Friday, February 25, 2011

Great Paragraph from David Broughton Knox

I found this paragraph from Australian theologian, David Broughton Knox, to be full of great insight:

"The doctrine of God the Creator is vivid throughout the pages of Scripture.  The gods of the nations are not creator gods and, as the interesting little Aramaic insertion in Jeremiah puts it, the gods that did not create the world will perish, as indeed they have.  In our own times, idolatry, which was a universal substitute for the creator God, has been replaced by the widely held theory of evolution.  Both are substitutes for the concept of the creator God.  Just as the ancients and the heathen today deified and worshipped the creature as the creator, modelling images of man or birds or animals or reptiles and worshipping these, so for Western secular people the modern theory of evolution deifies nature and acknowledges it as creator of all we see around us.  All the beauty and intricacy and all the marvelous arrangements of the natural world are supposed to have been evolved by a thoughtless, purposeless, mechanical operation of nature, and in this way the God who made the world is as effectively shut out of the minds of those who are enjoying the blessings of his creation as he was by the false religions of idolatry.  Just as the idolaters could not see the foolishness, indeed the stupidity, of worshipping gods of wood and stone, which have no life nor purpose nor mind, so modern believers in the theory of evolution cannot see the foolishness of that theory, which not only lacks evidence to support it, but also runs counter to such evidence of origins as is available.  Nevertheless, this false worldview is being indoctrinated into children in the schools with the aid of public money and placarded in natural history museums as though it were the only explanation of the world around us, while those who criticize and expose the theory receive the same intense religious hostility as did those who denounced idolatry in earlier days.  The Bible says that if we refuse to have the creator God in our mind, God gives us up to a reprobate mind."

A Hymn Based on John 3:1-16

In writing these lyrics, I tried to incorporate some of the themes from John's Gospel, and from John 3:1-16 in particular. A few of these themes are: Jesus as the supreme witness, Jesus' heavenly origin, our heavenly origin if we belong to Christ by faith, Jesus' oneness with the Father, the contrast between the spirit/above and the flesh/below, the sovereignty of God's gracious work in our lives, the Spirit's role in the new birth, the Spirit as witness to Christ, the Word as witness to Christ, the reconciling work accomplished on the cross, sin and its consequences, the love of the Father and the Son, God's love for the world, and union with Christ by faith. --Bill



John 3:1-16:

1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." 3Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?" 5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

9Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" 10Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  16"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.



Jesus Came to Earth a Witness

To the tune: CORONAE (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/464 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/793).

v. 1
Jesus came to earth a witness
to His Father up above.
Lived with Him before creation,
perfect oneness, perfect love.
Jesus speaks the words that are the words of God.

v. 2
Nicodemus came to Jesus,
was not born from up above.
Even though he was a teacher,
did not know the Father, Son.
Sov’reign Spirit, bring the birth from up above.

v. 3
Word and Spirit point to Jesus
lifted high upon the cross.
We’re infected with sin’s poison,
far from Jesus, sick and lost.
But our Savior bore our sin upon the cross.

v. 4
Sin brings guilt and sin brings blindness,
living far from God above.
But the Father on a mission,
sent His Son in gracious love.
Come unto Him, joined to Christ who lives above.


Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Hymn Based on John 2:13-22

John 2:13-22:

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade." 17His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me."

18So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?" 19Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" 21But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus Zealous for His Father

To the tune: UPP, MIN TUNGA (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/1240 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/400). Based on John 2:13-22. Words: Bill Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Jesus zealous for His Father,
for the glory of His name.
Came to earth His name to honor,
where His name had been disgraced.
Zealous for the house of worship,
sought to purify His praise.

v. 2
Made a whip, began the cleansing,
drove the cattle, sheep away.
Overthrew the moneychangers.
This is not a marketplace!
For My worship must be holy
in this sacred, holy place.

v. 3
Then the Jews incensed, demanded,
Give a sign to us today!
You must prove Your right to do this.
We are rulers of this place.
This old temple, I’ll destroy it,
a new temple I will raise.

v. 4
Jesus Christ is the new temple,
was destroyed, a sacrifice.
But the Father would revive Him,
and His body soon would rise.
Though the world condemned, rejected,
dying, rising is His sign.

v. 5
Now the way to heaven opened,
through the door of sacrifice.
Sin had closed the way to heaven,
enter in through Jesus Christ.
Come to Jesus and receive Him,
for the first or thousandth time.

A Hymn Based on John 2:1-11

John 2:1-11:

1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." 4And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast." So they took it. 9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now." 11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

A New Creation Jesus Brought

To the tune: ST. MAGNUS (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/326). Based on John 2:1-11. Words: Bill Weber, 2011.

v. 1
A new creation Jesus brought,
He worked ’til all was done.
Finished the work and rested not,
’til our salvation won.

v. 2
The seventh day the Lord was there
at Cana Galilee.
His mother said the wine is gone,
the wedding’s host in need.

v. 3
O what have I to do with you?
My time has not yet come.
Salvation’s work I came to do,
no rest ’til it is done.

v. 4
A miracle the Lord performed,
His glory did He show.
A sign of the creation new,
the wine did overflow.

v. 5
All praise to Jesus, God’s dear Son,
turned water into wine.
He came to us from heav’n above,
to give eternal life.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Devotions and Hymn for Lord's Day 6

Lord’s Day 6b

Monday

The Contrast Between Law and Gospel in Scripture and the Heidelberg Catechism

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Romans 3:19-22a

Q&A 19 of the Heidelberg Catechism is vital in teaching us how to read God’s Word. The first thing it teaches is the distinction between the law and the gospel.

The law and the gospel are opposites when it comes to making us right with God. The law cannot justify us, that is, God cannot declare us righteous in his sight on the basis of our keeping the law. None of us has ever kept the law perfectly, so none of us can be righteous in God’s sight through obeying the law. But unlike the law, the gospel can justify us! God can declare us righteous in his sight by the gospel, if we believe it.

So the contrast between the law and the gospel looks like this:

• Through the law we cannot be justified or declared righteous in God’s sight.

• Through the gospel we can be justified or declared righteous in God’s sight, if we believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God.

Q&A 19 parallels Q&A 3 of the catechism. This is often missed. The writers of the catechism were deliberately setting up this contrast between the law and the gospel. Notice the parallel between Q&A 3 and Q&A 19:

Q. 3: How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.

Q. 19: How do you come to know this? (this refers back to Q&A 18 and
being set free and made right with God, i.e., justified).

A. The holy gospel tells me.

So through the law we come to know our sin and misery. But through the gospel we come to know the blessing of being justified or right with God.

In the passage from Romans 3 above, we see how Scripture makes this same contrast between the law and the gospel. In verses 19 and 20 Paul teaches us that the law makes us aware of our sin, and tells us that we cannot be justified or right with God through the law. But in verses 21-22a, Paul tells us that the gospel can make us right with God!

Discussion: What part of God’s Word tells us about our sin and misery? What part of God’s Word tells us about the blessing of belonging to Christ?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for both aspects of his Word: the law and the gospel. Ask him for his help in understanding his Word and ways with us.

Tuesday

Justification through Believing the Gospel, Not Keeping the Law

19 Q. How do you come to know this (comfort)?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Galatians 2:15-16

The contrast between the law and the gospel shows us that we cannot work our way to heaven. Being good is not the way to union and communion with God. Doing good is not the way to be right with God. Instead we are brought into fellowship and favor with God by believing the gospel message about his Son, Jesus Christ!

