Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

February Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach the following in February:

2/4/07 Communion Luke 1:35 "The Trinity: the Holy Spirit is God"
2/11/07 Matthew 28:19 "The Trinity: Three Persons"
2/18/07 Transfiguration Psalm 99:1-9 "God is Holy"
2/21/07 Ash Wednesday (7 PM) Joel 2:1-17 "Even Now"
2/25/07 Lent 1 Obadiah 1-4 "The Lofty Fall"

Service is at 10:30 AM unless noted -- all are welcome!

Monday Puritan (Love to the RCA)

"Many come to the Word only to feast theirs ears; they like the melody of the voice, the mellifluous sweetness of the expression, the newness of the notion(Acts 17:21). This is to love the garnishing of the dish more than the food; this is to desire to be pleased rather than edified. Like a woman that paints her face, but neglects her health." -- Thomas Watson

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Sermon

"The Trinity: The Son is God"
[Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 2:8-10]
January 28, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Before we begin to look at the Son, let us remember that we are looking at the doctrine of the Trinity -- what the Bible teaches about the Trinity -- briefly, and over a number of weeks. Today, we are only looking at one aspect of the doctrine, and to that end, we will be using The Creed of Chalcedon as part of our response this morning. These sermons will all be on our blog; feel free to review them and continue your study of this doctrine -- this teaching -- this truth -- from there.

So, let's jump right into the deep end: did the human being, Jesus, exist from all eternity? Did the created being, Jesus, exist before the creation? Did anything material exist before the creation? The answer of the Scripture is that there was a time when nothing material existed. Therefore, the Human Being, Jesus, Who was born on earth two thousand years ago, has not always existed.

Now, did the Son of God exist from all eternity? Is the Son of God a Being Who always was, even before the creation? Again, the Scripture clearly teaches that this is true: the Son of God has always existed, even before the creation.

So, when we confess that the Son is God, are we referring to the eternal Son or to Jesus? The answer is "yes." The Person of the Son of God and the Person of Jesus cannot be separated; He is One and the Same Person. Jesus is the Son of God. The Son is God; Jesus is God.

Now, God the Son, Who is the same in Being as God the Father, and Who is the One and Only God, is an Other Person from God the Father. The Father is the One God and the Son is the One God, but the Father and the Son are different Persons. What does that look like? If we remember last week, we looked at the text of Jesus' Baptism, and there we had One God, and God the Father spoke from Heaven, and God the Son was baptized in the river Jordan. The One God exists, at the same time, as the Person of the Father and the Person of the Son.

Understand, we confess that there is One God. However, God exists in separate and distinct Persons -- and we have seen the Father, and today we are seeing the Son. This is not saying that sometimes God acts like the Father and sometimes God acts like the Son. No, the Trinity is not about confessing that God acts in many ways; the Trinity confesses One God Who exists in more than One Person.

Now, don't glaze over on me!

One of the difficulties in the doctrine of the Trinity is that there are no good examples that make it clear in everyday life. The Trinity is unique. We can put forth what the Bible teaches, we can know that it is true, but there is a point at which we can go no further. God has given us His Word and revealed that He exists as a Trinity, so we might know Him and love Him and worship Him, but its understanding is not obvious and clear in all ways to us. Still, we ought to bear with it to know our God as He has revealed Himself.

So, God the Son, Who is the same in Being as God the Father, and Who is the One and Only God, is an Other Person from God the Father.

Jesus, the human being, was born in time, a real human being, just like you and me, a single person.

In the Miracle of the Incarnation, God the Son Incarnate in the Person of Jesus, and He is One Person -- Him Who we know through the Scripture and the Sacraments -- the God-Man is One Person, yet He still has two natures -- He is 100% divine and 100% human, and there is no confusion or mixture of His Natures.

In the Incarnation, we have the Eternal Son of God Incarnating into the specific human, Jesus, and He Who is Born is One Person. Jesus, the Son of God, is One Person. However, He has two complete natures: the Divine Nature and a human nature.

Someone might ask, "Well, doesn't the unity of the His Person -- the taking on of human flesh and a human nature -- doesn't that make Him less divine or sub-god?" No, the Scripture tells us that He is equal to the Person and the Divinity of God the Father.

Another might ask, "Well, doesn't the fact that He is called 'the Son' show that He is subordinate in His Divinity?" No, "the Son" is a title, just like "Christ." He is equal in His Divinity to God the Father.

Let us look at the text from Hebrews that was read this morning:

"In many and various ways, in the past, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. In these last days, he spoke to us by his son" (my translation).

We see that there is a relationship between God and the Son, and one of the ways that that relationship is seen is through the prophetic word. Just as God spoke through the prophets in prior ages, now God speaks through Jesus, His Son. So, what Jesus says is the Word of God. The words of Jesus hold (at least) equal weight with the words of God spoken through the prophets.

"Who he destined heir of all things, through whom also he created the universe" (my translation).

Notice what is said about the Son: the Son is the heir of the universe -- everything belongs to Him and will be given to Him. And, God created everything through/by/with the Son. The Son is the creator and their heir of creation. This should get our brains working -- if nothing existed before the creation but God, and God created everything that is through/with/by the Son, Who is the Son?

"He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of God's essence" (my translation).

The translation in our pew says that the Son is the "reflection" of the Glory of God, and while apaugasma can be translated passively as "reflection," it is not the preferred translation, which is "radiance." Why does it make a difference? The difference is this, to translate it passively, as "reflection," could mean that the Son is nothing more than a mirror, or even that He reflects the Glory of God in the way that the rest of the creation reflects the Glory of God. But to translate it actively, as "radiance," says that the Glory of God is emanating from His Very Being. That is, the Glory of God emanates from the Son because He is God.

