Second Reformed Church

Monday, May 28, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 1:13 --

"O Let's winde our plummers (as the clock keeper) once every day, keep our mindes from being weighed down with the world, we must set apart some time to draw up our minde, especially Saturday night, not letting them down all the day following: We must so use the world, as not to run into evil for it, neither to neglect any duty to God, our Souls, our Families, our Neighbors, the Poor, or any other, we must use it to further us as the Pilgrim doth his staff: Learn we to prize Spiritual graces, which are the onely current coyne in the Countrey we are going to, yet is not the seeking of Gods Kingdom the way to hinder us of that which is meet, but rather the onely further: would we have done more than will do us good? But if we shall have less of the world, are we not more then enough recompenced, if we shall have more peace pf Conscience, more credit here, more favor with God, more joy in death?"

-- John Rogers, 75-76.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On Psalm 8:2 -- quoted in Spurgeon's Treasury of David --

"God will be honoured. Even thou, silly worm, shalt honour him, when it shall appear what God hath done for thee, what lusts he hath mortified, and what graces he hath granted thee. The Lord can yet do greater things for thee if thou wilt trust him. He can carry thee upon eagle’s wings, enable thee to bear and suffer strong affliction for him, to persevere to the end, to live by faith, to finish thy course with joy."

– Daniel Rogers

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 1:13 --

"Knowledge without Zeal is blockishnesss, as Zeal without knowledge rashness; but better less Knowledge and more Zeal, then more Knowledge and less Zeal or care or obedience. Doctrine without Exhortation, is to set a dull Horse in the way, and not spur him on: Exhortation without Doctrine, is to spur the Horse forwards, before he be put in the way; the one is Foundation, the other the Building, both which must go together.

"Ministers that would go to work indeed, must go with their tools, use both Doctrine and Exhortation; as he that would cleave a knotty Log, must use both Beetle and Wedges, the one without the other would be to no purpose: We must not beat the ayr as it were, multiplying words, yea good words, without a ground: Neither must we deliver sound Doctrine strongly proved, so leaving it, but urge and apply it. Practice being the life of all, and people being unapt to make particular Application; yea, it is the principle part of our Ministery, to draw on the will, and to perswade and work upon the affections, for want of which many finde but small fruit in their Ministery; for people are grown to that pass, that is not the excellency and weight of the matter that will move (which for the most part proves but a sound with the most) if it be not whetted by some enforcements of Exhortation."

-- John Rogers, 72.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"The Benefits of the Ascension" Sermon: Ephesians 4:1-16

"The Benefits of the Ascension"
[Ephesians 4:1-16]
May 20, 2007 Second Reformed Church

During Jesus' last week on earth, He told the disciples, "'Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

"'I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you'" (John 16:7-15).

Later that week, Jesus was crucified, died, and then rose from the dead. Forty days later, He ascended back to His Throne. We remember His Ascension this morning and consider why it was necessary -- what its benefit is to us who believe.

In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul explains, among other things, that since we who believe have been adopted as sons by God the Father, and since we are then, co-heirs with Christ, and since we have receive His Salvation, and since we have been marked by the Holy Spirit as belonging to the Father, then we understand that, through the Ascension, we have a Mediator with God the Father, and the Holy Spirit has been sent to indwell all of us who believe.

Paul wrote, "For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5). Jesus stands before His Father, as our Advocate, our Lawyer, Who both takes on Himself the punishment for our sin, but also credits us with His Holiness, so our sin is imputed to Him and His Righteousness is imputed to us, and we are made right with and to the Glory of God.

Paul also wrote, "Or do you not know that Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price" (I Corinthians 6:19-20a). All Christians have God the Holy Spirit dwelling in us that we might glorify our God Who bought us for His Glory.

Therefore, in this morning's reading, Paul says that all Christians, Jews and Gentiles, and let us add for today: black and white and Asian and Hispanic and all races, and Reformed and Baptist and Pentecostal and Charismatic and Methodist and Presbyterian and all denominations, all Christians ought to live in the unity of the Spirit.

Does Paul mean that our differences should be ignored, that they aren't important? No. Do he mean we should do away with denominations? No. What Paul is saying is that, through the Spirit Whom Jesus and the Father sent after Jesus' Ascension, all Christians, all believers, past, present, and future, ought to recognize that we are one in Christ, through the Spirit, and we must interact with each other in humility, gentleness, patience, and love.

