Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: "Every Single Man's Battle"

             I have mixed feelings about Every Single Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey.  I initially looked at the titled and thought to myself, a single male, “Shockingly, yes, single men do have sexual thoughts.”  As I began to read the book, I found some problems and much good, but then, on page fifty-one, it changed into “a companion guide” for the single male, to the author’s book Every Man’s Battle.  In other words, to get the full benefit of three-quarters of this book, you have to buy another book.  That disappointed me.

The book begins with the authors’ stories, and reference is made to how, after one of the author’s divorces, God had to go to plan “B” for his life (9).  I believe in the Sovereign God Who doesn’t make mistakes and doesn’t need to turn to a plan “B”!

The authors talk about pornography as being the primary problem of single men, and I question if that is accurate.  Perhaps I am not the average single man, but I raise the question about their assumption.

The authors, to my reading, write only about single men who intend/desire marriage.  They do no address those persons who have/believe they have the gift of celibacy.  Just because one has the gift of celibacy does not mean that one will never have a lustful thought.  They need to also address those who are “eunuchs for the Kingdom” – either here or in another volume.  Those single men have their own unique set of issues and temptations.

Still, the authors make three points about single men and sexuality which I agree are extremely important:  Singles must have others to whom they are accountable – not just to God, but to other human beings who will help them and pray with them and be a human reminder of their desire for purity.

Spiritual revival is of utmost necessity.  Everyone needs to be in the Scripture every day, and singles will find help in pursuing after God in pursuing after God – not giving themselves the time and the opportunity to stray.

And, all sex before marriage is sin.  We often try to excuse this act or that act, so long it is not a genital act, but God condemns all sexual acts prior to marriage.  That is a message we need to hear over and over – it is a message which society finds scandalous, but it is true.

However, the straw that breaks the camel’s back, which makes me not recommend this book, is the theology throughout the “companion guide” that as Christians, victory is available to us, but we have to appropriate it for ourselves.  They give examples of people who received victory and then gave it away, etc.  This is a misunderstanding of the Scripture.

We are victorious in Christ.  Period.  The battle has been one.  We have been justified.

“’Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:54b-56, ESV).

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:4-5, ESV).

We were born dead in our sin, slavers to the world, the flesh, and the devil.   But Christ had given us victory over sin and death through His Meritorious Work on the cross, which satisfies for we who believe.

Martin Luther said that we are simultaneously justified and sinners.  Christ has done the work, our debt has been paid, His Righteousness has been applied to our accounts, so the elect of God are Christ’s forever – yet we sin.

What does that mean?  That we have not rightly or fully appropriated the victory?  Has Jesus promised us sinless perfection in this life?  No!  We are righteous in God’s Sight through Jesus.  The Holy Spirit now indwells us and leads us to grow in holiness.  We continue to sin in this life – though, hopefully, less and less – and when we do, we turn to our faithful Savior and confess our sin to Him and receive the forgiveness He already merited for us on the cross.

I am victorious in Jesus because Jesus is victorious and has made me His own.  Now, I struggle and run and fight my way towards the finish line, confessing my sin and relying on Jesus – not on my application of the victory.

[This review appears on Amazon.com and on my blog.  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.] 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Today

The Consistory thought it prudent that we not have worships services today due to the ensuing hurricane.  Be safe.  Help your neighbors.  And thank God for His Mercy.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ripley's?

Our Mayor has said he is a Christian and a member of a local church.  In a recent issue of the town paper, he explained that he is a Muslim as well, and he explained the meaning and practices of Ramadan.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

In talking with one of our deacons this week I was told, "I've got to be honest with you; I didn't get anything out of Sunday's sermon."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"God Will Judge the Church" Sermon: Zephaniah 1:1-18


“God Will Judge the Church”

[Zephaniah 1:1-18]

August 21, 2011 Second Reformed Church

            Let’s pretend for a moment that we are all married persons – each of us has a spouse.  We have gone through the marriage right and pledged to be faithful to our spouse “until death do us part.”  Now, suppose that your spouse began to have an affair – your spouse began having sexual relations with someone other than you.  This goes on for some time.  Finally, you realize something is wrong and you confront your spouse, and he or she responds, “Yes. I have been having an affair, but I have always come home to you; I have always been faithful to you.”  How would you respond?  Would you say, “You’re right:  you come home to me and satisfy all my needs and wants, so, even though you are having an affair, you have been faithful to me”?  How would you respond?

            I suspect that none of us would say to such a spouse, “Oh, you’re right, you have been faithful to me.”  The fact that our spouse came home and went through the motions with us would not change the fact that our spouse had been unfaithful – our spouse had broken the marriage covenant – and this was not going to be swept under the rug!

            This is what we see happening in the book of Zephaniah, but it was the nation of Israel that had committed adultery with other gods.    Zephaniah addressed the southern Kingdom of Judah – Israel had already fallen to the Assyrians and been taken into captivity.

