Second Reformed Church

Monday, March 29, 2010

April Sermons

D.V., I plan to preach:

4/1/10 Communion/Maundy Thursday 7 PM
Leviticus 7:22-38 “The Fat, the Breast, and the Thigh”

4/2/10 Communion/Good Friday 7 PM
Leviticus 8:1-36 “Consecrated with Blood”

4/4/10 Communion/Easter
Matthew 28:1-15 “The Truth & the Story”

Acts 11:19-30 “The Provision of the Lord”

Acts 12:1-19 “Answered Prayer”

Acts 12:20-25 “The Jealousy of God”

"Wholly Burned" Sermon: Leviticus 6:8-7:21

“Wholly Burned”
[Leviticus 6:8-7:21]
March 28, 2010 Second Reformed Church

We have looked at the first five offerings that God gave in the book of Leviticus: the Burnt Offering, the Grain Offering, the Sin Offering, the Guilt Offering, and the Peace Offering. And in this morning’s Scripture, we turn to see, more specifically, what the priests were to do with each of these offerings.

We read that each offering is to “be on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. ... Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.” When an offering was made to God it was to be wholly burned – the sacrifice turned to ashes by the continually burning fire. This not only signified complete dedication of the offering to God, but it symbolized the fact that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29, ESV).

Then we saw, and we may remember, that the Law of God said that if a person touched something that was unclean, he would become unclean, as we see in 7:19 and following. What we may not remember is what we see in 6:18, if anyone touches an offering that is holy to the Lord, he will become holy.

Now, in theology, we talk about the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus.

Remember that from all of eternity, the Son of God reigned with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit – One God. Our Triune God exists in perfect harmony and love with Himself. And God decided to create, and in deciding to create, God also knew humans would need a Savior, and the Son of God volunteered to submit to the Father and become the Savior of all those who would believe in Him.

The humiliation of Jesus began with the Incarnation – with the Son of God becoming the God-Man. The Son of God left His Throne and took on the Person of Jesus by being born through the woman, Mary, as an infant human being. While remaining the One Holy God, the Son of God spent nine months in Mary’s womb and then was born through the normal human process, a helpless little baby.

The humiliation continued as Jesus lived under God’s Law – God, living in the Person of Jesus, submitted to His Own Law – and because He is God, He kept it perfectly. Yet, we call this all part of His humiliation, because He lived as we lived and experienced what we experienced. Whatever you and I have faced, Jesus faced the same, only He did so and did not sin. He, like the offerings that we have looked at, was wholly devoted to the service of His Father. He did not turn to the left or to the right but was wholly consumed with the Will of God the Father.

And what was the Will of the Father? Why did Jesus come? To live. Yes. But also to die. Jesus had to live under the Law of God the Father perfectly so He would be able to credit those who would believe with His Holy Life, so we could be seen by the Father as holy, but sin had to be paid for. The debt of sin had to be paid to the Father.

After Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ [the Savior], the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16), we read, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21, ESV).

“As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.’ And they were greatly distressed” (Matthew 17:22-23, ESV).

“And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day’” (Matthew 20:17-19, ESV).

We remember today Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. We call it the “Triumphal Entry,” but Jesus knew once He entered Jerusalem, He would face the final days of His Humiliation. Judas would betray Him. The crowd would turn against Him. Peter would deny Him.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, some of the Pharisees who had begun to follow Jesus tried to turn Him away: “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ And he said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord ”’” (Luke 13:31-35, ESV).

“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation’” (Luke 19:41-44, ESV).

This final week of Jesus’ Life on earth marked the culmination of His Humiliation as He rode into Jerusalem to fulfill the Levitical Offerings. Jesus surrendered Himself to the people who rejected Him – even to death on a cross. Paul wrote, “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21, ESV).

It was not a move anyone could have expected – even with the Scriptures, everyone was at a loss when Jesus died. But here we have the Plan of God from before the Creation: Before the Creation, God knew that humans would fall into sin and God would give the nation of Israel the offerings by which they could be made right with God for the moment. But also in these offerings was the reality that no one would ever be right with God, because all humans are unholy. We all continue to sin and could not possibly offer enough sacrifices to make ourselves holy again and accepted in the sight of God.

So it was the Plan of God from before the Creation that the Son of God would become Man. He would come to earth, not as the Almighty King, but as the Suffering Servant, Who would live out His life under the Law, die as a sinless offering, wholly burned, wholly sacrificed to God for our sake and to the Glory of the Father.

As we consider these things, especially over this next week, let us also remember these words of Paul, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So Glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:19b-20, ESV).

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that Jesus was not merely a man who sinned like us, otherwise we would lose all hope. Thank You for sending Your Son – the Son of Man – the Son of God – the Sinless One, Who Alone could live a perfect life and then willingly give Himself up, freely fulfilling all of the offerings, being wholly burned and devoted to You from Birth to Death. And then to Easter morn. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

To Those Who Comment, Part 2

As I feared -- please reference the doctrine of total depravity -- my request was met with more links. So, let me warn those who read not to click on links left in the comments section. I will make every effort to remove them, but it seems some don't mind defecating in public, so to speak.

Friday, March 26, 2010

To Those Who Comment

I am happy to receive most comments on this blog. I don't get many, but I am usually glad to read them and respond, whether you agree with me or not. Today I logged on to find many new comments throughout my blog history, linking to porn sites. Please don't do that. Please.

North Ward Clean-Up

This Saturday (D.V.), "Save A Dream" will be leading a North Ward clean-up. We will begin with registration and a continental breakfast at Second Reformed Church from 8 AM to 9 AM, and then we will proceed to go out and clean. Join us!

Magic Tax

This Saturday, we plan (D.V.) to host Magic Tax from 1 PM to 4 PM. If you have done your taxes and would like to give this community organization a opportunity to do them at a reasonable fee, feel free to come to the church with your documents. Ten percent of the fees will be donated to the church.