God’s Word can be divided into two parts: law and gospel. The law shows us our sin and our broken relationship with God. The gospel shows us how we can be right with God in spite of our sin against him.

Did you know that God’s word governs the whole universe? The Lord shows us right at the beginning of the Bible how he relates to his creation and us. Again and again we read, “And God said . . . and God said” (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 26, 28, 29). The Lord relates to his creation, including us, by his word. God creates and sustains the world by his powerful word (Heb. 1:3). Everything in the universe obeys his word. Scientists describe this obedience as scientific laws!

Human beings are the exception to this rule of obedience, because we have rebelled against God’s word. Our rebellion is so deep that we don’t even know we are in rebellion apart from God’s Word and Spirit. The law of God can open our eyes to this rebellion against the Lord, when the Spirit of God begins to use the Word to show us our sin, and God’s judgment against it. The Holy Spirit uses the law to open our eyes to our sin and misery.

But the Holy Spirit does not just show us our sin and misery. He also shows us the gospel and comfort! The Spirit shows us that despite our sin and rebellion, we can return to the Father through his Son. Jesus came to save sinners, and to die in their place. Our sin and rebellion was placed on him at the cross, so that his perfect righteousness might be placed upon us! We cannot return to God through being good or obeying the law, but we can return to him through receiving the Son he sent into the world for our salvation. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are justified (declared righteous), not through the law but through faith in Christ.

Discussion: How do we reconnect with God? How does Genesis 1, with its repeated phrase, “God said,” teach us the way that God relates to his creation?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for the law which shows us our sin and misery and the gospel that makes us right with God through faith. Ask for the Lord Jesus Christ’s grace and strength to walk by faith in union and communion with him today.

Wednesday

Don’t Hide from the Lord, Hide in Him!

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Genesis 3:9-10, 15

Some people think that the gospel was not known in the Old Testament, but this is not true. Already in the garden of Eden, God began to reveal the gospel to Adam and Eve, who had rebelled against his word.

The gospel in the Old Testament was not as clear as it is now that Jesus Christ has come. The gospel in the Old Testament was pointing to Christ and promising Christ. But now that Christ has actually come and fulfilled all of the promises, it is much easier to understand the gospel message. But many Old Testament believers put their faith in God’s gospel promise and found salvation.

In the Scripture text for today, first, the Lord comes to the sinful couple with the law. The law reveals the condition of human beings before God. When the Lord says to them, “Where are you?” --- this reveals the purpose of the law: to show us where we are at in our relation to God. Because of sin and guilt, the human race is in the process of running away from God. People are hiding from the Lord because of their sin and shame. It is man’s rebellion against the Lord which constitutes the true cause of his problems.

The law of God reveals the human condition, but the gospel reveals it is safe to come out of our hiding places to return to God! In Genesis 3:15 the Lord points to the ultimate reason it is safe for us to come out of hiding: the woman’s offspring will crush the head of the serpent, even as his heel is bruised. This prophecy was fulfilled when our Lord Jesus went to the cross, and won a great victory over the devil. At the cross Jesus dealt a crushing blow to Satan. He bruised the serpent’s head, even as his own heel was bruised at the cross.

Jesus Christ came to die in our place. He took the punishment we deserved. The One who will judge us, has taken our judgment! What confidence we can have before God, if his own Son has died in our place to take away our sins! Instead of hiding from God, we can now hide in God’s Son, who died as our sin-bearer. Proverbs 28:13 says:

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.


Discussion: Was the gospel known in the garden of Eden or paradise? Do sinful people naturally seek God or run away from him? Why is it safe to come to God if we repent and believe in his Son?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for seeking and saving the lost (you), who are hiding from God because of their sin. Pray for an unbeliever you know, and ask Christ to seek and save him or her.

Thursday

The God who Speaks and Interprets His Own Works!


19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Notice what the catechism teaches us about God’s communication to us. The catechism says that “he [God] proclaimed it [the gospel] by the holy patriarchs and prophets.” The gospel is the message which God himself communicated to us in words through people like Abraham and Jacob (patriarchs) and Isaiah, David, and Daniel (prophets).

God communicates to us in words. The gospel comes to us in words. The Scriptures consist of words. Isn’t this amazing? God believes in words! The Lord God Almighty believes that truth can be communicated in words!

There are many people today, who deny that God reveals himself to us in words. Instead they say that God reveals himself in acts and deeds, but not in words. They say that God reveals himself in Christ’s death and resurrection, which are events, but not in words that tell us the meaning of those events. The church (they say) must interpret these events, because God has only revealed himself in these acts, but not in the words that tell us what these acts mean.

This is completely wrong. God speaks to us in the words he “breathed out” through his patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. These men spoke and wrote God’s words to us, and these words are preserved for us in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. We can know the meaning of God’s acts, such as Christ’s death and resurrection, because the Lord has told us what his acts in history mean through the words he spoke by his prophets and apostles. These words have been preserved for us by God’s providence, and he continues to speak to us through them, for his word is living, for he is the living God (Heb. 4:12).

Our God is not a silent God! He himself uses words as the Father, Son, and Spirit speak to one another in the loving relations within the trinity. An example of this is Genesis 1:26, when God says, “Let us make man in our image.” The triune God is a speaking God and we who are made in his image reflect his speaking by our use of language!

Thus, the triune God is the God who speaks to his image bearers in words, which we can understand and believe. The same God who acts in human history, also speaks to us so that we can know the meaning of his acts. He even speaks about the future before it comes to pass! Throughout the entire Old Testament, the Spirit is telling us through the words of the patriarchs and prophets about Jesus Christ, whom the Father planned to send for the salvation of the world!

Discussion: Does God reveal himself in both deeds and words? What would be the problem for us if God did not reveal himself in words? Does 2 Timothy 3:16 teach that the Scriptures are God’s words spoken or written through men?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for revealing himself in actions and in words. Thank the Lord for telling us what his actions or works mean. Ask the Lord for a deeper appreciation of the gift of his written Word.

Friday

The Gospel Pictured in the Old Testament

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Genesis 22:1-14

Our God is amazing. Not only did he prophesy about the coming of his Son in words, but he also portrayed it for us in words. Just as little children like books with pictures, so the Lord has pictured the coming of his Son for us, his little children, in the Old Testament. The Lord knows how helpful illustrations of the truth of the gospel can be for us.

Genesis 22:1-14 is a good example of how Jesus is portrayed in God’s law, which sometimes in Scripture is a reference to the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The first thing we notice about the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 is the emphasis on the father and son relationship (note, how often the words father and son are repeated!). How hard it must have been for Abraham to even consider offering his beloved son, Isaac! But do you see how the father and son relationship between Abraham and Isaac pictures the Father and Son relationship between Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father?

When the young man Isaac, probably already stronger than his father, carries the wood up the mountain to the altar, we see a picture of Jesus carrying his cross to the place where he will die so that our sins can be forgiven. When Isaac meekly allows himself to be bound by his father and laid on the altar, we gaze upon the obedience of Jesus to his Father, as he voluntarily lays himself on the cross and the nails are driven into his hands and feet. When God stops Abraham from plunging the knife into his beloved son, we are reminded of the heavenly Father’s great anguish as he went through with the sacrifice of his beloved Son, so that our sins could be forgiven. And, when at last God provides a ram to be a substitute for Isaac, we see that Jesus Christ is our substitute, taking the judgment that we deserve because of our sins, so that we might never be judged and have God’s favor forever.

