Risen Indeed

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Now is Christ risen from the dead. That cornerstone of the gospel was firmly laid through the revelation of the risen Lord himself as attested by many and faithful witnesses. The truth of this gospel is corroborated by the experience of the church, of believers of every age. Jesus lives! Raised he was by the Father, and Jesus’ resurrection was God’s answer to Christ’s ‘It is finished.’

Just ask the thousands upon thousands who found no peace in their own righteousness, who were troubled because of their sins, and who were engrafted by faith into Jesus Christ, crucified and raised. They found peace with God through Jesus. Why? Because the Christ who was delivered for our transgressions and raised for our justification entered their heart, and they by grace heard God’s word of righteousness through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

He lives! Just ask the countless throng of believers who in themselves are dead in trespasses and sins, but who have died and have been raised with Christ, who have been delivered from the bondage of sin and now have become servants of righteousness. How? Through the power of the living Lord. He is risen and is become the firstfruits of those who slept. Christ is the first begotten of the dead. He went through the grave into the glory of eternal life as the head of the church. The resurrection is begun, and it cannot possibly stop until all who belong to him and believe on his name and look for the city that has foundations have followed him in that glorious resurrection.

‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?… Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor.15:55-57).

Taken from Herman Hoeksema’s The Amazing Cross, chapter 6 “Risen Indeed,” based on Luke 24:34 (2nd ed. RFPA, 2018), 73-74.

And for your music meditation this Resurrection Sunday, hear this powerful recording of “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” by the King’s College Choir.

A Curse for Us: The Supreme Malediction

Galatians_3-13Today, on this Good Friday, this blog post was made on Ligonier’s website. It is worth re-posting here, as we remember and reflect on our Savior’s crucifixion, also in anticipation of Resurrection Sunday. Let us remember, there is no rejoicing on Easter without the cross of Christ on Friday.

The author is the late R.C. Sproul, and the writing is vintage R.C.

One image, one aspect, of the atonement has receded in our day almost into obscurity. We have been made aware of present-day attempts to preach a more gentle and kind gospel. In our effort to communicate the work of Christ more kindly we flee from any mention of a curse inflicted by God upon his Son. We shrink in horror from the words of the prophet Isaiah (chap. 53) that describe the ministry of the suffering servant of Israel and tells us that it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Can you take that in? Somehow the Father took pleasure in bruising the Son when he set before him that awful cup of divine wrath. How could the Father be pleased by bruising his Son were it not for his eternal purpose through that bruising to restore us as his children?

But there is the curse motif that seems utterly foreign to us, particularly in this time in history. When we speak today of the idea of curse, what do we think of? We think perhaps of a voodoo witch doctor that places pins in a doll made to replicate his enemy. We think of an occultist who is involved in witchcraft, putting spells and hexes upon people. The very word curse in our culture suggests some kind of superstition, but in biblical categories there is nothing superstitious about it.

The Hebrew Benediction

If you really want to understand what it meant to a Jew to be cursed, I think the simplest way is to look at the famous Hebrew benediction in the Old Testament, one which clergy often use as the concluding benediction in a church service:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
(Num. 6:24–26)

…We see in the benediction three stanzas with two elements in each one: “bless” and “keep”; “face shine” and “be gracious”; and “lift up the light of his countenance” and “give you peace.” For the Jew, to be blessed by God was to be bathed in the refulgent glory that emanates from his face. “The Lord bless you” means “the Lord make his face to shine upon you.” Is this not what Moses begged for on the mountain when he asked to see God? Yet God told him that no man can see him and live. So God carved out a niche in the rock and placed Moses in the cleft of it, and God allowed Moses to see a glimpse of his backward parts but not of his face.

…The Jews’ ultimate hope was the same hope that is given to us in the New Testament, the final eschatological hope of the beatific vision: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Don’t you want to see him? The hardest thing about being a Christian is serving a God you have never seen, which is why the Jew asked for that.

The Supreme Malediction

But my purpose here is not to explain the blessing of God but its polar opposite, its antithesis, which again can be seen in vivid contrast to the benediction. The supreme malediction would read something like this:

“May the Lord curse you and abandon you.
May the Lord keep you in darkness and give you only judgment without grace.
May the Lord turn his back upon you and remove his peace from you forever.”

When on the cross, not only was the Father’s justice satisfied by the atoning work of the Son, but in bearing our sins the Lamb of God removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. He did it by being cursed. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13). He who is the incarnation of the glory of God became the very incarnation of the divine curse.

