Second Reformed Church

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: "Country of the Spirit: Vatican City"

I just read Frank J. Korn’s book, Country of the Spirit…Vatican City.  If someone were looking for an intro to the politics and history of the Vatican, I would recommend this book.

Korn begins with a passionate overview of the Vatican city-state.  Then he moves on to the history of finding the first Pope and to locating his grave today.  (This, in my Protestant opinion, was the weakest chapter – not firming up the actual call of Peter to be the first pope, nor giving a secure early history of papal succession.)

The next three chapters – explain the sacred college, curia, and the election of the pope – I found the most interesting.  Korn explains how a person becomes pope and the workings of the system behind the walls which lead to the white smoke declaring the “discovery” of the new pope.

He then looks at what the pope does during a normal day – referring to several recent popes for their itinerary.  He devotes an entire chapter to the evangelistic ministry of Pope John Paul II, for whom he has obvious love.

Curiously, he then turns to the underground tunnels under Vatican City; he ends with a short overview of the major buildings within Vatican City.

Interesting and informative.

Friday, May 25, 2012

361 Days

Until the next Banner of Truth!  Mark your calendars:  May 21-23, 2013, D.V.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Prayer Meeting

Our Saturday prayer meeting at the church is cancelled for the next two weeks.  Please join together to pray elsewhere, and, D.V., we will continue our prayer meeting at the church on Saturday, June 9th, at 3 PM.  Join us then.

"The Holy Spirit"

Our Tuesday evening study of the Holy Spirt is cancelled for the next three weeks.  D.V., we will resume on Tuesday, June 12th at 7 PM.  Please plan to join us then.

Sunday Morning Bible Study

Sunday morning Bible study is cancelled the next two Sundays.  D.V., we will resume on Sunday, June 10th at 9 AM.  Please join us then.

Sundays May 27 and June 3

Pastor Peter is away from May 21 through June 4, so, if you are in need, please call a member of the Consistory.  Rev. Dr. Solomon Tivade will be our guest preacher for the next two Sundays.  Join us for worship each Sunday at 10:30 AM.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Guest Preacher

We have the honor of having Rev. Dr. Tom Smith, Vice President of General Synod, preach this Sunday, May 20, 2012 at Second Reformed.  Join us for worship at 10:30 AM and hear Rev. Smith preach on Acts 1:11, "Our Expectations – God’s Reality."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"The Holy Spirit"

Tuesday evening we looked at the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.  We saw that He is, indeed, there:  ruach YHWH, et. al.  We saw that He was and participated in the Creation, delivered Israel out of Egypt, and gifted people to do things like create the Tabernacle.  We considered how the Holy Spirit came upon people in the Old Testament, as opposed to now dwelling with Christians -- and also how the Holy Spirit left people, like King Saul, but will not leave Christians.

We will not be meeting the next three weeks, but please join us as we look at the New Testament witness to the Holy Spirit beginning, D.V., on Tuesday, June 12th at 7 P.M.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Four-Part History" Sermon: Hebrews 3:7-11


“Four-Part History”

[Hebrews 3:7-11]

May 13, 2012 Second Reformed Church

            This morning’s Scripture occurs at least four places in history, and we do well to recognize when a Scripture points to more than one time period.  We do this most often during the Advent season and Christmas when we look at prophecies about Jesus’ Coming.  Yet we have not fully understood these Scriptures if we only look at them and understand them in the light of Jesus fulfilling them in His Coming.  We also need to ask what these texts meant to the people in the time in which they were written – because they surely meant something.

            In our text this morning, the author of Hebrews wrote something to his readers in the first century.  It meant something to them – and we understand that it should mean something to us.  Yet, he quotes a Psalm, which was written a thousand or more years earlier, which meant something in its day.  And the Psalm recounts a history which occurred, perhaps, some five hundred years earlier, which meant something in its day – to the people to whom it occurred.  So, let us think about this four-part history.