Throughout the Old Testament, God pictures the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ. Genesis 22:1-14 is just one of hundreds of examples. The God who knows the future showed us in words and pictures what would happen when his Son came into the world at the time he appointed.

Discussion: How do you think the animal sacrifices that the Law required picture Jesus for us? What do you find amazing about Genesis 22:1-14?

Prayer Starter: Thank the heavenly Father for not sparing his own beloved Son, but giving him up for us. Thank the Father that if he has given us the very best gift of his Son, then he will surely watch over our lives. Pray for those who are sick and suffering, and for those in need of Christ’s salvation.

Saturday

The Right Way to Read the Bible

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Galatians 4:4-5

Finally, after all the preparations and promises, when everything was set and the time was just right, God sent his eternally, beloved Son into the world. Jesus came and fulfilled every Old Testament Scripture. This is why 2 Corinthians 1:20 speaks of Jesus and says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” He came to fulfill all of the promises of God in the Old Testament. When he returns he will fulfill any remaining promises that deal with the new paradise promised, that is, the new heaven and earth.

Jesus told us how to interpret the Bible. Sometimes people will say things like “that’s just your interpretation of the Bible.” But the truth is that Jesus tells us how to interpret or understand the meaning of the Bible. Just as Jesus is Lord over every part of life, so he is also Lord over how to understand the Bible!

So what does Jesus tell us about understanding or interpreting the Bible? He tells us the Bible is about him! He tells us the Old Testament is all about his suffering and his glory. In Luke 24:25-27 he says:

"O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have
spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the
Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things
concerning himself."

Every part or section of the Old Testament is in some way related either to the suffering of Jesus or the glory of Jesus---either to his humbling himself to become a man to die in our place or his resurrection, ascension, and his coming again in glory. The Heidelberg Catechism is teaching us how to read the Bible in the Christ-centered way that Jesus himself taught us!

Discussion: How do the words promise and fulfillment point to the right way to understand the Bible? Why does it make sense for the Lord Jesus to tell us how to interpret the Bible? What two words in Luke 24:26 summarize Jesus’ ministry?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for his Word, and for its fulfillment in Christ. Ask the Lord for the help of his Spirit to better understand the Christ-centered way we should handle it. Remember those in need in your prayers, along with pastors, teachers, missionaries or Christians who proclaim God’s Word.

Hymn for Lord’s Day 6b

Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament Scriptures

To the tune of BUNESSAN (Morning is Broken http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/269 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/145). Based on Lord’s Day 6 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 19. Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
Sent by the Father,
Jesus our Savior.
He fulfills Scripture, each prophecy.
He came to suffer,
then enter glory.
Said that the Scriptures, are about Me.

v. 2
God preach’d the gospel,
first in the garden
to our first parents, sin entombed.
He gave a promise
to give an offspring.
This One would enter a-virgin’s womb.

v. 3
Jesus was pictured
in all the Scriptures.
The law and prophets, He fulfills.
Each ceremony,
and ev’ry ritual,
fulfilling God’s Word just-as He wills.

v. 4
Jesus is wisdom,
Jesus is righteous,
more than the wise man, more-than the law.
Jesus is purer,
Jesus is holy,
more than the temple, fulfilling all.


v. 5
In Christ all wisdom,
in Christ all fullness,
in Christ we have life, perfect, complete.
Let us draw near Him,
let us so trust Him
that we might live lives, of-perfect peace.



Friday, February 18, 2011

Devotions for Lord's Days 5 and 6

The Mediator We Need

15 Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

A. One who is truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.

John 1:1-5, 14

A mediator is someone who brings two sides who are fighting into a relationship of peace. A mediator tries to bring about peace by representing both sides in a dispute. Jesus is called our mediator in the Bible. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

God wants to be at peace with human beings. He does not want to hold our sins against us. In love he sent his Son into the world. As Scripture says, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).

In order to bring us back to God, Jesus is a perfect mediator, because he is truly human and also true God! He can bring us back to God because of his perfect sacrifice on our behalf. He could die as our substitute, because he is truly human. But at the same time, on the cross he could endure God’s anger against sin which was too much for our human nature to endure, for he is also fully God!

The first chapter of John shows us how perfectly God unites human beings to himself. Jesus has brought the divine nature into an everlasting union with our human nature. Jesus is God and he is man, and he will continue as the God-man forever.

Just as Jesus has united in himself the divine and human natures, so we too will be united to God if we believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” We are now in the family of the heavenly Father, if we believe in the Son he sent into the world.

Discussion: What is a mediator? How does God bring people peace through sending his Son into the world? Will Jesus ever stop being fully God and fully man in one person? What must we do to become members of God’s family who have peace with God, according to John 1:12?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank your heavenly Father for his desire to bring about peace in his relationship to rebellious sinners. Thank him for bringing you into his family. Is there a non-Christian you could pray for, who needs to become a child of God through faith in Jesus?


The Primary Purpose of Christ’s Coming

16 Q. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

A. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin; but a sinner could not pay for others.

17 Q. Why must he also be true God?

A. So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.

Matthew 3:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-17

Jesus did not come from heaven to earth so that we might have a perfect example. Jesus did not come from heaven to earth so that we might know what is right and what is wrong. Jesus did not come from heaven to earth to give us a philosophy of life.

Why, then, did Jesus come? First and foremost, Jesus came to give us righteousness and life! Jesus came to give us a right relationship (righteousness) with God, and Jesus came to give us the life that comes from God!

In order to restore us to righteousness and life, the eternal Son of God had to become a man and live a perfectly righteous life. The second person of the trinity took to himself our human nature (without our sin) in the womb of the virgin Mary. Jesus passed through every stage of life: he was conceived in his mother’s womb; he was born; he passed through the stages of infant, toddler, boyhood, teenager, and into manhood. In every stage of life he lived without sin.

Then he died. All of our sin was laid upon his sinless soul at the cross. At the cross he bore all of our sins and God’s just anger against them. The Son was separated from the Father, so that we might be united to him forever --- restored to righteousness and life!

Now the Father is calling us to believe in his Son, whom he sent into the world in love. When we believe in the Son, we are restored as we are united to him. Christ’s righteousness is credited to us, so that the Father views us in the Son as righteous (justification). In union with Christ, we also possess the Holy Spirit who communicates God’s life to our souls! All of this happens because Jesus is truly human, truly righteous, and truly God.

Discussion: What was the primary reason for Jesus’ coming from heaven to earth? What response do we need to make in order to be right with God (justified) and experience the life of God?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer praise the Lord for what he has done for you. Use Q&A’s 16 and 17 to guide your praise. Ask the Lord Jesus for a fuller measure of the Spirit, so that you might experience God’s righteousness and life in union with him.



The Importance of the Incarnation to Our Salvation

18 Q. And who is this mediator---true God and at the same time truly human
and truly righteous?

A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God.

Romans 1:1-4

Questions 12-18 of the Heidelberg Catechism have been teaching us that Jesus is “true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous.” Why is this so important? Why must Jesus be fully God and fully man in one person?

The reason this is so important is that we cannot have salvation if Jesus is not true God and truly human. If Jesus is not truly human, then he can’t save humans. If Jesus is not God, then he can’t unite us with God.

