Superflous Praise for Superlative Grace: Our Cup Runneth Over

For the Lord’s Day, January 22, 2017

Dear Saints,

Last Lord’s Day’s morning sermon based on Ephesians 3:8 encouraged us to more deeply explore “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. We were exhorted to “Keep Searching Out Christ”, as His mercies are new every morning for great is His faithfulness.

 

(Image source: https://caffeineforge.com/2013/08/07/my-cup-runneth-over/)

We remembered in that sermon the words by Wilhelmus à Brakel which we wondered over during our Wednesday night study that same week leading up to worship:

… His intercession is efficacious to the superlative degree.

Today, I read a wonderful meditation by William S. Pulmer in Jehovah-Jireh: A Treatise on Providence that rang to the same lovely tune as à Brakel’s:

Observe, first, several words, nearly synonymous, are used to teach us the doctrine, such is merciful, gracious, long-suffering, pitiful, slow to anger, and not satisfied with the positive the inspired writers use the superlative: very pitiful and very gracious too.

Observe, secondly, that not content with the singular, mercy, by a felicitous fault of style, they adopt and employ the plural form, mercies … nor are they content with a simple plural; but they speak of these mercies as manifold, yea, they speak of the multitude of his mercies … And to denote that there is nothing uncertain about these mercies, they speak of them as sure mercies; … But they are not mere mercies, but tender mercies … Daniel goes further still; he says: ‘To the Lord our God belong mercies’ and forgiveness? No; but ‘forgivenesses.’

Thirdly, there is another set of phrases they use; they speak of God as rich in mercy, plenteous in mercy, and full of compassion; they speak of his abundant mercy, of the earth as full of his mercy, to denote its amplitude; and in respect of its continuance, they say his compassions fail not, and there is a Psalm [136] in which twenty-six times it is said, His mercy endureth forevever. There is still another phraseology used by the sacred writers. They speak of God’s kindness, his great kindness, his marvelous kindness, his everlasting kindness; but they are not satisfied to speak of it as simple kindness; they call it merciful kindness, and speak of it as great toward us.

Indeed, let us approach the Lord’s Supper tomorrow night rejoicing that our cup runneth over with His blood of the everlasting covenant! Thus, we have plenty of reasons to be superfluous in our praise of our gracious God tomorrow together, do we not?

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Remember Christ’s Redeeming Righteousness

For Lord’s Day, July 26, 2015

Dear Saints,

There is a quote that I will share with you in tomorrow’s morning sermon that is worth meditating on beforehand as we are reminded to remember that we are a chosen people and God’s peculiar treasure only because we are a redeemed people:

The only thing of our very own which we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.
— Archbishop Temple (quoted by Eric Alexander in “Evangelistic Preaching” in Feed My Sheep)

May we remember in worship tomorrow that we only have filthy righteousnesses to offer the LORD (Isaiah 64:6).  Thus, may we humbly approach Him with nothing but the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness.  As Paul reminds us, we are Christians …

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5-7)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Awful Public Execution of Hell and the Cross

DissectingFor Lord’s Day, April 5, 2015

Dear Saints,

We were all struck by the typology of the Burnt Offering in Leviticus 1:6-7 last Lord’s Day.

 

(Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissection)

Many agreed that the public execution typified by the flaying off of the animal’s skin and the deliberate dissection of it into pieces to be meticulously laid over the fires of the Brazen Altar is one of the scariest prefigurations of what hell will be for the unrepentant sinner who is not covered with the propitiatory (Mercy Seat) blood of the Lamb of God to satisfy the Father’s wrath and curse due to him or her for sin.

