Note to Self: Welcome (Hospitality)

Begin by reading Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2.

Dear Self,

Hospitality… is the will of God for you. God commands you to be hospitable. …He calls you to be hospitable because he himself is a welcomer of strangers and loves the sojourner.

…Throughout history, God has called his people to welcome outsiders into their cities, homes, and lives. Israel was commanded to practice hospitality with their Jewish neighbors but also to welcome, care for, and bless those who visited their cities. Likewise, the church is also commanded to welcome both believers and unbelievers.

…The most basic idea behind hospitality is to care for outsiders in a way that you would care for insiders. You welcome them. So, when was the last time you invited outsiders into your home? Into your busy life? Outsiders are not those close to you but those who are not yet a part of your life. This includes people at church you have not taken the time to meet as well as your neighbors and coworkers you do not yet know. They may be outside or inside the kingdom, but they are currently outside of your ministry influence.

Of course there is no better picture of hospitality than what we find in the gospel, for in the gospel God calls those who were not his people, ‘My people.” By faith we are orphans who have been adopted into God’s family, made coheirs with Christ, and are promised a place at his table in the kingdom to come. God has accepted you and welcomed you in Christ. You know what it is to be an outsider and yet received as an insider, so you should be ready to show others what that kind of grace looks like on a smaller scale in your home.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.22 “Welcome” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.81-82.

A True Love Story – Grace Gems

Romans8-39This “Grace Gems” devotional was sent yesterday (July 16, 2016) and is fitting for our contemplation on this Lord’s Day. It contains not the fictions of human love stories, but the facts of God’s gospel love story.

The journey which our Divine Lover took

(Thomas Guthrie, 1803-1873)

The story of Christ’s redeeming love surpasses anything related in the pages of the wildest romances. These tell of a prince, who, enamored with a humble maiden, assumed a disguise. Doffing his crown and royal state for the dress of common life, he left his palace, traveled far, faced danger, and fared hard–to win the heart of a peasant’s daughter, and raise her from obscurity to the position of a queen!

Facts are more wonderful than fables. The journey which our Divine Lover took was from Heaven to earth. To win His bride, He exchanged the bosom of the eternal Father–to lie, a feeble infant, on a woman’s bosom. The Son of God left the throne of the universe, and assumed the guise of humanity–to be cradled in a feeding trough and murdered on a cross!

In His people, He found His bride deep in debt–and paid it all. Herself under sentence of death–He died in her place. A lost creature, clad in rags–He took off His own royal robes to cover her. To wash her–He shed His blood! To win her–He shed His tears! Finding her poor and miserable and naked, He endowed her with all His goods–and heir of all things. Everything that He possessed as His Father’s Son–she was to forever enjoy and share with Himself!

Overcoming Legalism – Sean M. Lucas

TT-June-2016You will recall that legalism is the theme of the June Tabletalk (the subtitle says it all: “the delusion of man-made religion”). In the last full-featured article on the subject, Dr. Sean M. Lucas addresses how to overcome legalism, with the revealing subtitle – “Let No One Disqualify You.”

His answer to the sin of legalism is really simple: the gospel of Jesus Christ – the good news of who Christ is for us, what He has done for us, and what we are in Him.

Here is a part of what he has to say (worth your time reading the rest of his article too):

Pilgrim’s Progress

This gospel formation means that Christianity really isn’t about rule-keeping. To be sure, a Christian obeys God’s Word, but the way to obedience is not by focusing on keeping the rules, flying right, and doing better. At the heart of what Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 is to explode the notion that righteousness is about external obedience to the law. When He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20), He tells us that the way to righteousness is not through mere external obedience. Instead, the way to a righteous life is the Spirit’s inside-out transformation as we progress in living into the gospel. As we use the means of grace—including corporate worship that centers on the Word, sacraments, prayer, and fellowship, as well as private worship—God meets us, drives the gospel into our hearts, confronts our patterns of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, and makes us new.