In church history there was a man named Arius. Arius believed and taught that Jesus was the highest creature God ever created. Arius falsely taught that there was a time when Jesus was not. There was another man at this time named Athanasius. Athanasius realized with the help of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, that if Arius was right, then Jesus was neither God, nor human! If Jesus was created, as Arius taught, then Jesus could not be God. And if Jesus was created as a creature before all other creatures, then Jesus was not man either! Athanasius realized that what Arius was teaching ruined our salvation.

We must believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be. Jesus claimed to be the eternal Son of God, who was a true man, a descendant of David. His resurrection was proof that he was just who he claimed to be! The first disciples were witnesses of his resurrection, and their witness has come to us! If we believe Jesus is who he claimed to be, then we can be right with God, and set free from our sins!

Discussion: What was wrong with Arius’ teaching? Why did Athanasius oppose the teaching of Arius? Who did Jesus claim to be, and what is the proof that his claim is true?

Prayer Starter: Address your prayer to the resurrected Jesus. Thank him for taking to himself our human nature. Ask that the same power that raised him from the dead might be at work in your heart, producing faith in him and love for him.


A Song that Tells Us About the Law and the Gospel

Praise the Lord who Gives the Gospel

To the tune of RIPLEY (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/782 or from the RUF Hymnbook under Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah: http://www.igracemusic.com/hymnbook/hymns.html). Based on Genesis 3:8-21 and Lord’s Day 5 and 6 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 12-19a (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 85, 19-21). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
Praise the Lord who gives the gospel.
Gives His grace to set us free.
Praise the Lord who came from heaven.
Born to end our misery.
From the law He came to save us,
from its threats to set us free.
In His life He fully kept it,
in His death paid it for me.

v. 2
Praise the Lord who gives the gospel.
Praise Him for amazing grace.
Praise the Lord who dealt in mercy,
in the garden, came for peace.
Adam’s sin led to his hiding,
for his sin made him afraid.
For the law of God is holy.
Its demands must all be paid.

v. 3
Praise the Lord who gives the gospel.
Gave His Son He loved so well.
Though His law condemns, accuses,
threatens us with death and hell.
But the gospel is God’s giving
of His Son to justify.
For His death brings perfect pardon.
Faith in Him gives brand new life.

v. 4
Praise the Lord who gives the gospel.
Now we can return to Him.
Call the King our gracious Father,
not our all condemning Judge.
Through the Son we have forgiveness,
through the Son eternal life.
From the law and its dread sentence,
we are freed and justified.

v. 5
Praise the Lord who gives the gospel.
Praise to God, the three in One.
God in mercy clothed our parents,
when in faith they hid in Him.
For the gospel brings us safely
to the God of heaven above.
For His Son took our whole judgment,
died that we might live in love.


Lyrics to John 1:43-51

The Son of God who Came to Earth

To the tune: Stuart Townsend’s song How Deep the Father’s Love For Us (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Voawjjqg8zw&feature=related). Based on John 1:43-51. Words: Bill Weber, 2011.

v. 1
The Son of God who came to earth,
He was the King of Israel.
The meeting place for God with man,
the true and lasting temple.
He gathered people to Himself
to form a restored nation,
a people formed by grace through faith,
by his propitiation.

v. 2
A man named Philip came to Christ,
he said, We’ve found the Savior,
the One who Moses talked about,
the One who shares our nature.
The prophets spoke about this King,
who also was a Servant.
He came to bear our sin and shame,
and shepherd us from all want.

v. 3
Nathanael came to see the man,
from Nazareth most lowly.
He came and saw this was the One,
the Son of God most holy.
He knew Nathanael long before
he ever came to see Him,
for He’s the meeting place of God,
through only Christ we meet Him.

v. 4
We praise the holy Son of God,
the Lord, the King of Israel,
the One who heaven joins to earth,
replacing the old temple;
the glorious One whom Jacob knew,
who wrestled for a blessing,
the glorious One Nathanael knew,
under a fig tree meeting.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Devotions from Lord's Day 5

Propitiation

12 Q. According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

A. God requires that his justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another.

Romans 3:23-25a

God is just. Everything he does is right and fair. He created us and therefore we answer to him as our judge. When he judges, he judges with perfect justice. Abraham, who was called the man of faith and the friend of God, knew this. Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25).

But God’s justice creates a problem for sinners. According to God’s justice, sinners must be punished for their sin. God cannot simply overlook his own justice. He must be true to who he is, and he is just.

So how does God remain just and yet save us from his righteous judgment? The answer is the cross of Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, according to Romans 3:25, was a propitiation. This word means that Jesus took the judgment and punishment our sins deserved. In taking our punishment, Jesus satisfied God’s justice. God remains just, because his people’s sins have been punished through the sacrifice of his beloved Son!

Now that God’s justice has been met, united to Christ we now have God’s favor and blessing! If we have received Jesus as our Lord by faith, then the favor and blessing God has toward his Son is now shared by us! God showed that he was pleased with Jesus when he raised him from the dead. United to Christ, we now share in this favor the Son has with the Father. The reason we delight in the cross as Christians is because it was there that Jesus changed God’s wrath to favor---his judgment to blessing!

Discussion: Explain the word propitiation in terms of God’s wrath and favor. Upon whom did the wrath of God fall? Upon whom does the favor of God now rest? Why is the word propitiation such a happy word for Christians?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank God for the fact that he is just, and yet has found a way to save us from our sins without compromising his justice. Pray for a person you know who needs Christ.


Our Unpayable Debt

13 Q. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

A. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day.

2) Scripture

Matthew 18:21-35

Do you hear what the catechism is saying in Q&A 13? It says that our sin and guilt keep piling up each day of our lives. Think of a landfill where they bring trash. Each day more and more trash comes in on the trucks. The pile keeps getting bigger and bigger. Or think of someone in debt, who has no ability to pay the debt. Each day the debt keeps getting larger and larger as the interest on the debt grows.

Jesus tells a parable about a man who could not pay his enormous debt. In a parable, each of the main characters stands for someone else. In this parable the king stands for Jesus. The servants stand for Christ’s disciples. The unforgiving servant stands for a professing disciple, but a man who is not a true disciple of Christ.

In the parable, the unforgiving servant is forgiven his huge, unpayable debt. This debt was over 3 billion dollars in today’s terms! This debt is like the debt of sin and guilt every believer is forgiven if he truly belongs to Christ! Our debt of sin and guilt against God is much greater than we realize! It is way too big for us to pay ourselves!

But in the parable, the unforgiving servant shows that he was not truly Christ’s disciple, because he failed to forgive others. The unforgiving servant was unwilling to forgive a man who owed him only about five thousand dollars, after he had been forgiven billions of dollars by the king!

Christ’s forgiveness of our sins is incredibly great! We have been forgiven far more than we realize. Our debt of sin against God is a huge amount that reaches to the heavens, but God’s love reaches even higher (see Psalm 36:5 or Psalm 103:11-12). God has forgiven us our enormous debt in Christ. It was way too much for us to pay, but God’s eternal Son could pay it, and did pay it at the cross. Now that we are forgiven so much, we should be willing to forgive the comparatively small sins/debts of others against us!

