Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Celebrate the Reformation Tomorrow

This Wednesday, October 31st, buy a hardcover Reformation Study Bible (ESV) from Ligonier Ministries for only $15.17. (Click on the link at the side!)

To order, call 800-435-4343 or visit our web site.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, which addressed the abuses of the sale of indulgences and provided the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther is one of the more important figures in Western history, as his thought has impacted family life, politics, church-state relations, individual liberties, and a host of other societal issues. His powerful expositions of the Gospel remain one of his most important legacies. In an era when the Gospel had been eclipsed by a system of human merit, Martin Luther and the other reformers were able to remind the people of God that we are declared righteous in the sight of the Lord through faith alone in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

The widespread acceptance of watered-down doctrine and uncritical ecumenism in our day demonstrates how we cannot take biblical teaching for granted. Luther was willing to die if necessary for the biblical Gospel, but many today simply ignore the doctrine of justification through faith alone by grace alone because of Christ alone. This year, let us remember the work of our forefathers on Reformation day and strive, as they did, to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Join us in celebrating Reformation Day with a one-day special! On Wednesday, October 31st, buy a hardcover Reformation Study Bible (ESV) for only $15.17. Prefer a leather Bible? Purchase one for only $26.83 more.

To take advantage of this special offer, please call our resource consultants at 800-435-4343 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST or order online. Orders may only be placed on October 31st.

Saturday Study

D.V., we will continue our study based on Rev. Dr. John Piper's video series, "The Blazing Center" this Saturday at 3:30 PM. Come join us, even if you have not been able to make it thus far. This Saturday, we will be looking at how our suffering can be for our joy and to the Glory of God.

November Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

11/4/07 Communion/All Saints' Sunday Psalm 149 "Praise the Lord"
11/11/07 Stewardship Sunday Haggai 2:1-9 "Everybody Work"
11/18/07 Thanksgiving Sunday Psalm 100 "Reasons to Be Thankful"
11/25/07 Christ the King Sunday Jeremiah 23:1-6 "A Righteous Branch"

Come join us for Bible Study at 9 AM and morning worship at 10:30 AM.

Monday, October 29, 2007

"The God of Salvation" Sermon: Psalm 65

"The God of Salvation"
[Psalm 65]
October 28, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Wednesday is the 490th anniversary of a very important event. Do you know what it is? On October 31st, 1517, an Augustinian monk, by the name of Martin Luther, nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church. 490 years ago, Martin Luther presented the Church and the scholars with a list of 95 propositions for discussion. We mark this event as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation; this spark set the fire which created the Protestant Church, of which we are a part.

Well, what was Martin Luther wanting to debate? What was his problem with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church? Martin Luther challenged the Church saying that they had lately perverted the Gospel -- that salvation is not a joint work of God and man, but salvation is wholly, completely a work of God -- humans contribute nothing to their salvation.

On this Reformation Sunday, let us look at Psalm 65, a Psalm of David, and may these inspired words guide our eyes to God, where they belong, and may we swell with joy and thanksgiving, because our God is the God of Salvation.

"Praise is due you, O God, in Zion;"

When you came into the sanctuary this morning, did you desire to praise God? Were you drawn to this place this morning out of a need to join together with your sisters and brothers and praise God for Who He is?

If you didn't, pray that God would open your heart and cause you to desire to praise Him. Pray that God would open your eyes that you would see that God is worthy of praise -- praise is due God -- praise is owed to God by anyone and everyone who ever comes into His Presence. If you know Him, you must praise Him, you are compelled to praise Him. John Piper, in our Saturday afternoon studies, made the point that the normal, natural response for a Christian is to praise God and worship Him, to long for pure worship on Holy Mount Zion. And Dr. Piper says that God can't help it -- He's just that magnificent; He's just that beautiful. When you know Him, when you come into His Presence, you can't help but worship and praise and lift up His Name. Our God is worthy of praise.

"And to you shall vows be performed,"

When we worship God rightly, we make promises to Him. All of us who are Christians have promised God that we will repent of our sin, we will turn from it and not do it any more. We will pursue holy living; we will become like Jesus in every way. And God has indwelled us in the Person of the Holy Spirit that we might be able to accomplish those vows we make -- to flee from sin, to repent, to forgive, to live holy lives, to pray for each other, to support the work of God's Church -- the vows each member makes in becoming a member are made to God, as well as to the congregation. Our God is worthy of obedience, of our keeping the vows we make to Him.

And there are those who will object and say, "Well, God has never done anything for me." Or, "You have your God and I have mine."

"O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come."

One of the things that set the nation of Israel apart from all of the pagan nations, is that they understood that there is Only One God. All other gods are creations of our sinful minds or demons posing as gods. There is One and Only One God. He is the God Who answers every prayer that is prayed to Him in faith. God does not sleep, like the other so-called gods. God does not forget, like the other so-called gods. Our God answers every prayer that we raise to Him in faith. Doesn't that give us pause to be amazed?

And this One God is not just the God of Israel, or the God of America -- our God is the One God Who calls all peoples to Him. And every type of person -- man, woman, black, white, Jew, Gentile, slave, free -- God is God of every type of person that exists and persons of every type that ever exist will come to Him. There is no prejudice or preference in God’s Eyes -- all people are equal in God's Eyes, and all people are equally called to repent and believe in Him. So it ought never come to our mind, much less our lips, to say that any person from any background is not welcome in God's Church. Every person of any and all backgrounds is called and welcome to worship our One God together with us.

