Ascension Thoughts: Seeing Jesus Crowned – Rev.M.De Vries

The May 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer is out, and the meditation this time focuses our attention on the glorification of Jesus Christ in His ascension to heaven and sitting at God’s right hand. Rev.Michael DeVries, pastor of Kalamazoo PRC, is the author of this instructive and comforting article.

To view more of the content of this latest issue of the “SB”, click on the image to the left. For information about subscribing to this solidly Reformed periodical published by the RFPA, visit the link above.

Here are a few of Rev.M. DeVries’ thoughts on the glory of our ascended Savior-King:

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9

Like the multitudes of Jesus’ day many today want an earthly Jesus who will satisfy their carnal desires by creating an earthly kingdom of peace and prosperity. They minimize and ignore His ascension and its significance. But by grace we rejoice in the ascension and exaltation of Christ. We see how necessary it was for the salvation of the church. We understand that were Christ to have remained here on this earth, His coming in our flesh would contain no advantage for us at all.

But even more, by faith we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor at God’s right hand! No, we could not be there with the disciples to see this side of the ascension. But by faith we see Christ exalted on the glorious, heavenly side! We behold His coronation and see Him set at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, (Ephesians 1:20, 21). The very sight of Him in His glory ought to fill our hearts with joy and peace. And see Him we do according to this Word of God!

And then, after explaining the nature of this exaltation and its purpose in the plan of God for our salvation, Rev. DeVries closes a note of comfort:

What comfort the exaltation of Christ affords us! We may face the future with courage and confidence. With the natural eye what we see is frightening and discouraging. For as we note from the preceding verse, “But now we see not yet all things put under him.” We see man far, far lower than the angels, yea, in the depths of depravity. We see abounding iniquity and immorality. We see a generation of the ungodly having apparent control in this world, committing horrible atrocities. We see the faithful church hated and persecuted as never before. We see the powers of darkness increasing in their bold and wicked attempt to destroy the church of God. We see our place in this world becoming smaller and smaller.

…But let us not despair! For we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honor!

With the eye of faith we see Him in perfect control over all these enemies of the church. We see Him with the Book of the seven seals of God’s counsel. He faithfully and powerfully causes all things to come to pass which must shortly occur in order that He may return to glorify His Church. By faith we see that we are secure and that our salvation is absolutely sure. Seeing Jesus crowned with glory and honor means that the victory is already ours! We are now more than conquerors!

As long as we see Him there all is well. How blessed it is to look into heaven by faith and see Jesus there in His glory and honor, working all things for our good! Make no mistake, all things work together for good exactly because Christ was crowned with glory and honor for all those for whom He tasted death.

God Is His Own Answer – O.Strachan

TT May 2015This weekend’s Tabletalk devotional contained a fine little article by Dr. Owen Strachan dealing with the only answer that suffering people need. It is the answer of God Himself. You will understand what he means by that as you read on.

Scripture gives us a place to wrestle through the hard things of life. The psalmists in particular ask hard questions of their God (for example, Ps.22). But the Bible has a stronger answer than this. When biblical figures boggle at the realities of the human condition, God frequently directs His struggling people to one theological principle: His ‘Godness.’

We see this in Isaiah 40. The people of God feel abandoned. They do not have clean answers to their vexing queries. In response, the Lord offers point-by-point rebuttal. He leads His people to think afresh about Him [At this point, Strachan quotes Is.40:27-28].

…To a suffering people, Isaiah offers a simple but stunning prescription: God. The people need more of Him, and less of everything else.

…A skeptical age demands that heaven issue a press release when trials come: ‘Explain yourself, God!’ But the Lord does not immediately resolve every dilemma. Rather, He lifts our eyes to the hills. We contemplate His greatness. We consider the depth of love poured out in the death of Christ. We dry our eyes, and we remember afresh that our trials will soon fade, and we will live with this awesome God forever.

Which leads him to conclude with these words:

The human heart asks for precise accounting from God. His common reply is not a flashy sign but a reminder of His presence. In truth, it is not an explanation we need. It is the Godness of God. God, we could say, is His own answer (p.49).

These are good thoughts for us going to our Sunday worship.

The Prayers of J.Calvin (18)

JCalvinPic1On this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his seventeenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 4:23-30, which includes Calvin’s commentary on v.27, “For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.” Here is what he says on this passage:

I indeed allow that God’s threatenings cannot avail for our salvation, unless connected with the promise of pardon, so that being raised up by the hope of salvation we may flee to him: for as long as we deem God inexorable, we shun every access to him; and thus despair drives us into a rage like that of fiends. Hence it is that the reprobate rage so much against God, and make a great clamour: and they would willingly thrust him from his throne.