"What Are You Looking For?" Sermon: John 1:19-28

“What Are You Looking For?”
[John 1:19-28]
March 25, 2010 Old First Presbyterian Church (Newark)

What are you looking for? Why did you come to worship this afternoon? What did you expect? Did you come expecting to meet with God, to hear a pastor, to hear his views on life, or did you come because you had nothing better to do?

The Pharisees heard that John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, had come out of the wilderness and was baptizing people in Bethany across the Jordan, and they wanted answers: they wanted to know who gave him the authority to baptize. Only the Sanhedrin – the council of the Pharisees – had the authority to allow someone to baptize. Unless – unless – this John was someone special. So, the Pharisees sent a group of priests and Levities to find out.

“Who are you?” They went right to the point when they met up with John: “Who are you that you have the authority to baptize? Don’t you know that baptizing someone for the forgiveness of sin is something that is reserved for the Pharisees – they are the ones who have been trained and have the liturgy and the right to perform baptisms. Who are you?”

The Pharisees had wondered if the Christ – the Savior of Israel might have come among them. They were under great oppression from the Roman government, and here was this strange young man – who certainly looked like he might be a prophet – “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4, ESV). And he was preaching repentance, and the people were flocking to him: “Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6, ESV). Maybe John was the Savior who would overthrow the Roman government and set them free.

John knew what they were thinking, so when they asked, “Who are you?” He responded, “I am not the Christ.”

“Not the Christ – not the Christ. Alright, are you Elijah?” They had remembered the words of the prophet Malachi, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:5-6, ESV) The Pharisees understood Malachi to be prophesying that the self-same Elijah would return to the sky from which the whirlwind carried him off of this earth before the Savior came.

“Are you Elijah?” “I am not.”

And we might want to jump in and question John at this point – “Didn’t Gabriel say that you are Elijah, John?” Not really. What Gabriel said, and Jesus would later repeat, is that John “will go before [the Savior] in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17, ESV).

So, no, John was not Elijah, the prophet who prophesied during the days of Ahab and Jezebel, but he was Elijah in the sense that he fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy. So John wasn’t lying; he was answering their question, which was if he was the prophet Elijah returned from the whirlwind.

“Are you the Prophet?” Here again, they were asking if John was the fulfillment of prophesy, specifically, when Moses told the people, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen – “ (Deuteronomy 18:15, ESV). Could John be the promised prophet who was like Moses?

“Are you the prophet?” “No.” (We know that Jesus actually fulfilled this prophecy.)

They had had enough of John’s short answers: “Well, who are you? If we don’t come back with an answer, we’re going to be in trouble. Explain who you are.”

So John told them, he was the fulfilment of another prophecy, “I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” “I am the forerunner of the Savior; I am the one who is preparing His way.”

The priests and the Levites were still confused, “If you are not the Savior or Elijah or the Prophet, then by what authority to you baptize?”

Did you notice that John doesn’t answer their question? Instead he said, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

John said, “You’re focusing on the wrong thing! Yes, I’m baptizing without the approval of the Sanhedrin. Yet I have told you that I am the forerunner of the Savior, and the Savior is here, among you, and you haven’t recognized Him. You’re obsessing over my popularity and my baptizing when there is One among you – the Savior – Who you are ignoring, Who is so much greater than I am that I am not worthy to untie His sandal.”

We can get like the priests and the Levites, can’t we – obsessing over real but minor things and missing the big picture – missing the important thing.

Some people come to worship to get a “pick me up.”

Some people come to worship to relax.

Some people come to worship to criticize the way things are done – or to challenge the pastor.

Some people come to worship for company.

Some people come to worship to let others know what good people they are.

Some people come to worship because they like the music and the singing, or the sacraments, or the tradition, or the cute woman that sits in the second row.

What are you looking for this afternoon? Why have you come to this worship service?

The priests and the Levites came to John to challenge his baptizing. They should have come to hear about the Savior – to be led to Him – to know Him and to receive salvation from Him – to worship Him and give Him thanks.

And that is what we should be looking for when we come into the sanctuary – into the worship service. We come – first and foremost – to know and worship our God and Savior – to give Him thanks and to commune with Him through the reading and preaching of the Word of God and through the sacraments.

What we should be looking for in the worship service is Jesus. We should be looking for Him because He Alone is God Incarnate, Who lived and died and rose and ascended back to His Throne at the Right Hand of the Father. It is He Alone Who grants salvation to all those who will believe in Him Alone. It is Jesus Who gives us His Grace in worship that we might grow and be able to do all those things He has called us to do.

The priests and the Levites missed Jesus by focusing on John and what He was doing to prepare the way. Don’t be distracted. Come looking for Jesus, the Savior; He has promised that all who seek Him will find Him.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending John and all of the other prophets before him that we might recognize Jesus. Keep us from pride and distraction, and keep us focused on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The Guilt Offering" Sermon: Leviticus 5:14-6:7

“The Guilt Offering”
[Leviticus 5:14-6:7]
March 21, 2010 Second Reformed Church

The Guilt Offering is the fifth and final offering we are looking at this Lenten Season. The Guilt Offering was a special variety of the Burnt Offering dealing with a special class of sins which were committed by an individual, never the congregation. The other difference to be found is that this Guilt Offering specifically regards reparation and satisfaction for trespasses. That is, it dealt with repaying what was lost plus adding to that an amount that would cover the additional loss between the time of the trespass and the time of the reparation.

Moses gives us three types of sins that were covered in the Guilt Offering:

First, if someone sins unintentionally in the holy things of the Lord – that is, if anyone unintentionally takes what is God’s – for example, committing idolatry, not worshiping one day in seven, not turning over the first born of the flock to the priests, using the tithe for oneself – any of these things – done unintentionally and then realized to be sin, would be an opportunity for a Guilt Offering to be made.

An example of an unintentional sin in the holy things of the Lord is seen in the conquest of Jericho: in chapter six of Joshua, God told Joshua that they were to kill all of the men, women, children, (except for Rahab and her family), and all of the animals, when they conquered Jericho. And they were to burn everything in Jericho except for things of bronze, iron, silver, and gold, which were to be placed in the treasury house of the Lord.

