Sunday, September 30, 2018

Lord's Day 24

Sermon Discussion

Hebrews Series: Jesus Is One of Us
Rev. A. Selvaggio
Hebrews 2:5-18

“What if God was one of us?” (from song by Joan Osborne) - a slob, a passenger on a bus – a somewhat irreverent idea. But it also contains a profound kernel of truth and that may even need a certain level of irreverence to get at – that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity did in fact become one of us. He didn't just resemble us or appear to be like us, rather he joined to his divine nature a real and true human nature – in every way he became like us yet was without sin.

This reveals Jesus' glory and provides us with comfort – 3 points:
  1. Jesus shares our humanity
    Point of previous week – Jesus is superior to the angels. Angels were seen as those who conveyed the law to OT Israel. Writer is saying someone greater has come – a greater communicator, a greater message, a greater messenger, greater and superior to the angels. He anticipates the questions of the audience – how can Jesus be superior to the angels if he is human? The writer uses the fact that he is human to prove that he is superior to the angels. He uses Psalm 8 – a psalm about humanity. He explains it first in the way that the hearers would expect, but then says that it is about Jesus - “made for a little while lower than the angels.” He characterizes it as a Messianic psalm, and that Jesus so identifies with humanity that what is true of us is true of Jesus – that he shares our humanity. Jesus is humanity par excellence - he is the new Adam.
  2. Jesus makes us family
    The preacher uses 3 familial terms – a) we share the same father; b) we are Jesus' siblings (Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters); c) we are his children (as intimate as a parent and a child) – we are family.
  3. Jesus delivers/saves/helps his family
    Two benefits – a) Jesus delivers his family from death and the fear of death. Our fear of death enslaves us and makes us do dumb things with our lives. b) Jesus delivers his family from sin (from ourselves). Jesus became one of us to save us from our sins – in one divine/human person you have both priest and sacrifice. He gives himself to deliver us from sin. “You do for family” - Jesus loves us so much he lowered himself for a time to become like us in order to deliver us. In the movie, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Arnie's and Gilbert's mother risks embarrassment to demand that the police release her son. Jesus did the same for us – he came for us, he despised the shame – and demanded the release of his children. “Give me my children!” That is our hope and our joy – Jesus is one of us.

Thoughts on Devotions – LD24

Q. 62 Why can't the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with Him? Q. 63 How can you say that the good we do doesn't earn anything when God promises to reward it in this life and the next? Q. 64 But doesn't this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?

Kevin DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, titles this chapter “Achieving Low Self-Esteem” and tells a story about a young man attending one of his first AA meetings and talking about the things that others did to cause his situation and how he will now turn his life around. A more seasoned member says, “ I used to feel that way too until I achieved 'low self-esteem.'” DeYoung's point is that it is part of sinful human nature to think that we can do something to gain points with God towards our salvation. The Gospel is such wonderful news because we have zero chance of achieving God's favor through our efforts. The only thing we have that we contribute towards our salvation is sin. This is a totally depressing thought unless we grasp God's promise that he has given us complete redemption through what Christ has done – what he has accomplished once and for all. He points to works (as does James) as a confirmation of our faith and the Spirit's work in our lives when we are “in Christ” – faith, fruit and gratitude. First, true faith works - “saving faith is not mere intellectual assent but a firm trust, played out in real life” - we start to “step out in faith” if we believe. Second, a good tree bears good fruit – our lives begin to change and begin to be transformed because of God's Spirit is alive in us. Finally, grace leads to gratitude. Our thankfulness and gratefulness for God's great gift must show itself in how we live and act towards others. Nourishing ourselves on God's Word (and other materials that reshape our thought life), spending time in prayer and fellowship with other Christians are vital if we expect to grow in these ways. If we show little interest in the things of God we will not grow and, ultimately, we must ask ourselves whether we belong to Christ.

Monday: Failure is the result if we attempt to meet God's standard of righteousness and add to our salvation.
Leviticus 19:1-2 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Speak to the whole congregation of the Israelites and tell them, ʻYou must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
I Peter 1:14-16 Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance, but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.”