One:

“All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?’ But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried to the LORD, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.’ And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’” (Exodus 17:1-7, ESV).

After four hundred years of Egyptian slavery, God heard the cry of His people and sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt, and God delivered them by His Mighty Right Arm – preforming ten great miracles which caused Pharaoh to finally let them go and cause the people to give them gold and silver, clothes and animals, and send them on their way. 

When they reached the Red Sea and the Egyptian army chased after them, God opened the Red Sea, so walls of water stood on either side of them as almost two million people crossed the sea on dry land and then turned to watch as God closed the sea over the Egyptians and drown them all.

In the Sinai desert, God led them by cloud and by fire, providing them with manna – a perfect, heavenly food that God sent them, as well as meat, and water.  And God even sustained their clothes so they did not wear out during their forty-year journey.

God met with Moses and gave His people the Law, and the people knew by the radiance of God’s Glory on Moses’ face that he had met with God and these were God’s instructions for them as His people.

They had seen God work in many and miraculous ways, delivering them and providing for them, but still, the people didn’t trust God.

When they got thirsty, they began to cry out to Moses, “We’re thirsty!”

And Moses asked them “Why are you asking me for water?  Is there something I can do about it?  Can I control the weather?  Can I cause water to appear?  Why are you testing God?”

What does that mean?  Hear this definition:  “To distrust God, to disbelieve his promises, whilst a way of duty lies before us, after we have had experiences of his goodness, power, and wisdom, in dealing with us, is a tempting of God, and a greatly provoking sin” (John Owen, Hebrews, vol. 4, 68).

To test God means to distrust Him – especially after one has been given ample reason to trust Him.  To test God means to know in one’s own life that God keeps His Promises and to hear God’s Promises and not believe God will keep them.

How did Israel respond?  “Trust God?  We don’t know if God is among us or not.  You’ve brought us out here to kill us and our children and our sheep!”

They were untrusting and hysterical.  They didn’t know if God was among them or not?  Really?  After the miracles God had performed, after freeing them from slavery, after miraculously providing for them in the wilderness, appearing before them in fire and cloud, and giving them His Law – do we think they might have had a clue that God was with them? 

And they turned against the man of God – “This is a trap – you led us out of Egypt so you could watch us all die in the desert!”

The people of Israel had hardened their hearts against God and did not trust Him, despite everything God had done.  Yet, God was patient and told Moses to take his staff and hit a rock and water would flow from it.  Notice:  there is no record that they gave thanks – only that the place was named “testing” and “quarreling.”

In 1500 B.C., what might the readers of this text have understood?

They would have understood that their fathers sinned in not trusting God – especially after all the evidence of God being trustworthy.  So, they would have understood that God is to be trusted based on the overwhelming evidence and experience of the nation.

They also would have understood that when God makes a promise, He keeps it.  God cannot lie or deceive or come up short in all that He says.  If God has said it, it is so, and nothing will ever change what God has said.

 Two:

            “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.  Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.  Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.  For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’  Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest’” (Psalm 95, ESV).

            Five hundred years later, one of the Psalmists put this historical event into one of his Psalms.

            The Psalmist began by calling the people to praise and glorify God in song.  In song, he teaches;

            God is worthy of being praised for salvation comes from God, and God’s salvation is immovable:  if God has saved, one cannot lose salvation.  The security of salvation is based on God’s Character, not on the person being saved.

            God is worthy of all thanksgiving and praise because there is no greater God or King than God:  God is the ultimate God and King.  And one of the ways we know that is through the Creation:  the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains are in the Hand of God, because God is the Creator of the sea and the dry land.  There cannot be a greater god than the God Who created everything that is.  And there is no greater god to be thanked than the God Who created and set humans in dominion over the earth – that humans would care for and steward and love the Creation with a love like God’s.