It is therefore necessary that a hope of salvation should be set before us, so that we may be touched with repentance: and as this promise is perpetual, whatever may happen, even if earth and heaven were mixed together, and ruin on every side were filling us with dread, we must still remember that there will be ever some remnant according to the passages we have referred to in the first and tenth chapters of Isaiah (pp.241-42).

And then follows this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that though we are torpid in our vices, we may yet be attentive to these examples of thy wrath, by which thou designest to warn us, so that we may learn by the misery of others to fear thee: and may we be also attentive to those threatenings, by which thou drawest us to thee, as thou failest to allure us by thy kindness: and may we, in the meantime, feel assured that thou wilt ever be propitious and merciful to all miserable sinners, who will from the heart seek thee and sincerely and unfeignedly repent; so that we may contend with our vices, and with real effort strive to deliver ourselves from those snares of Satan which he ever spreads for us, in order that we may more freely devote ourselves altogether to thee, and take such delight in thy righteousness, that our object and aim through the whole course of our life may be to please thee, and to render our services approved in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Amen (p.248).

Ecclesiastes 9: Living in Hope Now by Looking at Death in the Face

Eccles-GKeddieTomorrow night our men’s Bible study group will begin a new summer season by resuming our study of Ecclesiastes, this year picking up at chapter 9. In preparation, I have been reading in Gordon Keddies’ fine commentary on this OT book, titled Looking for the Good Life: The Search for Fulfillment in the Light of Ecclesiastes (P&R, 1991).

Keddie titles his commentary on chap.9:1-10 “Live in Hope!”, and it is from this section that I quote tonight. I found his comments instructive for how we as believers live in hope in the here and now while surrounded by a world bent on vanity and hopelessness. It has to do with how we face that last enemy, death. Read and learn:

     The living, in contrast [to the dead who “know nothing”, v.5b], have a great advantage. They ‘know that they will die’ (9:5a)! The sheer austerity of the statement takes one’s breath away! We who are alive have hope because (Qoheleth argues) we know that we will die some day! It seems almost trite or even derisive to suggest an idea like this. How can the inevitability of death become an engine of living hope?

The answer is found in the nature of biblical paradox. What seems so contradictory is in fact inseparably related and, in the plan of God, is designed to do us good. On an earlier occasion, Qoheleth [taken from the Hebrew name for the book] told us that ‘the day of death [is] better than the day of birth’ (7:1b). The reason for this, as we saw, was in the paradox that, if we are willing to think seriously about these things, death reaches into our inner-most being in such a way as to profoundly change the pattern of our future lives, whereas birthdays represent backward-looking sentiment that has no power to mold whatever future years God may give us.

In other words, we can take the prospect of death, concentrate our minds on where we are now, and redeem the days ahead in devotion to the Lord. Then, as that sublime biblical expositor, Archbishop Robert Leighton, so beautifully expressed it, ‘Death which cuts the sinews of all other hopes, and turns men out of all other inheritances, alone fulfills this hope, and ends it in fruition; as a messenger sent to bring the children of God home to the possession of their inheritance.’

So death, the enemy, is defeated by grace. And the first step in that transformation from defeat into victory is to look death squarely in the face in God’s terms and realize that there is a life in live, in Jesus Christ, that death shall never conquer. That is true hope (120).

Comfort for Suffering Saints – J.Zanchius

Absolute PredestinationI have referred to and quoted from “Grace Gems” devotionals many times, and yesterday’s (Saturday, May 2, 2015) was another outstanding one It is taken from Jerome Zanchius’ (or Zanchi) work on God’s sovereign predestination. This is taken from the section where Zanchius applies the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty to the suffering of God’s people (edited for easier reading and use).

No matter what form your suffering now takes, may these words bring us to our knees before our almighty Father – in submission, in worship, and in prayer. As God over ALL, He alone is worthy to be adored and praised!

Comfort for Suffering Saints!

(Jerome Zanchius, 1516-1590)

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son!” Romans 8:28-29

The sovereignty of God is a comfort for suffering saints, acting to remove anxiety. How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer!