Tuesday: Jesus challenged a rich young ruler to be a “good Samaritan” to everyone in need, all the time. This, like the law, is meant to show our inability to meet God's standard – we must cast ourselves on the mercy of God – on the gracious gift and his solid promise of redemption through Christ's work.
1 John 3:16 We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians.
Matthew 5:48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Wednesday: Deuteronomy 28:47 states that God's curse is on those who do not serve him with joyfulness and gladness of heart - “Because you have not served the Lord your God joyfully and wholeheartedly with the abundance of everything you have, instead in hunger, thirst, nakedness, and poverty you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. They will place an iron yoke on your neck until they have destroyed you.
Isaiah 64:6 We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind. No one invokes your name, or makes an effort to take hold of you. For you have rejected us and handed us over to our own sins.
Isaiah 53:6a All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path,

Thursday: There are promises of reward in the Bible for those who live for God and please him. Our ability to live for God is only due to his Spirit within us, and the good works that we do are gifts of his grace. That is why in Revelation John sees the crowns given as rewards are placed before the throne of the lamb.
Hebrews 11:6 Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Matthew 6:1-4 “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
Revelation 4:10-11 the twenty-four elders throw themselves to the ground before the one who sits on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever, and they offer their crowns before his throne, saying: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, since you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created!”

Friday: As long as the Gospel has been proclaimed people have twisted it – either not trusting that it is a gift freely given, or going in the opposite direction thinking that if Christ has done it all and we cannot add anything, then we can live any way we like. And some fear that if we do not have to work to maintain our salvation, we will not even try to be good. People asked the apostle Paul the same question. His answer was that we are slaves to what we obey – if we willingly continue sinning, it shows that Christ is not our master. The catechism answers the it is impossible for someone who is in Christ to be indifferent to good works.
Jude 1:4 For certain men have secretly slipped in among you - men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation I am about to describe - ungodly men who have turned the grace of our God into a license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:15-18 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not! Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.

Saturday: Jesus described our connection to him like a vine and branches. If we are truly connected to him in faith, we will produce fruit of good deeds as a result. The catechism says that it is impossible for those grafted into Christ not to produce fruits of gratitude. The fruits do not earn God's blessings, instead they are an expression of gratitude for God's gifts to us.
John 15:4-5 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me - and I in him - bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.

Reading between the lines...

Concluding the Sermon on the Mount (SotM), Jesus describes 2 ways with various illustrations – 2 trees, 2 paths, 2 houses. In each one is the path to life and the other the path to destruction. It is easy to conclude that the right way is the way of doing good and the wrong way of doing bad. But in context of the sermon it isn't that simple. The rejected way throughout the SotM has been less about unrighteousness and more about self-righteousness. Jesus calls us to a new path – not unrighteousness and not self-righteousness, but Christ-righteousness. It is the path that Jesus himself trod – only Jesus can ultimately walk this road. If you try to follow the narrow path to heaven on your own you are as likely to succeed as a camel going through the eye of a needle. The narrow path is very narrow – the disciples ask who then can do it? Jesus replies that for men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Jesus is the only one who can, and successfully does, walk the path from earth to heaven – once he walks the path he becomes the path, the door, the way. The straight and narrow is not about moving from unrighteousness to righteousness, but about moving from self-sufficiency to dependence, from sinking sand to rock, from self to Christ. Jesus doesn't just point the way or inspire us – he is the way and he carries us home.
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Matthew 19:24-26 Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.” The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”

In the Lord's prayer Jesus teaches us that we have a Father in heaven and an enemy on earth. When evil shows up “in the flesh” it does not look evil, it looks good. The greatest servants of Satan look like servants of God – they are wolves in sheep's clothing. Who are the wolves ready to devour the flock? They are religious leaders and teachers. In Jesus' day they were the scribes and Pharisees. They specialized in outward righteousness. Jesus says that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven one must have righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees. They are not in the Kingdom, but they set the bar high. They have a form of godliness, they we see more and more in the SotM how false that form of godliness is – they are unclean. The problem is what they are inwardly – they are wolves. A prophet is meant to feed the sheep with the Word of God; a false prophet feeds on the sheep while masquerading as good. All it takes to tear a flock apart is for a false Christian to preach a false Christianity. Do we take false teaching seriously enough? It is life and death – for the Word of Christ is the difference between life and death. Recognize that the danger is not “out there”, it may be very close to us.
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 7:6 Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.
Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheepʼs clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

