Archive for June, 2010
Tonight (6:30 PM) we meet for the Lord’s Supper. It is a mingling of song, Scripture, and symbol for the purpose of remembrance. We hope you plan to come.
Can I take the Lord’s Supper if I’ve had a bad week spiritually?
It depends on the transaction of the moment, not the quality of the week gone by.
Nobody brings a successful week to the Lord’s Table, period. Nobody. We all call into question—and rightly—the effectiveness of our devotions or the quality of our communication with our kids. It’s never been perfect. Therefore, we bring to the table our sin.
That’s the point of the table. It is a recognition of our sin.
However, what you do in preparation—when you take stock of yourself—is that you confess all known sin. You do Psalm 19: “Cleanse me of hidden faults, and hold back your servant from presumptuous sins.”
So you pray specific confession for the sins you know, you pray general confession for the sins you’re unaware of, and you receive afresh the cleansing, the application of the blood of Christ (1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”).
Now, after you’ve appropriated afresh the work of Christ and are enjoying that forgiveness, you eat. And you eat worthily, not because you had a good week, but because you have a great Savior and are united with him by faith and are renouncing all those sins.
That’s what I encourage our people to do. “Set it right with God now, in these next three minutes.” And then as the trays come we celebrate that, we remember the foundation of that forgiveness, by eating.
Dr. Fred Zaspel, who is teaching at DSC this weekend, is an expert on B. B. Warfield, the greatest theologian in the English-speaking world in the last century. In a special session with the staff, elders, and deacons yesterday, Fred mentioned that the best place to start reading B. B. Warfield’s work is his book, Faith and Life, which is a collection of some of his sermons. If you’ve never read anything from Warfield before, this is a great book and its easy to just pick out a sermon or two to read. You can even download the whole book for free at Google books here or purchase it here.
He came to his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
What does it mean to be born of God? How do we come to receive Him? Fred answers these and other similar questions in a methodical, progressive, and clear way. His conclusion is:
To believe in Christ unto salvation requires much more than anything human life can produce. It is not a matter of ridding ourselves of our worst habits. It is not a matter of moral improvement. It requires such a drastic, such a thorough-going transformation that it cannot be brought about by anything we do or will. It is not a matter of human excellence; it is a matter of divine grace.
And so the Biblical writers are careful to tell us not only that “it is not of him that wills or of him that runs,” but also that “it is of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16). They tell us not only that we must believe, but that “God works within us both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). They tell us not only that we cannot do anything to birth ourselves into God’s family but also that God in Christ and by His Spirit does for us what we would not and could not do ourselves. They tell us that those who savingly confess Christ do so only “by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). True confession of faith in Christ is something that is entirely beyond us until we are so enabled by God the Spirit.
In other words, all this comes down to that one big word which we find everywhere in the Bible, and that word is grace. Salvation comes to us entirely from God’s side. “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). It is His doing for us not because of us or even with us. It is His doing for us and in us. It is all a work of His grace; it all stems from His loving kindness.
Read the whole article to see how he comes to these conclusions from the passage itself. Some great, helpful, grace-glorifying stuff!
And we hope to see you Sunday. Fred will be preaching from Job in our Sunday AM services and, again, on Romans 9 that evening.
Zach has a great post today on the “Blessing and Ache of Living in Community”:
We have been “homeless” since April 30th. Dear friends in Albuquerque and Madison have been gracious enough to allow the three ring Nielsen family circus to invade their homes for weeks at a time while we wait for our move in date of July 1st to arrive. We are living in true community with those who love us. For this we are endlessly thankful.
This has got me thinking a lot about church community and what it means to live with each other. Middle class Americans have a hard time doing community. Part of this is due to technology (FB and Twitter allow me to have “friends”), part of this is due to wealth (we don’t need to depend on anyone else), and part of this is due to the general ethos of Americanism which trumpets the value of “I did it myself!” and “you don’t have a right to tell me what to do!”.
Aside from these cultural influences, living in community with other people is just plain hard. It exposes our selfishness. Living alone is easy. You only have to look out for number one. Relationships are a dance where you have to learn to move and bend with the preferences of those around you. Being selfish is easy but God said “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
Living intentionally with others in community is a blessing but also comes with an acute ache. Why? Because our flesh only goes down swinging and the punches of our flesh hurt bad. Who likes to have their selfishness assaulted? But that is exactly what we need and therein lies the blessing. Any means by which I can learn to be less selfish will always, in the end, bless me. Take the punches from the flesh, endure in the fight, and the blessing of your personal sanctification will be more than worth the battle.
Unless our churches can learn to embrace the messiness of community we’ll never grow together into the beautiful body of Christ that Jesus wants us to be.
Pray for this sweet, courageous, church-planting family. May their tribe increase!
A good friend of mine, Dr. Fred Zaspel, will be at DSC Sunday, June 27th. In addition to preaching in both of our morning services, Fred will give a special talk at 6:00 PM that evening — “Romans 9: Hard to Understand or Hard to Believe?” This will be followed by an open Q&A on the passage and its teaching. I’ve heard Fred preach this passage and answer questions on related doctrines, and I can tell you that you won’t be disappointed.
