Second Reformed Church

Monday, July 30, 2007

Free Book Friday

If you are a minister or a seminary student, you should check out Free Book Friday at www.pastorbookshelf.com/blog/free-book-friday -- as well as their other links and info. This week, they are giving away a copy of Randy Newman's book Questioning Evangelism. I'm in the running!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Membership Class Continues

Join us today at 4:30 PM as we continue our membership class. We will be looking at what the Reformed Church in America is -- looking at our history, government, and liturgy. Next week, D.V., we will jump head-long into doctrine!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Free Book Friday

Once again, check out Free Book Friday at PastorBookshelf. www.pastorbookshelf.com/blog/free-book-friday. This week, they are giving away a copy of Craig A. Evans' Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospel. Certainly an important topic -- I hope I win again -- like I did last week -- what a wonderful surprise!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

"That God May Be Glorified" Sermon: I Peter 2:11-17

"That God May Be Glorified"
[I Peter 2:11-17]
July 22, 2007 Second Reformed Church

When you were growing up, what was your biggest temptation? When you visited your grandparents, or your cousins, where was the temptation, what were you most likely to get into that you shouldn't? When you were alone, or on a class trip, or in some position where no one would ever find out what you had done, what was it that pulled at you?

My father's mother always put out a bowl of hard candies, right in front of us kids, and we weren't supposed to touch them. Some of them had nuts, or a gooey filling, or a liquid, but we weren't allowed to touch any of them. Until there came a point when we were offered one candy, and then we were allowed to choose one. And then, at some point, the adults would leave the room, and the candy would start crying out, "Try me! You didn't try this kind yet!"

What was it for you? Was it candy? Pretty glass or ceramic objects? Chasing after the family pet? As you got older, and your temptation advanced, did you pocket money that was lying around? Did you sneak a drink from the liquor cabinet? Did you sneak off with a boy or girl...? Where does your weakness lie today?

Peter was writing to Christian on the run. He told them to stand strong in their faith, because they and we have a living hope -- that Jesus Alone is our God and Savior and all that He has promised will come to pass. And now, He calls us to holy living, as a response to the salvation we have received, we are to live out the Law of God, doing good works that show to Whom we belong. We are, after all, founded and sustained on the Cornerstone of Jesus Christ: it is by Him that we stand and will survive from this life and into the fullness of the Kingdom. Because we are God's chosen people, and we have been set apart for Him and His Work.

In this morning's Scripture, Peter reminds Christians that we are exiles, sojourners, strangers, visitors in this fallen world. Perhaps we need to hear that more that Peter's original audience -- Christians who were on the run, in foreign lands, among foreign people -- they understood that they were strangers in a strange land. How about us? Do we understand that we are just passing through this fallen world? Do we understand that this world, broken and sinful, is not our home? Do we understand that we have been chosen and are now being prepared to enter into the fullness of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ -- a Kingdom of perfection and ever-Christward Glory? Do we understand that the brokenness and sin and fallenness and everything that is wrong and sorrowful will fall away, and the creation will be restored, and all of God's people will be perfected and made holy, like Jesus, and then we shall enter into the Kingdom for all of eternity? Do we understand? Do we at least glimpse where we are headed?

So, now, in this life, we are strangers, visitors, exiles, sojourners. John Bunyan, who wrote one of the most famous novels in the history of humanity, Pilgrim's Progress, says that we are pilgrims. (And if you have never read John Bunyan's novel, get a copy and read it. There are few novels that are so worthy of being read.) Perhaps we don't understand the word "pilgrim" very well these days -- a pilgrim is a traveler, especially someone who is traveling to a religious site.

The commentator, John Rogers, writes that there are at least ten distinctives of a pilgrim (Rogers, 293-298). There are at least ten characteristics of a person who is traveling from one place to another. If you have ever gone on a trip, you might consider if these are true of you. Or, if you want to think about the trip you are on now, from this home to your heavenly home, see if these are true for you.

John Rogers says, first, that pilgrims don't adopt the fashions of the countries they are passing through. An American traveling to Russia, with a stop-over in England, will not suddenly change his eating habits and eat fish and chip and warm beer. He might try such a meal, but he won't adopt it as his way of eating. And Australian, who stops over in Utah on the way to Japan, will not marry six women, because Utah is largely Mormon and many Mormons believe in polygamy. You and I do not have to take on the habits, the likes and dislikes, and we certainly ought not take on, the sins of those places we are just passing through, like this fallen world.