            God is worthy of all worship – no other god is worthy of worship, but God, because God has chosen a people for Himself.  And God shepherds His people as a shepherd shepherds His sheep.  Shepherds were called on to provide for all of the needs of the flock – to guide them and lead them to food and safe places to eat and rest.  He sought to protect them from other animals and robbers.  He even was willing to lay down his life for the sake of his sheep, if necessary.  And so, God cares for His people and leads them and protects them and lays down His Life for them, because it was necessary.  No one is of greater worth.

            Then the Psalmist turns to the people of his day and addresses them in the light of these doctrines about God:

            The Psalmist calls them to repentance – to hearing the Voice of God – and he warns his readers – and those singing the Psalm – not to harden their hearts as their fathers did in the wilderness – in the place that was called “quarrelling” and “testing.”  The Psalmist warns the people not to test God as their fathers had – not to doubt God – not to distrust God and His Promises after all they had seen and experienced.  No, but to follow God, to obey God, to believe God, because of all they had seen – and experienced – of Him.

            And then the Psalmist brings to mind what happened at the end of the forty years in the wilderness, when God revealed His disgust for the people that He had brought out of the land of Egypt – excepting Caleb and Joshua – because for forty years, they had turned their backs on God and told Him it was never enough – no matter what God did – it was never enough for them to trust God and follow after Him with all their heart.

            So, in God’s Wrath, He did not allow anyone – except for Caleb and Joshua – out of all the people that God freed from slavery in Egypt – to enter the Promised Land.  God kept all of the people in the Sinai desert for forty years – until every one of the two million people He brought out of Egypt was dead – except for Caleb and Joshua.

            Hearing and singing this Psalm since 1000 B.C., God’s people would be reminded of God’s Character – especially His Faithfulness and Trustworthiness.  And the people would hear the call not to sin against God by distrusting Him and doubting whether or not God will keep His Promises, because God takes sin very seriously – and if a person persists in sin against God, God may stop him by killing him or keeping him from receiving God’s Promise by holding it back until after he dies.

            Three:

            “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.  Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.”  As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”’”

About a thousand years after the Psalmist wrote his Psalm, the author of Hebrews quoted his words to the people he was writing to – for Jewish Christians who were considering turning their backs on Jesus and returning to Judaism.

            And we find ourselves at another conclusion – “therefore.”  Since the author of Hebrews had shown that Jesus is the Author of the Gospel and greater than Moses and the Law by both bring the Son of God and the Creator of everything that is – Jesus is the Son; Moses was a servant.  Jesus is the Creator; Moses was a creature.  Since Jesus is greater than anyone and everything that ever was or is or will ever be.

            And then the author of Hebrews draws our attention to the fact that we do not merely have history before us.  We do not merely have a Psalm before us.  We do not merely have moral instruction before us.  But the Psalm that he quotes from is the Very Word of God.  “The Holy Spirit said.”

            Now, we understand that most of the Scripture is not merely God dictating what to write, but humans wrote, guided by God, that they would write everything God wanted us to know for life and salvation, and everything they wrote would be true and without error – and so, the Word of God.

            What the author of Hebrews has done is identify the words quoted as being the Word of God, so he is telling his readers to hear what God says to them – not in the days of the Moses, or in the days of the Psalmist, but in their day – in the first century A.D.

            So, we could preface the text by saying, “If you are considering walking away from Jesus and returning to Judaism, hear the Word of God to you today:”

            The author of Hebrews would have them read the text this way:

            “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.” 

            “Today is the day of salvation – don’t think you’ll have another chance to change your mind and to turn back from your sin.  Hear the Voice of God – understand that turning away from Jesus and going back to Judaism after you have seen and experienced everything you have seen and experienced is no different from the hardening of hearts that your fathers had when after forty years of proof of God being with them, they did not trust God or believe in His Promises.”

“Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’”

“Do not let it be said of you that you persisted in sin – that you persisted in turning away from God and denying God’s Word and denying God’s Promises and saying that God cannot be trusted.  Do not prove that you have never known God.”