Understand, this church is part of a Reformed denomination, the Reformed Church in America. I am a Reformed minister. My understanding of the Scripture is that of the Reformed tradition. That is how I understand it; that is how I teach and preach it. However, I have a friend who is a Methodist minister, and I have a friend who is a Presbyterian minister, and I have friends who are Reformed ministers -- of several denominations, and while we don't agree with each other on every item, we do agree, and we are united in the Truth that salvation is through Jesus Christ Alone, through faith alone, by grace alone, to the glory of God Alone, and we believe the Scripture -- the Bible -- Alone.

Denominational differences are important in this sense: either someone's interpretation is right, or we're all wrong. Yet, we are called to search the Scriptures, to know our God. So, we ought to know what we believe and why we believe it. We ought to stand for the differences were believe in, yet, in humility, gentleness, patience, and love, we ought to welcome all believers -- all Christians -- as brothers and sisters.

Everyone who believed in the Savior Who was to come, and everyone who has believed in Jesus since His Incarnation, is united together, in one body, figuratively, with Christ as our Head, and we are united in one body, that is, in Salvation in Jesus Alone. We are united in the belief that Jesus and Jesus Alone saves us and makes us right with God, we are united in the one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, through which we are buried with Christ and then rise again, and we are united in God being the Father of all believers -- He Who is greater than us, He Who works through us to accomplish His Will, and He Who lives in us, to change us, for His Glory.

Paul quoted, "'When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.'" In ascending, Christ has completed our deliverance from slavery to sin and gives each person -- every one of us -- gifts through the Holy Spirit. Each one who believes is forgive and made holy, as we have seen, and each one is also given gifts to be the person and do the good works that God has called us to do. Some were called "to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers," some lawyers, some entrepreneurs, some housewives, some teachers, some civil servants, some nurses -- each of us has been called and gifted by God for a purpose. God has equipped us for ministry, wherever God has put us and gifted us to be. And as we live out our call, we build up the body of Christ -- as the fingers and lungs and legs and kidneys and each one of us in the Body work well, doing what we ought, we come to full health, full unity, in faith in Jesus Alone, in the saving knowledge of the Son, in the maturity into Christlikeness -- which continues until the day that Jesus Returns and receives us into His Glory and the New Jerusalem.

But -- the devil and his angels and false teachers don't want us to be unified, they don't want us to grow. Paul says that we are like ships, out on the Sea of Galilee, who sail along by the gentle wind of the Gospel, but when the violent winds of false doctrine come, we are tossed to and fro with them, not knowing what to believe, not knowing how to respond, being fooled by their craftiness and deceit.

And Paul tells the Ephesians -- and us -- that we cannot be little children any more. We cannot neglect our salvation. We cannot be lax in knowing our God. We cannot just say, "Oh, I'll just believe the minister; I'll just believe the elders; I'll just believe that funny guy on the t.v. who asks me for money so I can win big with God." No We ought not be fooled, but we ought to grow up.

Christ is our Head. We have been given the Holy Spirit -- He Who indwells us. Christ is our Mediator, our Advocate on high. We have been given gifts to use in the Church, for each other, to the glory of God. And the Holy Spirit enables us to do all the good works that God calls us to do. We have no excuse.

The author of Hebrews wrote, "About this I have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:11-14).

What then are the benefits of the Ascension? Christ is now our Advocate before the Father. He has made all of us His forever. And He has given us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and with Him, gifts to do the Will of God, the ability to know Him better, and to grow into the Image of His Son.

Now, we are called to act, in response to those things -- to the Good News. Shall we answer the call of God on our lives? Will we strive to do all those things God has set before us? Will we live in love and peace with our fellow believers? Will we learn how to defend the faith and then defend it against false teachers? Now is the time to grow up and grow into the Image of Christ.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, it has been all too easy to continue in the milk of our faith and neglect the meat. Revive us and cause a reformation of heart that we would, as the Apostle says, "work out our salvation with fear and trembling," in love and to Your Glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 1:10 --

"That for all matters of faith that we teach the people, and would have them receive, we must ground them on no other proof, but the Word of God; no point ought to be admitted touching salvation, whereof God is no the author, and author he is of nothing, but of that which is in his written Word, which is a perfect Rule, able to teach all truth, and confute all error." -- John Rogers, 59.

