Second Reformed Church

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

August Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

8/3/08 Communion II Peter 3:8-13 "Do Not Overlook This Fact"
8/10/08 II Peter 3:14-18 "Be Diligent & Grow"
8/17/08 Guest preacher: Will Lampe
8/24/08 Guest preacher: Victor Blum (Chosen People Ministries)
8/31/08 Genesis 1:1-2:3 "Image & Dominion"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Puritan Wisdom

On II Peter 1:1:
“Those he describes here from their faith, which is amplyfied: first, from the certainty of it, they had obtained it, that is, gotten it by lot, as the Word signifieth, namely, through the singular providence of God, who had bestowed upon every one of them, that measure of faith which they had. Secondly, from the quality and worth of it: it was of like price with the faith of the Apostles, worthy of the same respect that theirs was. Thirdly, from the meanes whereby they did obtaine it, even the righteousnesse of Christ, that is, his fidelity and truth in keeping his promises. Him he commendeth unto them; first, from the worth of his person, God; secondly, from his office, our Saviour.” – A. Symson, 15.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Deliberately Overlooking This Fact" Sermon: II Peter 3:1-7

“Deliberately Overlooking This Fact”
[II Peter 3:1-7]
July 27, 2008 Second Reformed Church

Today, we being the third chapter of Second Peter. In the first chapter, Peter encouraged Christians scattered throughout the known world to make their calling and election sure – to prove their salvation by doing the good works that Jesus called them to do. Although Salvation is by Jesus Alone, and the Christians were being hunted by the Roman army, Peter argued that people trying to kill us is not an excuse for not doing the good works that Jesus calls us to do.

He, then, tells them – and us – not to listen to the false teachers who were arguing that Jesus will not return and that Christians have the freedom to do whatever they want, but, instead, to fight against them with these two facts: first, there were hundreds of eye-witnesses, most of whom were still living, to the life and promises of Jesus, and second, that they should remember the prophecises of the Old Testament and note that every one that has come to pass has been accurate. No prophet of God every prophecied incorrectly, because the prophecies don’t come from the human mind, but from God.

In chapter two, he warned them that the false teachers are coming, but God will save the righteous and damn the false teachers. Peter denounces them as only wanting money, power, and physical pleasures and having teaching that is empty, hypocritical, and foul.

Now, in chapter three, Peter tells them that this is his second letter and he desires to stir up their minds – to right thought, action, and understanding – and he wants to remind them of some things, because we have a tendancy to forget.

He tells them to remember the prophets’ prophecies and the commandments of our Lord and Savior Jesus through the apostles. Begin by knowing what God has said through the prophets and the apostles. Know the prophecies. Know the promises. Know what has been fulfilled. Know what has yet to come.

Too many Christians say that they believe the Bible but don’t know what’s in it. Most of it is not too hard to read and understand. Most of it is not too hard to read and understand. And those things that are difficult, we can work through together. If you love Jesus, you’ll want to spend time in His Word, getting to know Him. We have studies on Saturday and Sunday, and I’ll say again, if those times don’t work for you, let me know when, and we’ll schedule it. If you can’t get to the church, maybe we could have a study at your home.

I pray that we will continue to know Jesus better and grow deeper in our faith and understanding. I desire the Lord to fill this sanctuary with people who come here for Him and desire to know Him as fully as possible – will you join me in that prayer? Let us learn the Word of God – not for my sake, not because it’s some magical formula for success, but because He is worthy and we want to be like Him and to be with Him.

And Peter tells all Christians that we ought to know the prophecies of the prophets and the commands of our Lord and Savior through the apostles because in the last days, scoffers will come – people who mock the Word of God. Just as they came in the first century, they come in the twenty-first century: “Jesus said He would return soon – and you still believe Him? Maybe in the days of the apostles, when it had only been thirty or forty years, but it’s been over two thousand years! Do you seriously believe that Jesus is going to return in the flesh? In the same way that He ascended? Everything has always remained the same forever, and it always will.”

The scoffers calls us fools, naive – you don’t want to be called a fool or naive, do you? How are you going to answer these challenges? What are we to say? Shall we agree, Jesus must have meant something else when He said He was going to return in the same Body in which He ascended? Shall we say that He may have only meant He would be spiritually with us?