            We have in the opening to the book of Zephaniah, four previous generations listed for us:  Zephaniah was the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah.  Unfortunately, that no longer helps us very much.  In his day, it would have served to distinguish him from all the other Zephaniahs.  The only things we may be able to say is that since his father’s name was Cushi, he may have been from Cush – modern day Ethiopia, which would make Zephaniah an African Jew, and Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet, Jeremiah.

            Zephaniah preached during the reign of King Josiah – one of the few good kings of Judah.  The author of Kings tells us, “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.  His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath.  And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of David his father, and did not turn to the right or to the left” (II Kings 22:1-2, ESV).

            God raised up Josiah as king after years of bad kings who thought they could worship God and idols.  The kings before Josiah set up idols on the hills and in their homes and even in the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, and somehow, they thought that as long as they worshipped God along with all of the false gods, they were still being faithful, and everything was alright.

            When Josiah was eighteen years old, he instructed the carpenters to repair the Temple of the Lord.  He told them to take all the money out of the property fund and use it to restore the Temple.  While the workmen did their work, Hilkiah, the high priest, found the book of the Law.  This would have at least been the book of Deuteronomy, and might have been Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  You see, they had lost God’s Word!  In their prostituting themselves to other gods, they had so neglected the God they professed to worship, that they had misplaced His Word.  But now, it had been found, and Shaphan, the king’s secretary, read the Law, and then ran to the king with it.

            Shaphan read the book of the Law to King Josiah, and Josiah tore his robes and repented of his sin and the sin of Judah – the people of Israel.  Then Josiah asked Hilkiah, the high priest, to inquire to the Lord because His Wrath was great against them for their sin.  And God said, “Thus says the Lord, behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read.  Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched” (II Kings 22:16-17, ESV).

            “Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people small and great.  And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord.  And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statues with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book.  And all the people joined in the covenant.

            “And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for the host of heaven.  He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel.  And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem, also those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and to the constellations and all the hosts of the heavens.  And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people.  And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for Asherah.  And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests made offerings, from Geeba to Beerasheba.  And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one’s left at the gate of the city” (II Kings 23:1-18, ESV).

            And so forth:  when King Josiah heard the Law of God and realized the sin that they had been engaged in – particularly in the sin of thinking it was fine to worship God with all the other gods of the land – Josiah repented and went on a whirl-wind revolutionary tour, destroying all of the idols in the land and deposing the priests and the prostitutes of all the false gods.

            This revolution is the scene onto which Zephaniah came.  We call this a revolution and not a reformation, because, although Josiah truly repented and served God, the people of Judah did not.  We read in II Kings that the people were putting on a show for the king, and they did not really repent of their sin – they did not stop worshipping God and idols.  They continued to say they were being faithful, while “cheating” on God.

            And God spoke through Zephaniah, “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.  “I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked.  I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.

            For the sin of worshipping other gods and claiming yet to be faithful to God, God said He was going to sweep away humanity and all the animals.  We can understand God’s Wrath against the humans, but why did God say He would sweep away the animals?  What did the animals do wrong?  The animals didn’t do anything wrong, but just as the whole Creation was punished for the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden, so to hurt humanity by taking the animals away from them – the animals that they used in work and for food and sacrifice – God’s anger raged against the animals as well.

            “I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all of the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal and the name of the idolatrous priests, along with the priests,”

            Notice, God gets very specific about the people He is angry with – the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.  Judah had prided itself on not being taken into captivity when Israel fell to the Assyrians some years before.  They thought they had been spared because they were the true people of God and because they had the Temple of God in their midst.  Surely, God wouldn’t do anything to hurt His Temple!

            Jeremiah addressed this when he said, “Do not trust in these deceptive words, ‘The temple of the Lord.  The temple of the Lord.  The temple of the Lord’” (Jeremiah 7:4, ESV).  The people had convinced themselves that God would never do anything against His Temple, so they were safe no matter what they did – no matter what sin they committed.  It’s like people today who say, “Oh, I’m alright with God, I was baptized in the Church.”  “Do not trust in these deceptive words, ‘The baptism of the Church.  The baptism of the Church.  The baptism of the Church.’”  Baptism is a good and right thing to receive, but if you do not believe, it won’t save you.  Belonging to the Temple in Jerusalem would not save the people of Judah.

            “those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens, those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom, those who turn back from following the Lord, who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.”

            They were engaging in astrology, mapping out their futures, fortunetelling, reading their horoscopes, and God told them that this was an abomination – they were trusting in someone other than Him.  This was spiritual adultery.

            They thought it was alright to swear by Milcom, so long as they swore by the Lord.  They thought they could cover all their bases, and as long as one of the gods was the True God, God would be happy.  Not so.  (Milcom is probably a contraction of the word “king” with the name of a god, Moloch, who required his worshippers to burn their infants to death in sacrifice to him.)

