As from true divine love flow all Christian affections, so from a counterfeit love in like manner naturally flow other false affections. In both cases, love is the fountain, and the other affections are the streams.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
From A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards:
Monday, November 16, 2015
Thank you for the invitation to preach this morning, and to moderate your congregational meeting following the service. It is a deep privilege to preach the holy, inerrant Word of God to God’s people.
I want to speak with you this morning about an attribute of God that I do not think we reflect upon often enough in our churches in these last days - the holiness of God. I think many of us, given our natural inclinations to be focused on our immediate concerns and needs, forget about the radical, complete holiness of God. Now, I want to be clear: I think if you were to ask most believers about God, many of them would quickly and even eagerly agree that God is holy. But the issue is not that there is a God and that one of his attributes is that he is holy. The issue is that we have lost the immensity of God’s holiness. Part of our forgetfulness of God's holiness is a function of how we live in today’s 24/7, Twitter and Facebook culture. Another reason why we downplay the holiness of God is through a deliberate forgetfulness. We dare not think too deeply about God’s holiness. Why? That will become clear in our discussion of Isaiah's vision. My hope for this sermon this morning is that you will have an increased appreciation for the holiness of God. And I even hope that this picture of God’s holiness might restore in you a reverential fear of the Lord. That may sound strange, that I want you to fear the Lord. But that is a good thing, because of what the bible teaches about this fear.
- Psalm 110:10 reads: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.”
- Proverbs 22:4: “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”
- Psalm 25:14: “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”
First, a bit of context. Our text this morning begins on an ominous note: “In the year king Uzziah died.” Uzziah was one of the better kings of Judah. If any of you are familiar with 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, you would know that many of the kingships of Judah and Israel were utter disasters. There weren’t many standouts after David and Solomon (both of whom had their own problems). But Uzziah was one of the better kings. His reign was long - 52 years. The country had prospered under his reign. But there were problems near the end. Idolatry had reasserted itself in the nation, and pride, a pride build on the prosperity of Uzziah’s reign, drew the eyes of the people away from God, and caused them to disregard his holiness. Even the King himself fell prey to the sin of pride. This is how the writer of 2 Chronicles 26:16 puts it, “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.” That is, Uzziah took upon himself a job that was, according to the law of God, specifically set apart for the priest alone. As punishment for this disobedience and sin, the Lord afflicted Uzziah with leprosy while he was still inside the temple. Leprosy made one utterly unclean to be before the presence of God in the community, let alone inside the temple! The priest were so freaked out by this that they rushed the king away. Uzziah was never healed of his leprosy, and spend the rest of his days separated from the people, living in his own house, with his son Jotham ruling in his name.
The king, however, was still beloved. And people loved the prosperity they enjoyed. The death of the King was likely viewed as a catastrophe. The end of an era of relative peace and the beginning of deep uncertainty and decline. And it is in the midst of this upheaval that Isaiah receives his vision of God.
 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1 ESV)I was reminded during my preparations in a sermon by RC Sproul on this very text that there is a significant irony in this verse. King Uzziah has died, and and Isaiah sees the Lord. That word, capitalized as it is in your bible, comes from the Hebrew word Adonai which means the sovereign Lord, the one who really is king. The earthly king is dead, but now the One who is sovereign over that earthly king and over every other earthly king appears! And he is elevated above everything. He is “high and lifted up,” overseeing his universal realm. King Uzziah certainly had large, ornate robes with long trains of magnificence that marked his office as king. God’s robe is of such significant size that it filled the whole temple. Isaiah is communicated to his readers, to you and me, that this Lord in this first verse is of massive authority and importance.