Twenty-first century Christians have become ancient Greeks about the body: we pay lip-service to the body in The Apostle’s Creed, but we deny the goodness of the body and its resurrection. God said the body is good (Genesis 1). Now it has been corrupted and fails, but it will be raised, like Jesus’ Body was raised. It will be changed, perfected, and made an everlasting, yet a physical, body. We will have a body like Jesus’ Body – like the Body He is returning in.

But what does Peter say? “They deliberately overlook this fact.” Understand, the scoffers know that this fact is True – this fact that they overlook. There is no question in the text that they know the Truth. However, they don’t like the Truth – they don’t want the Truth to be True, so they deliberately overlook it. They force themselves to act – to scoff – as though they didn’t know the Truth. They have blinded themselves to what they know is True. What is this fact that they deliberately overlook? It has two parts:

First, they overlook that fact that the world was created out of the water by the Word of God. They know that the world was created out of the water by the Word of God, but they don’t like that Truth, so they force themselves to suppress it. But that does not change the fact: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so, God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:9-10, ESV).

And David reminds us, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1, ESV).

Second, they overlook the fact that the world perished in the water by the same Word of God. Again, they know that the world perished in the water by the same Word of God, but they don’t like that Truth, so they force themselves to suppress it. But that does not change the fact: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in all the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of man was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. ... ‘For behold, I will bring a flood of waters to destroy all flesh which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.’ ... The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. [That’s twenty-two and a half feet above the highest mountain]” (Genesis 6:5-8, 17, 7:20, ESV).

Since they purposefully suppress the Truth that they know is True – that God, by His Word, created the world out of the water and then, by His Word, caused the world to perish by water, they are able to scoff at the promise of Jesus’ Return – in the Body and as Judge.

But, just as God created the world through the water by His Word and then caused the world to perish in the water, by His Word – in the same way – God will speak and the heavens and the earth that now exist will be enveloped in fire, and judgment will rain down on the ungodly.

Paul wrote, “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering – since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed” (II Thessalonians 1:5-10, ESV).

If we know the prophets and the apostles and do not suppress their clear message, we know that God, by His Word, created and destroyed the world once with water, so it makes perfectly good sense to understand that Jesus will come as Judge, and by His Word, destroy the heavens and the earth with fire.

We should not be afraid that Jesus is returning or that He is returning with fire to judge. And we need to be careful that we don’t hear these words and conclude, “Yes, all the physical world will be destroyed and we will just be spirit-beings living in Heaven.” We need to be careful, because that’s not what’s going to happen – that’s not what the Bible tells us.

I remember a time when I believed that the material world was going to be done away with and we would just all exist as spirit-beings in Heaven. Let me point out just one problem with thinking that: if we believe that, then how stupid is Jesus when He says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5, ESV). I used to think that was the stupidest thing – why would anyone want to inherit the earth, when it is going to be done away with – that just made no sense to me at all.

Here’s how we can solve the problem: Peter said that the history of Noah parallels the history of the judgement that will come when Jesus returns. We have seen it is a fact that God created the world out of the water by His Word. It is a fact that God destroyed the world with water by His Word. But that’s not the end It is also a fact that God restored the earth by His Word – He called on the waters to recede, and when it was safe, Noah and his family, and the animals came out of the ark, and God promised never to destroy the world again by water. “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” (Genesis 9:1, ESV). God restored the earth by giving them the word to repopulate, and the earth was restored.

When Jesus returns, with all the mighty angels, bringing judgment and fire, Jesus will throw death, Hell, and the devil into the lake of fire, the wicked will suffer eternally, but the chosen of God will pass through the fire, they will be purified, changed, perfected, the dross will be removed from our gold, as will that of the heavens and the earth. Paul wrote, “[The glory will revealed to us.] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:19-23, ESV).

And John wrote, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Revelation 21:1-3, ESV).

If we know and do not suppress the Word of God, then our future is obvious to us: Jesus will return in His Resurrected Body, with fire, and He will call the fire down on the heavens and the earth to punish the wicked and purify His people. And then there will be a restoration – the earth and the heavens, and all the creation, and we who are God’s will be purified and perfected. And, according to the Word of God, we will inherit the earth. It will be like the Garden of Eden, only better, because, after the judgment, we will be unable to sin.

