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Christ Church (Moscow, ID)
4 minutes | Jan 12, 2022
Worship for Believers
One of the ways our worship service is noticeably different from others is found in the fact that our worship services are designed for believers. We do other events periodically that are designed specifically for unbelievers – evangelistic outreaches, debates, etc., but we believe that the primary purpose of Lord’s Day worship is for believers and their families to gather before the Lord to renew covenant. We renew covenant not because the covenant expires or gets old, but we renew covenant because we are the kinds of creatures who grow weary and forget. God does not forget His promises, but we need to be reminded of them.
4 minutes | Jan 10, 2022
Our good God has packaged a world that is meant to be unwrapped. It is the glory of God to conceal things but the glory of kings is to search things out (Prov. 25:2).
53 minutes | Jan 9, 2022
For Glory to Appear
INTRODUCTION Here the priests of Israel are ordained, and their garments and the sacrifices that set them apart proclaiming our salvation in Jesus Christ. He is our High Priest who leads us in worship every Lord’s Day to offer our sacrifices of praise, and by His ministry, our worship is made potent to batter the gates of Hell and turn the course of human history. THE TEXT “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, and the anointing oil…” (Lev. 8-9) SUMMARY OF THE TEXT The ordination of the priests took place over the course of eight days (9:1, 8:32). On the first day, the congregation witnessed Aaron and his sons being washed, anointed, and dressed in their uniforms (8:1-13). Then three animals were sacrificed: a bull for sin offering (8:14-17), a ram for an ascension offering (8:18-21), and a ram of “ordination,” a sort of peace offering (8:22-29). Some of the oil and blood was sprinkled on Aaron and his sons after this, and they ate a meal at the doorway of the tent of meeting, where they were to remain for the next seven days (8:30-36). On the eighth day, two sets of sacrifices (one set for Aaron, one for the people) were offered so that “the glory of the Lord would appear” (9:1-7). Aaron offered a sin offering and an ascension offering for himself (9:8-14), and then he presented the sin offering, ascension offering, grain offering, and peace offerings for the people (9:15-21). Finally, Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people and fire consumed the offerings on the altar and the people shouted and fell on their faces (9:22-24). FOR GLORY AND BEAUTY Ever since the Garden of Eden, clothing has been deeply theological. When Adam and Eve sinned, their eyes were opened to see their own nakedness, and they tried to cover their own shame, but God made clothing for them from the skins of animals (Gen. 3:7, 21). This is the story of all human history: we have guilt and shame and either we try to hide it or we receive God’s covering. Elsewhere, we are told that part of the reason the priests were given a uniform was to cover their nakedness (Ex. 28:42), but it was also for “glory and beauty” (Ex. 28:2, 40). This was to picture for Israel their need for salvation: instead of shame and mourning, God offered to provide “garments of salvation” (e.g. Is. 61:3, 10). This is the offer of the gospel: to be clothed in Christ. “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” (Heb. 4:13-14). This is really what we mean by “clothed in Christ.” We mean that Christ is your great high priest, that His glory and beauty are your glory and beauty. Very practically, all clothing is either seeking to reflect this reality with fitting praise, gratitude, and glory, or else it is a reflection of man’s own self-seeking arrogance and ostentation. THE ORDER OF THE SACRIFICES & COVENANT RENEWAL WORSHIP The ordination of the priests is one of the places we look to for our order of worship. While we need not insist that another order would be sinful, we want our worship to be “according to Scripture.” We know that Scripture commands us to confess our sins, to hear the Word read and preached, and to celebrate communion together, but what order are we to do it in? In the Old Testament when the three central sacrifices were offered (Sin, Ascension, and Peace), they always seem to be offered in the order seen here (Lev. 9:3-4 cf. 8:14-31) and in a couple other places (cf. Num. 6, Ez. 45:17). We see the same theological order in the covenant renewal at Sinai: blood is sprinkled on the altars and on the people (Sin), the elders ascend the mountain (Ascension), and they eat and drink with God (Peace) (Ex. 24). We call this order of worship “covenant renewal worship”: we confess our sins, we ascend to God through the Word read and preached, and we sit down to eat and drink at peace with God and one another. If you put a Call to Worship at the beginning and the Commissioning at the end, you have “5 Cs”: Call, Confession, Consecration, Communion, Commission. We call it “covenant renewal,” but we could just as easily call it the “gospel enacted”: we are summoned to worship God, but we know we are sinners in need of forgiveness, so we confess and are assured of God’s pardon through Christ. Then we ascend into the presence of God in and through the Word of Christ which cuts us up on the altar. Finally, we feast at peace with God and one another before being charged and sent out with His blessing. CONCLUSIONS It’s striking that God commands the people to ordain these men to the priesthood in a certain way so “that the glory of the Lord shall appear” (9:6). We see an analogous result in the ordination of deacons in the New Testament: when the apostles determined not to neglect the Word of God and prayer, they ordained seven men to oversee the physical needs of the congregation, and the “Word of God spread and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem…” (Acts 6:7). When God’s people are obedient in appointing Spirit-filled leaders, the glory of the Lord appears, and more people turn to the Lord. The same thing is true about faithful and obedient worship in general. When we obey the Lord in our worship services, both inwardly and outwardly, seeking Christ in it all, the glory of the Lord appears. When our worship is ordered according to Scripture, God promises that even unbelievers will fall down and worship God, saying that God is truly in our midst (1 Cor. 14:25). This is not some kind of mechanical theological formula, but it is a sure promise of the Living God received by faith in Christ alone. The Book of Revelation can broadly be read as a heavenly worship service, with Christ our High Priest leading worship such that the judgments fall on the earth (Rev. 5-6ff). So we worship God in heaven on the Lord’s Day so that God’s Kingdom will come and His Will might be done on earth as it is in heaven. And with Christ our High Priest, it is sure to be done.
