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Yours in Christ: Pastoral Letters from Resurrection, State College
5 minutes | Oct 29, 2021
Letter #40 - Soli Deo Gloria: To the Glory of God Alone
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 40, “Soli Deo Gloria: To the Glory of God Alone.” This is the fifth in a series on the five “solas” of the Reformation leading up to Reformation Day on October 31st—the five hundred and fourth anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his ninety-five theses to the church door of Wittenberg in 1517. For the text of this and other Yours in Christ installments, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters.
6 minutes | Oct 21, 2021
Letter #39: Sola Scriptura
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 39, “Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone.” This is the fourth in a series on the five “solas” of the Reformation leading up to Reformation Day on October 31st—the five hundred and fourth anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his ninety-five theses to the church door of Wittenberg in 1517. For the text of this and other Yours in Christ installments, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters.
7 minutes | Oct 15, 2021
Letter #38 - Solo Christo: In Christ Alone
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 38, “Solo Christo: In Christ Alone.” This is the third in a series on the five “solas” of the Reformation leading up to Reformation Day on October 31st—the five hundred and fourth anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his ninety-five theses to the church door of Wittenberg in 1517. For the written version of this and other Yours in Christ installments, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters.
7 minutes | Oct 7, 2021
Letter #37 - Sola Fide: Faith Alone
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 37, “Sola Fide: Faith Alone.” This is the second in a series on the five “solas” of the Reformation leading up to Reformation Day on October 31st—the five hundred and fourth anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his ninety-five theses to the church door of Wittenberg in 1517. For the written version of this and other Yours in Christ installments, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters.
8 minutes | Sep 30, 2021
Letter #36: Sola Gratia - Grace Alone
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 36, “Sola Gratia: Grace Alone.” This is the first in a series on the five “solas” of the Reformation leading up to Reformation Day on October 31st—the five hundred and fourth anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his ninety-five theses to the church door of Wittenberg in 1517. To read this letter, visit https://resurrectionopc.org/sola-gratia-grace-alone/. For more Yours in Christ installments, go to resurrectionopc.org/letters.
5 minutes | Sep 16, 2021
Letter #35: “Good Work Well Done”: Dorothy Sayers on Vocation
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 35, “‘Good Work Well Done’: Dorothy Sayers on Vocation.” You can read this letter at https://resurrectionopc.org/good-work-well-done-dorothy-sayers-on-vocation/. For more Yours in Christ installments, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters.
5 minutes | Sep 9, 2021
Letter #34: Your Sentry Post: Classic Thoughts on Vocation from John Calvin
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 34, “Your Sentry Post: Classic Thoughts on Vocation from John Calvin.” For the full text of this letter and for more Yours in Christ installments, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters.
7 minutes | Aug 26, 2021
Letter #33: Fasting and Feasting
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 33, “Fasting and Feasting.” It’s the fourth in a series of four letters on the topic of Christian fasting in conjunction with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s denomination-wide Day of Prayer and Fasting earlier this month. For the full text of this letter, see https://resurrectionopc.org/fasting-and-feasting/. For more Yours in Christ installments, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters.
6 minutes | Aug 19, 2021
Letter #32: How To Fast
See the full text of this letter at https://resurrectionopc.org/how-to-fast/.
7 minutes | Aug 11, 2021
Letter #31: Should Christians Fast?
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 31, “Should Christians Fast?” It’s the second in a series of four letters on the topic of Christian fasting in preparation for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Day of Prayer and Fasting coming up later this month. For the full text and for more Yours in Christ installments, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters.
8 minutes | Aug 5, 2021
Letter #30: What Is Fasting?
Go to https://resurrectionopc.org/what-is-fasting/ for the full text of this Yours in Christ letter!
