Ascension Sunday 2020

May 24, 2020 in Ascension Sunday, Authority, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics

Psalm 110 (NKJV)

A Psalm of David. 1 The LORD said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 2 The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

Today is Ascension Sunday. On this day we celebrate the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, having taught the disciples for 40 days following His resurrection, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Ascension Day was actually last Thursday – 40 days since Easter. However, we haven’t yet reached the point of celebrating Ascension Day during the week and so we celebrate it on the Sunday following – today.

But why celebrate this event at all? What’s so important about Jesus’ Ascension? Oft times in history, especially prior to the advent of mass media, the coronation of kings was followed by a time of travel – the new king would journey throughout his kingdom and show himself to his people. It was an opportunity for the people to see their new king, to pledge allegiance to him, and to celebrate his coronation. But eventually the festivities would come to an end and the king would return to his palace, take his seat on his throne, and begin to rule.

It is this narrative that ties Easter and Ascension together. In the NT, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is understood as coronation day. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, he rose as God’s triumphant King; the ruler over all the kings of the earth. For the next 40 days, He showed himself to his people. Our fathers saw the new King in his glory, pledged their allegiance to him, and reveled in his coronation. But eventually this time had to come to an end. So Jesus ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, and began to rule and reign over His Kingdom. As God the Father declares to Jesus in our Psalm today, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” And it is sitting on the throne of His father David, sitting at the right hand of God Almighty, that our Messiah Jesus continues to rule and reign even now.

So what is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection? Brothers and sisters, Jesus is Lord! Jesus reigns! Let the earth be glad and the righteous rejoice! He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He will cause justice to prevail in the earth.

So what ought we to do? Let us pray that God’s kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for the expansion of Jesus’ rule, the full manifestation of His kingship in human history. Pray for the proclamation of the Gospel and the conversion of friends, family, and neighbors. For, as Jesus’ kingship becomes increasingly acknowledged, light and life will reveal themselves in ever greater fullness.

And because Jesus is Lord, because Jesus is God’s anointed King, the only way that we can come to God is by pledging our loyalty to Jesus. “He who honors the Son, honors the Father; he who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him” (Jn 5:23). This morning we have been summoned into the presence of God Almighty; we may only enter in the Name of His Son. So as you are able, let us kneel together as we enter his presence and pledge our allegiance to him.

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.)

Your King Has Come

April 5, 2020 in Authority, Bible - OT - Zechariah, Church Calendar, Justice, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Postmillennialism, Thankfulness

Zechariah 9:9-10 (NKJV)
9
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’

Have you ever been taught that while Jesus came as Savior in His first advent, He is waiting until His second to arrive as King? He is waiting, so it is said, to establish His kingdom on earth. If you have heard or even, like me, embraced that kind of thinking or, perhaps, still do, then you may have a hard time getting your mind around Palm Sunday. For Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as our King come to establish His kingdom. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you.”

But if Jesus is entering Jerusalem as king, why, some ask, doesn’t He appear very kingly? Why is He lowly and riding on a donkey? Such a question reveals how distorted our concept of kingship has become; how we have allowed the world to define true kingship rather than allowing our Lord Jesus to define it. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to establish justice, to save His people, and to advance both the glory of God and the good of His people is the preeminent illustration of what it means to be a king. What does it mean to be a king? It is to be just and bring salvation to your people; it is to be humble and lowly; it is to be a servant, to bring blessing and light to your people. And it was precisely this type of King that our Lord Jesus was and is.

To our fallen nature this type of kingship can seem utterly ineffective. Among pagan nations, might makes right. No king who comes to serve rather than to be served will be great; no king who places the good of his people ahead of his own personal good will really be successful. Pagan nations extol those like Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar who push and prod and pursue their own glory. It is kings like that who accomplish great things.

But the prophet Zechariah extols the coming glory of our King. Immediately after proclaiming the character of the coming King (the King is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey), Zechariah declares that this King will destroy warfare from the earth and will establish universal peace under His rule. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off.”

How effective shall Christ’s Kingship be? He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’”

So what of you leaders out there – what type of kingship have you been exercising? Whether you are a husband, a father, a mother, an employer, a foreman, a manager – what type of kingship have you practiced? Have you demanded, cajoled, manipulated, and wormed your way to the top? Or have you been just, looking to bless and serve those whom God has entrusted to your care? Are you living as the servant of the servants of God?

Reminded that we have been unrighteous kings and queens, demanding our own way rather than imitating our great King and willingly serving others, let us confess our sin to our Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Calamity Comes from the Lord

March 29, 2020 in Bible - OT - Amos, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Ecclesiology, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, King Jesus, Lord's Day, Meditations, Politics, Providence, Responsibility, Sin, Sovereignty of God, Trials

Amos 3:1–6 (NKJV)

1Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: 2“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” 3Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? 4Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing? 5Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all? 6If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?

Amos reminds us that when calamity comes, it comes from the loving hand of the Lord for the benefit of His people. God had rescued Israel from Egypt. But rather than fear and serve the Lord, Israel had rebelled against Him, worshiped idols, and committed iniquity. While God had permitted the nations to wander astray and to pursue their own course in the old covenant, He had chosen Israel as His own peculiar people. Consequently, He refused to let them remain in their sin. Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, even as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov 3:12).

Therefore, the Lord acted to chastise Israel for her sin and to bring her back to the Lord. The calamity that was striking Israel in Amos’ day was clearly from the hand of God. Amos uses a series of rhetorical questions, the answers to which are patently obvious, to emphasize this. These questions culminate in the final one, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” Of course! After all, He is the Sovereign Lord and the Ruler of His people Israel.

