Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Make your pastor's labor light!

"In preaching the word there is some toil, and this Paul declares when he says, 'Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.' (1 Tim. v. 17) Yet it is in your power to make this labor light or heavy; for if you reject our words, or if without actually rejecting them you do not show them forth in your works, our toil will be heavy, because we labor uselessly and in vain: while if ye heed them and give proof of it by your works, we shall not even feel the toil, because the fruit produced by our labor will not suffer the greatness of that labor to appear. So that if you would rouse our zeal, and not quench or weaken it, show us, I beseech you, your fruit, that we may behold the fields waving with corn and being supported by hopes of an abundant crop, and reckoning up your riches, may not be slothful in carrying on this good traffic." 

John Chrysostom, Sermon on John 2:4.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ascension Sunday

Daniel 7:13-14 (NKJV)
“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Today is Ascension Sunday. On this day we celebrate the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, having taught the disciples for 40 days following His resurrection, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Ascension Day was actually last Thursday – 40 days since Easter. However, we haven’t yet reached the point of celebrating Ascension Day during the week and so we celebrate it on the Sunday following.

But why celebrate this event at all? What’s so important about the Ascension? The prophet Daniel helps us answer these questions. In chapter 7 Daniel has a vision of various animals or beasts that would rule the kingdoms of the earth in the centuries to come: a lion with eagle’s wings; a bear with three ribs in its mouth; a leopard with four wings; and, finally, a great beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong, having iron teeth with which it devoured all other kingdoms. Daniel’s visions clearly anticipated the rise of the Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman Empires.

As Daniel was meditating on these visions and wondering what they might mean, something else happened. Suddenly the Son of Man, a human figure not an animal or beastly figure, appeared. (You may recall that this title “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite.) This Son of Man came up to the Ancient of Days (note that this is not describing the Second Coming, but the Ascension); He comes up to the Ancient of Days, the Ruler over all earthly kingdoms, and what happens? The Ancient of Days gave the Son of Man dominion, glory, and a kingdom – in other words, He transferred power from the animal kingdoms to the Son of Man.

So here’s the question: power over what? Over just the land of Israel? Over just the people of God? No. The Ancient of Days makes the Son of Man Ruler over all the nations of the earth. Listen to Daniel: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.” The dominion that the beastly kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome had exercised over the earth is replaced with the rule of the Son of Man.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus reigns, let the earth be glad! Jesus reigns, let the nations rejoice! The rule of the beasts of the earth, the governmental principle that might makes right, has come to an end to be replaced by the rule of the Son of Man and the exaltation of justice. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” And the first thing He did, on the day of Pentecost, was pour out His Spirit upon His people to enable them to carry the message of His reign throughout the earth.

Reminded that Jesus is Lord of all, Ruler of all, and that it is Him that all men, nations, and languages are to serve, that it is Him we are to proclaim as King of kings and Lord of lords, let us confess that our nation refuses to honor Him and that we Christians frequently fail to bear witness to Him. Let us kneel as we confess.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Glory of Male and Female

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV)
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Some of you may recall studying Plato’s doctrine of the forms when you were a student. For Plato the world we see about us, the world that we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell is a world of shadows that only dimly reflects the real world, the immaterial world of the forms. For example, corresponding to the imperfect circles that we draw in this world is an ideal circle in the world of the forms. The closer our circles get to that form, the nearer perfection they also get.

The ways in which Plato’s idea of the forms impacted Greek civilization are myriad, some good and some bad. In the bad category is the way in which it impacted the Greek perception of humanity. For the Greeks almost uniformly insisted that the ideal human form was male – and, remember, the closer one gets to the form, the closer one gets to perfection.

Consider two implications of this myth for Greek culture. First, the Greeks openly tolerated and even praised the perversions of sodomy, homosexuality, and pederasty. After all, if the perfect form is male then why shouldn’t one male be attracted to the perfect form of another, whether adult or child?

Second, the Greeks degraded women and viewed them as a lesser form of human since they were further from the ideal. Consequently, the more like men women became the more “human” they became. So the legends of the Amazonians were spread by men who wanted women to be more like, you guessed it, men.

Notice the contrast between this ancient Greek fable, with its exaltation of perversion and denigration of women, and the revelation of God in Genesis. Here in Genesis we are told that God made man in His image, according to His likeness. But lest we travel down the Platonic sewer pipe, God informs us that by man He means male and female together. God created man, male and female, in His image after His likeness. It is not the male who is the image of God; nor is it the female who is the image of God; rather it is male and female together – unity and diversity in harmony – who bear the image of God and reveal the character of God.

So what does this mean? First, it means that God created men and women distinct so that they might join together in the covenant of marriage and enjoy sexual satisfaction. Our complementary sexuality was God’s idea – it was not a random mutation, not a fortuitous accident, not a meaningless roll of the dice. God created us male and female; God created our biology; consequently, God delights when a man pursues a woman with honor, commits himself to her alone, and directs his passions to pleasing her and enabling her to have children. God loves that type of romance; do you?

Second, it means that those of the opposite sex whom God has placed in our lives – whether wives or husbands, mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, sisters or brothers, or just friends – have been put there to teach us about Him. They, in company with us, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as women or as men. God created them as women and as men and He intends to teach us about Himself through them. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Reminded that sin has distorted our perception of the opposite sex and that we can tend to despise those who are different from us rather than receiving them in the fear of God, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jesus Honored His Mother

John 2:1–5 (NKJV)
1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

In honor of Mothers’ Day, I thought it would be fitting to remember that our Lord Jesus, the very One who existed eternally as the Word of God and who assumed a human nature for us and for our salvation, had a mother and learned to honor his mother throughout His earthly pilgrimage.

One of the greatest tests of Jesus’ honor for his mother is described in our text today. As I have read, when the wine ran out at this wedding, Mary urged Jesus to assist the bridegroom. Unfortunately, her request was entirely inappropriate – so much so, that Jesus felt compelled to correct her. “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” She was not the one to determine when His earthly ministry would begin.

And yet; and yet, Mary is confident that Jesus will honor her request. So she speaks to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Mary knew the character of her Son and knew that He would do this for her. And Jesus doesn’t disappoint. He turns the water into wine and, in so doing, reveals His glory and commences His public ministry.

There is an important lesson here for you children, especially for you sons. Note that even when Jesus’ mother asked something that was inappropriate given the circumstances, Jesus honored her and did what she requested. And if Jesus, the Lord of all, honored His mother’s request even when it was untimely, then how much more ought we children to honor our mothers when they make requests of us? In so far as we are able, let us fulfill the requests of our mothers – for Jesus has gone before us.

Often, however, we are too full of ourselves to sacrifice and die to our own desires on behalf of our mothers. We think of what our mothers are to do for us rather than what we are to do for them. But God calls us to honor our mothers even as our Lord Jesus did. As we see in our text, He commenced His ministry at her request. Further, one of His last actions was to provide for His mother’s welfare even while He was suffering on the cross, entrusting her to the care of the Apostle John (John 19:25-27).

So let me urge you fathers out there – one of your most important callings is to make sure that your children, especially your boys, respect and obey their mom. Your children should know that a non-negotiable in your home is disobeying mom. “You will honor your mother; you will obey your mother; or you will face me.” When mom is forced to say, “Just wait till your dad gets home!”, that should fill your child with a sense of dread. “Oh no! Now I’ve blown it!”

So today let us confess to God that we have neither treasured motherhood nor our own mothers as we ought. And let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.