beware of being infected with the contagion of such evill customs and practices, though never so common; Take heed this dangerous Wild-fire lay not hold on us: To this end, Pray unto God to keep us upright and blameless in these evill times, that we may separate our selves from the common corruption that is in the World through lust, (as the Apostle saith), and that we may shine as Lights in the midst of a perverse generation. Amongst whom we live."

Were it not for the spelling and grammar, would we know that this is from January 17, 1627? George Petter was preaching on Mark 10:2, bemoaning the sins of the Church, and yet these are the very words that must be heeded by the RCA and the whole Christian Church today. These are the words that needed to be spoken amidst the silliness and blasphemy that passed for our General Synod. Where are the men in the RCA who say, "Thus says the Lord!"? Where are the men who stand up and answer such blasphemous questions with, "What did God say?" If we hold to nothing of the teaching of Jesus and the Word of God except by custom, as we have approved it, then we are not Christians, our salvation is lost, and we are those brethren that John speaks of who [ought!] leave the church because they were never of Christ (I John 2:19). Christians: Repent! Preach, teach, and receive the Whole Clear Word of God. And to the others: Begone! Leave the Church of Christ! Fester joyfully with your father, the devil, until our Father send His Son to finally cleanse us, and all of creation, and make us His Bride.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunday Sermon

"Becoming One Flesh"
[Mark 10:1-12]
June 18, 2006 Second Reformed Church

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her; having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor; without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherished it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:25-33).

What does it mean to "become one flesh"?

Jesus was teaching, and the Pharisees came to Him, hoping to trap Him -- to show that He was not the Messiah, the Savior -- by having Him say or do something against God's Law. And they asked Him, "Is it lawful for a man to send his wife away?" Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?

The Pharisees came to Jesus with an illegitimate question, because they knew the answer. They didn't want His commentary on the Law. They didn't want Him to preach the Gospel. They wanted Him to say something other than the Law -- to "bend" the Law. This is the same sinful blasphemy with which the serpent came to Eve, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'" (Genesis 3:1b). The serpent knew very well what God had said, he wanted to bring doubt to Eve, to get her to modify God's Word, to doubt and break it. The Pharisees of our denomination and General Synod have come the same way, "Did God really say that homosexual acts are sinful?" "What did God mean about homosexuality in the socio-economic middle eastern milieu?" "Doesn't God want us to love and not be concerned about sin?" "Aren't we being judgmental, when we are sinners ourselves?"

Blind guides! Vile hypocrites! Sons of their father the devil!

The Pharisees were men who knew God's Word backwards and forwards and ministers are also to know and only speak God's Word from the holy pulpit. So our response, as Jesus responsed to such temptation -- to being so misled and encourage to mislead -- is to say, "What did God say?" "What did God say through His prophets?" The Bible is written so the people of God would understand it -- most of it is written as plainly as plain can be, because, we, like sheep, are dumb, and we need the Word spelled out for us. "What did God say?"

We are no different from the people of Jesus' day or Moses' day: "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and if he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination to the Lord" (Deuteronomy 24:1-4a). That is what the Lord told Moses to tell the people.

The Pharisees knew that. They said, "Moses permitted a certificate of divorce to be written and for her to be sent away." And Jesus said that this was given, "Because of the hardness of your heart."

What's going on here? Why was the certificate of divorce given? Because the man found "indecency" in her and because he come to "hate" her? What's going on here? The word that is translated "indecency" literally means that her "nakedness was previously opened" -- in other words, she was not a virgin. And the word that is translated "hate" is actually very specific -- it is "hate due to sexual perversions." The certificate of divorce was given because humans commit adultery -- and, although the woman is specifically talked about here, we understand that more that one person has to be involved for adultery to occur.

The law was a kind one. Because God also said, that persons caught in adultery are to be put to death (John 8:4). Here, it not persons being caught in the act, but evidence thereof. So the other partner is allowed, permitted -- not commanded -- notice, they can stay married -- to divorce. This would keep persons from remaining in a marriage of adultery which could lead to physical and mental abuse. It would also make divorce public and, therefore, shameful.