52 minutes | Jan 2, 2022
Your Reasonable Service
INTRODUCTION We have already covered the 5 main sacrifices in the first five chapters, but the next two focus on specific tasks and duties of the priests with regard to the sacrifices. Here, God is instructing Israel to obey carefully, making distinctions between holy and common, clean and unclean. REVIEW Leviticus 1: Ascension/Burnt Offering – God invites us to draw near with all that we are: the whole animal goes on the altar. Leviticus 2: Tribute/Grain Offering – God provides our daily bread and all things, and therefore, He claims our full allegiance: bread on the altar. Leviticus 3: Peace Offering – God invites us to have fellowship with Him and one another with a meal: the fat goes on the altar and we eat together in the presence of God. Leviticus 4: Sin Offering – Sin defiles us and our land, but God takes it upon Himself so we can be clean: the blood goes in front of the veil and on the altar for cleansing, the carcass is burned outside the camp. Leviticus 5: Guilt/Reparation Offering – All sin requires repentance and sometimes restitution: a ram for the Lord and restoring what was lost or stolen plus twenty percent. THE TEXT “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering…” (Lev. 6:8-7:38) SUMMARY OF THE TEXT While the earlier chapters described God’s provision of sacrifice for Israelites to draw near, here God gives commands to the priests for carrying them out. Instructions include the continual sacrifice, every morning and evening for the Ascension Offering (6:9-14), which portions of the Tribute Offerings (grain) belong to the priests (6:15-6:23), how the blood of the Sin Offering consecrates whatever it touches (6:24-30), how the Reparation Offering is like the Sin Offering and who may eat it (7:1-7), as well as the skin and Tribute grain that belong to the priests (7:8-10). Peace Offerings may be made on occasions of thanksgiving (with unleavened and leavened bread), or upon the completion of vows, or as a voluntary offering, but must be eaten on the day of the offering (thanksgiving) or on the second day (vows/voluntary) (7:11-18). The meat of the Peace Offering must be kept ceremonially clean, ceremonial cleanness is required for all who partake of the Peace Offerings, and any unclean who partake are to be cut off from the people (7:19-21). While the Israelites may use the fat of animals for other purposes, they may not eat it, especially from a sacrifice, nor drink the blood (7:22-27). Finally, while individual Israelites must bring their own the Peace Offerings, the priests are to receive their portion and see to it that the fat is burned (7:28-36). This concludes the law of all the sacrifices and offerings (7:28-38). HOLY, CLEAN, UNCLEAN, & CUT OFF We will have opportunity to consider these categories more as we go on, but just notice how God is requiring the priests and the people to pay close attention to details: clean (6:11), holy (6:18), most holy (6:25, 29), clean (7:19), unclean (7:20-21). These generally correspond to whom the sacrifice belongs (holy/priests, clean/congregation). And those who fail to honor these distinctions are to be “cut off” (7:21, 25, 27). This means they are excommunicated from the presence of the Lord while the uncleanness persists, often only requiring a washing (Lev. 22:3-7). While these instructions are primarily given to the priests, we see that individual Israelites are also responsible to make sure the priests are following the instructions (7:18). The overarching principle here is the holiness of God. On the one hand, one does not just saunter into the presence of God, and yet, on the other hand, the whole sacrificial system was God making a way for sinners to draw near. These categories were training wheels for New Covenant holiness. In the New Covenant, the holy blood of Jesus has gone into the Most Holy Place and splashed on this planet earth, consecrating the whole world to the Lord. Zechariah foretells this when he described a day when the bells on the horses would be consecrated with “Holiness to the Lord” as well as every pot in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:20-21). This is particularly true of believers who have been sanctified with the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:29). All that we do and touch is now holy to the Lord. In the New Covenant there is only “one baptism,” one washing, but we apply the promise of that cleansing through confession of sin: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). This is also the goal of all correction (Gal. 6:1, Mt. 18:15). This requires Christians to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). And yet, if God saves you in a situation where you are already yoked to an unbeliever, trust Him to use it to sanctify the unbelieving spouse, otherwise the children would be unclean (1 Cor. 7:14). So an unbeliever is not a marital option for believers, but when it comes to friends and business partners, the question is: which way is the influence going? “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 21-23). CONCLUSION: YOUR REASONABLE SERVICE While God raises up teachers and ministers, all believers have priestly responsibilities in the New Covenant: “Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ… But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9, cf. Rev. 1:5-6). The Bereans were more noble because they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).