Christ and Him Crucified – April “Tabletalk”

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The above is the fitting theme of this month’s Tabletalk devotional magazine – “Christ and Him Crucified.” And an edifying theological and practical reflection on the death of Christ the issue is.

Editor Burk Parsons gets it started with his passionate introduction titled “Theology of the Cross.” Here is part of what he says about the importance of this doctrine for Christians:

All professing Christians know that the cross is important, but we often fail to grasp the all-encompassing significance of it—that the cross is not only at the heart of our faith, but it encompasses the entire existence of our faith, our life, and our worship. In order for us to possess a proper theology of the cross, the reality of Christ and Him crucified must possess us in all that we believe and in all that we do. The cross should not just be at the top of our theological priority list; it should be at the center of all our theological priorities. If we become bored with the cross of Christ, and if we lose our astonishment of Christ and Him crucified, we will quickly begin to lose the entirety of Christian doctrine and practice.

The other article I point you to tonight is Dr. L. Michael Morales’ (Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) “Expiation and Propitiation.” Perhaps that does not sound like the most exciting subject, but as he shows, you cannot grasp the meaning of Christ’s saving work by His suffering and death without these two terms. Both are rooted in the Old Testament sacrificial system and if you have never paid attention to these terms, now is a good time to learn them.

Morales’ entire article is profitable, but we quote from the end of it here:

Jesus fulfilled the Levitical system of sacrifice only because He offered Himself up to God on the cross as One who had fulfilled the law. In His tormented night of prayer in Gethsemane He had prayed, “My Father . . . not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39), and then He drank the cup of divine judgment as our blameless substitute. Jesus’ life of complete and loving devotion to God, offered up to the Father by the Spirit and through the cross—this is the assuaging of God’s wrath.

Because Jesus’ suffering was as a vicarious penal substitute, sinners can find rest for their souls. The impending thunderstorm of divine judgment that ever threatens us, overshadowing our vain attempts at happiness, cannot be dispelled by wishful thinking or misguided assertions. A Christian basks securely in the warm rays of the Father’s favor only because that storm of judgment has already broken in the full measure of its fury on the crucified Son of God. His shed blood cleanses us from our sins, removing our guilt from the sight of God. His wholehearted, law-keeping life offered up to God through the cross, even as He bore our penalty, rises to heaven as a pleasing aroma. Here, at last, the chief of sinners finds cause to boast in nothing at all except in the One who “loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2).

To read this issue online, visit the Tabletalk website and browse the various articles. During this week in which we remember the passion of our Savior, you will feed your soul with good food from this issue.

“Everything Fulfilled”: Christ’s Suffering Perfectly Prophesied and Predetermined

For the Lord Jesus, prophecy thoroughly and uniquely presented his program of suffering. It was a program that with unwavering eye and absolute certainty he read, saw, and examined ahead of time. He grasped it all: the entire process of his suffering, shame, and death in all its vivid color and all its terrible contours. On those prophetic pages, he saw himself portrayed just as he would be – humiliated, oppressed, and broken.

…When he finally took every step on the way to the cross, when he waded through the torrent of his continuous suffering, when all the details and parts of this divine tragedy were complete, he drank the last drops from his cup of suffering. It was a cup whose carefully measured portion he accepted in fear. He did this all with the clearheaded awareness that then everything had been fulfilled. Then he gave up his spirit.

This is how it happened. This is the way it was predicted. Is this also how you confess and believe it?

In the counsel and foreknowledge of God, everything had been predetermined. This was true not only of suffering in general, but down to the smallest details of what would happen.

‘Predetermined,’ so that any appearance that as much as one moment, one derisive word, or one lash with whips in the life of the Son of Blessedness happened by the will of sinners simply doesn’t hold up.

‘Predetermined,’ so that you could never suppose that the powers of destruction overwhelmed what is sacred and holy on Golgotha, but so that you would understand that even the most terrible forces of destruction served to achieve God’s purposes.

‘Predetermined,’ so that instead of bewildering and confusing people, the cross of God’s Son would seal the truth of God’s Word to us.

‘Predetermined,’ not least of all, so that Christ himself, in experiencing everything that he did, would in effect undergo a thousand deaths before he died. In doing so with a clear head, that is, with morally grounded willpower and submissiveness and not in some stupor that flooded over him, he grappled with sufferings that he discerned ahead of time with sober clarity.

…And if that’s the case, and if you are convinced that Golgotha was at the center of God’s thinking already at the time of creation and covenant making, why do you still hold back? Why do you hold back when you know that this happened out of love and for the sake of your blessing? Why, when it couldn’t be any other way than that God the Father was involved with his Son’s suffering? Why, when all throughout his work of creating and giving life, he always had squarely in his sovereign vision the somber spectacle of the cross? Tell me, brothers and sisters, why do you still hesitate?