 “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

“Remember, God was enraged with your fathers and caused them to die in the wilderness, so that none of them – except Caleb and Joshua – enter the Promised Land.  For you, it is even more serious, because I’m not talking about entering into the rest of a mere piece of property you will inherit, but I am talking about your very salvation:  if you persist in your sin and in your denial of Who Jesus is and all the evidence that is proving Jesus to be God the Savior, who is Superior to anyone and everything – then you will not enter the rest of the Kingdom of God promised to all those who believe, but you will enter eternal damnation, which is what God promises for all those who never believe.”

The author of Hebrews wants his readers to understand that it is insanity to put off faith in Jesus Alone.  Today is the day – you may not have tomorrow.

And he wants them to understand that God is Holy and will not stand for His people to persist in denying God and His Word.

And let us understand, we cannot assume that everyone except Caleb and Joshua were unbelievers who died in the wilderness.  It is possible to believe and – for a time – to go very far from God in sinning against Him.  So, there are times, for the good of the believer and for the good of the Church that God will take a person’s life to save them from doing further harm to themselves and others.  Even though Jesus has paid the debt of every sin a believer ever sins, God may allow us to suffer the consequences of our sin – even death – for our ultimate good.

            Four:

            And today – some nineteen hundred years after the author of the book of Hebrews wrote – how do we hear this history today?  If this is the Word of God and not merely human writing, it must have meaning and power for us today.

            So, we might begin by asking if we have received evidence of the Trustworthiness of God.  Have we seen God’s Promises fulfilled before us?  Do we have evidence of Who God is and His keeping His Word?

            If you are a Christian, listen to one Scripture:

            “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 graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any 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 from 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).

            There is more historical evidence that Jesus lived, died, and physically rose from the dead than there is historical evidence that any other figure in history ever existed.  And if you are a Christian, you have the witness of God the Holy Spirit living in you as well.

            What are the promises that God gives the Christian in the passage I just read?

            God is for the Christian – no one can ever turn God away from those who believe in His Son.

God has given His Son for us – the greatest gift imaginable – so God will also give us everything we ever need.

God has justified us – He has legally ruled us as “not guilty” in His Sight because Jesus stands in our place before Him.

King Jesus is our Judge, and He stands to intercede for us before the Father.

Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, will ever separate a Christian from the Love of Jesus.  If you have truly believed in Jesus, there is nothing you can do to ever make Him stop loving you – or to cause Him to forsake you.

Do you believe those promises?  Is there enough evidence in the Bible and throughout the annals of history that God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived, died for the sins of everyone who would ever believe, and then physically rose from the dead – what is that?  That’s the Gospel.

Don’t let this day go by without being sure – you may not have tomorrow.  Today is the day.  God has done all the work – believe what He has done – and you will enter into His rest.  When Jesus returns, He will bring all those who truly believed into His Eternal Kingdom on earth.

Let us pray:
Almighty God of History, all our times are in Your Hands.  You planned the moment of the Creation and there is not one maverick molecule or moment in all of history, but You have planned it all, and everything is coming to pass as You have willed.  We thank You for sending Your Son for the Salvation of everyone who will ever believe and for giving us Your Word that we could have the evidence – and the history – of Your Promises and Your fulfilling Your Promises before us that we might believe and be encouraged.  Help each one here this morning not to doubt or to turn away, but to hear Your Voice and to follow after You in faith and obedient holiness until that day when You welcome us into Your rest.  For it is in joy we pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reformed Wisdom

