The Wonder of the Resurrection

Easter-1

The Lord is risen!

Wondrous work of God, a recreation which brought life out of death, far more marvelous than the creation of the heavens and the earth.

The Son of GOD came in the likeness of sinful flesh, in the form of a servant, to surrender Himself throughout all His life to the wrath of God, in order to atone for the sins of His people.

The Son of MAN came as the Shepherd to lay down His life for His sheep, even when this involved separation from God in anguish of hellish torments, crying out in the amazement of His complete isolation under the righteous judgment of the God of heaven and earth.

Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, willfully submitted to the power of death; first dying our spiritual death during the three hours of darkness on the cross, and then entering into our physical death by surrendering His spirit into His Father’s hand and commanding death to take His body as its prey. He took His place among the dead of all ages. He set the stage, so that He could march triumphantly before the eyes of the whole world through death into heavenly life.

As a reward on His accomplished work of the cross God raised Him up in the early hours of the third day. As the mighty Conqueror the Son of God arose from the shades of death and entered into a new, heavenly, spiritual, immortal life in His resurrection body.

He lives. We know He lives, for we have the testimony of God’s infallible Word informing us of His resurrection, and we have the seal of the Holy Spirit by faith in our hearts.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord, Who . . . suffered . . . was crucified, dead and buried, descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead. Glorious resurrection!

Taken from an Easter meditation based on John 20:8 written by Rev. Cornelius Hanko, published in the April 1, 1980 issue of the Standard Bearer.

Good Friday Poems 2017

Good Friday-1On this day the Christian church commemorates the death of the Son of God in the place of His sinful people on Calvary’s hill, we give you a couple of poems for your meditation on the wonder of the cross of Jesus Christ (and April is National Poetry month).

The first is from one of my favorites, Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778), an Anglican divine and ardent Calvinist. He is the author of many precious poems, many of which have become well-known musical hymns (“Rock of Ages, etc.).

The following poem is taken from a small collection of his titled Hymns and Poems (Cross Publishing, 1971), the poem itself bearing the title “Refuge in the Righteousness of Christ.” You will readily see why it is appropriate for Good Friday.

    1   From thy supreme tribunal, Lord,
Where justice sits severe,
I to thy mercy seat appeal,
And beg forgiveness there.
      2      Tho’ I have sinned before the throne,
My advocate I see:
Jesus, be thou my Judge, and let
My sentence come from thee.
    3      Lo, weary to thy cross I fly,
There let me shelter find:
Lord, when thou callest thy ransomed home,
O leave me not behind!
     4      I joyfully embrace thy love
To fallen man revealed;
My hope of glory, dearest Lord,
On thee alone I build.
     5      The law was satisfied by him
Who flesh for me was made:
Its penalty he underwent,
Its precepts he obeyed.
    6      Desert and all self-righteousness
I utterly forego;
My robe of everlasting bliss,
My wedding garment thou!
        7      The spotless Savior lived for me,
And died upon the Mount:
Th’ obedience of his life and death
Is placed to my account.
   8      Canst thou forget that awful hour,
That sad, tremendous scene,
When thy dear blood on Calvary
Flowed out at every vein?
       9      No, Savior, no; thy wounds are fresh,
Even now they intercede;
Still, in effect, for guilty man
Incessantly they bleed.
   10      Thine ears of mercy still attend
A contrite sinner’s cries,
A broken heart, that groans for God,
Thou never wilt despise.
     11      O love incomprehensible,
That made thee bleed for me!
The Judge of all hath suffered death
To set his prisoner free!

The second poem is by a fellow church member at Faith PRC, Mrs. Thelma Westra. It is taken from her collection of poems published as Poems of Praise and is titled “On Calvary.”

Come with me to Calvary
To see the Suffering One.
He willingly submits Himself –
Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

His pain and anguish, so intense;
Alone He bears God’s wrath;
Forsaken, though He’s done no wrong,
He walks God’s chosen path.

It is for you and me He hangs
In utmost agony;
Atoning with each drop of blood,
From sin to set us free.