One of the soldiers was a man by the name of Achan. And rather than obey God’s command through Joshua, Achan took some of the holy things of the Lord for himself. And when Joshua tried to conquer Ai, Israel was roundly defeated, and God told Joshua it was because of the sin. Joshua asked for a confession, but none came. (If Achan had come forward, he could have offered the Guilt Offering and been forgiven, but he did not.) So, Joshua drew lots to find the culprit, and, finally, Achan’s name was chosen. At that point, Achan said, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath” (Joshua 7:20b-21, ESV). Unfortunately, Achan’s confession was not out of repentance, but out of getting caught, so he and his wife and children were stoned to death and then burned with all of their possessions.

If someone were to come into the sanctuary this morning and just assume that everything was for the taking and walked out with a Bible and a hymnal, that would be an unintentional sin against the holy things of the Lord. And if we were part of Ancient Israel, it would be appropriate, if that person realized his sin, to repent and offer up a Guilt Offering.

Notice what the Guilt Offering consisted of for the unintentional sin in the holy things of the Lord: if someone desired to make a Guilt Offering, one would bring a ram without blemish – not the most expensive of offerings – which would be the bull – but a pretty expensive offering, none-the-less – and it would be sacrificed. Or, if someone could not get ram for some reason – one could give the value of the ram in sanctuary silver. In either case, and additional twenty percent – a double tithe – of the value of the ram was to also be paid in sanctuary silver to the temple.

The second example is if one unintentionally sins against the Lord in breaking the Law regarding things that ought not be done. For example, if someone ate a ham sandwich, not realizing that the pig is a forbidden animal, and then he found out it was a forbidden animal and repented of his sin – in Ancient Israel, of course – then he would offer up the Guilt Offering for his sin.

As we have seen in the Sin Offering, ignorance is no excuse. If a person breaks the Law, he is guilty. Yet, there should be no ignorance: God made provision so ignorance would not happen, Shortly before he died, Moses gave this command, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time of the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law [that would be at least Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – possibly Genesis as well] before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of the law, and that their children, who have not known it [that is, children under seven years old – and those new people to the community], may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess” (Deuteronomy 31:10b-13, ESV).

If a person was ignorant of God’s Law, it was due to the failure of the leaders to read, preach, and teach the Law or the parents to read and teach the Law and bring their children to hear it read, preached, and taught in worship.

In the third case, we have a breach of faith against the Lord through deceiving a neighbor. In the case of these sins, we are sinning against the Lord because all sin is ultimately against God, but we are also sinning against a neighbor, so we see that both the Lord and the neighbor are to receive compensation.

The sins covered in this third case include stealing a person’s deposit or security, robbing a neighbor, finding something that belongs to your neighbor that he had lost and then lying about it when your neighbor inquires of you if you have found it, making a false vow – promising to do or not do something and then going back on it, underpaying a neighbor who does work for you, refusing to return something that was loaned to you, and so forth.

In the case of these types of sins, when a person would come to realize that his sin is a sin, he would offer up a Guilt Offering. But in this case, the item – or its value – would be returned to the neighbor plus twenty percent paid in sanctuary silver, and a ram would be given to the priest to offer up on the person’s behalf.

We ought to understand from the Guilt Offering that when we realize we have sinned, we are to repent of our sin, do everything within our power to give back what we took through our sin, and, in a show of true repentance give back more.

We will remember the story of the despised little man, Zacchaeus, who, as a tax collector, cheated the people regularly – it was what tax collectors did – it was expected that the tax collector would charge you more than you deserved and keep that portion for himself.

For whatever reason, when Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was passing through where he was, he wanted to see Him; Zacchaeus had obviously heard of Jesus and wanted to at least see what this Man looked like that he had heard so much about. But he was short, and he couldn’t see above the crowd, so he climbed up into a tree, so he could see Jesus. What he didn’t count on was Jesus seeing him. And Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house tonight” (Luke 19:5b, ESV).

The crowd was shocked and annoyed: “What? You’re going to stay with that crook, Jesus? With that urchin – that strong-arm of Roman oppression? Don’t You know how that will look? Don’t You know what people will think of You?”

Zacchaeus was shocked, too, but it was in that moment that God the Holy Spirit chose to change Zacchaeus – to open his eyes to Who Jesus truly is – and Zacchaeus realized that he was a sinner and just because all the other tax collectors cheated did not make it right for him to cheat, so he said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my good I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8b, ESV).That was true repentance – he even went beyond the Law and gave in joy half of what he owned to the poor and restored, not just 120% of what he had taken unjustly – sinfully, but 400%.

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this household, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’” (Luke 19:9, ESV).

Now, let’s be a little skeptical: could Zacchaeus have repaid 400% of his theft to everyone he stole from? Perhaps – he had likely become quite rich off of his theft. But could he repay all that he owed to God for his sin? – that being the primary offense covered in the Guilt Offering. No.

We have noted all along as we have looked at these offerings that God prescribed for Ancient Israel, that they only covered the sin – they only made reconciliation – for the moment, which is why they had to be offered again and again and again, day after day after day. The blood of animals could never fully – ultimately – pay the debt that was owed to God.

Paul, in writing to the Christians at Rome, bewailed the fact that his brothers in the flesh – the Jews, thought that they could do enough good works and offer enough sacrifices to become right with God. He wrote, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they do not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:1-3, ESV).

Paul is saying that the Jews realized that they were separated from God, but they had misinterpreted the Law and thought that they could earn their way to righteousness – to becoming right with God – through good works and sacrifices – when the only possible hope for the Jews – and everyone else – is to receive the righteousness that comes from God. The only hope that anyone has as a sinner is to recognize that he is lost and unable to do anything to save himself, so it must be God and God Alone Who makes a man righteous.

Paul wrote, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, ESV). Jesus brings an end to the Ceremonial Law – to the Offerings – to the Sacrifices – by fulfilling them in offering Himself up as the Perfect Guilt Offering. In the supreme act of obedience, He submitted Himself to God the Father, keeping all of the Law of God perfectly and then, even so, submitted to be put to death at the hands of sinners. As Paul wrote, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him that name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11, ESV).

Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are a debtor to God – a sinner who has sinned against God? Do you understand that you can never pay back God what you owe? Do you believe that your Only Hope is through the One Sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of everyone who will believe in Him?

If your answer is “yes,” then Jesus is your Guilt Offering and you are right with God the Father.

And some of you may be thinking, “We’ve heard this all before. I have been a Christian for the past seventy-nine years – so what?”

First, if you have believed savingly in Jesus, I hope you are still amazed. I hope as we have made our way through the beginning of the book of Leviticus and looked at these sacrifices, you have had a new appreciation of your sin and how it separates us from God and how utterly amazing and unthinkable it was that God would come to earth to set us right by keeping His Own Law and allowing us to put Him to death.

Second, I hope that when each of us realizes we have sinned – and all Christians sin – we will sin until we are brought into glory – though that is not an excuse – we are to be working hard to sin less and less – I hope that each one of us repents of our sin and asks God for forgiveness for Jesus’ Sake and in His Name. And, if we have sinned against another person, I hope that we have and will go to that person and make things right – whatever it takes.

And third, I hope that each of us will do all that we can to follow God’s Moral Law out of love and thanksgiving – not because it will save us or put us in a better light with God – but because it is the right and loving thing to do after all that Jesus has done for us.


Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father, forgive us for our sin. Help us to recognize when we have sinned in our ignorance or presumption and cause us to repent of it and make amends quickly. Help us to seek to do good for You and our neighbor – in love. And let us trust wholly in You, the One and Final Sacrifice – the Only One Who can save us eternally. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Drive and Community Dinner

This Saturday (D.V.) from 6PM to 10PM at Second Reformed Church. We will be hosting this event to raise funds and receive children's books and educational supplies for children in the Philippines. The cost is $3 (which will be donated to the Our Youth Soccer Association of Irvington). Join us and help as you can!

Magic Tax!

Tomorrow, March 20th and the 27th (D.V.), Magic Tax of Newark will be doing taxes in Freeman Hall at Second Reformed Church. Ten percent of their fees will be donated to the church for the use of the space. They plan to be open these Saturdays at Second Reformed from 1PM to 4PM.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: "John Bunyan"

John Bunyan by Kevin Belmonte is a volume of Thomas Nelson’s “Christian Encounters” biography series. See the product information for this volume at

I came to the volume both having read Bunyan and having read his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, as well as the biography, John Bunyan, by Frank Mott Harrison.

Belmonte’s biography is compact, engaging, and very readable. Belmonte has put Bunyan within his time, rather than dropping him out of the sky as a figure disassociated with the real world around him. After placing his family in history and describing what can be known of his family, including a valuable description of what a “tinker” actually is, Belmonte spends the bulk of his work describing how Bunyan came to write Pilgrim’s Progress. The volume ends with a timeline.

Belmonte achieves his end well is writing a biography that focuses on the Bunyan history and the writing of his best-known work and for that, the book is a welcome addition to Bunyan studies. Yet, I found it lacking in the sense that the series is called “Christian Encounters,” and Bunyan’s Christianity is almost incidental to the book. Yes, Belmonte shows Bunyan’s Christianity as necessary for the Bunyan’s writings, but I was almost left saying, “so what?”

I can understand the desire to put out a series of short biographies and, as I said, this one does what it intends well, but it would help the reader to know more of the specifics of Bunyan’s Christianity. The dearth of citations from Bunyan’s voluminous works is deafening. Perhaps a future edition will flesh out this.

Nevertheless, as it stands, I would recommend this book, with Bunyan’s autobiography and/or a biography that treats and quotes his understanding of Christianity at some length.

[This review appears at and on my blog.]

Review: "What Pets Do While You're At Work"

If you enjoy seeing pets in funny poses with funny captions, What Pets Do While You’re At Work by Jason Bergun and Bev West will be enjoyable to you. While I did not find it as funny as Bad Cats and Bad Dogs, to mention another serious, there is something wonderful in the whole anthropomorphism of the work. Enjoy!

Review: "The Reason for God"

For some time I have been urged to read Timothy Keller and, specifically, his book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. I have finally done so.

In the first part of the book, “The Leap of Doubt,” Keller addresses objections to Christianity: There can’t be only one true religion. A good God would not allow suffering. Science has disproved Christianity. Etc.

In the second part, “The Reasons for Faith,” Keller argues for the reasonableness of Christianity, looking at the knowledge of God, the problem of sin, the history of Christianity and the Resurrection.

To a large degree, I was impressed: Keller is obviously extremely well-read and can handle the material he works with – not merely the philosophers of old, but those who raise questions on our college campuses and coffee houses. Yet, Keller reads like a well-known friend, not some unapproachable scholar. Keller ministers in New York City and God has obviously gifted him to interact with the people of the city, through empathy, sympathy, and intellectual prowess.

Keller has a wonderful way of cutting through the fog an nailing down the actual issues and possibilities when confronted with a question. For example, in the first chapter, in which the skeptic argues that there must be more than one true religion, Keller addresses the divisiveness of religion and argues that is there is more than one true religion then society has only three solutions: outlaw religion, condemn religion, or keep religion completely private. Of course, Keller will have none of those answer and bring the reader back to the answer that there is nor reason why there cannot be only one true religion. He argues compellingly through the book.

Yet, I do have some criticisms:

First, the title of the book is The Reason for God. It does not seem to me that Keller ever gives the reason for God, much less an irrefutable argument for God’s existence.

Second, in the second chapter, Keller wrestles with the question of how a good God could allow suffering, but neglects to argue the biblical (and rational) position that human beings sin (do bad) and, therefore, bring suffering upon themselves and others – deservedly so.