 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (Isaiah 6:2 ESV)The seraphim are angels which have a fiery appearance. They stand before the throne of the Almighty. They have six wings. And each set has a purpose. Two of the wings are used to cover the eyes, because even these perfect angelic beings must protect their eyes from the stunning, white hot glory of the Lord. With two wings they cover their feet, the feet likely being a euphemism for their less noble parts. And with the remaining two wings, they flew. Angels are messengers of God. And these angels have a particular message which they now communicate to Isaiah in the vision, and to us through this Word from God. As they flew,
...One called to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3 ESV)
Holy. Holy. Holy. You need to know something about Hebrew to understand the weight of the angelic message. When we write something, and we want to emphasize a word or a phrase or a sentence, we employ all kinds of techniques. Word processing programs make it easy to change to bold or italic typefaces for emphasis. We underline things. We add exclamation points. But written Hebrew had no punctuation. There were no typewriters or word processors. So when a Hebrew writer wanted to emphasize something, he used repetition. By far, most forms of repetition in the bible are doubles. A word or phrase is repeated. Only in very rare circumstances is a word or phrased repeated three times for superlative emphasis. Holy, holy, holy is to be heard by us as: This God is the most holy God. Holy above all else. Most holy. Beyond any holiness we can imagine. What is holiness? Holiness is otherness. To be holy means to be distinct and set apart from all impurity, sin, and uncleanness, perfectly beautiful in the splendor of this holiness. God’s holiness so pure, so bright, that even the angels must cover their eyes. And his holiness and glory are such that God’s glory fills the entirety of his creation, the earth.
This manifestation of a holy God causes even inanimate things to spontaneously quake at the announcement:
 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:4 ESV)So here is Isaiah. What happens to him when he encounters this perfectly holy God in this astonishing throne room vision with the fiery angels around?
He realizes that he is toast. He’s convicted of his sin. God then converts Isaiah, cleansing him of his uncleanness. Finally, God consecrates Isaiah into kingdom service.
The Thrice Holy God Convicts
 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV)When you encounter the holiness of God, this is actually the normal response. You are utterly undone. Isaiah actually uses a phrase “Woe is me!,” which in essence means in his sinful state he is accursed. He is a man of unclean lips, dwelling among a people of unclean lips. And if you know anything of the bible, you will know that that which is unclean cannot abide in the presence of the holy Lord God of hosts, and that the penalty for seeing the Lord is death. And here he is - filthy mouthed and unclean.
This is precisely the awareness that is awakened in the heart of a dead sinner when they are granted by the Holy Spirit with the gift of faith. You are given sight. For the first time, you see God for who He really is. And in the light of his holiness and glory you see who you really are. And the gap between the two is unbridgeable by you. Isaiah knew, in that moment, how serious his situation really was. He was truly lost, only worthy of destruction and doom for his impurity and his sin. This is the reality you are awakened to when God moves. What is interesting is that you don’t ever get experience this reality if you’re an unbeliever. It doesn’t dawn on you. It really only comes to those who are awakened to the truth by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Loved ones, has the knowledge of God’s radical, world-shaking holiness ever gripped you? Have you been awaked to this reality, of God’s perfect holiness and your own wretched sinfulness? Have you ever been shaken to the core by the truth that God is real? That He is utterly holy? That He demands perfect holiness from those whom He has created? Do your realize that you are commanded to be perfect, even as He is perfect? Have you been awakened to the reality that being a good person isn’t near good enough, because the demands of the God’s just and holy law are to be kept perfectly, without any regard to your own pride and self-righteousness?
If you have, and I pray that you have, then you will realize that there is nothing you can do but cry out to God in mercy. Isaiah cried out:
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”What happened next?
The Thrice Holy God Converts
Isaiah was shown grace.
 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7 ESV)The solution to the holy, holy, holy God and sinful human gap is that God crosses over to us and purifies us. The glowing hot coal from the altar is brought by one of the seraphim. He takes it from the altar with tongs, but carries is over in his hand and touches the lips of Isaiah, burning away and cauterizing all of Isaiah’s impurity. The guilt is removed from him. And Isaiah’s sin is atoned for. And this was not the result of anything Isaiah did. This is the result of what God did for him.