Second, pilgrims only bring what's necessary for the trip. When we pack our suitcases to go somewhere, we don't take everything we own with us. Not everything is necessary. Not everything is profitable to bring. We ought not grow too attached to the stuff of this world, because we cannot take any of it with us into the Kingdom. We ought to pare down and gather to ourselves those things that are useful and enjoyable for the trip, but avoid becoming obsessed with amassing stuff that we can't take with us.

And, thirdly, pilgrims take what is profitable. Again, we might well bring enough clothes for a cruise, for example, but it would not be profitable to bring a set of spare tires.

There is a delicate balance to be maintained between what is available to us, what is good for us, and what is necessary for us -- and those lists won't be the same for each of us. We all have needs and abilities that make certain things more necessary for some than others. But, certainly, as Americans, most of us will have more than we need -- things that are unprofitable. For example, if you have a closet full of clothes that you haven't worn in the past year, they are not profitable for you, but they might better be donated to those who need clothes.

Fourth, a pilgrim travels towards the country he is headed for. Someone who wants to go to Canada from the United States will not go by way of Mexico. Someone who desires to reach the Kingdom of God, will not continue to go back to sin. Sin ought to become less and less a part of our lives. We ought to spend less and less time turning back, when we ought to be going forward. And understand this, if you are more disturbed with your sin today that you have been in the past, that is a good thing. It shows that you are making progress in the right direction.

Fifth, a pilgrim will ask for directions -- even male pilgrims will ask for directions. If we want to know how to get to the Kingdom, we will study our Bibles, attend worship and our adult studies. We will ask other Christians for help and understanding and guidance.

Sixth, we won't waste time. How much time do we waste, because, "we deserve a break today"? How much time do you spend watching the idiot box? How much time do you spend complaining and not doing anything? How often do we get bored? I had a friend of mine get in touch with me this week and tell me that he was bored. I told him that I didn't understand what he meant -- I told him that he must be using the wrong word -- maybe he was tired, or frustrated, or angry, but how can we, especially, as Christians, how can we get bored when there is so much to do? How can we spend so much time doing nothing useful? Understand, I am not saying that the television is sinful, or that we ought never enjoy ourselves -- we should. What I am saying is that Americans spend too much time doing nothing -- wasting time -- and we dare not do that as pilgrims.

Seventh, a pilgrim enjoys his traveling companions. We ought to enjoy those we are traveling with, wether it be on vacation, or some other trip, or on our journey to the Kingdom. We will be very displeased to arrive at our destination with people we have never learned to enjoy. Will we like every Christian, agree with everything with every Christian, we will desire to be with every Christian all the time? No. But, if we are all saved by Jesus, one people, chosen by him, being made into His Holy Temple, we had better find a way to enjoy each others' company.

Eighth, a pilgrim carries his own burden. Now, if you know the novel, Pilgrim's Progress, you will remember that Pilgrim's burden falls off at one point, and it was a good thing. In the novel, Bunyan is writing about our sin being taken from us. That is not what Rogers is writing about. Rogers is saying that each of us has been given work to do, a burden, and we are to do it. There is no welfare system in the Kingdom. Each of us has been given all that we need, by God, to accomplish what He has given us to do, and we are to do it.

Ninth, a pilgrim longs for home. You and I as Christians ought to long for God's Kingdom. We ought to look forward to that day when all sin and sorrow will be whiped away and we will enter into Glory. If you don't long for where we're headed, then why are you bothering? A Christian longs to be with Jesus, so his eyes are fixed on Him and His Coming Kingdom.

And tenth, a pilgrim's excitement grows as he gets closer to home. Our excitement ought to grow, day be day, as we journey closer and closer to our heavenly home. Does it make you happy to know that today you are closer to the Kingdom than you were yesterday? Does it fill you with joy to know that we are one day closer to Jesus' Soon Coming Return?

Peter tells the Christians of the first century, and us, that the flesh, sin, and the devil want us to turn back and give in to him. He wants us to be bad pilgrims, bad examples to the world. He wants us to fall, and when we do, he will stand over us and laugh and tell us that we never belonged to Jesus. But the devil is a liar, and he is the father of lies. We must resist him, and turn to Jesus, especially when we are alone, or in the dark, or feeling down, in those times when we are feeling self-pity and as though no one will notice or care that we sin. Then, we must run back to Jesus, cry out to Jesus, "Lord, help me; Lord, have mercy on me." And He will.