I heard someone ask, "Well Second Reformed is a white church, isn't it?" No, this is not a white church, this is not a black church, this is not a female church, not is not a male church -- this is a church where anyone of any background is welcome to worship the One God, our Savior. And we better make sure that people know that. God help us if we are known as a racist church.

Still, there is a problem, and David raises it: "When our deeds of iniquity overwhelm us," We are born -- we are by nature -- overcome by our sinful self, by our sinful deeds. We don't naturally desire to worship God. We don't naturally desire to keep our vows. Remember how Paul quotes from the Scripture, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of the ages is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:10-18 NKJV).

This is known as the doctrine of total depravity -- we are born sinners, every part of us has been infected by sin, no part of us has been preserved innocent and blameless before God. Most people think that God will welcome them into His Kingdom because they have been "good enough." God's standard is perfect holiness. If you are not perfectly holy, you cannot be received by God into His Kingdom. So, let us ask ourselves, have we ever done anything that was wrong? Have we ever sinned? The point is easily made.

But what about little children; babies? The Scripture tells us that we all inherit a sin nature from our father, Adam. Every human being is born a sinner, even before he or she commits a single sin. Adam was our representative and he freely, consciously, chose sin.

If you've ever have contact with a little child, test him. My nephew, Ty, was two back in March, and he loves cars and trucks. Now, if you take one of his trucks from him, even if he wasn’t playing with it, his normal response is, "MINE!!!!!" Now, some might say that he just hasn't learned the proper way to act in our society, but I say to him, "See, Ty, you are exhibiting total depravity." Because, for him, his whole universe is about himself -- "It's all about me!" And until we have been saved by Christ, even if we become very civilized and socially acceptable, in the end, the seventy-five year old woman will say, "It's all about me -- and what I deserve!"

So there's our problem: humans are born with their eyes locked on themselves -- so it is not possible -- as Paul just told us -- it is impossible for a person to turn, to repent, to even help God with salvation. And that's what Martin Luther was saying.

I take the time to stress this at length because it is not what American advertising would have us believe: "You deserve a break today." "This Bud's for you." "Have it your way." "We built this car with you in mind." American advertising says, "The sinful self is right -- it's all about you."

David tells us, that, if we have come into the presence of God -- the One, True God, we will see how common and miserable all those things we once strived for are. God is the most beautiful, the most magnificent, beyond our ability to describe. But we do not have the natural capacity -- the natural ability -- to come to God on our own, or even in co-operation with God. Hear the message of Reformation Sunday:

"You forgive our transgressions. Happy are those whom you choose and bring to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple."

God Alone forgives us of our sins. God Alone chooses us at out the mass of humanity for Himself. God Alone brings us into the courts of His Kingdom. God Alone satisfies us with His Goodness.

If you have come to worship this morning, believing in Jesus Alone for your Salvation -- that is a glorious work of God Alone in you, and it's just one more reason to praise His Name Our joy, our satisfaction, our life, our salvation, are found in God Alone. So, if we want joy and satisfaction, we ought to spend every moment in pursuit of God. There's nothing better; there's nothing else that will last.

"By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas."

Is there a more awesome story to be told, that God would Incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ, live under His Own Law, be put to death by sinful men, enduring the Wrath of God for our sins, to be raised and ascend and deliver all of His people? Is there any more amazing Truth, that for the sake of His Glory, God delivered us from God’s Wrath by taking our place? John cries out with mixed joy and amazement: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us; that we should be called the children of God" (I John 3:1).

Can you believe it? God calls us His children. God has changed us from cosmic rebels to children. God freely chose to make us His for His Sake. How can we not be amazed?

David says that we don't have to be a great theologian. We don't have to have a PhD. All we have to do is look at nature to understand that there is a God -- a Great God -- Who is worthy of praise and obedience:

"By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might."

Charles Spurgeon wrote, "Philosophers of the forget-God school are too much engrossed with their laws of upheaval to think of the Upheaver. Their theories of volcanic action and glacier action, etc., etc., are frequently used as bolts and bars to shut the Lord out of his own world" (The Treasury of David, vol. 2, 92).

In other words, when we look at the mountains, we can discern the volcanoes and glaciers and others actions that caused the mountains to form as they did, but Who is behind those actions, Who caused those actions so the mountains would be formed as they are?

"You silence the roaring of the seas, and the roaring of the waves, and the tumult of the peoples."

Who has the ability to silence the sea and the waves? Who can bring calm to the storm? Who can stop wars and silence the mouths of fools? Who can say "Be still!" and have all of the creation immediately obey?

"Those who live at the earth's farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy."

Have you ever watched the sun-rise or the sun-set? Have you felt the power of God in the moment of the sun creeping over the horizon, and slipping down below? Who causes the planets to work in this way, that everyone on this planet can watch the sun-rise as the gates open and the sun-set as the gates close? Have you ever considered that sun-rise and sun-set are one of the Creation's ways of drawing our attention to God, that we, with Creation should cry out, "Joy! Joy! Hallelujah!" because we know the Only One Who is capable of doing these things?

"You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the River of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water it's furrows abundantly, setting its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness."

David tells us to consider the crops that feed us: God is the One Who brings the rain. Yes, water evaporates and collects in the clouds and gets heavy and is released down to the ground again. But Who causes the process and makes sure it continues? Who was it that punished Israel with a drought of three years (I Kings 17)? Who caused the rain to fall yesterday?