2 minutes | Dec 30, 2021
The Wait is Over
The Light of the world has come. The waiting is over.
39 minutes | Dec 26, 2021
The Knowledge of Good & Evil
INTRODUCTION The Lord Jesus was born in this world in order to reestablish mankind. The first mankind in Adam had failed at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and so Jesus was born into this world in order to rebuild the ruin we had created here. Our celebrations at this time of year are dedicated to a remembrance of what He came in order to do. And as we remember, and understand it more fully, that work which He has accomplished is actually advanced in our midst. Most of you have not taken the Christmas tree in your living room down, so remember that in Scripture a tree can be a place of great folly or of great wisdom. Adam disobeyed at a tree, and Jesus obeyed on one. THE TEXTS “But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). BACKGROUND TO THE TEXTS We all know that there was one prohibited tree in the Garden of Eden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Note that the tree of life was not prohibited (Gen. 2:16), but once sin had entered the world it then went off limits—lest we should eat from it in a rebellious condition and live forever that way, unredeemable (Gen. 3:22, 24). So God in His mercy barred the way to the tree of life, until it was opened up again in and through the gospel (Rev. 2:7). But what about that tree of the knowledge of good and evil? What was it? So we need to take a moment to consider what that phrase means, and what it does not mean. The two basic alternatives are that it was bad for us to have knowledge of the difference between good and evil, period, or that the prohibition was temporary, and the sin was in grasping for something prematurely. We should be able to see that it was the latter by how God responds to the situation when our first parents disobeyed. We see that it cannot mean experience of sin. The Lord said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Gen. 3:22). The serpent earlier had promised that this knowledge would make them “as God” (or gods), “knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Millennia later, the author of Hebrews does not identify this ability to distinguish sin from righteousness as sinful in itself, but rather with maturity, with the capacity to handle “strong meat.” Too many Christians assume that a pre-fall lack of the knowledge of good and evil was a total blank innocence, with no ethical categories at all. But if this were the case then how would Adam have been able to fall into sin? How would he have known it was evil to eat from the prohibited tree? No, the knowledge of good and evil here has to mean something more than a simple knowledge of the difference between right and wrong. PREPARATION FOR RULE God had created mankind to rule over creation and all the creatures (Gen. 1:27-30). In learning how to judge and rule the created order, man really would be like God (Ecc. 12:14). Entering into that rule would have been a transition from immaturity to maturity, and not a transition from moral cluelessness into an ability to tell right from wrong. Kings make judgments. They have to be able to discern right and wrong in the case before them. Now it is quite true that the Bible often speaks of “good” and “evil” in simple moral categories of individuals learning to love good and hate evil. But when we talk about discernment, we are talking about the ability to tell good from almost good, to discern the difference between white and off-white. Because God created us for rule, He created us for this. And when our first parents ate this forbidden fruit, they were grabbing for that rule prematurely, before God gave it to them as a gift. WHAT CHILDREN DON’T DO, WHAT KINGS DO Consider the language of Scripture. “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither . . .” (Dt. 1:39; cf. Jer. 4:22). This was true of a type of the Messiah, the child born in fulfillment of the promise to Isaiah. “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel . . . for before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings” (Is. 7:14-16). Extreme old age prevents a man from being able to serve as a judge between good and evil, as Barzillai observed: “I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil . . .?” (2 Sam. 19:35). And how did Solomon please the Lord when a vision was given to him at Gibeon? Even though he sacrificed in the high places, he did love the Lord (1 Kings 3:3). When the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and told him to ask for whatever he would have, Solomon’s answer pleased the Lord (1 Kings 3:10). So what did Solomon ask for? He said first that he was “but a little child” (1 Kings 3:7), and so what deficiency did he think needed to be corrected? “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people” (1 Kings 3:10)? GROWING UP IN JESUS We are called to understand the world so that we might grow up into a maturity that is capable of ruling the world. The verb to speak a proverb is a word that also means to rule. The wisdom of Scripture is wisdom that is geared to dominion. The author of Hebrews knows and understands the creation mandate. He quotes Ps. 8, and says that we do not yet see everything subject to mankind—but we do see Jesus (Heb, 2:9). The world to come is not subject to angels, but to mankind (Heb. 2:5ff). Mankind in Christ is therefore being fitted for godly rule (Heb. 5:14). Because we grabbed the forbidden fruit out of order, we have needed to be retro-fitted for it, but this is what is happening. So in the child Jesus, given to us at Christmas, our response should be the same as that of the wise men. We look at a little child and we see a king. And all around you, you should see princes.