When the scoffers come and deny the judgment, let us point them to the Creation and to Noah and the judgment of water by God’s Word. Let us tell them that the judgment is coming, just like in the days of Noah, only this time it will be by fire. And let us not be dissuaded when they claim not to know the history of Noah, because it is history, and they do know it, they just don’t like it, or the God Who caused it.

So let us pray:
Almighty God, You Who only has to speak and all things obey You, we ask that God the Holy Spirit would stir up the fires within us and make us desire to know Your Word better. Help us to know it and understand it and remember it, so when the scoffers come, we can point them to Your Word and the Holy History You left us, with its glorious Promises. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Puritan Wisdom

On II Peter 1:1 --

“Unto Preachers, to performe the service of Christ, and to behave themselves as Ministers and Servants of Christ about their owne businesse, imploying their time about their Masters affairs, not with eye-service, but with singlenesse of heart. So should we; servants must be afraid to displease their Masters, so should we. Servants must not murmure, nor grudingly goe about their worke, so neither must we. Servants must not be ashamed of their Masters service, so neither must we. Servants must not be their Masters enemies, or have amitie and familiarity with such as are, so neither must we. Oh that all of us could thus doe, even behave our selves in every thing, in our calling, walking, eating, drinking, apparell, and the like, as servants of Christ We want not motives to perswade us hereunto, we have a Master that is not onely able to kill the body, but throwe both body and soule into hell fire; a Master that hath most absolute power of life and death over his servants, we have a Master that at all times beholdeth our actions; a Master that will render unto every servant according to his worke; a Master by whom we shall be called to an account, and to whom we must give an account of our Stewardship. Unto people, accounts and esteeme of the Preachers of Gods Word, as of the servants of Christ, esteeme them, though not for their owne, yet for their Masters sake.” – A. Symson, 12-13.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The Dog Returns to Its Own Vomit" Sermon: II Peter 2:17-22

“The Dog Returns to Its Own Vomit”
[II Peter 2:17-22]
July 20, 2008 Second Reformed Church

Peter concludes his warning against the false teachers by painting for us three picturers of them:

First, Peter tells us that the teaching of the false teachers is empty – it’s vain – it’s a mirage. And let us remember that Israel is largely a barren and dry land, and the people of the day were largely involved in agrarian work. Imagine, if you will, you have been traveling for days through an arid section of Israel, you haven’t had a drink in days, there has been no grass or water for your flocks, and then you see a well. You start to run – you get to the well – you drop the bucket down to bring up water for you and your flock, but the bucket hits dry ground – the spring has dried up. That’s what the false teachers are like – they seem like a spring of water – the spring you have been desperate for – but once you get to them, and hear their teachings – it’s nothing – it leaves you desperate and thirsty.

Imagine again, you are a farmer, and there has been no rain for weeks. The crops are dying. But then you see black clouds on the horizon, the wind begins to pick up. Trees snap, everything has gone dark – a mist is rolling in. But then it rolls out, and the winds dies, and the clouds disappear – it’s over. You could have sweat more water than the hurricane has dropped. Such are the false teachers – they get you all worked up with their promises, and then they leave. And you’re exhausted, but nothing has changed.

Peter says these are reserved for the “gloom of utter darkness” – this is an expression Jesus uses to refer to Hell. Like we saw two weeks ago – eventually, the false teachers will be damned. But for now, they are like dried up springs and mists driven by a hurricane. They are loud and full of words – like Shakespeare and Faulkner said they are filled with “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Nothing Everyone should be so lucky as to only receive nothing from the false teachers, because they can do so much more – so much harm.

There is only One Hope and Salvation, and He is not to be found among the false teachers, Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. ... Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:10, 13-14, ESV).

Peter, secondly, tells us that the false teachers desire to corrupt you through the sins of the flesh. The false teachers go after the weak – after those who have not fully committed themselves to Christ, to the doubters and the confused, and they make grand offers of freedom and liberty – to be free of mother and father and society and the Church – but, if they would only look behind the false teachers, they would see that they are chained up awaiting the judgment. The false teachers are already bound and waiting for prison. How can they claim to offer freedom when they are enslaved? How can they say they are free from the Law, that nothing matters, that they are free to do what they want, when they are not free to do anything.