"But," Jesus said, "from the beginning, they were made male and female." God created humans, male and female, to join together in marriage. Divorce is not the natural state -- it is unnatural -- marriage is the normal state. (Though God does set some aside for singleness.) Most people are designed to be married, one man to one woman, in holy matrimony, for life. Marriage, the joining together of one man and one woman was created for human pleasure, for procreation, and for worship of the Creator.

Paul wrote, "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: 'It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.' But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you might devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (I Corinthians 7:1-5).

This is a stunning passage for two thousand years ago -- marriage is not only good, but, in marriage, the man has a right to the woman's body and the woman, equally, has a right to the man's body, and married couples ought to have sexual intercourse often, to help keep each other from being tempted by the sea of flesh in the world.

Marriage also changes the relationship between a child and the child's parents: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be with his wife." We children always owe honor to our parents, but we who are single children and especially those children who are living at home, owe our parents additional care, care that is transferred to our spouse when we marry. When a person marries, he does not forget his parents and neglect them, but the person's husband or wife becomes the one who is cared for first. One who is married owes his or her first allegiance and care to his or her spouse -- his or her parents become secondary.

Why? Because "the two shall become one flesh. They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, whomever God has yoked together no man should separate."

What does it mean to "become one flesh"?

We can say this: this union is a mystery, it is performed by God, and it is not merely sexual.

When God created Adam, he was alone, the only human being. "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him'" (Genesis 2:18). "So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:21-24). Adam and Eve were mystically united in marriage in one flesh -- as they were literally one being that God had made into two.

Now, we don't have any reason to believe that God split each of us into a man and a woman, as He did with Adam and Eve, so we do not literally fit together into a single being, a single flesh. But, in marriage a man and a woman symbolically fit together in one flesh, they are yoked together as two farm animals would have been yoked -- tied together, only able to make progress as they worked together for a single goal. A man and a woman are glued together like two bricks with cement between them. Together, in some mystical way, through marriage, God makes a man and a woman one flesh, a single being in the sense that the husband and wife ought to love each other, respect each other, comfort each other, delight in each other, show tender care for each other, enjoy each other, and work in all things for each other's good. Paul explains that if we are married, we are to care for each other as if for our own flesh. A married man and women are one and belong in every way to each other.

This union is holy in the sight of God and may not be broken, except in the sad case of adultery. And Jesus explained to the disciples that if a man divorces his wife for any other reason, and remarries, he commits adultery, because he is still one flesh with his former wife. And if a woman divorces her husband -- and as sad as this is, notice the equality of husband and wife in this -- if she divorces him for any other reason than adultery and remarries, she commits adultery, because she is still married to her former husband. Jesus said, "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:31-32).

The bonds of marriage are delightful and serious, because in marriage, one man and one women, in the mysterious work of God, become one flesh. (Let us understand that divorce for reasons other than adultery is a forgivable sin, but no sin should be taken lightly, or entered into with premeditation.)

This bond between a man and a woman, created and caused by God, is symbolic, or a type, of the bond between Christ and His Church. Just as husbands love their wives, and wives their husbands, so Christ loves the Church. Just as Christ gave up His life for the Church, a husband or a wife ought to be willing to give up their lives for each other. Just as Christ is making the Church holy, so married persons ought to work towards holiness together, and love each other, and love and enjoy each others bodies. Likewise, we, with Christ our Head, are untied in One Body, and God has made our bodies His Holy Temple, and we meet and are ministered to by Christ as we drink His Blood and eat His Flesh in the bread and the cup of the Lord's Supper. Just as married persons love and nourish each other and their relationship, so Christ is nourishing us in love. Paul says this of "becoming one flesh": "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Ephesians 5:32-33).

On this Father's Day, and while we remain on earth, let us all remember the mystery that we have become one flesh -- both a man and a woman in marriage and the Church with Christ, her Savior. And let us look forward to the glorious day when Christ Returns and His Kingdom is fully come, as John tells us, "Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters, and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder crying out, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure --' for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" (Revelation 19:6-8).