On verse 12 --

"Again, in that the Apostles we so filled with the Spirit to preach and write, we learn, That they have left unto us a perfect Direction for all things needful for our salvation, and for the good estate of Gods Church, and that therefore there's nothing to be added, detracted or altered.

"1. This condemns them that trust in new Gospels of Thomas, Thaddeus, Bartholomew, &c. and in Traditions and unwritten Verities; which is to accuse the holy Ghost of want of care for his Church, as not having left that which is sufficient for salvation.

"2. It condemns them also that taketh away and alter at their pleasure; what is this, but to tax the holy Ghost for leaving something not necessary, nor profitable for his Church, and by altering or taking away form the same, to make ourselves wiser than he?" -- John Rogers, 70.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Be Holy" Sermon: I Peter 1:13-16

"Be Holy"
[I Peter 1:13-16]
May 13 2007 Second Reformed Church

Christian: since you have been given a living hope of salvation in and through Jesus Alone, since you will glorify Christ through suffering, through the testing of your faith through the fires of suffering, since you have received the Good News of Jesus Christ the Savior, the Word, that the prophets and the angels and the whole creation have been and continue to long for -- since those things are true -- be holy.

Christian: you have been called to be set apart, a different people, a people called to a life and a living for God. You ought not to sin, but ought to do all things perfectly, rightly, justly, like our Heavenly Father.

Peter says that we ought to prepare our minds for action. The expression Peter uses is an expression taken from the fact that many people in his day wore long robes. And when they needed to go quickly or for a long distance, they didn't let the robe drag or tangle them up, they pull the robe up, they tied it off, they tucked it in, so it would not be a hindrance to them. They prepared their robe for action.

Similarly, Peter tells us that we are to prepare our minds for action. We are to pull up the excess, tie off the impediments. We are to do whatever is necessary to keep our minds quick, alert, and right. But we let our robe hang down; we think that a little ways won't impede us. We won't trip if we only bring the robe half-way up. We look at our lives and see that we attend worship every Sunday, we give to the work of the church, both in time and money, we pray, we read our Bible, we attend our Bible studies, so, that one sin we love, that one sin that's so hard for us to let go, that one thing, that last thing that we don’t want to let go -- we brought our minds up 98%, surely that’s better that only 20%, surely that's good enough, surely that will be acceptable, surely that is holy enough.

If your child came to you wearing a shirt and nothing else and said, "Mother, I'm dressed; I'm not wearing everything you put out for me to wear, but surely this is enough, surely this is acceptable." No mother in her right mind would allow that child to go out or to school or to do anything else until she was fully dressed.

Paul wrote, "Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But this is not the way you learned from Christ! -- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:17-24).

Be sober minded. Don't give in to your lust; don't give in to your sin. Be moderate in the things that are lawful. Observe the patterns God has set for us to live.

As Christians, we don't have to give in to our sin, we ought not to give in to our sin. When we give into sin, we tell God that we don't care what His Son did -- hit Him again, pound the nail in deeper -- He will forgive me. No, we cannot. We must say, "no." And when we fall, we must repent and then say, "no," when the temptation comes again. We must not be drunk in our minds about what is sin and what is right living. Even with those things that God has given us that are good, we ought to live in moderation: no one needs to eat so much that he vomits. No one needs to wear so much make-up that he looks like a cartoon character. The proliferation of storage units tells us that we have too much. We have too much. It's not easy to be a Christian in a country where we have too much.

If we are sober in mind, we will follow the patterns that God has set before us. We will live within the patterns of the seasons and the week and the day. We ought to eat food that is fresh and in season. We ought to sleep during some of the twenty-four hour day. We ought to set aside one day in seven for worship. "You don't understand, I don't have time to eat right, I don't have time to sleep, I don't have time to worship." The Christian has time to use time rightly and to learn how to use time rightly.

Did you prepare for worship this morning? Did you get sleep last night? Did you set your mind on spiritual things this morning? Do you have it in mind to set aside time each day for God and knowing Him better?

God has set rhythms, patterns, in the days and weeks and seasons. We do well to observe them and live them to the glory of God. We ought to know what God has said and be able to read the patterns and the signs.