1. There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God (Hebrews 11:6).

2. His love for His elect people is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it (Jeremiah 31:3).

3. Whatever comes to pass in time, is the result of His sovereign will from everlasting (1 Corinthians 8:6).

4. Consequently my afflictions are a part of His sovereign will, and are all ordered in number, weight, and measure (Psalm 22:24).

5. The very hairs of my head (every one) are counted by Him; nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His wise determination (Luke 12:7).

6. Hence my afflictions and distresses are not the result of chance, accident, or a fortuitous combination of circumstances (Psalm 56:8).

7. They are the providential accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose (Romans 8:28), and are designed to answer some wise and gracious ends (James 5:10-11).

8. Nor shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees fit (2 Corinthians 7:6-7).

9. He who brought the affliction to me–has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it (Psalm 34:15-17).

10. All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good.

11. Therefore, “Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” (John 18:11).

However keenly afflictions might wound us on their first access–yet, under the impression of such animating views, we should quickly come to ourselves again, and the arrows of affliction, would, in great measure lose their sharpness.

Christians need nothing but absolute resignation to God’s wise and gracious Providence, to render them perfectly happy in every possible circumstance. And absolute resignation can only flow from an absolute belief of, and an absolute acquiescence in, God’s absolute Providence, founded on His absolute predestination (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4).

Word Wednesday: Rise(n); Raise(d) – Rev.W.Langerak

SB-April15-2015For our word feature on this Wednesday, we turn to the latest Standard Bearer – April 15, 2015 – and post the most recent contribution of Rev.W. (Bill) Langerak to the “A Word Fitly Spoken” rubric. This one ties in nicely with our recent commemoration of Easter and our Lord’s resurrection.

Rise(n); Raise(d)

Rev. Bill Langerak

The gospel is that Jesus is risen from the dead. The good news is not merely that Christ died. Indeed, Jesus must die for our sins according to the Scriptures (1Cor. 15:3). But He must also rise (John 2:22). For if Christ is not risen, our faith is vain (1Cor. 15:14). A dead Jesus does us no good. A dead Jesus is no different from any other human. And Christians who believe only a dead Jesus are themselves still dead in sin (1Cor. 15:17). The complete, comforting, pure and powerful good news of salvation is that Jesus is risen from the dead, and if we confess this with our mouth and believe it in our heart, we also shall be saved (Rom. 10:9).

The good news of this gospel is derived from three truths concerning the resurrection. First, we are repeatedly taught (17 times in Acts alone) that God raised Jesus (Acts 2:32). This proves the impossibility of any salvation by the will or worth of man. So completely is salvation from beginning to end the work of God, even Jesus did not raise Himself up. God must raise Jesus by His Spirit (Rom. 8:11). Likewise, the same God who raised up the Lord, must also raise us up by His own power and grace (1Cor. 6:14). Eternal life is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23).

Secondly, Jesus is risen from the dead. This is why God must raise Him. Dead is dead. God raised Him because, having paid the wages of sin, it was impossible for death to hold Him any longer (Acts 2:24). And being raised, death has no more dominion over Him (Rom. 6:9) and this enemy will be destroyed (1Cor. 15:26). The Lord is risen to scatter His enemies (Num. 10:35), rule His adversaries (Num. 24:17), and stand over His fallen foes (Psa. 20:8). Risen, He has abolished death and brings life and immortality to light through the gospel (2Tim. 1:10).

Thirdly, He is risen. On the third day, God did not raise merely His body. But God raised His Son (1Thes. 1:10). He raised up Jesus and showed Him openly (Acts 2:24). Likewise we shall be raised. It is true this includes the quickening of our bodies (Rom. 8:11)—the same natural body sown in corruption, dishonor and weakness, is raised a spiritual body, incorruptible, glorious and powerful (1Cor. 15:42-44). But the really good news is God raises persons—and that if His Spirit dwell in us, then He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up (2Cor. 4:14).

Because God raises persons from the dead, the good news is that we need not wait until He raise our bodies to enjoy the benefits of His resurrection. Indeed it is true, that Christ is risen as the first fruits of them that sleep, so that when He returns we will awakened from slumber by trumpet sound, and in a blink of an eye raised incorruptible (1Cor. 15:20, 52). But the really good news is we are already risen. As we are buried with Him in baptism, we are now risen with Him through faith by the operation of God (Col. 2:12). And whosever lives and believes in Jesus shall never die (John 11:26). God is not the God of the dead, but God of the living (Mark 12:27).

