Second Reformed Church

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prayer Meeting

The pastor is on study leave, so there will be no prayer meeting today.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Tongues" Sermon: Acts 2:1-11

“Tongues”
[Acts 2:1-11]
May 23, 2010 Second Reformed Church

When Jesus ascended back to the Right Hand of God – to the Throne of the Son – He told the eleven, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV). Ten days later – fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead – God the Holy Spirit indwelled the disciples on the day of Pentecost.

Today – in the Church Year – is Pentecost Sunday – the day we remember the events of the first Pentecost. You may remember it was about a year ago that we looked at this same text as we began our look at the book of Acts. So we may remember what happened:

The disciples were all gathered together in Jerusalem – hiding still in fear for what the Jews might do to them – and there was suddenly the sound of a mighty rushing wind and visible tongues of fire above the head of each believer. These were audible and visible signs that Jesus’ Promise of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit had come to pass – they – and all Christians since them – were indwelled and given power to do the good works that God has planned for us to do. And they, on that day, were given the gift of being able to instantly speak in the tongues – the languages – of every person in Jerusalem. Do we remember why?

At that time – shortly after the Passover – there were devout Jews who had come from all over the world to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. There were Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libyians, Romans, Jews, proselytes, Cretans, and Arabians. There were people from Italy to Arabia, Turkey to Egypt and Lybia. All of these people – who spoke many different languages – were in Jerusalem – but they would be traveling home – and the disciples did not have time to learn all the languages of the world to be able to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all of these people before they left – and this Good News could not wait – so God made them instantly able to speak in all of the languages of the peoples there.

And the people were shocked to hear these Galileans speaking in their home languages. Some made fun of them and tried to deny that they were speaking real languages. But many came to believe in Jesus Christ as the One and Only Savior, sent by God for the salvation of all who will believe.

In considering that it was on Pentecost that the people of God were gifted to be able to speak the Word of God in the tongues of those who needed to hear it, I thought we might do well to quickly look at the Power of the Tongue – or the Word – of God, as we see it throughout the Scripture – to take a brief survey of what God does with words.

In the beginning – it would seem the best place to start would be the beginning. Before the beginning, there was no time, no space, no physical stuff – only God. “And God said....and there was....” (Genesis 1:3, ESV).

Light, water, earth, plants, the stars, all types of animals, including human beings, who are created in the Image of God, were spoken by God into existence by His Word. Can we imagine total nothingness, outside of time – then hear God utter the Word that caused the physical universe to come into being and into time, according to His Pleasure and Will? It’s fairly incomprehensible, isn’t it? But it says something about God, doesn’t it?

One of the foundational questions in the study of philosophy is, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” “Why does anything exist?” A popular answer for the last hundred years or so has been, “Well, once upon a time, there was some stuff – don’t ask where it came from – and it blew up for some reason, and then over billions of years, chance and accident caused everything to exist, although there is no proof of any of this.”

But God tells us, God, the Almighty spoke the Word: Time. Space. Matter. Ocean. Land. Tree. Platypus. Kangaroo. Adam. What a Mighty God is this Who by His Very Word spoken created everything that is out of nothing and pronounced it good – very good (Genesis 1:31).

Second, God said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth; it shall not return empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:8-11, ESV).

God tells us that God cannot fail to accomplish what God purposes to do. Everything that God says He will do, He does. Everything He says will come to pass, will come to pass. Every promise that God makes, God will keep. What friend do we have other than God Who will never fail us and can promise that everything – every Word that comes from His Tongue will be fulfilled and succeed and accomplish its purpose? Whom else can we turn to and trust because from the beginning of Creation, He has never failed and He cannot fail and He will not fail us? To Whom else can we go and know He will always listen and always answer us according to His Will – which will be done?

Third, we find that the Very Salvation that God provides for us is His Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ...

“The true light, which enlightens everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:1-5, 9-13, ESV).