Paul wrote, "Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you, for you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of the light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. So let us then not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation" (I Thessalonians 5:1-8).

We ought to set our hope fully on grace -- on that hope that was given to us in and through Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means our hope is not in our works. We do not rely on our works for our salvation. We understand that what we do or don't do has no bearing whatsoever on our being saved. Our salvation has nothing to do with our doing or not doing something. Salvation is a gift, given to us through the Work of Christ -- and Christ Alone. We are to truly, solely, trust in Him and hope in Him and find our future in Him.

If we mix anything with Christ, we pervert Him and His Gospel. Our Salvation is Jesus and nothing else. If we add anything, it is like mixing honey and bile, light and darkness, good and evil -- it cannot be. We are either saved by Christ or we save ourselves, there is no other option. And if I were to rely only on myself -- if you were to rely only on yourself -- we would fly down the shaft into the fiery pit of Hell. So let us find, in Christ, humility, thankfulness, our confidence, and our comfort.

John wrote, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (I John 3:2-3).

So, as obedient children, let us not be conformed to the passions of our former ignorance. Let us renounce our lust and sin and evil. Let us turn away from all those things that kept us from God and make us ashamed before Him. Let us now do all the good works that He has set before us, not for our salvation, but in response to the glorious work and hope that He has put in us. And let us obey all of the Word of God, all the moral Law, all those things that God has called all to believe and do. The commentator John Rogers wrote, "Moreover, we must obey the Commandments of the Lord, be it never so strange, harsh, upleasing, or contrary to our Nature, denying ourselves contrary to custom, though all the world counsel to the contrary" (83).

Why? Why should we obey God and His Word when it doesn't make sense, when it is offensive to ourselves and to our feelings and to the latest poll? Because our God is Sovereign. Our God is Righteous and Holy. And our God has been merciful to us. God will never lead us into sin. God does not give us commands to make our lives miserable. No, our God is the Sovereign, Holy and Righteous God Who gave His Own Son for us -- how can we say, "no," to anything He commands?

The devil listens to the sermons that are preached. The devil takes note of every point. The devil searches out your weakness and my weakness and leads us by our noses at that very point to a place where we can receive the delightful smell of sin, and he hopes we won't remember the Word of God. He hopes we'll lay it aside. He hopes we'll say, "Well, just one more time."

Paul wrote, "I appeal to your therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:1-2).

Therefore, be holy. God told Israel, "I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44a). In Hebrew literature, when the writer wants to emphasize something, he repeats it, twice or three times -- three times meaning it is the ultimate possibility. There is one Attribute of God that is brought to the third power, not because God is lacking in His other Attributes, but to put this one at the center. We will remember the scene as Isaiah tells us, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I 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 God of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!'

"And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the whole house filled with smoke. And I said, 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'

"Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away; and your sin atoned for'" (Isaiah 6:1-7).

Isaiah knew that he wasn't holy. He knew that he stood before God Who commanded him to be holy. And he understood that unless God Himself interceded, he was doomed. There was no way that Isaiah could make himself holy. And there is no way that you and I can make ourselves holy. It's not posible. By our hands, by our efforts, by our will, you and I cannot be holy.

And here's the problem: the Word of God says, "[without] one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14b). We are commanded to holiness. Without holiness we are doomed to Hell. And we cannot, of our own selves be holy. "So," we argue, "I must be good enough. I must be holy enough." But we're not.

Our hope, our life, our trust, our salvation, our holiness can only be found in Jesus Alone. Again, hear John Rogers' comment, "The Devil, like a Harlot, would be content with the one half, but God, like the true Mother, will have all or none" (85).

We either have Jesus, or we don't. We either believe in Him, or we don't. We're either holy in Him, or we're not. You see, you and I are holy, and we are becoming holy. We cannot become holy of ourselves, but God chose to give His Son, to purify us through His Blood and to credit us with His Holy Life, so now, when God looks at us, He sees the Purity of Jesus and the Holiness of Jesus, because we are in Jesus, if He Alone is our Savior, Hope, and Trust. And the Holy Spirit is working in every Christian throughout this lifetime to make us holy, so, on that final day, we shall be made like Jesus and be received into His Glory.

How, then, should we live, now, in this lifetime, since all these things are true?

Let us pray:
Almighty God, Lover and Savior of Your people, we thank You for the sure hope that we have in You and Your Salvation through Jesus Alone. Teach us and cause us to be different people, holy people, through Your Word and through the Working of the Holy Spirit. Make us holy for Your Glory. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Flea Market

Second Reformed Church will be holding a Flea Market on Saturday, May 12th, this Saturday, at the church, from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. We have lots of stuff! Clothes, books, dishes, small appliances, gifts items, baked goods, jewelry, etc. Come buy your Mother's Day gift!

"Things Angels Long to See" Sermon: I Peter 1:10-12

"Things Angels Long to See"
[I Peter 1:10-12]
May 6, 2007 Second Reformed Church

What is the greatest news you have ever heard?

In the section of I Peter just before the one I read this morning, we saw that we, Christians, have a living hope. We have a living hope -- that is, the surety of our Salvation through Jesus Christ Alone -- a salvation that is being kept for us, in Heaven, by Jesus. We know that no matter what happens to us -- no matter what we are called to endure -- our salvation is so much greater than everything else, we can endure, and not just endure, but we can and should, always be glorifying God.

The author of Hebrews wrote, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world" (Hebrews 1:1-2). There has been a progression of revelation: God first spoke His Salvation through the prophets and He ended by sending His Son, the Word of God Incarnate. For all of history, God has been announcing the Way of Salvation, but the Way was revealed most clearly, most fully, when He actually lived and died and rose among humans.

Peter tells us in this morning's Scripture that the prophets who prophesied about this grace -- about this salvation -- about this living hope -- given to us by God through Jesus -- the prophets, themselves, searched their own words. The prophets did not fully understand what the Spirit of Christ had given them to speak, so they searched their prophecies, trying to understand Who it was that was coming for salvation and when it might be that He would come. Peter says that they "searched and inquired carefully." This wasn't just a cursory glance over the texts -- they studied and studied the words of the prophets and tried to more fully understand the promises of God.

They searched the Scriptures -- their prophecies -- because what they said was not merely human words, it is the Word of God. Peter wrote, "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (II Peter 1:21). The Scripture was written by human beings, in human languages, in the styles of the writers, but this book is not mere human writing, every word of it is inspired by God. What does that mean? It does not mean that God dictated the Scriptures, or forced the pens to write certain words, but that God revealed things to the prophets, which they wrote down, in their languages, in their own style, yet God prevented them from making any mistakes in the Scripture, from recording an error.

So, they understood something of what they wrote, but they wanted to understand it more fully, so they studied it and searched it, and inquired of it, looking for the answers to the Promise of Salvation that was coming. Why? Because they knew it was the greatest news anyone could ever hear: there is a Way back to God; there is Salvation from the Wrath of God. They didn't know as much as they New Testament writers, and they didn’t understand as much as we do today. Peter tells us that they and those who heard their words understood that a Savior was coming, a human being -- but more, and He would have to suffer, and, after, He would be glorified. And so they searched the Scriptures to understand more.

Paul, who knew the Savior and the time of His Suffering and Ascent into Glory, put it like this: "Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5b-11).

And, Peter tells us that it was revealed to the prophets that they were not prophesying for themselves and their generation; they were prophesying for others -- as it turned out, for the first century, and for all those who would live after them. By the Power of the Holy Spirit, the prophets preached the Salvation that was to come, the Grace that was to come, the One Who would suffer and die and rise to secure our salvation, our peace with God, and they were made to understand that none of this would happen in their lifetime; they would all die before the Savior would come, except for Elijah, Enoch, and John the Baptist. They were sent to preach in hope, in trust, this living hope of Salvation that would become manifest.

So the prophets longed for Him. They had faith that salvation was coming, and they longed for Him. They spent their lives studying and preaching the Scriptures. And they knew and accepted that they would not see Him in their lifetimes. Still, they longed for His coming.

Why was this good news preached? Why is it still preached? They preached and we preach that you and you and I would hear and receive this Gospel of Jesus Christ Alone, by the Holy Spirit, who is sent forth from heaven. They preached and we preach so you and you and I would believe -- that we would receive that hope -- and be filled with a longing for the fulfillment fo all of the words of the prophets -- a fulfillment that will come when Jesus returns.