The seal of God’s approval
On the sacrifice thus made
Is the glorious resurrection,
Signaling the debt is paid.

Jesus conquered over death,
The vict’ry is complete;
Eternal life for us He won;
Come, worship at His feet.

The Gospel of “Re-“, Rev. W. Langerak – April 1, 2017 Standard Bearer

The latest issue of the Standard Bearer (April 1, 2017) is once again filled with interesting, instructive, and edifying articles, as you will see from the cover image below.

One thing to call attention to is the editorial by Rev. Ken Koole. In “Our Need for Seminary Students: Time to Be Praying” he points out with numbers that do not lie that the PRC is going to be in urgent need of candidates for the ministry in the near future. Especially parents and young men ought to direct themselves to that article, but all of us ought to be praying for the fulfillment of this need.

SB-April1-2017

The article to which I call special attention is the word study by Rev. W. Langerak. The striking title “Re-” tips the reader off that his subject is those words in the Bible that begin with “re-” – and as you will notice, there are many such words in God’s Word.

Pastor Langerak ties these words to the redemption Jesus Christ secured for His people on the cross and His resurrection from the dead that we will celebrate this coming Friday and Sunday, and you will readily see the connection to such words as reconciliation, regeneration, and reward.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from Re- – read and rejoice in which God has done through His Son!

The celebration of our redemption and resurrection in Jesus is a good time to remember the wonderful aspect of the gospel indicated by the prefix re- of these two words. Re- basically means “again” and denotes something repeated, returned back, or done intensely. Redemption, therefore, means “to be bought back” and resurrection “to be raised again.” And re- is one of the most common prefixes in Scripture, which shows the rich significance of “again” to the holy gospel. The gospel is the good news of re-.

Our Father has nurtured, raised, and stretched out His hand to rebellious (to war again) children, children who refused (give back as unwanted) to keep His covenant, hear His word, and obey His law, and rejected (to throw back) even His Christ (Dan. 9:9; Ps. 78:10, Hos. 4:6; Isa. 53:3). He came unto His own, but His own received (to take back) Him not (John 1:11). But the stone the builders reject and refuse, God makes the head of the corner (Ps. 118:22).

Through Christ, God gives us, therefore, the ministry of reconciliation (to bring together again)—that while we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God by His death and assured salvation by His life (Rom. 5:10, Ps. 118:22). Although sheep going astray, we are returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls and received back into His favor (L.D. 4; 1Pet. 2:25).

The gospel is that the Lord remembers (takes to mind again) His covenant forever, but remembers our sins no more (Ps. 105:8; Heb. 10:17). Although He be high, He has respect for the lowly (1Pet. 1:17). He regards the crying of His children (Ps. 106:44). He releases the captives from prison and feeds those who cannot recompense (to pay back) Him again (Luke 14:14). The Lord removes our sins, restores our soul, revives and renews our spirit, repairs our broken hearts, and regenerates (to be born again) us by the incorruptible seed of the Word unto a lively hope that always remains in us (1Pet. 1:3, 23; 1John 3:9).

M. Luther on Christ’s Sufferings

Luther-Christ-crucified

4. Fourthly, they meditate on the Passion of Christ aright, who so view Christ that they become terror-stricken in heart at the sight, and their conscience at once sinks in despair. This terror-stricken feeling should spring forth, so that you see the severe wrath and the unchangeable earnestness of God in regard to sin and sinners, in that he was unwilling that his only and dearly beloved Son should set sinners free unless he paid the costly ransom for them as is mentioned in Is 53:8: “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.” What happens to the sinner, when the dear child is thus stricken? An earnestness must be present that is inexpressible and unbearable, which a person so immeasurably great goes to meet, and suffers and dies for it; and if you reflect upon it real deeply, that God’s Son, the eternal wisdom of the Father, himself suffers, you will indeed be terror-stricken; and the more you reflect the deeper will be the impression.