Mr. Delgado later shared a sobering insight as to how this type surely was alluded to by Jesus in Matthew 24:50-51 about Judgment Day and its aftermath upon an unbeliever:

The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

As you know, the animal in the Burnt Offering served as the substitutionary sacrifice for the vicarious atonement of what the offerer should suffer in hell if not for the Lamb of God ultimately prefigured in John 1:29 (and all through Revelation).  The exacting, clinical, cutting execution of the helpless animal represented the open and eternal punishment of God upon those in hell.  This is what Jesus, in our place, experienced in His public trial and public execution on the Cross.  Remember what Andrew Bonar wrote about Leviticus 1:6:

… the deliberate infliction is the most awful feature of justice. It leaves the sufferer hopeless. The stroke is awfully relentless, determined, righteous! Such too were the Saviour’s sufferings.

Let us meditate on this horrific picture of hell and the cross as we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper tomorrow evening in remembrance of what the Lamb of God did for us. Charles Spurgeon, in his March 31 morning devotion, gives us a frightening image to so prepare ourselves, with Isaiah 53:5 as his text, “With His stripes we are healed”:

The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture.  It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone.  The Saviour was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten.  He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman licturs was probably the most severe …  My soul, stand here and weep over His poor stricken body.

Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon Him without tears, as He stands before you the mirror of agonizing love?  He is at once fair as the lily for innocence, and red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood.

Dearly beloved, may you more deeply adore your Beloved as He reminds you with graphic pictures in the Lord’s Supper of how He went through hell for you on the cross so that you will never have to endure the eternal public exposure and execution of God.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Proper Response to Sovereign, Gracious Mercy

For Lord’s Day, February 22, 2015

Dear Saints,

In Exodus 32-33, we have seen God’s frightening judgment upon horrible, idolatrous (and adulterous) sin.  And we have learned that our repentance is the only means of being restored to the LORD through the work of our Mediator, Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, we will see God forgives and restores the Church simply because He is gracious and merciful!  May we respond as Moses does to the LORD’s sovereign, unmerited favor:  And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. (Exodus 34:8)

Such a reverent response to mercy is almost unheard of today in the contemporary culture of the American church.  But R.C. Sproul challenges us not to presume upon God’s grace in worship:

“Reverence. This may be the most difficult. We are among the most casual and disrespectful people who have inhabited the earth.  That disrespect carries over even into our worship and prayer life. We tend to approach God as if he were our peer. We talk to him as if we were talking to our next-door neighbor, with no sense of awe, adoration, or reverence before him.” (Truths We Confess, vol. 2, 321)

J.I. Packer warns us that such “ … inattention is an insult.” (Concise Theology, 98).

Beloved of the Lord, may we respond to God’s sovereign, gracious mercy tomorrow like Moses—with reverence and godly fear, just as we are told in Hebrews 12:28 to respond to the LORD’s more manifest and magnificent mercy to us in Jesus Christ.

But, also, if we really appreciate what we have been given instead of what we deserve (Psalm 103:8-12), may we not be able to help ourselves but enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise, to be thankful unto Him and to bless His name (Psalm 100:4). For we already have more than we deserve (death, Romans 6:23), and thus we have plenty to be happy about. Dr. Sproul also shares:

“Dr. [John] Gerstner once gave a lecture on the joy of the Christian. He pointed out that joy should be the chief characteristic of every Christian … If God never bestowed another blessing upon me for the rest of my days, I would still have every reason to be joyful for the blessings he has already poured out upon me.” (Truths We Confess, vol. 2, 239, 40).

With all this in view, may we take to heart the call of Sinclair Ferguson’s closing application chapter of his book, A Heart for God, that we studied together this Wednesday Night: “Let Us Worship God!”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Christ’s High Priestly Robe and His Unchangeable Priesthood

For Lord’s Day, November 16, 2014

(image source for below: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs084/1107177002582/archive/1110201535913.html)

Golden Garments 1Dear Saints,

While driving this morning, I was listening to a lecture by one of my professors about the priesthood of Christ as figuritively represented by the Old Testament high priest, especially his robe.  He spent a lot of time on Exodus 28 and the typology of the high priest, and pointed out something really important that I did not think of when I preached on the Golden Garments of the High Priest recently.  I’d like to share his insight with you, as I think it will lead nicely into tomorrow’s text (Exodus 29:38-46).