            God told them that if they are going to worship and seek wisdom from idols and try to worship Him and seek His Wisdom, they will find that they have not worshipped God at all.  Back to our example of the adulterous spouse, if your spouse is having an affair with someone, yet comes back to you every night, that spouse is not being faithful at all.  We would not say that that spouse was being partially faithful, would we?  Faithfulness is destroyed when the covenant vow is ruptured.  When we commit adultery and think there is nothing wrong with it, there is no faithfulness to our spouse or our God.

            Now, let’s ask ourselves a question:  in Zephaniah’s prophecy – in his book – who is God angry with first?  Judah – the people of God – the Church.  Why?  Weren’t there pagan people doing much worse things all over the earth, now and then?  Yes, but those who claim to believe savingly in God and His Savior – that is, the Church, we are the Bride of Christ (Isaiah 61:10; Revelation 21:9), and God will not tolerate His Bride cheating on Him.  That is why judgment begins with the Church.  As Peter wrote, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17, ESV).

            Brothers and sisters, as the Bride of Christ, we must be pursuing holiness in all things.  We must turn aside from the other gods in our lives – from all those things we think we can get away with and still faithfully worship God.  If you check your horoscope to find out what the day or week will be like – stop and repent!  If you are involved in physical or spiritual or mental relations with someone who is not your legal spouse – stop and repent!  (That’s not overreacting – one of the biggest problems the early Church had was sexual sin, and America – and the American church – is obsessed with sex is a way that may rival Caligula and the sin of the early Church.)  If you’re trusting in your bank account and God, or your abilities and God, or anything else and God, repent and throw yourself before our God and Bridegroom Who has made the way for us all by Himself.

            The author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, since we have a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast to our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23, ESV).

            Jesus is faithful, so let us turn to Him.  Jesus is faithful, so let us rely on Him.  Jesus is all that we will ever need to be right with God, so let us turn to Him and put aside all those things we have been holding onto to add to Jesus’ Work.  Let us put aside all those things we know Jesus says we ought not to do as His people and His bride – which we thought we could get away with.  Why don’t we believe Jesus is enough?  Why do we think it doesn’t matter if we cheat on Him with other gods?  Would you stand for that from your spouse? 

            We are the Bride of Christ – His Church – and God will not tolerate our cheating on Him.  Just as He did not stand Judah’s cheating on Him.  Judgment came on Judah; judgment begins with the Church.

            And then God spoke through Zephaniah about the judgment:  “Be silent before the day of the Lord!  For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests.  And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice – I will punish the king’s sons and all those who array themselves in foreign attire.  On that day, I will punish everyone who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud.  On that day, declares the Lord, a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate, a wail from the Second Quarter, a loud crash from the hills.  Wail, O inhabitants of Mortar!  For the traders are no more; all those who weigh out silver are cut off.”

            Do you understand the picture here?  God tells Judah that He is going to prepare a banquet – God is going to offer up a sacrifice and serve it to the guests that He consecrates – to the guests that He makes holy and able to receive the sacrifice He is offering up.  That sounds like good news, doesn’t it?  If you think, like Judah did, that God is on their side, no matter what they did, it sounds like God is going to prepare a banquet for them.  We might relate it to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb that we read about in the New Testament.  But that cannot be what this image is – because God says who He will slaughter for this banquet:  the sons of the king, those who are traitors to the nation, servants, masters, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and those who buy and sell.

            The sacrifice is of the people of Judah – and Jerusalem in particular.  God’s people are going to be the meal.  For whom?  It can only be those whom God sent as fulfillment of this prophecy:  the Babylonians.

            What a reversal!  God was so angry with the sin – the adultery – the idolatry – of Judah, that God said He would slaughter the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem and serve them up like a seven-course meal to the Babylonians – His guests.

            God tells them, “You don’t get it!  My Presence will be known as I send the Babylonians to slaughter you and take Jerusalem because of your sin.”  God values His Holiness and His Worship so highly, He was willing to slaughter His own people as a meal for His enemies.

            There are times today, when God punishes us – disciplines us – as a good Father – a good parent – disciplines his or her child.  The author of Hebrews wrote, “It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there who his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for good, that we may share in his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11, ESV).

             Since we remain sinners in this life, we receive punishment from our Loving Father, to guide us in holiness that we might be like Him and enter into the fullness of His Kingdom.  If God hated us – if God was unfaithful to we who believe – he would leave us for the slaughter.