5. Fifthly, that you deeply believe and never doubt the least, that you are the one who thus martyred Christ. For your sins most surely did it. Thus St. Peter struck and terrified the Jews as with a thunderbolt in Acts 2:36-37, when he spoke to them all in common: “Him have ye crucified,” so that three thousand were terror-stricken the same day and tremblingly cried to the apostles: “O beloved brethren what shall we do?” Therefore, when you view the nails piercing through his hands, firmly believe it is your work. Do you behold his crown of thorns, believe the thorns are your wicked thoughts, etc.

8. Eighthly, one must skilfully exercise himself in this point, for the benefit of Christ’s sufferings depends almost entirely upon man coming to a true knowledge of himself, and becoming terror-stricken and slain before himself. And where man does not come to this point, the sufferings of Christ have become of no true benefit to him. For the characteristic, natural work of Christ’s sufferings is that they make all men equal and alike, so that as Christ was horribly martyred as to body and soul in our sins, we must also like him be martyred in our consciences by our sins. This does not take place by means of many words, but by means of deep thoughts and a profound realization of our sins. Take an illustration: If an evil-doer were judged because he had slain the child of a prince or king, and you were in safety, and sang and played, as if you were entirely innocent, until one seized you in a horrible manner and convinced you that you had enabled the wicked person to do the act; behold, then you would be in the greatest straits, especially if your conscience also revolted against you. Thus much more anxious you should be, when you consider Christ’s sufferings. For the evil doers, the Jews, although they have now judged and banished God, they have still been the servants of your sins, and you are truly the one who strangled and crucified the Son of God through your sins, as has been said.

9. Ninthly, whoever perceives himself to be so hard and sterile that he is not terror-stricken by Christ’s sufferings and led to a knowledge of him, he should fear and tremble. For it cannot be otherwise; you must become like the picture and sufferings of Christ, be it realized in life or in hell; you must at the time of death, if not sooner, fall into terror, tremble, quake and experience all Christ suffered on the cross. It is truly terrible to attend to this on your deathbed; therefore you should pray God to soften your heart and permit you fruitfully to meditate upon Christ’s Passion. For it is impossible for us profoundly to meditate upon the sufferings of Christ of ourselves, unless God sink them into our hearts. Further, neither this meditation nor any other doctrine is given to you to the end that you should fall fresh upon it of yourself, to accomplish the same; but you are first to seek and long for the grace of God, that you may accomplish it through God’s grace and not through your own power. For in this way it happens that those referred to above never treat the sufferings of Christ aright; for they never call upon God to that end, but devise out of their own ability their own way, and treat those sufferings entirely in a human and an unfruitful manner.

Taken from Martin Luther’s sermon “Christ’s Holy Sufferings,” as found on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, where you find the following bibliographic material:

The following sermon is taken from volume II of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI). It was originally published in 1906 in English by Lutherans In All Lands (Minneapolis, MN), in a series titled The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 11. The original title of this sermon appears below (preached by Luther approx. 1519-1521). This e-text was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal; it is in the public domain and it may be copied and distributed without restriction. Original pagination from the Baker edition has been kept intact for purposes of reference.

Goodness and Mercy Meet at the Cross – H. Hoeksema

And remember, in the light of the righteousness of God, all the imaginary goodness and righteousness of mere man are filthy rags (Isa.64:6). What is not of faith is sin (Rom.14:23). Righteousness is to love the Lord God with all one’s heart and mind and soul and strength, always and everywhere, in one’s whole life and with every means. All the rest is transgression of the law and worthy of eternal damnation. Remember also that God does not become angry with the wicked only in some future day of judgment, but he always judges, and he always is filled with holy wrath with regard to those who do iniquity. They are in death and stand in judgment. They lie under condemnation.

Yes, God is truly merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity and full of lovingkindness and truth, but since his mercy cannot be divorced from his righteousness and justice, it is a righteous mercy. God can reveal his mercy only to the righteous. And since no man is righteous in himself, and all have sinned and come short of God’s glory (3:23), God can be merciful to no man on the basis of man’s own goodness and righteousness. God is merciful, indeed, and his mercy endures forever, but his mercy is revealed as a righteous mercy only in the cross of Jesus Christ, his Son, our Lord. In Christ’s atoning sacrifice, righteousness and grace, justice and mercy, embrace each other in blessed harmony. Gracious and merciful God is to those who are in Christ Jesus. For them there is no condemnation. Blessed are all who put their trust in him.