Dr. C.J. Williams (professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at RPTS) draws our attention to the following verse:

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it [Christ’s robe], but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. (John 19:24)

What should be noticed is that they did not tear Christ’s royal robe (which they had earlier mockingly put upon Him); rather they cast lots for it and then someone acquired it as one, whole, preserved piece.  John notes that this lack of rending Christ’s robe fulfilled the prophecy of casting lots to get them in Psalm 22:18.  But also, remember what we learned about the High Priest’s robe in Exodus 28:31-32: it must be made of one piece (like chain mail) with a special embroidery around the neck, so that it would not be rent.  This clothing design was to prefigure the eternal priesthood of Christ (which can never be rent; rather, it is forever finished and complete on behalf of God’s people whom Christ represents as Mediator eternally).

In our sermon on this text, we did consider what A.W. Pink pointed out: the high priest tore his robe in response to Christ saying Who He was, noting along with the tearing of the veil in the temple shortly thereafter that the ceremonial system was now expired in the finished work of Christ to which it pointed.  But here we see Christ’s robe not being rent (for His true priesthood will never expire nor need repetition of His sacrifice, also seen in the rending of Himself as the true veil of the true heavenly temple, per Hebrews 10:20).  These connections with Christ’s un-rent robe are yet another juxtaposition that teaches us what the writer to the Hebrews emphasizes, quoting Psalm 110:4:

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:8-10)

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 6:20-7:1)

And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 7:15-17)

(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. (Hebrews 7:21-28)

What is the point?  Jesus is clothed in a priestly robe that can never be rent, because He has an unchangeable, everlasting priesthood as promised by the Father to Him from all eternity (Psalm 110:4).  Thus, the reality of the typology of the Tabernacle system pointing to Christ and His Church is this: I will be your God, and you will be My people, forever!

Dr. Williams also taught that the priests who pointed to Christ never actually lived up to the priesthood of Christ.  God thus demonstrated that He would provide His true eternal High Priest by the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of His Son, as He said he would in 1 Samuel 2:35:

And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

We will see this eternal, personal relationship with you as the household (tabernacle) of God by virtue of His High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, highlighted in our text tomorrow.  So we are today reminded by Christ’s robe which is never rent that He has once and for all put you into a personal relationship with the Personal Triune God that begins here on this earth and will last forever in the New Heaven and the New Earth.  Let us personally praise Him together as His assembled tabernacle tomorrow on the Lord’s Day as we again have the privilege of tasting of the eternal Sabbath that awaits us!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God is Always our Help

Ps 121For Lord’s Day, February 16, 2014

Dear Saints,

Tomorrow we will be reminded that, “hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (1 Sam 7:12) and that this is always the case.  God has “proved” the Israelites again and again to have them trained and ready for his service and their survival.  The names of Moses’ sons is important to see our sojourning for Christ is also our sustenance in Christ.  His first son’s name means “Sojourner”, and his second son’s name means, “God is my help.”  And God shows Moses again that He is his help through the earthly sojourn by providing him new helpers (elders) to rule over God’s people before He gives them His rules.

God is always thinking ahead for us. And He is always preparing us. And He is always preparing the way for us.  He is our helper!

Debbie Raglin shared this devotion from her copy of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening that reminds us of how thankful we should be for God’s help, and how we should continue to “Ask for help”:

Believer, look back through all thine experience, and think of the way whereby the Lord thy God has led thee in the wilderness, and how He hath fed and clothed thee every day – how He hath borne with thine ill manners – how He hath put up with all thy murmurings, and all thy longings after the flesh-pots of Egypt-how He has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven.  Think of how His grace has been sufficient for thee in all thy troubles-how His blood has been a pardon to thee in all thy sins-how His rod and His staff have comforted thee.  When thou hadst thus looked back upon the love of the Lord, then let faith survey His love in the future, for remember that Christ’s covenant and blood have something more in them than the past. He who has loved thee and pardoned thee, shall never cease to love and pardon.  He is Alpha, and He shall be Omega also: He is first, and He shall be last. Therefore, bethink thee, when thou shalt pass through the valley of the shadow of death, thou needest fear no evil, for He is with thee.  When thou shalt stand in the cold floods of Jordan, thou needest not fear, for death cannot separate thee from His love; and when thou shalt come into the mysteries of eternity thou needest not tremble. ‘For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ [Romans 8:38, 39]. Now, soul, is not thy love refreshed? Does not this make thee love Jesus? Doth not a flight through illimitable plains of the ether of love inflame thy heart and compel thee to delight thyself in the Lord thy God? Surely as we meditate on ‘the love of the Lord’, our hearts burn within us, and we long to love Him more.

Beloved, in God’s providence, this was on the morning of February 4 in Spurgeon’s devotional, on Hosea 3:1, entitled “The love of the Lord.”  That was last week, the week Debbie’s dear husband, Deacon Bruce Raglin, went into the hospital with what turned out to be a heart attack.  She gave it to me to borrow while showing it to me in the hospital, marveling over God’s providential care.  Not only was the text perfectly timed within our morning sermons through Exodus, but also for their family during their time of need to trust God had prepared them and would help them. And Jesus did help them; how grateful we are to already have had Bruce back with us for our Thursday night event!  Just as we will see he is preparing Moses and the Church for the next step of their journey again, God provides in advance the help they will need.  And He shows again He is ultimately their help.

So God is our Ebeneezer, for hitherto hath the Lord helped us.  So we can sing in our Psalm of the month:

When I do thee upon my bed remember with delight,

And when on thee I meditate in watches of the night.

In shadow of thy wings I’ll joy; for thou mine help hast been.

My soul thee follows hard; and me thy right hand doth sustain.

– Psalm 63:6-8 (Comprehensive Psalter)

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

Simple Faith and a Quiet Heart

For Lord’s Day, November 24, 2013
(Image source: http://www.aquietheart.com/)

Dear Saints,

If you’re like me, you often need your soul soothed with Gospel assurance. Here is a quote by A.W. Pink from my recent studies with his Gleanings in Exodus that is worth resting upon in meditation:

“Nothing but simple faith in an accomplished atonement enables the heart to be quiet before God.”

Remember what Christ your Passover has really and completely done for you: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

Pink also writes, “None can serve God acceptably till they are reconciled to Him.” He has in view being first reconciled unto God that we would be in an unbreakable relationship with Him in Christ so we may acceptably serve Him. Still, in our walk with God, we often need to be reconciled with Him relationally. We need to draw nigh unto Him again and again (James 4:8).  As Elder Huffmaster has taught us about how to not have anxiety with his fine acrostic, COST, the “S” reminds us to submit to King Jesus. Submission includes bowing to His will for living our life in a way that enjoys His abundant life, but it also involves submitting our minds to the reality of the reconciliation we have in Christ when we feel like we’ve irreparably revoked it.  The blood of the Lamb has cleansed us once and for all; we need a simple faith in this glorious truth so that, with quieted hearts, we continue to glorify Him:

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14) Thus, Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)

Real repentance unto life is turning away from sin to God with an apprehension of His mercy in Christ Jesus and a purpose toward and an endeavor after new obedience (WSC 87).  Will you repent of what is troubling you today? If not, I suggest your heart needs to again be quieted in the reality of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus: you likely need a simple faith in God’s forgiveness to experience it better. Believe, brethren. Be cleansed, brethren. And serve.

For those of you who may want to make things more complicated so you can worry and scurry (as we too often do with faith and life), Pink has these words for us:

When God has spoken, that settles the matter. No room is left for debating or reasoning. It is vain for us to discuss or dispute.  Our duty is to submit.  The Word itself must regulate our worship and service, as well as everything else.  Human opinions, human traditions, custom, convenience, have nothing to do with it.  Divine revelation is our only Court of Appeal.