The writer continues with "the exact imprint of God's essence." What is an essence? Something's essence is whatever is necessary for that thing to be what it is. If we look at a chair, whatever is necessary for us to call this a chair is its essence. Without any of those necessary things, if it has less that the essence of a chair, it is not a chair. So, if the Son has the Essence of God, then the Son must be God.

We're told that the Son "sustains all things by the word of his power, when he made purification for sins he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high" (my translation). The Son is the One Who keeps all things in existence and working as they should, it is the Son, and the Son Alone Who made purification for the sins of His people. Why couldn't the Father make purification for sins? Because in order to make purification for sins, He had to be, not only Holy, keeping all the Commandments of God and never sinning, but He had to also be a real human being with a real human nature, so He could be our substitute. No angel or any other creature could have stood in our place before God the Father to make purification for our sins, it is only the Son, Who is the One God and also a Real Human Being, in a Single Person.

And, after the Ascension, this Son, Jesus, the God-Man, ascended in His Real Human Flesh to sit on the throne of God the Son in Heaven.

Turn with me again to our reading in Colossians:

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul is writing against false teachers who said that Christians must keep all the ceremonial laws of Judaism, and they had added to it the foreign practice of worshiping angels. And Paul begins the reading that was read telling them not to be fooled, not to be tricked, not to be carried away like the booty of war -- "see that no one carries you off like the booty of war through philosophy and empty trickery according to the traditions of men, according to the elementals of the world and not according to Christ" (my translation).

Why? Why should we follow Christ and not these fancy teachers that rely on tradition and linguistic skills? "For in him lives all the fullness of divinity bodily" (my translation). Paul says we should listen to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because in Him is full divinity embodied. How much clearer could we hear this word? Jesus is God enfleshed. Jesus, the Son, is God.

And, Paul tells us, "you are in him fulfilled, who is the head of every ruler and authority" (my translation). We as Christians, find our fulfillment in Jesus, because His is the Authority above every authority, because He is God Incarnate; He is God enfleshed.

Let's summarize where we are:

There is One and Only One God.

The Father is God.

Jesus, the Son, is God.

The Father is One Person of the Trinity; the Son is an Other Person of the Trinity. They are equally the same One God, but they are different Persons.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Trinity, we thank You for all that You have revealed to us in Your Holy Word. We thank You for letting us know that there is Only One God, and that You exist in a Trinity of Persons. Help us to see what You have told us and not be confused by venturing where You have not been pleased to explain. Please build these teachings upon us, and let us see the value and the glory of knowing our God, the Three-in-One. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Friendly Advice

I have an incurable auto-immune disease, and God has been merciful in allowing me to continue to function and serve Him with small limitation (though the doctors encourage me that it will get worse). This week I visited one of our dear souls who is critically ill in the hosptial; two days later I was struck down with bronchitis. (My disease and medications leave me with scant immune system.) A dear Christian soul said she would pray for my recovery and suggested that perhaps my compromised immune system is God's way of telling me to leave the ministry.

Monday Puritan

"The hypocrite sets his watch, not by the sun, that is, the Bible, but by the town clock; what most do, that he will do. Vox populi is his vox Dei." -- William Gurnall.

So goes the Church when we rely on gimmicks to draw people in, only to find that they do not want to hear the Bible once they have arrived, but want to continue to be entertained by the gimmicks.

Sunday Sermon

"The Trinity: The Father is God"
[Matthew 3:13-17]
January 21, 2007 Second Reformed Church

We continue our look at the Doctrine of the Trinity this morning, and we remember that last week, we saw that the people of God believe in One and Only One God, the Holy and Almighty God, Who is (a) Spirit. No other gods are God. All other gods are inventions of a depraved mind, delusions, or demons. There is Only One God.

This morning, as we heard our Scripture read, we ought to have noticed that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all mentioned at the baptism of Jesus. It is good that we notice that, and we will come back to that, as the Lord wills, in a few weeks, but today we want to see the Person of the Father. We want to see that God is the Father, and the Father is God.

This morning, let us focus in on verse seventeen: "and behold, a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'"

Who is the voice from heaven who speaks? Well, who is in heaven? We have seen in previous weeks that God is in heaven with the angels and some other supernatural beings. If we are unsure of whether it was God Who spoke or one of the created beings who live in heaven, listen to the author of the book of Hebrews, "For to which of the angels did God say, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you'? Or again, 'I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son'?" (Hebrews 1:5). The author of Hebrews clearly states that God called Jesus His Son and not any angel or heavenly being.

So, we understand that the Voice that spoke out of heaven, calling Jesus His Son, is God. And if God called Jesus His Son, then we understand that Jesus called God, Father -- that God is Father to Jesus -- and God is God the Father, and the Father is God.

Does that make sense?

God is called "the Father" is relation to the Son, Jesus. The Person of God the Father exists as a distinct Person. And we see Him named as the One God, and we see Him in relationship with His Son, over and over in the Scripture:

Paul wrote, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you" (Colossians 1:3).

Peter wrote, "For when [Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Magisterial 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 1:17).

Jesus, Himself testified, "I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matthew 11:25b-27).

"For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done" (Matthew 16:27).

"Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. ... It is written in the prophets, 'And they will be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me -- not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father" (John 6:27, 45-46).

So God calls Jesus, the Son, and Jesus calls God, Father.