Given that this calamity was from the Lord, what ought Israel to do? She ought to acknowledge her sin, return to the Lord, and cry out for His forgiveness. It may be that God would relent of His punishment:

14Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the Lord God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken. 15Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:14-15)

Amos insists that if the people of Israel repent and return to the Lord, loving His law and seeking His forgiveness, God may relent of the harm that He has brought. He may bless Israel and restore her.

So what does Amos teach us? Whereas in the old covenant, God dealt almost exclusively with the nation of Israel, in the new covenant God is calling all men everywhere, God is summoning all nations, to turn from their sin and to worship Him through His Son Jesus. Even as the Lord summoned Israel to repent by punishing her for her iniquities, so God is summoning us to repent. The calamity that has come upon us is from the Lord. Will we give heed, turn from our sin, and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, crying out for forgiveness and mercy? Or will we harden ourselves in our unbelief and our iniquity?

As the people of God, let us lead the way in seeking the Lord and His favor for our people. Let us confess our sins and the sins of our people to the Lord and seek His forgiving and empowering grace, praying that He would have mercy upon us as a people and draw us back to Him, back to the truth. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel together as you are able.

The Revelation of Christ

January 12, 2020 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Tradition, Word of God

Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)

6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Though Epiphany proper fell earlier this week on January 6th, today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday. As we have emphasized each year, Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the coming of the Magi which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ life. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. While Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought out the new-born Jesus and worshiped Him, acknowledging Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that, through the Magi, God the Father revealed that Jesus is His King, come to rule over all the nations of the earth.

Consider, second, the baptism of Jesus which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry and revealed the purpose of His kingship. He was washed in water to identify with us in our sin and to prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, through Jesus’ baptism, God the Father revealed that Jesus was His Son, come to rescue us from our sin.

Consider, finally, the wedding in Cana of Galilee which occurs as the beginning of Jesus’ miraculous signs. When the wine at the wedding feast ran out, Jesus turned water into wine and, in John’s words, “revealed His glory” (Jn 2:11). He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men through His rule and reign. Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, at the wedding of Cana, Jesus revealed Himself to be God’s Festal King.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God reveals how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us kneel as we are able, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Filled with Wickedness

November 3, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Providence, Responsibility, Sexuality, Trials

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just. When peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to utter debasement and societal instability. Their debased minds bear increasingly bitter fruit. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind. Today we consider the third of these: wickedness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… wickedness.”

The Greek word behind the English “wickedness” is pon-e-ria which is also translated as evil, depravity, iniquity, even ugliness. In Mark 7:22 Jesus reminds us that, like other sins, wickedness (pon-e-ria) emerges from the heart. It is the fruit of a heart that neither loves God nor treasures His law. Etymologist Günther Harder writes that in the Bible those who practice wickedness “are those who do not seek Yahweh or His commands, who will not be guided by Him. Who is wicked is thus measured by God, by His commands, and by obedience to them. God determines what is evil, and in this sense evil is to be understood simply as that which is contrary to God” (TDNT). Majority vote doesn’t define evil; social convention doesn’t define evil; gallup polling doesn’t define evil. God define evil. Our task as humans is to conform our understanding to His.

The leader of wickedness is the devil himself. Those who practice wickedness (pon-e-ria) are children of the wicked one (pon-e-ros). So “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn 5:19). To be delivered from wickedness, therefore, is to escape the snare of the devil (2 Tim 2:26). So Jesus instructs us, in the Lord’s Prayer, to pray that God would deliver us from evil (pon-e-rou) inspired as it is by the evil one, whose kingdom we want to see destroyed and uprooted.

So what does wickedness look like? The book of Deuteronomy describes the contours of wickedness with a repeated command: “So you shall put away the wickedness (pon-e-ron) from among you.” This wickedness includes idolatry (Dt 17:7), rebellion against judicial sentences (17:12), bearing false witness (19:19), rebellion against parental authority (21:21), sexual fraud and deceit (22:21), adultery (22:22), and kidnapping (24:7). In times of debasement, when God is handing a society over to judgment, such wickedness increases. For example, at the culmination of the book of Judges, a time of God’s judgment on Israel, the Benjamites commit a great wickedness when they rape and murder the Levite’s concubine (Judg 20:13). In Jeremiah’s day, also a time of God’s judgment, all segments of society – priests, prophets, kings, people – are characterized by wickedness (Jer 23:11; 32:32). And in Jesus’ day, the decisive moment of judgment for the people and city of Jerusalem, the Pharisees clean the outside of the cup but inside they are full of wickedness (Lk 11:39). They had no love for God nor for His law.

All this reminds us that it is God’s grace alone that preserves a society from wickedness. When we fail to honor Him and to listen to His voice, He justly hands us over to increasing wickedness. And, as wickedness increases, we incur even greater wrath for ourselves and disarray for our society. Is there no hope, then? No way of escape? There is only hope in Jesus Christ. We must confess our wickedness, repent of it, and seek the forgiveness of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

So what of you? Have you welcomed the law of God, embraced it, and allowed it to shape your definition of wickedness? Or have you been swayed by the spirit of the age, the wicked one himself, into redefining wickedness by some other standard?

Reminded that societies under judgment are full of wickedness and conscious that we are seeing such wickedness grow in our day, let us confess that we have been listening to the lies of the wicked one, endeavoring to decide for ourselves what constitutes wickedness. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.