God is the One Who makes the soil fertile. Yes, we know the chemical make-up of soil that will bear fruit, and we can buy "Miracle-Grow" and other such things. But Who composed the elements in the soil in the first place? Who designed the seeds that they would respond and grow in such a medium?

Who set the cycle of life in a year that so perfectly suits the plants and animals that year after year all of our needs are provided for? We could talk about the devisers of calendars, but what of the One Who created the seasons? Who flung the planets in space? Who set all things in their motion and makes sure that they are sustained according to His Will?

He is our One God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:20-21 NKJV).

And David wrote, "The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy."

The Creation suffers due to our sin, but the Creation looks forward in hope, because the same God Who is alone our Savior, has promised that the Creation will be delivered from its suffering and be brought into the glory that Jesus has prepared for us. In response to that great news, the Creation physically responds, doing all it is able to cry out to God, "Glory! Joy! Praise Him!"

If the Creation knows God in this way -- that it should respond in constant praise and obedience for the sake of joy -- and the Creation does not need a Savior like we do, how ought we respond, as those who have been chosen to be saved by God Alone and have been brought into the Kingdom of God? Shall we not be filled with awe and joy, and live to praise God and obey Him?

Let us pray:
Almighty and Awesome God, when we consider Who You are and all You have done, we are amazed. We do not have the words to thank You for saving us by Your Life, for we were not able. When we truly stop to look at Your Creation, we can do nothing less than fall down and worship You. Train our eyes upon You that we might receive joy as You are glorified. And may all praise be to You Alone, now and forever. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 4:3 --

"There be some that speak minsingly of the Religion of Rome, as that there be indeed sundry differences between them and us, but that they are petty and mean ones, and of no great moment, but such, as if we would yield a little, and they a little, there might be a reconciliation made: Wo be to such dawbers, that would go about to reconcile God and the Devil, Light and Darkness, &c. There are sundry differences which are main ones, and against the foundation, and such as except they will renounce, we neither can, nor must ever enjoyn with them. So of the Papists themselves, some will speak very favorably, O they be good honest men, and many good things they do, if it will not a little for their Opinions, &c. Do such speak wisely? They be abominable persons, for they be Idolaters (and those God call abominable) worshipping other Gods, and the true in a false manner, namely, in images: If they were Murderers, and would take away our lives; Adulterers, and would abuse our wives; Thieves, and would take away our goods, O we would cry out upon them, and say, They be abominable; but we have no feeling of any thing which hurts our souls, nor of that which is foully against God and his glory; its an Argument of self love and little grace: It should go more to our hearts, that its against God and his glory, then any thing that were against our selves in any way: We ought to pray to God to convert them or remove them, and that they may be curbed, and their eyes may fall ere they have their desire of Toleration of their abominable Religion."

-- John Rogers, 539.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Puritan Widsom

On I Peter 4:3 --

"[The Lord's Day is] a Feasting day for the soul, but if the body be overmuch pampered, the soul shall have the worse: we are therefore sparingly to eat that day, especially till night, as being to go about spiritual duties, whereunto we are unfit, in the performance whereof, through excess of food, we become sleepy, and drowsie, which is most unseemly and wicked in God’s service; therefore as when we serve God extraordinarily, we fast altogether; so when ordinarily, we must be very temperate and sparing."

-- John Rogers 536.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 4:3 --

"Where God bestoweth means of Salvation, he expects fruit answerable; While a place lies wide and common like a Heath, there can be nothing expected but Bryars and Thorns; but if it be paled in, and digged and planted, then may fruit be expected therefrom: when a people want the means, especially the Gospel, what can be lookt for at their hands having it, their life and conversation must be answerable."

-- John Rogers 528.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Puritan Wisdom

On I Peter 4:1-2 --

"This is the cause why Preaching is so little regarded of most, so much opposed by many, even because it would set up Gods will, and pull down mans: If any preacher shall speak against profaning the Lords day, Oh he is the troubler of Israel, hinders people from their wills and old wonts: They enquire not what Gods will is in things, but what their profit and pleasure leads them to; not what is the way that God would have us increase by, namely, by dilligency in our calling, by equal and righteous dealing, &c. is Gods way askt after and followed? No, but shorter cuts are sought after, as by deceit, oppression, and the like; it’s a sign that such shall never come into Gods Kingdom, every Creature is better than they, and have a better end except they repent: If they will have their wills, they must have that belongs to it, they must pay dearly for them, as many do."

-- John Rogers, 524.

"Stand Firm" Sermon: I Peter 5:12-14

"Stand Firm"
[I Peter 5:12-14]
October 14, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Peter begins his first letter praying "May grace and peace be multiplied to you." And he ends his letter, as we heard, "I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. ... Peace to all of you who are in Christ." Peter began his address to Christians who were on the run from the armies of Nero with a prayer that grace and peace might be multiplied among them, and through the letter, he affirms to them that they have received God’s Grace and they have peace through Jesus Christ.

What about you this morning? Do you know that you have received the Grace of God? Do you have the Peace of Jesus Christ?