Now, when God the Father calls Jesus His "Beloved Son," the phrase does not just signify "a" beloved son, but the most beloved son. Let us understand this: if Jesus is the Most Beloved Son of God the Father, there must be other sons. And let us also understand that it is through the Son that God the Father loves us, and then we, also, love the Father. As Augustine Marlorate put it: "when we were hatefull and odious unto God, it was necessary that his fatherly love should flowe from Christe unto us" (56).

John put it this way: "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are" (I John 3:1a).

And Paul said, "For God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through whom we have now received reconciliation" (Romans 5:8-11).

"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'" (Romans 8:15).

And how did Jesus tell us to pray? "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name" (Matthew 6:9b).

Why are we to pray this way? The Heidelberg Catechism informs us, "That immediately, in the very beginning of our prayer, He might excite in us a childlike reverence for and confidence in God, which are the foundation of our prayer, namely, that God is become our Father in Christ, and will much less deny us what we ask of Him in true faith than our parents will refuse us earthly things" (LD 46, Q. 120).

So, we see that God is the Father of the Son, and the Father is God -- the One and Only God. God the Father loves the Son, and through Him, we have been adopted as other sons of the Father. And since we have been adopted into the family of God the Father and His Son, we can come to God the Father, calling Him, "Our Father," as we pray. We can come to Him and love Him and know that He loves us better than any human father, and whatever we ask of Him is true faith, He will grant to us.

There is One and Only One God.

God the Father is God. And God is the Father of Jesus, the Son, and the Father of all Who believe.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, our Father, we come before You with assurance and confidence and hope, because You have revealed Yourself to be God the Father; the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You that through Your love for Your Son, You have also loved us in Him. Thank You for adopting us, bring us into Your family, and saving us by the Blood of Your Son. May we continue to know You better, and even the Doctrine of the Trinity, that we would glorify our One God, rightly, honestly, and in joy. For it is in Jesus' Name, we pray, Amen.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Apparently, D. was not V.

Today's Consistory meeting was cancelled due to the sickening and more sickening of the pastor. It will be rescheduled sometime...

Mr. Isaac Jenkins is confined to bed, so there will be not meetings for the "It's Time for a Change" Committee for at least the next three weeks.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Consistory Meeting

The Consistory will meet (D.V.) after worship this Sunday.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Monday Puritan

"None prove worse enemies than those that have received the greatest kindness, when once they turn unkind. As the sharpest vinegar is made from the purest wine. ...so the highest love bestowed upon friends, being ill digested or corrupt, turns to the most unfriendly hatred." -- Abraham Wright

Sunday Sermon

"The Trinity: One God"
[Deuteronomy 6:4]
January 14, 2007 Second Reformed Church

If the Lord is willing, over the next six weeks, we will look at the doctrine of the Trinity, ending the series with a sermon on the nature of God. I have been approached by a number of people recently asking whether Jesus is fully divine, who or what the Holy Spirit is, and what it means when we talk about "Three Persons." So, it seems good that we look, however briefly, at the elements of this doctrine.

Please understand that we are looking at this doctrine in pieces. The whole picture of the doctrine, Lord willing, will become clear with all of the sermons in this series together. If you want to access these sermons to look at, or if you miss one, go to our blog site, which is listed on the cover of your bulletin.

In the hopes of keeping them all tied together, for the length of the series, instead of The Apostle's Creed, which we usually use as one of our responses, we will be using The Nicene Creed, The Creed of Chalcedon, and The Athanasian Creed on different Sundays during the series to emphasize the whole doctrine.

And don't be afraid of the use of the word, "doctrine." Doctrine simple means, "teaching." We are looking at what we believe as Christians. We are looking at what the Bible teaches us. We ought not to fear the Bible and what it teaches us, but long to understand it and love it, because it is a gift to us form the God Who loves us and desires His people to know Him.

We begin this morning affirm that there is One God. There is One and Only God. All other gods are false gods, demons, creations of our own imagination, etc. There is Only One God. The Belgic Confession, one of our standards, one of the human documents that we believe accurate summarizes the Scripture, begins this way: "We believe with all our heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good" (Article 1).

Our Scripture this morning is known as the "Shema" after the first word of the verse. It is used as the call to worship in synagogues across the world, even to this day. It can be translated, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one," "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord," "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one," "Hear, O Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone," and, using the proper names, "Hear, O Israel, YHWH is our El, YWHW one."

Israel proclaimed that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, YHWH, the God Who delivered them from bondage in Egypt, is their God, their One and Only God. And Jesus confirms that the God of Israel, the God of God’s people, the God of Jesus, the God of His followers, is the One God, the Only God, the True God that He preached to them in the Gospels (cf. Mark 12:29).

Paul reminds the Ephesians that Christians believe in "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:5-6). And to Timothy, Paul writes, "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5). And to the Corinthians: "yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist" (I Corinthians 8:6a).

Jesus was explaining how God is to be worshiped, and as He did so, He explained that our One God is pure spirit, pure essence, pure being -- He is not a creature, nor does He have a body that can be touched. "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).

And this One God of ours, Who is Spirit, is everlasting: He always was -- from before the creation -- and He will always be. God is and God cannot go out of existence. "Have you not known? Have you not heard? YHWH is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable" (Isaiah 40:28).

Our God -- the God of Christianity -- is One God. He is a Spirit. He is eternal. He is One Being. And everything that exists was created by Him and nothing that exists was not created by Him. He is and will always be. The One and Only True God.