It is foolish to resist God’s grace, and proud to do so. We are not only proud when we insist on our own sinful living and try to justify it before God. We are also proud when we shirk His mercy and are determined to have disquieted hearts due to refusing to believe (refusing to submit).  Take heed.  Have a care.  Pink also writes: As well might a worm seek to resist the tread of an elephant as for the creature to successfully defy the Almighty.  God can grind to powder the hardest heart, and bring down to the dust the haughtiest spirit.

How about we just trust and then obey the Gospel, beloved? There truly is no other way to be happy in Jesus.  If you want a quiet heart, it’s that simple: faith.  Lose yourself by basking in the thought of this Lord’s Day’s morning message: Our God is an Awesome God!

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God’s Gracious Sovereignty

Alexander Fleming 3.jpgFor Lord’s Day, October 20, 2013

Dear Saints,

When my family recently volunteered for the annual Creation & Earth History Museum Day in Santee at the end of September, we had the opportunity to listen to an opening ceremony message by  the museum’s patron, Mr. Tom Cantor.

He shared about how on September 28, 1928, biologist, botanist, and pharmacologist, Sir Alexander Fleming “accidentally” discovered penicillin, one of the world’s first and still most used antibiotics.  Fleming had returned from holiday and found one of his staph cultures he had left out growing a fungus which, upon inspection, had killed the bacteria within its immediate contact.  Later, when asked to what he attributed this success, he replied: “I can only suppose that God wanted penicillin, and that was His reason for creating Alexander Fleming.” The words of a true scientist!

And the words of every true Christian that recognizes God’s gracious sovereignty in all things on behalf of His elect:

  • And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) This includes especially the salvation of His elect (vss. 29-20), that does not exclude improving their earthly care.
  • Thus, may we always marvel in the majestic control of King Jesus like Paul does: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

God’s gracious sovereignty is a great and glorious thing to sing about for them that love Him. I trust you do, and I trust you thus rejoice in this story of His sovereignty as you prepare to glorify Him tomorrow together.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Gratitude: The Essence of Ethic for Grace

holy-bibleFor Lord’s Day September 22, 2013

Dear Saints,

I had Ligonier Ministries’ RefNet online radio playing on my computer while working this week, and Dr. R.C. Sproul said something in a message that I thought was very much worth our meditation. He said,

“The essence of the Christian ethic is gratitude.”

This statement was in his message in the Gospel of John entitled, “The Cost of Discipleship”.  Certainly, when we are unwilling to die to ourselves and follow His commands for living our lives (which He says is a basic requirement of being worthy to be called one of His disciples in Mathew 10:38 and Luke 14:26-27), we show we are not thankful enough to Him for dying for us on the cross so that we could have eternal life. We show we are not thankful for His sacrifice (and that of His other disciples on our behalf) by not crucifying ingratitude in our hearts.  Such ingratitude manifests itself in some terrible lifestyles of which the Apostle Paul says those whose lives can be described by them will not inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. 5:5).

This consideration of gratitude as a chief moral and witness of the Christian life reminds me of something Dr. George Scipione, director of the RPTS Biblical Counseling Institute (who founded IBCD and directed it for years in San Diego) once pointed out.  He showed that those who in discontent covet what others have and resent them for what they have are simply ungrateful for what they themselves have in and from Christ (See Psalm 103:1-2ff).  He referenced Ephesians 5:3-4, and showed that the giving of thanks is the remedy against all kinds of sins (and thus being ungrateful is the cause, or at least a major catalyst, of such sins):

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

How can we give thanks to Jesus for His grace and grow within it?  How about we consider this message I read in a newsletter from Herrick Christian School (EPC Australia) that Elder Renner just forwarded to me? It reads like this:

What if We Began to Treat Our Bibles the Way We Treat Our Cell Phones?
What if we …

… carried it with us everywhere?
… turned back to get it if we forgot it?
… checked it for messages throughout the day?
… used it in case of an emergency?
… spent an hour or more using it each day?