Let us pray:
Almighty God, Lover of Your Church, we thank You for the gift of marriage. We thank You for the mysterious union between a man and a woman and the joy that it brings to them both. We thank You for this witness to the union that exists between You and Your Church -- that we are all one flesh together with Jesus. Lead us to lives of holy enjoyment in marriage, and may we all look forward to the glorious day when You will receive us as Your holy bride, for it is in the Name of our Husband, Jesus, that we pray, Amen.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Bible Study

Bible Study is cancelled today as the pastor will be at a family event. We will have Bible Study tomorrow morning at 9 am (D.V.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday Puritan

So simple, isn't it?

"The Scriptures are to be interpreted according to the nature of the passage which is being handled."

William Perkins The Art of Prophesying

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunday Sermon

"Are You For Him?"
[Mark 9:33-50]
June 11, 2006 Second Reformed Church

Are you for Him? Are you on Jesus' side? Would anyone know to see you, to be with you, to talk with you, that you are a witness to Jesus Christ?

Jesus was walking with the disciples, and He explained to them, a second time, that He was going to be handed over, suffer, die, and rise on the third day. But they didn't understand, and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. So, instead, they began to argue among themselves -- and Jesus had gotten ahead of them and hadn't heard the argument, though He knew very well what they were arguing about. Still, He asked them what they were arguing about.

And the twelve told Jesus that they were arguing about who was the greatest among them. They were arguing about who among them was the most humble, the most Christ-like, the most likely that God would hold up as lowly servant of the year. And Jesus told them that they had it all backwards, "Whoever wishes to be first, must be least of all and a servant of all."

Paul wrote, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a things 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 the cross" (Philippians 2:4-8).

Let us understand, first, this morning, that God does not consider greatness as we do.

Remember, after God rejected King Saul, God told Samuel to go to the house of Jesse, and there he would find God's anointed king. So Samuel went to the house of Jesse and had him call forth his sons, and they came, one by one before him, beginning with the oldest. And each time, God told Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as a man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (I Samuel 16:7).

Samuel went through each of Jesse's sons, and each was rejected, and Samuel asked if he had no other sons, and Jesse said that he did, David, the youngest, the tender of the sheep, but, surely, God didn't want him. But God said, "Arise, anoint him, for this is he" (I Samuel 16:12).

And again, Paul said, "For consider your calling, brothers; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (I Corinthians 1:26-29).

Brothers and sisters, we have to stop being impressed with the big and the mighty, with the wealthy and the powerful: God does not consider greatness as we do. What is great in the eyes of God? That we receive a young child in His Name -- that we receive those who the world would push aside as unworthy and unimportant, that we would receive them in the Name of Jesus Christ, in the Name of the Father.

Understand, God has not called us to be doormats -- to just do whatever anyone says or asks of us, but God has called us to take our eyes off the glitz and the worldly glory that is paraded across our TV screens -- He has called us not to be concerned with our own greatness, but instead with faithfulness, with growing deeper in the Word and the Wisdom of God. God does not consider greatness as we do.

Then John spoke up, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we forbid him, because he does not follow us." "Teacher, we found people preaching salvation in Jesus Christ Alone to the world, and we told them to stop, because they were not members of our denomination." And Jesus said, "Do not forbid him. For no one who is able to do [works of] power in my name [and] will be able to quickly denounce me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink for the sake of Christ, amen, I say to you that he shall not lose his reward." "Do not forbid him. If he's preaching salvation in Jesus Christ Alone, let him preach, for that is the Only Gospel, our Only Message, the Only Salvation of the world."