How can we defend ourselves from wolves in sheep's clothing? Jesus says to look closer – he tells us to examine the fruit. It is detected in the living – corrupted creeds are the issue, but they show themselves in corrupted deeds. We can't fix our being through our behavior – a bad tree will produce bad fruit. New works are not the answer; only a new birth will do. The fruit will reveal the tree; a life over time will reveal one's nature. If a “life of Christ” is not coming out of a teacher, alarm bells should start ringing. A teacher's authority comes from their life; their life should be open to examination. It is false teaching which destroys people; it is sound teaching which brings life. Yet while we are in this world our flesh will continue to sin, even though by the Spirit we are in Christ. We must do what the false teachers do not do, returning again and again to our true life source - Jesus - confessing our sins and receiving his life and fruitfulness.
Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me - and I in him - bears much fruit...”

Jesus is the fulcrum on which all things turn – ones' fate will be determined according to our connection to him. He is the Lord, the Judge, the centerpiece of all creation. Everything revolves around him. He is the rock that survives the storm – everything else is sinking sand. Everyone, wise or foolish, experiences the storms of life, but Jesus is the rock we can rely on. What does the sinking sand represent – the context of the verse points to false foundation. Building on sand is like trusting false religious confidence if we don't actually know Jesus. Matthew 8 gives a clue – the leper approached Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.” He flees to Jesus and Jesus embraces the unclean penitent. By nature we are unclean – we build on sand. We too can come to Jesus and say “if you are willing you can make me clean” and Jesus is willing to embrace us as well.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ʻLord, Lord,ʼ will enter into the kingdom of heaven - only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ʻLord, Lord, didnʼt we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?ʼ Then I will declare to them, ʻI never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!ʼ
Matthew 8:1-2 After he came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. And a leper approached, and bowed low before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus' teaching involves dramatic reversals – those on the outside are brought in, those on the inside are cast out – into outer darkness – an image of hell. The insiders considered that they would have heaven as their inheritance, but through faith the furthest from the kingdom are brought in. If you don't want Jesus, you don't the light of the world. To reject Jesus is to prefer darkness. Those who seek will find; to those who knock it will be opened.
Matthew 8:11-12 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, andJacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth – refers to bitter lamentation and anger (gnashing of teeth). Outer darkness is a place of violent fury. When we see melancholy and murder in our own hearts we see hell. Cain, Saul and Jonah show the self-pity and self-righteousness associated with this state. If we have not laid our sins on Jesus we bear the burden on ourselves and it is too much to bear leading to violence and fury – but that is just in this life. At the final judgment the result is immensely worse. Hell is a continuation of the slavery of this life, We cannot bear our own sins, we cannot atone for our own guilt – one thing we can do is free ourselves by laying it on Jesus.

How can anyone suggest that a person needs to be born again? It might be rude to say this to a new born, but it seems impossible to say it to an adult. “Born again” is misunderstood in several ways – Nicodemus misunderstood it as a physical rebirth; some Christians see it as a brand of Christianity. Jesus, however, is talking about a new birth. Flesh gives birth to flesh – we cannot heal or fix our problem; we must be born again – or born from above – a spirit life. The flesh is always trying to raise itself up through morality and good works, but we cannot “climb the ladder to God,” but Christ comes down. He follows the way of the Spirit. The way of the Spirit is to come down, the gift of God – ultimately to take on our flesh, to become one of us. He wraps up all flesh-life in himself and puts it to death – he was put to death in the flesh, but raised to life in the Spirit. On Easter morning Jesus pioneered the new birth and becomes the source of new birth for all of us – he says I've taken your flesh, let me give you my Spirit. We must look away from our away from our flesh. Don't look at your badness; don't look at your goodness – look to Jesus and he will give you his Spirit and you will share in his new birth. You must be born again, you can be born again – trust in Jesus and you are born again.
John 3:3, 7 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Do not be amazed that I said to you, ʻYou must all be born from above.ʼ
John 3:5-8 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ʻYou must all be born from above.ʼ The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 1:14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory - the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. 
1 Peter 3:18 Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Lord's Day 23

Thoughts on Devotions – LD23

Q. 59 What good does it do you, however, to believe all this? Q. 60 How are you right with God? Q. 61 Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?

DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, notes that without using the word, this Lord's Day addresses the key Reformation doctrine of Justification. He also states that this doctrine remains extremely important as it must be repeatedly affirmed today as it was in the 16th century. Important aspects include 1) the idea that while at the same time that we stand justified, we remain sinners; 2) that our right standing with God is based on an alien righteousness (i.e., justified based on a righteousness that is not our own); 3) we have the righteousness of Christ by imputation – we are not made holy or infused with goodness, but Christ's righteousness is credited to us as a gift; 4) we are justified by faith alone – “there is nothing we contribute to our salvation but our sin, no merit we bring but Christ's, and nothing necessary for justification except for faith alone.” 5) Faith is instrumental – that is God does not grant his gift to us because he finds our faith acceptable or meritorious. Faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, have communion with him and share in his benefits. It is the object of our faith that matters – our faith will ebb and flow, but Christ remains faithful and trustworthy.

Monday: What good does believing “all this” do? Believing the Gospel message is not just believing factual information. Trusting Christ unites us with him – we are in Christ – united to him which makes us right with God and heirs of eternal life.
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is Godʼs power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

Tuesday: Paul, like Martin Luther before he understood the Gospel, was intent upon trying to please God by keeping the law. They both came to realize that our attempts to futile, and that the only way to be righteous in God's eyes is by receiving the righteousness that God provides. We are right with God only when we trust in Jesus alone to meet God's demands of us.
Philippians 3:4b-9 If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more: I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee. In my zeal for God I persecuted the church. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless. But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things - indeed, I regard them as dung! - that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christʼs faithfulness - a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christʼs faithfulness.

Wednesday: The Bible calls Satan “the accuser”, but our own consciences also accuse us that we have never kept God's laws – and that we continue to still are inclined and attracted by sin even though we know of God's grace and love for us.
Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
Romans 7:21-24 So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thursday: Even though my conscience accuses me and I am inclined toward evil, God nevertheless sees me as perfectly obedient – because God sent Jesus to live a perfect life in my place. He now credits the perfect holiness and righteousness of Christ to me. It is as if I have been perfectly obedient and had never sinned!
Romans 4:3, 22-25 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness. But the statement it was credited to him was not written only for Abrahamʼs sake, but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification.

Friday: Why would God do such a thing for me when I have spent my entire life sinning against him and in rebellion? It is God's gift. God does this for me and all those he has called to himself out of sheer grace. Grace is who God is – God imputes Christ's righteousness and blessings on us without any merit of my own. This changes everything – our relationship to God and every aspect of our lives.
John 3:16-19 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.
John 20:30-31 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Saturday: It is through faith alone that we are righteous before God. Alone is the key word – we need to understand that we had nothing to do with this wonderful turn of events. It is not that our faith is so valuable (even faith is a gift from God) – it is the one in whom we place our faith – Jesus Christ. “God will only credit his righteousness to the one who values Jesus so much that he won't try to add anything to what Jesus has done.”
I Corinthians 1:30-31 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Galatians 2:16 yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Reading between the lines...

