Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to Hopewell Church.  Hopewell is a new church that we are starting in Ashland, OH.  We'd love for you to come and worship with us.

Hopewell is a Reformed church, holding to the Westminster and London Baptist Confessions.  As a dual confessional church we make it our aim to be respectful when it comes to the issue of baptism and not let our differing views be a cause for division.

We are also a family integrated church.  This means we welcome children to participate in the worship services as much as possible so that they may grow and experience the presence of God with the rest of His people.

We invite you to check out our website for more information:  www.hopewellashland.com

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ageless Audio Reproductions at Doctrine on Fire site

I'm excited about a new site I have going.  Make sure you go over and check out Doctrine on Fire.  The site makes available audio reproductions of some of the greatest sermons of all time at a rather cheap price.

I've always been fond of the classics, especially when it comes to the things of Christ.  The rich heritage we have can really stir the soul.  Being able to listen to history's finest sermons will certainly benefit one's walk with Christ.

Be sure to note that you can sample the audio of each of the sermons.  The latest additions may be of particular interest:  Samuel Miller's sermon entitled The Danger of a Life of Pleasure is quite a sobering message, especially for our libertine age.

I'm really fond of the most recent production:  R.L. Dabney's famous sermon, The World Ripe to Harvest, Reap or It Perishes.  This one is sure to get your evangelistic juices flowing.  He urges fervency in missions by reminding you that there is only one means of salvation and vast portions of the world shall perish if these souls are not reaped by the ministry of the gospel.

There's some good stuff on the way too!  For instance, in the works now is a production of Jonathan Edward's famous message on 1 Corinthans 13:8-10, Heaven is a World of Love.  To contemplate the excellencies of heaven is exceedingly hard.  Yet, at the same time, it is exceedingly wonderful.  When this sermon is released, it is sure to be some of the finest spiritual food.