Let us notice secondly, that salvation is in Jesus Alone. Our salvation is not in our programs, or our liturgy, or our denomination, or in the translation of the Bible that we use, or in the hymnal we use, or anything else that is not Jesus Christ Alone. Anyone who bears the Name of Christ is His; anyone who believes in Jesus Christ Alone for Salvation is His. We are not to stop anyone from preaching that Gospel based only on other differences we have. No Christian will seek to shut down other churches that are preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, there is a spirit of what is called, "toleration," that says there is no absolute truth; nothing we do or do not do matters to God. That is a lie of the devil. It is good and right to have denominations, to have disagreements and debates within the Body of Christ. Paul wrote, "I hear there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized" (I Corinthians 11:18b-19). Why? "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (I Corinthians 13:12). The sin that remains in us clouds our understanding, so no Christian, no denomination, will understand everything perfectly on this side of glory.

"That's right;" some argue, "that's why we shouldn't discuss doctrine." No, that"s a lie of the devil. Peter wrote, "always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (I Peter 3:15b). If a Baptist minister preaches salvation in Jesus Christ Alone, we ought not stop him, but encourage his preaching. But a Baptist minister will say that it is not right to baptize infants, whereas we in the Reformed Church in America believe it is right to baptize infants. The baptism of infants doesn't save them or us, but we ought to know what we believe and why we believe it. We ought to be able to explain why we hold to one position or interpretation, rather than another.

Salvation is in Jesus Christ Alone, and we ought to rejoice in everyone who preaches that Gospel. And once we have believed, we ought to understand what God has revealed -- to the greatest degree possible, and know why we believe what we believe.

Thirdly, let us see that we ought to purposefully, actively fight against our sin as we also keep from leading others into sin.

Jesus said it would be better for a person who leads another into sin "if the upper largest millstone was [placed] around his neck and he was thrown into the sea." Did you hear Him? It would be better for a person to be murdered, than to live and lead another into sin. Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across the sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves" (Matthew 23:13-15). And Jesus turned to Judas, during the Supper, and said, "For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to the man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born" (Mark 14:21).

Sin loves company; it desires others to join in and celebrate in rebellion against God. We dare not do it. We ought to strive to protect those around us that we do not lead them into sin. Part of being faithful to Christ means leading others out of sin.

And we, also, are to keep ourselves from sin. Jesus quite graphically said that if our hand or foot or eye leads us into sin, we ought to throw it out, for it is better to enter the Kingdom of God mutilated, than to be cast, instead, into the everlasting hell, "where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched."

The German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, said that it is a good thing that Christians don't believe and follow their Bibles, otherwise, they would be a people of cripples.

Of course, Jesus did not mean that we ought to literally mutilate ourselves; He was talking about the spiritual fight, and being willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to keep from sinning. If we love Him, losing a foot or a hand or an eye, ought to be nothing. What would that look like? If you can't go to the public pool without lusting, don't go. If you can't go to the movies without taking the Name of the Lord in vain, don't go. If you can't play cards without being a bad steward, don't play. To a large degree, it will be different from person to person. The point is, if you know that something presents a strong temptation to you to sin, stay away, don't do it, set restraints on it.

It's better to cut those things out, then to suffer eternally in hell, don't you think? If we would rather have our sin and not believe in Jesus Alone for salvation, we will reap eternal suffering in body and soul -- Jesus said, the worm will eternally eat the flesh of those in hell and the fires will eternally burn the flesh of those in hell.

Let us hold fast to Christ and His Salvation. Let us purposefully, actively fight against our sin as we also keep from leading others into sin.

Our text ends, this morning, with Jesus drawing a parallel to the sacrificial system. Jesus said, "All are salted for fire." Just as the sacrifices of animals were prepared to be offered up and burned to the glory of God, so each person is being salted and readied for the fire. We, Christians, are told to prepare ourselves, even as we are being prepared, as living sacrifices. "I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

Salt was used to purify and give flavor to the sacrifice, and Jesus told us to "have salt in yourselves." We are to give ourselves day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, wholly devoting ourselves to the Word and Will of God -- that is our spiritual worship. As we faithfully learn and do all that God has revealed to us, believing in Jesus, and empowered by the Spirit, we become whole and holy sacrifices, pleasing in the sight of God.

But is not just we, but all, who are salted and sent through the fire: "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Now, if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw -- each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (I Corinthians 3:11-15).

