The Son of God with Power

April 12, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Church Calendar, Easter, Eschatology, Glorification, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Postmillennialism, Resurrection, Sovereignty of God, Worship

Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Today is Easter – the most significant of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have cathedrals. Because of the resurrection, we have new life, forgiveness, and peace with God – all because of the resurrection.

It is this world transformation that Paul highlights in the introduction to his letter to the Romans. After assuring us that Christ’s coming was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and that he came as was foretold a son of David, Paul goes on to declare that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead.

As we have been learning in our series on the Biblical Hope, Paul is telling us that Jesus not only had a claim to the throne of His father David but that He has now been installed as King in fact. He was born of the seed of David – in other words, he had the natural right to rule as God’s King. But simply having the natural right to rule does not establish that one does in fact rule. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim does not make one king and Charlie never had the power. But not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a rightful claim to the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power. He is now seated upon His throne, ruling as God’s King, and will continue to rule until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet.

So what is the significance of Easter? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago Jesus was crowned King of the Universe, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Jesus is Lord; Jesus reigns.

And so as we come to this Easter on which we are worshiping together virtually, unable to gather together as we would wish, unable to breakfast together as is our wont, unable to commune together at the Table of the Lord, let us remember that this hard providence comes to us from the hand of our Risen and Exalted King. Not one hair falls from our head apart from His will; how much more does this inability to gather together on Easter come from Him?

So what does He intend? First, He intends to remind us what our sin deserves. While we often take sin lightly and don’t suppose the evil great, our exalted King Jesus uses such hard providences to teach us to measure its nature rightly. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and death in all its forms – death which is separation, isolation – is the just consequence of our sin. Let us embrace it; let us acknowledge it.

Second, He intends to remind us of the greatness of His mercy toward us His people. Jesus endured separation from His Father, from the Father who had never turned His face away from Him throughout His life, in order that we no longer have to be separated from God. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God and assured that if God is for us, nothing can be against us. Can this virus separate us from one another for a time? Yes. Can it separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? Never.

So as we enter into the presence of our Risen and Exalted King, Jesus, let us not harden ourselves in our sin; let us bow the knee and acknowledge our guilt, seeking His forgiveness. And having received the forgiving grace of God through faith in Christ, let us rejoice in His mercy. Reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confessions followed by the corporate confession in your order of service. (Our confession this morning is an acknowledgement of the ways we have broken each of the Ten Commandments.)

The Heart of Unbelief

August 11, 2019 in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Confession, Eschatology, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics

Romans 1:18–23 (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

When nations apostatize and reject the Living God, they imagine that they can do so with impunity. They say, “The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand” (Ps 94:7). But this is a delusion. God sees and understands – and, as the Righteous Judge, He deals with these peoples in a predictable manner, a manner that Paul outlines in Romans 1. Peoples who reject the Living God descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, civilization is the fruit of faith whereas barbarism is the fruit of unbelief.

Paul begins his discussion of God’s dealings with unbelieving man at the fountainhead: unbelief itself. God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men because all men know God and yet they suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness. This is why, Scripturally speaking, the dilemma of the ignorant native who has never heard the Gospel and who is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus is fictitious. The native isn’t guilty for refusing to believe in Jesus – he is guilty because he refuses to listen to his own conscience and to worship the God he knows created him. Our basic problem as human beings is not that we have failed to trust in Jesus for salvation. Jesus is the solution to our problem. Our problem is our sin. We have rebelled against God and we know it.

Paul writes that “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” Even in our unbelief, we all know God and we do two things: first, we refuse to glorify God as God and, second, we refuse to give thanks to Him. So let’s consider these two things.

First, we refuse to glorify God as God. Unbelief fails to worship the God who is worthy of all praise. We will offer praise to sticks and stones; we will bow down before idols of our own devising; we will pray to our ancestors; we will deify the state and look to government to save us; we will act as a law unto ourselves; anything to avoid praising the Living God who has created heaven and earth and who speaks to us in our conscience. In our unbelief, we refuse to glorify God as God.

Second, we refuse to give thanks to God. At its heart, unbelief is ungrateful. We will pretend that all we have and all we are is the gift of some other god, or the fruit of our own labor, or the gift of the fatherland, or an inheritance from family, or a random happen-chance; anything to avoid giving thanks to the Living God who has given us life, breath, and all things. In our unbelief, we refuse to give thanks to God.

So if the heart of unbelief is a refusal to worship God as God and a refusal to give Him thanks, then what ought to characterize those who claim to believe? The heart of belief is a willingness to glorify God as God – to worship Him faithfully – and to give thanks to Him for all His many gifts. And this is why we have gathered here this day. We have gathered to glorify God as God and to give Him thanks.

