31 December, 2009

New Year's Resolutions.... No... New Years' Covenanting

Many people make resolutions on New Years eve concerning what they want to change about their life: eat less, exercise more, save money, be nicer.... and on and on. But what lasting value, what eternal value do these have? Rarely there is any. Of course, there are exceptions. In year's past, I have written on the resolutions of Jonathon Edwards. But for the most people- these are empty promises with yourself that will not be fulfilled.

So, how about something different this year? How about 'personal covenanting' instead of resolving. Our Associate Presbyterian and Reformed Presbyterian forefathers made this a practice and found much lasting benefit for their souls. Covenanting is a much neglected duty in the Church of Christ today; and it can prove to be a beneficial spiritual discipline. Below is a personal covenant that Thomas Boston made with Jesus Christ in 1690. I hope that it can serve as something to meditate on and to consider as we enter 2010.

What would you write in your personal covenant with Christ?

I, Mr. Thomas Boston, preacher of the gospel of Christ, being by nature an apostate from God, an enemy to the great Jehovah and so an heir of hell and wrath, in myself utterly lost and undone, because of my original and actual sins, and misery thereby; and being, in some measure, made sensible of this my lost and undone state, and sensible of my need, my absolute need of a Saviour, without whom I must perish eternally; and believing that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal God, is not only able to save me, by virtue of his death and sufferings, but willing also to have me (though most vile and ugly, and one who has given him many repulses), both from my sins, and from the load of wrath due to me for them, upon condition that I believe, come to him for salvation, and cordially receive him in all his offices; consenting to the terms of the covenant.

Therefore, as I have at several opportunities before given an express and solemn consent to the terms of the covenant, and have entered into a personal covenant with Christ; so now, being called to undertake the great and weighty work of the ministry of the gospel, for which I am altogether insufficient, I do by this declare, That I stand to and own all my former engagements, whether sacramental, or any other way whatsoever; and now again do renew my covenant with God; and hereby, at this present time, do solemnly covenant and engage to be the Lord’s and make a solemn resignation and upgiving of myself, my soul, body, spiritual and temporal concerns, unto the Lord Jesus Christ, without any reservation whatsoever; and do hereby give my voluntary consent to the terms of the covenant laid down in the holy scriptures, the word of truth; and with my heart and soul I take and receive Christ in all his offices, as my prophet to teach me, resolving and engaging in his strength to follow, that is, to endeavour to follow his instructions.

I take him as my priest, to be saved by his death and merits alone; and renouncing my own righteousness as filthy rags and menstruous cloths, I am content to be clothed with his righteousness alone; and live entirely upon free grace; likewise I take him for my advocate and intercessor with the Father: and finally, I take him as my king, to reign in me, and to rule over me, renouncing all other lords, whether sin or self, and in particular my predominant idol; and in the strength of the Lord, do resolve and hereby engage, to cleave to Christ as my Sovereign Lord and King, in death and in life, in prosperity and in adversity, even for ever, and to strive and wrestle in his strength against all known sin; protesting, that whatever sin may be lying hid in my heart out of my view, I disown it, and abhor it, and shall in the Lord’s strength, endeavour the mortification of it, when the Lord shall be pleased to let me see it. And this solemn covenant I make as in the presence of the ever-living, heart-searching God, and subscribe it with my hand, in my chamber, at Dunse, about one o’clock in the afternoon, the fourteenth day of August, one thousand six hundred and ninety-nine years.

T. Boston

30 December, 2009

Why Are Reformed People Such Downers?

I have written on the lack of joy in the Reformed churches before. I think that it is a horrible thing that many in Reformed churches and people lack the joy that accompanies salvation from the Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of witness is that?

Now there may be many reasons for why Reformed people lack the joy of the Lord; but as people of the Book; we must realize that 'Rejoice in the Lord always', as the Apostle Paul says- is an imperative. That means it is commanded.

We like rules, laws, and regulations in the Reformed Church. Just think of being joyful as a law that we must keep. Will that help us be more joyful?

Pastor Anthony Selvaggio gives his take on Reformed joy over at Ref21. I found my self getting more and more joyful as I read the article; and then when I saw that it was Selvaggio; I was even more joyful!

Let's show the world that we are are people posessed with the Spirit of Christ- and be joyful!

28 December, 2009

Is Pastoring That Important for Christians?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:9-17

Recently Mark Driscoll interviewed RC Sproul and asked him if he has any regrets in his 45 years of ministry. RC has a very humble and important answer here. As Christians we need to think about what it means to be pastored- and what a gift from Christ it is. As pastors and teachers we need to consider the way in which we pastor a flock and lead them biblically.

26 December, 2009

What Are You Thinking About?

People think about all sorts of things. They think about problems, sports games, interests, belief systems, politics, and even what's for dinner. How much time time do you spend thinking about your relationship with Jesus Christ? How much time do you spend thinking about God's Word in comparison with how much time you spend thinking about your favorite sports team, TV show, or hobby? As we make plans for 2010, increasing our time spent in God's Word should be on the top of our list of priorities. William Plumer tells us why we should consider meditation on the Word so important:

The power of reflection chiefly distinguishes a man from a brute. The habit of reflection chiefly distinguishes a wise man from a fool. Pious reflection on God's word greatly distinguishes a saint from a sinner. Without meditation grace never thrives, prayer is languid, praise dull, and religious duties unprofitable. William Plumer, Psalms, 36.