46 minutes | Dec 26, 2021
Christmas for the Blind
INTRODUCTION This is something of a Christmas message and end of the year State of the Church sermon all wrapped into one. But the point is that I want to meditate on the covenant curses that are raining down on us in the form of Covid-statist tyranny, the sexual promiscuity and perversion jihad, on top of abortion insanity, fiscal madness, and political imbecility. Christians find themselves caught in the middle of family and culture turmoil. What are we to do? The central thing we must do is recognize all of it as judicial blindness from the Lord. He had done this. THE TEXT “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Pet. 1:4-9). SUMMARY OF THE TEXT By His power, God has given to His people everything that they need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ, at all times and in all places (1:3). Having escaped the corruption of the world, Christians are to grow in holiness and godliness through God’s great and precious promises (1:4). The broad outline of that growth is listed in seven additional steps added to faith in those promises (1:5-7). With those eight virtues abounding in Christians, they cannot be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus (1:8). But a Christian who lacks these things is blind, near-sighted, and has forgotten that he has been forgiven (1:9). TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF JUDICIAL BLINDNESS We know from elsewhere in the Bible, that unbelievers have a certain kind of spiritual blindness: 2 Cor. 4:3-4: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Likewise in Ephesians 4:18, speaking of the Gentiles, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” That is one kind of judicial blindness. But here in 2 Peter 1, we have a different kind of blindness described, what we might call a covenantal judicial blindness. Peter is describing believers who have not progressed as far as they should have as blind and forgetful (2 Pet. 1:9). Jesus calls the church of Laodicea to repent of a similar blindness: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked… anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke, and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:17-19). COVENANT BLINDNESS & CALAMITY This same covenantal blindness is described in the Old Testament: “If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God… all these curses shall come upon thee… The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: and thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness…” (Dt. 28:15, 28). Likewise, in Isaiah’s commission: “Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed… But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return…” (Is. 6:10, 13). So when God’s covenant people disobey and break covenant, God sends covenant curses and spiritual blindness on them for the purpose of dividing the faithful from the unfaithful: some are proven to be complete unbelievers who die in their blindness, but there are some who struck with some blindness in order to chastise them, and call them to repentance (e.g. Rev. 3:17-19, Jn. 12:37-43). CONCLUSIONS & APPLICATIONS While America is fast joining the post-Christian nations of the West, there is another sense in which covenanted nations do not have the luxury of forgetting their Christian past. They may forget their Christian past, but their Christian past cannot forget them. Or to be more precise, God does not forget covenants made and broken. And we have manifestly fallen under covenantal curses. We have murdered our own children, and while we have not yet stooped to eating them, we most certainly have experimented on them and used their bodies for sorcery (what we call “medical research”) (Dt. 28:53-58). We have been chased by tiny minorities of sexual madmen (Dt. 28:25, 32:30), and we have been struck with terror and diseases (Dt. 32:25, 28:59-61). But it is perilously easy to make light of our sins in the church because they do not seem as bad as the pagans, but that is not at all the same thing as holiness, as godliness and virtue (2 Pet. 1:5-7). It’s said that in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, but listen to what it says: “he that lacketh these things is blind” (2 Pet. 1:9). Do you lack any virtue, any temperance, any patience, any brotherly kindness or charity? Those “little sins” of anger, lust, envy, selfishness – they are blindness and near-sightedness. And like the church of Laodicea, we are tempted to make light of them because of how fabulously well-off we are: “knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind…?” We think we know what joy is because we have high speed internet, Instagram, and food on demand. But that isn’t joy. Joy is serving the Lord with gladness of heart for all the abundance of things (Dt. 28:47). Joy is holiness. The only way out of this mess is if Jesus gives us eyes to see. “And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (Jn. 9:39-41). Are you blind? Is our land full of the blind? Christ was born so that the blind might see.