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018; James A. De Jong, transl.), pp.58-59.

This particular meditation (#18) is based on Luke 18:31 and titled “Everything Fulfilled.” That text reads, “Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.”

You will see how Kuyper takes us from the power of God’s prophetic Word concerning the suffering and death of His Son to the deeper truth of His sovereign counsel concerning every detail of it. The program of Jesus’ passion was entirely predetermined in the plan of God! That’s how it could be prophesied in such detail and recorded with such precision in the Scriptures. And that for the salvation of His people – for our blessing! Rooted in God’s free mercy and love! Amazing grace!

A plan and a program that call for deep pondering, and even deeper praise. May we do that on the morrow, through Word and worship.

Jesus’ Prayer in Gethsemane

Here [in the garden of Gethsemane] Jesus’s wrestling with submission to His Father’s will causes our Savior more suffering and spiritual agony than even the physical brutalities of Golgotha could offer.

…Most likely, Jesus prepared for this battle at Gethsemane in his previous prayer there. This would be the most ferocious battle of his life, because the realities of Golgotha were quickly  being realized. The coming flood brought Jesus to a crisis point. Would he, the sinless one, be willingly swept away by the wrath of God or retreat to safety, leaving us as sinners to bear God’s ferocious wrath?

We should not miss the biblical-theological significance of John walking us through the ‘garden’ of Gethsemane (John 18:1). Remember reading Genesis 2:8, ‘The LORD God planted  a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed’? Adam and Eve were tempted  in that garden and failed miserably, bringing ruin and destruction upon the world. Jesus was tempted in a garden and triumphed gloriously on behalf of the elect. His response rectified Adams’ act of rebellion that led to the death of all men, because all sinned in him.

Adam likely sinned in the daylight, bringing about spiritual darkness; Christ obeyed in the darkness, bringing about spiritual light. In fact, commenting on Gethsemane (Matt.26:36-46), Matthew Henry writes, ‘The clouds had been gathering a good while, and looked black…. But now the storm began in good earnest.’

prayers-jesus-jones-2019Taken from chapter 22 (“Jesus Prayed in Great Distress”) of Mark Jones’ new book, The Prayers of Jesus – with the subtitle Listening to and Learning from Our Savior (Crossway, 2019), 173-75.

The Amazing Cross: The Judgment of the World – H. Hoeksema

AmazingCross-HHProtestant Reformed pastor, seminary professor, and founder Herman Hoeksema had the custom of preaching special series of sermons during the Lenten season. Some were preached in First PRC where he served a long ministry and others he specially prepared for the radio broadcasts of the Reformed Witness Hour. Many of these were later published in written form.

One such collection of Lenten sermons is titled The Amazing Cross, first published by William B. Eerdmans in 1943. Last year the RFPA republished it, and tonight we feature it for our first Lenten season post. Here is the publisher’s promo for the book:

“The vicarious suffering of the Lord must occupy a central place in the consciousness of faith and in the preaching of the gospel. On the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ depends all of salvation.”

So states the author of these powerful meditations on the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, giving us all the reason we need to read them and digest them, to believe on the Christ presented in them and magnify the God of our salvation whose work is set forth in them.

Take up and read, and be led to feed on Christ crucified and raised!

The book is divided into two main sections, reflecting two series of sermons “HH” preached. The first series is called “Amazing Judgment,” while the second  bears the name “Amazing Obedience.” Tonight we quote from the first sermon of that first part, which is titled “The Judgment of the World” and based on John 12:31 – “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”

This is part of the author’s explanation of the “amazing judgment” of Christ’s cross:

Thus it had to be. As men view the events of this world, what was historically the world’s trial of Jesus was in reality God’s trial of the world. What was to all appearances the condemnation of the Son of man by the tribunal of the world was in deepest reality the condemnation of the world before the tribunal of the Judge of heaven and earth. Two thousand years ago, or more definitely speaking in the ‘hour’ of Jesus, in that brief period when the Christ of God was tried, condemned, and crucified by the rulers of this world, the world very really stood in judgment before God and was tried and condemned.

True, there will come a final day, a day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God when all the implications in the judgment of the cross will be publicly verified and exposed. But that does not alter the fact that in a very real sense the judgment of the world has already become a fact through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must understand and believe this truth. The world is already and irrevocably condemned. The prince of this world has already been utterly cast out. In the midst of this condemned world with its deposed prince, we must take shelter by faith in the shadow of the cross and take hold of the justifying power of the resurrection, so that we may be saved. [pp5-6]

You may also be interested to know that the RFPA has also just republished another similar volume by Hoeksema – The Royal Sufferer. Perhaps a future post can reference that wonderful book as well. I think you are able to judge that these make for marvelous reading profit in this time of year.