Paul wrote, “For you were once called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another” (Galations 5:13, ESV). And “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey, either sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16, ESV). We are all servants or slaves – it’s the same word. Bob Dylan is right when he sings, “You may serve the devil, or you may serve the Lord, still you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” And as Peter put it, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”

And as it sinks in that we all serve someone, let us hear the warning Peter gives at this point: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”

What does that mean? It does not mean that people can become Christians and then “unconvert.” Someone cannot receive salvation and then “lose” their salvation. If salvation is wholly the Work of God, and it is, then it is God Who chooses and makes us His, and we’re not strong enough to remove ourselves from His Hands.

What Peter is saying is that if someone comes into the Church, hears the Gospel preached and rejects it, he is worse off than if he had never heard it. Once someone has heard the Gospel, he is responsible for what he does with it. If he hears the Gospel and rejects it, he is liable for rejecting the truth. For example, if someone is in a dark room and complains that he can’t see, he would be held guilty for not turning on the light. But if someone went into a dark room, turned on the light, rejected the light and turned it off, and then complained that he can’t see – he would be more profoundly guilty than the first man.

The writer of Hebrews wrote, “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6, ESV). In other words, if you never believe in Christ, you’re guilty and damned in your sin, but if you have heard the Gospel – if you have heard that there is Salvation in Jesus Christ Alone – and you reject Him – if you crucify Him again, as the author of Hebrews puts it – you are all the more guilty.

And there are people like that – there are people who come into the Church, seem like they are believers – and then leave. And we wonder what happened. John explained to the early church one reason they leave: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (I John 2:18-19, ESV). Not everyone of us in the Church is part of the Church – there are imposters – there are false teachers – and one day they will be exposed, or they will expose themselves by leaving us.

Third, Proverbs 16:11 reads, “Like a dog returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (ESV). This is the proverb Peter is quoting in this morning’s Scripture. It’s where the sermon title comes from that is out on our sign. And this week, I did have people ask me about the sign – I thought I would get questions about last week’s sign, and I didn’t, but this week I did.

I know from people who have dogs that dogs do, occasionally, vomit and then eat their vomit – it’s actually a fact. But I wanted to know why they would do such a thing, so I went to the Internet for answers. And what I found out was interesting: humans beings, over history, have become very particular about the smells and tastes that we enjoy – it’s actually a very small percentage of the smells and tastes in the world. Humans consider dog vomit to be foul and repulsive smelling – not to mention not being a food we would eat. But dogs, thus say the Internet folks, find the smell of vomit enjoyable – they are drawn to the smell as one that is pleasurable and pleasant – and the contents of it are, for the most part, nutritious.

That’s what the false teachers are like – that’s what the people who follow them are like. The false teachers are like dogs who vomit up their false teaching and then go back to that foul smelling mess and say, “Oh, isn’t this delightful ” And then they eat their vomit again, all the while proclaiming it a delicacy. And they invite you to join them, “Eat my vomit – it smells good; it tastes good; it’s good for you ” And if you’re hoping I drop this because it’s not a very pleasant picture – then you’ve got Peter’s point – we ought to smell their vomit and be nauseated and not want anything to do with it or them. We should flee from people who offer us plates of vomit, rather than the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

He says false teachers are like “the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” The false teachers look at the wedding clothes for the Marriage of the Lamb and they say, “Oh, no, we look much better covered in the muck and the mire – forget that crisp, clean white dress, you should be covered in slop, too – you’ll look much better coated in slime.” If you wouldn’t prepare for worship by dumping mud over you head, then reject the false teachers when they come into our midst.

The teaching of the false teachers is empty.

Their desire is to corrupt you – and enslave you to sin – through the sins of the flesh.

And they want you to believe their vomit is gourmet food and slime is fancy dress.

Let us pray:
God of Truth, we wish that the teaching of the false teachers was as blunt and repulsive as the pictures Peter has painted, for then we would certainly run from them. But they are skilled in making their filth look beautiful. O Lord, be with us, give us Your Wisdom, protect us, and keep us in Your Word. It is easy to fall for the lies of the false teachers, so we beg You to deliver us by the Holy Spirit. Lord, our Only Hope is in You, save us from the creatures among us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Puritan Wisdom

On II Peter 1:1 --

“Hereof this reason may be rendered, because they after a speciall manner are imployed in the service of Jesus Christ. Other men may serve him, and yet walke in their Callings, but Preachers have no other calling but this, even to performe Gods will in the preaching of his Word, wherby soules may be gained unto his kingdom.” – A. Symson, An Expostion upon the Second Epistle Generall of Saint Peter, 9.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Accursed Children!" Sermon: II Peter 2:10b-16

"Accursed Children!"
[II Peter 2:10b-16]
July 13, 2008 Second Reformed Church

Chapter two of II Peter is all about the false teachers – how to recognize them and why to reject them. Peter’s language is violent and unforgiving, and that should cause us to take notice.