39 minutes | Dec 19, 2021
Through the Blood of His Cross
Introduction In the fourth century, the Council of Nicea settled the question of the Lord’s deity, and consequently became the touchstone that enables us to address various Trinitarian heresies. A Trinitarian heresy has to do with the unity of the Godhead, and the tri-personal nature of God’s existence, and all without reference to the creation. What is God like in Himself? In the fifth century, the Council of Chalcedon addressed the relationship of the human and divine in Jesus of Nazareth, a question that arose as a result of the Incarnation. Errors on this question are usually called Christological heresies. The Text “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Col. 1:18–20). Summary of the Text We have seen that the apostles held two very distinct conceptions of the Lord Jesus. On the one hand, they recognized His full humanity. We saw Him, John says, and we touched Him (1 John 1:1). At the same time, they also speak easily and readily of Christ as a cosmic Lord, as in our text this morning. And moreover they speak of Him as one integrated personality. Our Lord Jesus is the head of the whole body, the church (v. 18), and He is the arche of all creation (v. 18). He is the integration point of all things, which is the word underneath “beginning.” He is the firstborn from among the dead, and this privileged position makes it plain that He is to have the preeminence (v. 18). All the fullness of all things dwells in Him, and this was the pleasure of the Father (v. 19). Everything in this fragmented creation order was shattered and broken, and Christ’s mission was to make peace for all of it, reconciling all of it to Himself (v. 20). But this soaring rhetoric comes down to earth with a crash when we see that it is to be accomplished through the “blood of His cross.” This was blood that was shed, remember, because of the collapse of Pontius Pilate in the face of a mob. The Nub This is the heart of what Chalcedon is testifying to. “our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man . . . not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ.” Remember that we are simply stating what Scripture requires us to state, and is not an attempt to “do the math.” This confession is admittedly miraculous, and this means that you won’t be able to get your mind fully around it. You can get your mind around the fact that we confess two distinct natures united in one person, without any muddling of them. A Quick Run Down of Some Heresies Heresies often arise as the result of people trying to make all the pieces fit together within the tiny confines of their own minds. Some people have an itch to make it all make sense to them, and the result is tiny (and tinny) dogmas. Ebionism holds that Jesus was the Messiah, but just an ordinary man, with Joseph and Mary as his parents. The Ebionites were Jewish Christians in the early years of the church. People who want to say that “Jesus was a great moral teacher” represent a modern form of this. Docetism holds that Jesus was completely divine, and that His humanity was only an apparition. The word comes from the Greek verb dokein, which means “to seem.” Adoptionism holds that Jesus was fully human, and was “adopted” as the Son of God at a point in time, whether at his baptism or at his resurrection. Apollinarianism taught that the Word (a perfect divine nature) took on a human body in Jesus, replacing his human soul and mind. Thus Jesus was God inside and man outside. Nestorianism is the view that denies the unity of the person of Christ, suggesting that there were two natures, two persons going on, loosely joined. In the interests of fairness, it should be mentioned that there are good arguments suggesting that Nestorius himself was not a Nestorian. Through the Blood of His Cross And so here is our confession, here is our faith. We are Christians, which means that our lives center on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we get Chalcedon wrong, we are corrupting the doctrine of His person. And if we do that, then we empty the cross of its dynamic power. The cross has the ability to fascinate all men, and to draw them to God, precisely because of the identity of the one who died there. Unless Jesus were a man, He could not die. He could not shed His blood for us unless He had blood. Unless Jesus were God, His death would not have the ultimate salvific meaning that it does. And so it is that we acknowledge that Jesus of Nazareth, fully God and fully man, died on the cross for the sins of the world. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16–17)
49 minutes | Dec 19, 2021
The Coming of Christ
THE TEXT And now, indeed, I am going to my people. Come, I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the latter days.” 15 So he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; 16 The utterance of him who hears the words of God, And has the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open: 17 “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult. 18 “And Edom shall be a possession; Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession, While Israel does valiantly. 19 Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, And destroy the remains of the city.” 20 Then he looked on Amalek, and he took up his oracle and said: “Amalek was first among the nations, But shall be last until he perishes.” 21 Then he looked on the Kenites, and he took up his oracle and said: “Firm is your dwelling place, And your nest is set in the rock; 22 Nevertheless Kain shall be burned. How long until Asshur carries you away captive?” 23 Then he took up his oracle and said: “Alas! Who shall live when God does this? 24 But ships shall come from the coasts of Cyprus, And they shall afflict Asshur and afflict Eber, And so shall Amalek, until he perishes.” 25 So Balaam rose and departed and returned to his place; Balak also went his way (Num. 24:14–25).
3 minutes | Dec 17, 2021
The Meaning of Christmas
God took on human flesh in order to be able to die. He did this so that such a death would be followed by a resurrection in which the identity of Christ would be proclaimed by God to the world. And this is the meaning of Christmas. This is why we celebrate Christmas. When Mary held the Desire of Nations in her arms, she was holding the body that would be broken and would be sacrificed for the life of the world. Listen to the full sermon in this app, 'Fully God & Fully Man.'
2 minutes | Dec 16, 2021
Glad Tidings of Great Joy
The tidings of great joy weren't just that a cute baby had been born. These were glad tidings of a fulfillment of a promise, of covenant mercies being remembered.
4 minutes | Dec 13, 2021
Speaking Above Reason
We are pointing to things above reason not things that are against reason. Listen to the full sermon here in the app, 'Fully God & Fully Man.'