And notice, it was not just the prophets who longed to see these things, but Peter tells us that the angels also longed to see Who this Savior is and when His Salvation would come, not because the salvation is for them -- it's not -- salvation is for humans alone. The angels longed to see Jesus come and they long to see Him return, and not them only, but all of the creation -- not for the sake of the Salvation of the creation, but that they might enter into the glory that is waiting all who are brothers and sisters of Jesus. Paul wrote, "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who having the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Romans 8:19-30).

We long for the full Salvation of Jesus Christ to come. But the seraphim and the cherubim also long for it -- the angels long to see how and when God will bring this age to a close -- they long to see God fully glorified by all. And so all of the creation is longing for the day when it will no longer suffer corruption but will be freed and enter into our glory to the Glory of God. The animals all long for Jesus' Return. The plants all long for Jesus' Return. The rocks and the planets and everything that is, everything in all of Creation, whether visible or invisible -- they are all excitedly longing for the completion of our salvation -- for the fulness of Jesus' Salvation and the coming Kingdom.

Do you long for that day? Or do you just want the coffee and cake in Freeman Hall? Are you passionate about the Salvation that Jesus Alone gives? Or are you only passionate about lunch? Do you love the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit so much and want to know God so well that you read the Bible and scour the Scripture and search it again and again and again so you would understand and know your greatest love even more? Or do you save that effort for the newspaper?

Brothers and sisters, you and I have been given the greatest news, the greatest gift possible, in Salvation in Jesus Alone. The prophets, the angels, the whole creation, longed to see Him come and longs for Him to come again. What about you? What does your life show?

In 1599, the commentator John Rogers wrote of this text: "This condemns the most monstrous Unthankfulness of our days, that make no reckoning of this so blessed Gospel, of those glad tidings that should be the glory of the world, without which the world is dead and sin, and comes to confusion. O how few regard to hear the Word? Many run to Sports and Pastimes, others to Markets and Fairs, but in many places, what thin Churches? Their Oxen and Farms draw them away: Others hear, yet it is without any regard, any life; Israel never loathed the Manna more, then most do the preaching of the Gospel; O they have had Sermons in many Congregations, until they have even loathed them O how few can be brought to see their own misery How few prize Christ, and to whom he is indeed welcom, how few that will stoop to his yoke Sundry in shew would have him their Savior, and talk that they hope to be saved by Christ, but that's but a Bawd for their sins, whereby they may go on the more freely in them; yea, are not the truest and most painfullest Preachers and Professors of the Gospel hated? What that will come to, it is easy to see; assuredly (being like Chorazin and Bethsaida) we may justly fear some judgement at hand. Time was, when Christ was welcom among us, and the kingdom of heaven suffered violence (as happily it doth still in some parts of the land) but O dead hearers, and unthankful in many places. Those under the Law, saw but a little, yet took it thankfully; we have much revealed, yet little regard it: To prize the Gospel, to seek after Christ, will be our wisdom and welfare; then to enquire for Salvation by Christ, there can be no greater thing, it becomes us well: if for this we be counted fools, well, we be such fools as the Prophets were, who enquired and searched after Christ; God be thanked for our so doing, let us continue in God’s name; this shall bring us comfort living and dying, when carnal Worldling shall perish for want of comfort and go to hell" (John Rogers, I Peter, 60).

Nothing has changed.

Let us pray:
God of Grace, we thank You for the gift of Salvation in Jesus Christ Alone, make us more thankful. We thank You for the words of the prophets and the witness of the creation, increasing our longing for You. The prophets, and the angels, and all of creation sought You and Your Kingdom first, raise up Your people, direct our eyes and hearts and minds to You first, for Your Glory first. And as You have given us Your Grace through Your Word, we pray that You would also give us Your Grace through the Holy Supper. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 1:9 --

"We must therefore when we follow Christ, or embrace him and his ways, not expect all Prosperity here, and Ease and Contentment outwardly, but rather think of the contrary, that it may appear that we follow him not for any by-respect; but Salvation we shall have, and he that thinks not that sufficient, thought it be joyned with troubles; knoweth not its worth. The favor of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, is great riches, though not accompanied with outward either pleasure or profit: Many profess Religion for advantage, and many will profess so long as no hurt comes of it, but if any trouble arise, then they give over." -- John Rogers, 58.