Considering Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), and that the Word is about Him and He loves to do it and proclaim it to us (Psalm 40:6-9 with Hebrews 10:5-10; Psalm 22:22, 25 with Hebrews 2:12), could there be a more grateful way of responding to Him than reading, praying, and singing His Word back to Him in private and together? And living His Word? May we be grateful for His Word and show our gratitude with our constant conversation with Him through it, so that we may better know these words in our own life experience and as a witness through our ethical living that we are indeed Christians:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6)

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

God Corrects and Then Affirms

For Lord’s Day, June 23, 2013
(Photo source: www.lordscountrysticks.com)

Last week, we saw that Moses was corrected by God for making constant excuses against obeying Him.  It got to the point where God got angry. And while He made some concessions, God did not let Moses off the hook. He told him not to forget to take the rod of service with him.

What is beautiful this week is first that Moses finally obeys.  And while he begins His journey, God shows up to affirm him along the way with new and deeper information that will encourage and assure him as he proceeds with what is now called “the rod of God” — but this is before Moses even gets to Egypt.  When we obey God, He is quick to assure our souls He is with us in new and wonderful ways.

Some scriptures have come to mind this week related to these texts in terms of how God is our Good and Faithful Shepherd:

  • Paul’s first letter correcting the Corinthians: What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? (1 Corinthians 4:21)
  • Paul’s second letter explaining how it turned out for their good: For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Wherefore, though I wrote unto you, I did it not for his cause that had done the wrong, nor for his cause that suffered wrong, but that our care for you in the sight of God might appear unto you. (2 Corinthians 7:1-12)

So last week we learned to “Stop making excuses!” with God.  And tomorrow we learn that when we begin to obey Him, “God affirms the faithful.”  We have a very good shepherd in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

A Triple Affirmation

For Lord’s Day, May 19, 2013

Dear Saints,

You might remember a really helpful nugget I shared in a sermon a while back from Pastor Jeff Stivason about Peter’s triple denial of Jesus Christ in the Gospels before the cock crowed.  Peter wept bitterly, of course.

Pastor Jeff pointed out that every time Peter would later hear a cock crow, we might imagine he would feel terribly guilty.  Certainly, the pain of knowing what he did would likely arise in his heart. However, Pastor Jeff pointed out that every time a cock crowed, Peter also would be reminded of grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone.  He would remember that Jesus had to go to the cross alone to pay for his sins just like everyone else; contrary to Peter’s earlier cocksure commitments of undying loyalty, he could not go with Jesus to the cross.

Also, Jesus ordained and predicted that Peter would deny Him thrice so as to prepare him for ministry — not disqualify him.  Peter would be humbled to serve, and grateful for grace to pass on to others.

I believe it was Alistair Begg this week who in a sermon tied the end of John’s Gospel together with this part of the story; he had another great nugget I want to share with you.  In John 21, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And each time after Peter affirms his affection for our Lord, Christ says, “Feed my lambs” or “Feed my sheep.”  Peter grieves, but Jesus is not here giving Peter a guilt trip; rather, a grace tip.  Jesus wanted Peter to serve His Church after He went back to His Heavenly Father, and Peter needs to really believe this before he will be able to do so and be trusted by others.  Jesus is alluding to Peter’s earlier sinful triple denial, no doubt.  But Jesus is here before everyone giving Peter a triple affirmation of grace and apostleship!  Christ had come back from facing the cross and shows that there He truly saved His people from their sins, including Peter!