Peter says we are to keep our conduct morally good, even among non-Christians. We are to do what is good and right and honoring to God always and no matter who we are with, but especially in the presence of non-Christians. Why? So that on the day of visitation God might be glorified. That is, that when these come to belief, they might understand what we did, why we have lived the way we have, and glorify God because of it.

Usually we don't know what our influence is in this life, and whether it is good or bad, but once in awhile, we might find out. In high school, I was in band, and a few years ago, I happened to run into a fellow in NYC who had been in band with me, and he told me that he was glad to see me and he wanted me to know that he finally understood the things I had said in high school and the way I had acted -- he had received Christ as his Savior. (Unfortunately, I could give you negative examples, too.)

Peter says that for the sake of Jesus Christ and His Gospel, we ought to obey everyone who is put in authority over us, because God has sent them to punish evil and reward good. And we may remember that Paul says the same thing in Romans 13. But I hope someone is thinking, "Wait a minute, these Christians are being hunted by Nero's armies. Nero was the authority over them, and he wanted to kill them. How could they submit to the authority over them?" And the answer is this, we are to obey those in authority over us except for such cases where they require us to do something that goes against the clear teaching of God. So, Nero said that Christians were to be put to death. God did not require them to turn themselves in to be slaughtered. No, they rightly ran and hid and escaped Nero, because Nero was acting against the clear teaching of God in this case: he wanted to murder Christians, which is a sin. However, Christians, we may think that our current tax laws are abominable, but since they do not go against the clear teaching of the Scripture, we ought pay them. (Now, I understand that the Amish and others will argue the point, but none of you are Amish, so pay your taxes.)

Peter also says that we are to enjoy our freedom in Christ, but we ought not make it an opportunity to sin. We may drink, but we ought not get drunk. We may eat, but we ought not be gluttons. We may own stuff, but we ought to be greedy or covetous. Do we understand?

As strangers in this world of sin, as people who are just passing through, proclaiming salvation in Jesus Alone as we travel to the Kingdom, we are to be a different people, a people who do what is good and right and pleasing in God's eyes. We are to love each other. We are to obey the civil law except when it goes against the clear teaching of the Scripture. And if we do these things, others will notice, and they may come to belief, and God will surely be glorified. And that is the chief end for which everything exists and occurs.

So, let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for making us Yours out of all the people of the earth. We ask that You would restrain us from our sin and cause us to do those good works that You have set before us as we travel through this life and into the fullness of Your Kingdom. May You be pleased and glorified to let others notice our good works and know that they are done because You Alone are our God and Savior. Keep us from sin when we are alone, when it is easy, and when no one seems to care. Make us examples for Your Sake and to Your Glory. For it is in this that we find our joy. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Membership Class Begins

If you would like to join Second Reformed Church, or just want to know what we're about, or want to review who we are -- you are welcome to our class, starting this Saturday the 21st at 4:30 PM. The class will run for four weeks or so, depending on the response and issues that come up. Plan to attend, and bring your questions.

Free Book Friday

Check out Free Book Friday at Pastor Bookshelf. www.pastorbookshelf.com.blogspot/free-book-friday/
This week, they are offering a copy of Wayne Grudem's Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Who Are You?" Sermon: I Peter 2:9-10

"Who Are You?"
[I Peter 2:9-10]
July 15, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Who are you?

Last week, we saw Peter explain to us and the Christians on the run from Nero's army that we are the Church. We are built upon the Foundation and the Cornerstone of Jesus Christ. Upon His Deity and His Salvation Alone, we find our security, our strength, our purpose, our life together. There is no other foundation but the Foundation of Jesus Christ Who is laid down for all of His people, to support and carry and sustain us.

And Peter explained that those Who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ Alone, those who will not have Him for their Foundation and Cornerstone, these stumble and fall and are even crushed under Him, just as they were destined to do. There are some who will never believe, and that is part of God's Plan, and they shall be lost under the weight of the Glory of Jesus Christ, and they shall suffer eternally because of their sin.

"But." Peter calls on the Christians -- on you and me -- to remember who we are: we are the Church. We have received Jesus Alone as our Salvation, as our Cornerstone, as our Foundation. We are being built into that holy temple of God. He is the Head of our Body and we are being made in all things into Jesus.

"Remember who you are." Peter tells Christians that they way we respond and live is different from the way the rest of the world responds and reacts. Do you know who you are this morning, and does it make a difference?

