Death, thou shalt die!

April 28, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Church Calendar, Easter, Evangelism, Meditations, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:51–57 (NKJV)

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection is far too significant an event to be celebrated only one day – it inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that for all those who believe in Him our bodies likewise will be raised.

It is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised us from the dead and transformed us into His own image – righteous, incorruptible, immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Or, in the 17th century English poet John Donne’s famous words, “Death thou shalt die.”

In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead; because Christ has risen we too shall rise.

So what does this mean? It means that we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. As Paul declares, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We stand in great need of such confidence given the twofold task that has been entrusted to us as Christ’s disciples. On the one hand, Christ calls us to lead lives of godly sincerity and purity no matter what others may think or say. On the other hand, while living this way, Christ calls us to engage all the nations of the earth with the message of the Gospel not retreat into a little hovel. We have to stand against the sinfulness of the world for the life of the world. What could possibly enable us to accomplish such a task? Listen to the father of church history, the 4th century church historian Eusebius:

[To accomplish this twofold task] the strongest conviction of a future life was necessary, that [we] might be able with fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the conflict with Gentile and polytheistic error: a conflict the dangers of which [we] would never have been prepared to meet, except as habituated to the contempt of death.

The only way we can accomplish our twofold task is as habituated to the contempt of death. And how can we be so habituated? By meditating on the glory of Christ’s resurrection. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. The power of death has been broken. So what should characterize our lives? A fearless and unwavering zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and wavering rather than fearless and unwavering, let us kneel and confess our lack of faith to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Resurrection and Immorality

April 21, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Easter, Homosexuality, Love, Meditations, Resurrection, Sexuality

1 Corinthians 6:13–20 (NASB95)

13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Throughout my ministry, I have made it one of my goals to articulate the significance of Easter, the most momentous 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, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection frees us from the fear of death by securing our hope in the face of death: because Christ has risen from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead. This is our hope.

But it is precisely this hope that is being undermined in the broader Christian world with our inordinate emphasis upon going to heaven when we die. Rather than proclaim the hope of the resurrection, we proclaim the hope of heaven. This is no minor difference. The New Testament repeatedly links the resurrection of Jesus with our resurrection. Consequently, if we start denying or tinkering with our resurrection, we will inevitably end up reinterpreting Jesus’ resurrection and/or the significance of it.

Perhaps you have seen in the news this past week the controversy surrounding the decision by Taylor University, a Christian university in Indiana, to invite Vice President Mike Pence to speak at their commencement. Over 3,300 people, many former students, have signed a petition to get Pence’s invitation rescinded because of his outspoken opposition to homosexual behavior and same-sex mirage. Thankfully the university is refusing to comply. But here’s the thing to note: many of the critics are professing Christians. They claim the name of Jesus and yet want to excuse and extol sexual sin.

Let me suggest that this has happened, in part, because of our inordinate focus upon the immortality of the soul and the hope of heaven. If Christianity is just a nice set of ideas about the immaterial part of our body called the soul, then what do our bodies really matter? Isn’t all that matters what happens with our soul, with what happens inside? Can’t my soul be pure regardless what I do with my body? Why does the body matter? As some among the Corinthians seem to have been justifying their sin, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” We don’t need to worry about the body.

Paul responds forcefully. He writes to the Corinthians, “Yet the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” So how does Paul know this? How does he know that the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body? Listen to verses 14-15: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Your bodies are members of Christ, joined to Christ. How so? Because that body that you are defiling with your sexual impurity will be raised from the dead. Your body matters. That is what the resurrection announces. So Paul concludes:

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

So on this Easter, let us meditate on the purity of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not defile Himself sexually but devoted Himself to the glory of the Father. And let us pray, that He would have mercy upon us as a people. So many of our fellow countrymen and even our fellow Christians have defiled themselves sexually, denying in practice the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We have given ourselves to impurity and have, like King David, endeavored to cover our tracks by murdering the innocent. So let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Cultivating Hope

October 7, 2018 in Bible - NT - Romans, Ecclesiology, Lord's Day, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Preaching, Resurrection, Word of God

The following was my exhortation for the worship service which Trinity Church held during the 2018 Knox Presbytery (CREC) Stated Meeting. It was a privilege to host presbytery here in Coeur d’Alene and to worship with old friends and new. May the Lord continue to bless our presbytery and give us men of hope to preach in our pulpits and people of hope to fill our pews.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV)

4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

As ministers of the Gospel and officers in Christ’s Church, our fundamental duty is to give our people the Word of God. The Good Shepherd makes His people lie down in green pastures and leads them beside still waters. So as under-shepherds we are to teach our people to love and cherish the Word of God, to drink deeply of the law and the prophets, to chew regularly on the psalms and the Gospels, and to feast freely on the epistles and Revelation. The Word of God is to be our meat and drink.