Calvin explains John 21:17:

” … being free from every disgraceful stain, [Peter] might boldly preach the Gospel; and the reason why Christ thrice appoints him to be a pastor is, that the three denials, by which Peter had brought on himself everlasting shame, may be set aside, and thus may form no barrier to his apostleship, as has been judiciously observed by [early Church Fathers] Chrysostom, Augustine, and Cyril … “

What have you done this week that has you ashamed to return to Jesus?  See here He humbles you through the experience.  And then He affirms you with the reminder that there is no guilt for those under grace.  And He calls you before all His people to serve Him with no barriers between you, Him, or His church.  Praise the Lord! And serve Him with confidence.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Cheerfully Celebrate

For Lord’s Day, April 7, 2013

Dear Saints,

As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper tomorrow evening, I want to challenge us to check and prepare our disposition with this comment from Geerhardus Vos (father of J.G. whose Commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism you’ll often hear me quoting):

“Jeremiah complains [2.9-11] that Israel is more inclined to change its God than the heath nations.  It is not difficult to explain this.  The pagan nations had no desire to change, because their religion was the natural expression of their disposition.” (Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, 62).

Our disposition is our heart, our inclination, our desire.  It is our sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts and serving Him only if we are true Christians with a new spiritual disposition.

Our text for this Lord’s Day evening’s sermon was our recent Shorter Catechism memory verse, 1 Corinthians 10:16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”  The focus is on communion, or true and direct fellowship with Christ and God and one another.  You may remember when I preached on the larger context a while back that there is a contrast being made in this chapter between communing with demons spiritually present in the pagan temple feasts.  Paul says you can’t come from such fellowship and truly have a disposition of holy fellowship with King Jesus actually present in the activity of His Holy Supper.

So what will your disposition be tomorrow night?  It is only natural in your flesh to change from the true Holy God of Israel back to the lusts of the flesh in pagan idolatry that is the same in every age.  This is why the same chapter of our text says in the beginning that the Israelites are our example of the disposition NOT to have (shown by their actions and warned by their punishment).  How will you be careful to come to Christ’s Table with the spiritual expression of an appropriate disposition for the King of Glory?

Vos seems to give advice related to this question on the next page of his book quoted above:

“Where the transcendent power and majesty of the deity is felt, the temptation is much lessened to confound God with the world or draw Him down into the realm of nature or matter.”

Remember by the text for tomorrow night that Jesus Christ is actually present in the act of the Lord’s Supper.  And your partaking of the spiritual meal is showing forth His death till He come back in bodily form to resurrect your bodies from the grave.  His spiritual presence brings you into the holy throne room of God Who should otherwise throw you out and away from Him like He did our first parents from the Garden of Eden.   In God’s throne room, angels, elders, and other saints fall at Christ’s feet and humbly worship around God’s throne, for He is still a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).  You can come in and not be singed by Him because you come through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and men, Whose body and blood took away your sins and gave you eternal life.

How then should you approach Jesus tomorrow night at His Table?  Certainly with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28); but also with confidence seeking grace and mercy, as we are always in need (Hebrews 4:16).  And because we can do this through Jesus, and because this is what the symbols of the Lord’s Supper represent in the sacramental activity of communion (fellowship), we also can think of it as the “Eucharist” (as Communion is also sometimes called), because that word in Greek means “thanksgiving”.  We should come to the Table with thanksgiving for the sanctified privilege of being in God’s special presence as a foretaste of heaven that awaits us in Christ.  Your actions in receiving what is given to you in the Supper is very important, for:

“It is not the quantity of the meat, but the cheerfulness of the guests, which makes the feast.” (Clarendon).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Be Thankful for Your Life and Your Heavenly Father

For Lord’s Day, March 10, 2013

Dear Saints

It is wonderful to see so many of you support in various ways our church’s participation of the Walk for Life today at Chollas Park to show we want to help bring an East County Pregnancy Care Center satellite clinic to our South Bay area.