Knowing-God-and-Man -HHTaken from Herman Hoeksema’s radio sermon “God is Good” (based on Matthew 19:17), as found in Knowing God & Man (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2006), p.42.

Why the Reformation Still Matters – Because of Grace

In Roman Catholicism grace was seen as a ‘thing,’ a force or fuel like Red Bull. Catholics would pray, ‘Hail, Mary, full of grace,’ as if Mary were wired with spiritual caffeine.

…That is nothing how Luther and his fellow Reformers saw grace. For them, grace was not a ‘thing’ at all; it is the personal kindness of God by which he does not merely enable us but actually rescues and… freely gives us himself. Or, to be more precise: there is no such ‘thing’ as grace; there is only Christ, who is the blessing of God freely given to us. That being the case, Luther tended not to talk much about grace in the abstract, preferring to speak of Christ. For example:

  • Therefore faith justifies because it takes hold of and possesses this treasure, the present Christ… the Christ who is grasped by faith and who lives in the heart is the true Christian righteousness, on account of which God counts us righteous and grants us eternal life.

In other words, the grace and righteousness we receive in the gospel are not something other than Christ himself: ‘Christ… is the divine Power, Righteousness, Blessing, Grace, and Life.’

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016Taken from Why the Reformation Still Matters, co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (Crossway, 2016), Chapter 4, “Grace”, pp.88-89.

Rejoicing Always – H.B. Charles Jr.

tt-feb-2017As we end the month of February, we want to take a closing look at this month’s issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine.

This month, you may remember, the theme is “Joy,” with articles dealing with this subject from a variety of viewpoints (enjoying God, joy in our work, true joy vs. superficial joy, etc.).

One of the articles I read today before worship services is that linked below – “Rejoice Always” – by Rev. H.B. Charles, Jr. In it Charles points us to that familiar, short verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, where we are called to “rejoice always.” As he explains what this means for the Christian, Charles shows how difficult this calling is. But he also shows us the only way it can be obeyed.

This is part of what he has to say:

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul exhorts the saints to rejoice. It is a command, which makes it clear that joy is more than happiness. Happiness is an emotional response to favorable, pleasant, or rewarding circumstances. You cannot compel a person to be happy. It’s based on what happens to a person. But Christians are commanded by God to rejoice. This command to rejoice is in the present tense. It means “keep on rejoicing.” This makes 1 Thessalonians 5:16 a hard command. This divine mandate would be easier to swallow if it simply directed us to rejoice. Indeed, there are many times, reasons, and occasions that call for rejoicing. But the command is to rejoice always, not only sometimes. How does the Christian rejoice always?

And this is the beautiful answer he gives to that question:

First Thessalonians 5:16–18 features what have been called “the standing orders of the gospel.” These exhortations apply to all Christians in every place and every situation. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” These commands may be familiar. But the justification for the commands is often overlooked: “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Do we want to know God’s will for us in any situation? It is God’s will that we rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. We are in spiritual rebellion if we are not joyful, prayerful, and thankful. God’s will for our lives is about more than the circumstances we face. It is about how we respond to those circumstances.

It is the will of God for us to rejoice always. But obedience to this command is not accomplished by an act of the will. It is only accomplished by faith in Christ. The believer’s unceasing rejoicing is the will of God for us “in Christ Jesus.” This is the key to the life of rejoicing. Unsaved people do not rejoice in God, pray to God, or give thanks to God. Religious people rejoice sometimes, pray when they feel like it, and give thanks when things are going well. But Christians rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. This is not the believer’s response because we are impervious to life’s dangers, toils, and snares. It is our response to life because we are in Christ Jesus.

