Second Reformed Church

Friday, August 31, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 3:8-9 --

"For Unity in Religion, though Errors be many, yet there's but one Truth, which every one must know, believe, and walk in Salvation: Other foundation besides Christ there's none; all that believe in him shall be saved, as they that miss of him, building beside the foundation, fall to the ground, shall be ashamed and confounded; We were all created in the Truth, but since the fall become prone to error; Christ is the Truth, the Way, and the Life, and this we are to buy; that is contained in the Scriptures, for which we are to teach: Some foolishly imagine, that every one shall be saved by his own devotion, but its life eternal to know God, and Christ Jesus whom he hath sent."

-- John Rogers 415-416.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Reminder

The Membership Class and "The Blazing Center" will NOT meet this Saturday; D.V., we will resume on September 8th at 3:30 PM.

We do intend to have our adult Sunday School this Sunday at 9 AM.

See you then!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

September Sermons

D.V., I will preach:

9/2/07 Communion I Peter 3:18-22 "United in the Passion"
9/9/07 I Peter 4:1-6 "Mortification & Vivification"
9/16/07 I Peter 4:7-11 "The End is Near"
9/23/07 I Peter 4:12-19 "Blessed Insults"
9/30/07 I Peter 5:1-5 "A Word to Ministers"

Friday, August 17, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 2:25 --

"Every Natural man is like a beast, who is therefore in Scripture to several sorts of beasts, for one ill quality or another; as to Dogs, for their malicious barking and biting at them they live with; to Wolves, for their greedy devouring of the poor; to Lyons, for their cruel tyranny; to fat fat Bulls, for their proud abuse of their prosperity; to Hogs, for their rude and irreverent base esteeming of Spiritual things, as the Word and Sacraments, and Gods Ministers; to Foxes (as Herod)for their craft; so to Horses and Mules for their ignorance and unruliness; yes, sometimes the beasts are preferred before them to shame them, and sometimes they are sent to school to them: nay, all Gods Creatures are more serviceable then Man, they obey God in their kind, and abide in their first estate; the Sun, Moon and Stars obey God in their courses, the huge Sea rageth, and is calm at his bidding; if he commanded it to stand as a wall, it doth so, to let Israel go through, and will return again upon the same warrant and drown Pharaoh; if God bid the Whale to swallow Jonah, and cast him up again, it obeys him in both; if he forbid the Lyons to touch Daniel, they stir not, though very hungry, as the fire did not burn the three Children, &c. But man, that should be best of all, and for whom all were made, as he for God, yet walk stubbornly and rebelliously, omitting what's required of him, and doing what's again and again prohibited: therefore God calls all Creatures to witness again man; yea, they are many times to set themselves against us (as when the heavens become as brass, and the earth as iron, &c.) and to groan because of us, as being weary of doing any further service to such as we are."

-- John Rogers, 378.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 2:7-8 --

"The duty of Ministers is to divide the Word aright, and give every man his Pardon, not speaking confusedly to all alike. The Word is a fan, that will make two heaps where is found but one, laying the chaff and corn each by itself: It sets down certain notes and marks to know one from another, the Regenerate or Believers, from the unregenerate, and unbelievers these must be observed by the Minister, that every man may see his face as in a glass, and know himself in what state he stands, that none may be deceived, but such as willingly deceive themselves; that they be Believers may know it, and walk chearfully, and give glory to God by a life answerable; and they that be contrary may know it, to humble them, or leave them without excuse: Thus did John the Baptist, our Savior, and his Apostles: And thus set down in the Word, and preached by Gods faithful Ministers, is a certain foregoer of their righteous Sentence, which Christ himself shall give at that last day to the good and bad. Those that now the Ministers of God according to the Word pronounce to be Believers and penitent persons, they shall be found such, and have the reward of Believers on the right hand: Those on the contrary, that they shall thus mark out for unbelievers, shall then by found such, and have their reward accordingly; for that which is loosed or bound on Earth, is loosed or bound in Heaven."

-- John Rogers, 224.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 2:4-5 --

"[This] Condemns the Blasphemous Sacrifice of the Mass, where (as the Papists says) Christ is by the Priest offered daily on the Altar a propitiatory Sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead: This is to overthrow Christs Cross.