Last week we looked at the first third of this chapter, and we saw that it is a truth, that where true prophets prophesy, false prophets will prophesy, and where true teachers teach, false teachers will teach. And this is the same for us as it was for the first century Christians. Nothing changes – there are always liars combating the truth. We also saw that the godly have a promise that they will be rescued in Jesus, but the wicked will be damned. Although it may not look like it now, sometimes, God will recuse the godly and damn the wicked in His Time.

In this second third of chapter two, Peter tells us three things about the false teachers:

First, he tells us that the false teachers blaspheme those who are above them. Peter tells us that they blaspheme the glorious ones – these are some sort of heavenly being that are worthy of blasphemy, because Peter also says that the angels who are greater in might and power than the glorious ones do not dare to blaspheme and pass judgment on them – that is the prerogative of God alone.

These false teachers who claim to have knowledge of one type or another, are not knowledgeable at all, Peter explains. They are merely following their natural instincts, they are behaving like wild animals – wild animals that will be caught and destroyed. And we’re told that God created them to be destroyed. They are an example to us of receiving wrongdoing for wrongdoing.

Second, the false teachers engage in their sin in the daytime and before witnesses. Rather than having any conscience of modesty and hiding their sin in the darkness, they flaunt their sin, calling it liberty. They engage in their orgies of flesh and food before anyone who happens to be there. They seek out sin – they desire to sin as much as possible – because, in truth, they hate God.

Third, the false teachers are unsteady souls whose primary motive is greed and whose primary goal is gaining wealth. What a contrast to the words that Jesus spoke, “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food” (Matthew 10:7-10, ESV). And “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, ESV).

And Peter’s summary judgment of them is “accursed children!” Children under the curse of God. Damned, false teachers. They are not knowledgeable – they are not even adults – they are evil, condemned children, trying to get others to follow in their evil ways.

Peter is very serious – urgently serious – about rooting out the false teachers. He is very serious about making sure they are stopped from teaching and not allowed to deceive more people. In our age of “toleration,” we do not find it so easy to condemn and banish false teachers, but we must. We cannot allow them to draw people away for the faith.

Peter then gives the example of Balaam the prophet, that they might understand what to look for and the seriousness with which we must attend this subject:

Balaam was a prophet in the days of Moses as the people of Israel were battling their way to the land of Canaan. God was leading Israel to kill all those who lived in Canaan and all those who opposed their taking the land of Canaan.

Now, Moab was a nation to the south-east of Canaan, and Balak, the King of Moab, was afraid that Israel and the God of Israel would destroy Moab. So Balak sent messengers to Balaam, who was known as a prophet of the God of Israel, to ask Balaam to curse Israel, so they could not defeat Moab – so Moab would be victorious in a war against Israel. And Balak sent his messengers with the usual fee for prophesying a curse.

Now, if Balaam was truly a prophet of God, he would have cursed Moab and sent them home. But that’s not what Balaam did. Balaam told the messengers that he is a prophet of God, and he has to pray to God and ask if God will permit him to accept their bribe and curse Israel. So Balaam asked God, “Lord, would it be alright with You if I pronounced a curse in Your Name against Israel, Your chosen people, in exchange for the money I am being offered.” And God told him to go back and tell the messengers that Israel was blessed of God and Balaam was not allowed to curse them. So Balaam went back to the messengers and said that God said “no.”

The messengers came back, bringing princes and high officials of Moab and lots more money, gold, and silver. And they again pleaded with Balaam that he curse Israel. And instead of telling them that God had already spoken, he said, again, “Well, I have to go pray to the Lord and ask Him if He will allow me to curse Israel for this big a bribe.” And God told him that if he wanted to go with them, to go, but to only do what God had said.

Balaam, thinking God has just given him the “O.K.” to curse Israel, took the bribe and headed off with the messengers of Moab. And God was angry. Balaam started down the road, and his donkey turned into a field. So Balaam beat the donkey and started out on the road again, but the donkey pushed him against a wall so he couldn’t get loose, and he beat the donkey again. Balaam pushed the donkey to go forward, and she lay down on the ground. And Balaam was filled with wrath and beat the donkey with a staff.