So as we gather in His presence, if you have lived thus far in unbelief, refusing to glorify God as God and refusing to give Him thanks, then let me urge you to repent, to confess your sin in Jesus’ Name, and to seek God’s forgiveness – Jesus is the solution to your problem. If, on the other hand, you have already believed, then let us too bow before our God in humility, acknowledging that we often fail to glorify Him as is His due and to give Him thanks as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins to Him. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

God as Judge

December 23, 2018 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Eschatology, Judgment, Justice, Meditations

Psalm 75:4-7 (NKJV)

4 “I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully,’ And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn. 5 Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck.’” 6 For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south. 7 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.

This morning we continue centering upon the psalms for worship – we find ourselves in Psalm 44. Psalm 44 is a song of lament and petition; the psalmist wonders why God has failed to act, failed to rise up and defend His people. In order to set some context for that Psalm, I have directed our attention to Psalm 75 for our exhortation.

Psalm 75 celebrates that God is the Judge. God raises up one and casts down another. It is God who is the Lord – who rules in the affairs of men and nations. What then is our duty and responsibility as men and nations? Our duty and responsibility is to humble ourselves before Him and to honor Him. Why? Because He swears that He will destroy all those who are proud and stiff necked. He will judge – He will raise up the humble and put down the proud.

The Scriptures remind us frequently that God hates pride. God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The proud man is he who will not bow the knee to God and acknowledge his dependence, on the one hand, and his sins and errors, on the other. “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5). Pride is often associated, as in our psalm, with a stiff neck – the stiff necked man is he who hardens himself to reproof. Solomon warns in Proverbs 29:1, “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Either welcome the Lord’s reproof and correction now while there is opportunity to change and repent or you will suffer eternally in hell. Cultivate humility and shun pride.

So what does this mean for each of us? First, gentlemen, are you cultivating relationships that provide you with accountability and correction? If you are married, do you listen to the wisdom of your wife and treasure the gift that God has given you in her? Married or unmarried, have you established relationships with other men who can correct you and exhort you? Men to whom you are directly accountable? Men whose wisdom and maturity challenge you to be more faithful, more holy, more responsible? If not, do so.

Second, ladies, are you cultivating relationships that provide you with accountability and correction? If you are married, do you listen when your husband endeavors to correct you, honoring him for the office he holds? Married or unmarried, have you sought out relationships with other women who will speak the Word of God to you and not comfort you in your sin and complaint? Women to whom you are directly accountable? Women whose wisdom and maturity challenge you to be more faithful, more holy, more responsible? If not, do so.

Finally, children, are you listening to the correction and rebuke that you are receiving from your parents in the fear of God? God has put them into your life so that you can develop into godly, humble young men and women. So beware hardening your neck; beware the hand of pride that would lead you to say, “I know better! I don’t need correction. No one can tell me what to do.” Are you cultivating an obedient and humble heart? Surrounding yourself with friends whose humble obedience to their parents challenges you to be more faithful, more holy, more responsible? If not, do so.

Reminded that this is our calling as the people of God – to be humble and open to correction – let us kneel and confess that we have often been proud and froward instead. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Great is the Truth and It Shall Prevail!

October 25, 2015 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Eschatology, Meditations, Politics, Postmillennialism
Psalm 37:1–2, 7-8
1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb… 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.
Within our current cultural climate it is easy to grow discouraged and lose perspective. Whether it is the triumph of unprincipled and immoral men and women in politics, or the support of sinful behaviors in business, or the compromise and corruption that have permeated the Church, or the wholesale immorality in the entertainment industry, or the miserable failure of our judicial system to secure justice – we look around us at the growth of such wickedness and can be tempted to anger, anxiety, or envy.
David was no stranger to these temptations and helps us put the triumph of the wicked in perspective. How ought we to respond to the wickedness that surrounds us? Ought we to become angry? Anxious? Envious?
David’s answer to each of these questions is a resounding, “No.” “Cease from anger,” he tells us, “and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only causes harm.” Why is it that we are tempted to anger or anxiety when we see the wicked triumphing? Is it righteous indignation at the defaming of God’s name? Is it fear at what they may do when they gain power? Whatever the reason for our anger or anxiety, David reminds us that such a response forgets God’s sovereignty. He calls us to rest in the knowledge that the very God whose name is defamed is the one who governs all things. He is the righteous Judge and the Loving Father. He shall call the wicked to account and He knows the number of hairs on our head. God sees, brothers and sisters; He hears; He knows – and so, David teaches us to sing, we need not grow angry or anxious, it only causes harm. We are to trust God; believe Him; look to Him. He will vindicate His Name and the names of all those who trust Him.