"But though there be and end of all legal Sacrifices and Propitiatory, yet there are Evangelical and Gratulatory; and though those Priests that offered blood and beasts be at an end, yet are there Priests still remaining in the Church of God, which the Apostle mentions, lest the Jews should think the former times better than these; thereupon objecting, Have we no Sacrifices now to offer to God? he answereth. We have, though not of the same kinde: We have no Propitiatory Sacrifices (the date of them being out, and which yet were not taken away by men, but by him who ordained them but till this time, who yet is not inconstant in changing them, as having done away with sin through the Sacrifice of his Son, of whom the others were onely the types and shadows) but Sacrifices of thanksgiving we have, and that for the mercy of God in Christ, and all other blessings flowing from thence: This is no small honor and privilege. It was an hope under the Law to be Priests, few were admitted to the Office, they represented Christ, they went near and offered Sacrifice, the people standing afar off; so is it now to be a Spiritual Priest, so to have the honor to come near to God with comfort and boldness."

-- John Rogers, 206-207.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 2:1-3 --

"That ye may grow thereby.] The end of our desiring after the Word, of our Hearing, Reading, Meditating, Conferring thereof, is not that we might get some knowledge to tip our tongues with, and make ourselves the better thought of in some companies, as some do, or that we may be able to discourse, haply cavail against it, but that it may work effectually in our hearts, to humble us, to work in us true Faith and Repentance, and being wrought, may be increased and set forward more and more, and hereat we should aim at all times; when we read a Chapter, or hear a Sermon, we must come with this minde, that we may be the better thereby: For the Word is ordained and is apt and able not onely to convert, and beget us, but also to nourish us, that we may grow up from strength to strength."

-- John Rodgers, 191.

Mark Your Calendars

While the pastor is on vacation, our Saturday study and Sunday School will not meet. D.V., Sunday School will resume on Sunday, September 2nd at 9 AM -- we are in I Samuel, chapter 16. Elders, plan to meet with potential new members at 10 AM on Sunday, September 2nd. Our viewing and discussion of "The Blazing Center" will continue on Saturday, September 8th at 3:30 PM.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Do Good" Sermon: I Peter 3:8-17

"Do Good"
[I Peter 3:8-17]
August 12, 2007 Second Reformed Church

For the past two weeks, we have looked at Peter's explanation of authority -- of how every human being has authority over them, and how every human being is required by God to submit to the authority that is over them. We remember what Paul wrote, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment" (Romans 13:1-2). And we saw that there is only one exception to this: we are not to obey those in authority over us if they require us to do something that is against the clear Word of God.

Peter explained this to the first century Christians, because they were on the run: Nero and his armies were hunting them down, and he was going to have them put to death when they were captured, unless they renounced Jesus. So, Peter tells these Christians, and us, to obey the laws of the government and all those in authority over us, both physically and spiritually, understanding that Christ is the highest authority, and all must answer to and obey Him.

Peter explained to the Christians who were on the run from Nero that they were right to run from him and his sinful desire to murder them. They were also right to refuse to renounce Jesus -- they were right to suffer and even be put to death for doing what is right, for proclaiming that there is no salvation except through Jesus Christ Alone.

In this morning's Scripture, Peter goes through a number of correlating things that Christians should be and do. Since Jesus is the highest authority, and all authority comes from Him, and we answer to Him first and foremost, then these things ought also be true of us, as Christians.

We ought to be of one mind. And understand, as we have seen elsewhere, that does not mean that we should be clones or that we should forget about those things that are different about us. Peter is saying that we ought to be united in the essentials of the faith. We must be one in mind about Who Jesus is and what He has done and how one may be saved from the Wrath of God. There are many, many things which, though they may be important, they are not essential. There are issues which are related to salvation and there are issues which are not. For example: shall we use guitars in worship? That is not an issue which affects our salvation. Some may believe it is good to use guitars, some may believe it is not. Each ought to know why they believe one way or another, but having a guitar in worship or not having a guitar in worship is not a salvific issue.

Other things are salvific issues -- these things we are to be of one mind about -- these things are necessary for salvation. For example: The doctrine that states that Jesus is 100% human and 100% God at the same time is a necessary, salvific doctrine. All Christians must believe that, we must be united on that. Belief in that teaching affects our salvation.