Paul’s words to the Romans in our text today remind us how we should teach the Word of God. First, he writes that whatever things were written before were written for our learning. The Scriptures were written for our instruction. As we preach and teach the Word of God, therefore, we must do so in such a way that our people grow in their understanding of the Word. The greatest commandment includes loving the Lord our God with all our minds. Therefore we must instruct God’s people, we must engage their minds with our teaching.

This instruction, however, is never to be merely academic. Jonathan Edwards reminds us, “Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched; and they stand in greatest need of that sort of preaching which has the greatest tendency to do this.” So Paul reminds us that the Scriptures were written in order that we… might have hope. The end of our instruction is to foster hope in our flocks – hope for God’s work in the world and hope for God’s work in their own lives.

So how do we cultivate this sense of hope among our people? Paul writes that we do this through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures. First, through the patience of the Scriptures. One of the ways that we are to feed the hope of our people is by reminding them of God’s patient and persistent work in history and in their lives. When we fail to perceive immediate change – either in our personal fight against sin or in the advance of the Gospel in history – we can grow discouraged. Is there no hope of victory? One of the glorious things that the Scriptures do is remind us that God is patient. He works slowly over the course of our lives, growing us in holiness and righteousness as we walk by faith. And He works slowly over the course of history, causing the Name of His Son to be exalted in the earth. As Isaiah assures us, God’s Servant will not fail nor grow discouraged until He has established justice in the earth.

Second, we feed the hope of our people through the comfort of the Scriptures. We are to remind them regularly of God’s mercy and grace, to direct their vision again and again to the loveliness of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When discouraged by their sin, we point them to Jesus who died on the cross. When overwhelmed with daily tasks, we point them to Jesus who has poured out His Spirit upon us. When despairing of historical progress, we point them to Jesus who sits enthroned at God’s right hand.

So how are you doing? If you are a minister of the Gospel or the head of a family, have you been teaching your flock the Word in such a way that you are enabling them to have hope? And do you embody that hope in your own life? Or have you become discouraged and overwhelmed with the tasks of the day, forgetting the patience and comfort of the Scriptures?

Reminded that we often lose hope, becoming discouraged by our own indwelling sin or disheartened by setbacks in God’s work in history, let us confess our lack of hope to the 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.

The Son of God with Power

April 1, 2018 in Bible - NT - Romans, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection

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. What does he mean by this clause?

While many have supposed that Paul is here outlining the two natures of Christ – according to his human nature he was of the seed of David but he was also the Son of God – the text does not support this notion. For how could Jesus’ status as the eternal Son of God undergo a transformation as a result of the resurrection? He has and ever will be the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. This is not what Paul is addressing.

What is Paul saying then? He is telling us about the transformation that has occurred in the ministry of our Lord Jesus as a result of the resurrection. 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 in fact. And it is this that Paul addresses with the next phrase. 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 – that is, in the resurrection Jesus was crowned as God’s King. He not only has the right to the throne, He is now seated upon His throne, ruling as God’s King.

What is the significance of Easter then? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago he 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 and this includes, because He conquered death, authority over death itself. He has the keys of death and hell. He opens and no one shuts. So death is conquered; death is destroyed. Christ is risen and those in Him shall arise as well. Death is no more the final word.

Is this not good news? Brethren, Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) Let us shout Alleluia! (Alleluia!) So give heed to the exhortation in Psalm 2, the coronation psalm of our King:

10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

And so reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel as we are able and acknowledge our rightful King, asking His forgiveness for our sins against Him. (Our confession this morning is an acknowledgement of the ways we have broken each of the Ten Commandments.)