But this sort of gospel transformation takes time. We progress in it as we are formed and shaped and molded by the Spirit’s work. As we go further up and farther in, we see more sin, confront more deception, believe more gospel, receive more divine comfort. We learn by experience and gain wisdom and insight as we turn from folly to reverence and love the Lord.

And here’s the thing: as we live in step with the Spirit, we actually live in ways that “keep the rules.” Those who bear the Spirit-fruit of love will be those who keep the two tables of the Ten Commandments. Those who bear joy will know the strength to say no to sin and yes to righteousness. Those who bear peace will be whole and wholesome, not restless or anxious. And so forth. We keep the rules, not by focusing on them as merely deeds that must be done, but by focusing our hearts on Jesus, who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing by the Spirit in us to make us fulfill the law.

Source: Overcoming Legalism by Sean Michael Lucas

Note to Self: Forgive

Begin by reading and meditating on Colossians 3:12-13.

Dear Self,

You need to forgive. You need to. …You need to forgive others because God in Jesus Christ has forgiven you. Your infinitely holy and just Maker has not held your sins against you, but instead has held them against his Son on the cross. Your faith rests squarely on this act of substitution.

Your refusal to forgive one who has sinned against you is a manifestation of hypocrisy – a telltale sign that either you have not experienced God’s forgiving grace, or that you take such grace for granted. Why do you withhold what has been given so freely to you? Have your offenders done worse than you? Are their crimes against you more severe than your crimes against God and others? When you refuse to forgive, it can only mean that you have not yet come to understand forgiveness, or you have been taking it for granted and have not sufficiently learned from it.

You need to forgive to make much of Jesus and his gospel. This is the real reason to extend forgiveness to the undeserving. …Forgiveness points us all back to our greatest need – reconciliation to God by way of his own work.

…While forgiveness is never easy, it is also never impossible – not for those who have been saved by the grace of God. For the grace of salvation not only secures your forgiveness and models it for you, but it also empowers forgiveness by giving you a new heart and spirit.

You can forgive because you learned it in the gospel. …The gospel compels you to forgive, and it enables you to do so.

Give yourself to meditation on the cross; learn forgiveness, and walk in it.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.20 “Forgive” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.77-78.

Legalism and the Grace of God in Christ – Nicholas Batzig

TT-June-2016This month’s Tabletalk addresses a serious error into which the church of Christ and Christians can easily fall – that of legalism.  Legalism goes hand in hand with other sins as well – pride, self-righteousness, Phariseeism, and judgmentalism to name but a few.

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this subject in his editorial “Legalism vs. Gospel Religion.” The first main featured article, “Legalism Defined: Taken Captive by Empty Deceit,” is by Rev. Nick Batzig, and it is from this one that we quote today.

In an early paragraph, Batzig defines legalism this way:

Legalism is, by definition, an attempt to add anything to the finished work of Christ. It is to trust in anything other than Christ and His finished work for one’s standing before God. The New Testament refutation of legalism is primarily a response to perversions of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The majority of the Savior’s opponents were those who believed that they were righteous in and of themselves, based on their zeal for and commitment to the law of God. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes exemplified, by their words and deeds, doctrinal legalism in the days of Christ and the Apostles. While they made occasional appeals to grace, they self-righteously truncated and twisted the Scriptural meaning of grace. The Apostle Paul summed up the nature of Jewish legalism when he wrote: “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:3–4).

But then he also shows how a proper understanding of justification by faith alone in Christ alone keeps us on the right path:

Understanding the relationship between the law and the gospel for our justification is paramount to learning how to avoid doctrinal legalism. The Scriptures teach that we are justified by the Savior’s works—not our own. The last Adam came to do all that the first Adam failed to do (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:47–49). He was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4–5). He came to be our representative in order to fulfill the legal demands of God’s covenant—namely, to render to God perfect, personal, and continual obedience on behalf of His people. Jesus merited perfect righteousness for all those whom the Father had given Him. We, through faith-union with Him, receive a righteous status by virtue of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. In Christ, God provides what He demands. The good works for which God has redeemed believers, that we might walk in them, do not in any way whatsoever play into our justification. They are merely the necessary evidence that God has forgiven and accepted us in Christ.