But sometimes our response to the triumph of the wicked is neither anger nor anxiety but envy. We envy their prosperity or their power or their influence or their licentiousness. But such envy reveals that we really don’t believe that God is the Lord and will render to every man according to his works. After all, David reminds us that the lot of the wicked is not enviable; any triumph they experience is momentary. They shall be cut down like grass; their plans will ultimately fail; and they shall be destroyed. So why envy that?
God has so made the world and so orchestrates history and eternity, that those who honor Him and His law will prosper while those who rebel against Him and spurn Him will perish. Our Lord Jesus Himself promised us, quoting from later in this very psalm, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Note that the promise is not that the meek shall inherit heaven – as true as that is – the promise is that the meek shall inherit the earth. Any triumph of the wicked is momentary. As John Wycliffe declared, “Great is the truth, and it shall prevail.”

Reminded of our failure to trust less in God’s promises than in our own feeble assessment of our cultural situation, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive our anger, anxiety, and envy.

The Nations Will Worship God

October 11, 2015 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Eschatology, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Singing Psalms, Worship
 1Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
 2 Sing out the honor of His name;
         Make His praise glorious.
 3 Say to God,
         “How awesome are Your works!
         Through the greatness of Your power
         Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
 4 All the earth shall worship You
         And sing praises to You;
         They shall sing praises to Your name.”  Selah  
Psalm 66:1-4
When we look toward the future, what do we expect? For the last 100 years, the predominant Christian view of the future has been unduly pessimistic. It is believed that we are living in the last generation before Christ’s bodily return, that the world is destined to get worse and worse prior to His return, and that there is nothing Christians can, or even should, do to reverse this trend. After all, to reverse the trend would be to postpone the imminent return of our Lord.
So how does this pessimistic view of the future mesh with David’s view in the psalm before us today? It is the exact opposite. Notice that David describes his anticipation for the future like this:
Through the greatness of Your power, [O Lord,]Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.”
In light of the power of God, David sees the future full of the worship of God, full of the knowledge of God, full of the praise of God. All the earth shall worship, all shall sing praises, even God’s enemies shall submit themselves to Him. Why? Because God is Almighty, because He is the Exalted Lord.
So if God is the Exalted Lord and He is going to exalt His Name in all the earth in the course of human history, what is our calling here and now? Well listen again to David’s exhortations.
 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
 Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!

Because God is going to exalt His Name in all the earth, David summons the nations in the here and now to do just that – exalt God now! Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! David calls upon all nations to worship and serve the Lord; to join him as he praises God’s might and power.
It is this same summons that we issue every Lord’s Day. As we come into God’s presence and sing His praises, we are invoking the nations to come and to join us: smell the fragrant aroma, behold the goodness of God, come see the glory of our King and join us in praising Him. And this praise, which starts here each Lord’s Day, is to makes its way out of here into our homes and communities during the week so that folks can’t help but declare – how good and how pleasant it must be to know the Lord!
This morning, then, as we enter the presence of the Lord let us consider the exhortations that David gives us:
·      We are to sing – not mumble
·      We are to sing joyfully – not morosely
·      We are to sing loudly – not silently
·      We are to sing beautifully – not obnoxiously

And so let us fill this building with the praise of God – but let us begin by seeking His forgiveness for failing to live now in light of the glorious future that He has promised – let us kneel and confess our pessimism and doubt to Him.

Questions on Eschatology

February 13, 2015 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Eschatology, King Jesus

My daughter has written a thesis on eschatology for her persuasive speech this year. In the midst of her research she had a number of questions – here are a few and my answers.

1. When looking at the 1000 years in Revelation 20, it isn’t literal so is it “prophetic” or something else?

The 1000 years is symbolic of a very extensive number. The factor 1000 has already been used in Scripture and in Revelation in this way. For example, Scripture notes that God owns the cattle on a 1000 hills. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t own the cattle on the 1001 hill but that he owns all of them. Similarly, Revelation identifies 12×1000 from each tribe of Israel who are saved by God as a remnant within unbelieving Israel. This is again symbolic of a perfect number from each tribe – not that there were exactly 12000 from each tribe. (Rev 7:4ff).