"Let us read our Bibles in private more, and with more pains and diligence. Ignorance of Scripture is the root of all error, and makes a person helpless in the hand of the devil. There is less private Bible reading, I suspect, than there was fifty years ago. I never can believe that so many men and women would have been "tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine," some falling into skepticism, some rushing into the wildest and narrowest fanaticism, and some going over to Rome, if there had not grown up a habit of lazy, superficial, careless, perfunctory reading of God’s Word. "You do err not knowing the Scriptures" (Matt. 22:29). The Bible in the pulpit must never supersede the Bible at home."  ~ J.C. Ryle (Gently lifted from:  http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/05/15/ignorance-of-the-bible-leads-to-error/)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Today is Cali's (Calliope Butler's) 17th birthday.  :)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

"The Holy Spirit"

Join us this evening at 7 PM as we continue our look at the Holy Spirit.  Last week we looked at the words ruach and pnuema.  Tonight we plan to begin to look at the Scriptures that speak of the Holy Spirit and Who He is -- seeing that He is clearly spoken of in the Old and New Testaments.

Banner of Truth

TWO WEEKS TILL BANNER OF TRUTH!  GET THEE TO THE REGISTRY!  https://www.banneroftruth.org/reg2012/index.php?module=reg

Reformed Wisdom

"The Christianity which is from the Holy Spirit will always have a very deep view of the sinfulness of sin. It will not merely regard sin as a blemish and misfortune, which makes men and women objects of pity, and compassion. It will see in sin the abominable thing which God hates, the thing which makes people guilty and lost in his Maker's sight, the thing which deserves God's wrath and condemnation. It will look on sin as the cause of all sorrow and unhappiness, of strife and wars, of quarrels and contentions, of sickness and death - the curse which cursed God's beautiful creation, the cursed thing which makes the whole earth groan and struggle in pain. Above all, it will see in sin the thing which will ruin us eternally, unless we can find a ransom, - lead us captive, except we can get its chains broken, - and destroy our happiness, both here and hereafter, except we fight against it, even unto death." ~ J.C. Ryle (Gently lifted from:  http://jcrylequotes.com/2012/05/08/seeing-sin-for-what-it-really-is/)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

"Greater Than Moses: The Faithful Son" Sermon: Hebrews 3:1-6


“Greater Than Moses:  The Faithful Son”

[Hebrews 3:1-6]

May 6, 2012 Second Reformed Church

            “Therefore,”

            Since God came to earth in the Person of Jesus and didn’t become less than God – either through the Incarnation itself, because God remained wholly God – possession of a sinless human body did not make God less than God – or through suffering and death, because the holy and innocent suffering of the God-Man was the only way for God to save His people.

            Since, being really human, Jesus died under the Wrath of God for our sin, and, being really God, He physically rose from the dead, victorious over death and the devil and the fear of death.

            Since, through His Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, we are now brothers and sisters with Jesus in these ways:  we have the same type of physical body that Jesus has.  We are called to suffer in our physical body, just as Jesus did, for Jesus’ Sake and the Sake of the Gospel.  We are assured that just as Jesus physically rose from the dead, we shall physically rise from the dead.

            Since Jesus is now our Merciful and Faithful High Priest Who understands everything we endure – excepting sin.

            “Therefore, holy brothers,”

            Notice the author of Hebrews calls us “holy brothers.”  We are becoming holy through sanctification, as God the Holy Spirit works in and through us.  We are also seen as holy now – through the Work of Jesus on our behalf – in Jesus, we are holy now.  In fact, we are becoming holy as we progress until the Day of Christ Jesus.

“you who share in a heavenly calling,”

            Because we are “holy brothers” – because we are the elect of God – because we are the people God chose to save for Himself – for His Glory – to restore in His Image.  We are not only called to be brothers and sisters of Jesus, but we are called to a common “heavenly calling.”

            What have we been called to in Jesus?  We have been called to faithfulness and to obedience to God.  We are to keep the Moral Law of God – not for our salvation, but in thanksgiving for our salvation.  People ought to look at the way we live and see something different in us.  Also, we are to proclaim the Gospel; it is the job – the duty – the privileged of every Christian to be used by God to tell others the Gospel:  God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived, died for the sins of everyone who would ever believe, and then physically rose from the dead.  After which He ascended back to His Throne.

            We ought to encourage each other in the fulfillment of the Day of Christ Jesus, as Paul wrote, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, ESV).  And we ought to be calling the world to believe the Gospel and repent.

“consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,”

As we encourage each other and proclaim the Gospel to the world, we are to encourage each other by considering Jesus and what He has done as the Chief Apostle – the One Who was Sent by the Father, and as High Priest – the fulfillment of the sacrificial system in which Jesus offered up Himself as the Final Sacrifice offered by the Only Holy High Priest.

We do this by pondering Jesus, by studying Him, by meditating on Him and His Word – and let us remember that meditation in a Christian sense is not the same as meditation in an Eastern sense.  When we talk about meditation in the Christian sense, we are talk about looking at the Word of God, studying it, taking it apart, making sense of it in its context and within the whole canon of Scripture and within the Plan of Salvation.  It’s looking at a text and asking what it says, what it has to do with Jesus, and how it fits in with the whole Plan of God – and then – what do we do with it?  It’s not very far from the preparation of a sermon – only you don’t need to prepare to speak it.

If you ever took a literature class – Christian meditation is like a literature class on the Bible – only we have God helping us to understand it!  And we can do this on our own with devotionals and other good Christian books alongside of our Bibles.  We can do it in Bible study and adult study and one-on-one or in groups with each other.  Christians ought to care to understand the Scripture – and to know Jesus – we do that through studying His Word – meditating – the Sacraments – and prayer.

Don’t you long to know Jesus better?  We do that through considering Him – as we find Him in the Bible, and through meeting with Him in preaching, praying, and receiving the Sacraments. 

“who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house.”

            And here we have the unspoken objection that the author of Hebrews is addressing:  “What’s so great about Christianity?  Why shouldn’t we return to Judaism?  After all Moses gave us the Law – doesn’t that make him superior to Jesus?  Doesn’t that mean Moses was greater than Jesus?”

            No.  Moses was not greater than Jesus.  Why not?

            “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.”

            The author asks us to consider our house or apartment:  who deserves more praise and glory and honor – the builder of the house or the house itself?

            Would you say, “Oh, what a beautiful house!  The builder was lucky the house let itself be built.”

            Or would you say, “Oh, what a beautiful house!  The builder really knew what she was doing.”

            When you have a house built, do you thank the builder or do you thank the house?

            If you follow that argument, the author of Hebrews says, Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses.  Why?

“(For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)”

In other words, God is the Creator of everything that is.  Jesus is God.  Therefore, Jesus is the Creator of all things.  Paul confirms this:  “For by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16, ESV).

So, we can say that Jesus is the Creator of Moses and the Law.  Jesus is the Creator; Moses and the Law are creations.  Therefore, Jesus is greater than Moses and the Law.  (Jesus is the Builder; Moses and the Law are the house.)

“But doesn’t Moses’ faithfulness merit anything?”

“Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,”

Moses was faithful – he testified to all the things God told him to speak.  He is to be revered for his faithfulness and all that he did – as a servant of God.

God said, “Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house” (Numbers 12:7, ESV).

And it is written, “Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31, ESV).

Moses was faithful to God, and we ought to emulate Moses’ faithfulness.  However, Moses was faithful as a servant.

“but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son.”

Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10, ESV).

Jesus faithfully carried out the Will of His Father – all that God sent Him to do.  Jesus is the Son of the Father – Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus is the Heir to everything of the Father’s.  No matter how much you like the person who built your house, your son – your child – is the one who inherits the estate, not the builder of your house.  So, Jesus is greater than Moses, because Moses, though faithful, was merely a servant, whereas Jesus is God’s Son.

Moses and Jesus were both faithful.  But Moses was merely a servant, Jesus is the Son.  Moses was kept out of the land for his sin; Jesus inherits everything as God’s Son.  So, Jesus is greater than Moses.