We were created for the glory of God. Those who never receive the Foundation of Jesus Christ, have only their works, which will all burn away, and they will burn eternally with them. We who receive the Foundation of Jesus Christ will survive the fire and be saved by Jesus Alone and, to whatever degree we gave ourselves wholly to the Word and Will of God, those things will remain to the Glory of God and as a reward.

Are you for Him? If we are for Christ, we will look at greatness the way God looks at greatness, we will believe and embrace all those who believe in Jesus Christ Alone for salvation, we will purposefully, actively fight against our sin as we also keep from leading others into sin, and we will give ourselves wholly to the Word and Will of God.

Let us pray:
Gracious God and Savior, we long to be holy like You, increase our desire to make You great and us small in everything we do and believe. Glorify Yourself in us and give us Your joy. Lead us and teach us to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ with gold, silver, and precious stones. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen

Monday, June 05, 2006

Monday Puritan

George Petter on why God permits trial, re: Mark 9:20.

"The Lord doth permit this: 1. For the great Tryal and exercise of Faith and Patience of his Saints and Children. 2. The more to manifest his own Power, Goodness, and Mercy in delivering them when they are in great Distress and Misery."

Sunday Sermon

"If"
[Mark 9:14-32]
June 4, 2006 Second Reformed Church

In C. S. Lewis' book, The Screwtape Letters, the devil explains to his nephew that he gets to humans, primarily, in one of two ways: either by getting them to obsess about the devil and demons, or by getting them to deny their existence. The devil gets the upper hand when we are completely preoccupied with him and when we completely ignore him and say that he doesn't exist. C. S. Lewis made that wise observation decades ago, and we see it very clearly as we go from church to church: some churches spend all of their time and effort "casting out" and "binding" demons of dandruff and hangnails and bad breath, while other churches say that the devil does not exist, demons don't exist, they are merely anthropomorphic expressions of human evil, or that they are merely primitive explanations of disease. Both of these excesses are sinful and wrong.

The Bible is clear -- God's Word is clear -- there is a real, spiritual being, the devil, and there are real spiritual beings, the demons. These beings were once angels, but sinned, and were banished from Heaven, and God created Hell, the eternal fire, for them and all those who follow them. And this was set from the beginning (Matthew 25:41, etc.).

In this morning's Scripture, we see another demon. This one possessed a young boy and had possessed him since he was very young. This demon caused the boy to have seizures and fits and foam at the mouth, grind his teeth and fall down. He even caused the boy to throw himself into fire and water to try to kill himself. Understand, this was real. This young boy was possessed by a demon. He was not possessed by a demon for each part of his body, Jesus only speaks of one demon, and he was not merely ill, though his symptoms were similar to physical and mental disease -- Jesus said the boy was possessed by a demon. So, let us understand, non-Christians have been and can be possessed by demons. (Christians cannot be possessed by demons, because we have God, the Holy Spirit, living within us.)

So, the devil and demons attack humans in body, soul, mind, and spirit. Why? For at least two reasons: their desire is against God, so they desire to sin as much and as greatly as possible, so they cause torment to humans, those who have been created in the image of God. And another reason is to lead others, and even Christians, to doubt God and not give Him His Due Glory. They draw our attention off of God and on to themselves. They try to get us to question the goodness and the wisdom of God in allowing persons to suffer at the hands of demons. And here we see a whole crowd following after the boy and his father, as they seek the help of the disciples of Jesus.

But the disciples were unable to cast the demon out of the boy. Jesus had given them the authority to cast demons out in His Name, but they were unable to, so the boy continued to suffer. But let us notice that the boy's father did not despair of God. No, since the disciples of Jesus were unable to help him, he went to Jesus Himself.

And we learn two important lessons here: first, ministers and other leaders in the church, and other Christians, will fail us from time to time. I will fail you; you will fail me -- we are not fully perfected. So we ought not, we dare not, put each other up on pedestals. The greatest person you know is just a person. And the worst person you can think of, the person you have the most difficulty dealing with, has been created in the image of God. The disciples failed this man and his son. But notice secondly, God never fails us. God is perfect, so we ought never despair that He is able, and He is carrying out His Perfect Will. For some reason or another, the disciples had failed this man and his son, but he did not despair, but came straightway, immediately, to the Son of God, because He can never fail.

