29 May 2010

Living Water

The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a reminder of man’s propensity to pollute the earth. For all sorts of reasons, such as greed and sinful ambition, he fouls the environment and endangers life. The oil spill is just one example of how this celestial globe lies defiled under its inhabitants (Is 24:5). An ocean region teeming with life is now a contaminated ecosystem where birds, mammals, shellfish and other organisms find it difficult to survive. As the creation groans we do so inwardly under such a burden as this. What a tragedy! It is a reminder that apart from the wise and gracious providence of God, this earth would have been uninhabitable long ago. Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth, preserves and governs the natural order, yet offers something better.
The Samaritan woman marveled when He mentioned as one of His amenities living water (Jn 4:11). Her misinterpretation of it as a physical provision led Him to contrast the short-term quenching qualities of Jacob’s well water with the eternally-satisfying character of His (vv. 13-14). Christ’s water goes beyond that which teems with life. It is living water. The polluted resources in the Gulf give pause for reflection and reason for sorrow. Man should be a better steward. But there is cause for rejoicing as we ponder the rich, unlimited supply of heavenly irrigation that is offered in Jesus. It is a spiritual resource that cannot be spoiled by human greed and sinful ambition. It cannot be polluted but can purify the foulest sinner. Jesus offers Himself as a reservoir of blessing that is of absolute purity, eternal duration, and infinite extent. He is the fountain of life. Man’s pollution fouls the earth’s water. Christ’s water removes the soul’s pollution. It is an amazing contrast. May you drink from this fountain of living water and rejoice!

26 May 2010

Sunken Treasure

Not long ago, treasure seekers discovered a vast horde of ancient gold coins at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. After years of expensive endeavors and costly failures they finally "struck gold." It was a once in a lifetime find and everyone associated with it instantly became rich. But while this brought unusual "padding" to their bank accounts, it did nothing for their heavenly reward. In fact, the vast wealth now available to the discoverers was a huge temptation to greed. For that reason, it was "sunken treasure"!

Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Lk 12:34). That for which we spend ourselves and our resources will rivet our affections. The discoverers devoted all their time, energy, and resources to finding sunken treasure. Part of its “sunken-ness” has to do with its temporality. It fades. It does not last. It will eventually perish. But heavenly treasure is eternal. That means if we focus our efforts on and spend ourselves for the things of God, then our wealth is forever preserved in heaven. But if our hearts are set upon the things of this earth, then our treasure will be short-lived. Worldly possessions spoil and are spoiled. They have the potential of choking the soul out of its hold on the truth, are easily stolen and may be destroyed by both seen and unseen forces. Scripture teaches that spiritual riches ennoble the soul and neither rust nor may be taken away. Why settle for "sunken treasure" when you can have heavenly riches that will not spoil with the keeping, not waste with the spending, and not disintegrate with the passage of ages? Jesus guarantees that if you seek, you will find (Mt 7:7). And you need not dive to the bottom of the ocean!

25 May 2010

The Irony of Unbelief

At the feast, the people were unbelieving. This despite the fact that Jesus had done so many signs before them (Jn 12:37). The world itself could not contain the books if records had been kept of all that He had done (Jn 21:25). A great light had shone. Its brilliance was stunning. Yet, they stubbornly refused to receive the testimony of His miracles and acknowledge Him as God's Son. The continuous aspect of the verb indicates an ongoing refusal to believe despite the radiance of His light. So Isaiah's prediction had come true (many times over), and these folks persisted in their unbelief. Jerusalem housed the spiritually blind, deaf and dumb. How tragic for them. How insulting to Jesus. How defiant before the Majesty who had thundered from heaven (Jn 12:29).

The plot thickens when John reveals the result of their unbelief, which was more unbelief. He writes, Therefore they could not believe (v. 39). Literally, they were not able to believe. Divine judgment had come in the form of spiritual blindness and hardening (v. 40). Sadly the Jews had no idea their own unbelief signaled both their guilt and (provisional) punishment. If persisted in, their unbelief would incur the full weight of divine fury hereafter. For now, they were storing up wrath through unbelief, incurring the judgment of more unbelief, and increasing their burden as well as adding to their guilt.

I'm reminded of Jesus' words: To the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away (Mt 13:12). Almost certainly those crowds did not recognize unbelief as a form of judgment. Lightning bolts had not struck, the earth had not swallowed, the waters had not transgressed their boundaries. Life seemed good. Little did they know that spiritual thunder bolts had struck stripping them further of any opportunity to receive Christ. Their unbelief was both a sin and punishment.

How often today do people mistake their freedom to sin as proof of heaven's impotence or indifference. Such a mistake is typically made by the spiritually blind, deaf and dumb. Clearly whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (Jn 3:36). As children of wrath, born and bred under the Judge's frown, they simply incur a greater penalty and retain less opportunity by persisting in their unbelief. That is the judgment. May the Lord keep us from stubbornly refusing to receive Christ whose light shines brightly in the pages of Scripture.

24 May 2010

Hearing His Word

The advance of modern technology has its disadvantages. Along with better communication and more effective cures it brings with it a constant barrage of distractions. The seemingly infinite number of calls, emails, texts, and commercials tends to interrupt our concentration on things that matter most. But then, the world's countless distractions have always been problematic. For example Martha was tempted to distraction by household chores for she was anxious and troubled about many things.

In this situation Mary's example is instructive. As a godly woman she was no less hospitable than her sister. Yet when Jesus arrived she sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching (Lk 10:39). The preposition at, perhaps better rendered toward, suggests a posture of humble receptivity. Mary's entire focus was Christ-ward. She digested every word. It required conscious effort, for it meant refusing to let otherwise good things distract her from the one thing necessary (v. 42). Mary's priorities were straight. Her mind was alert. Her attention was riveted. It was to her as if time stood still and like Wesley’s experience centuries later, her heart was strangely warmed.

The contrast between Mary and Martha is not one of faith and unbelief. Rather it is one of focus and distraction. Both women loved Jesus. But only one at His feet enjoyed undistracted fellowship with Him. To which are you most prone? We are not ignorant of the devil's schemes. If he can't dissuade you from believing the truth, he will try to distract you from hearing the word. It is a subtle method of taking away from us the good portion (v. 42). In a day of unprecedented hustle and bustle, what steps have you taken to ensure a posture of humble receptivity to what is most important in life? Are your priorities straight? Do you resolutely make time for the one thing necessary?

22 May 2010

Christ's Humanity

The humanity of Jesus is extremely important to the Christian faith. Our confessional documents echo Scripture unambiguously as they inform us about this important truth. For instance, the Shorter Catechism says, "Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul" (#22). In the Nicene Creed we read that Jesus, "the only begotten Son of God... was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." He was one of us, in our nature, sharing humanity, equipped to experience the temptations common to man, yet without sin. What an incredible, awe-inspiring mystery!
We find a thought-provoking example of His humanity in the record of Lazarus' death. When Jesus observed Mary and others around her weeping the text says, "He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled" (Jn 11:33). Some translate it, "He groaned in the spirit." According to Robertson, the verb carries the notion of snorting with anger like a horse. Jesus was indignant. There is some debate as to what was the object of His anger. I don't believe it was because He was perturbed by hypocritical mourning, but because He was angry at Satan's short-lived triumph over one whom He loved deeply. Christ was human, He was angry (without sin), and righteous indignation welled up within Him. Then it says He wept (v. 35). How human!
It also says He was "greatly troubled." Jesus became disturbed, upset, stirred up by this whole episode. Of course He knew it would serve to glorify God as Lazarus came forth in stunning fashion. But the man Jesus had a profound sense of sorrow as He beheld the misery caused by the devil's work. The collective sobbing moved Him so that His soul was agitated with a fellow feeling of their grief. His own spirit, His human spirit, was troubled in the presence of death. He was truly man with a soul that felt deeply the pangs of loss in a fallen world. Thank God for a Redeemer who is gentle and sympathetic. His compassion flows freely and abundantly to those for whom He came to die, on whom grief descends, and with whom He shares a common nature.
With gratitude we can love and admire our divine Savior who was able to bear the infinite weight of God's wrath in our place and save us to the uttermost. At the same time, we should thank God that Jesus is man who was fit for bearing that wrath and capable of sympathizing with us as an elder brother, an everlasting Father, and a compassionate high priest. Let us not fail to see the love of our Savior who assumed humanity for our sake and for our comfort.

21 May 2010

Familiarity & Contempt

It has been said, "Familiarity breeds contempt." Familiarity is a wonderful thing, especially when it describes one's relationship to God. But when twisted by sin, it can trigger a despicable response. Our culture's general disdain for anything Christian is an illustration of this. It scorns those ideas and convictions that served to undergird our nation's structure. Familiarity with our founding principles has bred contempt. The alarming result is an erosion of the collective commitment to what is true, honorable, just, commendable and excellent (Php 4:8). Sadly, the contemporary Church is not immune from such attrition. While regularly handling sacred things she seems to have lost much of her appreciation for those hallowed privileges entrusted to her by Christ.

Jesus taught that those who saw gospel works and heard gospel words would be truly blessed. This has been fulfilled in our day. Our generation enjoys the blessings of which He spoke. More blessed are we than many prophets and kings who desired to see and hear gospel things, and did not (Lk 10:24). The best, the brightest and the most influential of the Old Testament longed to behold the fulfillment of ancient promises. But they were unable because they did not live to see the gospel age. Today, even the humblest Christian has access to these glorious mysteries. The most unassuming believer is in a more exalted position than John the Baptist himself (Mt 11:11). By grace alone we are living in the latter days. We regularly see proof of God’s miracles of grace in human lives. We routinely hear glad tidings of great joy about Christ's cross and resurrection. Do we cherish these amazing gospel privileges? Do we fully appreciate our place in history? Oh, let not sin pervert the familiarity we have with Jesus. Consider His Person. Ponder his benefits. Deal not falsely like the other familiar friend (Ps 55:13).

20 May 2010

New Testament Conjunctions

Someone has said the conjunctions of the New Testament are the most important words in the Greek text. Whether or not this is true, it can be said with certainty that conjunctions are small but powerful words guiding the flow of New Testament thought. We see this, for example, in the discussion between Jesus and the Jews during the Feast of Dedication.

The Lord was walking in the portico of Solomon when the Jews surrounded Him to continue their ongoing interrogation. Their skeptical and unbelieving attitude intruded itself by demanding another self-disclosure from Jesus that He is the Christ. "I told you and my works testify about me," He responded. Then came the crucial statement, "You do not believe because you are not part of my flock" (Jn 10:26). It is a fascinating response with profound theological implications flowing from the conjunction "because."

The reason why the Jews do not believe, He says, is their exclusion from those who are His sheep. One might have expected Him to say their exclusion from His flock is the result of their unbelief. But if that were meant, the conjunction would have been "hoste" (so that) or "hina" (in order that). In this text, the word "hoti" (because) is used. Infinite wisdom and authority employs it to introduce the ground of their unbelief, not its result.

An appreciation for the conjunction and a careful reading of the "hoti clause" is crucial for understanding this text. Jesus is not saying their exclusion from the sheep is the outcome of their unbelief. Rather, He is saying their exclusion from the sheep is the basis for their unbelief. Christ did not say, "You do not believe so that you are not of my sheep." Rather, He said, "You do not believe because you are not of my sheep." Simply put, the Jews refused to believe because they were not elect people. They were not the objects of redemptive love. They had not been chosen by God. That is one of amazing ironies of Scripture! The chosen were not among the chosen.

Of course, this does not lessen their responsibility. The Jews who were interrogating Jesus bore full responsibility for their hard, unbelieving response. It was their sin for which they would have to give an account. But with this statement (and this conjunction) Jesus pulls back the curtain and subtly reveals one of those secret things belonging to God. According to His infinite wisdom, the sovereign God had passed by these fallen men leaving them in their unbelief. Unless they subsequently repented, of which we have no record, they not only lived in skepticism but died and perished in it as well.

So nothing short of sovereign grace and eternal election is implied by the "hoti clause." That little conjunction carries a lot of weight! It is significant that Jesus affirmed the inspiration and authority of "every jot and tittle," or in the words of the ESV, every iota and dot (Mt 5:18). That means every conjunction is inspired and authoritative. The Holy Spirit speaks through the "hoti clause." Careful study of the New Testament Greek in general and New Testament conjunctions in particular is not only rewarding but critical for understanding what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

19 May 2010

Tiger's Tiger

News of Tiger Woods’ infidelities rocked the world. His double life finally caught up with him, and it cost him dearly. He lost his sponsors, his wife and his dignity, and a horrified public scratched their heads saying, “How could he have done such a thing?” From those shocking revelations most concluded that he was overcome by an illness – an addiction - which destroyed his image. What he needs, they say, is a good dose of therapy. But what our culture wrongly describes as an addiction requiring treatment is correctly identified in Scripture as a sin that demands repentance. What that means, at least in part, is that Tiger’s problem is far more urgent and dangerous than people think.

Adultery is not a symptom but a sin. It is the outworking of an indwelling principle of iniquity that plagues every one of us. Indeed, in each heart sin crouches at the door seeking to devour, and unless one does well, he will not rule over it (Gen 4:7). Therefore Tiger has a “tiger” on his hands. He’ll need more than treatment because he is in for a fight. The poignant reality is that he is no match for this sinister beast. It has devoured the best this world has to offer. So like every other sinner Tiger must obtain power from outside himself if he has any hope of mastering the fiend. More specifically, he will need the radical and regenerative influence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, if he ever hopes to prevail. His golf prowess pales in comparison to the prowess of sin to dupe and destroy. Therefore to win this match He must look to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2), and humbly rely on the indwelling Spirit’s life-giving and heart-transforming energy. Only then will Tiger Woods be whole in One.

18 May 2010

The Role of the Man in Marriage

We are continuing our series of sermons on marriage at Redeemer Church and below is next sermon, Sons of Adam.

17 May 2010

Shameless Persistence

We live in a society of quitters. Marriages fail, companies collapse, careers cease, and lives are lost all because people give up too easily. In a word, we as a culture lack staying power. Sadly this tendency has infiltrated the church. It is alarming how often professing Christians parroting the culture abandon their commitments, renounce their convictions, and give up the pursuit of holiness. They do so simply because they refuse to persevere in following Christ, in walking with the Spirit, and in doing good.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the arena of prayer. In "closet contests" modern Christians seem to have lost the determination to prevail like that which motivated Jacob at Peniel (Gen 32:25). Perhaps this is one reason why the contemporary church finds her task so difficult. She will overcome not by might nor by power but by God's Spirit, who is given in answer to prayer (Lk 11:13). But she is not praying! As pray-ers we must persevere that we may enjoy success in the Christian life. In fact, one must be shamelessly persistent in prayer if he is to obtain whatever he needs (Lk 11:8). That is so counter-cultural! Rather than giving up and crying foul when our desire for instant gratification is foiled, we must stick with it on our knees in asking, seeking, and knocking! In time through persistence our minds and hearts will be properly aligned and suitably poised to receive the good things God has so graciously and generously designed for us. Those desires offered to Him for things agreeable to His will shall be satisfied through our diligent and dogged pursuit of answers from heaven. Isn't this what characterized Jesus Himself, whose greatest work was the fruit of persistent prayer (Mk 14:36)? Let us walk in the same way He walked (1Jn 2:6).

15 May 2010

Evil Genes

A recent study by Swedish researchers claims a common gene variant (or allele) found in both men and rodents regulates a hormone that can affect a husband’s fidelity to his spouse. Without the gene variant, a man is more likely to be faithful, but with it, the possibility of infidelity is increased. One psychologist views this as a positive tool for proactive marriage counseling, though he admits there is some danger associated with its use as a defense for adultery.

While some consider this as something of a breakthrough in genetics research, the real discovery here has to do more with the researchers studying than the subjects studied. In other words, this appears to be just another in a long line of sinful attempts at justifying fallen man in his sinfulness. It illustrates how men seek to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Ro 1:18). Knowing that such things deserve death, “they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Ro 1:32). Blaming a gene for immorality tries to remove the sting from a guilty conscience. In fact, the real reason for infidelity is the sinful, human heart, “for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery…” (Mt 15:19). To counsel an unfaithful husband that “his genetics made him do it” is folly. The cause is sin, and the only remedy for an unfaithful spouse is the grace of Jesus Christ, who is able to forgive, renew, and restore a man and his marriage. If one will but trust in Him and repent of his sin, he will experience real reform. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Is 55:7).

14 May 2010

Engraved Names

Our culture is not just fascinated by but obsessed with the beautiful, the impressive, the dazzling and spectacular. As that fixation on celebrities and celebrity-ism bleeds into the church, Christians are more apt to esteem great gifts among their ranks than divine grace within their hearts. It was no different with the disciples, who greatly rejoiced when they were authorized to suppress the demons themselves in their gospel ministry. Upon returning from one of their evangelistic "crusades" they jointly celebrated their ability to subject even the spiritual forces themselves (Lk 10:17).