Discussion: 10,000 talents of gold is equal to 750,000 pounds, which comes to over 3 billion dollars. Why does Jesus make this amount so great in his parable? A soldier or laborer made about 12,ooo dollars in a year, so the debt owed to the unmerciful servant was about $5,000. Why such a small amount in comparison to the debt the servant was forgiven? Why must forgiveness of others and compassion be essential characteristics of Christians?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank God for forgiving your great debt of sin through Christ. Ask him to help you to appreciate how much he has forgiven you. Confess your lack of forgiveness toward others. Pray for yourself and your fellow believers that we would forgive others even as we have been forgiven.


The True Lamb of God who Takes Our Place

14 Q. Can another creature---any at all---pay this debt for us?

A. No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of. Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it.

John 1:29-36

In the Old Testament many animals were offered as sacrifices for sin. When a person came to the temple with one of their sheep, they would place their hands on the animal’s head and confess their sins. Then they would take the knife and slit the animal’s throat, so that the animal would die.

You can imagine how hard this was, especially if the sheep had been raised by you and your family. Maybe for the last year you fed this lamb and raised it. Your children played with the little lamb. This animal was almost like a member of your family. But then came the day when you went to the temple with the lamb and sacrificed it for the forgiveness of your sins.

When you confessed your sins and killed the lamb you were agreeing with God that your sins deserve the penalty of death. In the very beginning, the Lord said, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). The Lord says in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” The lamb that was sacrificed took your place---the place you deserved because of your sins.

All of these Old Testament offerings pointed to Jesus, who is the true lamb of God. Sheep or goats or oxen could never truly pay for sins, because sin is committed by humans, not animals. Ultimately the one who takes our place as a sacrifice must be human, not an animal, nor even an angel. Human nature sinned, so the sacrifice that pays for our sins must be that of a human being.

But how dear Jesus is! If it tugs at our heart to kill a lamb, how much more it should tug at our hearts that Jesus died for us! How precious he was to the Father! He is the Father’s beloved Son. And, how we should love him too! He is our Lamb of God, who takes away, not only the sins of the world, but our sins too!

Discussion: What happened in the Old Testament when a sheep was brought to the temple? Do you think a lamb raised for a year by a family might become dear to a family? How dear should Jesus, the true Lamb of God, be to us?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank your heavenly Father for sending his beloved Son to take your place. Pray for the opportunity to tell the good news to someone who needs to hear the good news that Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins.

The Lord is Holy, Fully Just

To the tune QUEBEC (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/307 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/72). Based on Lord’s Day 5 and 6 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 12-18 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 85, 19-21). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
The Lord is holy, fully just.
If He gave us what sin deserves,
we would be judged, condemned to hell,
we would not have eternal life.

v. 2
Our debt grows greater day by day,
increasing guilt, we cannot pay.
The law of God reveals our sin;
shows our corruption deep within.

v. 3
Who can save us from guilt and sin?
We need one fully God and man,
One who is who is righteous, without sin,
One who could pay our debt to Him.

v. 4
Jesus is fully God and man.
He came to pay what we did owe.
He bore God’s anger at our debt.
In Jesus, God and man do meet.

v. 5
Christ died to give us righteousness,
and bring us near unto our God.
Through Him we can be justified.
Through Him we enter into life.

v. 6
How can we ever thank this Lord,
who came from heaven down to earth?
Then in our nature died for us,
and righteousness imputes to us.

v. 7
Let us believe and trust in Christ;
live near the Father and the Son;
walk in the Spirit, learn God’s ways;
Seek first his kingdom all our days.


A Song about John 20:24-31

Raised from the Grave and by Apostles Seen

To the tune: CRUCIFER (Lift High the Cross http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/563). Based on John 20:24-31. Words: Bill Weber, 2011.

Refrain:
Raised from the grave, and by apostles seen,
how bless’d we are if Jesus we believe.

v. 1
Thomas was absent when the Lord appeared,
“I won’t believe until I see Him here.

Refrain:
Raised from the grave, and by apostles seen,
how bless’d we are if Jesus we believe.

v. 2
Just one week later Jesus came in peace,
to Thomas said, “Stop doubting and believe.”

Refrain:
Raised from the grave, and by apostles seen,
how bless’d we are if Jesus we believe.

v. 3
Thomas astonished suddenly believed,
as Lord and God did Jesus he receive.

Refrain:
Raised from the grave, and by apostles seen,
how bless’d we are if Jesus we believe.

v. 4
Accept the witness the disciples give
to Jesus ris’n, believe and you will live.

Refrain:
Raised from the grave, and by apostles seen,
how bless’d we are if Jesus we believe.

v. 5
Jesus has risen, Son of God and Christ,
all who believe receive eternal life.

Refrain:
Raised from the grave, and by apostles seen,
how bless’d we are if Jesus we believe.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Imaging Christ | Challies Dot Com

Imaging Christ Challies Dot Com

Good words for leaders.

When Is an Issue Important Enough to Correct Someone?

When Is an Issue Important Enough to Correct Someone?

Very interesting. Worth considering.

The Sola Panel | The editor’s fault

The Sola Panel The editor’s fault

Important article for our understanding of ecclesiology.

Articles > 75: Verbal Warming > truthXChange

Verbal Warming --- truthXChange

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Heidelberg Devotions: Measuring the Infinite Glory of God

Measuring the Infinite Glory and Majesty of God

11. Q. But isn’t God also merciful?

A. God is certainly merciful, but he is also just. His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty---eternal punishment of body and soul.

Psalm 90:11

In our criminal justice system there is a simple rule: the greater the crime committed, the greater the punishment imposed. The worst crime in our criminal justice system is murder, which sometimes is punished by death. What makes murder so wrong? Man was created in the image of God. An attack against man is an attack against God, in whose image we were created. This makes the murder of a human being much more serious than killing a grasshopper or an ant, for example.

If it is a great crime to sin against man because he is in God’s image, then consider how great a crime it is to sin against God himself! But in a sense, all sin is directed against God. As David said about his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:4).

There is an order or hierarchy in God’s creation from the lowest amoeba to cats and dogs to human beings. Even among humans there are policemen, judges, and leaders who deserve special honor, and a crime against them calls for even harsher punishment. But God deserves total honor from human beings. God deserves an absolute reverence, fear, and love that reaches beyond the heavens!

The point is that human rebellion against God’s supreme majesty deserves the supreme penalty. If you can measure how valuable God’s name and glory are, then you can measure the punishment people deserve for their dishonor of God’s glory and name! My guess is that we can’t measure his infinite name and glory, therefore we cannot measure his punishment, which, amazingly, Jesus Christ took in our place!

Discussion: In Q&A 11, what two nouns does the adjective supreme modify? In Q&A 11, how long is the punishment of hell? Why is killing an ant a small thing, but murdering a human being a big thing? Why is sin against God worse than sin against a human being? Have you learned anything about how serious sin against God is?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer praise God for his supreme majesty. Ask him to help you understand and know the reverence you owe him. Confess areas of your life where you haven’t honored him as you should. Thank the Father for Jesus Christ who honored God in our humanity, and bore the punishment that we deserved on the cross.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Toward the Sickness and Cure of Christian Worship in Our Churches

"Truly, if our worship, if our spiritual life, is going to rise above this earthly existence where our minds are fixed on mundane thoughts and our attention is given to mundane concerns, then we are going to have to begin to focus our hearts and our minds on the holiness and the glory and the beauty of the one we say we know and love.