The Salvation Whom God provides is His Son, the Word. He is the One Who came to make atonement between God and us. He has chosen a people for Himself according to what God has willed and spoken to Him that He as the Word might be our salvation, and that His Word might be our salvation.

So Salvation is the Word of God Incarnate, Who cannot fail to save all the people that God has given to Him. Is God the Word and the Word of God precious to you? They should be: we should be longing in love to be with Jesus and longing to be able to spend more time in God’s Word, more time hearing it preached and taught, spending more time studying it with other Christians. If God is in us, is He not our First Love?

Our problem is found in seeing that we are born sinners, and we cannot tame our tongues by our own will. James explains: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole body as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

“How great a fire is set ablaze by such a small fire And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of decay and poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” (James 3:1-12, ESV).

It would seem there is no hope for the use of our tongues – but God. We cannot control our tongues, but by the power of God Who dwells in we who believe, it can be controlled and used to the glory of God.

Remember what Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, ESV). And this is the hope that we have for our feeble and sinful tongues as we remember the first Pentecost: God has been given to indwell us and He will use our tongues to spread His Gospel – God – for His own reasons, has chosen to use the tongues of human beings to spread His Word – the Gospel of the Word – the Good New of Salvation through Jesus Christ Alone. You and I have been gifted with gifts and abilities and God will grab hold of our tongues and guide them to speak what He would have us speak for the sake of His Gospel. And as we have already seen, if it is the Will of God to use our tongues to announce His Gospel to this world, it will come to pass without fail and God will accomplish everything God intended without fail.

Do we often think about the dangers of our tongue? About the filth and the lies and the nonsense we allow to pass over them and out of our mouths – every one of us here. Oh, that we would be amazed that God would choose to use our tongues to spread His Holy Word and that this knowledge – this truth – would cause us to be slow to speak, careful what we say, praying for help, working hard to make sure that what we speak is nothing that will offend the Holiness of God or turn someone away from Jesus, the Only Savior.

Sixth, we can learn something from the description of the tongue of Jesus: When Jesus appeared to John on the island of Patmos, John saw Jesus, in part, like this: “In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16, ESV).

Have you ever seen a two-edged sword – whether in reality or in a movie or in a book? There are one-edged swords that only have one sharp edge – one cutting edge. And there are two-edged swords that are sharp – cutting – on both edges. The purpose of having a two-edged is so that the swordsman can slice through swinging forward and then slice through coming back. When John tells us that Jesus’ Tongue appeared as a two-edged sword, we are being told that what comes out of Jesus’ Mouth – off of His Tongue – cuts like a two-edged sword. The Word of Jesus – the Word of God – cuts like a two-edged sword – it cuts – slices through – as it goes out and as it comes back.

What we are doing right now is a perfect example of this: I am preaching the Word of God to you – I am telling you what God has said, that it should cut you, slice through your sin, affect you and change you and cause you to mature in the faith. But the Word of God is a two-edged sword – and as I preach what God has said to you, it comes back to me and cuts through me, through my sin, affecting me and challenging me and causing me, Lord Willing, to mature in the faith. Any pastor who ascends to the pulpit with a cavalier attitude is a fool. And any pastor who is not laid low and humbled and instructed by the Word of God before he preaches it to his congregation, ought to abandon his pulpit until he has been instructed by the Lord, for such a man has no business in the pulpit like that.

Thanks be to God that He Who lives in us and He Who died for us is He Who is the Almighty God Who brings all things to pass according to His Will. Knowing that, we can trust Him and be assured that He will cause His Word to accomplish what He has planned it to accomplish. That’s not an excuse for you or me to slack off in our study of God’s Word. But it is a comfort to know that God will not fail, even though we fail Him and each other.