Jesus' response is both instructive and heartening. He said, "Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are engraved in heaven" (Lk 10:20). It is not as celebrities that we will experience our deepest joy and know our greatest pleasure. Rather, it will be as adopted sons and daughters of God, endowed with all the family privileges that we will know our utmost delight. As an ancient scribe with a stylus would etch the name in a stone tablet, so God has etched the names of His elect children in the Lamb's book of life (Rev 21:27). It is permanent, ineradicable, impossible to remove! This helps put into proper perspective the whole notion of spectacular gifts. While the Lord variously equips His servants for ministry on earth, what matters most is one's membership in heaven. The beautiful, impressive, dazzling and spectacular that so impress men here will make no difference there. It will all fade away. But our place and position in God's family will never wane. The mountains will sing and the trees will clap as we go out in joy (Is 55:12). So we have reason to rejoice!

13 May 2010

Living the Cruciform Life

Excellent sermon by our guest speaker last Sunday, Dr. Nelson Kloosterman.

12 May 2010


The recent hurricanes in New Orleans and Texas have been described as “natural disasters.” Implying the destructive activity of some impersonal force, this explanation contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. It ascribes to these tempests meaning and purpose arising from the infinite wisdom and power of a personal God. “They saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For He commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea” (Ps 107:24f). As a king directs his army so the Lord raises and commands all the forces of nature. With only a word He wisely orders both winds and waves to mount up and accomplish His sacred aim. “I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Is 45:7).

This of course leads one to ask, “Why did He do it?” Ultimately it is the outworking of His good pleasure. He was pleased so to do. More specifically, according to Elihu, He causes it to happen “for correction or for his land or for love” (Job 37:13). That is, the recent hurricanes were sent for either punishment, mercy, or geographical improvement – or some combination thereof. The U.S.A. has enjoyed generations of God’s mercy, yet today more than ever its moral compass is out of kilter and its sense of gratitude is fast eroding. As a people it seems we have refused to listen, hated knowledge, and forsaken the fear of the Lord. Thus terror has struck “like a storm” and calamity has come “like a whirlwind” (Prv 1:27). This is a critical time. Let us not miss what these disasters are designed to teach. Indeed, as Jesus Himself so solemnly said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:5).

American Idol

The national phenomenon “American Idol” has been a huge success among TV programs. The show itself is actually one of the more wholesome and enjoyable forms of televised entertainment. It tends to display and develop real talent among aspiring singers, and encourages people of all ages and circumstances to appreciate musical and aesthetic excellence. For this reason the show itself has some redeeming qualities.

But the show’s title is strikingly bold and telling. Broadly speaking an idol is an object of extreme devotion. More narrowly, it is an object of worship, i.e. a false god. With this title the producers either consciously or unconsciously have identified one of the prevailing sins of our culture, viz. the idolatry of entertainment. Entertainment itself is not inherently wrong, but the worship of entertainment is. Occasional diversions from the demands of earthly toil can help refresh both body and soul. But when entertainment becomes an end in itself, it slips into idolatry. It has been said you can tell much about a people by looking at their heroes. If true, America is sunk in the idolatrous worship of “American idols”! Of course idolatry is nothing new. American culturehas always been tainted with it to one degree or another. Yet as moral authority in America deteriorates, people are becoming more bold, blatant, and abandoned in their expressions of idolatry. Previous generations would have blushed at the title “American Idol.” Modern Americans fail to see any harm in it. The only true and proper object of worship is the living and true God through Jesus Christ. “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1Cor 10:14).

11 May 2010

Are They For Us?

Parachurch organizations (those standing outside and alongside of the church) have always been controversial. For example, the disciples were troubled by an unauthorized exorcist because "he does not follow with us" (Lk 9:49). Today such organizations have multiplied in unprecedented numbers. Far from being a sign of ecclesiastical health, their proliferation implies church problems which they are designed to solve (e.g. evangelism, media, education, disaster relief). Sensing an unmet need, sincere Christians often take the initiative in devoting time, energy and resources to facilitate ministry in particular areas. The question for the church has always been, "Are they for us or against us?"Interestingly, when the disciples sought to impede the work of the "non-denominational" exorcist, Jesus corrected them saying, "Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you" (Lk 9:50). How illuminating! While the Bible identifies the Church as the divinely-appointed agent of gospel ministry, Jesus teaches us in this terse statement how to treat those who seek to glorify Him though they "do not follow with us." We are to exercise godly tolerance toward those sincere Christians who labor for the Kingdom not as a part of our church, not ordained as we are, and not in fraternal relations with us. He who believes in Christ and sincerely tries to serve Him will reach the same end even though he does not follow Him in the same way. We have plenty of enemies already. Why make more? Remember, "Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward" (Mk 9:41).