37 minutes | Dec 12, 2021
The Person & Work of Christ
INTRODUCTION At the beginning of Hebrews 3, we are told that Jesus Christ is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. As an apostle, sent from the Father, He represents God to us. As a high priest, designated to come before God on our behalf, He represents us to God. Consequently, the bridge between God and man is a bridge that can be traveled in both directions—from God to man, and from man to God. But in order to be the high priest, He also had to serve as the sacrifice, and this meant that He had to be a spotless sacrifice. This also is addressed by the author of Hebrews. THE TEXT “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14–16). SUMMARY OF THE TEXT Because Christ was given to us, we have a great high priest. Because He is our high priest, He travels away from us, in order represent us in the heavens. In the heavens, He sprinkles His own blood on the altar (Heb. 9:12), and in the heavens He also intercedes for you (Rom. 8:34), praying for you by name. We are instructed to hold fast our profession precisely because we have a high priest in the heavens, and this high priest knows exactly what it is like down here. The original word here is sympatheo—we have a high priest who is sympathetic with us in our infirmities. He was tempted in all the same basic areas we are tempted, and yet without sin. His ability to sympathize with us is not despite His perfection, but rather is the result of His perfection. His throne is a throne of grace, not a throne of recrimination or accusation. It is a throne of grace. So, we are told, when you are in need of grace (unmerited favor) or mercy (demerited favor), or both, you are supposed to come to his throne boldly. All of this is reflected wonderfully in the Definition of Chalcedon, which says that Christ was “like us in all respects, apart from sin.” TRUE TEMPTATION? Some people are prone to rely on their own wits instead of the plain instruction of Scripture, and so they reason something like this. “If it was not possible for Christ to sin, then in what way was His temptation a true temptation?” And because we share some of the frailties of the objector, this kind of thing sometimes make sense to us. Let us answer it with another illustration. Were Christ’s bones breakable? And the answer to that question is both yes and no. They were breakable in that they were made of the same breakable substance as our bones are. His bones were not unbreakable; they were not made out of titanium. But because Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), because the Word of God is unbreakable, His bones were not going to be broken (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20; 1 Cor. 5:7; John 19:36). So Christ’s human nature was peccable (capable of sin), but the promises of God concerning Him were impeccable, which meant that God’s Word was going to be fulfilled in Christ, and that Christ would see the desire of His soul and be satisfied (Is. 53:11). The Christ will prevail through all of His temptations and trials, and He will praise His Father in the great congregation (Ps. 22:25). TRUE SYMPATHY? We can only come before this throne of grace boldly if we are sure of our reception, and if we are also sure that the one who receives us warmly is actually capable of helping us. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). We must believe that He is there, and we must also believe that He is both willing and able to help us. “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Matthew 8:2). And Christ said yes. Suppose that temptation is the wind, and that sinning consists of blowing right over. Suppose also that all of we assigned the task of walking 10 miles in winds that were up to one hundred miles per hour. To make this an illustration with nice round numbers, suppose that 100 of us were told to walk this distance in this wind. Ninety of us blew over the moment we stepped outside, nine of us blew over after three yards—true saints, all nine of them, and one of us (Jesus) walked the entire distance. Now which of the 100 can be considered a wind expert? Who knows the most about it? When you sympathize with a fellow right next to you, who blew over the same moment you did, your sympathy is weak and pathetic compared to the true sympathy that Christ has for you and for him. His sympathy is the stronger for His strength. His strength does not render Him a weak high priest. How could it? COMPLETE MAN, COMPLETE OFFICER We have considered the person and work of Christ. The person of Christ was the result of the great miracle that was wrought by the Holy Spirit nine months prior to Bethlehem (Luke 1:35). And because He was the complete and perfect man, He also perfectly fulfilled the calling of His various offices (prophet, priest, and king). Only a perfect man can be a perfect prophet (Dt. 18:15). Only a perfect man can be a perfect high priest (Heb. 4: 14-16). Only a perfect man can be a perfect king (Rev. 19:16). And precisely because Christ has entered into His inheritance, it is possible for us to enter into ours—because all that He has and is belongs to us by grace. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
50 minutes | Dec 12, 2021
Through Covenantal Eyes
THE TEXT Then Balak said to Balaam, “Please come, I will take you to another place; perhaps it will please God that you may curse them for me from there.” So Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, that overlooks the wasteland. Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build for me here seven altars, and prepare for me here seven bulls and seven rams.” And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on every altar. Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. Then he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened, The utterance of him who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open: “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, Like gardens by the riverside, Like aloes planted by the Lord, Like cedars beside the waters. He shall pour water from his buckets, And his seed shall be in many waters. “His king shall be higher than Agag, And his kingdom shall be exalted. “God brings him out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox; He shall consume the nations, his enemies; He shall break their bones And pierce them with his arrows. ‘He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him?’ “Blessed is he who blesses you, And cursed is he who curses you.” Then Balak’s anger was aroused against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times! Now therefore, flee to your place. I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the Lord has kept you back from honor.” So Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not also speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, ‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord, to do good or bad of my own will. What the Lord says, that I must speak’? (Numbers 23:27–24:13).
3 minutes | Dec 9, 2021
The Best Wedding Wine
If God were to offer you the secret to being happy in your marriage, wouldn’t you want to know? But He has: husbands love your wives; wives respect your husbands. Love means sacrificing for your wife, laying your life down for her good, taking trouble for her, being thoughtful of her needs and concerns. Respect means thinking highly of, praising, asking for counsel and advice, and cheerfully obeying. But here’s the thing: when you love your wife it’s giving her the best wine, and when you respect your husband, you’re giving him the best wine. And it’s the kind of wine that makes both of your hearts exceedingly glad.
2 minutes | Dec 8, 2021
Removing a Lung
We desire a Reformation, and thus we’ve blasted the trumpet for the saints of God to go to the Word. This is half of maintaining your Spiritual vitality. We must also eagerly head to the prayer closet, for that’s where your faith is most likely to be tested, and thus strengthened.