First, Peter said that we, Christians, are a chosen people. We are the eklecton -- the elect. God chose out of all humanity, some who would believe in Him as His people, a people that He chose for Himself. Not all people are saved; God has chosen to save some out of all of Adam's race. We saw last week that the Gospel is not fair, in this sense: if the Gospel were fair, then we would all perish in our sins, but God has chosen, instead, to save some. God decided to show His Greatness by saving some from His Wrath, instead, giving up His Own Son to suffer for our sins and crediting us with His Son's Perfect Obedience.

And we ask, "Can we know that we are members of the elect? Can we know that we are some of those that God has chosen to be His people?" In Peter's second letter, he tells his readers -- and all Christians -- "therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure" (II Peter 1:10a). Yes, we can be sure, and we ought to have a surety among us based on the Word of God. So what shall we look for? Have you made a sincere confession of belief in Jesus Christ Alone for your salvation? Have you confessed your sins to Him and asked for forgiveness? Have you received forgiveness, the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, and the crediting of Jesus' Life to your account? Do you receive the sacraments? Do you strive to obey God's Word? Do you love your fellow Christians? Do you strive after sanctification -- do you strive for holiness? If these things are true of you, you are a Christian. You are a member of the elect, God's chosen people.

Second, we are a royal priesthood. We are not simply a class of people set apart for life-long work in the temple, but we are a people who are, ourselves, the Temple of God, and we have been set apart to carry out God's Will in any and every area of our lives. No matter what you or I do, we are called to be priests, people who come before God on our own behalf and on the behalf of others, to pray and offer up sacrifices. Of course, we don't offer up blood sacrifices any more. Jesus once and forever sealed the ritual of blood sacrifices when He sacrificed Himself on the cross. We, then, offer up the sacrifices of selflessness -- being willing to go and do anything that God calls us to do, and also, we offer up the sacrifice of thanksgiving -- at all times and in all places, lifting hands and heart and mind and voice, praising God for Who He is and what He has done.

Third, we are a holy nation. We are not merely members of a biological nation that God has called. We are not merely elect persons, who individually make up the people of God, but we are a nation, throughout many nations. We are a people who, together, strive for holiness, work together for holiness, rely on each other for strength, encouragement, and discipline. And together, we strive for unity. And let us understand that Peter is not saying that we should throw away everything that we disagree on. Peter would not say to the modern church, just give up denominations, settle for the lowest common denominator. No, Jesus said, "[Father,] The glory that you have given me I have given to them, they might be one even as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world" (Matthew 24:20-24).

Does Jesus mean -- does Peter say -- that we are one in music, in denomination, in liturgy, in hymnal, in translation of the Bible, etc.? No, Jesus and Peter say we are to be one in this: we are to be one in the knowledge of the Glory of Jesus and one in seeing Him in His Glory -- and, of course, in the response of giving Him glory.

A Jewish friend of mine and I were talking about Jesus, and he said he had no problem with Jesus. He was another rabbi, trying to understand and apply God's Word. And we continued to talk, he stopped me and said, "You don't really believe that Jesus is God, do you?" And I said, "Yes, that's Christianity!" Amongst all the variety of Christians, we are united in this: Our God Jesus is Glorious and deserves all glory. Our unity is based on Jesus and His Glory, nothing more, nothing less. We can and should work together in other areas, but Jesus Alone makes us a holy nation.

Fourth, He has made us a people for His own possession. As Bob Dylan sings, we're the "Property of Jesus." You and I were created, bought, redeemed, ransomed -- by Jesus Christ. And we ought, therefore, to be a people who are focused on Jesus. We ought to be Christ-centered, doing all to His Glory, as Paul wrote, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). We ought to stand out as a people who are not living for ourselves and our things, but for Jesus and His Gospel. Our first and last thought should be, "How will this reflect on Jesus and His Salvation?" Non-Christians ought to be able to look to us and see a people of honesty, integrity, love, and peace, because our life, our death, our past, our future, and our present, are all the Lord's -- by Christ, for Christ, to the glory of Jesus Christ. It's not enough to stand out because you're strange or because you're talented; you should stand out because you are who you are and do what you do for Jesus.

Fifth, we have been called out of the darkness and into his marvelous light. Let us understand, every single human being since Adam, with the exception of Jesus, was, is, and will be born dead, in darkness, a slave to sin. Every single person since Adam, with the exception of Jesus, was, is, and will be born in need of Salvation -- every one needs Jesus. And we are born dead -- remember what Paul said, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:1-3).

But God has called us -- His people -- out of that darkness, through Jesus Christ, into His Glorious Light. Paul wrote, "be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 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, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:9b-14).