As we look at this doctrine, we need to recognize that there is only so far that our minds can understand. We have finite minds. We cannot understand the infinite fully. But let us beware: we cannot understand everything, perfectly, but we can understand some things, and we can understand what God has set before us and told us and given us to understand. So, we ought to do all that we can to understand what God has given us in His Word, and then, like Paul, when we have reached the end of what we can humanly understand, rather than speculate, let us break forth in praise, "Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:33-36).

But what can we know?

We know that our One God is a Spirit, and since He is a Spirit, God is invisible. We know God then, by what God has done, not by seeing Him like you and I see each other. As Paul wrote, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have ben made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). Even though God is invisible, everyone knows the One God exists through the creation and its witness to Him.

And we know that the God Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses met is the same God that we meet, because God has sworn, "I YHWH do not change" (Malachi 3:6a). Whatever has been known about our One God is and will always be the same, because He never changes.

Isaiah records the words of YHWH, our One God, as God compares Himself to all the other gods that humans invent: "Thus says YHWH, King of Israel and his Redeemer, the YHWH of hosts, 'I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god'" (Isaiah 44:6). In fact, all other gods are merely idols and "all who fashion idols are nothing and the things that they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know; that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsman are only human. Let them assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

"The iron smith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry; his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. The it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meats; he roasts it and is satisfied. And he warms himself and says, 'Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!' And the rest he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god!'

"They do not know, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so they cannot see, and the hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there any knowledge or discernment to say, 'Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?' He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray; and he cannot deliver himself or say: 'Is there not a lie in my right hand?'" (Isaiah 44:9-20).

All other gods are false gods, idols, abominations. Gods of wood, metal, and even the other invisible gods -- they are not God, the One God. Baal, Asherah, Moloch, Vishnu, Allah -- every other god besides the One True God, YHWH, are false gods, delusions, creations of vain minds, and inspirations of demons. We believe in the One True God of the Bible.

Our God is "the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God" (I Timothy 1:17a), "the only wise God" (Romans 16:27a), who makes all other gods foolish, the folly of fools, fables and fairytales. No other god is really God, but the One True God.

"Righteous are you, O YHWH" (Jeremiah 12:1a) -- He is the God of Justice. He is the Only Good God (Matthew 19:17) and "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17).

This is our God. This is the One God. This is the God we affirm in the doctrine of the Trinity. This is the God of the Bible.

"We believe with all our heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good" (Article 1).

Let us pray:
Almighty and Only God, we thank You that You let us know You through Your Creation and Your Word. We thank You for being a God Who does not change, but always was and always will be, good, holy, perfect, wise, just -- a greater God than we could ever imagine or create. Keep us from being swayed by the false gods of other religions and by the gods that we create in our lives against You. You are Merciful and our Only Hope, so it is we can pray in Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sunday Invitation

I have been invited to preach at Faith Reformed Church, 95 Prospect St., Midland Park (NJ) on Sunday the 14th -- this coming Sunday -- at 6 PM. All are invited.

Monday Puritan

"Satan, like a fisher, baits his hook accoding to the appetite of the fish." -- Thomas Adams

Sunday Sermon

"Over Many Waters"
[Psalm 29:1-11]
January 7, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Have you ever been caught in a thunderstorm? Or have you at least seen a thunderstorm -- even through a window? I have been out in them and sat through them, and I must admit, I don't like thunderstorms. I find them frightening. Thunderstorms are powerful and dangerous.

King David, the author of the Psalm that was just read, was originally a shepherd. He was someone who knew the hardships of living in the open air and caring for animals. Surely, he had experienced being out in thunderstorms with his sheep.

Psalm 29 is a song about thunderstorms -- where they come from, and how we ought to react to them. David tells us that anyone who has experienced a thunderstorm knows that God exists, he knows that God is worthy of all glory, he knows that God is powerful, he knows that God is sovereign, and he knows that God is the One Who gives strength and peace to His people.

If you've experienced a thunderstorm, you know there is a God.

The Name that David uses, which is translated "Lord" in our text, is the Name, YHWH. This is the High and Holy and Personal Name of God that God gave to Moses when God spoke to him through the burning bush. God called out to Moses, telling him, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6b). But that was not enough for Moses, for when God gave Moses the command to tell Pharaoh to set Israel free, Moses questioned Who God was, what Name he should use, that the people would know God and believe that Moses was sent by Him. And God said, "I am who I am." And "Tell this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you'" (Exodus 3:14). Tell the people that God is Being, God is Essence, God is the Is, and they will know and believe.

Paul tells us that God has set nature, even the thunderstorms, to make His existence clear, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:19-20).

David's very use of the Name, YHWH, which is the Hebrew acrostic of "I am Who I am," shows us that he knows and is telling the readers and singers of this Psalm, that God is the God of Being, Who is known simply and obviously, by the existence of the creation -- even in a thunderstorm.

If you've experienced a thunderstorm, you know that God is worthy of all glory.

In the first two verses of the Psalm, David tells us that since we know that God exists by experiencing a thunderstorm -- or any part of nature -- since we know that the thunderstorm is a creation of God, then God is worthy to be honored and praised and glorified. The Being Who brought all of this into existence, is great and worthy of praise. This God must be great and worthy, and we know that simply by seeing what He has created and seeing God's goodness reflected back on Him by the creation.

In Psalm 148, the Psalmist writes, "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and hills, fruits trees and all cedars! Beats and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!" (Psalm 148:1-10).

The creation, both animate and inanimate objects, reflect back God's Glory back to Him in praise and glory. So He is worthy, and we know that we ought to praise and glorify Him as well -- since we know that He is and everything that is came into existence by Him -- which leads us to our next point:

If you've experienced a thunderstorm, you know that God is powerful.