And this is the gospel this morning. We were lost in sin. Utterly lost. Blind to it, even. And God the Holy Spirit descended down. You heard God’s Word for the first time as God’s Word thanks to this movement of the Holy Spirit. And you were awakened. God became real to you. And your sin made you aware of your own peril. And you cried out for mercy. And God gave it, in the person of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The Son of God descended from glory to live with a fallen people in a fallen world. He lived the perfect life demanded under the law on your behalf. He died the death you deserved because of your sin. This sinless One bore the full weight of God’s wrath for your sin. He bore the curse of God, and in so doing, purchased your release from bondage to sin. He freed you from the curse. And by faith in Him, your sin has been removed, washed away in your baptism, and you have been raised to new life in Christ and are now considered one of the saints. You do know what the world saint means, don’t you? It means you are now considered by God to be a “Holy One.” You have been clothed with Christ. You have been grated the perfect righteousness of Christ. It is credited to your account purely by faith, so that you have no room to boast. It was all of God. It was pure grace? And why did he do it? Because he chose you in His love for you to receive mercy and become one of the children of the living God.
And when that happens, you are freed for joyful, loving service to your Savior. You develop an itch to proclaim the glory of His grace. You are granted a servant’s heart, after the heart of the Lord, who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.
The Thrice Holy God Consecrates
I’m not just saying that. It’s in the bible. It comes right from how Isaiah responded to the purifying grace of God.
 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV)Beloved, it is only the gospel that creates a heart that can serve others freely without any second guessing or need for self-approval by others. This holy God’s grace kills your pride. He slays your ambition and gives you a passion for the glory of the Holy God who saves to the uttermost.
Isaiah saw the glory of God. He recognized that he was lost. He was convicted of his sin. Isaiah then received grace and mercy in his conversion and cleansing. Finally, Isaiah was consecrated for service and eagerly volunteered to be sent by God to deliver what would be a very controversial message - that Judah was to be judged through his preaching. The hearts of many many people would be hardened in judgment, but God promised that He would preserve a remnant who would be saved by a suffering servant, the Son of God, the Messiah, the same Jesus whom has saved you.
Oh what a great, great God we have! That we would so graciously choose us and save us for Himself, making us co-heirs with His Beloved Son, Jesus. He is indeed, holy, holy, holy! Let all the saints declare His holiness and live in the light of his holiness. I leave you with this exhortation from Hebrews 12:
 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,  and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:12-14 ESV)Amen.
Given by Christopher D. Drew
at First Presbyterian Church
Beaver Creek, Minnesota
Copyright © 2015
Friday, November 13, 2015
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
|Døpefont i Nidarosdomen (ca. 1915)|
Those of us in the Reformed theological circles believe that the sacrament of holy baptism is to be administered upon the children of believing parents as a sign of the new covenant to those born into the community of faith. Under the old covenant, this covenant sign was given in the rite of circumcision. Under the new covenant, the sign is baptism. And so we gather today to welcome Malachi into the covenant community of the faithful by this administration of this sacramental sign, trusting God through His grace working in and through Connie, Eric, and all of your, that Malachi will come to personally know, trust, and declare faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course one of the things that is clearly indicated by the administration of this sign to infants is that it is tangible symbol of how God’s grace works in our life. We are known and claimed by God before we are made aware of this claim. The helplessness of the infant mirrors our inability to achieve salvation under our own power.
But one of the truths about baptism is given even greater poignancy when administered to infants - that baptism in a very real way a death and burial. Before we get to the resurrection and glory, there must be a death and burial. That is a huge part of our text this afternoon, and a key to unlocking our passion for serving the Lord today.
In our text today, Paul is answering a sharp criticism of the gospel of grace that he was known to preach. Paul himself alludes to this criticism earlier in 3:8
 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. (Romans 3:8 ESV)The allegation is that Paul was teaching what we commonly refer to as “cheap grace.” A grace that forgives sinners and let’s them basically do whatever they want. In fact, the allegation was that Paul’s preaching would enable something even worse: If God’s grace were magnified by the presence of significant sin, wouldn’t not even more sinning bring about more grace? So sin away! God’s grace will be poured out.