Let us end our brief look at the Power of the Tongue and Word of God in considering the end. For just as God brought all things into existence with His Word, so He will bring a close to this age and bring the new heavens and the new earth and the New Jerusalem among us:

Paul is writing about the return of Jesus: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (I Thessalonians 4:16a, ESV). When Jesus returns, He will come will a shout of command – “Now ” – or something like that – and the whole world – every person living on the whole planet will see Him coming, and He will bring His own to Himself (Matthew 24:29-31).

We didn’t exist when God spoke and all things came into existence. We may be here on earth to hear Jesus shout His Cry of Return. Between now and then, God has given us tongues to speak and a Word to tell every tribe and people and nation – and God Himself lives in us to guide our tongues and help us through His Power and the gifts and abilities we need to be His people where He has placed each of us.

We may not every have the need of ability to spontaneously speak in a foreign language as the disciples did on that first day of Pentecost. But each one of us has been called to speak. How have we been using our tongues?

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for showing Yourself to be Almighty, Glorious, and Holy – the Giver of the Word of Salvation through Your Son the Word, our God and Savior, Jesus. We thank You for the gift of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. And we ask that You would open our mouths and take hold of our tongues and use them to Your Glory in whatever way You would use us, for we exist for Your Glory, and You are our joy. And it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Why Jesus Wants You Where He Is" Sermon: John 17:20-26

“Why Jesus Wants You Where He Is”
[John 17:20-26]
May 16, 2010 Second Reformed Church

Today is Ascension Sunday, so let’s begin with asking the question, “Where is Jesus?” With the exception of the most hardened skeptics, no one believes Jesus is in the Garden Tomb. So, our choices are that His disciples stole the Body and put it somewhere, willingly suffering horrific deaths as they defended the story that He rose from the dead. Or, that He did not really die, but escaped, and His disciples bizarrely and willingly suffered horrific deaths defending the story that He rose from the dead. Or, as over five hundred eye witnesses attest, He did actually rise from the dead, and then ascend back to the Throne of the Son of God in Heaven.

Luke records, “So when [the eleven apostles] had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:6-11, ESV).

Paul explains “[God] worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the age to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:20-23, ESV).

And, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1, ESV).

And the author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).

So, according to the eye witnesses, Jesus ascended to the Right Hand of God the Father. The expression, “at the right hand” means that the person who sits there holds all authority and power. The Son returned to His Throne, glorified in the Person of Jesus. So, Jesus is in the Kingdom, on His Throne, ruling over all things. And this morning’s Scripture tells us, in part, that Jesus wants us where He is. Why?

The Scripture that was read is the end of what is called”The High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. It is the prayer that Jesus prayed for His people just before He was betrayed and taken away to the High Priest for trial.

In just looking at the end of this prayer, we find these things:

First, Jesus asks the Father that all believers – all Christians from that day until the end of time – which includes you and me, would believe in Him, through the witness of the words of the apostles (which we have as our Bible) and that we might be one, just as the Father and the Son are one.

When we talk about the doctrine of the Trinity, we say that Jesus is God and the Father is God and the Holy Spirit is God – these Three Persons are the Same One God. In that way, Jesus asked His Father that all those who believe savingly in Him would be one. Understand, Jesus is not asking that we merely agree in what the Scripture teaches. No, He is asking that we would be one in the same mysterious, mystical way that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are all One.

Jesus prays that just as He and the Father are distinct Persons, yet still the Same One God, we, who are distinct persons, would be One in Christ, mystically joined together in Him to form One Body; the Church. Paul writes that “[Jesus] create[s] in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:15b, ESV).

Second, Jesus says that He has given His Glory to His Own. This is a case of what theologians call the “already” and the “not yet.” Through Jesus’ Work, He has already glorified us in eternity, but in this present moment, we have not yet been glorified. We will surely, without fail, be glorified, like Jesus, but it will not happen – in time – until He returns for us.

Paul tells us that Jesus gave Himself for the Church – for all those who would believe – “so that [Jesus] might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27, ESV). And again, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4, ESV).