"Our churches do not always make this easy. All too often the heartfelt desires of the worshippers to see God in his glory are frustrated by meetings and programs that often get in the way and jar our spiritual sensitivities. This, in spite of the fact that churches are always trying to make worship more meaningul. But usually these efforts focus on new methods and different styles designed to make worship more lively and more relevant rather than on how to inspire worshippers to see the true and holy God of glory. In an effort to simplify things and make them relevant, the meaning and the mystery has been lost. As a result, in many services there may be almost nothing that is truly uplifting, moving, or even interesting. . . .

"For any significant change to occur in our worship activities, we have to get behind forms and methods and changes in style and focus on the biblical theology that informs worship, because of of the reasons, if not the main reason, for the lack of proper attention given to worship is the lack of a biblical, theological understanding. . . .

"For worship to be as glorious as it should be . . . it must be inspired by a vision so great and so glorious that what we call worship will be transformed from a routine gathering into a transcendent meeting with the living God. . . .

"The starting point of any discussion of worship must be the object of worship, the Lord God himself, who is higher and more significant and far more glorious than life itself. This is the vision we need to inspire our worship; it is the vision that a world lost in sin needs in order to be reconciled to God.

--From Allen P. Ross, "Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation"

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Hymn of Confession

I don't know if you ever struggle with sin and its power as I do, but I found it a struggle to confess my sins and align my heart with His this morning.  Out of that experience and meditation on the Word, I wrote these words to the familiar hymn, Now Thank We All Our God.  Maybe this song might be of benefit to you as it was to me. --Bill

Have Mercy on me, Lord

To the tune: NUN DANKET (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/102 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/454). Words: Bill Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Have mercy on me, Lord,
I need to be forgiven,
the shining of Your face,
to fall on me from heaven.
My sin is very great,
and wicked in Your sight,
Your judgments ever right,
restore me to Your light.

v. 2
O prone to wander, Lord,
how often do I feel it.
For sin seduces me,
I hide my sin, conceal it.
But then I read Your Word,
my heart within exposed,
forgive me, Lord, I cry,
Your saving grace disclose.

v. 3
O when our Savior died,
a fountain then was opened.
The blood and water flowed,
this gift to us was given:
the gift of cancelled sin,
the gift of Spirit poured.
O with this double cure,
we’re cleansed and we’re restored.

v. 4
O at the cross of Christ,
we see sin’s awful nature.
The world exposed as well,
it crucified the Savior.
So we would flee from sin,
a world opposed to Christ,
and we would come to Him,
who gives eternal life.


Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hymn Lyrics to John 1:6-8, 15, 19-42

God Sent a Man, His Name Was John

To the tune: ST. COLUMBA (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/CCEH/921). Based on John 1:6-8, 15, 19-42). Words: Bill Weber, 2011.

v. 1
God sent a man, his name was John,
he came to testify;
to point us to the Son of God,
and witness to the Light.

v. 2
He came a voice that cried aloud:
The Lord will soon be here!
Prepare for Him, do not be proud,
your Lord and God revere.

v. 3
This One, the everlasting Light,
He is the great I AM.
His sandals I’m unfit to tie,
this frail and sinful man.

v. 4
Behold the holy Lamb of God,
who takes our sin away.
Believe in Him the Son of God,
in Christ your Lord remain.

v. 5
O Jesus we would be with You,
with You we want to stay;
to follow You, the Lamb of God,
O change us for Your sake!


Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg: "The Sin We Are Born With"

Voting for the Right Representative

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

10 Q. Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

A. Certainly not. He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity. He has declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law.”

2) Scripture

Romans 5:12-19: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Comment

Our tendency as sinful human beings is to fight against God and his ways. This comes so naturally to us as sinners that we fail to see how wrong it is. Q&A 10 shows us the way things really are. We can fight against the way things really are to our own harm or we can accept the truth revealed to us from God in his Word.

Two difficult to accept truths are taught in Q&A 10. The first difficult truth is that God is angry about sin. Scripture is replete with the truth that God hates sin and that his holy reaction to sin is anger or wrath. The catechism says that God “is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.” The good news is that the Son of God himself came to take away God’s anger through his atoning or propitiatory sacrifice.

The second difficult truth is that we are guilty in Adam, i.e., “the sin we are born with.” The original sin that we received from Adam not only poisons our nature, but it also makes us guilty before God. God is angry, not just about the sins we personally commit, but also about the original sin we inherited from Adam. How can this be?

Adam was our representative. Just as in the United States our representatives vote for us in congress, so Adam voted for us in the garden. His vote in the garden was for sin and rebellion, rather than for obedience and love to God. We voted in Adam, and with Adam.

Before we complain this isn’t fair, remember that God provided a second representative named Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has also voted for his people. His vote was not a “no” to God like Adam, but a “yes” to God. Jesus chose to obey and love God the Father. Through this second representative we are justified as Christ’s blood and righteousness are imputed to us, just as Adam’s guilt and unrighteousness were imputed to us before we came to Christ.

The question for all people today is a simple one: Who will you vote for? Will you vote for Adam or Christ? By coming to Jesus as your Lord, you can have a new representative. You can leave the representation of Adam, for a new representative and government with Jesus as your Lord and Savior! Won’t you vote for Jesus Christ, by coming to him by faith?

Discussion: Why is it hard for us to accept the way things are, namely, that God is angry about sin and that Adam was our representative? How does the cross where Jesus died, bearing God’s anger, help us to accept the difficult truth of God’s righteous anger against sin? How does God providing Jesus as our new representative help us to accept the fact that Adam was our first representative?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Father that Jesus is your new representative, who frees you completely from God’s anger against sin and gives you his perfect favor instead. Pray for a family member or church member who needs prayer.


Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg: A Truth We Need to Face

Tuesday

Q&A 10: A Shock to Our System!

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

10 Q. Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

A. Certainly not. He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity. He has declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law.”

2) Scripture

1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Comment

Q&A 10 is a shock to our system! Most people never consider the truth that God is “terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.” Many unbelievers today would say, “How can you believe in a God who is angry about sin? I don’t want to worship a God who gets angry about sin. I don’t think sin is that big of a deal.”

The problem, however, is that sin is a big deal to God. Sin was such a big deal to the Lord that he himself had to become a man and endure his own anger against sin! On the cross, the eternal Son of God endured the punishment our sin deserves, so that we might have the Father’s favor. This is what 1 John 4:10 teaches us when it calls Christ’s sacrifice a “propitiation.” Lutheran theologian J. A. Preus rightly says, “Propitiation refers generally to the idea that, through the sacrifice, God’s wrath is satisfied. . . . When we say that God is propitiated, we mean that He is no longer angry because of our sin.”

Unbelievers may complain about God’s anger against sin, but no one can say that God does not love us, for he himself was willing to come and endure his own righteous anger against sin! Instead of complaining about the just consequences of our sin, which the Lord plainly warned us was death and the loss of his favor (Gen. 2:17), we should be thankful that our God cared enough to come to earth, to take to himself our human nature, and suffer in our place. How great is God’s love for us that he bears his own righteous anger against sin in the person of his Son! O how gracious and merciful this God is to take the punishment his creatures deserved, so that we might not ever endure this punishment ourselves!