Unworthy Servants: “What do you have that you have not first received?”

…You are indebted to him entirely. He has to take care of everything for you, and in so doing above all to uphold and support you. For if he ever withdrew his hand from you, you would perish in your own deadly turmoil and become just one more sad catastrophe! And for all of this, he gets nothing in return from you.

This is difficult for the flesh to comprehend this. It is hard to hear this. But there is no denying it. Nothing can change it. From you he received not a single thing.

Not even if you pray and praise him and do good works?

Why not? You yourself would know this best!

But I say this much on the authority of the Word: ‘You have never prayed what in any sense might be called a prayer unless he had first awakened it in you! You have never exalted what amounted to really exalting in his praise, unless he qualified you to do so. You have never done any good work, unless he was the One who first moved you to do it, both to will and to work for his own good pleasure!’

So then, O man and O woman, what do you have that you have not first received?

And how can you argue with our blunt assessment: ‘You have received everything from him; he has received nothing from you.’?

Listen to what Job already testified in ancient times: ‘Can a man benefit God? Or, what does it benefit the Almighty if you are righteous?’ ‘If you are righteous, what do you give him or what does he receive from your hands?’ (Job 22:2-3; 35:7). Listen to what the apostle impresses on your heart: ‘Who has first given anything to God, that he should repay him?’ (Rom 11:35). Or better yet, listen to what your Savior whispers in your heart: ‘When you do everything that you were told to do, you should say, “We are unworthy servants.”‘

Listen to this, all you children of God who are not in total denial! Listen, and be wise!

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018; James A. De Jong, transl.), pp.51-52.

This particular meditation (#16) is based on Luke 17:10 and titled “Unworthy Servants.” Good words to ponder as we end the week and prepare to enter the Lord’s house for worship.

I am finding gem after quotable gem in this collection of Kuyper’s meditations. My recommendation to you as I read through them personally: get the volume and read one or two a day for your rich spiritual profit.

“By Grace Alone” – A Blessed Summary Song of the Five Points of Calvinism

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Tonight the teachers and students of Heritage Christian School (where we have several grandchildren) gave a marvelous program of music and readings (Scripture and Reformed confessions) centered on the theme TULIP, the Five Points of Calvinism.

While all the songs were fitting, there was one that stood out, perhaps in part because the lyrics were new to me and also because they so completely captured the doctrines of grace, as we often call them. The title of the song is “By Grace Alone,” and it was sung to the tune “Melita,” (also known as the “Navy hymn”) perhaps most commonly known as the hymn “Almighty Father, Strong to Save,” but also found in the PRC Psalter (#232 – “Expectancy of Grace” – based on Psalm 85).

I found the words on several websites; one said the author is unknown, while another gave as the author Rev. Paul Treick. If someone can help sort that out, it would be appreciated.

While the 5th and 6th grade-choir did not sing all of the stanzas of “By Grace Alone”, I post them here in complete form. You will readily see why they so faithfully present the truths of Calvinism.

By Grace Alone author unknown

1)
Thou art our God, and we thy race
Elected by thy sovereign grace.
Not by the works which we have done
But by the cross our vict’ry’s won,
Oh keep this truth within my heart,
That from it I may ne’er depart.

T
By nature we depraved did dwell
Under thy curse–deserving hell–
Sinful, corrupt in every part,
Not one pure motive in our heart.
Hadst thou not looked on us in grace,
We would remain a perished race.

U
In love eternal thou did chose
To save thy sheep; their bonds to loose,
No good did we within us have
To claim thy gracious plan to save.
Elected by thy grace alone;
Holy to stand before thy throne.

L
Incarnate did thy Son appear–
A sacrifice–a Lamb most pure;
To make atonement for his sheep
And perfectly thy will to keep.
Now cleansed from sin and righteous, we
Are sons and heirs eternally!

I
The blood of Christ by grace supplied
Was by thy Spirit’s pow’r applied.
Thy Spirit we could not resist,
Who breathed new life into our breast.
Our souls alive, which once were dead,
Sing praise to Christ, the Lord, our Head!

P
With all thy saints we are preserved
To enter heav’n–a place reserved.
Secure we’re kept within thy care,
Lest we be lost to Satan’s snare.
Oh Sovereign God, all praise to thee
For our salvation, full and free!