Now, if we are united -- of one mind -- in all those doctrines -- teachings -- that do matter for salvation, and we are willing to allow Christians to have reasoned differences of opinion on non-salvific issues -- on things that don't affect our salvation, then we ought to all be able to work together in the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Christians who are Reformed and Baptist and Methodist and Congregational and Pentecostal ought all be able to and indeed work together to proclaim salvation in Jesus Alone. While we have differences -- important differences, and reasons for those differences -- we can and ought to work together in proclaiming the Gospel and doing those good works that flow from the Gospel.

Are we right in believing that a Presbyterian-style government is the most biblical? Yes, we believe we are, but this is not an issue that affects our salvation. Therefore, are we right to join together with the Congregational Church in Irvington, which has a Congregational-style government, and feed the poor together in Jesus’ Name? Yes, we are.

In fact, Peter says that all Christians of every stripe are to be sympathetic, brotherly loving, tenderhearted, and humble. All Christians, no matter what denomination we are a part of -- and denominations are good -- but, no matter what denomination we are part of -- we ought to care for each other, we ought to encourage the other communities of faith -- other Christians -- to be of one mind with us in the essentials of the faith, to work together for the good of all and the proclamation of the Gospel, to refrain from doing those things which put a bad light on Jesus.

Peter says we are not to repay evil with evil or reviling with reviling. We are not to act like the world; we are not to desire our "piece of flesh." We are not to seek vengeance, but we are to have a different mind and a different way of life. Paul wrote, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).

How do we accomplish this? How do we keep from evil? How do we transform our minds? Let us begin by regularly attending worship and participating in the life of the church. Let us receive the sacraments. Let us listen to the Word of God and obey Him in all things. Let us pray that we would learn to love each other more, that our faith would be strengthened and deepened. Let us pray for each other -- that we would learn what is good and true and live it out. Let us pray for good for each other. Let us pray that we would seek after holiness and become holy in fact. Let us remember what Christ did to save us. Let us remember our sin and God’s Wrath against it. All these things will help us to keep from evil. If we spend our time and effort on these things, we may well keep from evil.

Positively, Peter says that we are to bless. We are to bless each other and all people. Jesus said, "You have heard it said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You must therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).

Understand, it is good to bless those we love, to do good for those we love, but it is also our duty and to our advantage to bless those who we don't love, even those who persecute us, even those who seek to kill us. If we do what is good and right, even praying for those who hate us, how will we be seen? Crazy? Perhaps. But when people claim all kinds of false and evil things about us, they won't be believed, and perhaps, even those who hate us will come to believe in Christ.

Peter quotes from Psalm 34 to tell us that if we desire to live a good life, a life that we will love, we will learn to restrain our tongues from evil, we will turn away from all evil. If we want to live a good life, a life that we love, we will not worry about ourselves and making sure that everyone knows that so-and-so wronged us. We will spend our energy seeking the good of others, seeking to direct others to good -- what might happen, if, instead of complaining about people who annoy us, instead of seeking ways to annoy them back, what if we spent time trying to lovingly support those who annoy us, tenderly showing them that they are appreciated, guiding them in better, more congenial ways of living?

Now, let's be honest: restraining evil and doing good is not always easy. Seeking good for others and peace for all is not easy. Peter says that we ought to run after peace with others. Understand the connection Peter is making -- he is writing to people who are running for their very lives -- if they slow down or give up, they will be put to death. Peter says that they -- and we -- ought to pursue good and peace with the same effort, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, with no end in sight. Why? If it's simply to be a moral person, then let's throw in the towel and get what we can out of this life. Let's eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. But, if we seek to do good, because we know God and His Only Salvation, Jesus -- if our efforts are directed in thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us and in a desire now to live for Him in all things and in all ways. Then, it's worthwhile; we can live like that.

Peter tells us to remember that God is watching us; God is seeing whether we are following after the righteousness that has been credited to us in Christ. He is watching to see if we are striving to live the holy life that we have been called to. Understand, our salvation is not based on our works, but we are called to good works once we have been saved by Jesus Alone.

Let us also understand that we are not alone: God hears our prayers; Christ is interceding for us before the Father, and God the Holy Spirit lives in us to teach and guide us. We cannot be what God has called us to be, but we can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us.

And, again, let us leave vengeance to God. God will judge in the end. We may not all receive our due on earth, but God is Just and His Justice will be satisfied in the Kingdom. There will be a judgment, and we will all be judged. The only thing that will make any difference on that day is if we have received Jesus Alone as our Savior. If we have, we will survive the judgment and enter into Glory. If we do not, we will be cast with the devil and his angels into the lake of fire.

So, Peter tells us not to be afraid suffering for Christ. If we suffer for Christ and His Righteousness, even if we are put to death -- even if the Roman guard captures us and tortures us and makes us into a torch in Nero's gardens -- if we truly suffer for Christ, we shall be blessed in the end. As Jesus said, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). In other words, the only person anyone should be afraid of is God, and if we have received Christ, we have nothing and no one to fear -- no matter what happens to us.

Instead, Peter tells us that we should "consecrate the Lord Christ in our hearts" -- we ought to hallow Christ; we ought to "make Him holy." Again, let us understand, that we do not make God holy. He does not become more or less holy by what we do or do not do. What is being said here, as in the Lord's Prayer, is that we are to be like mirrors and reflect God’s Holiness back on Him. Practically, that is done in acknowledging and trusting everything that He has said. If we believe that everything He has said is true and if we live it out, then we are consecrating or "hallowing" Him.

Along with that, Peter says that we ought always to have a reason for the hope that is in us. What hope is that? Our hope -- the sure truth that we believe in, which has not been fully realized in history -- that's what "hope" means -- our hope is that Jesus has saved us from sin and death and Hell and the Wrath of God, and we shall enter into His Glory on that final day. Through Jesus Christ and His Work, we have been rescued from our doom and made right with God and will spend eternity with Him. That's our hope; that's the truth that is breaking through right now.

It's not an arrogant hope, but a gentle and awe-filled hope, because it is nothing that we did. We were dead and enslaved to sin. Christ did all the work. Christ deserves all the glory. So, if we suffer, even to death, for His Sake, if that is God’s Will, that's O.K. We can do good for Christ and suffer, because what we know is coming is so much greater that anything we could possibly endure.

Remember who Peter was writing to: he was writing to Christians running for their lives, and he tells them to do good, to focus on Christ, to run hard towards Him, towards His Truth, in obedience to Him, calling on Him, clinging to Him, hoping in Him, being good people and witnesses to Him as they do so. And, if they suffer, and it is God's Will, if it is for God’s Sake, that's O.K.

Let us do the same: let us live lives of unity with our fellow Christians, working together for the good of all and to the glory of Christ. Let us restrain ourselves from evil and bless all people, seek everyone's good, running towards peace with all men with everything that we are. And let us proclaim Christ. Let us show Him to be our Holy God. Let us defend the hope we have in Him. And let us trust Him, knowing that no matter what happens to us, it happens according to the Will of God. So, let us do good.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, for You Alone, we have reason to do good to all, even our enemies. For You Alone, we have reason to accept each other's differences and strive together to make known the essentials of the faith. You are our Reason, our Hope, and our Future. Help us to trust You, knowing that You are our Loving Father and everything comes to us from Your Hand. And may You be glorified in us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Study!

Tomorrow, Saturday, we continue our "The Blazing Center" Study at 3:30 PM and our membership class at 4:30 PM. Please join us as we learn more about our Lord and each other.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Lord" Sermon: I Peter 3:1-7

"Lord"
[I Peter 3:1-7]
August 5, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Everyone has an authority over them; each one of us has someone in authority over us. The highest authority on the earth, even has an authority over him, our God, Jesus Christ. And we are called to submit to the lords who are over us -- our bosses at our jobs, our leaders in government, and, ultimately, our God.

Last week was saw Peter explain to these Christians on the run, that they still have to do what is good and right, even though they were running for their lives. They were not allowed to "do evil to settle the score." They were not allowed to break the law because they were being wrongly sought after, to be put to death. Peter explained that servants must still obey their masters, except in such things that go against the clear teaching of the Bible, and so all Christians must submit to those in authority over them.

In this morning's Scripture, Peter applies this principle to the relationship between husbands and wives, as he write, "Likewise, wives be subject to your husbands." And I know that this is one of those Scriptures that makes women purse their lips and say, "I submit to no man." This is one of those passages that some say we can skip -- that it doesn't reflect the modern understanding of relations between men and women. Yet, we must ask ourselves, if this is the Word of God, written down by humans, but the Word of God, without error, how can we say that God didn't understand men and women then?