5 minutes | Jul 28, 2021
Letter #29: T.U.L.I.P. - Five Truths About God's Grace | 5 - Perseverance of the Saints
Dear Resurrection, The P in T.U.L.I.P. stands for the perseverance of the saints. This fifth truth about God’s grace is about more than just “eternal security.” It is richer than the true but superficial slogan “once saved, always saved.” The perseverance of the saints stands at the end of T.U.L.I.P. not only because it is future-oriented, but also because it grows organically out of the T, the U, the L, and the I. If God looked at the world of underserving sinners (total depravity) and eternally fixed his saving love on a special group of them (unconditional election); if Christ did all that was necessary to save those people specifically and personally (limited atonement); and if the Holy Spirit compellingly draws all those Christ died for to saving faith in Him (irresistible grace); then, surely, God will also preserve those same people all the way to the end. God’s grace is not only undeserved, sovereign, personal, and compelling. God’s grace is forever. You can see this gospel logic at work in Romans 8:30, where Paul writes that everyone God “predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” The heartbeat of the whole T.U.L.I.P. paradigm is the idea that salvation is the work of God from start to finish. Such a grace can never fail. This is summed up explicitly in Philippians 1:6—“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” The same person who wrote “Rock of Ages” put it like this in another hymn: The work which his goodness began, The arm of his strength will complete; His promise is yea and amen, And never was forefeited yet…. My name from the palms of his hands Eternity will not erase; Impressed on his heart it remains, In marks of indelible grace. Yes, I to the end shall endure, As sure as the earnest is giv’n; More happy, but not more secure, The glorified spirits in heaven. (Augustus M. Toplady, Trinity Psalter Hymnal #434) Grace-Based Action Point God has called you to persevere in the Christian life. He has set before you a vision for the Christian life that involves great exertion, dedication, and endurance: to be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). But behind that call lies the grace-alone promise that it is God who saves, that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). So as you fight, as you run, as you persevere, let this be your song: By grace I’m saved, grace free and boundless; My soul, believe and doubt it not. Why stagger at this word of promise? Has Scripture ever falsehood taught? No; then this word must true remain: By grace you too shall heav’n obtain. (Christian L. Scheidt, Trinity Psalter Hymnal #432) Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons
5 minutes | Jul 22, 2021
Letter #28: T.U.L.I.P. - Five Truths About God's Grace | 4 - Irresistible Grace
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 28, “Irresistible Grace: God’s Grace Is Compelling.” It’s the fourth in a series called “T.U.L.I.P.: Five Truths About God’s Grace.” For more, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters. Dear Resurrection, The I in T.U.L.I.P. stands for irresistible grace. Jesus says in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Just as at creation God’s word sovereignly called the universe into existence, so in conversion, God sovereignly calls dead sinners into spiritual life. Irresistible grace does not mean that God saves people against their will. Sometimes I have to put my children to bed or feed them vegetables even though they don’t like it. Often they do resist—it’s just that resistance is futile! Irresistible grace is not that. God is able to do something in us that I cannot do in the hearts of my children—He transformsour wills. He creates an inward heart-change that never would happen without God’s gracious and powerful intervention. Romans 3:11 says that “no one seeks for God.” So, when we find ourselves in fact seeking God, the only explanation has to be that Godtook the initiative to give us that desire. The Shorter Catechism (Q. 31) puts this beautifully in its definition of “effectual calling” as “the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.” The point of irresistible grace is that our salvation depends on God from start to finish, and that what God starts He will alwaysfinish. Romans 8:30 says that everyone God “predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” In other words, when God decided to save His people, He committed Himself to doing everything necessary to see that decision through. That includes not only what Christ would do for you, but also what the Spirit would do in you. In John 6 Jesus promises, “All that the Father gives me willcome to me” (John 6:37); on the other hand, “No one can come to me unlessthe Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). In other words, without God’s sovereign calling, nobody will want anything to do with God or His salvation. But if God does call a person to faith, nothing will be able to stand in the way of that call. Grace-Based Action Point In Ezekiel 36:26, God describes salvation like this: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Recognizing that irresistible grace of God in your life should energize you. God has made a miraculous change inside you, giving you desires and abilities that you never would have had apart from His grace. Your stony heart is gone; a new, soft, living one beating for God has taken its place. That’s a compelling reason to devote yourself to a grace-based life of love and service to God. "I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me; It was not I that found, O Savior true; No, I was found, was found of thee." (Anonymous, Trinity Psalter Hymnal #427) Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons
5 minutes | Jul 15, 2021
Letter #27: T.U.L.I.P. - Five Truths About God's Grace | 3 - Limited Atonement: God's Grace Is Personal
Dear Resurrection, The L in T.U.L.I.P. stands for limited atonement. The word “limited” might seem to have a negative ring to it. But the point of this phrase is actually to communicate something very precious and assuring: that God’s work of salvation is personal, not generic. In this third truth about God’s grace, we’re trying to get at the question, “What did Jesus’ death on the cross really do?” Two possible ways of answering this question have been explained using the word picture of two bridges over a river. One bridge is very wide, but it reaches only part of the way across. The other bridge is much narrower, but it spans the complete distance between the two banks. Some people believe that when Jesus died on the cross, He did so to create the possibility of salvation for everybody. That’s what the first bridge pictures. But when the Bible talks about Jesus’ death, it paints a picture much more like that second bridge. G.I. Williamson phrases the contrast like this: Did Jesus’ death go (A) “some of the way for all” or (B) “all of the way for some”? The Bible’s clear answer is “(B)”—“all of the way for some.” In John 17, Jesus is praying to God the Father just before He goes to the cross. In that prayer, He says, “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours” (v. 9). Earlier he had told the crowds, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37) and that “I lay down my life,” not for every human being, but specifically “for the sheep” (John 10:15). “I know my own,” Jesus said (John 10:14). That means that everything Jesus did, He did not for sinners in general as a faceless class. No, He lived and He died for a very specific group of sinners with names and faces, sinners whom He loved personally by name—His sheep, His own, given to Him by the Father. Some people feel the Bible’s teaching about limited atonement seems too narrow, as though it somehow underestimates the real scope and power of God’s grace. But the reverse is really true. This doctrine means that when Jesus died on the cross, He was really dying for you, personally and specifically. His death didn’t merely make salvation possible for the human race; Jesus really saved his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Grace-Based Action Point If the T in T.U.L.I.P. (total depravity) should make you humble, and the U (unconditional election) should make you grateful, the L (limited atonement) should give you great comfort. It should comfort you to think that on the cross, Jesus was dying for _______ (fill in your name), because He loved you; because the Father had given you to Him; because you are and always have been His sheep. Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sov’reign die! Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I? Was it for crimes that I had done he groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree! (Isaac Watts, Trinity Psalter Hymnal #341) Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons  G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Shorter Catechism for Study Classes, 2nd ed., p. 109.  See note #1.
5 minutes | Jul 8, 2021
Letter #26: T.U.L.I.P. - Five Truths About God's Grace | 2 - Unconditional Election: God's Grace Is Sovereign
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 26, “Unconditional Election: God’s Grace Is Sovereign.” It’s the second in a series called “T.U.L.I.P.: Five Truths About God’s Grace.” For more, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters. Dear Resurrection, The U in T.U.L.I.P. stands for unconditional election. “Election” simply means “choice.” When the Bible speaks of election, it’s talking about God’s pivotal decision to reach down into the vast throng of lost, undeserving people and rescue some of them out of the global catastrophe of sin and judgment through saving faith in Jesus. God says this decision of His predates even creation; “he chose us … before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). “You did not choose me,” Jesus tells His disciples in John 15:16, “but I chose you.” The big question is, Why? Why did God choose to save these particular people? There are only two places to look for the answer to that question. Either, 1) There was something special about those people that God noticed, and that’s why He chose them, or 2) There was nothing particularly special about them at all, but God out of His free, undeserved grace, chose to save them anyway. Unconditional election communicates that the Bible teaches option #2, not option #1. In Deuteronomy 7:7, Moses told Israel, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples.” God simply loved them and was keeping His promises—that’s why He rescued them from Egypt (v. 8). The same thing is true of believers today. The only reason that could explain how sinners like you and me would ever choose to trust in Christ is if Christ chose first, reaching down in love to us long before we ever reached up in faith to Him. Some people think that God’s choices depend on what He foresees in the future about people’s responses to the gospel. But then, it’s not really God’s choice that matters anymore, is it? It’s yours. This can be a subtle way of transferring some of the credit for salvation away from God and back to ourselves. The fact is, God did not choose you because He knew that you would believe. No, we believe only because God decided to save us. In other words, God’s grace is sovereign—it reflects His utter authority and power, and it doesn’t depend on anything (past, present, or future) in us. God says, “‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:15-16). Grace-Based Action Point If the T in T.U.L.I.P. (total depravity) should make us humble, the U (unconditional election) should make us grateful. Unconditional election reminds us that our salvation depends entirely on God from start to finish, and we can take none of the credit. It’s a truth that gives birth to prayers like Psalm 115:1a—“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory!” ‘Tis not for works that we have done, these all to him we owe; But he of his electing love salvation doth bestow…. To thee, O Lord, alone is due all glory and renown; Aught to ourselves we dare not take, or rob thee of thy crown. (Augustus M. Toplady, Trinity Psalter Hymnal #426) Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons
5 minutes | Jul 1, 2021
Letter #25: T.U.L.I.P. - Five Truths About God's Grace | 1 - Total Depravity: God's Grace Is Undeserved