In thinking about the goal to see babies saved, I am mindful of a conversation I had this week with a fellow Christian who was thankful for the birth mother’s choosing adoption rather than abortion.  It had us thinking about the various ways the Scriptures speak of our own adoption by God in Christ and how meaningful it is to be wanted and chosen by God Almighty.  We thought about Genesis 48:5 and how Jacob takes Joseph’s sons to be his own, just as if they were Reuben and Simeon.  We also thought of these verses I’d like to encourage you to meditate on and be moved by the Father’s love for you in Christ:

  • … for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy. (Hosea 14:3)
  • Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. (Job 29:12)
  • … thou art the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14)
  • When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Psalm 27:10)
  • A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. (Psalm 68:5)
  • And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. (Ezekiel 16:4-10)
  • For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:15-17)
  • But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)
  • But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Ephesians 1:3-5)
  • Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: (1 John 3:1)

Beloved, be thankful for your life and your Father.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Cries of Christ for You

For Lord’s Day, March 3, 2013

Dear Saints,

Why do we cry?  We cry when something hurts either on the outside or on the inside so much that it has overwhelmed us to the point of expressing our deep need for relief.

May we be struck to the heart by the cry of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary as we prepare for the Lord’s Supper tomorrow evening.

At our Lord’s crucifixion, Mark 15:34 reads: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

In this text, Jesus cries out the first verse of Psalm 22, a song the Spirit wrote entirely about the crucifixion.  Here is the cry of the Son of God utterly forsaken by His Father.  Here is a cry of terrible loneliness and wretched abandonment.  Here is a cry for how much He hurt inside.

In verse 37, we read: “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.” 

This is His last cry of excruciating hurt on the outside after being given vinegar to drink through His cracked and bleeding lips.  Surely such cries were horrid, bitter screams, as must have been the case when they whipped Him, and hammered nails through His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16).

Jesus cried because He suffered unbearably.  These were blood curdling shrieks for the pain He felt on the inside and on the outside, for you.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Brethren, as someone has said, it is true that if only you existed, Christ would have suffered this cross for you, His elect.  It is also true that, if only you existed, it would have been absolutely necessary that Christ suffer this cross for you alone.  So imagine yourself at the Mount of Golgotha, watching Him being crucified for you; watching Him cry out in agony again and again for you.  His terrible screams would be yours in hell forever, if Christ had not suffered as your substitutionary sacrifice to make atonement for your sins in the sight of His Righteous, Heavenly Father.

Come to the Lord’s Supper tomorrow, and heed your Savior’s words anew: “This do in remembrance of me.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Rebounding as a Rule of Life

For Lord’s Day, February 24, 2013

Dear Saints,

When you fall short of your goals, especially spiritually and morally as a Christian, how do you handle your setbacks?  Let me encourage you to set up your next shot.

 

What do I mean?  In his book, Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs talks about the need to rebound after a fall:

“Many basketball coaches put almost as much emphasis on rebounding as they do on shooting.  Great players always chase down rebounds at both ends of the court.  They pick up on the angle of the missed shot and position themselves to be in the right spot when the ball comes down off the rim.  In many cases, after recovering the ball, they score a basket and get fouled in the process.  Any coach will tell you good rebounding will keep his team in the game … Never give up.  When you miss, rebound!”

In this light, he shares the following verse:  “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” (Proverb 24:16)

The person who keeps trying is the one who is just.  The person who gives up is the one who is wicked.

Keep shooting, saints.  As it has been said, “Shoot for the stars, and you may just hit the moon.”  And don’t forget to work with the team all around you.  You’re not alone.  Keep rebounding.  For when you do make those baskets, you’ll be glad you didn’t lay on the court with the squeaks of everyone else’s sneakers moving all around your head.  And you’ll get better at your aim every time you get back on your feet, adjust, and take another shot.  And God will glorify Himself in you:

  • “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” (Psa 34:19)
  • “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24)
  • “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.” (Micah 7:8)

So much of life is learning to rebound, isn’t it?  And being quicker about it.  Not staring at the ball bouncing away from you, but running after it and grabbing it again, and taking your next shot.  So, what will be your next move on the court of life?

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant