Sunday, August 28, 2016

The God of Revelation

Colossians 2:6-10
8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

The variety of religious beliefs in the world is staggering. As a result of our rebellion against our Creator in the beginning, we have tried to hide from Him while retaining a vestige of religiosity. From the Tower of Babel to the modern secular state, we have sought out false gods to soothe our guilty conscience and receive our adoration.

Paul warns us in our text today that we need to beware falling prey to these false belief systems – systems that may have the appearance of wisdom in the traditions of men but which in fact rob us of wisdom and knowledge. Paul characterizes all non-Christian worldviews as empty deceit or vanity – emptiness. False religions make alluring promises to ensnare unsuspecting men and women – peace with god, peace with your neighbor, enlightenment, reabsorption into the One, freedom from the body, or even indulgence of bodily lusts. Like a hologram, these promises sometimes look solid; however, they are really empty and hollow. Why? Because all these philosophies are based on the traditions and speculations of men – men like you and me. Men who wet their beds when they’re little and start going senile when they’re old. Men who get sick and die. Men who have headaches and have a hard time thinking. Men who are prejudiced and make unwarranted assumptions. Men who are anything but omniscient and accurate describers of the world around them. Men who fall under Solomon’s judgment, Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity.

So what makes Christianity different from all these systems? Aren’t Christians subject to the same limitations? Yes and were we dependent upon our ability to search out and discover the truth we too would be lost. But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Our Almighty and Eternal Father considered our lost estate and sent His only Son to become flesh and dwell among us that He might seek out and save us – revealing to us His person and paying the penalty for our folly that we might not be left in futility. The Christian faith finds its origin not in the vain speculations of finite men but in the solid revelation of the infinite God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So Paul warns us – beware lest anyone take you captive through empty deceit – religious speculations which are based on the opinions and traditions of men rather than the revelation of Almighty God.

Reminded of our propensity as sinners to turn away from God’s revelation and substitute in its place our own fancies and imaginations, let us kneel before the Triune God and confess our sin to Him. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An Everlasting Inheritance

"For an everlasting possession (Gen 48:4). We have elsewhere shown the meaning of this expression: namely, that the Israelites should be perpetual heirs of the land until the coming of Christ, by which the world was renewed... For that portion of land was promised to the ancient people of God, until the renovation introduced by Christ: and now, ever since the Lord has assigned the whole world to his people, a fuller fruition of the inheritance belongs to us."

John Calvin, Commentary upon the Book of Genesis

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What are we to teach our kids and why?

Psalm 78:5-8 (NKJV)
For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; 8 And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The opening of Psalm 78 is a fitting text for Family Camp with its mention of multiple generations – fathers and children and grandchildren. The psalmist reminds us both what God has commanded fathers to teach their children and why He has commanded us to do so.

First, what are we to teach? The text answers, God established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, and it is this testimony, this law that fathers are to teach their children. As God commanded Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” The Word of God is to saturate our homes, permeate our lives, adorn our tables, and characterize our interaction.

So why are we to teach these things to our children? Why are we to teach them the stories of Scripture, the promises of Scripture, and the warnings of Scripture? The psalmist reminds us that our purpose is not merely to fill the minds of our children with facts. Knowing what Scripture teaches is important, but this knowledge is not an end in itself. By the grace of God, this knowledge is to move, touch, and transform our children. Notice what the psalmist declares:
[We teach] That the generation to come might know them [here is the knowledge level – but note it doesn’t stay here], The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments;

Notice that our instruction serves several purposes. So, kids, take note what you are supposed to be learning from your parents. First, you are to learn the importance of giving this information, this instruction, to your children. You are going to grow up. Most likely, you are going to have children yourself. God expects you to give your kids the same Word of God you have received.

Second, God is giving you this instruction so that you might put your hope in Him. The world wants to offer you various objects of hope. Put your hope in sexual liberation; put your hope in a great education; put your hope in diversity; put your hope in a change of government; put your hope in health care; put your hope in your ability to defend yourself. The Word teaches you to put your hope in God. He will not betray you; He will not desert You; all His promises will reach their fulfillment; He is entirely trustworthy.

Third, God is giving you this instruction so that you will keep His commandments. When we learn the stories of Scripture, one of the things we learn is the seriousness with which God takes His Word and the faithfulness with which He judges His people when they ignore it. Obeying God and keeping His commandments is not optional.

The psalmist reminds us to consider, therefore, both the content and purpose of our instruction. We are to teach the Word of God not just to fill the mind but to touch the heart, move the will, and shape the conscience. Parents, how are we doing? Is the Word of God at the center of your homes? Children, how are we doing? Are you not just learning the facts but letting the facts touch your heart, shape your hope, and transform your lives?

Reminded that the Word of God is to be at the center of our family culture, let us kneel and confess that we have often neglected it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Called to Contentment

Philippians 4:10-13 (NKJV)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

On several occasions I have shared the ancient Roman proverb, “Who is it that has the most? Is it not he who desires the least?”

What Paul and this short proverb are endeavoring to communicate is that our contentment and happiness are directly proportionate to our expectations. We imagine that we need more, deserve more, are entitled to more and so we are not content with what we already have. We set our expectations so high that they are never met and so we are never content. And our discontent reveals itself in a lack of thankfulness to others and to God. For thankfulness is an expression of contentment—an expression that the expectations we have set have been fulfilled or even exceeded.

These expectations come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they focus on our circumstances – if I only had more money; a nicer car; a newer phone; a bigger house; a larger budget. Sometimes they focus on our relationships. We can set unreasonable expectations upon our spouses, our employers and employees, our children, our friends—and so we never thank them for the meal on the table, for the folded towels in the closet, for the daily labor at the office, for the opportunity to work, for the work performed, or for the frequent sacrifices made on our behalf. “It’s his or her job to do all those things,” we say to ourselves, and so we never express thankfulness—never look at others with a twinkle in our eye and a full heart and say, “Thank you.” Our expectations are set so high that no one could ever possibly meet them. We demand of others what we would never demand of ourselves. Consequently, no circumstances however favorable could conspire to make us content.

But this was not Paul’s situation. He tells us that he had learned the secret of being content. What is that secret? Paul came to understand that what is most important in life is not our circumstances but the God who has given these circumstances to us. Let us ask ourselves, when tempted to be discontent and unthankful – Is God sovereign? Is God in control of every event in our lives both good and bad? Has God orchestrated our circumstances as He sees fit? Has God promised in Christ to sustain me in the midst of every circumstance? Clearly the answers to these questions are, “Yes!” And since this is the case, and since the God we serve is the same God of love who has revealed Himself in Christ, ought we not to trust Him? To rest in His good providence and be overflowing with gratitude? As Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” True contentment comes not by having high expecations of our circumstances but by trusting the goodness of our Heavenly Father who has given them to us and promises to sustain us in them.

Reminded of our failure to trust the Lord in any and every circumstance and our failure to be thankful, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.