Homily in Remembrance of Tom Madison

July 22, 2017 in Bible - NT - Acts, Bible - NT - John, Cross of Christ, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Faith, Funeral Service, Law and Gospel, Resurrection, Sin

Acts 26:28–29 (NASB95)
28 Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”

The passage that I have quoted today contains Paul’s witness to a Jewish king named Agrippa. Two years prior to this exchange, Paul had been unjustly imprisoned and had remained in Roman custody that entire time, awaiting a trial, awaiting his freedom. At the end of those two years, however, the Roman Governor Festus was prepared to deliver Paul into the hands of his enemies; consequently, Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal for justice to Caesar in Rome; his appeal was granted.

Shortly after he made his appeal, King Agrippa arrived and Festus decided to use Agrippa to help him explain to Caesar why Paul was being sent to Rome. Festus permitted Paul to explain why he was in prison; Paul, as was his custom, used the opportunity to preach about Christ. He wanted to persuade Agrippa to become a Christian. So Paul highlighted the way Jesus had fulfilled all the promises that God had made throughout the Jewish Scriptures – “that the Christ [God’s chosen Ruler of the world] would suffer [and die], that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (26:23). Jesus is proof of God’s intention to reconcile human beings with Himself.

This may seem an unusual passage for a memorial service. But it is fitting for this reason: even as Paul had suffered in prison for about two years, our beloved brother Tom suffered in a prison of sickness these past two years. Tom would not have chosen that trial for himself any more than Paul would have chosen to be imprisoned. Far better to be free, far better to be well, and able to do what he was accustomed to doing.

But Tom knew, even as Paul did, that his Heavenly Father had some purpose for his suffering. Consequently, Tom used his suffering to speak to others about Christ. Tom’s faith was always strong – as the testimonies we have heard illustrate. But these last couple years Tom’s faith was even deeper; his perception of eternal realities clearer; and his understanding of the fragility of life keener. Though Tom suffered much in his sickness, he suffered in faith. When I would meet with Tom to encourage him, I would regularly go away encouraged. For he would remind me of God’s promises, remind me of God’s purposes, and remind me of God’s lovingkindness. Perhaps Tom did the same with you?
I was reminded of Agrippa’s encounter with Paul as I spoke with Connie and the children this week. They told me of a conversation that Tom had with an unbelieving friend in which he spoke of Christ and repeated Paul’s words in our text: I would wish to God…[that you] might become such as I am, except for this cancer. Tom would want all to know the hope of being reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ and having hope even in the face of suffering and death.

So I am here to repeat Tom’s urgent appeal; I am here to remind you of the fragility of life; I am here to tell you that you will die and face your Creator and your Judge; and the only way to look forward to that moment in hope, as Tom did, is if you have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Your sins – your failure to worship your Creator as you ought, your acts of selfishness and spite, your mistreatment of your spouse, your unjust divorce, your anger and bitterness, your lust for money, for sex, for control, for youth – your sins have separated you from God; if you should die and stand before your Creator with those sins between you and Him, you will perish eternally.

But hear the Good News: God has been gracious to you – He has offered clear and irrefutable evidence of His existence and of His determination to reconcile you to Himself. Jesus’ death and resurrection are that proof – proof that God has provided a sacrifice to forgive your sins and reconcile you to Himself and proof that death is no longer a cause of hopelessness for those who believe in Jesus. So I am here to plead with you: be reconciled to God before it is too late. Turn from your sin and turn in faith to Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Sacred Scripture:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

These words remind us that our condition as sinful human beings is so dire that there is no way to deal with our sin and be reconciled to God other than through Jesus; He is the only sacrifice for sins. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). These are the only two options. Believe in Jesus or face the judgment of God.
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Despite God’s gracious proof of His existence and His purpose to reconcile us to Himself, many continue to resist Him and refuse to believe in Jesus. The Scriptures say again:
This is the [sober truth], that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God… (John 3:19-21)

So what of you? Are you willing to humble yourself before your Creator? Are you willing to come to the light and have your deeds exposed now? Or will you try to hide and hope that the day of death will not overtake you? Tom’s death illustrates that that hope is vain. It is appointed unto all men to die once and after this to face the judgment. So hear Paul’s wish once again: “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.” Let us pray.