3 minutes | Dec 7, 2021
Two Parental Failures
The point of discipline is to restore fellowship. Hebrews 12 teaches this: The Lord disciplines those whom He loves and chastens those who are His sons. No chastening seems pleasant at the time but painful, yet afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. God disciplines us so that we will share in His holiness. And God’s discipline is the model for our familial discipline. If we understand parental authority rightly, it is only a ministry of God’s authority. Therefore, our task as parents is to accomplish the same goals that God has for His discipline. Discipline claims our children as our own, administers a momentary pain, in order to produce a lasting fruit of joyful obedience and fellowship. Parents generally fail in one of two directions. We may call these two ditches: free-range parenting problems and industrial-Reformed parenting problems. Free-ranging parenting fails to provide teaching, correction, discipline, and does not require obedience of children. Industrial-Reformed parenting treats discipline like a formula of spankings and rules, and while this method may have a short term appearance of obedience, this surface level conformity is not at all the same thing as the lively fruit of fellowship and joyful obedience. Failure to teach, correct, and discipline is a failure to love. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Prov. 13:24). But the goal is not mere conformity; the goal is joyful obedience and fellowship. And so this means that there must be a center of joyful obedience and fellowship in the home, not sterile machinery. If there is no center of joyful fellowship, then there’s nothing for discipline to bring children back into. What is that center of joyful fellowship? It’s the fellowship of forgiveness. We are the forgiven. We obey joyfully because we’ve been forgiven much. And parents model this obedience when they joyfully discipline their children. Do you want your children to joyfully obey? Then show them how. Show them how in the way that you joyfully correct them.
36 minutes | Dec 5, 2021
Truly God & Truly Man
INTRODUCTION As we reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation, we have to recognize that we are dealing with a staggering miracle. And the miraculous aspect of it has to do with what Chalcedon confesses of the one person, Jesus of Nazareth. He is one person, with two natures, and these natures are conjoined, but not jumbled or confused. THE TEXT “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:1–4). SUMMARY OF THE TEXT In this introduction to the epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul mentions three things that are right at the heart of what we are going to be addressing today. The first is that he refers to one person, God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (v. 3). The second thing is that “according to the flesh,” He was a Davidson—descended from that great king of Israel (v. 3). And the third thing is that He was declared to be the Son of God through His resurrection (v. 4). This is when He was declared to be the Son of God, not when He became the Son of God. CAREFUL DEFINITION So here is the heart of the matter. We “teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood.” Here it is in a nutshell. What can be predicated of one nature can be predicated of the person. What can be predicated of the other nature can be predicated of the person. This is because those two natures are conjoined (this is the miracle) in what is called the hypostatic union. The word hypostasis simply means “person.” But what is predicated of one nature cannot be predicated of the other nature. We may not reason thus: “Jesus was six feet tall. Jesus is God. Deity is therefore six feet tall.” You might be tempted to think something like “of course not,” but neglect of this has gotten numerous people in trouble. Jesus is God. Mary is the mother of Jesus, and so Mary is the mother of God. No, she is the mother, according to the flesh, of the one who is God. BUT WHY? Whatever would possess us to paint ourselves into this glorious corner? Why do we talk this way? We do it because of our faith in Scripture. Scripture tells us things that we—if we believe the Scriptures—we must harmonize. And the most obvious thing that strikes the reader of the four gospels is the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a singular personality. In everything He does, we see a glorious consistency and unity. Whether we read the scriptural accounts as believers or unbelievers, the person of Christ strikes us as a unitary force to be reckoned with. We are dealing with Jesus of Nazareth, not Jekyll and Hyde, or someone with a schizophrenic multiple personality disorder. That would Legion, living in the tombs, and not the Lord, who was the most fully integrated person who ever lived. That was an aspect of His perfection. But what happens when we look closely? FULLY MAN When we read carefully, we see the scriptural testimony that Christ participated in all the limitations of human nature. He experienced them. He knew what it was to be thirsty (John 19:28). He was tired enough to be able to sleep in a tempest (Matt. 8:24). He walked to get places (Mark 10:32). He needed to ask for information (Mark 5:31). He was no ghost—He could be heard, seen and touched (1 John 1:1). In short, He was manifestly a man. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The only part of our humanity that Jesus did not participate in was our sinning, and even that He took on Himself at the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). FULLY GOD Thomas addressed Him correctly. “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Who was the Word that became flesh (John 1:14)? It was Jesus. And what is said of Him. He was with God in the beginning, and He was God in the beginning (John 1:1-2). He is the Creator (John 1:3), and God is the absolute Creator (Gen. 1:1). He is the one who made all the worlds (Heb. 1:2), and who sustains all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). If it is created, then the Word created it (Col. 1:16-17). The fundamental Christian confession is this—Jesus is Lord (Rom. 10:9). We must confess that He is Lord. But what kind of Lord are we talking about? Paul supports his claim by citing Joel 2:32, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). This is written in Greek, so the word for Lord is kurios. That could simply refer to a man. But the Hebrew passage he cites says that whoever calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved. The basic Christian confession is that Jesus is Jehovah. THE PERSON AND WORK The person and work of the Lord Jesus cannot be separated. We are not cleansed and forgiven because we admit that somebody died. No. We must look at this straight on. God took on human flesh in order to be able to die. He did this so that such a death would be followed by a resurrection, in which resurrection the identity of Christ would be proclaimed by God to the world (Rom. 1:4). And this is the meaning of Christmas. When Mary held the desire of nations in her arms, she was holding the body that would be broken and sacrificed for the life of the world (John 6:51). The Incarnation was the gift that made the great gift a possibility. And what will we do with this? How shall we respond?