David tells us to picture ourselves looking out over the Mediterranean Sea or the Sea of Galilee -- we are in Israel. And we see, off in the distance, on the waters, the beginnings of a great thunderstorm. It comes by the Voice of YHWH -- it is the Voice of the God Who IS, speaking in peals of thunders, booming over the waters. His Voice is powerful; His Voice is full of majesty. Boom! Boom! Boom! As the storm moves across the waters.

The thunderstorm comes on land in Lebanon: Boom! And then we hear the cracking of one of the mighty cedars of Lebanon -- those great and ancient trees, tall and mighty, sought after by the whole earth for building materials -- and YHWH speaks -- and the cedars break. The crack and splinter and crash to the floor of the forest -- they are no match for the Voice of God.

The storm continues to move, and as it does, Lebanon and Sirion -- the very nations -- their land and everything in them, moves, jumps, spins, skips about like a calf or a young, wild oxen. The Voice of YHWH has reduced the might of creation to young creatures at play.

And then -- crack -- the Voice of YHWH bursts forth with fire -- lightening hits the cedars and the ground. Explosions are all around us. Fires burn, lighting up the sky. And the "booms" and the "cracks" and the fire and the movement of the earth makes it look like the wilderness, the desert, the very earth itself is writhing in fear of the power of the Voice of God.

At the Voice of God in the thunderstorm, the deer goes into labor and gives birth, as the forests all around her are stripped bear. What should the response of the people of God be? How should they react to seeing that this God is so powerful?

This is the God Who always was and always is and always will be. In Genesis, we remember that He had but to speak -- His Voice created heaven and earth and all of the creatures that are, the sun and the moon and the stars, and you and me. This is He through Who "all things were made..., and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3).

To see and know this Power of God, causes us to come into the temple, into the sanctuary of our God, and cry out, "Glory!" When Isaiah met the God in the temple, he "saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!' And the foundations shook at the voice of him who called and the house filled with smoke" (Isaiah 6:1b-4).

It is a terrifying thing to be in a thunderstorm; it is more terrifying to be in the presence of our Holy God. But the right response in both cases is to turn to Him and cry out, "Glory!" "Holy, holy, holy!" Praise and glory belong to Him, for He is awe-ful and awe-some -- and powerful. In fact, He is all-powerful and sovereign.

If you've experienced a thunderstorm, you know that God is sovereign.

David tells us that YHWH is King; He is the Sovereign. He rules over the earth with Absolute Authority. This is the God Who sits enthroned above the flood. And yes, we ought to think, not only of floods in general, but of that flood. David's contemporaries would have immediately remembered how the Sovereign God said, "For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth will die" (Genesis 6:17). The God of the thunderstorm is the same God Who caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights, and the water covered the entire planet and everything on the planet drown, except for Noah and his sons and their wives and the animals God had told them to save. And they remained on the ark for about a year, until the waters subsided and the earth was dry, and they could repopulate the earth. This is the Sovereign God Who does as He pleases, as Nebuchadnezzer confessed, "his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:34b-35).

Yet the fear and awe and respect and honor and glory that we give to God in the thunderstorm -- and always -- is not given for fear of punishment -- not for those who have received His Salvation.

If you've experienced a thunderstorm, you know that God is the One Who gives strength and peace to His people.

Mark tells us that Jesus and the disciples got into a boat "And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?'" (Mark 4:35-41).

Who is He? Paul tell us this about Him -- about Jesus, "May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son [Jesus], in who we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:11-14).

And also, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

Who is the God Who speaks the thunderstorm, and is deserving of glory, and is sovereign, and gives strength and peace to His people? This God, YHWH, is Jesus. Let us see His Work in the creation and in our lives, and rejoice and glorify Him. And if we are afraid, let us to turn to Him and glorify Him and ask Him for His promised strength and peace. And let us also turn to Psalm 29, remembering Who our God and Savior is, and let "all in his temple cry out, 'Glory!'"

Let us pray:
Almighty God, our Savior, YHWH, King Jesus, we thank You for David's Psalm. We thank You for making Yourself known through all of creation, including the thunderstorm. We ask in all that we experience, that we would turn to You to glorify You and rest in You, trusting You for Your strength and peace to accomplish everything that is good and pleasing in Your Sight. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

January Sermons

D.V., I will preach as follows in January:

1/7/07 (Communion/Baptism of Jesus) Psalm 29:1-11 "Over Many Waters"
1/14/07 Deuteronomy 6:4 "The Trinity: One God"
1/21/07 Matthew 28:19 "The Trinity: Three Persons"
1/28/07 Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 2:8-10 "The Trinity: Jesus is God"

Sunday worship is at 10:30 AM.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Monday Puritan (Happy New Year)

"Q.1: What is thy only comfort in life and death?
"A.: That I with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him."
The Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A. 1.

New Year's Eve Sermon

"What Have You Done Lately?"
[I John 3:10-15; 5:1-5]
December 31, 2006 Preakness Valley United Reformed Church

Peter opened his second letter by describing the characteristics of a Christian. Then he wrote, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall" (II Peter 1:10).

This New Year's Eve: is your calling and election sure? Are you a child of God? Have you been saved by God through Jesus Alone? Are you saved from sin? Saved from the Wrath of God? Saved, made right with God, and even more, made co-heirs with Christ, our Brother? Can you tell the difference between a child of God and a child of the devil? Do you know that you are a child of God? Peter said, make sure you know.