God, through Jesus, forgave our sins, raised us from the dead, gave us His inheritance, and is strengthening us in holiness!

So, sixth, we are God's people. What can that mean to us knowing all these things, but that we are thankful and lead lives of thankfulness? Everything we have and everything we are is from God, a gift, and the only appropriate response is to be thankful, and to treat others as we have been treated, first and foremost, desiring that they hear and know and believe this Gospel of Jesus Christ Alone. Is that your desire? Are you thankful? Are you thankful enough to want others to know this Jesus and become His people as well? Are you thankful enough to live in a way that reflects His Glory -- in a way that seeks His Glory first?

Peter reminds us again, seventh, that we have received mercy. We deserved justice, but God gave us mercy. Mercy is a gift. God owed us nothing but wrath, and He gave us mercy. His Son stood in our place, that we might stand with Him before His Father.

We have been freed from hell and slavery to sin. We have been made the people of God, receiving mercy and all good gifts. We are priests, a nation, holy. We are His. And out of His great generosity, He has given us all of this and more --

Why? That we might widely report His Excellencies.

Peter tells us that at least one reason God has done all of this for us is so we will tell others about what He has done. God wants us to praise Him and glorify Him before others. He wants us to let others know that our life and future is in Jesus, by Jesus, and for Jesus. He wants us to give all glory to Him in all things at all times.

We live in an age and a country where the average person is sure that he deserves better than this. Are you ready and willing and able to let him know that we certainly don't deserve this -- this is not justice -- this is mercy? Are you ready, willing, and able to explain that our deliverance to a better life than this is only through our Glorious Savior, Jesus?

This week, when you meet up with your friends and acquaintances, and they tell you that this is wrong and that is wrong, let them know what is right with you. Let them know that you always have a reason to give thanks -- that you serve a God Who is always worthy of being Glorified. Invite them to come to worship with you next week. Let them know that we are not perfect and we didn’t save ourselves, but our Jesus is Perfect, and He Alone is our Salvation. He is the One Who makes us who we are. Jesus gives us Christians our identity. Tell them to come -- not for you, not for the people, not for the building, not for the choir, or the preaching -- tell them to come to meet Jesus.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and Savior, we thank You for Peter's letters, for the knowledge that, even on the run and at the risk of their lives, Christians stood for You and confessed You, because You Alone are Salvation and worthy of glory. Let us understand that our identity is to be found in You, and draw others into Your sanctuary because You are Glorious and Worthy. And may our joy be full in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Monday, July 09, 2007

"The Chosen Cornerstone" Sermon: I Peter 2:4-8

"The Chosen Cornerstone"
[I Peter 2:4-8]
July 8, 2007 Second Reformed Church

If you are a Christian, if you have believed in Jesus Alone for your salvation, you are a part of the Church. What does that mean?

We come to the Lord this morning because we have tasted Him and known that He is Good. This Man, Jesus, is the One God, the Only Savior, our Hope in the days of trial and in the days of peace. This Man, Jesus, was sent from God, but rejected by men, still He is the Man that God chose and sent -- He is precious to our God.

John put it this way: "[Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him" (John 1:10-11). Yet, at His Baptism, we remember that the heavens opened and a dove descended upon Him, and a voice cried out, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

The Holy Trinity chose the Son to Incarnate as the Person of Jesus, to live, suffer, and die, and rise again, that we might taste of Him -- that we might receive Him and believe and glorify Him. Jesus' Work on earth pleased His Father, and we are the fruit of His Work -- His people, the Church.

Peter tells us that Jesus is a Living Stone. Unlike the stones on the ground or the stones of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus is a Living Stone. When Jesus asked Peter Who Peter and the apostles believed He is, Peter answered, "'You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.' And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:16-18).

When Jesus said He would build His church "upon this rock,"” He was indicating Peter's confession that Jesus is Divine -- He is God. Jesus is the Living Stone on which the Church is built. Jesus is the Cornerstone, the Chief Stone, the Foundation, the Stone on which the rest of the Church rests and has its support.

Peter explains that all true believers are also living stones -- we are the stones which are laid upon the Cornerstone and built up into the Church. We are placed, one upon another, one next to another, across time and space, to build the One Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus is our Foundation, the Holy Spirit is the mortar Who joins us together, to the glory of the Father.