Discussion: Do most people think that God is angry about sin? How does the cross show that sin is a “big deal” to God? Which attitude pleases the Lord, complaining about his righteous anger against sin or thanking him that he was willing to bear his own righteous anger at the cross?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Father that the Son was willing to die as the one who would turn away God’s righteous wrath/anger against our sin. Pray for an unbeliever you know, that they might realize the great love of God for them displayed at the cross.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg: Jesus, Lamb and Shepherd

Christ the Lamb of God and Shepherd of His People

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

9 Q. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?

A. No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law. They, however, tempted by the devil, in reckless disobedience, robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

2) Scripture

Isaiah 53:6:

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Comment

When Adam was first created he was able to obey God’s commands. But after Adam sinned, a change took place. After his sin, Adam’s mind, emotions, desires, and will changed. He no longer wanted to obey God’s commands, and when he tried, he found he could not obey with a whole heart.

This change of heart is what the catechism refers to when it says we are unable to obey God’s law. Sadly, Adam’s bad heart has been passed down to us. Just as our parents pass down certain characteristics like hair color or height or facial expressions, so Adam has passed down his bad heart to the human race.

What this means is that God’s commands still stand (Psalm 119:89), but we have no desire or ability to obey them. We are in a bad position, because God requires an obedience we can no longer give.

Adam was sort of like the lead sheep. Sheep follow the leader. All of us follow Adam in his sin, because we inherited his nature. Just as Adam went astray, so we have left God to follow our own way.

Is there a way back to God? Yes, there is! Isaiah 53:6 talks about the way back. God sent his Son who became a man. At the cross all of our iniquity and sins were laid on Jesus, and all of his righteousness is laid on us if we put our trust in him. Peter puts the truth of our return to God, this way in 1 Peter 2:24-25:

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Jesus is the lamb of God whose wounds heal us. But Jesus is also the Shepherd and Pastor (overseer) of our souls!

Discussion: When Adam was first created, was he able to obey God’s commands? After Adam’s sin, was he able to perfectly obey God’s commands? After Adam’s sin, did he want to obey God’s commands?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Father that Christ bore our sins so that we might return to him as the Shepherd of our souls. Pray that you “might die to sin and live to righteousness,” near Christ your Shepherd.

Hymn for Lord’s Day 4

Who Is Like the Lord Our Maker?

To the tune HOLY MANNA (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/322 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/150). Based on Lord’s Day 4 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 9-11 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 14, 19, 84). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
Who is like the Lord our Maker?
ruling, sov’reign over all.
Robed in glory, great in power,
all things own His righteous rule.
From Him all things have their being.
Through Him all things are sustained.
To Him all things praise His glory,
so his beauty may we trace.

v. 2
Maker, Ruler, and Sustainer,
How much to you do we owe!
But through Adam we have left you,
Your ways we refused to go.
Of all creatures, man the only
fails to give the Lord His due.
God’s law, man in pride, rebellion
will not keep and will not do.

v. 3
Great is sin against our Maker,
ev’ry sin is aimed at Him.
Should the clay resist the Potter,
fight against his wise design?
For the Lord is right in anger
‘gainst all human sin and pride.
God is holy, full of justice.
He is Judge and will do right.

v. 4
We can’t bear God’s righteous anger
or against his power stand.
So the Father in His mercy,
sent the Son of His right hand.
Jesus is the Father’s glory,
perfect picture of our God.
This is He who came to save us,
fully man and fully God.

v. 5
At the cross we see God’s glory,
justice there and mercy meet.
At the cross Christ bore our judgment,
so from judgment we’d be free.
Why would God die for his creatures,
rebels from the time of birth?
He is just and he is gracious,
Praise Him one and all on earth!




Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg: The Lord's Preaching of the Law and the Gospel

The Lord’s Powerful Preaching of Law and Gospel

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

8 Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.

2) Scripture

Genesis 3:8-15, 21: And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Comment

Before their sin, Adam and Eve communed with the Lord without the dread of punishment. After they rebelled against the Lord through disobedience, all of this changed. Our first parents hid from the blessed presence of the God for whom they were made.

Because we have all inherited Adam and Eve’s sin, we do the same thing. We run from the triune God, rather than running into his wonderful presence. We no longer desire or enjoy the presence of a holy God, unless the gospel and Spirit of God change our hearts. Because of the punishment due to sin, we dread the presence of God (1 John 4:17-18). But Jesus has taken our punishment at the cross!

If people are running from God and hiding from him because of sin, then how does the Lord bring us to himself? How does the Lord change us so that we seek him, rather than hide from his holy presence?

The answer is that the Lord calls us to himself by words. Just as the Lord used words to call to Adam in the garden, so he still calls us today. The Lord uses the law and the gospel to change us. We often think that words are weak and powerless. But when words are spoken by the Lord, those words are powerful to create and bring about the new birth as the Spirit of God plants Christ’s gospel word in our hearts.

After Adam’s sin, in Genesis 3:9 we read: “But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” First, the Lord uses the words of the law to show us our true condition before him. Through the law, God shows us our sin and its dangerous consequences. The Lord wants us to consider our true situation before him.

But the Lord also brings to us the healing words of the gospel. The gospel tells us that it is safe for us to come back to God. God will receive us back into his favor, for he has provided for our forgiveness through a sacrifice.  In Genesis 3:15, the Lord himself preaches the gospel! Genesis 3:15 points to the cross of Christ. At the cross Satan was defeated, even as he bruised our Lord’s heel.

Even in the garden, forgiveness came through the work of Jesus Christ, though it lay in the future. The garments of skin that covered the first couple were provided by sacrificial animals. These animal sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and the way in which Christ’s blood and righteousness covers all of our sin, both original sin and actual sins! When we are covered by Christ’s blood and righteousness, then it is safe to enter once again into the blessed presence of the holy God and his joyful communion!

Discussion: How does the Lord call people to himself? What does God’s holy law show us? What does God’s gospel show us? How do Genesis 3:15 and 3:21 point to Jesus Christ and his work for us?

Prayer Starter: In your prayer thank the Lord for calling you to himself by the gospel, which announces that it is safe to return to God through the sacrifice of his Son. Pray that you will continue to hear and believe God’s word of law and gospel to you all of your life.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Music that Sounds Contemporary

T. David Gordon has a brief chapter in his book Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Popular Culture Rewrote the Hymnal  on aesthetic relativism.  I liked the chapter for a few reasons.  First, I liked it because of what it tells us about ourselves as image bearers of God.  Second, I agree with Gordon's point about the danger of aesthetic relativism.  Third, I believe Gordon is correct in applying all of this to contemporary music, or as it should be called according to Gordon, music that sounds like it is contemporary.  Here is the gist of the chapter:

"Aesthetic relativism was a commonplace in the twentieth century, and will probably remain so in the twenty-first.  Aesthetic relativism states that there are no standards by which artistic creativity may be measured; it is merely a matter of taste.  But such relativism may be as unbiblical as (or, as I think, more unbiblical than) ethical relativism.  In the firs twenty-five verses of the Bible, God is presented as a Creator; and the human whose creation is recorded in verse 26, is said to be the "image" and "likeness" of God.  While this image may include more than creativity, it certainly cannot exclude creativity.  The only thing expressly affirmed about God prior to Genesis 1:26 is that he creates.  So when the text then says (four times) that the human is made in God's likeness or image, there is the strongest implication that the human is essentially (not incidentally) a  creator.  And God's creative activity in the Genesis narrative is not merely practical (what we would call the creativity of the artisan); his creative activity is also beautiful (what we would call the creativity of the artist).  The garden that God made for Adam and Eve to cultivate was "pleasant to the sight and good for food" (Gen. 2:9); it was both lovely and life-sustaining, both beautiful and practical.