Third, I wonder about Keller understanding of the biblical teaching on Hell. When he discusses how a loving God can send people to Hell (76ff), he talks about Hell as separation from God, but he does not seem to have a place for real physical suffering, which is taught in the Bible. (He even quotes the history of Lazarus and the Rich Man on page seventy-seven, which clearly shows physical suffering, bu says nothing of it.)

Fourth, on page eighty-seven he posits theistic evolution. While I know a great many good believers that hold to this position, I do not see how one can square it with the Scripture, without doing violence to the historical reality of Adam and Eve.

Fifth, and I have not heard Keller’s preaching, I was disappointed in the lack of Scriptural reference. It is, after all, through hearing the Word that one comes to belief. (Perhaps Keller would argue that one is reading, not hearing his book and that it is not a sermon, and for that I will acquiesce.)

There are a few other little things, but I would not want to give the idea that I think this is a bad book. No, it is one of the best presented and argued modern Christian books I have read, and I will read more Keller, D.V. My point would be to say that as much as I enjoyed the books, with a few qualifications, Christians ought to be careful not to think that mere reason will convert.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"If He Cannot Afford" Sermon: Leviticus 5:7-13

“If He Cannot Afford”
[Leviticus 5:7-13]
March 14, 2010 Second Reformed Church

Last week we noted that the Burnt Offering was made for intentional sins and the Sin Offering was made for unintentional sins. We saw that sin is sin, and sin separates us from God and requires that blood be shed and the offering be forsaken – consumed outside of the camp. Last week, we also saw that the Sin Offering required the offering of a bull for the sin of the priest or for the sin of the entire congregation, a male lamb for the sin of a leader, and a female lamb or goat for the sin of a common person.

But I also mentioned last week that we had not looked at all of the instructions for the Sin Offering: the remainder of the instructions were read this morning. The remaining instructions concerned those who could not afford to buy a female goat or lamb to be offered up as a Sin Offering. We will remember as we have looked at the offerings that God required of the nation of Israel that God was merciful in making allowances for what an individual could afford: the offering – the payment for the debt owed to God – was – in some instances and to some degree – variable based on one’s ability to pay.

We ought not understand from that that our sin is not really all that bad an offense to God – it is, but God is incomprehensibly merciful to us, and – more than that – He has shown us His Grace. For God is the Holy God, so any sin against God is “cosmic treason” – any sin against God deserves the greatest possible punishment because of Who God is. We understand that – the penalty for assassinating the President is greater than the penalty for murdering me. So God, being the greatest of all possible beings, would deserve the greatest possible punishment to be inflicted upon those who sin against Him.

Yet God is merciful for God’s Own Reasons – He has chosen to make allowances for us. And we see in the Sin Offering that if one could not afford a female lamb or goat, one could offer up two turtle doves or two pigeons – one which would be offered up as a Burnt Offering and one which would be offered up as a Sin Offering, according to the instructions that God had given. And we might question why two animals were required:

Remember last week as we looked at the offering of the bull and the male or female lamb or goat, the fatty parts and the kidneys were burned as a Burnt Offering. The rest of the animal was offered up as a Sin Offering. In the case of those who could not afford a bull or a lamb or a goat – male or female – a bird is just too small to divide up – to remove the fatty parts and the kidneys from – so two birds were offered, and one was wholly sacrificed as a Burnt Offering and one was wholly sacrificed as a Sin Offering.

But, if one could not afford the two birds – see God takes sin so seriously that He made provision for the poorest of the poor – that they might be reconciled to God as well as those with money – God allowed the offering of a tenth of an ephah of flour. Now, for those of us who don’t have measuring cups that show ephahs, God is requiring about 2.2 liters of flour – a little more than the size of the soda bottles we have out during coffee hour. And unlike the Grain Offering, this was to be plain flour – no salt, no oil, and no frankincense.

In this case, the priest would take a handful of the flour and burn it as a Sin Offering and the rest of it would be kept by the priest as his sustenance.

At this point, it might do us well to consider how serious sin is: Peter asked Jesus how often he had to forgive his brother for sinning against him – seven times? The Pharisees had said that one must forgive his brother three times, so Peter thought he was being quite magnanimous. But Jesus, making a point about sin and forgiveness said, not seven times, but seventy times seven – four hundred and ninety times. Understand, Jesus was not giving a literal number, because I know some people will say, “Well I have forgiven so-and-so four hundred and ninety times for sinning against me, so now I don’t have to forgive any more.” No. That is not
the point. So Jesus told this parable:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owe him ten thousand talents. [For those of us who are not paid in talents, that is 200,000 years pay for the average worker of the time. OK?] And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ [Which, of course was ridiculous – he could never have paid back that much money.] And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [about three months pay], and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:23-35, ESV).

Jesus was saying that since God has forgive us through Jesus – as our Burnt Offering, and Peace Offering, and Sin Offering – we are obliged to forgive our brothers and sisters for any and every sin they commit against us. The forgiveness that we have received through Jesus is so great that we ought to humbly, immediately forgive a brother or sister their sin against us and all of their sin against us.

“Well, you don’t know how much so-and-so has done against me. How can you expect me to keep forgiving so-and-so when they have done so much and continue to do so much against me?”

Jesus compared what one servant owed another – a little more than three months pay – with what the king had forgiven the first servant – 200,000 years pay. If you or I had been forgiven 200,000 years pay, do we not think we ought to forgive our brother or sister who owes us the great sum of three months pay? If it helps you, think of it that way – God has forgive you 200,000 years pay – is it beyond you to forgive the brother or sister who fairly regularly says something insensitive or ignorant or upsetting? That is not to say that that is then end of the matter – if we sin against another or we are sinned against, we ought to talk with our brother or sister as Jesus has taught us.

Let us consider this from another angle – Jesus is saying that we, in our sin, owe God, our King, 200,000 years pay for our sin – and that’s a metaphor for eternity. None of us will live 200,000 years on this fallen earth. We owe God an eternity for our sin against Him – more than 200,000 years pay. Even if God were merciful and cut it to 100,000 years pay – half an eternity, so to speak – we would be no more able to pay the debt that we owe.