This corruptible must put on incorruption

April 30, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:51–57 (NKJV)
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Last week we observed that we are in Eastertide, the period when the Church has historically continued to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is too momentous an event to celebrate only one Sunday – for it is Jesus’ resurrection that eliminates for us the fear of death and assures us that the bodies of all those who believe in Him shall likewise be raised from their graves.
And it is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body must pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortalbody must pass through the furnace of death and be raise immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised all those who believe in Him from their graves, when He has transformed us into conformity with His own body – righteous, incorruptible, and immortal– then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, because Christ has risen, we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. And this is what Psalm 27:13 articulates. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” In the words of Paul in our text today, “Oh death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So how are we to treat death? With contempt. Why? Because Christ is risen and has broken his power. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So what should characterize our lives? Fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and shrinking rather than fearless and bold, let us kneel and confess our lack of faith to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Proving the Immortality of the Body

April 24, 2017 in Bible - NT - Romans, Easter, Meditations, Quotations, Resurrection
Romans 8:11 (NKJV)
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
There once was a boy named Jack whose family was very poor. His father had died and he and his mother lived alone on their small farm. But the crops had failed and Jack and his mom had only one choice left: they’d have to sell their cow so they could get enough money to buy food and seed for the next season.
So Jack’s mom sent him to market and Jack, like a good boy, made his way to town. But along the way he met an old man by the side of the road. “Beans, beans, magic beans!” the man cried. Jack was curious. “What do these beans do?” he asked. “Ah, plant these beans,” the man replied, “and they will grow into a huge vine that will rise to a massive height and take you to the giant’s castle where he holds the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Golden eggs! Well that was just the thing for Jack. If he could get those golden eggs then he and his mom would be free of their troubles.
So Jack made the trade – his cow for the old man’s beans. Whistling happily Jack returned home and proudly showed his mom the beans he had obtained in exchange for the cow. But Jack’s mom – as you may recall – was none too pleased with her son. “You foolish boy,” she declared. “Those aren’t magic beans – that old man has fooled you and now we have nothing left either to eat or to plant in the spring!”
Jack was upset that his mom was disappointed with him – for he was a good boy. So what did Jack do? He determined to put those beans to the test. Late that night, when the full moon was shining on their farm, Jack went out and planted the beans, watered them, and then returned to his bed. “Perhaps now my mom will see that these beans really are magic.”
Early the next morning, before his mom was awake, Jack got up, put on his clothes, and ran outside to check on his beans. Normally, of course, this would be pointless – beans don’t grow overnight – but these were magic beans. And there before Jack’s eyes, reaching high up into the sky, was the biggest bean stock Jack had ever seen. It soared up into the clouds, far out of Jack’s sight.
Jack had been right – they were magic beans. And how did he know they were magic? He planted them, he put them to the test.
This is Eastertide, the time of year when we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So why was Jesus raised from the dead? The early church father Eusebius explained one reason:
Suppose one desired to show us that a vessel could resist the force of fire; how could he better prove the fact than by casting it into the furnace and thence withdrawing it entire and unconsumed? Even so the Word of God, who is the source of life to all, desiring to prove the triumph over death of that body which he had assumed for man’s salvation… pursued a course consistent with this object. …delivering [his body] up to death in proof of its mortal nature, he soon redeemed it from death, to demonstrate the immortality of the body accomplished by His Divine power and the powerlessness of death.
Even as Jack proved his beans were magic by planting them, Jesus demonstrated the immortality of the resurrection body by dying and then rising from the dead. With this key difference: Jack and his beans are a mere fairy tale but Jesus’ death and resurrection really happened; they are historical. They are, in C.S. Lewis’ words, the fairy tale come true.
Brothers and sisters – Christ is risen! Let us rejoice! Death no longer has the final word. The sting of death has been broken; the power of the grave has been shattered. Hades has given up his captives and we can now rejoice in the power of God and face our defeated foe, death, with hope. There is no cause for fear. The Lord Jesus Christ has proven that even as His body was raised glorious from the dead so too the bodies of all those who trust in Him shall be raised from their graves.

And so reminded that our Lord Jesus died and rose again to attest the immortality of the body and to enable us to live without fear of death, let us kneel and confess that we have often been overcome by our fears instead.