In fact, in the verse just precede our text, Paul writes these words:
 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign in righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.Believe it or not, this is still an issue today with many people, and it may come a surprise to you. People still criticise the gospel of grace because they believe it will lead, not to holiness, but to lawlessness. Long ago, a term was coined to describe this kind of lifestyle: Antinomianism. Anti meaning “opposed to” or “against.” Nomos is the Latin word for law. So antinomianism means anti-law. If we really are justified by faith alone in Christ, and all of our sins are washed away, past, present, and future, then we have no fear of our sin (true). All of this is true. The error of antinominism then rears its head. If it’s all forgiven anyway, then let’s have some more sin!
Like any other heretical doctrine in the church, there is just enough truth there to convince some people. God forgives us entirely by his grace. But he forgives us with a purpose, the purpose of making us like Himself, glorious in holiness.
This is attested to in several other passages in the New Testament. For example, Paul, writing to the church in Thessalonica, knew that the sexual temptations of that pagan culture loomed large. Therefore, he wrote to them:
 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 ESV)In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul says:
 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV)Did you see that? You are saved by grace and are being saved through your sanctification, the work of the Holy Spirit whereby not only are your sins washed away and not counted against you, you are progressively advancing to actually kill off sins that still beset you and actually live in holiness. Sanctification isn’t independent of our justification, our declaration in our baptisms that we are not counted guilty of our sin. Sanctification is the fruit of our justification. Holiness is the fruit of real God-given forgiveness. And holiness is commanded by God. And we have been empowered for it by Christ.
The law, which the Jews pursued with great vigor in order to be considered righteous by God, actually reveals the depth of our depravity in sin and our helplessness before a holy and just God. Everyone thought that God could be persuaded by us to grant us entrance into the kingdom. But that’s not how salvation works. Salvation is granted as a gift from a holy God to unholy, God-hating sinners who, when they are shown just how bad their situation is, and just how costly it was God Jesus to grant them forgiveness. And then, out of love and adoration of that Savior, the newborn Christians strives to live a life of holiness totally for His glory. If you do not understand that basic distinction between the function of the law and the function of grace, then you do not really understand what the gospel is about and what baptism really represents.
And even if we know this to be true, we sometimes forget. We need a reminder. The Romans needed a reminder, as well. And so that is what Paul gives them. He reminds them of the centrality of the gospel of grace by reminding them of what? Baptism.
Remember what 5:20 read:
 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (Romans 5:20 ESV)So then, Paul, you think it’s okay then to do whatever we want. Right? Right?
 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)Paul answers the objection of his Jewish opponents head on, suing the strongest possible objection “By no means!” And then he says how can anyone who is dead to sin still live in it? To be dead to sin means that sin has no power over you any more. He’s stating here that sin, for the Christian, should be impossible.
And then Paul says:
 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3 ESV)That is a huge statement. When the sacrament of Holy Baptism is administered in a few moments, I want each of you to be thinking of these words. When we are baptized, we are baptized into the death of Christ. That is why the death represented in baptism is so crucial. Our death in Christ’s death is a death to sin. When that happens, sin loses its ability to enslave us. Before we have faith, sin is, for all practical purposes, our owner. But if we have truly died with Christ, we have died to sin. It perished with Jesus when he was crucified.
 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4 ESV)Having become dead to sin in baptism, we are raised from the dead, the world of sin which brings death, and are granted to walk “in newness of life.” The old life, characterized by slavery to sin, is gone forever. Wiped away by God’s grace. We are now, in that grace, inexorably united with our Savior.
 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:5-11 ESV)So let’s sum up what this text is telling us about baptism. It represents:
- Our death to sin (which is equated with freedom from slavery to sin)
- Union with Christ.
- Our adoption into the Father’s household.
- Hope for the future.
- Eternal life with God.
There is also a command in our text, a command to live in accordance with this new nature we enjoy in union with Christ of King:
 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14 ESV)And so Paul fully and finally answers the objection that grace means lawlessness. No. Grace means freedom from our old master, sin, and newness of life in joyful compliance with our new master, whose name is “The Lord is Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:15). Gospel freedom doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want. It means that increasingly what you want will be in full accord with what God intends for you, your holiness.
So as you witness this baptism this afternoon, I beg you to please reflect on the reality of your own baptism and everything that baptism signifies. When tempted to sin, remember that you are dead to sin by the grace of your baptism. Think of this as a great mental check on temptation. You’re sitting in front of the computer. You see an ad. You are tempted to sin. At that moment, discipline you mind. “I am dead to this because of my baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.” When you heard a rumor and are tempted to share it. “I’m dead to this because of my baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection.” I will show my love for the Savior through my desire to honor Him by living for Him in Holiness. As you parent your baptized children, parent them in the grace you have received in baptism, and raise up your children in the knowledge of that grace. Preach this gospel to them, trusting that the Holy Spirit will grant to your children the true freedom offered by Jesus. As the writer of the Hebrews said in 12:14:
 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 ESV)You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Baptism shows this. Glorify God in your body. Commit yourself to live in the light of your baptism, so that God may be glorified. As Paul says, you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus [6:11].
Given by Christopher D. Drew
at Salem Lutheran Church
on the occasion of the baptism of Malachi Dennis Hullstrom
Copyright © 2015
Friday, July 17, 2015
From Calvin's 1541 French edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion comes this tasty morsel:
We clearly see how people are devoid and stripped of all good, and how they lack all that pertains to their salvation. That is why, if a person wants something to help him in his need, he must go outside himself and seek his help elsewhere. . . . Our Lord presents Himself freely to us in His Son Jesus Christ, offering us in Him all happiness in place of our misery, all abundance in place of our poverty, and opening to us in Him all His heavenly treasures and riches so that all our faith may look to His very dear Son, all our expectation may be in Him, and all our hope may rest on him. This is a secret, a hidden philosophy which cannot be understood by syllogisms; but those people understand it whose eyes our Lord has opened in order that in His light they may see clearly. We are taught by faith to know that all the good we need and which we lack in ourselves is in God and in His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Father has established all the fullness of His blessings and abundance so that we may draw everything from there as from a very full fountain. Now it remains for us to see in Him and, by prayers, ask from Him what we have learned is there. For otherwise to know God as the Master, Author, and Giver of all good who invites us to ask them from Him, and for us not to address Him, not to ask anything from Him, would not benefit us at all. It would be as if someone disdained and left buried and hidden under the earth a treasure about which he had been told."
Friday, July 10, 2015
It been years since I preached from the lectionary, but I can't help but notice that this week's lectionary text from the gospel of Mark is about the beheading of John the Baptist. The text is Mark 6:14-29.
One of the crucial exegetical questions that comes from this text is this: Why did Herod imprison John? The text gives a straightforward answer:
For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. (Mark 6:17-20 ESV)Herod was of a divided mind about John. He "heard John gladly," but whenever he heard him, he was "greatly perplexed," no doubt because John kept bringing up the matter of Herod's illegitimate marriage to his brother Philip's wife, Herodias. Why was the marriage illegitimate? Such marriages were a violation of the Old Testament law, specifically Leviticus 18:16:
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness.And also Leviticus 20:21
If a man takes his brother's wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.So the marriage to Herodias wasn't a lawful marriage.
Another interesting fact in this text is that Herod Antipas wasn't actually a Jew. Even so, John tells Herod that he has violated the moral law of the Old Testament. Because Herod was the titular leader of the Jewish people, and was already disliked because he wasn't a Jew himself, the imprisonment of John served the political end of silencing a very unhelpful critic.
So what is the takeaway here? It is this: John the Baptist was imprisoned and killed for preaching what God's Word says about real marriage.
And why is this important today, Christian? You know why. The faithful preaching of God's Word can be costly. It starts with fines and gag orders and goes from there. But take heart! Jesus has overcome the world, and your inheritance is awaiting.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The PC(USA) is not translating the Bible to remove references to Israel. That rumor is completely false. PC(USA) Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons
— General Assembly (@presbyGA) January 27, 2015
The real tragedy of this tweet is that apparently enough people assumed such a project to be possible that the suggestion had to be publicly refuted.