7)
This hymn of thanks, Oh Lord we bring;
For by thy grace alone we sing.
Employ our lives in every sphere,
Thy law to keep; thy Name to fear,
“By grace alone”–this doctrine pure–
Our only comfort doth secure.

Set Free on the Sabbath – A. Kuyper

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According to Jesus’ own words, mustn’t the Sabbath be a day for ‘breaking the bonds’?

…For what is the reality of daily life for thousands and thousands of people except one continuous, entangled bondage? It amounts to being bound in many ways and to various degrees. This causes the wings of our souls to flap first in this direction and then in that, and it severely restricts the free and exhilarating spreading of our wings of faith.

…That’s exactly why there is a Sabbath to which God calls his people, saying: ‘Shake off your dust; rise up; sit on your thrones, O Jerusalem! Free yourself from the chains around your neck!’ (Isa 52:2). That’s when the bonds are loosened. These can be the bonds of daily labor that can choke and oppress us. They can be the bonds of busy and turbulent living. Or they can be the bonds of being upset and restless. That’s when those who can bring praises bring them. That’s when those who know the way to God make their way to the ‘appointed place of their salvation’ That’s when those unfettered from their bonds rejoice. That’s when they feel tremendously exalted, regal, and liberated. It’s on the Sabbath!

At least that’s what happens when they give God all the glory on the Sabbath. That’s what happens when they turn out for it in righteousness. I can’t turn Sunday into a Sabbath by doing nothing. I can’t do it by behaving properly. I can’t do it by doing my duty. I can’t even do it by simply praying and meditating. The Sabbath is a gift from God. I always only succeed in making my bonds tighter, but he’s the only one who can loosen them. My determined efforts and attempts to turn Sunday into a Sabbath only produce a hollow day that is nothing more than pretense and empty forms. The Sabbath only comes alive when he’s pleased to hear our humble prayers. That’s when divine abundance pours into our empty lives. That’s when he blows warmth and a glow back into the cold coals of my heart.

And if this is what happens in your experience, sisters and brothers, then the loosening of the bonds of your daily labor becomes the glorious prophecy of an entirely different loosening. It indicates that your Sunday is definitely a day of resurrection. It signifies that your Savior has loosened the shackles of death and hell and that shattered Satan’s work.

What a glorious experience, then, to be transported far beyond yourself in sacred joy.

honey from the rock-ak-2018Taken from the new translation by James A. De Jong of Abraham Kuyper’s Honey from the Rock (Lexham Press, 2018), pp.30-32.

This particular meditation (#10) is based on Luke 13:16, part of the account of Jesus’ miracle of healing the woman who had a spirit of infirmity for 18 years, a miracle that occurred on the Sabbath in a synagogue.

The Canons of Dordt and Missions – Rev. D. Kleyn (Feb.15, 2019 “Standard Bearer”)

sb-logo-rfpaThe latest issue of the Standard Bearer (February 15, 2019) is now out and among its ten (10) articles are two on the Canons of Dordt, marking its 400th anniversary.

The first is Part 7 of Prof. Douglas Kuiper’s series “Dordt 400: Memorial Stones,” a year-long tribute to the “great Synod.” This installment treats Dordt’s consideration of “training students for the ministry.” It is another interesting, edifying, and relevant article on the Synod’s work and decisions.

Synod-of-Dort

The second article is the one we feature in this post. It is PRC Missionary-pastor (Philippines) Daniel Kleyn’s second installment on “The Canons of Dordt and Missions.” We pull a section from this fine article, which shows how the Canons teaches that the gospel is to be preached “far and wide.”

Missions is to Preach Promiscuously

More significantly, the Canons of Dordt give an explicit call to the church to do mission work. Among the Three Forms of Unity, the Canons is the only creed to do this. This more than anything else proves the missionary character and missionary usefulness of this creed.

The Canons order the church to go out into the world with the gospel. That order is found in Head II, Article 5, which reads: “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.”

Who can deny that this call to missions is in full harmony with the biblical commands concerning missions? Even if no other passages in the Canons either taught or implied anything regarding missions, Head II, Article 5 would be enough to prove that the Canons promote mission work.

The word “promiscuously” is key here. This means the preaching must go far and wide, to every land and nation under heaven. This must be done by the church “without distinction.” God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). The church must not be such in her mission work either.

God’s purpose is that the promiscuous preaching of His Word will be used by Him to bring the elect to a conscious faith in Christ. The church and missionaries do not and cannot know who the elect are. They must, therefore, preach God’s Word to all to whom God gives them opportunity. In this way the elect will hear that Word and will, by the power of the Spirit, be saved.