The Ruler of the Kings of the Earth – Easter 2017

April 16, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Easter, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Resurrection
John 20:19–23 (NKJV)
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
For nearly two millennia now our fathers and mothers have been celebrating the feast of Easter – the celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On this day, the first day of the week, nearly two millennia ago our Lord Jesus rose bodily from the grave to conquer sin and death.
So what is the meaning of the resurrection? Is the resurrection just a nice story about the tenacity of life over death? Is it like the fairy tales of old, a tale that’s obviously not true but meant to teach us some moral lesson? The Scriptures proclaim that neither of those answers is accurate – the meaning of the resurrection is, first of all, historical. Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. It is God’s proof to the world of the reality of His existence and the pledge of His forgiveness. It is then, second, theological. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He has conquered death and now reigns as the Messiah, the Ruler over all the earth. As I said in our greeting this morning – Jesus Christ is “the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
John records the significance of Jesus’ Lordship in his Gospel. In the evening of this day, Jesus appeared to the disicples and pronounced his blessing upon them and commissioned them to be his emissaries to the world. “Peace be to you!” he said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Even as the Father sent Jesus into the world to seek and to save that which was lost, to reconcile us as human beings to Himself, so Jesus has sent the Church into the world with this same mission – He has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation so that we petition others on behalf of Christ, “Be reconciled to God!”
To accomplish this task, our Risen Lord has poured out His Spirit upon us and given us the immense privilege of proclaiming forgiveness in His Name. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” We have the privilege of declaring to all those who put their faith in Christ, “You are forgiven. Jesus really has conquered sin and death. He is our great High Priest who makes reconciles us to God.”
Alongside this joyful task, we have the solemn duty of warning the nations that there is no other way to be reconciled to God. We must come to God through Christ alone. “If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” There is no way to be accepted by God other than through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. All other paths end in judgment.
So listen – where have you placed your confidence for acceptance by God? Jesus is the Risen Lord, the ruler of the kings of the earth. On the last day, we shall all rise from our graves and stand before this King as our judge and give an account of how we have served him. If we remain in rebellion against him, refusing to find in him the one who reconciles us to God, then we shall be judged. So turn from your sin and turn to Christ; rely on Him and Him alone for forgiveness. Only in and through Jesus can we be reconciled to God.

Reminded that we can only be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, let us kneel and seek His forgiveness in Christ. 

What’s With the Kneeling, Standing, and Lifting Hands?

June 5, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Resurrection, Singing Psalms, Worship
Psalm 95:6 (NKJV)
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
Psalm 134:1–2 (NKJV)
1 Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD.
One of the most frequent questions visitors have about our service of worship, one of the questions that you may also have, is this: What’s with all the different postures? We sit, we stand, we kneel, we bow heads, we lift hands – why all the variety?
The answer to these questions is threefold: first, God did not create us as mere spirits but as creatures with body and soul. As those who have bodies, God expects us to use them for His honor. Paul writes, “…you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Our bodies belong to God and so what we do with them is important. Our actions should should reflect our reverence for Him and our knowledge that one day Christ will return in glory and raise these very bodies from the grave. Our bodies matter.
So this leads us to the second answer to our question: why all the variety? The answer is that in worship there are a variety of things we do. We praise and thank the Lord; we confess our sins; we hear the assurance of forgiveness; we listen to the reading of God’s Word; we confess the creeds; we present our tithes and offerings; we pray; we learn from the Scriptures; we feast with God at His Table. This wonderful variety demands a variety of responses – both verbally and bodily. There is no “one size fits all” bodily posture.
And this is why, third, the Scriptures invite us to worship God with a variety of postures – standing, kneeling, sitting, lifting hands, etc. So consider our texts today from the psalms – Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD. These are just a few examples of bodily invitations given in the context of worship.
As we consider this threefold rationale, let us also beware les we merely go through the motions. For the ultimate reason that our posture changes is that we worship in God’s very presence. He is here with us and we dare not treat Him lightly. He calls us to worship; we respond by standing to praise Him. He thunders at our sin; we respond by kneeling to confess it. He assures us of pardon; we stand to listen and enter boldly into His presence through the blood of Christ. He instructs us from His Word; we stand to give our attention to its reading. This is the drama of the Divine Service – but it’s a drama that is meaningful only when accompanied by hearts that love and cherish Him.
So what of you? Why do you stand? Why do you kneel? Why do you sit? Do you do it just because that’s what you’re being told to do? Do you kneel so you won’t appear out of place? Do you sit so you can take a nap? Or do you do all these things because you recognize with awe and wonder that the God we worship this Day has invited you into His very presence to worship?

So today as we have entered into God’s presence He has thundered at our sin – let us confess that we have often just gone through the motions of worship; and let us kneel as we confess together.