The Light of the World Cast into the Outer Darkness

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.”
Matthew 27:45
There is a life giving force to the light.  After coming through the deeps of winter, we embrace the illumination that accompanies spring.  I know for my family Daylight Savings is on the par of a national holiday. 
I don’t think any of us would deny that there is a renewing affect of light.  Perhaps this was why light was the first gift of creation.  The first recorded words of God were “Let there be light.”  This light is appreciated so much that it comes to signify that which is good and joyous.  The climax of this comes in the Savior’s designation of himself.  He said, “I am the Light of the World.” 
But in this passage we see that light was taken from our Lord as he hung on the cross.  Jesus was stripped of that first and great blessing of creation.  We might say that the Light of the World was not allowed to enjoy the light of the world.
We might not think much of these words, but we should not overstep them.  These words show us something of Jesus’ sufferings.  Though we cannot see anything through the darkness, when we hear these words we must understand that we are peering into the pit of hell. 
This should have been the brightest hours of the day.  The 6th to the 9th hours was a roman way of talking about Noon. to 3 p.m.  But it seems like midnight.  Is this a freak occurrence?  Is it an super eclipse of the sun? 
No.  Science cannot explain how the sun, moon and stars were all deleted for a space of 3 hours.  It can only be explained one way:  The rays of the sun forsook him.  God had turned his back on Christ.  Therefore he is excommunicated from the presence of light.  All of God’s favor is removed. 
All of us know something of punishment.  We certainly know that there are different forms of punishment.  The form with which we are most familiar is the use of brute force.  Parents spank their children.  Criminals receive whippings or floggings.  As we have seen in other places tonight, Jesus certainly received his fair share of brute force as he was beaten, whipped and crucified..
But the use of blows and scourges are not the only way to punish.  Some of the worst punishments are ones that do not involve contact.  By that I mean the elimination (or removal) of blessings.  Sometimes children can endure a spanking pretty easily.  But if you tell him he cannot go a much anticipated party he might break.  If you forbid him from going out to a game you can bypass his skin and bones and touch a part of his soul. 
As he underwent the wrath of God, Jesus suffered more than simple afflictions upon his body.  He was stripped of all good things.  Even this most basic good: the one that all men enjoy to some degree.  God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust.  But at this point, the Sin Bearer could not be permitted to have even the most basic joy.  A blanket must be cast over the sun.
He must experience the cruelty of the great Day of the Lord.  This is what the Prophets foretold.  Isaiah said, “Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both in wrath and fierce anger, for the stars of heaven and the constellations shall not give their light:  The sun shall be darkened in its going forth and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. 
Again Isaiah said regarding the day of the Lord, “I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.”  Jesus himself had even spoken of this terror.  He said that the evil doers would be cast into the outer darkness.  Now, as the darkness descends upon him, we understand (in a chilling way) that he is descending into hell.
Don’t forget too the effects of the darkness on one’s mental capacity.  Why is it that we love Daylight Savings?  It is because it brightens our spirits as well as our neighborhood.  Some of you know that doctors prescribe more anti-depressants during the months that the sun seems to slumber.  Up in Alaska darkness covers the land for days on end.  During these times the government holds events (carnivals, races, etc) to try to lift people’s spirits.  Our brother Lyle tells me that lots of people end up committing suicide or drinking to cope with the despair that accompanies.
Think about that.  Think about the mental agonies that accompanied his physical pain.  Klass Schildner has made the comment, “No man saw what terrors distorted [Christ’s] face or how the affliction of hell entered his body… He allowed no one to look into hell.” 
The furry of hell takes on new dimensions, doesn’t it?  You might not see flames, but you certainly feel them.  That’s because God’s wrath burns deeper than skin in the darkness.
Could there be a darker message?  Certainly not.  But as we try to look at what we cannot see, we do see the glimmer of good news.  What?  Good news?  Where do we see that?  If we see anything it is the horror of hell, isn’t it?
That is not the only thing we see.  We do see one more thing.  We see that Christ is fulfilling his office of Mediator.  He is saving his people from their sins.
At our other meeting place—at Armstrong—I find a good illustration of this.  Each night when I go there to prepare for evening service, it is pitch black in that room.  I open the door, but the light switches are on the other side of the room.  Someone has to walk across the darkness to allow others to experience the light of the room.
Is that not what Christ did?  In those three hours He made the trek through eternal darkness.  By doing so he saves us from the darkness and despair of God’s wrath.  Christ allows the light of heaven to radiate around those of us who are his people.  We have opportunity to enjoy the inexpressible light of God’s presence because he took upon himself the dark curse of hell on our behalf.
Though we cannot see anything, we see something miraculous.  Even though the cross is hidden by a wall of black velvet, we see something beautiful:  We see the Son of God bringing light and life to his people.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The King-Priest Enters His Passion

If you have a rambunctious teenager, you most likely know that it is not just Palm Sunday, a supposedly high day of the Church calendar, but it is also April Fool’s Day…and I think that it is appropriate that the two coincide. 


I think that this Providence speaks volumes.  On this day the church has often celebrated the grandiose events associated with this passage, what we have historically called “the Triumphant Entry.”  No doubt, many of you have Bibles where the editors have inserted a title labeling this event as such.  And, to be sure, the ecstatic fanfare that we witness here gives the impression of something astounding.  Here we see the pinnacle of Christ’s earthly life.  The lips of men never have hailed Christ in such a manner before.  And throughout much of the church’s history we’ve sought to replicate something of the pomp of the day.

But it is all a fa├žade.  All that you see here in this passage, the displays of majesty and honor, are really only tricks.  This might be the greatest hoax in all history because so many have been fooled by it.

I know what you heard.  I know what you see in your mind’s eye.  But bear with me, and try and see this passage in a new light.  I want you to understand that things are not exactly as they seem. 

It all begins with Jesus.  You might say that he is the biggest prankster of all time.  For he wittingly provokes the crowd. 