How many times have we heard it said, "Christianity cannot be true, because every Christian I have ever met has been a hypocrite." I hear it again and again. "If so-and-so is a Christian, then I don't believe in God." That's elevating Christian, you and I, and the disciples, to a position we don't deserve. We do not have reason to despair of God because God's people fail us. If God were just another human, the CEO of Christianity, then we could have reason to despair. But He is God the Almighty, we have no reason to despair.

So the man came to Jesus, and he told Him that His disciples had been unable to cast the demon out, and Jesus rebuked their lack of faith. And then Jesus asked the man about his son, and he told Him what happens to his son, and he begged Jesus to take pity on him and his son, "If he is able." And the man stumbles. "My son is possessed by a demon, so I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cast him out. So I brought my son to You to be healed. -- if You are able."

And Jesus said, "'If you are able'" -- "you're so close Don't you understand that all things are possible with Me, if it is according to My Will, because all power is Mine? There's no 'if' about it, I am able. The question is, 'Am I willing?'"

Jesus is patient with us. Again and again, day after day, He waits and endures us as we stumble along, unwilling to receive His Strong and Guiding Hand. James wrote, "You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions" (James 4:2b-3). Jesus tells us to come to Him boldly, in faith, to ask of Him, and if we ask rightly, according to His Will, we shall receive what we ask, because He is always and everywhere able. God's ability is not limited, but He will only give us when we ask and ask according to His Will.

And the boy's father understood, crying out, "I do believe; help my unbelief." "I believe You are able and if You are willing, You will deliver my son, though I don't understand how." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it left the boy. At first the boy was still, and those that doubted said, "he is dead," but Jesus held out His Hand and the boy stood up, healthy in mind and body and spirit and soul.

And Jesus left them and went into a private home, and the disciples went in after Him, asking Him why they were unable to cast out the demon, and Jesus said, "This type is not able to be cast out except by prayer." The disciples had neglected prayer; they had neglected to sit at the feet of God and align themselves with His Will.

Paul wrote, "The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:5b-6). Again, James wrote, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16b). We are to be a people of prayer. We are to be a people who bring our concerns and thanksgivings before God. We are to pray in a way that is consistent with what God has revealed to us in His Word. Not because God is ignorant. Not because God will change His Mind -- how could the Holy God be wrong or uninformed? No, we pray because our strength in Christ is found in aligning ourselves with the Will of God, as it is found in the Scripture.

Remember, God tells us that we are at war: the devil and his demons are enemies of God and Christ and us. We are at war. But let's not be confused. As we see with this little boy, the devil and the demons are given power, they have power, but God is All-powerful, and they must submit to the will of God. And the devil and the demons are defeated: God is not waiting, hoping that we will win the day for Him. The devil has lost, the demons have lost. They are in chains; they are being restrained. God only allows them to go so far, to say so much, to only touch us in this way or that -- remember Job.

So, God tells us to prepare: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:10-13).

We don't have time this morning to go through Paul's explanation of the whole armor of God. But let us remember this, this morning: our strength and our rest is found in God Alone through His Word Alone and to His Glory Alone. Before Jesus taught, He prayed. Before He healed, He prayed. Before He was tempted by the devil, He prayed.

Jesus told the disciples, again, that "The Son of Man will be delivered up into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and when he is killed, after three days he will rise." Here and now, we understand what He meant, and we can have confidence in Jesus and in the answer to our prayers and in our standing against the devil, because, if we ask in faith, the question is never one of Jesus being able, it's one of His being willing, because if He is willing, all things are possible.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for the example of Your Power and Ability. We thank You that You have already overcome the devil and the demons, just as You planned from the beginning. We thank You that You are greater than all and more faithful than all. Make us to trust in You and teach us to pray after Your Will. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bible Study

Today's Bible Study is CANCELLED due to the pastor needing to be elsewhere.