So, though it has not happened in time, we have the promise of God our Savior that it will surely happen without fail, for all those who believe savingly in Him Alone for salvation – we are glorified, and we will enter into His Glory, made like unto Him on that final day.

Jesus asks His Father that even as we wait to be united with Him in glory, we will be united in such a way that the world will see His Glory and Perfection already working in and through us and understand the love that the Son has for we who believe, which is the love that the Father has for the Son.

Jesus prays that the world will look at us and exclaim: “Now I understand – though your words and actions, I can see how much God the Father loved the Son to send Him to become the salvation of all those who would believe.”

Third. Jesus prays that we who believe would be where He is. Why? Why does Jesus want you and me and all those who believe to be where He is? Why does Jesus want us to be in His Presence, at the Right Hand of the Father, before the Throne in the Kingdom?

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me before the foundation of the world.” Jesus wants us where He is so we may see His Glory.

Remember, after Moses interceded with God for the people of Israel, after they sinned with the golden calf, “Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ And [God] said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name. “The Lord.” And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see my face and live’” (Exodus 33:18-20, ESV). And “when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, ... Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Exodus 34:29a, c, ESV).

We humans cannot see the direct glory of God because it is so intense and holy, it would kill us. But humans can view the Glory of God through Jesus. We will remember what happen at the Transfiguration: “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2, ESV).

And we are told in Revelation: “And I saw the temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there” (Revelation 21:22-25, ESV).

And what will our response be to this? To being in the presence of the glory of Jesus Christ? We will find ourselves eternally in worship of God and the Lamb. Even now as we but glimpse the glory that is coming among us and the glory that we are being brought into, we ought to find ourselves more and more prostrate before our God and Savior is worship. And, also, in joy. For the glory of the Lord, being in it, being brought into it, being surrounded by it, will give us the greatest of all possible joys.

Jesus wants us where He is so we will see His Glory, worship Him as He deserves to be worshiped, and have our joy be made as full as it can possibly be.

So, in these final verses of the High Priestly Prayer, we find that we believers in Jesus Alone for our salvation are mystically united with Him. Jesus is praying for us even now. Jesus has promised that we will all be glorified when He bring us into His Kingdom. God, our Father loves us. We will be with Jesus where He is now – for all of eternity. And when we are received into that glory, we will see His Glory and worship and be filled to the fullest with perfect joy.

Today is Ascension Sunday, let us worship our Savior. Let us look forward to the day when He returns and brings us into His Glory – that day when we will behold His Glory forever, filled with joy unimaginable.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for revealing Your Son to us. We thank You for giving Him to us to be our Savior. And we thank You that He wants us to be with Him – in the Presence of His Glory – forever. Cause us to be ready. And come quickly, Lord Jesus. For it is in His Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Save-a-Dream

We are pleased to be hosting Save-a-Dream's awards dinner this Saturday, from 2 PM to 7 PM in Freeman Hall. Save-a-Dream will be honoring Irvington High School students who have stepped up to make the community better. Join us in honoring their commitment.

Prayer Meeting

Please note that this Saturday's prayer meeting will meet at 1 PM, rather than 3 PM. See you then, D.V.!

"Jesus Fulfills the Kingship" Sermon: Acts 13:13-43

“Jesus Fulfills the Kingship”
[Acts 13:13-43]
May 9, 2010 Second Reformed Church

The prophet Nathan told David, “but [the Lord’s] steadfast love will not depart from [your son], as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me” (II Samuel 7:15-16, ESV).

Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark finished their work on the island of Cyprus and prepared for the next leg of their journey, but an argument between Paul and John Mark sent John Mark back to Jerusalem. It’s not spelled out in the Scripture, but the indication is that John Mark, initially – and we’ll see more of him later in the book of Acts, did not believe the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles – the non-Jews.

So Paul and Barnabas sailed to Perga in Pamphylia – a south-central port city of what today is Turkey, and from there they went to Antioch in Pisida – which was in central Turkey – it’s not the same Antioch as the Antioch in Syria.