"Ultimately, then, God himself is our aestheitic standard, just as he is our ethical standard.  As bearers of God's image we have as our creaturely duty to imitate him in all the ways a creature can imitate the Creator, and surely this means that we are, like God, to make things that are beautiful or practical.  Whenever we make something, we imitate God; and the evaluative question then becomes: have we made something well, as God makes things well?

"Thus, when I cook dinner at our house, the meal I prepare should provide nourishment and should be pleasant to eat; it should be both pleasant and practical.  I say it should be because it is not merely a matter of taste (the Gordons enjoy good food); it is a matter of imitating God well or imitating God less well. Now, the standards by which we evaluate creativity may be difficult to develop, and those standards might be more difficult in some fields than others (perhaps it is easier to evaluate literature than architecture, for instance).  That the task of establishing aesthetic criteria may be difficult, however, does not mean that we should abandon the task.  After all, the task of establishing ethical criteria is also difficult, and we have not abandoned that task.  Christians routinely produce books, essays, and articles (not to mention sermons) about ethical matters, even though such matters are sometimes difficult.

"Even non-Christian or nonreligious thinkers recognize the profound importance of aesthtics. . . .

"In the current situation, one of the most frequently repeated errors regarding our evaluation of contemporary worship music is that it is "merely" a matter of taste.  Such dismissive comments should be resisted.  When arguments are made (on any side of the discussion), they should be seriously entertained, weighed, and rebutted, not merely dismissed on the erroneous ground that human creativity is "merely" a matter of taste.  Human creativity is a matter of imitating God the Creator; it may very well be the most significant thing humans do, so it is not "merely" anything, and it is surely not "merely a matter of taste."  Indeed, in the current situation, for some individuals the only aesthetic criterion they recognize is contemporaneity.  Think of it: A church has a sign that reads "Conteporary Worship," as though sounding contemporary were the only criterion that mattered.  All the criteria by which previous hymns were evaluated are tossed aside, and this new criterion replaces them all (or moves to the top of the list of criteria).  But why?  Why does this criterion trump the other criteria?  Some of the things God makes are new, such as a newborn child; but other things God has made are old, such as the Grand Canyon, the earth itself, and the universe.  So in God's case, his creativity is not measured by the time in which the creativity took place; it must satisfy other criteria.

"Indeed, when people talk about "contemporary" music, they are not, in fact, referring to the date of composition.  The people who promote contemporary music, for instance, are not promoting the hymns of a twentieth century hymn-writer such as E. Margaret Clarkson (b. 1915; d. 2008), whose hymns, though recently written, do not sound as though they were recently written.  Nor are they promoting the fourteen hymns cowritten by the late James Montgovery Boice (d. 2000) and Paul S. Jones, written just a little over a decade ago.  Thus, not only is contemporary not an adequate or appropriate aesthetic criterion, it is not even an accurate criterion.  People who use it actually mean something like this: a cluster of musical choices (primarily that the song be accompanied by a guitar) that have the aggregate effect of making a piece of music sound as though it were recently composed.  What we call contemporary music, then, is actually music that sounds contemporary.  Using such language would clarify the conversation, but it still would not answer the question of why some people prefer music that sounds conteporary.  And it still would not justify contemporary-sounding as an aesthetic or liturgical criterion, at least without further argumentation."

Gordon's point is that contemporary-sounding is seemingly the only criterion we now use in many evangelical and Reformed churches to determine what we should sing, and this is absurd.  We no longer look at, for instance, these kinds of considerations that are found in the front of the Psalter Hymnal  of the Christian Reformed denomination in 1976:

"PRINCIPLE: THE MUSIC OF THE CHURCH SHOULD BE APPROPRIATE FOR WORSHIP

1. The music of the church should be liturgical --- In spirit, form, and content is must be a positive expression of Scripturally religious thought and feeling.  It should serve the ministry of the Word.

2. The music of the church should be beautiful --- Its religious thought or spirit should be embodied appropriately in the poetry as poetry, in the music as music, and in the blending of these in song.  It should satisfy the aesthetic laws of balance, unity, variety, harmony, design, rhythm, restraint and fitness which are the conditions of all art."

Then, follow a number of "Implications," just a couple of which I will list and comment on:

1.  "The music of the church should represent the full range of the revelation of God."  In other words, the content of our songs go beyond just the category of praise, just as the Psalms include, instruction, wisdom, lament, confession, prayer, trust, exhortation, etc.  Also, the songs we sing must faithfully echo the revelation of God.

2. "The poetry of the songs should be good poetry."  Read some of the contemporary choruses we routinely sing in church.  Is this really good poetry to be used in the worship of our glorious God?  Here is a song we used to sing at the PCA church I attended.  Judge for yourself the poetry (the form) and the content of these words and whether this is good enough to put on the lips of Jesus' people:

Jesus, be the center
Be my source, be my light
Jesus

Jesus, be the center
Be my hope, be my song
Jesus

(Chorus)
Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in these sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus, Jesus

Jesus, be my vision
Be my path, be my guide
Jesus
(Chorus)

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in these sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus, Jesus

(Instrumental solo)

Be the fire
Yes, Be the fire
(Chorus)

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in these sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus, Jesus

Jesus, be the centre
Be my source, be my light
Jesus
Be my source, be my light
Jesus
Jesus
Jesus
Jesus
Jesus

I'm not an expert on poetry, but I don't think this qualifies as good poetry, nor would it move anyone to love Jesus or serve him, because  of its content.  It doesn't tell us who Jesus is, what he did for us, and why we should trust and love him.  So why do we sing this tripe that any Mormon would be happy to sing with us?  Apparently, the fact that the music that accompanies it sounds contemporary is enough of a reason to sing it.  "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" does not have a contemporary sound, so we are justified in not singing it!  But read the content and the poetry of O Sacred Head Now Wounded and make a biblical judgment --- a "right judgment" as our Lord taught us to make (John 7:24) on which is better, Jesus Be the Center or O Sacred Head, Now Wounded?  Which of these will lead us to truly worship, trust and love our triune God?  Which better heeds the commands found in the Psalms concerning the praise of our Lord (see, for example, Psalm 105:1-3, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 136, Psalm 150:1-2)?  Here is O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, whose words are unknown to many in the church because we are busy singing Jesus Be the Center and songs like it.

1 O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame bowed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

2 What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
Was all for sinners' gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour:
'Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favour,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

3 The joy can ne'er be spoken,
Above all joys beside,
When in thy body broken
I thus with safety hide.
Lord of my life, desiring
thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy Cross expiring,
I'd breathe my soul to Thee.

4 What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine for ever;
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love for Thee.

5 Be near when I am dying,
O show Thy Cross to me;
And for my succour flying,
Come, Lord, to set me free.
These eyes, new faith receiving,
From Jesus, shall not move;
For he, who dies believing,
Dies safely, through Thy love.

Instead of trumpeting "contemporary worship" in our churches, we should be seeking and promoting worship that is reverent, profound, and meaningful --- worship in which Jesus Christ is offered to us each Lord's Day in Word and sacrament --- a time in which we might truly commune with the Lord as He speaks to us by his law and gospel and we respond to Him in confession, trust, and praise.

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