Monday: Reading Between the Lines 212 - Consider the Lilies
“Consider the lilies” seems to reference a pastoral, contemplative scene, but Jesus uses this phrase as a challenge to we “of little faith”. Birds and flowers are seen as fulfilling their purpose in God's Kingdom, while humans live in faithless and paralyzing anxiety. We need to take lessons from sparrows and grass. The lilies and birds “try to be” like Jesus and point to trust in God. Jesus is the ultimate lesson in carefree living. Jesus doesn't merely refrain from worry, but provides for us. He is a provider we can trust – we are fed by his body and blood, we are clothed with his righteousness, and we are surrounded by a world that proclaims his trustworthiness. Even sparrows know this, and grass can be trusted. Consider the birds, consider the lilies, consider the cross... don't worry, you have a provider who will never let you down.
Luke 12:27-31 Consider how the flowers grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, how much more will he clothe you, you people of little faith! So do not be overly concerned about what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not worry about such things. For all the nations of the world pursue these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, pursue his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Tuesday: Reading Between the Lines 213 - Seek First the Kingdom of God
We have only one heart and our hearts seek what we treasure – we can treasure God or the things of this world, Mammon. Earthly treasure is the way of worry; abandoning ourselves to trust in God is the way of peace. We can't survive on prayer and good intentions, can we. The world is divided between those who seek after earthly things and those who trust in their heavenly Father. If you spend you life chasing after life's “essentials” even they will escape your grasp, but if focus on the one essential, Jesus Christ, not only will you get Him, but all the other provision for needs will be thrown in. Seek first the Kingdom – i.e., seek first the King. Put first things first and second things are thrown in! Put second things first and you lose both. What is first in your heart?
Matthew 6:31-34 So then, donʼt worry saying, ʻWhat will we eat?ʼ or ʻWhat will we drink?ʼ or ʻWhat will we wear?ʼ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.

Wednesday: Reading Between the Lines 214 - Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged
We love to judge others and self-justify ourselves. We are guilty, but want to acquit ourselves and then turn on our fellow accused as though we are the prosecutors. If we play the judge, maybe everyone else will forget that we are the accused - just as Adam tried to cover himself after he sinned. The Lord came to came to expose him and provide acceptable coverings, but rejects the way of repentance and receiving and goes on the attack. We follow the same pattern. “The man blamed the woman, the woman blamed the snake and the snake didn't have a leg to stand on...” Who could stand if the same judgments we apply to others were applied to ourselves? Christ has taken the blame and has paid the penalty, we do not have to find someone else to blame. He does not say do not be discerning or that there are no moral standards. This does not speak against judging, but against judgmentalism.
Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Luke 6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Thursday: Reading Between the Lines 215 - The Mote and the Beam
When I do wrong it is out of character, when you do it it is a pattern. This hypocrisy thrives among those who try to be religious. Jesus points out giving, praying and fasting as 3 problem areas where the religious show their superiority. What's the way out? 1) Laugh at ourselves; 2) get proportion (I am 99% the problem, you – 1%); 3) considering our own sin and failure first before focusing on someone else; 4) Look at Jesus – he is the only one who sees clearly, and yet his response was not blaming, but taking our sins onto himself - “shame on me, shame on me...” It is astonishing and shatters our pride. He sees our situation and bestows grace on us. I have the plank, you have the speck and we both have Jesus – and he as enough grace to heal us both.
Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you see the speck in your brotherʼs eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ʻLet me remove the speck from your eye,ʼ while there is a beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brotherʼs eye.

Friday: Reading Between the Lines 216 - Pearls Before Swine
Some people prove themselves unworthy of the Gospel we bring to them. This is not friends and family – this is mission situations. These verses tell us to move on. This tells us to not wallow in persecution. Being persecuted is not the point, spreading the gospel is. Move on. Pray for wisdom, to know when and where to offer the gospel. Who are the pigs? The religious and the hypocrites – and in the sermon those who will tear you apart. If you reject Jesus you cannot claim to be clean.
Matthew 7:6 Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.