Still, some will say, "But doesn't the Bible say that 'there is no male or female...in Christ'"? And it does, but what is the context that it is said in? Men and women are completely equal and the same -- in the fact that they are both born sinners, damned to hell, with the one and only hope of Salvation in Jesus Alone, and an equal inheritance with Christ. The Bible does not say that there is absolutely no difference between men and women. I hope we have noticed that there is a physical difference between men and women -- a wonderful and good difference. Notice for example, only women have ever given birth. No man has ever given birth. Does that mean that women are superior to men, or that men are inferior to women? No, it simply means they are different. Men and women have different functions in our sex and, as Peter explains, in our calls.

Peter tells us that the husband is to be the head of the home, especially in spiritual matters. The buck is to stop with the husband -- he is ultimately responsible for the household -- and especially with the spiritual instruction and guidance of the household. And we have some who will object, "But my husband is a spiritual moron; he doesn't understand half of what I understand in the Bible." Or, "But my husband isn't even a Christian, how can he be the spiritual head of the home?" And, "So, you're saying I can never disagree with my husband; I can never explain a better way of doing something to him?"

It's true, there are wives who are far more biblically astute than their husbands. And it is true that Christian women find themselves married to non-Christians, though such a thing is certainly not optimal. And Peter answers both of these objects by saying, "Look, you do what is right and good, conduct yourselves in a way that is honoring to your husband and Christ, and if God is willing, your husband may mature. Or, your husband may become a Christian through observing your example."

It is also true that husbands and wives disagree on things and one may have a better understanding or way of doing something -- and there is nothing wrong with that. Husbands and wives ought to work together and help each other and learn from each other. There is nothing wrong with respectfully discussing or disagreeing. However, the biblical principle is that, if, in the end, the husband is insistent on having his way in something that does not contradict the clear teaching of the Scripture, the wife should submit and give the husband the respect and responsibility of his decision.

Then, Peter says that women ought not have their appearance as their primary concern -- and this is true for men, as well. Peter says that women ought to be more than braided hair, gold jewelry, and the latest clothes. Now, there is nothing wrong, in itself, in having a hair style, in wearing jewelry, or in wearing contemporary clothes. But, if we are only as deep as our makeup, there is nothing much to commend us to each other, much less God.

Peter tells us that God is most concerned with the dressing of our souls. We ought to spend at least as much time and effort reading the Scripture and becoming more Christ-like as we do getting dressed, putting on make-up, etc. Think about it: how much time do you take getting ready in the morning? How much time do you spend in the bathroom, in front of the mirror, asking if such and such looks good? Do you spend at least that much time with God and in His Word? If we do not, we are not submitting to our husband, Christ. We are a bride who is more obsessed with ourselves than our Groom!

There is a current advertisement for tuxedos that has the tag line, "While everybody else is looking at her, she will be looking at you." When I heard that, I thought that describes what Peter is saying in this passage: while the world is looking at the Church, at us, Christians, seeing what we do, we ought to be fixed on Christ Are we? I fear, much of the Church isn't looking at Christ as all, but we are holding a mirror in front of ourselves as we walk down the aisle, and we are fawning over ourselves, telling ourselves how wonderful we look -- we have forgotten the Groom that waits at the altar! We have forgotten our First Love; we have dressed for ourselves.

Peter says that we ought not be merely superficial, but we ought to put Christ and the growth of holiness in our soul first. Understand, that doesn't mean we should neglect ourselves and how we look -- the Church is to be beautiful. It is good for a wife to look beautiful and a husband to look handsome, but our greatest and chief beauty is in the decorating of our souls with holy living and service to Jesus.

The holy women of old, like Sarah, who was beautiful physically, and wore jewelry, as well, made themselves beautiful by hoping in God, submitting themselves to the authority and leadership of God and husband, as Sarah submitted to Abraham.

And some will object, "Abraham wasn't always such a great husband and leader." And you would be correct. Husbands are sinners; husbands fail their wives. And wives are sinners; wives fail their husbands. God told Abraham that Sarah would become pregnant, and all the nations would be blessed through him. But Sarah was barren, and she wouldn't wait, and she told Abraham to have a child with Hagar, and Abraham submitted to Sarah and not God, and the result was the birth of Ishmael. And the Arabs and the Jews have fought each other for 4,500 years.

If men submit to God, we are children of Abraham. If wives submit to their husbands, they are children of Sarah.

"So," someone asks, "if my husband is abusive, I should just submit and take it?"

Of course not. Being a spiritual and household leader does not give the husband the right to be a dictator, or to abuse his wife, or to treat her like a slave. Remember, the Bible says that men and women are equal -- but different. Men and women, husbands and wives, we are all equal in God's Eyes in both sin and Salvation, but there are differences between men and women. That is why most men need a women to become complete. That is why most women need a man to become complete. Men and women were created one for the other, to complete each other. We are two equal but different puzzle pieces that fit together into a whole.

"Husbands." Peter tells husbands that they are to understand their wives. They are not to run roughshod over their feelings and opinions as though they were worthless or day-laborers to be dismissed. Husbands are to respect and honor their wives, as Christ glories in the Church. The husband is to teach, support, protect, and encourage the wife in all that she is, just as Christ spurs on the Church.

Because, women are "the weaker vessel." And that does not mean that women are less than men. It does not mean that women are inferior to their husbands. It means that husbands are responsible for the safety, security, and maturity of their wives. Men carry the responsibility of their wives and their households. Paul writes, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor" (I Timothy 2:13-14). Hear this: Adam received the greater guilt. Eve did not submit to Adam, and she was deceived into sinning. But Adam put aside his very call to be lord of his home, and rather than pulls Eve back from the fire, he consciously disobeyed God and followed after her in sin.

Thus, "wives, be subject to your husbands." And husbands, be subject to Christ. Wives, do not be merely superficial, but make you souls beautiful. Men, do likewise. Become daughters of Sarah and sons of Abraham. Husbands take the responsibility of your call in serving and leading and teaching and protecting your families.

And remember men and women, husbands and wives are co-heirs in the grace of life. We are equally heirs with Christ if we have believed in Him Alone for our salvation. If we are Christians, we will live in relationships that reflect our call to be husbands and wives, women and men. We will understand and live out our equality while glorying and supporting each other in our differences in sex and call.

And, if we do those things -- if men will be men and women will be women, our prayers will not be hindered. What is Peter saying? Peter is saying that sin hinders prayer, and it is a sin for a wife to try to be the husband or for the husband to try to be the wife. We are equal, but different, with different roles, that reflect the relationship between Christ and His Church.

So, we come this morning, men and women, before our Lord, at this table. We come before Him, the Church subjecting herself to Christ. And the world looks on and sees us submitting ourselves to Him and His Rule over this, His Household. Whom do you see? When we come to the table -- do you see me? Do you see those serving the elements? Do you look in the mirror at yourself? Or do you see Jesus Christ?

Let us pray:
Oh Lord, we come before You in humility, subjecting and submitting ourselves to You, because You are the Holy Lord Jesus. We come together, equally sinners, forgiven only by You, and we gather at this table to meet You. Give us Your Grace, that we each might mature in You, living out the call You have put on our lives, that You would been seen and glorified by all. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

In Memorium

Please keep the Petersen family in your prayers. Rev. F. Scott Petersen, pastor of Fairfield Reformed Church, blogger at Ars Theologica, a dear friend, and the man who presided at my ordination, was received into the glory of his God and Father yesterday, August 4, 2007. Service will be held at Fairfield Reformed Church, 360 Fairfield Rd., Fairfield, NJ 07004 on Tuesday the 7th at 11AM. In lieu of flowers, financial donations may be sent to the church for the family to help pay for Scott's medical bills.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Come and Study!

Today at 3:30 PM, D.V., we will begin our study of The Blazing Center: The Soul-Satisfying Supremacy of God in All Things -- a Rev. Dr. John Piper video series and discussion. And at 4:30 PM, D.V., we will continue our membership class. Come for one or both! See you there!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

August Sermons

D.V., I will preach:

8/5/07 Communion I Peter 3:1-7 "Lord"
8/12/07 I Peter 3:8-17 "Do Good"
8/19/07 Guest preacher: George Gutierrez
8/26/07 Guest preacher: Walter Howard

Join us at 10:30AM for worship!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 1:23 --

"What is it to be born again; Its to be made new creatures, to be cast in a new mold, to have the corrupt Image of Sin, which we have by Nature (and wherein we are all conceived and born) put off throughout, and the contrary good one, wherein we were at the first created, put on, to have the understanding enlightened with distinct knowledge of God, the heart bowed to the obedience of God, &c., new thoughts, desires, speeches, actions: In the new Creature all things must become new; Thus its done to all that were elect before the foundation of the world: They are changed up and down, from a good state by Creation, to a bad in Adam; from thence to a good one in Christ, by grace here in expectation of glory hereafter: For the wicked, they are changed from good to bad, and they remain the same (but still worse and worse) for ever; we should give God thanks that made us so good at first, be humbled to see our base and woful state now, and seeing there is help, never to be quiet till we recover our first condition."

– John Rogers, 159-160.

"Enduring Injustice in Trust" Sermon: I Peter 2:18-25

"Enduring Injustice in Trust"
[I Peter 2:18-25]
July 29, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Why should we do what is right?

Last week, we saw Peter explain to Christian running from Nero and his armies, that they ought to do what is right according to the Word of God, no matter what their situation is and no matter what the outcome may be. Why? Because, in then end, when Christians do what is morally good and right, according to the Word of God, God will be glorified through our acts and the responses of those who observe us.

We may do what is good and right for a variety of reasons, but our first and the ultimate reason for doing what is good and right is that God might be glorified. The Psalmist wrote, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!" (Psalm 115:1). The Word of God clearly tells us that everything that is, all that we are, everything we do, our motivation, and our life's purpose, is found in glorifying God.

Now, remember, the people Peter was writing to were under a death sentence for being Christians. They expected Jesus' Promise of suffering to come upon them. They didn't believe in the false health and wealth gospel that is so popular in the United States. They understood that the troops were coming, that Nero wanted them dead, and if serving Christ meant that they would be put to death for His Sake, then, to God be the glory.

This was not some sort of fatalism, remember, they were on the run. They did not want to be killed, Christians should not want to suffer or be put to death. However, we should want whatever brings the greatest glory to God. And, for some, that will mean suffering and death.

Peter goes on in this morning's Scripture to specifically address how Christians ought to live to the glory of God. He begins by addressing servants, and he has in mind both those who serve in their occupation and all Christians, since we all serve someone; we all have authority over us, even if we are self-employed.

Peter writes, "Servants, be subject to your master in all respectful fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the crooked" (my translation).

Peter says, first, we are right to submit to those in authority over us and do what is right, whether or not the people we work for are good people. We should do what is good and right, we ought to work to the best of our ability, no matter what those in authority over us are like. It ought not affect the kind of work we do if those in authority over us are good, honest people, or if they are evil, dishonest people. We should live and work as Paul wrote, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23-24).

We are to be a people who do what is good and right and submit to those in authority over us. Yet, we are ultimately to do what is good and right and submit to those in authority over us, because we are ultimately working for the Lord. We are representing Him in our work, in all that we do. When we are tempted to do what is less than good and right and submissive, we need to keep before us that we are showing the worth of Jesus in the way that we live and work. If you're willing to do less that your best, take short cuts that make your work less than it could be, what you're saying is, "Jesus is not worth my best."

And someone may object, "But isn't it glorifying to Christ if I do something to get back at my dishonest boss? Isn't it right for me to use whatever means necessary to get what I deserve from my cheating boss? He steals and cheats his customers, so aren't I right in stealing and cheating him?"

It is not for us to bring that sort of "justice" on those in authority over us; we are not to do wrong to get back at bad people. "Two wrongs don't make a right." We've heard that expression. It's likely that we have been "servants" to people we didn't think deserve us, more than to those we thought were wonderful, righteous people. How should we respond to those in authority over us who do wrong?

Well, we have seen that we should not do wrong to "make things even." We should not say, "he doesn't pay me what I'm worth, so I will take a longer lunch that I am allowed, I will take a stapler, or a box of paperclips, whatever." Christians are to live for the Lord and do all things for Him and for His Glory. We ought strive for holiness in all that we do, that Jesus might be known as glorious.

What if our superior wants us to do what is wrong or bad? We are never to do what is wrong, even if our job depends on it. We are representatives of Jesus. We ought politely, humbly explain that we must do what our God says is good and right to do. We cannot purposely shortchange customers. We cannot purposely pass off foreign coins in people's change. We can't charge an hour and a half for a half hour job. We must be honest. Even if it means our job, or our life. In some countries, people are put to death for confessing Jesus. These Christians Peter was writing to would have been put to death when they were found. Would you and I deny Christ if our option was deny Him and live, or hold fast to our confession and die?

What if our superior is murdering people, kidnaping people, or doing some other heinous act? In such severe cases, we ought to examine our consciences, and, if we are sure, then we should inform the proper authorities. But that is, Lord willing, a very rare case.

Peter continues saying that we, Christians, are to endure suffering in trust. "For this is a gracious thing, if being mindful of God one endures unjust suffering" (my translation).

"For what do you merit if you do wrong and endure being beaten for it? But if you do good and you endure suffering, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God" (my translation).

Peter says, if we do what is wrong and we are punished for it, well, we deserve it. Patiently suffering for a crime we did commit is not something to brag about, there is no merit in it. We ought to be ashamed of our crimes, our sins. We are not rewarded for suffering for our sins.

However, if we are punished for doing what is right, and we endure our punishment, it is a gracious act, it is an acceptable work, to God, a glory to Him. It has no bearing on our salvation if we suffer for doing good -- we do not merit salvation for unjust suffering. But we bring glory to our Savior if we endure suffering for doing what is good and right.

And someone may object, "You mean we should never defend ourselves? We should never say that what is being said of us is untrue?" No, we should offer a defense; we ought to show that we have done what is good and right and we have not done anything worthy of punishment. However, if the final judgment is against us, we ought to endure it in trust. If we are ultimately brought before the Supreme Court, and we defend ourselves, and we have done no wrong, but we are still found guilty, we ought to endure our suffering, trusting in God and His Justice. We are not called to lie and confess to a crime we didn't commit, but there may be times when we are forced to suffer for a crime we didn't commit. In those cases when we are wrongly accused and have lost our defense, we ought to endure suffering in trust, just as we endure suffering in trust when we suffer for doing what is good and right, according to the Word of God.

We are not to look for suffering, or desire suffering, nor are we to enjoy suffering when it comes. And I dare say, suffering, being wrongly accused, or even for the good, for the sake of Christ, is not appealing. Still, we ought to prepare ourselves for it, and understand that should the day come, we must stand for Christ against His accusers, and we must enduring suffering for Him in trust.

There are bills before our government that would make it a hate crime for a minister to say any sexual act is sinful. It is likely, even if these don't pass, that the day will come when preaching the clear Word of God will be a criminal offense. Those ministers who actually believe the Bible will have to chose on that day if they are willing to submit to Jesus and possibly suffer unjustly for the good, or if they will find an escape in denying parts of the Scripture. It is likely that the day will come when I will be confronted with the option of risking jail for preaching what God has said, and I pray, and I ask you to pray for me, and I will pray for you, that if the day comes, in this country, when Christians are hunted down and jailed -- killed -- that we will stand firm, confessing salvation in Jesus Alone and doing those things that are good and right, submitting to our God and Savior.

Peter says we ought to be like Christ in all things, trusting justice to God: "For to this you have been called, because Christ experienced it on your behalf, leaving you an example that you would follow in his steps, who committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth, who was reviled, but did not retaliate when he suffered, nor did he threaten, but delivered himself up to him who judges justly. Who himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, who heals you by his bleeding wounds" (my translation).

Isaiah puts it this way: "Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, like a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and their was no deceit in his mouth.

"Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring: he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted as righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him as portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53).

God has called us as Christians to do what is good and right at all times to the glory of God, no matter what the outcome is for us.

God has called us as Christians to submit to those in authority over us, to serve them as though we were serving the Lord, no matter whether those in authority are good or evil.

God has called us to be like Christ in all things, even in suffering unjustly. Are you and I willing to suffer injustice in trust that our God is faithful and is doing all things to His Glory and for the good of those who love Him?

"For you were led away like sheep, but now you have turned around to the Shepherd and Overseer of your being" (my translation).

Shall we submit to our Good Shepherd and do all that the Overseer of our being commands?

Let us pray: Good and Faithful God, we admit that we get angry when those in authority over us do what is wrong. We ask that our anger does not become an occasion for sin. Keep us from doing what is wrong in response to those in authority over us doing wrong. Keep us living and becoming more like You, so that when our hour comes, and we suffer injustice, we might suffer as You did, trusting our selves in all things to You and Your Justice. Be glorified in our lives. In Jesus' Name, Amen.