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 25, “Total Depravity: God’s Grace Is Undeserved.” It’s the first in a series called “T.U.L.I.P.: Five Truths About God’s Grace.” For more, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters. Dear Resurrection, This month we are going to explore five biblical truths about salvation through Jesus. These five truths are sometimes called “the doctrines of grace” because they highlight just how completely our salvation depends on God. They’re often summarized using the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.” (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints). Maybe these terms are very familiar to you. Maybe you’ve never heard them before. Either way, I hope this month’s letters will deepen your gratitude and love for the undeserved, sovereign, personal, compelling, and enduring grace of God. The T in T.U.L.I.P. stands for total depravity. That’s a pretty somber place to start! But many stories with happy endings have tragic beginnings, and so does the story of God’s grace. “Total depravity” means that every part of who we are as human beings has been touched and corrupted by sin. It’s not just that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23); Paul says the problem runs even deeper, “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands,’” no one even seeksfor God, Paul says (vv. 10-11). Like an iceberg that’s mostly below the surface, the problem of sin is easy to underestimate. We prefer to think of ourselves as basically good people who just have a few flaws and have made some mistakes, that with a little help from God we can overcome those flaws and mistakes to become that better version of ourselves that we really are underneath. But the Bible’s picture of human nature is much less flattering, and none of us gets an exemption from it. Ephesians 2 is particularly vivid. Before God stepped in to change things, Paul says, “You were dead”! Not just sick, not just needing some help—“dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,” living “in the passions of our flesh”; we were “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” In other words, what people need is not just a spiritual hand up. We need a miracle—miracle of resurrection, of new spiritual life where there is no spiritual life at all. The Bible says that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7), and simply will “not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him” (1 Corinthians 2:14). That means spiritually dead people not only can’t save themselves by their works; they can’t even receive God’s salvation by faith—unless God takes the initiative in grace to give them spiritual life. Grace-Based Action Point Total depravity is not a pleasant place to begin, but it is foundational to understanding God’s grace, and it should provoke in us an attitude that it is fundamental to true Christianity. I’m talking about humility. God’s grace is totally, one hundred percent undeserved. We would never even reach up to God for help if He did not first reach down to us in mercy. ’Tis not that I did choose thee, for Lord, that could not be; This heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me. Thou from the sin that stained me hast cleansed and set me free; Of old thou hast ordained me, that I should live to thee. (Josiah Conder, Trinity Psalter Hymnal #428) Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons
5 minutes | Jun 24, 2021
Letter #24: Communion with the Triune God
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 24, “Communion with the Triune God.” For more, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters. Dear Resurrection, Ephesians 2:18 says that “through him [Christ] we . . . have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Do you see all three persons of the Trinity in that verse? The Gospel-good-news says that we have access to God the Father—that He is our Father; we were His enemies, but now we are His children. It tells us also that it was Christ, the Son of God who made the difference—that Christ died to give us that access to the Father. And how we do we experience that grace of Christ and that love of the Father? Ephesians 2:18 says it happens “in one Spirit”—the Holy Spirit. Do you see? Knowing God means knowing the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having communion (fellowship, relationship) with God means having communion (fellowship, relationship) with that triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is what we’ve been reflecting on for the past three weeks using John Owen’s Communion with God: Fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Owen concludes near the end of the book, “All the consolations of the Holy Ghost consist in his acquainting us with, and communicating to us, the love of the Father and the grace of the Son; … we have our communion with the Father in his love, and the Son in his grace, by the operation of the Holy Ghost.” As we conclude this month’s series, then, I want to ask you: Is that the way you pray? Is that the way you worship? Is that the way you live? Grace-Based Action Point I want to encourage you in your personal communion with God to pray thoughtfully aware of the love, grace, and comfort of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Remember that God the Father loves you, and love that He loves you. He has given Himself in love to you; give yourself in love to Him. Remember that God the Son delights in you; delight in Him. Remember that the Father and the Son have sent the Spirit to help you in your prayers and to make the Gospel promises come alive to you in your present experience. Ask for His help; expect His presence; grab hold of the promises He brings to your attention. I also want to encourage you to think about this month’s letters when we worship together. On Sundays, make it a special point to listen for the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the worship services. How does our worship reflect that “through him [Christ] we . . . have access in one Spirit to the Father”? Listen for Trinitarian words and phrases in the prayers, in the hymns, in the sermon, and in the sacraments. God-centered worship means worship centered on the triune God of the Bible. Finally, learn to live in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, increasingly aware in your daily choices and disposition that this Triune God is your God. Live as a beloved child of God the Father, as one delighted and delighted in by God the Son, as one indwelt and comforted and helped by God the Spirit. Through Christ you have access in one Spirit to the Father. That’s the Christian life. Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons P.S. All quotations are from this edition of Communion with God.