Saturday: Reading Between the Lines 217 - Seek and You Shall Find
Westerners have a problem with prayer – we consider nature to be a closed system controlled by scientific laws; we see ourselves as self-sufficient masters of our own fate; and our concept of God is affected by philosophical ideas. God is far off pulling the levers – why ask in prayer? Jesus portrays prayer as a continual, confident petitioning. He portrays God as eagerly responding to prayer. A vibrant and dynamic give-and-take between the pray-er and God. Ask, seek and knock – Jesus puts together the idea of desperate prayer and a bountiful God. We can be desperate without feeling that we have to twist God's arm – he is our Father. Before there was a universe there was interaction and communication in the Trinity and we are invited in – we are participating in the give-and-take of God. The universe is not a clockwork world; I am not a self-sufficient individual; God is not a distant administrator. We come in prayer with utter need and total confidence.
Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Sunday: Reading Between the Lines 218 - Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You
What is the Old Testament about? Jesus refers to the “law and the prophets” in the Sermon on the Mount”. Jesus is the “point” of the OT – he comes to fulfill the law. The law and the law and the prophets are summed up by the one great command and the one who fulfills the command. The Bible gives us a description of the “good life” and the one who lives the good life. It gives us the command and the Savior who fulfills that command. We are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect; we should be generous, free of greed and worry; we should be totally without judgment, hypocrisy, always prayerful – we fail at all of these things. So in everything do unto others as you would have do unto us – we are to take the initiative and act first, giving and caring – where our tendency is to respond in kind. Jesus is the only one who has responded in this way – doing good to others when evil was done to him. Even though we have done him evil, he has done us good. Thank God for the Gospel, for Jesus who fulfills the law and the prophets – and he does it for us.
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.
Matthew 7:12 In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lord's Day 22

Thoughts on Devotions – Lord's Day 22

Q. 57 How does the “the resurrection of the body” comfort you? Q. 58 How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?

Monday: What happens when a believer dies? Their soul goes immediately to be with the Lord; their soul will be united with their resurrected body at the “last day”.

Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who was hanging there railed at him, saying, “Arenʼt you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Donʼt you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Philippians 1:20-23 My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but that with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I donʼt know which I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far,

Tuesday: It is wonderful that believers' souls are with the Lord when we die – but our souls and bodies are meant to be together (the Bible speaks of being “unclothed” for a soul to be without a body). At the resurrection our souls will be reunited with a our “glorified” - i.e., perfected bodies to be with God forever.
Philippians 3:20:21 But our citizenship is in heaven - and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.
1 John 3:20-21 that if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience and knows all things. Dear friends, if our conscience does not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God,

Wednesday: What about bodies that are destroyed (e.g., burned or blown up)? What about people who have not died when Christ returns? All believers who have died will be resurrected; all, living and dead will receive glorified bodies.
1 Corinthians 15:50-54 Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Thursday: Currently we live in a decaying, sin-damaged world. Bad things happen, people die, people suffer and experience horrifying things. We are forgiven if we trust Christ, but we continue to struggle in our circumstances and against our sinful nature. One day we will be made perfect and the creation will be restored.
Romans 8:18-23 For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility - not willingly but because of God who subjected it - in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of Godʼs children. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Friday: God has prepared a place for us for when we die and we cannot even imagine what it will be like. The Bible says that the place God has prepared is far beyond anything anyone has even imagined.
John 14:1-3 Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Fatherʼs house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10a But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Saturday: Our purpose in the resurrected life will be the same as it is now – to praise God eternally. We will be evidence of God's grace, but will also, in perfected and immortal bodies – without sin, will be able to praise God much more and better than we can now.
Revelations 5:9-14 They were singing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels in a circle around the throne, as well as the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand - thousands times thousands - all of whom were singing in a loud voice:
“Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature - in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them - singing: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise, honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!” And the four living creatures were saying “Amen,” and the elders threw themselves to the ground and worshiped.

(from Comforting Hearts Teaching Minds, Starr Meade)

Notes on Reading between the lines...