Peter said that in writing this letter he exhorted and declared that "this is the true grace of God." Well, what is grace? Grace is the unmerited favor of a superior to an inferior that changes the inferior party. Grace is something that God gives His people that changes them. And Peter says, "this is the true grace of God." What "this" is he talking about? Well, he's talking about the message of the entire letter -- the main doctrines that he has exhorted and declared to them. There are at least four:

First, it is a True Grace of God that God has chosen us to be His people out of all of humanity and has brought us from death to life through Jesus' Bloody Death on the cross. And through His Death, since He also rose and ascended back to the Throne of the Son of God, we have a living hope. We have a sure, unbreakable promise that just as Jesus rose from the dead, and He raised us from spiritual death, when Jesus returns to the earth, we will all be physically resurrected and brought into the restored Kingdom to be with Him, in His Glory, forever.

This is God's Grace: He has saved us out of the road to Hell. He has raised us from spiritual death to spiritual life. He has replaced our despair with a hope that He guarantees. We have been changed and we will be changed.

Second, it is a True Grace of God that God tests our faith through our suffering for His Sake, and we, like gold and silver, are purified, made holy, and matured. Suffering for our sin is not a Grace of God; it is the wages of sin. But God sends us adversity in His Name to cleanse us that we might be spotless and enter into His Glory.

This is God's Grace: He will not suffer us to remain in our sin. God will do everything necessary, though it is painful for a time, to root out, burn out, melt out our sin, until we mirror His Son, Jesus, perfectly, when we will also be perfected and holy for His Sake.

Third, it is a True Grace of God that God has send God the Holy Spirit to indwell us that we might endure suffering for His Name in joy and also be willing, able, and joy-filled in doing the good works He has for us to do that He would receive the glory.

This is God's Grace: God has given us the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit that we might endure suffering for His Sake in Joy -- that we might look at the sure hope that we have and truly believe that nothing we could suffer on this earth is anything compared to what God is bringing us to and the glory that shall be revealed. And in response, God gives us the inclination and the ability to do what is good in His Name. When once we were incapable of doing any good, He has made us willing, able, and joy-filled to do His Will.

And fourth, it is a True Grace of God that we have been given and receive both of the promises of suffering in His Name when the time is right and glory in His Name when the time is right.

This is God's Grace: God has made us to trust in Him and His Timing. We believe that He has a plan that He is infallibly carrying out, and the time that He has scheduled for our suffering is the right time, and the time He has scheduled for our being lifted up and received into glory is the right time.

Peter says that they and we are to stand firm in this True Grace of God. Believe these things. See that they are true throughout Holy Scripture. See that these things are true in the lives and deaths of the saints. See that they are true in your own life, and then we can stand firm, because God chose us, Jesus saves us, the Spirit purifies us and leads us in all good.

Peter says, "Be prepared to suffer for the Name of Christ, but don't worry about Nero and his armies. Don't worry about whatever it is that makes you wonder if God is big enough for your problem. Trust in God; in joy, live for Him. Because He raises you; He sustains you -- so you can stand firm on His Grace to you, and since true joy is found in Him, as Martin Luther wrote, and we sang last week: "let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God's truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever." In Jesus, we have everything that is eternal. Everything else will be swept away anyway, so why do we fret and clutch and worry?"

Let us stand firm.

Let us confess with Peter and the early Christians that we are God's people. We belong to God. So let us look for and look forward to that hope which is to come. Jesus is coming. We shall be raised. The creation will be restored.

Let us understand that God is making us holy for His Glory. Let us work hard towards holiness. With everything that we are, body, mind, soul, and spirit, let us press on towards that goal, denying sin and the devil, and following after our God of Grace.

Let us understand that we are God's people in the world. We are not shut off in a cave somewhere; we are not under glass in some museum; we live in the world and work in the world amidst people of all types and many of whom have not receive salvation alone in Jesus -- the Only Salvation. So let us speak the Gospel and live it out that people would be able to look at us -- at our actions -- at the way we live amidst the authorities of the world and see that we are Christians -- that we have received God's Grace.

Let us understand and believe and confess that our Almighty God is completely in control -- Sovereign -- and everything that occurs is working together to glorify Him and for the good of those who love Him. So let us seek, in whatever condition we find ourselves, as John Piper puts it, to make "Jesus look really, really good."

Let us understand that the end is near and that is a good thing. Once the end has come, all evil, all sorrow, all suffering will be removed from the Kingdom, never again to infect and afflict the creation and God's people. We will live in a world without end, and Jesus will be our Light, the Glory at the center of the Kingdom.

And as we wait on the living hope, let us understand that we are God's people in the Church as well. We are a people, a building, a temple, a body -- we are in need of one and all of us to accomplish the work of our God, and we all have work to do. Some of us have roles of leadership, all of us have roles of service. Let us relate to each other in a way that shows that we love our body, just like we love our physical body. Let us work together for the good of the Gospel and not show ourselves to be fractured and fragmented, when our God is One.

Peter gives the example by saying that "she who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings" -- this is probably a church in Babylon, sending her love to the Christians of Israel who are now scattered throughout the world due to the Roman persecution. Christian Churches ought to love each other and be like-minded in our Christian service.

And then Peter says, "and so does Mark, my son." This is probably Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, who had a falling out with Paul and joined Peter's missionary work. Christians ought to love each other and work together to the Glory of Christ.

And the love that Christians show each other is not just to be lip-service -- "Greet one another with the kiss of love." Christians ought to show their love for each other in a physical way, according to the culture. For us, this would be hugging, shaking hands, and for some, kissing, depending on the relationship we have with one another. But Christians ought to show their love through touch of some kind. There are no untouchables amongst the Bride of Christ.