            The good news is that God values His Covenant with us and will not break it or forsake those He has chosen.  So God made a way for us to be right with Him again – it is the Only Way that we may be made right with Him day by day and moment by moment as we continue to grow in the faith and yet turn and sin.  The great frustration for every true Christian is that we continue to sin against our God and King and Bridegroom and Savior.  But God has made the Way, as Isaiah wrote, “It pleased YHWH to crush him” or “It delighted YHWH to crush him” (my translation, Isaiah 53:10a).  And Peter preached, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23, ESV).  It would not have been possible for Jesus, God the Son, to be taken and offered up as a sacrifice by the enemies of God, if it was not God’s Good Pleasure to offer Jesus up for the sake of the elect – God’s people – the Church.

            Our sin is forgiven through Jesus being offered up as a sacrifice.  Yet, Jesus is not eaten by the enemies of God, Jesus is eaten by His people:  “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is broken for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (I Corinthians 11:23b-25, ESV).  Our salvation from slaughter comes through the sacrifice of Jesus, God the Son.  He took the place as meal for all those who truly – savingly – believe.

            God continued, “At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’  Their goods shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste.  Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; thought they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.’  The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there.  A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against fortified cities and against loftily battlements.  I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to save them on the day of the wrath of the Lord.  In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.”

            If it’s not clear yet, God is a jealous God and will not tolerate people who commit idolatry and adultery against Him – not even God’s people – not even us.  God will seek out sin and punish it.  God will seek out and punish those people who say that God is not intimately involved in human history.  God will deny the satisfaction of the sinner.  And Judah, who has put more trust and faith in the nation and in the Temple than in God, would see all of it taken away and destroyed – we have a horrific description of the fall of Jerusalem – which took two years – in the book of Lamentations.

            And God is not satisfied except with blood (Hebrews 9:22).  The best that they had to offer – the best we could offer – would be like dust and dung, and if that is all we have, we will be slaughtered in the end.  If our hope is in our works and in our institutions and in our possessions, all is lost.

            God did come through the Babylonians, and they horrifically destroyed Judah and Jerusalem.  And our sin must be paid for, as well – either by us, or by Another.  God will judge the Church – all those who claim to be part of the Church.  And those who remain in adultery and idolatry – hypocrites who never really trusted in Jesus Alone for salvation, will be slaughtered.  But for those who truly believe, God tells us that Jesus “has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; … But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4a, 5, ESV).

            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, we have sinned against You and turned to other gods.  We have even made ourselves gods, believing that we are fine without You.  Rather than turning to You in every trial, we have turned to ourselves and each other and even the things You have forbidden.  We thank You that You came to earth in the Person of Jesus and know our weakness.  We thank You that we can be forgiven and saved through the Sacrifice of Jesus.  We thank You that You are ready to receive everyone who believes in their heart that You raised Jesus from the dead and confesses with their mouth that He is, indeed, Lord, the God of Moses (Romans 10:9).  For You have promised that You will bring all we who repent and believe through the Judgment and into the fullness of the Kingdom.  Help us to follow after You in ever increasing holiness and to bear with Your Fatherly discipline.  Meet with us and give us Your Grace as we receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

My 1,000th Post!

NINE MONTHS TIL BANNER OF TRUTH!!!
http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/events/events.php

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: "Till Death"

According to the Roman Catholic Church (at least in 1999, when Till Death by William X. Kienzel was written), if a priest "takes a leave of absence," is allowed to become laity, and marries, he can never become a priest again.   However, if a priest "takes a leave of absence," does not go through the process to become laity again, and marries, he may be reinstated to the priesthood.

This novel centers around two couples, made up of two laitized nuns, one laitized priest, and one priest who has "taken a leave of absence," but does not wish to become laity again.  Both priests are sexually active with their ex-nun girlfriends.  However, the priest gets drunk one night and is driven home by his ex-priest friend's girlfriend.  They have sex, and she gets pregnant, so they get married.  The ex-priest and the other ex-nun do the only logical thing and start living with each other.  The active priest married "till death."  But one wonders, if death is not caused by an act of commission, but by an act of omission, is it murder?

Review: "No Greater Love"

I love William X. Kienzle's Father Koesler novels:  I've almost read them all now.  This one, No Greater Love looks at the long struggle to become a Roman Catholic Priest.  The journey can become even more complicated when you are a seminarian being pressured by a father who dropped out of seminary.  It can be even worse if you are unsure of your call.  And it can be even worse when you decide to drop out of seminary, and your father blames the bishop and decides to kill him.  Is it possible to save the Bishop?  Might it only be through living out Christ's words about "no greater love"?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Today's Mail

Received my first Christmas catalog of the season!

August Sermons

D.V., I will preach:

8/7/11
 Guest preacher:  Rev. Dr. Solomon Tivade

8/14/11
 Guest preacher:  Rev. Dr. Solomon Tivade

8/21/11  Communion
 Zephaniah 1:1-18  "God Will Judge the Church"

8/28/11
 Zephaniah 2:1-15  "God Will Judge the Nations"