We have seen that the offerings that God prescribed for the nation of Israel only reconciled them for the moment – they had to be offered again and again, day after day – because sin against God is that great – it is that awful – it is that terrible.

So we see God’s Mercy in allowing different animals, and even flour, to be offered up for sin – again and again and again, day after day after day. When we really consider the weight of sin, who is able to afford to pay the debt? Are you able to afford to pay the debt that you owe to God? I’m not.

Who is able to pay such a debt as the debt we owe? Only God. Only God could pay the debt that is owed to God. And in His Grace, He has done so: “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” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).

Jesus explained this to the Pharisee, Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18, ESV).

Jesus became the Sin Offering for us. He became sin for us. His Blood was shed, because none of us and no animal could fully pay the debt that we owed, and then He was brought outside of the Holy Place – outside of the view of the “good people” – in the place of the rejected and the damned – where He would cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46b, ESV) – suffering eternal Hell for everyone who would ever believe – and then die. And then rise – victorious over sin and death and Hell – for all those who would believe. So, He fulfilled the Sin Offering. God, the Only One Who could afford to pay the whole debt for our sin, gave His Son for we who could not afford to pay our debt, and He made us right with God.

What more can we say, but thanks be to God!

Let us pray:
Almighty God, our Savior, we thank You for showing mercy to our forefathers and us. We thank You for giving us the Gracious Gift of Your Son. How great is our God In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Are Your Taxes Done?

Today, March 13th, and Saturday March 20th, and 27th (D.V.), Magic Tax of Newark will be doing taxes in Freeman Hall at Second Reformed Church. Ten percent of their fees will be donated to the church for the use of the space. They plan to be open these Saturdays at Second Reformed from 1PM to 4PM.

Sermon -- Dorothy Wolfe's Funeral

Sermon – Dorothy Wolfe, March 12, 2010
[John 11:17-27]
(Bradley, Haeberle, and Barth Funeral Home)

Jesus was born to a real human woman. Jesus had brothers and sisters. Jesus had friends, co-workers, and disciples. Some of His best friends were Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Lazarus became suddenly ill and died, and Jesus went to Mary and Martha.

In the interchange that I read, Martha made five confessions of faith:

First, Martha said that she believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus if He had been there.

Second, Martha said that she believed that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead right then and there, if He asked God His Father.

Third, Martha said that she believed that there is a resurrection of the body on the last day.

Fourth, Martha said that she believed that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

And fifth, Martha said that she believed that Jesus is the Savior, the God-Man, Who came into the world.

In thinking about the fourteen years I had the privilege of knowing Dorothy – even more closely these past three years after Jim died – I thought of seven words or phrases that were Dorothy’s “Way of Life” as I knew her:

First, love.

Dorothy loved her family and friends and showed that love through her concern, prayers, and asking for prayers for you from others. She told me about many of you family members – about your talents and joys and medical struggles. She told me that her prayer list kept getting longer and longer and that she didn’t understand why the people she loved had to suffer so much. Dorothy showed her love to me in cards, and telling me not to say that Mary was “pregnant,” but rather “with child,” and in sharing shows at the Papermill.

Second, volunteer.

Dorothy not only believed in working to support herself, but she believed in giving back through volunteering. At the Prudential, at AARP, at the Papermill, at the church. There were times that Dorothy would be out working on the church shrubbery or changing the paraments or arranging flowers, and Jim would come over and ask her if she was ever coming home. Dorothy did not believe that anyone owed her anything, but she believed that everyone ought to give back out of the many blessings that we each receive.

Third, don’t get in other peoples’ way.

One thing I quickly learned about Dorothy is that although she did a great deal of volunteer work and enjoyed it, she usually liked to do it alone. And once she had done the work, she didn’t want anyone to mess with it. “I’m willing to do this job, but not if someone else is going to come in and change it. If someone else thinks they can do it better, they can do it themselves,” she told me on numerous occasions. She admitted that she stepped on people’s toes form time to time, but that was because they got in her way. Dorothy liked the peace of working on her own, in her time, in her own way, but she always got the job done and done well.

Fourth, communicate.

One of the biggest problems, Dorothy told me – often – in the church, in the Prudential, in AARP, in the world – is a lack of communication. If you want something done, say so. If you want it done this way, say so. If you don’t want this, say so. Everybody running willy-nilly got no one anywhere.

Fifth, always be learning.

Dorothy loved her trips, and she told me that they were not merely trips, but educational experiences. She had books and bought books that she was going to read when she retired. About four years ago, she asked me if we could just begin with Genesis 1:1 and read through the Bible together in Sunday morning Bible Study, discussing as we went along – we’re in Isaiah now – more than half-way through, reading together. Dorothy was excited and encouraging to me at my plans to begin a doctorate this Fall. Dorothy said that people didn’t use their minds – they didn’t have common sense – you need to sit down, talk things out, think them through, listen to each other, learn from each other.

Sixth, worship.

But work and volunteering and education was not enough for Dorothy. Dorothy understood that there is more to this life than the material realm. There is the spiritual realm. There is a God, and He is worthy of worship. Dorothy not only worshiped at Second Reformed Church on Sundays, but she worshiped at Old First Presbyterian on Thursdays. How many of us value worship that much? Dorothy was terribly troubled about people – especially young people – and the fact that so many do not regularly attend worship any more. We talked often about this, and she always asked why people raised in the church stop going.

And seventh, believe.

But just going and spending an hour or so in a church, singing in the choir, volunteering at the altar, on the grounds, in the Consistory, and on and on, really would not have been worth all that much if she didn’t also believe – if she didn’t have faith. Dorothy told me she loved to hear different ministers preach on the same text so she could understand the text better, because no minister said exactly the same thing. We talked about things I said – and she told me when she thought I was wrong.

And from my talks with Dorothy, I know if she could speak to us right now, I know she would want you to know that as sorrowful and shocked as we are by Dorothy’s death, Dorothy could confess the same beliefs that Jesus’ friend, Martha, confessed:

Dorothy believed that Jesus can heal, and He could have healed her.