If you knew that when the ball dropped, the skies would roll up like a scroll and Jesus, the Lord God Almighty, would ride down with His angels to gather the elect from the four winds and the four corners of the earth, would you want to make your calling and election sure then? We don't know when Jesus will return. We don't know when we will die. But, it's possible that you and I may never have another chance -- eternity is serious business -- is your calling and election sure?

Adam and Eve had been thrown out of the Garden of Eden, and in time, Eve conceived and bore Cain and then Abel. The brothers shared in the work: Abel was a keeper of the sheep, while Cain was a worker of the ground. One day, on a day of offering, Abel presented his offering -- the firstborn of his flock -- on the altar, and the Lord regarded Abel's offering. Cain's offering, however, was rejected, and Cain was angry with God. God asked Cain why he was angry -- if he had obeyed God's Commands, his offering would have been regarded, as well. So Cain found his brother and murdered him. (Genesis 4:1-8)

In this evening's Scriptures we see that we can be sure of our calling and election. We also see that, unlike what many non-Christians believe, we cannot sin as much as we want and just keep asking for forgiveness. Being a Christian includes being so grateful for our salvation that we zealously do the good works that God has planned for us to do -- not for our salvation -- but in response to it -- not by the power that we have in ourselves, but by the Power of the Holy Spirit working in us.

John said that it is plain to see who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: first, the children of God practice righteousness, whereas the children of the devil do not, and second, the children of God love their brothers, whereas the children of the devil do not.

The children of God practice righteousness. The children of God are holy. The children of God do not sin. And you might be thinking, "then we have no hope!" But remember, we have been credited with Jesus' Perfect Righteousness -- with His Holy Life. You and I have had every sin we will ever commit paid for on the cross of Jesus. You and I are seen as forgiven in God's Eyes. The child of the devil who hears that says, "Then it doesn't matter how I live or what I do." But the child of God considers God's Work and fights against sin by the Power of the Holy Spirit. The child of God, who has not yet been glorified, mourns for the sins he commits, and like the man in the temple, cries out, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." And God says, "Of course I forgive you, my child, go and sin no more." The child of God is heartbroken at his giving in to sin, and he strives with everything in him by the Holy Spirit to do only good. Are you a child of God?

The children of God also love their brothers -- and the word that John uses here is agapao which is a love that seeks the well-being of everyone else first. It is a love that does everything it can to make everyone's life better, more joyful, more of a glory to God. It is a love that rejoices with the joy of others and mourns with the mourning of others. It is a love that asks itself, "what have I done for my brothers and sisters in Christ lately," not "what have you done for me lately." And you might be thinking, "But I am the one who needs help" or "But I am barely scraping by, I don't have anything to give to others." We have each been given different abilities, resources, and gifts, and God has given them to us to use for Him. How can we love others like that? Love God, and it will become clear. If we love God, we will love God's children. Are you a child of God?

John tells us that the message -- from the beginning -- is to love one another with the love that seeks others' well-being first. Do not be like Cain. What did Cain do? He saw that his brother loved God, and his brother obeyed God, so Cain proved himself to be a child of the devil and murdered him. Cain proved himself to be evil by murdering his brother. If we hate our brothers, we are murderers, we hate God, and we are not children of God. However, if we are the children of God, if we love Him and our brothers, then the world will hate us, because we have passed from death into life -- the children of God have experienced resurrection! But those who do not love are still dead, and they hate life, and cannot believe in Him. Does the world hate you?

The children of God love God and their brothers. The children of God seek good and work hard to live out their love and gratitude to God. The children of God live humbly knowing that their salvation, their hope, their everything, is from God Alone.

The children of the devil say, "You're crazy, you've got to look out for number one! I deserve a break today -- I deserve more, more, more. You know what they say, 'he who dies with the most toys wins,' and I don't want to be a loser."
What the world and the children of the devil don't know is that we have already overcome the world in Jesus. We are already victorious. We have already won. That's why we can work hard at being the righteous men and women Jesus has bought and is making us to be. We are not to despair, even if we see the world reeking havoc in our denominations. God may allow the devil to raise up children of the devil in our churches, but Jesus is already victorious, and we are already victorious in Him. So we are to live in obedience and in love of God and our brothers.

John explains again in our second Scripture, that, if we believe that Jesus is God's Son, then we have been born of God -- we are the children of God. And if we love God, we love those who are born of God -- the children of God. And if we love those who are born of God, then we must also love God. And if we love God, then we will keeps His Commandments. Why? Because this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments -- that we obey Him -- and His Commandments are not burdensome.

Remember what Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus is, of course, speaking to those who believe in Him and any who come to believe in Him, when He says this. Jesus is denying the perversion of the Law taught by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and He is speaking to those for whom the Law is no longer condemnation.

It is true: there was a time when we were slaves to sin -- a time when the law was a grievous task-master. There was a time when the law condemned us and was a greater burden than we could ever carry. But Jesus took upon Himself that condemnation -- the Wrath of God for our sin -- and He paid the whole of our debt, so now, the children of God no longer fear the Law as a burden.

Robert Candlish writes, "Thy yoke, O blessed Jesus, easy! Thy burden light! The yoke that Thou didst take on thyself when thou didst consent to serve and obey, even to the laying down of thy life for us, -- was that easy? The burden thou hadst to bear when, all thy life long and in thy death, thou hadst, in obedience to the Father, and as his servant, to carry our sicknesses, our sorrows, our sins, -- was that light? Is it that yoke of thine that thou invitest us to take upon us? Is it that burden of thine that thou callest us to bear? And is it in taking upon us that yoke of thine, and in the bearing of that burden of thine, that thou assurest us we shall find rest unto our souls?"