Our stability, our security, our longevity is based on the Stone, Jesus, Who is the First Placed. Since He is God, our Victorious Salvation, we have comfort and security in Him, in knowing that the Church does not stand or fall by us and our feeble efforts, but it is Jesus Who bears us up. We exist and we are sustained by Jesus and for Jesus. And He is making us into a spiritual house -- Jesus is maturing us, perfecting us, making us fit stones for the house of God. Why? To serve as a holy priesthood and to offer up spiritual sacrifices.

Through Jesus Christ, we are being made a holy priesthood. What does that mean? It means that we are made holy through Jesus, and we can now approach the Father, and even enter into the throne room of God with boldness. We can come before our God and Father and call upon Him and rely on Him knowing that He is our Father and He loves us.

What comfort is this? That we have been made right with God the Father through the Son, so He is forever receiving us as His own, loving us, and keeping us, and, as we already heard, the gates of hell cannot prevail against us. We are safe in our Father.

Our response to this ought to be that we offer up spiritual sacrifices, we bear fruit, as Paul says. We do not offer up the blood of animals anymore, because the Blood of God's Son has been offered up and it eternally satisfies for those who believe -- throughout time and space. Jesus' Blood has covered and redeemed and ransomed every one that will ever come to belief. Every sin that each believer ever commits has already been paid for. So it is not a sacrifice of blood, or a sacrifice of merit, that we offer up, but a sacrifice of thanks. We offer up sacrifices that reflect what has occurred to us spiritually.

We offer up our whole being -- heart, soul, mind, and strength -- in love and dedication to God, that we would keep our whole selves well and dedicated in all things to God. Part of our sacrifice of thanksgiving and love is to care for our selves and to do those things which are pleasing and bring glory to God. We do not do those things which corrupt ourselves and take away from the glory of God.

We offer up our abilities to the service of God. We offer up our blessings to the service of God. We offer up our mercy. God has given us more than we need so we might offer back part of everything that He has given to us, in every area of life,. We offer up our bodies to purity, we offer up our thoughts to those things that are good, we offer up our abilities for God's use -- helping around the property, leading the prayer of confession, providing for coffee hour, praying for each other and for those who have not believed on Jesus, and other ways.

But what surety do we have that these things are true? How can we be sure that Jesus is our Sure Foundation? Just as we have quoted the words of Peter, Peter quotes the words of Isaiah, "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone chosen [and] precious, and whoever believes on him will not be put to shame" (Isaiah 28:16). Just as we have quoted Peter and said, "just as it is written," so Peter quotes Isaiah saying, "just as it is written," and that would mean nothing, if these were merely human authors and merely human books. But this is the Word of God, without error and without contradiction. It can be trusted in its entirety, and its authority is that of the Almighty God Who created everything that is.

And this same God who prophesied of the coming of Jesus through the prophet Isaiah and spoke of the prophecy's fulfillment through the apostle Peter, in which He makes this promise to us, "whoever believes on him will not be put to shame." What is He saying? Does God mean that we will never suffer, that we will never be embarrassed? Of course not. What God is promising is that He will preserve us; since our salvation is entirely based and sustained on Jesus, Who is God Himself, noone who truly believes in Jesus Alone for salvation can possibly be lost.

Can we sin? Yes. Can we fall away for a time? Yes. Can we be wrong on this issue or that? Yes. But can we remove ourselves from the Church once we have been sealed in? No. Can we remove our branch from the vine once we have been grafted in? No. Can we pry God's Hand open and leave Him? No. We have neither the ability to save ourselves, nor to frustrate God’s Salvation. If Jesus has saved you, you are saved for eternity

But there are some who will always reject Him. There are some who will never receive Jesus. There are some who will always find Jesus an offense. There are some of whom the prophet speaks: "'The stone that the builders rejected, this has become the chief cornerstone'" and "'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.'" They stumble [because] they disobey the word, as they were destined." These will not have Him for their Cornerstone and Foundation. They desire to stand on their own. They believe they can earn enough merit to stand before the Holy and Awesome God and withstand His Fire. They stumble and fall, and they shall never rise. And this was God's Plan -- they fulfill the destiny God set before them.

And we read this and wonder if it is fair? And brothers and sisters, it is not fair. The Gospel is not fair. Salvation in Jesus Alone is not fair. If God were fair, not one of us would ever receive Jesus. If God were fair, God would allow us to reap the Hell of our sins that we deserve. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

"What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory -- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, '"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not my beloved I will call 'beloved.' And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called sons of the living God" (Romans 9:22-26).

If you believe in Jesus Alone for Your Salvation, Jesus is your Cornerstone, your Foundation, just as He is of the whole Church. Jesus Alone is my Salvation, He Alone is my Cornerstone and Foundation. My Salvation is not based on my works at all -- I am saved by the Mercy of Jesus Alone, by the Grace of Jesus Alone, through the gift of faith alone, in accordance with the Holy Bible Alone, and to the Glory of God Alone. Can you say the same?

If you can, then we are the Church. And we are eternally secure and safe in Jesus.

So, let us live out this truth by worshiping our Chosen Cornerstone, Jesus, alone. Let us tell others that He Alone is Salvation. Let us live lives of holiness, giving of ourselves -- everything we have and are -- just as Jesus gave His Whole Self that we might be saved, and may it all be to the glory of God.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we have doubted that Jesus is strong enough to support and save us, much less the whole Church. Forgive us for doubting You. Stir up fresh fires of the Holy Spirit within us, building our trust in You and our whole-hearted reliance on You for all things, both as individuals and as the Church. Let us understand that we are Your Church, and You will accomplish Your Will through us, and Your Will will not be frustrated. Increase our love of holiness and cause us to live lives of love, generosity, compassion, and Christ-reliance. For we only stand by You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

July Sermons

Oops, I forgot this post -- D.V., I will preach:

7/1/07 Communion I Peter 2:1-3 "Taste the Lord"
7/8/07 I Peter 2:4-8 "The Chosen Cornerstone"
7/15/07 I Peter 2:9-10 "Who Are You?"
7/22/07 I Peter 2:11-17 "That God Might Be Glorified"
7/29/07 I Peter 2:18-25 "Endure Injustice in Trust"

Puritan Wisdom

As the Sabbath draws nigh, some thoughts on I Peter 2:18-19 --

"Learn we then not to listen to nor believe all we hear; even Elijah will be accused for a troubler of Israel, and the yong Prophet called a mad fellow, and that Micaiah never prophesied good, and that Jeremiah raves, and its not meet that he should live, Paul a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition, and now adays, the true servants of God, good Christians, called of some Hereticks, of others Puritans, Factious, Proud, Singular, Shismatics, worse than Papists, &c. And may they not be good servants of God for all this? You shall have Elimas's ready to buz in yong Gentlemens and ignorant persons ears, that begin to set on religion, O these Puritans are the vilest persons in the world, even the name of Hugenot in France was not enough to help one on to his death! But such take heed, believe not all, its malice speaks: So take heed we believe not all we hear of particular Ministers, and Christians, some slandred one way, some another: Is this a new trick, or rather is it not the old course of Satan to raise such things to hinder men, if he could, from profiting by their Ministers, or set men off their profession of Religion? Its more to be wondred that he raises not up ten to one; therefore never condemn them in your hearts, till you have tryed them: Do them that equity, ere you believe it, ere you report it, ask and expect, if they have so carried themselves as they have deserved to be wel thought of before: Is it not therefore a grievous thing, that even such profess the same truth, and that have also good things in them, having an ill report of their Neighbor Christian, shall be too ready to believe it, and report it to another; but I hope, faith be, it is not true, and so he tells it to another, and so it encreaseth like a Snow-ball, who should rather have stopt it, when he heard it first, and have used means to have come to the truth."

-- John Rogers, 131.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

Answering the question "What is sin?" with I Peter 1:18-19 --

"What is this but to make light account of Christs blood? A treading under foot? An accounting of it an unholy thing? A despising of the Spirit of grace? Yes, if even Gods Children did so weigh this unspeakable as they should be the more afraid to offend than there are: This also should awaken those that know no part in their Reception, that they have the greatest matter in the world to seek. Such should never be quiet, till they find themselves discharged. So without this, there's no such thing but eternal destruction, they shall have to bear their own burthen."

– John Rogers, 128.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"Taste the Lord" Sermon: I Peter 2:1-3

"Taste the Lord"
[I Peter 2:1-3]
July 1, 2007 Second Reformed Church

"Therefore."

I was a member of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship while I was in college, and one of the things that has always stuck with me, that was said during one of our Bible studies, was "When you encounter a 'therefore' in the text, ask 'what is the therefore there for?'"

Peter begins the second chapter of his letter saying "therefore" -- since, because, what?

Therefore, since we have heard the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Alone.

Therefore, since we have been ransomed by the Precious Blood of Jesus.

Therefore, since we see that love is an outgrowth of holiness.

Therefore, since our souls are purified by obedience to the truth.

Therefore, since our hearts are purified by our birth of imperishable seed.