The final assertion is this, to those who have received the True Grace of God, to those who stand firm in the faith -- in those doctrines that are the True Grace of God -- for these, we have peace.

Paul puts it this way: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and I will say: Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7).

What about you this morning? Do you know that you have received the Grace of God? Do you have the Peace of Jesus Christ?

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for Your Grace, for changing us, giving us joy, and glorifying Yourself through us. May You be pleased to cause us to stand firm on Your Grace. Living for You, in love of You and others, not in fear, but in joy and hope. For the Romans are still on our heels, but You shall soon descend in glory, just as the apostles saw You ascend into heaven. Come, Lord Jesus. For it is in your Name we pray, Amen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Watch 60 Minutes Sunday

Dr. Horton to Appear on CBS's 60 Minutes

Currently scheduled for Sunday, Oct 14th, the interview will focus on the teaching and ministry of popular televangelist Joel Osteen, author of Your Best Life Now. 60 Minutes airs on CBS Sundays at 7 p.m. ET/PT (check local listings).

See the link for Modern Reformation or The White Horse Inn for more information.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Octoberfest

This Sunday, D.V., the 14th, we will celebrate and fellowship with a pot-luck lunch after morning worship. The Consistory decided that we would plan to have four pot-lucks a year, rather than two, in an effort to build community and fellowship amongst us all. This one we are calling "Octoberfest" due to it being in October. It is not, as you may think, the celebration of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Germany. Come! Worship! Eat!

Saturday Bible Study

We are continuing to use Dr. John Piper's video series, "The Blazing Center" on Saturdays at 3:30 PM. Join us this Saturday (D.V.) as we look at love in the light of God's Desire to Glorify Himself.

Consistory

The Consistory plans to meet (D.V.) on Saturday the 13th at 1:30 PM. Please remember to come!

October Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

10/7/07 Communion I Peter 5:6-11 "Resist the Devil"
10/14/07 I Peter 5:12-14 "Stand Firm"
10/21/07 Guest preacher: Will Lampe
10/28/07 Reformation Sunday Psalm 65 "The God of Salvation"

Join us at 9 AM for Bible Study and 10:30 AM for morning worship!

"Resist the Devil" Sermon: I Peter 5:6-11

"Resist the Devil"
[I Peter 5:6-11]
October 7, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Ministers are to care and love the congregation as a shepherd loves the sheep, as Jesus loves us -- the Church. And the sheep are to love the shepherd and care for him, following after his good guidance. Just as we, the Church, follow Christ. And all of us, ministers, congregants, are called to be humble -- to live lives of humility before Christ and each other. So Peter explained to the Christians running from the armies of Nero, and us.

If the Lord is willing, we will look at the end of Peter's letter this morning and next week, and we will see what it means to live our lives clothed with humility. Peter tells his fellow Christians -- and that includes us -- that if we follow his argument up to this point -- that the Christian life is a life of suffering for Christ, and it is a life that we can endure in joy as we hope for the Promises of Jesus to come to pass, and it is a hope that we are to live out through holiness and obedience to our Savior, and also human authorities, insofar as they do not contradict the clear Word of God -- then we ought to live lives clothed with humility. We ought to humble ourselves. We ought not to be filled with vain pride. We ought not to place ourselves up on pedestals.

Why? Peter gives us two reasons:

First, we are to be humble because God is powerful. We live under God's Mighty Hand -- the Hand that flung out all of everything that exists, which He created out of nothing. This is the God Who tells us that we are to live lives of humility with each other and before Him. In awe of His Power, we ought to find ourselves submitting.

Second, Peter tells us that God exalts the humble. If we are truly humble, God will lift us up at the right time. Because we now belong to Jesus, God will raise us up and lift us up in the heavenly places to His Glory when the time is right.

The Pharisees didn't understand this. They thought that since they were the religious leaders, since they were the ones called to preach and teach the Word of God, they were better than everyone else. They wanted the "common people" to bow before them and kiss their rings. They wanted "oohing and aahing" as they walked through the room. But God will have none of that. If we make much of ourselves on earth, then we have received our reward.

Luke records, "Now [Jesus] told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 'When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished that you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, "Give your place to this person," and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit at the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, "Friend, move up higher." Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted'" (Luke 14:7-11).

Now, let's not be confused -- Jesus is not saying that we should adopt a false humility. What he is saying is that we ought to recognize our place -- we may not each be the be-all and end-all of humanity. Let us find ourselves in a place fitting to who we are, and if the master of the feast desires to move us to a better seat, he will. Just as God will lift up those who have been saved by Jesus for the sake of His Son.

The Christians on the run from Nero could have gotten big heads. They could have thought, "These pagan Romans are trying to kill us, which proves how much better we are then they. God is lucky to have us to make Him look so good -- He wouldn't look so beautiful if the Romans were His people." Peter wanted them to understand that they are not better than the pagan Romans; you and I are not better than non-Christians. When Peter was finally caught and sentenced to death, he asked that he be crucified upside-down, because to be crucified right-side up, like Jesus, was too high an honor. We are all equally sinners, in need of the One Savior. God has shown us mercy and grace; He has not given us a reward for picking Him.

Then Peter says, if we are living lives of humility, we will cast our anxieties, our cares, upon God. If we are living lives of humility, we will understand that our worry can not save us from Nero. Our worrying cannot make things turn out the way we desire them to. When we worry, we are not trusting, we are putting our hope and faith and trust in ourselves or in some other fallible thing. Peter tells us to cast them all upon God.

We may remember what Jesus said, "'Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to the span of his life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we wear?" For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will be added to you.

"'Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for the itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble'" (Matthew 6:25-34).

And Paul wrote, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Philippians 4:19-20).

Jesus says that we ought to look at the world around us, to see that God provides for all of the needs of the created order, so we who have received His Very Son, should not be anxious but rely on Him, confidently, humbly knowing that He will provide us with everything we need for this day. Paul says the same thing: God will provide us with everything that we need for today out of the riches of the Glory of Jesus. Why? So He will receive the Glory!

Do we believe Him? Do you believe Him, Second Reformed Church? Do you believe that God is telling the truth when He promises to provide us with every one of our needs? Do we trust Him? Are we saying, "I don't know how this can work out, but I trust in You, Lord. You are my God. You have never lied. So I am going to humble myself before You in love and follow after You, confident that my joy will be filled in You"?

Peter says to be sober-minded and watchful. That makes sense. The Romans were hot on their trail. They should be clear-headed, keeping watch, lest they be caught and killed. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for not being able to understand the simplest of signs: "And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, 'When it is evening, you say, "It will be fair weather, for the sky is red." And in the morning, "It will be stormy weather, for the sky is red and threatening." You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.' So he left them and departed" (Matthew 16:1-4).

But it wasn't the Romans Peter had in mind, was it? No, Peter said to be sober-minded and watchful because "your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." We need to be clear-headed and alert because the devil is seeking to disrupt our unity and our worship. The devil is seeking to get us to fight with each other, to whisper about each other, to speak poorly of one another. The devil wants us to look around and think that the Word of God is not enough -- we need games and toys and sparkly things to suck people into the church.

Here's what we need to understand: the devil is real. He is not a myth; he is a real being. And the devil is powerful. The devil is not to be fooled with. He is more powerful that you and I -- on our own. But we also need to understand that the devil is a creature. He is a created being just like we are. He is not a god, and he cannot do anything without permission from God -- just read the book of Job. The devil is a creature. He can only be in one place at a time, and his knowledge is limited. That's why he gathered an army to fight against God -- those angels who became demons.

But there's one more thing we need to understand: the devil has already lost. He is defeated. His doom is sure. Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18b). Jesus said that there is "an eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41b). Jesus said that when He returns the devil will be "thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet [will be], and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10b).

The devil and his demons are at work in this church. They want us to bicker with each other. They want us to doubt the Word of God. They want us to look at our circumstances and believe that providing for us is just too much for Jesus to handle. They want us to pull the sheets over our heads and wait for the end to come.

But Peter says, "resist him, stand firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." James says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

The story is told of Martin Luther, when he was working on his lectures, he would become overwhelmed and feel like giving up. And then he would see what this is -- nothing more that the devil preying on him -- and he would yell at the devil, "Be gone! I have been baptized into Christ Jesus!"

What he meant is this -- we could all look at our circumstances and say that there is no way we can carry on -- we’re too old, we're too poor, everyone else in the congregation besides me is a pain. But this is the Work of our God, Jesus Christ, Who is victorious over being murdered by the Romans, He is victorious over death and hell and the grave and the Wrath of God coming down upon Him. He is alive and victorious and He has claimed us for His Own.

Peter says to "resist the devil" -- he may be powerful, but he is a liar and a loser -- our Jesus has won -- so "stand firm in the faith." Why?

Because what we're going through is nothing unusual -- it's not unique. Our brothers and sisters throughout the world have suffered the same as we suffer, and more in some places. Now Peter is not saying we should be Stoics. He's not saying we should just say "whatever will be, will be." No, he is saying that we need to understand that suffering is part of the life of the Christian -- we ought not be surprised. Paul wrote, "Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our beloved brother and God’s co-worker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one should be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this" (I Thessalonians 3:1-3).

Hear again the promise: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:12-13).

If the devil and the Romans and the Reformed Church in America should make war against the Gospel of Jesus Christ and us, it shouldn't surprise us. And in love and humility, we ought to work with each other, support each other, and rely on Jesus Christ for all things, as He is glorified through us.

Because we have been "called...to his eternal glory in Christ." We have been talking about this idea in our Saturday afternoon study: not matter what happens to us on earth, even if we are put to death, that's the worst that any human can do to us, but then, that is gain, because we shall be received into the glory that Jesus has prepared for us. That's what Peter has been saying all along -- we can live for Jesus, suffer for Jesus, love in Jesus' Name, because what is coming is so much greater than we can ever imagine. Do you have that hope this morning?

Peter says that Jesus "will himself, restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." We have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain in Jesus. Listen to Paul: "Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: if we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful -- for he cannot deny himself" (II Timothy 2:10-13).

God can and will keep His Promises, because He is eternally Sovereign. The devil is a lot of pomp and show. He is cunning and persuasive. But he can't back up his words. Hear this description of our Sovereign God: "At the end of days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'" (Daniel 4:34-35).