Monday: Reading Between the Lines 205 - Give Us Today, Our Daily Bread
Is God bothered by our small prayer requests? Jesus thinks that prayer should be addressed to our Father in heaven. God can handle the largest of the world's problems and, as our Father, wants us to come to him with even our small and intimate needs – our daily bread. Daily bread reminds us of manna and how God cared for Israel in the wilderness. We are also a wilderness people. Today's bread, not tomorrow's. Pray for anything? The smallness is not the issue; selfishness, however, may be. We are to pray for necessity. Jesus said that he is the bread of life – first and foremost we need to seek Jesus, the bread of life. Above all pray to know Jesus and to be “in Christ” during our wilderness journey.
John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 6:48-51 I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Tuesday: Reading Between the Lines 206 - Forgive us our Sins
Many statements use money language to speak of our relationships. When we are wronged we may feel owed or seek payback. “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.” Our sins are a debt we owe to God – which he cancels at great cost to himself. We need to acknowledge our spiritual debt, but it is not what Jesus puts first in the Lord's prayer. We are his children, but sinful children – we ask for daily bread and daily pardon. Redemption is the paying of a debt. Just as our debts are canceled we are to cancel the debts of others (i.e., to forgive them). Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 18 of a servant who is forgiven much, but he does not forgive someone who owes him a debt. We have been forgiven much – if we are not able to forgive others it indicates that we do not really know about forgiveness and may not really have received God's forgiveness.
Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful.

Wednesday: Reading Between the Lines 207 - Lead us Not into Temptation
Gen. Montgomery in WWII: do not forget who your enemy is. A deliberate shape to the prayer – 1) who are we praying to: our Father; 2) where we've come: to heaven; 3) to hallow God's name: to praise and take into account his majesty; 4) for cosmic realities: for his kingdom come and will be done on earth; 5) then 3 petitions – our daily provision, daily pardon, daily protection. The defining reality is that we have a Father in heaven, but we also have a enemy here on earth (prowling like a lion). What kind of salvation takes you through a desert where your enemy lies in wait? This has always been the way – the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus' temptation – and if we are in Him we tread his path, through temptation and suffering, through extreme vulnerability and only then to the promised land. This should make us pray, asking the Father for the benefits of Christ's work – daily provision, daily pardon and daily protection. Have we forgotten that we are at war and that the enemy of our soul is out there? We have a Father in heaven who is higher than all and will have the victory, but we also have an enemy who is bigger than us. Pray – lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.

Thursday: Reading Between the Lines 208 - The Kingdom, the Power and the Glory
A doxology (word of praise) – David's words from 1 Chronicles. A glad affirmation of the Lord's sufficiency. The prayer begins Our Father and ends with a sense of power. Jesus does not ask us to approach a glorious power, but brings us as children to our Father. After acknowledging our situation we can acknowledge that our Father in heaven is in control. C.S. Lewis makes an analogy with a Christmas tree: lines in the prayer are like the branches and we add our own prayers as decorations.
1 Chronicles 29:10-11 “O Lord God of our father Israel, you deserve praise forevermore! O Lord, you are great, mighty, majestic, magnificent, glorious, and sovereign over all the sky and earth! You have dominion and exalt yourself as the ruler of all.

Friday: Reading Between the Lines 209 - Where Your Treasure Is
Matters of the heart and matters of finance – we think of them as separate, but Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, puts them together. Jesus isn't talking specifically about cash, but what do we put our value, trust and hope in. The earthly treasure “stock” is on a downward trend; heavenly treasure is on the upswing. Where ever our wealth goes, so goes our hearts. When you invest money you also invest your heart. Your heart will follow your money. If we are feeling spiritually sluggish, maybe we need to invest our treasure in the church/kingdom more. As you pray, also support causes with your money.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Saturday: Reading Between the Lines 210 - Mammon
We are all worshipers, but we only have one heart. The only choice we have is between worshiping the true God and an idol. We will turn our desire, hope and trust to something outside of ourselves – either God or something else. Jesus names this as Mammon. Newer translations refer to this as money, but older translations refer to riches or wealth – what we put our trust in. What we invest in to give us security. Either we look to God or we look to the things of the world – money functions as a substitute god. It promises to provide, to be the source of our needs and wants. It promises to protect and cushion when we face difficulty. In return it makes us follow it, to server and worship it – a slave master. Jesus doesn't say don't serve both God and money – he says it cannot be done. We must serve one or the other. Money looks like our servant, but it really become our master. God is not committed to our financial security. He wants to free us from our money. In Jesus we have a new hope and gives us new life. Mammon takes and enslaves; God gives and liberates. If God is your master, Mammon cannot be.
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Sunday: Reading Between the Lines 211 - Take No Thought 
What gives peace of mind – Jesus! He is constantly speaking about worry and his advice is: don't! Ever, about anything. Take no thought about your life, about food, body, tomorrow, defending yourself. We spend our lives worrying about these things. The context for this discussion is Jesus' discussion about trusting in money. You cannot serve God and money – therefore I tell you, do not worry! If we put build our lives on the rock of Christ we will not worry. Money does not give us peace of mind; it robs us of peace. It is a distraction of our heart's true love.
Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isnʼt there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Arenʼt you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, wonʼt he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, donʼt worry saying, ʻWhat will we eat?ʼ or ʻWhat will we drink?ʼ or ʻWhat will we wear?ʼ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
Proverbs 23:4-5 Do not wear yourself out to become rich; be wise enough to restrain yourself. When you gaze upon riches, they are gone, for they surely make wings for themselves, and fly off into the sky like an eagle!
Luke 12:22-32 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For there is more to life than food, and more to the body than clothing. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add an hour to his life? So if you cannot do such a very little thing as this, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the flowers grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, how much more will he clothe you, you people of little faith! So do not be overly concerned about what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not worry about such things. For all the nations of the world pursue these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, pursue his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