And, then, as Peter mentions in this morning’s text, “Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’ And Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.’ And the donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?’ And he said, ‘No.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. And the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let her live’” (Numbers 22:28-33, ESV).

And, as we might expect, after being rebuked by his donkey, and then being told that the Angel of the Lord was there to kill him, Balaam cried and pleaded and repented and promised that he wouldn’t curse Israel. And the Angel of the Lord told him to stand and go with the messengers, but not to curse Israel – in fact, the Angel of the Lord said that He would give Balaam the words to speak.

Balaam arrived and Balak asked where he had been – why it had taken him so long – the army of Israel was approaching. And Balaam told him not to worry, he was there now. So they went up on the mountain, offered sacrifices, and Balaam began to speak. And the Lord filled his mouth and Balaam blessed Israel. And Balak said, “What are you doing? You were supposed to curse them, not bless them!” And Balaam said, “It’s not my fault, God made me bless them.”

But Balak said, “Alright, maybe this isn’t a good mountain for you. Let’s go over to that mountain and offer sacrifices there.” So they do. And Balaam opened his mouth, and the Lord filled it with blessings for Israel. And Balak was dumbfounded. Yet, he suggests they try one more mountain, but again, Balaam blessed Israel.

Balak was now furious, “I hired you to curse Israel, and you have blessed them three times! What is wrong with you?” And Balaam again responded that it wasn’t his fault, that God made him bless them. So Balak called out to his men and told them that they were going home – they’re going to get away from this Balaam. But Balaam stopped him and said that God wanted him to hear one more prophecy – and Balaam prophesied that a king of Israel would come and slaughter the Moabites, and not only that but God would deliver the Amalekites, and the Ashurites, and the Eberites, into the hands of Israel. And they both went home. (Numbers 22-24).

Then we’re told that during the war with Midian, the Lord commanded Moses to kill all of the Midianites, but Balaam went behind Moses’ back and spoke to the soldiers, telling them it would be a waste to kill all of the Midianites, “After all, the virgin women of the Midianites are extremely beautiful, and we need to increase our population. So, let all the virgin women of Midian be saved as wives for the soldiers.”

And when the war was over, Moses was enraged and demanded to know why all the virgin women of Moab were still alive. And the soldiers told Moses that Balaam instructed them to kill all the males and all the children and all the women who had known men, but to save the virgin women for themselves. So, Moses told them to purify themselves for a week, according to the law. And he ordered that Balaam be beheaded (Numbers 31).

Remember Balaam.

Remember that Balaam blasphemed God by saying that God might change His Mind and allow the prophet to curse Israel.

Remember that Balaam was openly contradicting God before Israel and the Gentiles – his meetings were not in secret.

Remember that Balaam was driven by greed and for sexual pleasure.

That’s what a false teacher looks like. A false teacher may teach the truth 90% of the time, but if he teaches falsehood 10% of the time, he is a false teacher And the only way we will know if a teacher is teaching the truth or not is to know our Bibles, to read them, to search them, to compare the teachings we hear with them.

Balaam was a wild animal, and accursed child. The sake of our eternal souls depends on our being able to recognize the Balaams in our midst. Let us work hard to know the truth that when they do come before us, we will be able to remove them quickly, before they lead some astray.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, help us to recognize the false teachers and to put them out. Give us True Knowledge and Wisdom that we would recognize the Truth, and not be led astray. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday, July 07, 2008

"The Lord Will Rescue the Godly" Sermon: II Peter 2:1-10a

“The Lord Will Rescue the Godly”
[II Peter 2:1-10a]
July 6, 2008 Second Reformed Church

When all is said and done, will you be saved? It’s the most important thing to be sure of. The crowd on the day of Pentecost responded to Peter’s sermon by crying out, “What must we do to be saved?” “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37b-38, ESV).

Peter wrote his second letter to Christians on the run from the Roman army. They were being hunted down and slaughtered. And Peter wrote them to remind them that there is salvation in Jesus Alone, and we are to respond to that salvation by doing good works. Peter said that being under a death sentence is not an excuse for unbelief and for not doing the good works we have been called to do.

Peter warned them that the false teachers were coming and were already there – persons who said that the apostles were wrong, that Jesus was not going to return to earth as Judge, so Christians are free to live and do whatever they want.