God has given us assurance in that He raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31). Jesus is risen that we might have a living faith and hope in God (1Pet. 1:21). Faith believes that, as He was delivered to death for our offences, so He was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). Hope is certain that God, having raised up His Son, has delivered us from the wrath to come, and sent Him to bless us in turning us away from our iniquities (1Thes. 1:10; Acts 3:26).

Such faith worked by the Spirit of the risen Christ is powerful to make us alive unto good works. Now. It is as impossible that a living faith leave us unfruitful and remiss in a holy life, as it would be for those who believe this gospel to ignore Jesus at the trumpet’s call and remain unchanged in the grave (B.C., Art. 24). Christ was raised by the glory of the Father that we should walk in newness of life, and bring forth fruits unto God (Rom. 6:4; 7:4). As those alive from the dead, we yield our members instruments of righteousness unto God (Rom 6:13). Risen with Christ, we are made to sit together in heavenly places, to seek those things which are above where He sits on the right hand of God (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Good news indeed!

For more word studies like this, visit this page on the PRC website. They make for fine devotional material.

April “Tabletalk”: Tackling Shame – W. Duncan Rankin

Tackling Shame by W. Duncan Rankin | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015The fourth and final featured article in the April issue of Tabletalk is penned by Dr. W.Duncan Rankin, a PCA pastor and associate professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and at Reformation Bible College.

His article is titled “Tackling Shame”, and in it Rankin sets out to give us the Christian (biblical) answer to the reality of shame. Tracing the broad lines of this consequence of sin (“The Problem of Shame” and “The Secret to Shame”), Rankin shows us again that any hope for deliverance from this “binding and demoralizing” reality is not to be found in man but only in Christ:

So, how do we unravel our shame? Hope in self only maddens, as learned through our repeated failures and frustration. The secret to shame must lie outside of ourselves, in the only hope we have ever had—Jesus Christ our Lord. Through His cross, Jesus relieves our guilt, as well as its cousin, shame.

And so the author shows us how Jesus by His perfect work of suffering and dying for His people answers to our need for shame-deliverance:

Identifying with us in our shameful condition, Jesus represented and substituted for His own people. In His lifelong active obedience, He earned the perfect righteousness that grounds their peace and can transform their shame (2 Cor. 5:21). In His passive obedience, He took the highest and most monstrous form of our human shame personally to Himself; as the eternal Son of God, He embraced disgrace stretching from the depths of earth to the heights of heaven as no one else could do. On Calvary alone can the cruelty of human shame be rightly felt and measured. There our bounty is great (Rom. 6:23).

Our shame begins to unravel as we see His dear person and know His matchless work to be our own. United to Him by faith through the Holy Spirit, our whole position changes (Eph. 2:4–9). Redeemed and reconciled to our heavenly Father by the Son of His love, the basis of our true shame is dealt with and our alienation removed.

With this in view Rankin ends with these thoughts – good ones for all of us burdened with our own shameful sins – past and present:

Believers tackle shame in this way as they live the rest of their Christian lives by His grace and strength. This means that we need the means of grace that He has appointed—the Word read, preached, sung, prayed, and seen in the sacraments. We also need those secondary means of fellowship (Acts 4:32) and church discipline (Gal. 6:1). Using all these practical answers to our shame, we can sit up, crawl, walk, and run to God’s glory, unraveling and despising the shame that so easily entangles us.

The Flower – George Herbert

george herbertAs we close out the week, I searched for a poem fitting for contemplation during this season of Spring and new life, and this also being National Poetry Month. I love the poems of George Herbert, 1593-1633, and found this one to be fitting for us to mark these events. May it provide good food for your soul, as it did for mine.

How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev’n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasures bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.

Who would have thought my shrivl’d heart
Could have recover’d greenness? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an hour;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell.
We say amiss,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.

O that I once past changing were,
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Off’ring at heav’n, growing and groaning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring-shower,
My sins and I joining together:

But while I grow in a straight line,
Still upwards bent, as if heav’n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?

And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my only light,
It cannot be
That I am her
On whom thy tempests fell all night.

These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.

Published in: on April 25, 2015 at 10:36 PM  Leave a Comment  
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April “Tabletalk”: What Shame Does – James Coffield

What Shame Does by James Coffield | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015Last week Monday we began to take a look at the April 2015 issue of “Tabletalk”, with its theme of “shame.”