The Law of God is no longer burdensome, because Jesus has carried our sin and suffered God's Wrath, so we are able to serve and obey, by the Holy Spirit, carrying what is now a light yoke. The yoke that we are given is the easy yoke of the beloved to the Lover. And if we love God, we will obey Him. If we are the children of God, we will obey Him. If we are the children of God, Jesus has made obedience to God light, no longer a burden, no longer condemnation.

Yet, the world comes in again, and the children of the devil call to us again, "Obedience to God is not light! Come, join us in this pursuit, in doing this, don't worry about neglecting that -- this feels better, this is more pleasurable, this is a light burden -- what the world gives us to bear." And the world is sly and vague and deceptive -- and the devil is the father of lies.

John tells us that everyone that God gives birth to has already overcome the world -- the world has already lost -- every promise the world makes is a lie, because it is already defeated, it cannot offer anything -- there is no possibility that the world will win, because it has already lost. So, if we have been born of God, we are the children of God, and God has given us the faith to believe, the faith to love, the faith to obey -- which has already overcome the world.

It's not always easy to tell what is from the world, and what is a matter of Christian liberty. Here, then, is a test, if you are presented with the chance to do, to be, to enjoy something, and there is no law against it, ask yourself, "Does this pursuit cause me to love God and the children of God more? Do this give me joy and the peace that passes all understanding?" If the answer is "no," this may be something that you ought do without; it may be a part of the world that you need to overcome. Be in prayer over such things and do not rest, but keep praying until God has given you clarity on whether it is a good thing for you to do.

Again, listen to Robert Candlish, "O child of God, wouldest thou overcome the world? Is it thine earnest, anxious, longing desire so to overcome the world that it shall never have power any more to make thee feel any one of God's commandments to be grievous? Is it a distress to thee that such a feeling still prevails so much and so often in thy secret soul; that thy walk before God, thy fellowship with God, thy service to God, are all so marred, tainted, cramped, and hindered, by the ever recurring suggestion that this or that thing required of thee is hard? Yes; it is hard to cut off a right hand and pluck out a right eye; hard to deny self and take up the cross; hard to go forth unto Christ without the camp bearing his reproach; hard to forego a seemingly harmless pleasure; hard to part with one dearly beloved; hard to bear excruciating pain; hard to die by premature decay; hard to lay down life for a brother Ah! Is it a grief to thee, a sore mortification and disappointment, that thou art so easily moved by the world; for thy love of the world, or the world's power over thee, that moves thee; thus to think, thus to feel, if not even thus to speak? Here, and only here, is the remedy. Believe, be always believing, that Jesus, so called because he saves his people from their sins, is the Son of God; that it is as the Son of God that he saves thee; and that he saves thee so as to make thee a son; being himself the first-born among many brethren. Rise to the full height of that great position. Realize its greatness; the greatness of freedom; 'the glorious liberty of the sons of God.' That is 'the victory which overcometh the world,' even such faith as that."

Candlish reminds us that it is easy to give in to temptation; it's easy to sin; it's easy to believe we deserve something other than what our Heavenly Father has set before us. We ought pray to be disgusted by such easy things and instead, stand firm and resolute, confident in knowing that we are the children of God, that God Himself has delivered us from such sinful pursuits. Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ has made us His brothers and sisters and given us His Victory, and we are free from bondage and slavery. We are victorious over the world. And we cannot fail, because it is all by Him, all for Him, and all to His Everlasting Glory.

It is with that confidence that we are invited, called, and come to into the presence of the Almighty God and call Him, "Abba, Father." We who know we are the children of God, because we have faith in Jesus the Son of God, because we love God, because we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, because we keep the commandments of God -- though none of this yet perfectly -- we are come through the Body and Blood of Jesus, meeting Him even now in our worship, receiving from Him the Grace that we need to continue to mature into Him in all things.

So let us pray:
Almighty God, we ask that Your Grace would be applied to us by the Holy Spirit as we meet with Jesus, even here and now. We ask that You would give us the confidence in knowing that, despite our imperfection, we are Your children, whom You are perfecting for Your Name's Sake. Grow us in love of You and each other, keep us from the temptations of the world, and make us keep Your Commandments that we might find full satisfaction and joy always in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Sunday Sermon

"Immanuel"
[Mark 16:19-20]
December 31, 2006 Second Reformed Church

On Christmas Eve, we looked at the passage just preceding this one, and we saw that we who are Christians -- we who believe that Jesus Alone is our salvation -- we have work to do. Our God, Jesus, sent His apostles and the disciples, and He sends every Christian, to go into the world and make the Gospel of Jesus Christ known to every single human being that will ever be. And we saw that God will provide whatever is necessary for us to accomplish the work of proclaiming the Gospel to the whole creation.

God will not allow language, demons, sickness, or any other impediment to thwart His getting the Good News out through us. God has chosen to use us vessels of clay to hold and deliver the glorious message of salvation to the entire creation. What an honor; what a mystery -- rather than delivering His Gospel through kings and princes and politicians, God has chosen to send it out through fisherman, corrupt tax collectors, foreign doctors, murders, and other people just like you and me. And no matter who we are or what we have done or what our limitations or gifts are, God will not allow them to impede His Gospel going forth.