In the beginning...

3-2-1 - a tract-like video presentation of the Gospel.

Reading Between the Lines - Many phrases in the English language have originated from the Bible, such as ‘given up the ghost‘, or ‘Pride comes before a fall‘. Glen Scrivener, takes one phrase at a time, and unpacks spiritual truths, starting from the first book of the Bible, Genesis. In September 2018, we start with #204 (next Sunday we will discuss #211). 

Some initial discussion questions:

  • Do you have a Bible (maybe the one that was given you)
  • Do you have a habit of reading it regularly? - or when might you read it, how do you pick what you read?
  • Do you have friends (or others) that you talk about faith with – who do you go to if you have questions?
  • Do you feel like you have a good grasp of what being a Christian is all about or is it a bit confusing?
  • Who would you see as a Christian role model?
  • Do you have an idea of what you want to get out this Sunday school class?

What is a catechism?

A Catechism ( /ˈkætəˌkizəm/; from Greek: κατηχέω, "to teach orally") is a summary or exposition of doctrine and serves as a learning introduction to the Sacraments traditionally used in catechesis, or Christian religious teaching of children and adult converts.[1] Catechisms are doctrinal manuals – often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorised – a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well. (

“The answer to [Question 1] sums up in itself the entire content of the Catechism: it forms as it were a majestic portico through which we are invited to enter into the knowledge of our salvation, into the very presence of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.” The Heidelberg Catechism with Commentary, United Church Press, 1966, p. 18

“comfort” - the question is the theme of the whole catechism. Comfort deals with how we live in the world and how we approach the difficulties we confront in the world.

Comfort is from a German word, “trost”, or the Latin, “consolatio”. Trost is related to “trust” and has the root meaning of certainty and protection or security. (The Good News We Almost Forgot, Kevin DeYoung, Moody, 2010)

3 things we must know:
  1. we need to know of our sin or we will be too confident in our own abilities to do right or make the world a better place and we will not see that sin is our most fundamental problem
  2. we need to know how we can truly be set free or we will try to fix ourselves
  3. we need to know how to respond (DeYoung p. 23)

Did anything surprise you about “Kingdom Come”?
What are the things that we “remember” - i.e., who are we praying to and where has Christ brought us?
What does “hallowed” mean? What more familiar word this is related to?

Hallow: verb (used with object)
1. to make holy; sanctify; consecrate.
2. to honor as holy; consider sacred; venerate

What is the “direction” of the Kingdom? Whose Kingdom is it; who is bringing/building it?
Where is the Kingdom? What determines where the Kingdom is established?
“Uranifying” - bringing heaven to earth - “heavenization” of earth.
Going to heaven vs. heaven coming to earth.

John 6:40 (NIV)
40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”