Peter warns them that this is a lie of the devil and tells them to believe the testimony of the apostles over the new – and false – teachers for two reasons: the apostles are eye-witnesses to Jesus’ Glory, and the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy is found in what the apostles have taught, not in what the false teachers are teaching.

And then we come to the second chapter of II Peter, and we find what the commentators say is, perhaps, the most terrifying and horrifying chapter of the entire Bible. There is, perhaps, no chapter in the Bible with more accusatory and damning language than this chapter that we begin today. It is rarely preached on. There is not a single hymn that directly relates to it in our hymnal. But it needs to be heard, and we shall hear it, if the Lord wills, over the next several weeks.

Peter reminded the Christians that the prophets of the Old Testament did not make up their prophecies based on their experiences, but they were given their prophecies by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit directed them to write their prophecies, just like a violent storm directs a ship on the ocean.

And so Peter beings chapter two by reminding them that just as there were prophets to whom God gave prophecy, and then the false prophets came, in the same way, teachers of the Truth – the True Gospel – came among them and the Church was born, so now, false teachers had come and were coming among them. In other words: nothing changes. When the Word of Truth is preached, false preachers come. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “That is the New Testament philosophy of history – as there were, even so there shall be. In other words, the world remains the same, and there is nothing so pathetic as the belief that because we are living in the twentieth century we are in a different world from the world inhabited by our forefathers. The answer of the Bible is that since the fall of man this world has remained exactly and precisely the same. Of course there are superficial changes, but they are irrelevant” (Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, 126).

Peter warns them that these false teachers come into the church secretly. They come in, seeming to believe and teach the historic faith, but they eventually suggest some things might be different, maybe the apostles misunderstood Jesus. “Maybe He’s not really going to return in the flesh. Maybe He meant that He would be in their hearts. Maybe the judgment is just against those who have not been forgiven. If Christians are forgiven, how can they be judged? Maybe that means we can do whatever we want.”

They will be subtle and sneaky, but their fangs are real and they seek to promote doubt and eventually outright rejection of the Gospel. Even, Peter says in verse one, “to denying the Master who brought them.” The false teachers are people, often, who were brought up in the church and eventually came to deny Jesus, but still like the structure and the power of the Church for their own evil ends. And Peter says that their destruction will be swift.

We can understand people who don’t want anything to do with Christianity because of the sins of the Church. We must admit that – the Church has sinned, we have sinned. But it is throwing the baby out with the bath-water to reject Christianity because of the sin of the Church. The Church is not a collection of people who of their own ability have perfected themselves. No, the Church is the collection of those who understand that down to our very nature, we are sinners, dead and hopeless, without a Savior to intervene and raise us and change us. Christians have been saved by the Savior, but the process of becoming holy – sanctification – is a life-long one that is not completed until Jesus brings us into glory.

And there is a difference between Truth and falsehood. There is a difference between the True Gospel of Jesus Christ and the lies of the devil – no matter how subtle they might be, and we must train ourselves to be able to know the difference between the two. Peter was urging the first century Christians to be on the lookout, to root out those who taught false doctrine in the Church.

Those that bring these destructive heresies into the Church, Peter tells us, seal their own doom. They will teach, in one form or another, that it is perfectly natural to follow after the lusts of the flesh – if it feels good, do it. They blaspheme the Name of the Lord in teaching what is contrary to the Scripture, and they are cut off because of it. Their real goal is to exploit, to fulfill their greed – to gain money, power, prestige – look at most of the TV preachers. Since God is sovereign over history, God has always known the false teachers and they have been damned from long ago, and though we may wonder why God doesn’t intercede now and take them out of the Church, God has promised their destruction is sure.

In verse four, Peter gives an example to prove his point – that God will punish the wicked – in His time. Peter goes back into the writing of the prophet Moses and tells us that the damnation of the false teachers is sure, because, “if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [Peter actually uses the Greek name for hell, Tartarus] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;” – if God did not spare them, as is the witness of the prophet – that they are being kept until the judgment, how much more sure is it that God will not tolerate humans who persist in false teaching and in misleading the Church. The day will come when they will be judged and damned, and it will be swift.

And we might imagine that the Christians of the first century would be glad to hear that God’s Justice will be upheld in the end, but we might also find them wondering about their own rescue – their salvation. Will they be saved – in this lifetime and the next? Is God going to intervene for them in this persecution?