That is good food for thought as we seek to live out God’s will for our lives in this coming week. Shall we not seek to “rejoice always,” no matter what our circumstances may be?

Find the rest of Charles’ article at the Ligonier link below.

Source: Rejoice Always by H.B. Charles Jr.

Listen Up! How to Listen to Sermons (4)

listen-up-ashAt the beginning of this new year we are examining a booklet that instructs God’s people in how to listen to sermons. The booklet is titled Listen Up! A Practical Guide to  Listening to Sermons (Good Book Co., 2009), written by Christopher Ash.

Lest we lose the “big picture”, let’s put before us again the seven main points Ash makes in the book – the “seven ingredients for healthy sermon listening,” as he calls them:

  1. Expect God to speak
  2. Admit God knows better than you
  3. Check the preacher says what the passage says
  4. Hear the sermon in church
  5. Be there week by week
  6. Do what the Bible says
  7. Do what the Bible says today – and rejoice!

We have considered in past weeks #s 1-3; tonight we consider #4 – “hear the sermon in church.” This may seem so obvious to us, but Ash makes another important point here, especially in light of our day of “virtual” church (concerning which he says “there is no such thing”!) and private “digital” listening to sermons via the Internet anytime we want, maybe sometimes in lieu of the Word in church on Sunday with God’s people.

“So what” you say? Listen up! as Ash reminds us why we must “hear the sermon in church.”

…The normal place for preaching is the gathering of the local church. We are to hear sermons as a people gathered together; they are not preached so that we can listen to them solo later.

…This church was defined by the call of the word of God to gather under the word of God. It began when God said to Moses: ‘Assemble the people before me to hear my words” (Deuteronomy 4 v 10). This set the standard shape and pattern for the people of God, who are gathered by the word of God (God takes the initiative to summon them, and us) and gathered to sit together under the word of God (‘to hear my words’), to be shaped together by His word. God’s purpose is not to shape a collection of individuals to be each like Christ, but to form a Christlike people.

We may even say that preaching is properly done only when the people of God in a local church gather. When we listen to an MP3 recording of a sermon, we are not listening to preaching, but to an echo of preaching in the past (pp.12-13).

Do you see the biblical basis for what Ash says? Do we see the pattern God set for us? But there are practical reasons why we need to hear the word together too. I like what Ash says next:

When we listen to a sermon together, we are accountable to one another for our response. Hearing while gathered is significantly better than hearing alone.

…When we listen together, you know what message I’ve heard, and I know what message you’ve heard. I’ve heard it. You know I’ve heard it. I know that you know I’ve heard it! And you expect me to respond to the message, just as I hope you will. And so we encourage one another and stir up one another to do what the Bible says. By being with you, I make it easier for myself to respond the way I know I ought to respond. …If I pay no attention to the sermon I heard with you sitting beside me, you will know, and I would hate you to know I wasn’t listening!

When we listen together, we respond together… (pp.13-14).

Isn’t that a valid point? And a very practical one? I need you to help me listen to the Word preached properly. And you need me. And so we need to be in church together to hear the Word together.

Let that truth help us prepare for worship tomorrow. Including the determination to be there. In church. Next to you. I’m going to pray for the preacher and for God’s blessing on the Word he brings. And for you as you hear. Will you pray for me? We are in this “together.”

Faithfulness and Fruitfulness – Nicholas Batzig

tt-jan-2017As we near the end of this month, I want to post one more time about the January 2017 issue of Tabletalk.

Today I read the final featured article on this month’s theme (“Success”), a profitable article by Rev. Nick Batzig (PCA pastor). In “Faithfulness and Fruitfulness” Batzig ties together the biblical ideas of being faithful and being fruitful. As he points out in the beginning, it is easy to confuse these and misunderstand the relation between them. But the Bible guides us to a clear understanding, so that we may properly know what success is in this regard too.

I point you to a section of his article, encouraging you to read the full article at the Ligonier link below.

…When we consider the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, we discover that fruitfulness is the work of God, grounded on the saving work of Christ and sovereignly brought about by His Spirit in both the lives (godly character) and labors (kingdom work) of His people.