And they went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and sat down. It was normal that a passage would be read from the Law and a passage from the Prophets and then the rabbi would ask someone in the congregation – preferably a visitor – a stranger – if he had a word from God for the people. Paul was one of the visitors that Sabbath, and he stood up to speak:

Paul’s message is very similar to the one that Stephen gave before he was stoned, under the urging of Saul. Paul begins by addressing them – Jews and non-Jews – as those who fear God – and Paul immediately unifies and shocks them by saying that “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great....” That may not sound shocking to us, but Paul is addressing Jews and non-Jews, and he tells them that the God of Israel is the God of the Jews and the non-Jews, and Abraham is the father of believing Jews and non-Jews. This would have been shocking – Paul was effectively saying what he spells out in great detail in the book of Romans – the Israel of God is not a biological people, or a land-locked people. The Israel of God is all people – no matter what their heritage – who believe in the Savior that God sent. Everyone who believes in Jesus Alone for Salvation is a member of the Israel of God. You and I who believe are part of the Israel of God.

Then, like Stephen, Paul enumerates all the good things that God has done for Israel: It was God Who chose the fathers and made Israel a people. It was God Who made us great in Egypt and then delivered us. It was God Who put up with us in the wilderness and kept us alive for forty years and then led us into the Promised Land, destroying the seven nation. Then God gave us the judges and Samuel, the prophet. Then we asked for a king, and God gave us Saul. Then God removed him and gave us David, a man after God’s Own Heart. Do we understand the greatness of this God Who has cared for us and preserved us for generations?

Then, through the offspring of David, God gave us the Promised Savior, Jesus. This Jesus was proclaimed by John the Baptist before His Coming, and John said that he was not worthy to untie the laces of the Savior’s sandals.

The Message of Salvation was sent to us, and it was sent to Jerusalem in the days of Jesus, but the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, and the Scribes, and the Priests, and the Rulers did not understand the prophecies that are read every day in the Temple and the synagogue, and in their sinful ignorance, the condemned Jesus, the Savior, the Greatest of God’s Gifts to us.

But they couldn’t find a way to execute Him, so they had to bring Him to Pilate to be crucified, and once He had fulfilled all the prophecies about Him, He was taken down from the tree and buried – and as we celebrated a few short weeks ago – this same God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, and He appeared to many witnesses – who were alive at the time the New Testament was written, so they could be interviewed and questioned and they were found to all be in agreement that Jesus is alive.

Jesus is alive. Paul and Barnabas were bringing the Good News to the faithful God-fearers in Antioch in Turkey – it is the same message of Good News that is preached from every true church:

In the second Psalm, we read that God said, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” The only way that Jesus could take upon Himself the punishment for all of the sins of all of we who believe and credited us with His Righteous Life – His Holiness – is if He is God in the Flesh. God the Son incarnate, taking on the full human Person of Jesus of Nazareth, lived perfectly under the Law of God, died for we who would believe, and rose from the dead because He is Innocent.

Although Jesus remained until the third day in the tomb, God preserved Him and did not allow His Body to experience decay, as it is recorded in Psalm 16, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption.” Corruption of the flesh is an effect of sin in us, and Jesus has no sin in Him. He was born like Adam and Eve were created, so death could not corrupt His Body, and death had to release Him – alive.

David served God while he was alive, and then he died, and his body saw the corruption of the grave, and God did not raise him from the dead. Still, God kept His Promise to David: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me” (II Samuel 7:6, ESV).

It is of Jesus that these words are spoken in Isaiah 55:7, “I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.” Such was the promise given to Mary, the mother of Jesus, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33, ESV). And He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV).

Jesus, we see, fulfills the kingship – Jesus is the Final and Eternal Son of David Who is the Eternal King of Kings – reigning from His Throne. God raised Him to be King over we His people. As Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18b, ESV). What does it mean for us that Jesus is King, reigning on the Throne of David?

First, it means that Jesus intercedes for us before the Father. The author of Hebrews writes, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now appears in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:24, ESV). Jesus, the Perfect Human Being, Who is also the One God, appears before His and our Father, to represent us – satisfying God’s Justice by presenting Himself having died for each and every one of our sins and also having lived a perfect life, fulfilling every point of God’s Law, so God sees us as perfect and holy in Jesus’ Name.

Second, since Jesus is still a living human being and He was received to the Throne of the Son of God, we can be sure that just as Jesus, in His Physical Body, has been received into the Kingdom of God, so shall everyone who believes in Him be received in our physical, yet perfected, bodies. Paul writes, “[God] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6, ESV) and “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:3:20-21, ESV).

Third, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He sends God the Holy Spirit to indwell us and to lead us away from the desires of the flesh and this world and to conform us into the Image of Jesus – desiring those things which are above. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek then things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1, ESV).

And fourth, as we have already seen, Jesus is the Almighty King who governs all things: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18b, ESV). Since that is true we can be confident in all of His Promises to us – we can turn to Him and know that everything we ask according to His Will, He will do for us.

Lastly, Paul says, “Let it be known to you, therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” What is Paul saying?

First, he says, as we have already said, Jesus forgives us for our sins.

But he also says, second, that all we who believe in Jesus are free from the condemnation of the Law of Moses. Why would the Law of Moses condemn us? Because no one can keep the Law of Moses perfectly. What does that mean? It means that the Law of Moses was never intended to be a way of salvation. Do we understand?

God has given humanity His Law and told us to keep it. But it is not possible for us to keep the Law, because we are sinners. Therefore, it was never God’s intention that we would save ourselves from our sin through the Law.

There are those who say that the Jews find salvation through the keeping of the Law and the rest of humanity finds salvation through faith in Jesus. That is ridiculous No human being born with Original Sin – with a sin nature – with an inclination towards sin – which every mere human being after Adam is born with – none of us can merit salvation through keeping the Law. Even if we were to keep it perfectly from birth, we are born sinners, so we are born lost – dead in our sins, as the Scripture says.

No, our works contribute nothing to our salvation. Our Only Hope is found in the Holy Man, Jesus, God Incarnate, the Almighty King Who sits on the Throne of David and rules all of Creation. He is the Only One Who can bring us before His Father and say, “This one is pardoned by My Merit; I have chosen this one for Myself through My Sacrifice.”

So salvation is not about good people or bad people, or Jews and Gentiles – Jews and non-Jews. Paul says, “Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about: ‘Look you scoffers, be astonished and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells you.’”

Don’t scoff at the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Don’t scoff at being told that you and I can do nothing to make ourselves right with God. Don’t scoff at being told that salvation and life and hope are all of Jesus – the Almighty King Jesus – the Son of David. Or you and I will find ourselves astounded and perish. We will hold up our filthy rags that we call good deeds and perish.

Humility is what is called for – to throw ourselves at the feet of the King – to ask Him for the mercy that He promises to all those who will believe. And He will save us from our sin and the Law and make us a people for Himself, by Himself. Isn’t that Good News, indeed?

The people of Antioch thought it was good news. They begged Paul to come back and preach to them again on the next Sabbath. And Paul and Barnabas urged them to continue in the Grace of God.

Let us pray:
Almighty God and King, we thank You for the Good News of Salvation through Jesus. Help us to remember that Jesus is Sovereign over all things, including our salvation. And let us rejoice that we do not need to find some scheme to work our way to Heaven – if such a thing were possible – but only need to humbly receive the Work already accomplish by our Brother and Sovereign King, Jesus. For it is in His Name we pray, Amen.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

"We're Fighting the Devil" Sermon: Acts 13:1-12

“We’re Fighting the Devil”
[Acts 13:1-12]
May 2, 2010 Second Reformed Church

After the death of Herod Agrippa, the Word of God increased and multiplied throughout Jerusalem, Judah, Samaria, and Syria. And Barnabas and Saul left Jerusalem and returned to Antioch in Syria with young John Mark in tow.

Antioch had become the second Jerusalem, and they had many teachers and prophets, including Barnabas and Saul, who we have already heard about, and Simeon, called Niger – who was probably from North Africa, Lucius of Cyrene (in North Africa), and Manaen, who was the foster brother of King Herod Antipas. While they were gathered together in worship – hearing the Word of God read and preached, the Holy Spirit told them to set apart Barnabas and Saul for a special work, so they prayed for them and laid hands on them and sent them off.

Barnabas and Saul, with their assistant, John Mark, were sent to Seleucia and then to Salamis on the island of Cyprus, which was Barnabas’ home country. (This was the beginning of what we now call Paul’s first missionary journey.) They preached in the synagogues of the Jews all the way across the island to Paphos, and the Jews listened, and many believed.

But when they reach Paphos, they ran into a Jewish false prophet by the name of Bar-Jesus, whose name literally means, “son of Jesus” or “son of Joshua.” (Understand, he was not claiming to be Jesus of Nazareth’s son – “Jesus” was a common name then, like “Bob,” today.) Luke also tells us that he liked to be called Elymas. Now, that is an Arabic term that means, “wizard.” This guy thought of himself as “Merlin, the magnificent,” so-to-speak. And he had a good patron:

When Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark found him, he was in the company of the Roman proconsul of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus. Elymas was the official wizard/prophet for the Roman proconsul. Sergius Paulus was a man who wanted knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, and he was willing to pay for it. Whatever Elymas had been saying and doing had impressed Sergius Paulus, so Elymas was in his company and employ. However, Luke tells us, the one thing Elymas kept from Sergius Paulus was the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Why? Why was every religion and philosophy alright for Sergius Paulus to learn about, but Elymas did everything he could to keep him from learning about Christianity? There were two reasons: If Sergius Paulus came to believe in Jesus, Elymas would be out of a job – he would be exposed as the fraud he was, and he wouldn’t be in Sergius Paulus’ employ any more. And the second reason is that Elymas was a Jew, so he would have thought it blasphemous to call Jesus the Savior.

Now, Luke tells us when they met up with Elymas, Saul, who was also called Paul – notice at this point, Saul goes by Paul and he is listed first instead of last – he is now the first among equals in his party – the Holy Spirit filled Paul and Paul looked intently into the eyes of Elymas and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?”

Paul accused Elymas – “You are not a Jew. You are not a son of Abraham. You are not a son of God. You are the son of the devil. You are not seeking truth, teaching wisdom, bringing about righteousness and justice. You are the enemy of righteousness. You are full of deceit and all villainy. You are taking the straight path that the Lord has laid out before humanity and making it as twisted and difficult and ugly as you can for your own gain. And, because you hate God and His Savior.”

Before Elymas could get a word in, Paul continued, “And now, behold the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” And immediately, he was blind. Do we remember a certain zealous Pharisee who God also blinded for a time? Saul. Remember? On the road to Damascus.

We don’t now any more about Elymas – whether he ever came to faith, or whether he got his sight back and continued his deceptive ways. We do know, as Luke records, that the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus, believed in Jesus and His Salvation when he saw what had happened to Elymas, because “he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.”

I doubt any of us have a false prophet in our employ, but do you check your horoscope? Do you ever go to a palm reader, or a fortune teller, or have the Tarot cards read? Have you ever gone to a seance or played with the Ouija Board for “fun”?

The first thing we need to understand is that there is a devil. There are demons. And they will do whatever they can to get us to turn away from what is perfect and right and just. Peter tells us to “be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brothers throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever” (I Peter 5:8-11, ESV).