Dorothy believed that even after she died on Monday, Jesus could have raised
her from the dead right then and there, if He asked God His Father.

Dorothy believed that there is a resurrection of the body on the last day.

Dorothy believed that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

And Dorothy believed that Jesus is the Savior, the God-Man, Who came into the world.

Love. Volunteer. Don’t get in other peoples’ way. Communicate. Always be learning. Worship. And believe. Believe in Jesus Alone for your salvation, and you will see Dorothy alive again on that final day.

I will miss Dorothy. She won’t be calling me tomorrow morning as I am racing around trying to get those things done that didn’t get done yet for Sunday, saying, “You’re not busy are you?” I rejoice in knowing I will see her again.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In Memorium: Dorothy W. Wolfe

Dorothy W. Wolfe’s services will be as follows, D.V.:

Wednesday, March 10th, viewing from 2-4 PM.
Thursday, March 11th, viewing from 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM.
Friday, March 12th, viewing from 10-11 AM; funeral at 11 AM, followed by burial at Hollywood Memorial Park.

The services will be held at Bradley, Haeberle, & Barth Funeral Home, 1100 Pine Ave, Union, NJ 07083, 908-686-6666.

Sympathy cards may be sent to Dorothy’s sister, Martha Bronner, 2039 High St., Union, NJ 07083.

The family asks that gifts be sent to the Memorial Fund of Second Reformed Church, 132 Elmwood Ave., Irvington, NJ 07111.

"The Sin Offering" Sermon: Leviticus 4:1-5:6

“The Sin Offering”
[Leviticus 4:1-5:6]
March 7, 2010 Second Reformed Church

We come this morning to a fourth offering: the Sin Offering. And we may immediately wonder what this is about – wasn’t the first of the offerings, the Burnt Offering, an offering which reconciled the person to God, covering the sin that the person had committed? We would be correct in remembering that, but God here distinguishes between sins that are done deliberately, knowing they are sin – these are covered in the Burnt Offering – and sins that are done deliberately, but not believing them or perceiving them to be sins – these are covered in the Sin Offering.

In other words, if you deliberately did something that you knew was a sin and then came to repent of sinning, you would offer up the Burnt Offering. But if you deliberately did something that you did not realize was a sin when you did it, but then came to realize it was a sin, and you repented of it, you would offer up the Sin Offering. Does that make sense?

We will look at the first part of the instructions for the Sin Offering this morning, and if the Lord is willing, we will look at the rest of the instructions next week. In this morning’s Scripture, Moses explains there are four different categories of people and how an unintentional sin is to be dealt with by each of them. And then he gives a few specific examples of sins.

First, God says, if a priest – who is the representative before God of the people – if the priest sins unintentionally, the entire people is held guilty of the sin. We may think of what James said, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1, ESV). Those who teach and preach the Word of God will be judged more strictly, because we are leading the rest of the Church, teaching what God has said, and we will be judged more strictly that our hearers, to see if we have misled anyone, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Because the weight of the sin of the priest was so heavy – since it effected the whole people – the most expensive animal was required for the Sin Offering – a bull. The initial steps of the sacrifice we will recognize: the bull was to be a male without blemish, the priest was to lay his hands upon it, symbolically transferring his sin, and then he was to slit the throat of the bull and collect its blood.

Then we are told that the priest was to sprinkle the blood of the bull seven times in front of the veil of the sanctuary. Here we have the symbolism of sprinkling seven times – seven was the number of completeness or perfection. And then the blood was sprinkled on the veil of the sanctuary, because it was through the veil that one entered into the Presence of God – and, as we saw in the Burnt Offering, it is only through the shedding of blood that the way to God can be opened. Sinners are barred from God without the shedding of blood.

This symbolism of sprinkling the blood seven times on the veil of the sanctuary was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus. As the author of Hebrews tells us, “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, and since we have a great 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” (Hebrews 10:19-22, ESV).

In the days of the Old Testament, God was reached through blood and through a physical veil in the sanctuary, but now, we who believe, have the awesome privilege of coming into the Presence of God, not through the blood of animals, not through our own blood, but through the blood of Jesus, and not through a mere cloth veil, but through the Body of Jesus, torn open so that we might enter in.

The priest would then smear blood on the horns of the Altar of Fragrant Incense. The horns represented the Strength of God and the smearing of blood upon them represented a strong appeal for atonement – reconciliation – not merely for the priest, but for all of the people who believed.

Then, the rest of the blood would be poured out at the base of the Altar of Burnt Offering – as we have seen as said before, this was to remind those offering the sacrifice that there is no reconciliation with God except through blood. And, as we have also seen, Jesus offered up the One and Final Blood Sacrifice which reconciles all those who will believe to God through Jesus and His Sacrifice.

Then, just as we saw last week in the Peace Offering, the priest would dismember the bull and removed the fat from the intestines, and the fat around the kidneys, and the kidneys, and the fatty lobe off of the liver. These would be burnt on the Altar of Burnt Offering as a “food offering to the Lord.”

Unlike the Burnt Offering, only the fatty parts would be burned on the altar, and unlike the Peace Offering, the rest of the animal would not be eaten by the person bringing the offering. Here again we have something different: the priest was to take the rest of the bull and assemble it and “carry [it] outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and [] burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up.”

To be outside of the city – outside of the camp – was to be separated from God – banished – rejected. The garbage was brought outside and burned. Lepers and other sick people were separated and kept outside and away until and unless they received healing. Crucifixions took place outside as the author of Hebrews reminds us, “For the bodies of those animals who blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside of the camp. So Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:11-12, ESV).

Jesus became the Sin Offering for us. He became sin for us. His Blood was shed, and then He was brought outside of the Holy Place – outside of the view of the “good people” – in the place of the rejected and the damned – where He would cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46b, ESV) – suffering eternal Hell for everyone who would ever believe – and then die. And then rise – victorious over sin and death and Hell – for all those who would believe. So, He fulfilled the Sin Offering.