In verses five through eight, Peter gives two examples to show that God will rescue the godly:

Again he turns to the prophet Moses and reminds the first century Christians of what happened. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animal and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry I made them.’ But Noah found favor with the Lord. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them from the earth’” (Genesis 6:5-13, ESV).

And Peter reminds the Christians, “If he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly,” then God is able to rescue the godly. We remember what happened: Noah spent nearly one hundred years, with his sons, building the ark, and collecting animals, so when God had finished purging the earth, they could repopulate. During those hundred years, we can imagine that Noah’s neighbors mocked him and laughed at him when he told them that God’s judgment was coming upon them. But righteous Noah just kept following God.

Of course, when we talk about the godly and the righteous in this context, we are talking about relative godliness and righteousness, as well as the righteousness that is given to us by Jesus when we believe. No human being, except Jesus, has ever been perfectly righteous and godly on his own. But compared to the rest of the world, Noah was righteous, and, by faith in the Savior who was to come, Noah received the righteousness of Jesus, by which he is truly righteous.

Peter reminded these Christians in his first letter that Noah and God’s rescuing of him and his family is symbolic of our salvation: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought to safety through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (I Peter 3:18-22, ESV).

Just as God saved righteous Noah through the water, while every other human being was drowned, so God saves His people through water, in the sense that baptism is symbolic of the death and resurrection of Jesus, through Who we have eternal salvation.

The second example from Moses reads, “Then the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.’ ... And as morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Up Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.’ But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said,
‘Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away’” (Genesis 18:20-21; 19:15-17, ESV).

Peter reminds the Christians “if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).”

Again, Lot is comparatively righteous and actually righteous through Jesus the Savior, but not of his own works. We remember when the people of the town wanted to sexually assault the men who were visiting with Lot, Lot tried to offer them his daughters – not a very righteous thing to do, but, through faith in the Savior who was to come, God rescued Lot from the fire that punished the ungodly.

And Peter, in his first letter, uses the imagery of being saved through fire as symbolic of our being purified in Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, as was necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the testing of the genuineness of your faith – more precious that gold that perishes thought it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:3-7, ESV).

Just as God saved Lot through the fire, while every other human being in the cities was burned alive, so God rescues His people through the fire which purifies us and makes us a holy people for Him.

So, Peter concludes this section, “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.” So they had the promise and we have the promise, that the Lord will rescue the godly – those who are righteous in Jesus, and God will punish the wicked – the ungodly – on the day of judgment – and they will especially be judged harshly who claim to be free to engaged in all types of sexual perversions and those who despise the authority of God and those God has put over them.

These promises would be a great encouragement to those who were being hunted down for their faith, and it should be a great encouragement to us. God will not lose us. If we belong to Him, we are forever His. And yet, we might have to ask, “Wait a minute, Peter, Christians are being killed – God is not rescuing everyone – you, yourself, will soon be crucified – God is not going to rescue you. What gives?”

The answer is this, 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, ESV). The promise of rescue is not necessarily referring to rescue in this life. Some of those first century Christians were going to be put to death at the hands of Rome. Some Christians today are put to death for their faith. The promise of rescue is that of eternal rescue – that all those who believe in Jesus Alone for their salvation are rescued from the Wrath of God and the pit of
Hell. We may still suffer in this life; we may die for Jesus in this life, but He has neither forsaken us, nor forgotten us, but by His Work, He has rescued us, and will bring us safe unto the Father’s House. That is our hope, and the Promise of God.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that You will not allow Your Justice to be compromised, but You will see that all sin is punished, by the ungodly suffering eternally, and, on behalf of those who believe, in Your Son suffering hell on the cross. We thank You that, not matter what we may suffer on this earth, we have the sure and confident promise and hope that we will be rescued, and on the other side of this veil, we shall be with Jesus in Paradise. For it is in His Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, July 04, 2008

July Sermons

D.V., in July, I plan to preach:

7/6/08 Communion II Peter 2:1-10a "The Lord Will Rescue the Godly"
7/13/08 II Peter 2:10b-16 "Accursed Children!"
7/20/08 II Peter 2:17-22 "The Dog Returns to Its Own Vomit"
7/27/08 II Peter 3:1-7 "Deliberately Overlooking This Fact"