Therefore, we read in this morning’s Scripture, live differently.
Since all of these things are true of a Christian, therefore, we ought to find at least six things about us that are different from the common person on the street.

First, Peter says that we are to put aside hatefulness or malice. We ought not to act sadistically. We ought not to enjoy others' suffering. We ought not to desire others to suffer.

When Hussein's right hand man was killed in a bombing some months ago, I read an article about how a Christian ought to respond to this man's death. The hateful or malicious person would delight in his death, he would rejoice and hope that he died slowly in agony.

Peter -- and the author of this article -- says that we cannot be like that. Peter first said this to Christians who were on the run, being hunted by Nero, and the implication is that they, as Christians, ought not to desire ill to befall Nero. Ought they have desired him to stop, to repent, to believe in Christ? Yes. They ought to have virtuous thoughts towards him, and not ill. A Christian desires God’s Good for all.

Second, Peter says that we are to put aside deceit. We are to deal honestly with all people. We are to do everything we can to present the facts of the matter, in conversation, in business, etc. We ought not distort the facts to our gain or to others' loss.

There is mention several times in the Scripture of unjust weights and measures. We are not to take advantage of others, but provide our the best and truest work. We ought not to cheat on our taxes, at work, etc.

I was discussing taxes with a group of ministers, and we agreed that the tax code for ministers is unjust. And then, one by one, they admitted that they cheat on their taxes to balance the injustice. We are called to submit to the authorities over us and be honest with them, even when they abuse their power. We may not lie, but we are to be known for our truthfulness.

Third, a more specific issue of truth and falsehood, Peter says we are not to be hypocrites. Instead, we are to stand for the truth, no matter what the cost is to us.

It would have been easy for Christians, confronted by Nero's men to pretend not to be Christians to save their skin. But Peter tells them and he tells us, no, we must boldly stand for the truth, and especially the Truth of Salvation in Jesus Christ Alone. We cannot be witnesses to the Truth, if we are known to be hypocrites.

Fourth, Peter says we are to put away envy.

There is no place in the Christian life for looking at others and believing that we are more deserving and should have what they have. Again, if one is on the run, being hunted like an animal, it would be easy to say, "God, I am the Christian here, and I am living like an animal, I deserve to have the nice house and family that the pagans have."

You and I do not deserve such things; we're told that we deserve God's Wrath. Americans like to talk about all the rights we have, but what rights do we have before the Living God? What fools are we to come into His Presence and claim that God ought give to us what He gave to another, because we deserve it?

No, we are to be satisfied in God's Provision of our needs. Paul wrote, "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:12-13).

In other words, we ought to be a people who trust God for our needs, no matter what state we are in, because God is trustworthy.

Fifth, we are to put away bearing false witness and slander. We ought not to give each other up, even to save our lives. We ought not to shift blame to others. We ought not to make others look worse than they are. We ought not outright lie about another person.

Instead, we are to love. And, as we have seen before, that means that we are to do everything we can to make each others' lives better, especially in the things of God. We are to build each other up, swallow our pride, and seek others' benefit.

And sixth, we are to be a people who desire the Word of God, rather than neglect it. And Peter says that we ought to desire the pure milk of the Word of God, by that, he means that we ought, first, desire to know the basic, foundation truths of the faith, and from there, we can build.

So, this actually has two parts: we ought to desire God's Word. We ought to have a passion for it. Does it ever occur to you during the day, "I want to spend some time reading my Bible." If you're a Christian, it should, there should -- be an ever growing desire to read the Bible and understand it. Do we desire God's Word?

And then, we ought to understand the basic, foundational things first, so we can build and understand more from there. You see, if we don't have the foundation set, the things we add on to it will eventually fall apart and come crashing down. For example, if we don't believe that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden as our representative and condemned every human being thenceforth, except for Jesus, to be born inclined towards sin and fit for eternity in Hell, then the Incarnation of Jesus, His Life and Death and Resurrection, are meaningless.

Peter says that these things will be the case for you if you have tasted that the Lord is good. Peter is quoting Psalm 34:

"I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us extol his name together

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

"Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

"The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction shall slay the wicked, and those who hate righteousness will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned" (Psalm 34).

Let us pray:
Almighty God, as You have saved us, we have tasted of You and seen that You are good. Cause us to live lives of virtue, truth, honesty, love, trust, and satisfaction. Make us a peculiar people for Your Glory. As we receive the bread and the cup this morning, we ask that Your Grace would be given to us that we might continue to become like Your Son. And may the world come to know You through our strange witness. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.