 “And we are his house”

            The author of Hebrews returns to the previous metaphor and says that we – all those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation – are God’s House.

Paul wrote, “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV).

            And, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,” (1 Corinthians 6:19, ESV).

            And “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16, ESV).

            And “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22, ESV).

            And Peter wrote, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5, ESV).

            God does not dwell in temples; God dwells in His people.  How is that possible?  We can only say three things:  God tells us that He indwells us.  God cannot be captured or contained in anything.  And God is omnipresent – He is everywhere at once.

            And we are also told that He is making us into a holy house – a beautiful house – a house worthy of Him and His Presence.  God is the Builder Who is making us into His house.

“if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”

What is “our confidence and our boasting in our hope”?  It’s professing and living out the belief that there is only Salvation through Jesus Alone.  It’s confessing Jesus as our Lord and Savior and living out that confession by believing what is written in the Bible and doing what God has called us to do, including telling others about Him.

It is our hope, because it has not fully come.  Yet, it is our confidence and our boasting, because if our salvation is by God and for God and God Alone, it cannot fail to come to pass – and we have the historical proof of Jesus and what He did recorded for us in the Bible, as well as in other sources.

So, how can the author of Hebrews say “if”?  “And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”  Is the author of Hebrews saying that it is up to us to save ourselves?  Is he saying that we can lose our salvation is we don’t hold on fast enough?

Of course not.  Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your 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 2:8-10, ESV).

Salvation is God’s Work, God’s Choice, and God’s Gift.  You and I play no part in our salvation.  We respond to it, but God does it all by Himself with no help from us.

So, what is he saying?

The author of Hebrews is saying that we are God’s house – He lives in us – if we are actually Christians – if we have truly been saved.  He is alerting his readers to the same thing John wrote about:  “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19, ESV).

John was explaining to a church why some people were leaving the Church – abandoning Christianity – and he explains that anyone who permanently leaves the Church was never a Christian in the first place.  As the author of Hebrews explains, if hard times come – or great times – and we give up our confidence and boasting in Jesus and His Gospel, we are not His house – we never were.

Jesus explained it this way:  He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn”’” (Matthew 13:24-30, ESV).

Do not be fooled:  there are non-Christians in the Church – taking part in the Church, supporting the Church.  They may be very nice people.  Their character is not in question here.  But do not be fooled, anyone who does not hold fast to the confidence and boasting about Jesus and His Gospel, is not a Christian.  There are non-Christians in every Church – even in the pulpit.

But those who have received the gift of faith and have believed savingly in Jesus Alone and do hold fast with confidence and boasting – we are the house  of God.

So let us be holy brothers to our Holy Brother, Jesus.

Let us acknowledge Him as the Creator of all and, thus, greater than Moses and the Law.

Let us glorify Jesus and strive to be faithful to God and God’s Will as Jesus is faithful in all things to His Father by studying and meditating on God’s Word and especially on Jesus.

Let us hold fast with confidence and boasting in the sure hope we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him, our Savior, praying and working hard that our confession and our life would speak the same Gospel that Jesus would be praised.

Let us pray:
           Almighty God, keep us from thinking anything or anyone is greater than You.  Help us to see that You must be greater because You are the Creator.  Help us to follow after You wholeheartedly and in thanksgiving for Jesus and the Salvation that He gives us.  And may each one here that has not yet believed, be met by You this morning, that they would understand if they have believed or not, and may You be pleased to cause them to believe.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

May Sermons

D.V., I will preach as follows for May:

5/6/12 Communion
 Hebrews 3:1-6  “Greater Than Moses:  The Faithful Son”

5/13/12 Mother’s Day         
  Hebrews 3:7-11  “Four-Part History”

5/20/12 Ascension
  Guest Preacher:  Rev. Dr. Tom Smith, VP of General Synod

5/27/12 Pentecost
 Guest Preacher:  Rev. Dr. Solomon Tivade