Why? Because this is all for His Glory The Creation, you, me, the Incarnation, the whole history of salvation, God's dealing with humanity -- everything -- is ultimately for the Glory of God. And when we glorify God, we are satisfied and fulfilled and find our joy God will accomplish His Will and as we accomplish His Will, we have joy -- and God will not allow us to fail, in the end -- so we are sure of the joy that awaits us.

The Gospel, the Bible, all of history -- even your life and my life -- are working to glorify God. We may not always see it, but we can be sure of it by His Word, and we can be sure that our joy is made complete in Him Alone. So, we have no excuse, no obstacle, no hindrance, no encumbrance that God will not remove that we will be able to accomplish His Call on us to proclaim His Gospel.

Let us remember and take comfort and have hope in the fact that one of the prophetic names of Jesus is "Immanuel," which means, "God with us." And for Christians, that's not just that God is somewhere around, but God is with us, always, immediately present with us. Let us look at this morning's Scripture:

Mark tells us that after Jesus spoke with the Apostles and disciples, He was taken up into the heaven and he sat down at the Right Hand of God. The Heidelberg Catechism asks why this is important -- what importance it holds for us. And in question forty-nine, we're given three reasons Jesus' Ascension is important:

First, since Jesus ascended after His Resurrection, He now advocates for us before the Father. As Paul wrote, "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died -- more than that, who was raised -- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed in interceding for us" (Romans 8:34). Jesus is our Mediator, our Lawyer, before God the Father. Jesus testifies on our behalf and presents the evidence that He died for you and me and everyone else who will believe, so the debt to the Father is paid for us, and He also testifies that we have been credited with the Merit of Jesus' Holy Life, so, in Him and in Him Alone, we are worthy to enter into the Kingdom of God.

Second, we shall enter the Kingdom, and we shall enter in the same way that Jesus did. Jesus promised, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2). And we are promised that we have been "raised ... up with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6-7). On that last day we will be received fully into the Kingdom, into the place that Jesus is preparing for us, and even now, in these ages between the Resurrection and His Coming Again, we are receiving the immeasurable riches of His Grace, through the Word and the Sacraments. The late Keith Green comment on this, saying that if the Creation took six days, and Jesus has been preparing a place for us for over two thousand years, then this is like living in a garbage can compared with what is coming for us!

Third, Jesus' Ascension grants us the benefit of having God the Holy Spirit live within us. The Third Person of the Godhead indwells each one of us who believes. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he dwells with you and will be in you. ... These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:15-17, 25-26). God the Father and God the Son send God the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer -- for this purpose: that God the Holy Spirit would cause us to remember everything we know from the Scripture and help us to understand what all Scripture means -- how it is all about Jesus, God the Son, just as He explained on the road to Emmaus. Immanuel. God is with us, to cause us to remember and understand the Scripture.

Mark tells us, "they went preaching everywhere, while the Lord helped them." And so we are also to go everywhere and tell everyone the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord will help us. How? God will help us by removing impediments and by giving us God the Holy Spirit to indwell us. The author of Hebrews writes, "Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how can we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will" (Hebrews 2:1-5).

In other words: since we have understood and believed the Gospel -- we have received salvation through Jesus Christ Alone -- we ought to pay close attention to the Scripture -- read it, listen to it, study it -- because the devil is angry at you and me, and he will do all that he can to get us to neglect the Word and not be prepared to fight temptation, and to fall into sin. He wants us to be weak and unknowing so we will not tell others -- but how can we not tell others if we have understood how great this salvation is? So God sends each of us, in many different ways, in many different places, and He provides for us so whatever we need to accomplish the proclaiming of the Gospel, we will have.

Now, understand, God does not call all Christians to be ministers, but God does call all Christians to be Christians. And a Christian will be known by the way he or she lives and speaks, and all that he or she says. If you are a Christian, others should recognize that about you.

Mickie recently moved into Winchester Gardens, and I can't tell Mickie why at this point in her life this has happened. I can't tell her what her future will be there. But I know this without a doubt: Mickie, you have been called by God to be a Christian at Winchester Gardens and to make His Salvation known through your being a Christian. What form will that take for Mickie, I don't know. But God the Holy Spirit lives in her and will direct her in all that she says and does. Let us each be prepared and ask God the Holy Spirit to help us to remember and understand that others would hear the Gospel clearly from us.

And that is not just through our words, remember. Mark wrote that the proclamation of the Gospel is confirmed through accompanying signs. Luke wrote, "Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles" (Acts 5:12). Does that mean that you and I will do miraculous acts -- signs and wonders -- not necessarily in the flashy kinds of ways that we might think of. But God will confirm the Word that we speak through our actions. What we do confirms what we truly believe. What we do -- in all of our life -- is a witness to God being with us, and to how well we have lived out God's indwelling us.

We end our look at the Gospel of Mark this morning being reminded of Immanuel. (And it is interesting to note that this well-known and often used prophetic name of Jesus is only used three times in the entire Bible -- twice in Isaiah and once in Matthew.) Isaiah said, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). And when the angel visited Joseph, he said, "'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)" (Matthew 1:20b-23).

God is with us, indwelling every Christian. God is with us, preparing the Kingdom. God is with us, that we would speak the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Alone. God is with us, that our actions would reflect the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Alone. Be of Good Hope: God will not fail, and we will not fail, for God is with us. Immanuel.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Providence, You Who Created the world and guides its steps, we thank You for providing a Savior for us. We thank You for choosing us to be Your people and for remaining with us for all of eternity. We thank You for making us able to do Your Work and proclaim Your Gospel -- each one of us -- through Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Be pleased to use us this day. Make us confident and bold, and may it all be to Your Glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.