Finally, after pointing out how legalism can creep into our hearts and lives in practical ways too, he ends by showing that the only cure for this error is the pure grace of God:

The grace of God in the gospel is the only cure for doctrinal and practical legalism. When we recognize doctrinal or practical legalism in our lives, we must flee to Christ crucified. As we do, we will again begin to grow in our love for the One who died to heal us of our propensity to trust in our own works or achievements. On a daily basis, we need to be reminded of the grace that has covered all of our sins, provided us with righteousness from outside of ourselves and freed us from the power of sin. Only then will we joyfully pursue holiness. Only then will we love God’s law without attempting to keep it for our justification before Him.

Source: Legalism Defined by Nicholas Batzig

Voices of Victory Introduce New CD – “Cherish the Cross”

VOV-2016-CDcover-1

On this holiday Monday here in the U.S., the Voices of Victory quartet, of which I have been a part for two years now following the retirement of long-time first tenor Mr. Jerry Kuiper, is pleased to announce the arrival of their new CD – “Cherish the Cross”.

This has been a special project for us, and it has been a privilege and blessing to work with fellow quartet members, Jim Daling, Rick Noorman, and Dan Van Dyke, as well as pianist Karen Daling on this great collection of songs. We worked very hard for many months on these songs, fine-tuning them until we were ready to do this recording. If you saw any of our Facebook pictures and comments during the process, you will know how challenging and taxing this was!

The title of the new album comes from the song “More Than Ever”, a duet featuring Jim Daling and Dan Van Dyke, and is one that we believe captures the heart of the message of these gospel songs. If you look at the titles of the collection below and listen to the words of each one, you will see that we personally “cherish the cross” of our Lord Jesus Christ and seek our listeners to do the same (cf. Gal.6:14).

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You will find sample tracks of the CD on our Facebook page and you may order one from any of the quartet members (cost is $12). You can also find copies for sale at Covenant Christian High School, Heritage Christian School, the PRC Seminary Bookstore, or the Reformed Book Outlet.

And if you prefer to purchase the digital version of the album, visit this special website, where you may also listen to the tracks.

VOV-2016-CDcover-2

RWH 75th Anniversary: Special Beacon Lights Issue – January 1958

RWH New Logo

In this year of noting the 75th anniversary of the Reformed Witness Hour radio program sponsored by First PRC and supported by the PRC and her Mission Committee, we call your attention today to a special issue of the Beacon Lights that featured the RWH.

RWH-BL-Jan1958-1

The issue was January 1958, and besides interesting and informative articles on this radio program,

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it also included some nice pictures in connection with describing how the program was produced.

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Also noteworthy is the fact that this special issue contained an ad for a RWH Open House to be held Jan.23, 1958.

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Now, don’t forget that the RWH Committee has planned something similar for Saturday, August 13 of this year. Not only will the event mark the 75th anniversary of the RWH, it will also highlight certain aspects of PRC mission work.

Mark this morning on your calendars – physical and digital – it will be a great celebration! Hope to see you there!

Note to Self: Stop Pretending

Note-to-self-ThornSome good thoughts for us as we start this week of work and school.

Start by reading Romans 1:12.

Dear Self,

Like everyone else, you are pretty good at pretending. It is not malicious, but you can put on a good face when in reality things are not that good. You want to appear strong even when you are weak, or you at least do not want to appear weak. This superficial persona is the front of pride that only encourages the sin to continue in yourself, and it ultimately robs you of gospel influence – the kind of influence Paul had with the church in Rome, and they had with him.