50 minutes | Dec 5, 2021
The Shout of a King
INTRODUCTION This second blessing pronounced by Balaam doubles down on the first, insisting that God is determined to bless Israel because He always keeps His promises. On top of that, God insists that He sees no evil or trouble in His people. This doesn’t seem right to us, and that’s why we need to be reminded how His grace works. THE TEXT And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.22 God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.23 Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!24 Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain (Num. 23:18-24). SUMMARY OF THE TEXT God address Balak with a “shema” summons to hear, just as Israel is command (cf. Dt. 6) (23:18). God assures him that he doesn’t lie and he doesn’t change his mind like men; what He has promised to do, He will surely accomplish (23:19). Balaam repeats that he has received another instruction to bless; God has blessed and it cannot be reversed (23:20). But this isn’t merely a refusal to curse; God does not see any iniquity in Jacob, no reason to curse Israel (23:21). The Lord Himself is in the midst of Israel, and therefore God only hears the voice of a great king (23:21). God brought them out of Egypt with the strength of a unicorn, so there is no incantation or divination that can come against them and the whole world is impressed with what God has done (23:22-23). Therefore, Israel will be a conquering nation, like lions that devour their prey (23:24). UNBREAKABLE COVENANT PROMISES When God says He isn’t a man who changes his mind or breaks his promises, He is pointing back to the covenants He has made and kept. God made covenant with Adam in the Garden after the Fall, promising to one day crush the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3). God renewed covenant with Noah, saving his family and promising never to flood the world again (Gen. 9). God renewed covenant with Abraham and promised that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 15, 17). God kept those promises by delivering Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3) and renewing covenant at Sinai (Gen. 19-24). This track record has only increased, as God kept covenant through the judges and renewed His promises to David (2 Sam. 7). All of these promises are being fulfilled in Jesus. This is what Mary and Zechariah sing about at the coming of Jesus (Lk. 1:55ff). All the promises of God find their “yes” in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). God is not a man who lies or goes back on His word. But God is the kind of God who loves men who have. WHAT GOD SEES We noted last week that Balaam’s first blessing is already incredible since God pronounced a blessing on a nation full of complaints and unbelief, but God goes even further here insisting that He has not seen any trouble or wickedness in Israel (23:21). On the surface this is outrageous, since the book of Numbers chronicles Israel’s troubles and evil. But the same verse explains how this is possible: God Himself is in Israel, the shout of a king is in their midst (23:21). What Balaam is prophesying is God’s covenant love and promises. The God who calls light out of darkness and life from the dead, calls those things which do not exist as though they did (Rom. 4:17, cf. 2 Cor. 10). God promises the complete remission of our sins, a perfect standing, and His complete approval and everlasting blessing in Christ crucified and risen from the dead. Faith in Christ is being fully convinced that what God has promised, He is able to perform (Rom. 4:21). And when that kind of faith receives those promises, an individual is justified. Faith sees Christ for us, and God simultaneously sees Christ in us. God forgets all our sins in the blood of Jesus, and the status of Christ’s perfect obedience is imputed to us (Rom. 4:22-24). In the covenant, God declares His love and intention to bless. In the covenant, He declares us holy, saints (1 Cor. 7:14, cf. 1 Cor. 1:2, Eph. 1:1, etc.). And when that love is received, when that promise is believed, we are justified, and all that God sees in us is Christ. All He hears in us is the shout of our King. And one of the most glorious things our king shouts is: It is finished. In Christ, He doesn’t see any trouble or evil in you. This isn’t a blind, sentimental love; it’s a bloody, truthful love. CONCLUSION Christianity is a militant religion, but what is frequently misunderstood or misconstrued is the fact that our militance is driven by God’s fierce grace. What do we want to see fill Moscow? God’s grace: His fatherly, covenantal affection. So, fathers, are you for your children? Can you pronounce this blessing on your family? Do you have a critical eye or a covenantal eye? A covenantal eye is not blind to flaws or weaknesses, but it is inclined to overlook them, wants to see them repented of. Love covers a multitude of sins, and love confronts some sins. But God’s grace is lavish, and we are called to give what we have been given.
4 minutes | Dec 3, 2021
The Necessity of the Virgin Birth
The virgin birth is God's provision of a spotless Lamb to represent a bunch of dirty lambs, so that we might be assembled together as one flock and brought home to the Father. Listen to the full sermon, 'The Virgin Birth,' here on our app.
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