For the other three types of peoples, the sacrifice is similar. Let us just note the differences:

If the entire congregation sinned unintentionally, but was not led into sin by the priest, a bull was still required to be sacrificed, as we have seen, but it was the elders who would lay their hands upon the bull, symbolically transferring the sin of the people to it.

What type of sin are we talking about? An example is found in Jesus’ words to the Church at Thyatira, “But this I have against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20, ESV). The Church at Thyatira had a woman in the congregation who called herself a prophetess and was instructing the people to sin sexually and in committing acts of idolatry, and the Church had not stopped her. For some reason, they did not think it their place to tell her to stop, and if she would not stop, to remove her.

Perhaps a more modern example for our community: if someone in this congregation was a known drug user – that person would be welcome to join us for worship – however, if we did not warn that person to stop using drugs and try to get that person help, we would also be guilty of sin, and if that person began encouraging others to use drugs, we would be guilty of sin if we did not tell that person to stop, and if we did not remove that person from us if he refused.

The third type of person is the leader – someone who is a leader of people, but not a priest. That person was required to offer up a male goat and to follow the steps we have outlined.

The fourth type of person is everyone else – those who are not a priest or a leader of some type. All others were required to bring a female goat or lamb and to follow the steps we have outlined.

In chapter five, verses one through six, we are given three examples of unintentional sin that a common person could commit which would require the sacrifice of a female lamb or goat:

First, if there was a trial and witnesses were called for, and a person who was a witness does not want to get involved, so he doesn’t answer the call to appear for trial. That was a sin which would require a Sin Offering.

Second, if someone were to accidently touch something that was unclean – an unclean animal, a dead animal or person, a cloth with something unclean on it, etc., the person would be unclean, even though it was unintentional. That was a sin which would require a Sin Offering.

Third, if someone made a rash oath – just blurted out a promise and then realized he could not keep it – that he should not have made the promise – that was a sin that would require a Sin Offering.

In modern times, were we obliged to offer the Sin Offering, another example would be parking in a no parking zone when we didn’t realize it was a no parking zone. It would still be a sin, and we would still have to pay the penalty – probably a parking ticket.

More drastically, if someone got into a fist fight and a person died, even though the intent was not to kill the person, he might be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and have to pay the penalty for the sin.

So, we see, the Sin Offering was made for unintentional sins that one comes to understand as sins. It is something that was done deliberately, but not thought to be a sin and later one recognized it was a sin and repented of doing it. Thus, the Sin Offering would be offered up.

We have also seen that Jesus has fulfilled the Sin Offering in paying the debt for all of the sins – even the unintentional sins – of all those who will believe in Him Alone for salvation.

How shall we respond to this?

First, let us understand that unintentional sin is sin, and we must confess and repent when we realize we have sinned – whether it was intentionally or not.

Second, let us understand that all unrepentant sin – whether intentional or not – separates us from God, His Kingdom, and His people.

Third, let us be quick to repent of all sin that we understand we have committed and to ask God to forgive us of those sins we do not realize we have committed. As David wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart Try me and know my thoughts And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting ” (Psalm 139:23-24, ESV).

And fourth, let us give thanks and rejoice that Jesus went outside the camp as our Sin Offering and paid the debt for all of the sins of everyone who will believe – even unintentional sins.

So, as we soon receive the bread and the cup, let us remember that Jesus was sacrificed for our sins: His Blood was shed; His Body was torn open. And the Way was made for us to be forgiven and welcomed into the Presence of God the Father as His forgiven sons and daughters.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to be our Sin Offering. We thank You that He took our place and died for all of our sins. We ask that You would search us now and forgive us for all of our sins, whether intentional or unintentional, whether we are remembering and repenting of them, or whether they have not entered into our minds. Forgive us through Your Son and for Jesus’ Sake. And may we meet with Jesus in the bread and the cup and receive His Grace that we might live as Your people. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Review: "I Just Wanted More Land"

“I Just Wanted More Land” is Gary E. Gilley’s response to Bruce Wilkerson’s book The Prayer of Jabez. It is a welcome rebuttal to that dangerous and misleading theology of Wilkerson’s shockingly popular book.

In the first chapter, Gilley argues that Wilkerson’s biggest error is to teach “that the repetition of a prayer; any prayer; even a biblical prayer; unlocks the power of God in our lives”(15, emphasis his). He goes on to explain that Wilkerson’s thesis is very popular because we want God to give us what we want.

In the second chapter, he analyzes what Wilkerson does with the prayer, arguing that Wilkerson’s book is a exercise in eisegesis, rather than exegesis. Rather that stating what the biblical text says (Wilkerson even drops a phrase from the prayer for some reason), Wilkerson use a devotional or allegorical interpretation of the text to make it the sure-fire way to get God to do our bidding – all we have to do is repeat the prayer of Jabez enough times and God will be forced to do our bidding!

In the third chapter, Gilley gives a plea for discernment and muses that Jesus and the New Testament writers were oblivious to the most important prayer in the Scripture and the method by which we can control God..

In the fourth chapter, Gilley gives an overview of how to do proper exegesis.

The book concludes with a look at Bible translations, strategies for Bible study, and serval specific examples to work through to see how to read and apply the Scripture.

Gilley is a wonderful and readable writer. He has diagnosed the problem with Wilkerson’s theology that a vast majority of Christianity has been oblivious to, and he deserves to be thanked for that, as well as for his general instruction on how to read the Bible appropriately. Pick up a copy of this book for anyone who is praying the pray of Jabez or for anyone who is looking to know how to read and interpret the Bible. It is a wonderful way in, besides being a corrective to Wilkerson’s prosperity teaching.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

March Sermons

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

3/7/10 Communion/Lent 3 Leviticus 4:1-5:6 “The Sin Offering”

3/14/10 Lent 4 Leviticus 5:7-13 “If He Cannot Afford”

3/21/10 Lent 5 Leviticus 5:14-6:7 “The Guilt Offering”

3/28/10 Palm Sunday Leviticus 6:8-7:21 “Wholly Burned”