But what determines the nature of fruitfulness? Is fruitfulness commensurate with our labors? Or, are we simply to seek to be faithful and let what happens happen? Thankfully, the Scriptures provide us with a number of ways by which we may answer these questions regarding the relationship between faithfulness and fruitfulness.

Fruitfulness is ultimately God’s work, accomplished as we commit ourselves to Him in seeking to be faithful in all aspects of our lives and in all to which He calls us. We must resist the temptation to view fruitfulness in the same way that a stockbroker views his portfolio. It is a spiritual misstep of enormous proportion for us to look at our lives and labors and say, “If I simply do this today and this tomorrow, the result will be x, y, or z.” The Apostle Paul, while defending his own ministry against ministers who boasted of their own accomplishments, wrote: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6–7). The psalmist, in no uncertain terms, taught the same principle when he wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1). The more we come to understand and embrace this principle, the more we will be prepared to commit ourselves to Him in such a way as to be willing to be used in whatever ways He wishes.

But then Batzig also cautions about the danger of becoming lax in our determination to be faithful:

While we recognize that fruitfulness is the work of God, we must understand that diligence is an essential component of our faithful lives and labors. A subtle form of hyper-Calvinism can creep into our thinking once we acknowledge that fruitfulness is the work of God. We can start to think to ourselves, or catch ourselves saying to others, such things as, “It really doesn’t matter what we do because, at the end of the day, it’s all God’s work.” Interestingly, in the same letter in which he admitted that it is “God who gives the increase,” Paul declared, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). In Proverbs, Solomon wisely observed, “The hand of the diligent will rule” (Prov. 12:24). One writer helpfully sums up our responsibility to be diligent in our spiritual labors when he says, “You can do ministry with God’s help, so give it all you’ve got. You can’t do ministry without God’s help, so be at peace.” This is true in every sphere in which the believer is seeking to be faithful to God. Diligence in faithfully carrying out those things to which God has called us will ultimately lead to fruitfulness.

That is a wonderful perspective for us to take as we begin the work week tomorrow. May God by His grace make us faithful in all our labors, so that we may also fruitful to the glory of His name.

Source: Faithfulness and Fruitfulness by Nicholas Batzig

The World-Tilting Gospel – D. Phillips

world-tilting-gospel-phillipsOne of the Kindle books I am currently reading is Dan Phillips’ The World-Tilting Gospel; Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight (Kregel, 2011).

I believe this book was offered free last Fall and I grabbed it, not knowing what to expect. But I have been pleasantly impressed with its content and message. I am a couple of chapters into it and find it soundly biblical, edifying, and challenging.

Chapter 1, “Knowing God and Man,” (with a subtitle that asks “Which Comes First? What Difference Does It Make?”) immediately references John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, pointing out that the magisterial Reformer wrestled with these issues too. Calvin taught that we can look at it both ways: we cannot know God without knowing ourselves, and we cannot know ourselves without knowing God.

But, then, Phillips makes his own case, with a little humor:

It’s impossible to measure without a standard. Its impossible to apply a standard if we don’t know what we’re measuring. But which comes first?

Chronologically, self-awareness comes first, and indeed fills our whole conscious life. No healthy baby has to be persuaded to be self-concerned. Nor have I ever met an infant who would say, ‘You know, some nice, warm milk would be great…but it would glorify God more if I let Mom get some sleep.’ Babies don’t even rise to ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made,’ but rather, ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully wet.’

Yet while self-awareness comes first in time, surely the knowledge of God comes first in importance. Christian readers will grant that our concept of God affects how we see everything. The case I want to make is that our view of ourselves as we stand before God is inextricably interwoven with our view of God.

To which he adds, “Think it through with me.”

More on that next time, because Phillips has some great examples of how our (world)view of God affects how we see ourselves – and our relationship to God. We need to be introduced to Bud Goodheart, Lodowick Legup, and Misty Call.

I said, next time. These are some real (make-believe) characters! 🙂