When you pretend, you lose gospel influence in two ways – inwardly and outwardly. You lose the inward influence of the gospel in that you are not honest with others and deny them the opportunity to speak into your life. When you lack transparency, people are left without the opportunity to encourage you where you need it most. For example, sometimes you become anxious, but you have a good poker face. So you hold it together on the surface, but underneath it all you are in trouble. You need to tell the truth about what you are going through, and you need someone to tell you the truth of God. You need to hear of God’s sovereign and good plan for the lives of those who love him, and how this is rooted in the gospel. You need to see the strong faith of others so that you can persevere through such times of anxiety and fear. You pretend to protect yourself but wind up sabotaging your own spiritual life by not being real.

…Know this – it is the gospel that allows you to be real. It admits us all as sinners and establishes us all as saints. Your local church is the only place where this reality, and not pretending, can be the culture of gathered community. Be real. Admit where you are and what you are. This will allow others to minister to you, and you to minister to others.

Taken from Chap.15 “Stop Pretending” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.67-68.

Should Not Perish – Guy Richard

TT-May-2016As we noted last time, the featured articles in this month’s Tabletalk (May 2016) focus on the theme of the Reformed theology of John 3:16. As Reformed Christians, we must not let the Arminians, who have so abused and misused this text, rob us of its true gospel content and comfort.

Another featured article that I read and profited from today was this one from Dr. Guy M. Richard, a PCA pastor in Gulfport, Mississippi. Carefully and clearly, according to the Scriptures, he explains what the word “perish” signifies and what the promise of John 3:16 means when it says that those who believe on Jesus Christ will “not perish.”

This is how he ends his article, but you may find all of it at the link below. As we end this Lord’s day, let us who have placed our trust in the only Savior rejoice that we will not perish, as we deserve.

This understanding of the word perish is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching about hell. In Matthew 25:31–46, for example, Jesus sets the “eternal life” that is reserved for “the righteous” over against the “eternal fire” (v. 41) and the “eternal punishment” (v. 46) that is reserved for everyone else (referred to as both “goats” who do not follow the shepherd and as “cursed”). Those who do not receive eternal life do not simply die or cease to exist. They experience an eternity of “destruction” or “punishment” that manifests itself in “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 18:8; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 3:17) or in the “fiery furnace” in which “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42, 50). This is what it means to perish. It is an eternity of getting what our sins and our rejection of Jesus Christ deserve.

And this is precisely why John 3:16 is so encouraging for the Christian. It holds out to us the promise that “whoever believes” in Jesus Christ will not perish. Although our sins and our rebellion clearly deserve an eternity of destruction, that is not what we will receive from God. He will be merciful. He will spare us from destruction. He will not give us what we deserve. Jesus has ensured that. Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift (2 Cor. 9:15).

But John 3:16 also stands as a warning that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are perishing and those who believe in the Son and are thus spared from perishing; those who “remain” under God’s wrath for eternity and those who believe and receive eternal life instead (John 3:36). Each person’s response to Jesus determines which of the two categories he or she is in. Those who respond to Him in faith and obedience (which is the fruit and, thus, the proof of genuine faith) will not perish but will have eternal life. Those who do not respond in faith and obedience will not be shown mercy. The wrath of God will remain on them for eternity.

The good news of John 3:16 is that, though we were all at one time numbered among the perishing, now, through faith in Christ alone, that is no longer the case. We have been shown mercy. And for that reason, we will not perish.

Source: Should Not Perish by Guy Richard

Note to Self: Keep Seeking God

Start by reading Psalm 119:9-10.

Dear Self,

You tend to forget that seeking God is not only a quest for the lost, but is also to characterize the life of the found. The whole of your life should be seen as a seeking for God. This is not, of course, seeking for that which you do not know or have. God has found you, bought you, and owns you. You have been adopted, and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus. Yet your need to seek God never ends.

Seeking God means that you are continually aiming and working at knowing him more deeply, depending on him more thoroughly, and experiencing his grace more richly.

….It is unfortunate that you forget your need to seek God, for though you are right that God is enough, you forget that he is only found to be enough by those who seek him. Seeking God means that in all you do, you keep his honor in your mind, his Word in your heart, and his glory as your goal – so you are seeking to actually know him and make him known.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.12 “Seek God” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.58-59.

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