That's the God I serve. That's the God Peter served. That is the God of Christianity. That is the God Who tells us to resist the devil -- don't buy his arguments; don't believe his lies. Instead, let us humble ourselves. Let us love each other. Let us get over ourselves and get beyond our disbelief. Our God rose from the dead, and He will raise us up, when the time is right. "To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Let us pray:
Almighty and Sovereign God, we bow before You this morning, humbled as we consider the times we have doubted You. Make us to be humble among each other. Cause us to work together to Your Glory. Help us to remember that the devil is a defeated foe, and in You, we can resist him and his devilish words, and he will flee from us. As we receive the bread and the cup this morning, we ask that You would again give us Your Grace. Strengthen us through this communion, and give us Your Wisdom. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.

Monday, October 01, 2007

"A Word to Ministers" Sermon: I Peter 5:1-5

"A Word to Ministers"
[I Peter 5:1-5]
September 30, 2007 Second Reformed Church

Judgement begins with the household of God.

Last week, one of the things we saw in the text preceding the one which was read this morning is that judgement begins with the household of God. The judgement of the Church is now and continuing. So, one incentive for us to suffer for Christ and to do what is right in the Name and for the Sake of Christ is that judgement begins with the Church.

This does not merely mean that God punishes the sins of the Church in this life: God punishes us for some of our sins in this lifetime, just as any human being reaps what he sows. We shall see the repercussions of the things we do -- at least to some extent -- in this lifetime.

However, the main point of what Peter is saying is that God disciplines us. John recorded the words of Jesus to the Church of Laodicea: "I counsel you to buy gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:18-19).

So what is discipline? What is Jesus telling the Church of Laodicea? Jesus is saying that since He loves them -- discipline occurs in love -- since He loves them, He will give them His Word -- gold, He will be an example of Holy Living for them, and the means to it, and He will guide them to the holy, away from evil, and root out the sin in them through suffering and repentance -- clothes and eyesight. Discipline is about teaching the Truth, guiding and being an example, and rooting out what is harmful and evil.

So, Peter says, since judgement beings with the household of God, "Therefore, I exhort the elders" -- the presbyters -- the teaching elders -- the ministers -- those who have been called to serve as one who preaches and teaches God’s Word, to rightly administer the sacraments, and to practice discipline -- "among you." And some of you have already asked me if you had to listen to this sermon if this word is for ministers, and the answer is "yes," because it is not just what the ministers are to do, but how the flock, the congregation, must respond.

Peter addresses the teaching elders, the ministers, and says that he does so with authority: he is a fellow elder. He also has been called to preach and teach the Word of God and all that comes with it. He is a fellow servant, of equal rank and call. He is a witness to the sufferings of Christ, both literally and figurative. He knew Jesus. He saw Jesus actually suffer. And now he has suffered for the Sake of Jesus. And, he is with them, and all Christians, a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.

Peter tells them that they ought to listen to him and obey him because he was called to the same calling to which they were called. He knew Jesus when Jesus suffered in the flesh on earth, and now he suffers in the flesh for Jesus. And he is co-heir with them in the glory that will be revealed. And ministers ought to understand from this that they are not above being taught. Ministers are not above the wisdom and authority of other ministers. Ministers ought to be engaging each other in the ministry, sharing their gifts and wisdom for the sake of the Gospel. And, you, the congregation, ought to support and encourage your ministers to meet and learn with and from other ministers, so that we might serve you and Jesus better.

After this statement of his authority, Peter says that the call to the ministry consists primarily in three things: a minister is to preach and teach God's Word. A minister is to care for and watch out for the flock. And a minister is to be an example of holy living for the flock.

"Shepherd the flock of God that is among you."

First, a minister is to shepherd the flock of God. Ministers are called to shepherd God's flock. The flock does not belong to the minister; the flock belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ. A minister is sent for a time to preach and teach, but he must always remember that the flock does not belong to him, they belong to the Lord.

It is the minister's duty to preach what God has said -- all of it -- and to teach the congregation what the Word of God means, and how to apply it to their lives. The minister's primary duty is to be about the Word of God -- to be in constant study and prayer, that he might deliver and explain the Word of God as clearly and as fully as he is able.

Paul told the young minister, Timothy, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17). Thus, the minister ought to preach and teach only the Word of God, and he ought to do so in a way that exposes the flocks' sin and calls them to repentance, exposes and corrects errors in the flocks' understanding, and teaches them how to live after God's Word.

That devotion and commitment to the hard and lifelong study of the Scripture is the work of the minister. What is the flock to do? What is the congregation to do to help the minister accomplish his work?

The congregation ought to be in prayer for the minister -- that he would spend the time and effort in the Word of God that is needed, that he will be in prayer and rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom. They ought to encourage the minister in his work and not keep him from doing the work he was called to do; the minister must be allowed the necessary amount of time to prepare for preaching and teaching. John Wesley wisely said that a minister should be in prayer and study for one hour for every minute he preaches.

The congregation ought also attend to the Word -- the congregation ought to desire to be in the worship service, and in prayer meetings, and in Bible study learning the Word of God. All of God's children ought to hunger for His Word and long to hear it preached and taught. And then, the congregation ought to submit to the Word -- to what God has said is good and right and necessary -- and submit to the loving discipline of the minister and the elders.

Now, this does not mean that the congregation should accept everything the minister says without thinking: there are people functioning in the role of minister whole neither have the call nor the ability to be a minister. It is the duty of the congregation to check the Scriptures to make sure that what the minister is preaching and teaching is what the Bible actually says. Paul speaks commendingly of the Bereans, "they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:13b). The minister ought to preach and teach the Word of God alone, eagerly, and the congregation ought to eagerly check the Scripture and submit to it.

"Exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but eagerly;"

Second, the minister is to care and watch out for the flock. That is, the minister ought to show the flock the enemy and warn them away from him. The minister ought to remove dangers from the flock. And the minister ought to discipline the flock.

The minister ought to exercise oversight, as a shepherd over the sheep, but not merely out of duty, but out of love for the flock, and not resentfully, but thankfully, for the privilege and honor and responsibility of serving the Master by caring for His sheep. The minister ought to exercise oversight, not just for the material sustenance -- not just for the paycheck, but because he loves the congregation. And though he has the authority of a shepherd over them, he ought to recognize, in love, that he is also a sheep of the Great Shepherd, so he is not better than the sheep under his care.

The minister is to love the congregation that he is caring for. In that love, he is to protect them and to guide them into green pastures. In that love, he is to guide them away from the cliffs to the safe ground, and nudge them strongly along with his staff, as necessary. The minister is neither lord of the flock, nor is he an unloving watchman. The minister and the congregation ought to have a relationship of love, one for the other.

That means that the flock should love enough to come to hear the preaching and teaching of the Word of God and follow after it, if what the minister has preached and taught is truly written in the Scripture. This continues the line that we drew before.

The flock should also love the minister enough to provide for him materially. If the flock loves their shepherd, they will make sure that he has enough money to care for his own needs as well as theirs. The minister ought to have more than enough money to care for himself, so that he might also use his money to care for the congregation, both in tithes and offerings and in specific gifts and meeting specific needs. As Jesus said, "the laborer deserves his wages" (Luke 10:7b).

The flock ought also love enough that they submit to the preaching
and teaching of the minister and respect the minister. If the minister is abiding in his call, the minister ought to be the most respected person in the congregation, if not the community -- and that leads to our third point:

"Nor domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock."

Ministers ought to be examples of holy living to the flock. Paul wrote, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). Ministers are called to imitate Christ, and the flock is called to imitate the shepherds as they imitate Christ. The flock ought to be able to look at the shepherd and say, "I am going to live like our minister, because he is an example of how to live like Christ -- how to live the holy life we are all called to live."

So ministers ought to be very conscious of themselves -- what they are saying, as well as what they do. People are watching -- the world is watching -- the flock is watching -- little children are watching, and the minister is saying, by his office, "be like me."

And no one in the flock should be misled in thinking that any minister -- any shepherd -- has reached a state of perfection -- of sinlessness -- because no minister, except Jesus, has. Not a single person ever, except Jesus, can say that he has lived up to the call of holiness on his life.

Still it is a serious call for the minister; it is one of the minister's duties, to work hard at holiness, to do everything he can to be an example of holy living worth following, and also showing the way to repentance and forgiveness when he sins and falls. And the flock ought to follow and be like him, as Paul says, "as he is like Christ."

Paul puts the charge to young Timothy, "I charge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is the judge of the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, enduring suffering, do the work of the evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (II Timothy 4:1-5).

"Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time -- he who is blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen" (I Timothy 6:11-16).

That is the call that ministers -- shepherds -- have upon them.

Then Peter ties these things all together in that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd. He is the Perfect Holy Shepherd. He perfectly delivers His Word. He perfectly exercises care and discipline over His flock. He is the Perfect Example of Holy Living for us all to follow. And ministers are told to abide in their call, as under-shepherds, and when the Chief Shepherd returns, they will receive the lasting, or unfading, crown of glory.

However, as James reminds us, "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness" (James 3:1).

God says, the ministry is hard work, but it is a rewarding work. However, understand that ministers will be held to a stricter standard in the judgement. That should give anyone pause who desires to enter into the ministry. Yet, ministers, like everyone else, are saved by Grace Alone, not by their works. It is only by that Grace that ministers can rightly stand before the congregation and say, "This is the Word of God, obey it, obey me, and be like me in the ways that I am like Christ."

And to those who are younger, whether it be in chronological years or in years of spiritual maturity, Peter says to be subject to the ministers. Ministers ought to have some spiritual maturity about them. The congregation ought to recognize that and submit to it.

But all are to be clothed in humility. Humility ought to reign supreme in our dealings with each other. The love of Christ ought to teach us that we are all eternally indebted and beholden to Him, and we ought to deal with each other in love, even as we understand that some serve in positions of authority.

True ministers function as Christ's representatives on earth, as shepherds of the flock. They are called to preach and teach the Word of God, lovingly care and watch out for the flock, and be an example of holy living for the flock.

The congregation ought to respond by allowing the minister to do what he is called to do for Christ and them, providing for him materially and time-wise, praying for him, submitting to the Word of God eagerly, and following after the example he exhibits, as it is that of Christ.

Let us pray for our ministers, that they would be faithful to their calls, and for each other, that we would be faithful to our ministers and our Savior.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, Great Shepherd of the Sheep, we thank You for giving us ministers. We ask that You would raise up ministers who are faithful to You in all that You have put on their lives. We ask that You would be with me, as the minister to this flock. We ask that You would make me more faithful, more diligent, a better example and guide in all things. Make me more like Jesus that we would all see You and rejoice and be satisfied. We ask that this flock -- this congregation -- would be full of love, that we would support our minister and this ministry in prayer, time, finances, dedication, and devotion to You Word. Give us Your Wisdom as we seek to be Your people and witness the Truth of Salvation in Jesus Alone to Irvington and the world. For it is in Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.