The second featured article on the subject I found to be rather “dark”, even difficult to read. That is due to the fact that the author (Dr. James Coffield serves as professor and director of counseling at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL) relates “what shame does” by means of a concrete example – a young man who took his life last year in part because of the shame of his sins.

As he explains the power of shame in the human soul, Coffield lays out the evil ways in which we can allow shame to control our attitudes and behavior. These steps are graphic – and realistic (isolation, fear of exposure, self-hate, etc.). While hard to read, it is necessary for us to understand “what shame does”, that is, when it is not handled with the grace and wisdom of God as found in the gospel of Christ.

Do not take this as criticism of Coffield and his article. The devastating power of shame needs to be exposed and addressed – concretely and biblically. For those who know this power of shame, we need to know there is comfort and hope in Christ alone.

Here is part of Coffield’s analysis of shame’s activity in sinners – and the answer that may be found in the gospel. To read the full article, visit the Ligonier link above.

Shame paradoxically gives the shame-based person the illusion of control. It allows us to feel as if we are capable of digging our own cisterns—If the problem is me, I can fix it. I don’t need to be dependent upon God or anyone else. I can fix me. A principle of life is that we only fight battles that we think we can win, and shame allows us to restructure reality and believe that we are the problem and the solution; therefore, we can win. Shame invites a person to carry the weight, and in doing so, provides a false sense of control. The shame-based person is allowed to carry this weight and not trust God or others, ever again. Luke’s story of glory was hijacked by shame, whereas the gospel of Luke tells us of glory burst forth from stories that were initially bathed in shame.

The biblical gospel of Luke includes stories of the disenfranchised: the leper, the paralytic, the infirm woman. Luke’s stories invite his readers to see Christ as the transformer and healer. Luke even begins the grand story of glory in a place that many would consider shameful: a stable with shepherds. God’s great story of glory is teeming with stories of the poor, the ill, the neglected, the scorned, but His presence turns the lowly into the exalted. As believers, our stories will be woven together and end in glory.

An Easter Gospel Question: Why Weepest Thou?

John 20-16For our thankful, joyous – and humble – Easter reflection on this Resurrection Sunday, well may we consider this exposition of John 20:11-17 by Rev. George Lubbers (1909-2001). He takes his theme from the risen Savior’s own words to weeping Mary on that first Easter morning, “Woman, why weepest thou?” It may be found here on the PRC website, where you will also find a link to its original source.

Though this Easter gospel question was directed to Mary Magdalene, it is relevant for all of us as we often sit weeping in our weakness of faith (or plain unbelief). Looking at our resurrected Lord this day, no matter what our circumstances may be, indeed why are we weeping?! Unless, of course, they are tears of joy and hope.

Here is the opening part of Rev.Lubbers meditation; find the rest at the link above.

Weeping Mary!

Standing at the open mouth of the grave of her Lord, Who had taken captivity captive! She weeps here at the open grave from whence, at this very moment, no doubt, the other Galilean women were hastening to the disciples and brethren, with fear and great joy, to tell the glad gospel story of the resurrection of Jesus, the crucified one!

How utterly incongruous! How this marvelous fact of the glorious resurrection, which shall turn all our sorrows into eternal and abiding joys, is hid from the weeping eyes of Mary!

The mighty angel of the Lord had suddenly descended from heaven not long prior to this time; he had rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb, and had sat upon it; he had proclaimed the Word of peace to the woman, telling them: Fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus, the crucified one. He is not here but is risen, come see the place where the Lord has lain.

And Jesus Himself had appeared to the hastening women on the way, telling them to go and tell the glad tidings to His brethren….

But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping at such a time as this.

It is the time when all the prisoners are set free, death rejoice in victorious hope, and when all the when they who dwell in the valley of the shadow of angels of God worship Jesus, the first begotten from the dead, saying: Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing. Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of angels lift up their glad voices and chant and sing in joyful lays at this very moment. Is it the moment, that believing Abraham, and all the patriarchs with and after him, saw afar, and….rejoiced!

It is the time to which we, as the New Testament saints from Gentile lands, look back and see and confess that we have born anew unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Because of this glad day of all days we gather on each first day of the week and sing a new song, saying unto our Lord and King: Worthy art Thou Lord Jesus, Thou faithful Witness, Thou firstborn of the dead, and Thou ruler of the kings of the earth to receive the Kingdom of David, our father, forever!

But Mary was standing at the tomb weeping.

At such a time as this….

Woman, why weepest thou?

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