5 minutes | Jun 17, 2021
Letter #23: Communion With the Holy Spirit
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 23, “Communion with the Holy Spirit.” For more, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters. Dear Resurrection, As Jesus prepared His disciples for His upcoming departure from earth, He said, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away.” Why? Because He was planning to send them “the Helper” (John 16:7). This is where John Owen starts when he explains what it means to have communion with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t work alone. He is given (John 14:16), sent (John 15:26), and poured out (Titus 3:6) by the Father and the Son, and His special work is intimately interwoven with theirs—“to bring the promises of Christ to our minds and hearts, to give us the comfort of them, the joy and sweetness of them.” In fact, any “peace, relief, comfort, joy, support” or other blessing we have from Christ, we actually come to experience it through the Holy Spirit’s ministry. This is the first way Owen says we have “communion and fellowship with” the Holy Spirit. “The life and soul of all our comforts lie treasured up in the promises of Christ,” he says, and when you feel “the life of” those promises “warming [your] heart, relieving, cherishing, supporting, delivering from fear,” you can “know that the Holy Ghost is there; which will add to [your] joy, and lead [you] into fellowship with him.” The Holy Spirit works in many ways. Here are just a few: He persuades us of God’s love (Romans 5:5), assures us of our place in God’s family (Romans 8:16), and stamps us with God’s seal of security and belonging (Ephesians 1:13). He helps us to pray (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 8:26). Owen says, “The soul is never more raised with the love of God than when by the Spirit” we are “taken into intimate communion with him in” prayer. So how can you grow in enjoying the kind of communion with the Holy Spirit that the Bible describes so beautifully? To begin with, Owen reminds us of three things we should not do. Ephesians 4:30 says we must not grieve the Holy Spirit, which we do by “negligence, sin, and folly.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says we must not “quench” the Spirit by working at cross purposes with Him. We also should not “resist” the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) by ignoring or rejecting His word. Grace-Based Action Point If those are some things you should not do, here are three things you should do to grow in communion with the Holy Spirit. First, when you pray, Owen says you should ask for the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in your life (Luke 11:13). Second, specifically ask the Holy Spirit to give you the comfort, peace, and strength that Christ promises. And third, remember to thank Him specifically when you experience these blessings in your life. “When we feel our hearts warmed with joy, supported in peace, established in our obedience, let us ascribe to him the praise that is due to him, bless his name, and rejoice in him.” Don’t be misled into thinking of the Holy Spirit as a mystical force to be tapped for self-centered purposes. Look to Him as the Person of the Trinity who loves to bring you close to your heavenly Father by making real in your life all the precious promises of Christ. Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons P.S. All quotations are from this edition.