24 December, 2009

Funeral Sermon On Glorification

Today we are going to briefly look at Romans 8:30. The reason that ______ chose this text is that it is a text that B. had been talking about for weeks. B. and I would talk about the text and that final prospect that we call 'glorification'. A few weeks ago I came into B.'s room at ____, with Bible in tow, and said, “B., what do you want me to read today.” And his response was 'nothing, I want to think about that golden chain- I want to think about glorification'.

This had been on B.'s mind for some time. That Golden Chain, and glorification. Now the text reads, “And those whom [God] predestined, he also called, and those whom he called, he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified'. I have mentioned that B. used the term, 'Golden Chain'. That is the name that is given to this string of doctrines that are mentioned in the text. These doctrines hang together as links in a gold necklace. They are all connected.

Let's briefly look at these words, before we focus on that final word, 'glorified'. God predestines according to his grace- and then he calls those who are predestined to be saved. This is done through the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ- that old old story that Jesus Christ came to die on a cross to pay the penalty for sin. This is something that we cannot stress enough. We are called through the hearing of the Gospel preached and through reading the Word of God. The Lord Jesus is calling us to respond to his paid penalty for sin that you or I could never pay.

And then there is 'justified'. This is a legal term for 'not guilty'. When one responds to the Gospel of Jesus Christ then his sins are forgiven and he stands as an innocent man before God- because Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for his sin. And then the text says, “those whom he justified, he also glorified'. This is when the believer is made perfect, taken into heaven, and enjoys that eternal and joyous companionship with God, through Christ, for all eternity.

Now in our text, the word glorified is written in the present tense. The reason that the Apostle Paul does this is because we can be assured that this is our future. It is as good as now. We are promised this glorification- made perfect through the work of the Spirit of God in our lives.

If we are a Christian, that is one who has put their trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, then we can say NOW that we have this glorification. We have it because it has been promised to us. This is what we saw in the last weeks with B.. We saw a man that was patiently waiting for his savior. Focused on him. Looking to him, and longing for his timing. Knowing that 'glorification' was now his, and waiting patiently for it- B. showed us what it means to live with this hope. This hope that glorification is ours NOW.

So what does this glorification look like? You may be thinking, “You have said that B. was looking forward to it... so what is it?” There are four things that await us as Christians who are looking forward to glorification. Let's look at those:

The first is that 'souls are made perfect in holiness'. 'Made perfect in holiness'. When the Lord Jesus Christ died for sinners, he died so that they could be saved FROM their sins. He justifies them so that they are declared sinless- but then there is this process through-out the whole life of the Christian in which he is being made more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, that we are conformed to his image.

But at glorification- that struggle with sin is no more. The Christian is made perfect in holiness. That means that this process of being made more and more like Jesus Christ comes to end.

No more struggles with sin. No more wrestling against our old nature. No more struggles, no more trials, no more pains of this life. Made perfect in holiness. For those of you that are Christians, you know this struggle against sin, don't you? Do you know that there is an end. The struggles of this life are nothing in comparison with the joy and the perfection that is to come.

No more questions. No more struggles. Holiness. We know the weakness of our own spritual lives. They are gone. Last Lord's Day, as I addressed my congregation with news of B.'s death; I mentioned that this first Lord's Day in heaven would be different than all others- because he was able to worship his savior, his Lord Jesus Christ with purity of heart and mind. All struggles gone. Made perfect in holiness.

That brings us to the second part of this glorification that we are speaking about. The glorified Christian is received into heaven. The soul lives on, friends. Our dear friend, your dad, your grandfather, your great-grandfather, your uncle, your friend- he lives on. And he now has a new home: a home with the Lord Jesus Christ, a home with his dear Mary, that he spoke about so lovingly, a home with the friends and saints that have gone on before him.

The Lord Jesus Christ said to his disciples once, “I go and prepare a place for you. My father's house has many rooms- if it were not so, I would have told you.” This prospect of heaven is more than just something that our culture has made up to console those who have lost loved ones. It is a fact. It is as sure of a home, as my home in Los Angeles. And you know what? It is even more sure. The Lord Jesus Christ has made this promise to those that are called, those who are justified, those who are glorified.

When one dies with this hope of eternal salvation- he does so knowing that he goes to another home. A home where he is a guest, an eternal guest with the Lord Jesus Christ as his host. The Puritan writer, John Flavel said, Heaven is the place where God is supremely loved and God is prized above all else. This is what my friend B. longed for. He longed to be with the God that was his from his youth. He longed to be received into his eternal reward. Our dear friend, father, and grandfather, in his glorification, on Dec 19th heard, “Well done, _____. Well done. Enter now into your rest.”