Childcare is available for five-years-olds and younger. Just email Terry Ash if you plan on taking advantage of that.
Let me say a little more about Fred and how I know him. He has invested hours in me personally over the last dozen years. He has sent me a lot of books, articles, pep-talk emails, and spent probably hundreds of hours on the phone helping me with this or that pastoral dilemma. For all practical purposes, he’s really been a long-distance Paul to this Timothy. In addition to his pastoral and writing ministries, Fred directs the theology and biblical studies curriculum for To Every Tribe missions. He recently completed his PhD dissertation on B.B. Warfield, which is to be published by Crossway later this year. It will certainly be the most thorough and authoritative work on one of the most important American theologians. On a slightly lower shelf of reading, he also co-authored (with Tom Wells) New Covenant Theology. Even more accessible, dozens, or even hundreds, of Fred’s sermons and articles are online at biblicalstudies.com. And, Lord willing, we’ll be posting some of those articles over the next couple weeks.
So, all that to say, we hope you’ll be looking forward to June 27th, and planning on coming that Sunday PM to soak in Romans 9. Maybe even invite a friend from another church to come with you!
Because of the incarnation, Jesus Christ knows exactly what it is to live in a sin-cursed world with people who break the rules…like me. I am a rule-breaker but He’s loved me and he’s experienced every trial I face. He’s with me. He sympathizes with my weakness (Hebrews 4:15). This understanding of His love in the face of my sin drains my anger at my rule-breaking neighbor. I can love her because I’ve been loved and I am just like her.
Because of His sinless life, I now have a perfect record of loving my neighbor. He perfectly loved rule-breakers. This record of perfect love for my rule-breaking neighbor is mine now; knowing this relieves my guilt. Even though I continue to fail to love, His record is mine.
Because of His substitutionary death, I am completely forgiven for my sin…even the sins that I seem to fall into at the slightest provocation. God has no wrath left for me because He poured it all out on His Son. He’s not disappointed or irritated. He welcomes me as a beloved daughter.
Because of His resurrection (and the justification it brings), I know that the power of sin in my life has been broken. Yes, I’ve failed again, but I can have the courage to continue to fight sin because I’m no longer a slave to it. This replaces despair with faith to wage war against my selfishness and pride.
Because of His ascension and reign, I know that this situation isn’t a mere chance happening. He’s orchestrated it so that I will remember Him and be blessed by the gospel again. He’s ruling over my life and interceding for me right now. I’m not a slave to chaos or chance. He’s my Sovereign King and I can rest in His loving plan today and rejoice in Him.
And, because of His promised return, I know that all the doubt, injustice and struggle will one day come to an end. This line in this grocery store and my plans for dinner isn’t all there is. There’s the great good news of the gospel. I can go home now and share with my family and guests how Jesus met me at the grocery store and we can rejoice together in His work on our behalf.
If you’re unfamiliar with Elyse’s writing, you should remedy that post-haste. Some very gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, hope-giving meditations:
- Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ (co-written with Dennis Johnson)
- Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time
- Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms our Daily Lives
Each of the first four units of Luke 18 can easily be misunderstood; each makes abundant sense when read in conjunction with the others.
The first (18:1-8) is a parable that Jesus tells his disciples “to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (18:1). An unjust judge is badgered by a persistent widow so that in the end he provides her with the justice she asks for. “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (18:7). If even this judge eventually puts things right, how much more will God, when his “chosen ones” cry to him? By itself, of course, this parable could be taken to mean that the longer and louder one prays, the more blessings one gets—a kind of tit-for-tat arrangement that Jesus himself elsewhere disavows (Matt. 6:5-15). But the last verse (18:8) focuses the point: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The real problem is not with God’s unwillingness to answer, but with our faithless and lethargic refusal to ask.
The second (18:9-14) parable describes a Pharisee and a tax collector who go up to the temple to pray. Some modern relativists conclude from this story that Jesus accepts everyone, regardless of his or her continuing sins, habits, or lifestyle. He rejects only self-confident religious hypocrites. Certainly Jesus rejects the latter. But the parable does not suggest that the tax collector wished to continue in his sin; rather, he begs for mercy, knowing what he is; he approaches God out of a freely recognized need.
In the third unit (18:15-17) Jesus insists that little children be brought to him, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” One must “receive the kingdom of God like a child,” or not at all. Yet this does not commend childlike behavior in all respects (e.g., naïveté, short-term thinking, moral immaturity, the cranky “No!” of the “terrible twos”). But little children do have an openness, a refreshing freedom from self-promotion, a simplicity that asks and trusts.
The fourth unit (18:18-30) finds Jesus telling a rich ruler to sell all that he has and give to the poor, if he is to have treasure in heaven, and then follow Christ. Does this mean that only penurious asceticism will enjoy the blessings of heaven? Is it not Christ’s way of stripping off this particular person’s real god, the pathetic ground of his self-confidence, so that he may trust Jesus and follow him wholly?
Can you see what holds these four units together?
– Excerpted from D. A. Carson’s, For the Love of God, vol. 1, entry for March 4.