The devil, Satan, Lucifer – he wants you and me to disobey God, so he whispers “sweet nothings” in our ears and tells us that “it’s easy,” “a little won’t hurt,” “just one more time.” There are spiritual beings who want to tempt us into sinning against God – and they are good at it!

Now, understand, the devil is not a being with red skin, a pitchfork, and a tail – that was a description that was made up – originally – to make fun of the devil, who the Scripture tells us was the most beautiful of angels. But he disobeyed God, so God threw him out of heaven. And let’s also understand that the devil and his demons do not torture people in Hell – the devil and his demons will be suffering in Hell along with every human being that ends up there. Jesus is the Lord of Hell, not the devil.

And let us remember, second, that every mere human being since Adam and Eve has been born a sinner. Paul writes, “[we] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3b, ESV). What does that mean, “children of wrath”? Whose wrath was against us? God’s Why? Because we were sinners, following after the devil as his sons and daughters.

So, what can we do to become children of God? Nothing. That’s God’s Work: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show us the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not you own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10, ESV). As Paul writes, “So then [God’s election] depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:16, ESV).

And once we are alive in Christ, we understand, thirdly, that we’re fighting the devil. We, as Christians, are fighting against the devil and all that he teaches, his temptation of us, the way he twists the Scripture – we are fighting against everything that is not the clear Truth of our God and Savior Jesus Christ – and God prepares us for battle:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, having done all to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:10-20, ESV).

Paul tells us that Christians are fighting against the devil and his demons, and God provides us with the weapons of our warfare. Paul uses the imagery of a Roman uniform – but it is imagery – he is not telling us that we ought to fight the devil wearing first century Roman battle gear. No, he uses the imagery of the uniform and gear of the Roman soldier to tell us how we are prepared and how we are to fight.

How are we prepared, and how are we to fight? By reading and knowing and living out God’s Word. The Holy Word of God cuts the devil down, shuts his mouth, and refutes his lies. What does our text tell us? “Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” And Paul tells us, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, ESV). The proconsul did not believe simply because Elymas became blind; he believed because he heard the teaching of the Lord and saw it lived out through the blinding of Elymas. Remember when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, with each temptation the devil brought to Him, Jesus defeated him by quoting the Word of God, by telling him the Word of God, by teaching him the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11).

So, the devil and his demons are real. We are born sinners, following after the devil. But God has chosen a people for Himself and gifted us and prepared us to fight against the devil with the Word of God.

There’s one more thing we need to understand and remember: the devil is already defeated. Jesus conquered the devil through His Resurrection. So we can confidently say:

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us for the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39, ESV).

Jesus has done the work; the war is won. John writes, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. I am writing to you fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, you men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (I John 2:13-14, ESV).

C. S. Lewis said that the devil tries to get us to dismiss him or to be obsessed with him – it is through those ways that he catches us and leads us into sin. The truth is that he is real, and he is powerful, and we are fighting him with the Word of God. But, ultimately, Jesus has already defeated him, so we have nothing to fear – we are safe in the arms of our Loving Savior.

He is the God Who gave Himself on the cross, leaving us His Word and the Sacraments, and as we heard His Word read and preached and as we receive the bread and the cup, He gives us His Grace to strengthen and enable us to do all that He calls us to do.

So let us pray:
Almighty God, we rejoice to know that though we fight the devil and his temptations in this life, he cannot never be victorious, because You have already defeated him. Help us to turn to Your Word to fight him and glorify You as we turn from temptation and sin. Give us Your Grace and prepare us for battle, confident in the completed Work of Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

May Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

5/2/10 Communion
Acts 13:1-12 “We’re Fighting the Devil”

5/9/10 (Mother’s Day)
Acts 13:13-43 “Jesus Fulfills the Kingship”

5/16/10 Ascension
John 17:20-26 “Why Jesus Wants You Where He Is”

5/23/10 Pentecost
Acts 2:1-11 “Tongues”

5/30/10 Trinity
Guest preacher: Bill Galloway