B. has been made perfect in holiness. B. has been received into heaven. But there is more. When one is glorified he also 'beholds the face of God in Christ'. Can you imagine? Standing before the face of God. Faith becomes sight. We live our Christian lives by faith don't we? The Apostle Paul says, in Romans 8 says, 'hope that is seen is not hope'. This is the longing of the Christian, this is the great prospect of the one who has put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

When one dies he does not go off to some cherubic cloud with a harp in hand. He goes face to face with his master, face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot even begin to imagine the worship that wells up when one stands before the one who bore hell so that I may spend eternity with him.

I imagine that some of you have not seen each other in some time. There are people here that have travelled long distances to come and pay final respects. When you see each other there is a sense of gladness. A loved one reunited after months or maybe even years. Now imagine the joy of someone who lived 95 years in communion with someone that they have never seen. The love and the worship that must come when one's faith becomes sight! The glorified Christian will behold the face of the one who suffered and bled and died so that we could have life, eternal life.

The Apostle in another letter, says, “Now we see as through a dark mirror- but then we will see him face to face, as he is.” The glorified Christian will behold Christ's face.

And finally, the last aspect to glorification includes patience. Patiently waiting for something to occur? What do think that is? The glorified Christian, in this last link of the golden chain has their soul made perfect, he has been received into heaven, he has stood face to face with Christ- what else could you ask for? Do you know what it is?

He patiently waits for his redeemed body. Even now, in heaven, there is something that is not complete. Have you ever thought about that? Things are not yet perfect in heaven? The Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem the body as well as the soul. The Gospel of John, among other places, speak about a great day when the Lord Jesus Christ will return with a host of heaven and call forth what belongs to his people.

Joseph- come forth. Nathan- come forth. Sarah- come forth. . And when Jesus Christ calls, in a mysterious way, the bodies of the dead will rise and the Christian will be reunited with his body- a body that is also made perfect in holiness! Come forth!

Part of the job of the glorified Christian is waiting. Waiting for that Great Day when the Lord Jesus Christ will come back and will separate his people from those who are not his people. Those who have put their faith in him will come forth to be reunited with their body, which is made perfect.

But what about those who have not put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? What about those who have refused to bow their knee in worshipful adoration? Psalm 1 says, “But the wicked are not so- they are chaff which the wind drives away.” It is dreadful. An eternity separated from Christ. An eternity not filled with joy; but with sorrow and torment.

And just as the Lord Jesus Christ gave comfort that he goes to prepare a place for those who love; the Lord Jesus Christ also spoke about the eternal sufferings that await those who refuse to love him, those who refuse to trust him.

The Christian longs for the day when his body will be called forth, unto perfection. The book of Job is probably the oldest book in the Scriptures. Job says, “I know that my redeemer lives, and on the last day, I will see him IN THE FLESH”. Resurrection is not a New Testament doctrine. This was always God's design- raised to newness of life.

So the last link in the Golden Chain is 'glorification'. Souls made perfect in holiness. Souls received unto heaven. Souls standing before the face of the one who saved them. Souls patiently waiting for their redeemed bodies.

This was B.'s hope. This is now B.'s reality. “B., what do you want me to read today?” “Nothing Nathan, I want to think about the Golden Chain and glorification.” B. does not have to think about it any more. He does not have to long for it. He is living it. Living in perfect holiness, living in heaven, living before the face of Christ, and waiting for this body- this one right here- waiting for it to be redeemed.

Some of you know that I like to read Reformed Presbyterian history. I read any crusty old manuscript or sermon note or book that I can get my hands on. Recently I was reading part of a funeral service of a Reformed Presbyterian pastor. It was dated October of 1944. As I read this note from a funeral service, I thought, “You know this reminds me of Mr. ____.” I would like to close with this line from that funeral service. The writer wrote, “I am sure his passing will increase my interest in the Kingdom that he was so much interested in, and that my attraction toward the Heavenly Home will also be increased, so that, by the grace of God, I may meet him over there.”

This was B.. He was so interested in Christ's kingdom; and his interest in Christ's kingdom made that kingdom look so much more attractive- and one day, those who have this same hope will meet Bill again, over there in that heavenly home.

That beautiful line was the closing remarks at the funeral of Rev. William Arthur Aikin, (April 3, 1881- October 29, 1944) and I would like to read them again:

“I am sure his passing will increase my interest in the Kingdom he was so much interested in, and that my attraction toward the Heavenly Home will also be increased, so that, by the grace of God, I may meet him over there.”

Glorification. Is this your hope as well? Amen.

17 December, 2009

Life in the Spirit: A Sermon Series on Romans 8

Romans 8 is one of the greatest chapters in the whole Scriptures. I believe that as the Christian meditates on Romans 8, and applies the truths of this chapter of Scripture to their lives- that we will have a greater understanding and appreciation of who we are 'in Christ' and what he came to accomplish on our behalf. It really is such a blessing to be able to read this chapter of Paul's epistle to us. Over the past several weeks I have had the great privilege of bringing this chapter of Scripture to the Los Angeles church. Enjoy!