2. Can you explain Revelation 20 about what it means by Satan being chained and being sealed away for awhile?
Yep, would you like me to? 🙂 Assuming yes – this refers to the current age. Notice that the chaining of Satan is in a particular regard. He is chained that “he not deceive the nations any longer.” In other words, the time of Satan’s control of the nations (the old covenant era) has come to an end. Jesus has broken the power of Satan, the nations are now His, and He is in the process of bringing them into submission to His rule through the preaching of the Word and administration of the sacraments. Jesus clearly teaches this in Mark 3 when he is accused of casting out demons by the ruler of the demons. Jesus says, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.” Note that Jesus essentially says – your accusation is absurd! But then he goes on to explain what he is doing: “No one can enter a strong man’s house [Satan’s house] and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.” During his ministry Jesus was in the process of binding Satan so that he might plunder Satan’s house – the nations of the earth. So that’s what Jesus is doing now. He conquered Satan throughout His ministry (Lk 10:17-19) but definitively at the cross (Col 2:15). So Satan is now “bound.” Remember the image in Pilgrim’s Progress of the two lions on either side of Christian’s path? So long as he kept to the path they could not harm him – for they were chained.

3. Does the 1000 years in revelation 20:4-6 mean that he reigns among us today?
Absolutely – Jesus reigns today. He is the Lord of all (Mt 28:18-20; Acts 2:29-36 especially 36; Rev 1:4-5; 11:15-19; 17:12-14;  19:11-16). When Satan is called the “lord of this world” it does not mean he is the lord of the earth but the lord of those forces that wage war against Jesus and His lawful rule. God is the King; Jesus is King; Satan is not.

4. Can you explain again what the iron and clay feet represent in Daniel 2? And what verses 41-44 mean?
The kingdom of iron and iron/clay is one kingdom – Rome. The mixture of iron and clay in the feet represents the inherent instability of Rome but also of all the kingdoms built on human power and might. These kingdoms are doomed to fail. So notice v. 41 – “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided…” Which kingdom? The kingdom that Daniel has just mentioned – he connects the legs of iron with the mixed feet. They are one kingdom. This is confirmed by Daniel’s later vision in chapter 7 – again there are four pagan kingdoms replaced by the kingdom of the Son of Man. There is no “extra” kingdom in there. Lion – Babylon; Bear – Persia; Leopard – Macedon; Monster – Rome; Son of Man – Jesus! The animal kingdoms are replaced by the human kingdom. Praise God!

5. What is the mountain/God’s kingdom in Daniel, referring to? The kingdom of God in the Church or the heavenly kingdom or none of those?
The rock cut out without hands is the kingdom of God (2:44), the rule of God established through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Jesus announced that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mk 1:15) – he came announcing that the time to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy had arrived. The kingdom is not identical with the church. The kingdom of God is the rule of God through His Messiah Jesus. The kingdom, therefore, is more extensive than the Church. Because Jesus rules, because He has established His kingdom, there is a people of God on earth – the Church. The Church is one of the manifestations of Christ’s rule but not to be equated with His rule. After all, there are other evidences of Christ’s rule – the spread of peace, the establishment of civil justice, the protection of the poor and needy, liberty, etc. Christ’s kingdom is more extensive than the church.

6. What do Revelation 20:7-10 mean?

They imply that near the end of Christ’s triumphant rule there will be a brief rebellion by Satan and his hosts which will be overcome by Christ’s return in glory.
You might listen to my sermon here for a description of Revelation 20. You can download the pdf notes for the sermon there as well.

Are we anti-Zionists?

September 15, 2014 in Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Politics, Postmillennialism

My daughter is doing a research paper on postmillennialism. She asked me the other day whether ethnic Israel has a place in God’s plan and if we’re anti-Zionists. So here’s my quick response:

Hah – you’re reading some interesting stuff. Ethnic Israel, like all the nations of the earth, shall one day bow the knee to Jesus (Ps 72:8-11). So long as ethnic Israel does not believe in Jesus, however, she sits under God’s condemnation and curse even as Gentile nations that don’t believe in Jesus do. But the glorious promise is that all nations shall worship the Lord – including special promises that ethnic Israel shall (Rom 11:28-32).

But remember that the Church is the Israel of God in the NT – see Gal 6:16 and Phil 3:2-3 and 1 Pet 2:9ff and Eph 2:11-22. So are we “anti-Zionists”? Depends on what you mean: the Church is biblically Mt. Zion, the city of the Living God. So we are pro-Zionists in so far as we labor and strive to build up the Church.

If the question is, “Should we support ethnic Israel as a matter of biblical and theological necessity?” then I think that the answer is NO. That will make me an anti-Zionist in some minds because they define “Zion” as the physical city of Jerusalem. But Paul makes clear that the Church is the heavenly Jerusalem, the reality to which the earthly Jerusalem only pointed (Gal 4:21-31).

All of this is, in my mind, separate from the political question, “Should America favor Israel to the other Middle Eastern countries?” To that question I may or may not answer yes as a Christian – personally I answer Yes. But I do so because the nation Israel supports biblical values more faithfully than other Middle Eastern countries not because ethnic Israel is God’s elect people. The Church is God’s elect people (1 Pet 2:9-10).