5 minutes | Jun 10, 2021
Letter #22: Communion With Christ
Dear Resurrection, After describing the special communion we have with God the Father in love, John Owen goes on to describe the special communion we have with God the Son in grace (see 2 Corinthians 13:14). This grace includes what Owen calls “purchased grace” (the blessings of forgiveness and acceptance with God that Jesus earned for us through what He did). But it’s not just that. Owen wants to focus our attention on what he calls “personal grace”—the grace that is found in Jesus Himself—who He is. Jesus came to earth “full of grace” (John 1:14). He is everything that the king described in Psalm 45 was meant to picture: “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace” (Ps. 45:2a NIV). As fully God and fully man, Jesus “fills up all the distance that was made by sin between God and us; and we who were far off are made near in him.” Whatever you lack, Jesus can give. “Is [a person] dead? Christ is life. Is he weak? Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Guilty? “Christ is complete righteousness. . . . Whether it be life or light, power or joy, all is wrapped up in him.” Owen is especially interested in the biblical image of Christ as the church’s heavenly husband. This spiritual marriage union is a mutual self-giving where “Christ makes himself over to the soul . . . and the soul gives up itself wholly to the Lord Christ.” In this relationship, everything lovely about us is given to us by Christ. “He loves life, grace, and holiness into us; he loves us also into covenant, loves us into heaven.” As our heavenly husband, Christ delights in us (“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you,” Isaiah 65:2b), and we respond by delighting in Him. (“Delight” Owen defines beautifully as “the flowing of love and joy.”) Christ values us as His treasured possession, and we respond by valuing Him above anything else in the world. Christ shows compassion to us, and we respond by giving ourselves in exclusive loyalty to Him. Christ showers us with His bounty of provision and blessing, and we respond with willing obedience. That is what communion with Christ in grace looks like. Grace-Based Action Point Owen challenges us to ask ourselves how our desire for Christ compares with our desires for other things. “What have you gotten by them?” Owen asks. “Let us see the peace, quietness, assurance . . . that they have given you?” Owen challenges us to fill our hearts instead with Christ. “You love him not, because you know him not,” which is why we spend so much of our lives “in idleness and folly, and wasting of precious time.” Owen asks the probing question: “Has Christ his due place in your hearts? Is he your all? Does he dwell in your thoughts?” So often we live as though we “prefer almost anything in the world” to thinking seriously about the glory and goodness of Christ. “What poor, low, perishing things do we spend our contemplations on!” when Christ’s “excellency, glory, beauty, depths, deserve the flower of our inquiries, the vigour of our spirits, the substance of our time.” Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons P.S. All quotations are from this edition.
5 minutes | Jun 3, 2021
Letter #21: Communion With God the Father
Welcome to Yours in Christ, Pastoral Letters from Resurrection in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m Pastor Zach Simmons, and this is letter number 21, “Communion with God the Father.” For more, visit resurrectionopc.org/letters. Dear Resurrection, Would you like to grow closer to God? When it comes to your relationship with God, do you feel like there’s a gap between your knowledge and your experience, your thoughts and your feelings? This month I’d like to share with you some gems from John Owen’s Communion With God, which is about how the Father, Son, and Spirit each draw near to you in a special way (Ephesians 2:18), inviting you into closer fellowship with God and helping you to grow in a deeper, living, heartfelt devotion to the Lord. Owen starts with God the Father, focusing particularly on the Father’s “love—free, undeserved, and eternal love” (see, for example, 1 John 3:1, John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 16:27). Some Christians know that Jesus loves them but aren’t sure whether the Father does. Instead, Owen encourages you to see the Father’s love “as the fountain from whence all other sweetnesses flow.” God the Father doesn’t love us based on our performance or because of anything good he sees in us. Rather, Owen says, the Father’s love “is the love of a spring, of a fountain,” and “every thing that is lovely” gets its loveliness from His love. So how can this get lived out in your relationship with God? “Communion,” Owen says, “consists in giving and receiving.” So the first thing to do is to receive God’s love, and you do that “by faith.” “The receiving of it,” Owen says, “is the believing of it.” The other half of communion is giving, and for a Christian that means loving God. Love, Owen says, is “an affection of union and nearness.” Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me your heart,” and that is what God the Father is seeking from you, His beloved child. Of course, when you single out the Father’s love for special attention, you shouldn’t forget how you come to know, feel, and experience that love—through Jesus! The Father’s love comes to you “through Christ,” Owen says, and in fact, when you return love back to the Father, you do that “through Christ” as well. Christ, he says, “is the treasury in which the Father disposes all the riches of his grace, taken from the bottomless mine of his eternal love; and he is the priest into whose hand we put all the offerings that we return to the Father.” Grace-Based Action Point In Psalm 116:7, David says, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you." “The soul gathers itself from all its wanderings, from all other beloveds,” Owen writes, “to rest in God alone—to satiate and content itself in him; choosing the Father for his present and eternal rest. And this also with delight.” So as you seek to grow deeper in your relationship with God, let your heart be “much taken up with . . . the Father’s love.” If you do Owen says you “cannot choose but be overpowered, conquered, and endeared to him. . . . Exercise your thoughts upon this very thing, the eternal, free, and fruitful love of the Father, and see” God work in your heart “to delight in him.” Yours in Christ, Pastor Simmons
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