I. Jesus wittingly provokes the crowd [28-36]
One of the biggest misconceptions that we have is that this grand march occurred spontaneously.  It was a spur-of-the-moment thing that blossomed out of random circumstances.  But that is not true.  Jesus planned this thing to a tee.  As a matter of fact, He was the one that instigated all the hoopla that we see here.

Why do I say this?  One reason is because of what Jesus did prior to going into Jerusalem.  First, there is the obvious fulfillment of Scripture.  Everyone there would have understood as soon as they saw Jesus:  Zechariah 9:9.  Here comes your king, riding on the foal of an ass.  Jesus is intentionally setting this up.  Jesus was playing on that.  He knew that was on People’s minds, and so he said, “Go get me a donkey.”

But more than that, Jesus goes to a lot of trouble to get this little beast, doesn’t he?  He called his disciples over, told them to go to all the way over to the next town to get it.

Now, you do know that he could have just as easily found a ride right there where he was.  He was in Bethany.  That was where Lazarus lived.  He had some connections and could have easily picked up a colt there.  But he makes his disciples take this extra trip.  They have to go out of their way to get it. 

On top of this, Jesus tells them to basically commit a form of robbery. 

Robbery?  What do you mean by that?  Well, he tells them that they will find a colt tied there and they should take it.  Normally, you don’t just take things.  Even if you have previously arranged a deal with Enterprise Rent-a-Donkey, you stop in and ask for the keys and get the necessary permissions. 

But Jesus says, “Just take it.”  And if anyone asks, tell them “The Lord has need of it.”  I think it is safe to say that Jesus is intentionally drawing attention to himself.  Of course these people are going to stop these guys from taking the animal.  Of course they are going to inquire what they are doing.  And the response would have been some good gossip, “The Lord has need of it.” 

You can see them turn to one another and start talking, “Jesus is coming?!”  The whispers would have traveled like wildfire through the masses of people who were starting to assemble there for the festivities.

So you see, Jesus is intentionally provoking the people.  He’s getting them all excited.  He’s revving them up just for this moment.

And it is an odd thing for Jesus to do, isn’t it?  Up until now, Jesus has been avoiding the crowds to a great degree.  He’s certainly been down playing his status as the Messianic King.  There are times where he blatantly turns the masses away.  Jesus is very “seeker unfriendly” sometimes.  And there have been other instances where people acknowledge his messianic role and he says, “See that you tell no one.”

But at this moment in Jesus’ life, he takes the spotlight.  He doesn’t shy away from the acclaim.  Rather, he steps right into it.  More than that!  He was the very one who set the stage for it.  He intentionally whips up the crowd.

You know, there was one other time in Jesus’ life when intentionally provoked a rather large crowd of people.  It was in his hometown of Nazareth. It was at the beginning of his ministry.  He came into the synagogue and opened the scroll.  He read it and began to preach.  Everyone was amazed.  They were saying, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  No doubt all his life they had sung the praises of this brilliant little boy as he was growing up.  They started doing the exact same thing right then. 

But then Jesus got to the application of the sermon…and they didn’t like that.  Their admiration turned to aggression rather quickly.  And they led him up to a cliff and were ready to toss him to his doom. 

You remember that Jesus vanished before their eyes.  In the commotion they lost him.  And the Scripture says it was because “it was not his time.”

That was how his ministry began.  His role as a Prophet was ever seared into the minds of his kindred.  Now, in this event, Jesus whips up the crowd again.  He advertises himself as their King. 

I really think that Jesus is doing more than making a grandiose entry into Jerusalem.  I think he’s turning the blade of the sacrificial knife right to his breast.  In whipping up the crowd, he’s directing history.  The time has come.  It is the last week of his life.  And so he’s putting all things in order so that the main thrust of his sufferings can commence.

He’s declared to be the King here.  But really, Jesus is acting as a Priest.  As a priest he must offer up the sacrifice for sins.  Priests don’t let other people do their work.  They can’t let other people do their work.  People who are not priests can’t offer the sacrifices.  The priest has to take control and carry out the duties.  And that’s what Jesus does.  In whipping up the crowd, he plays on their false notions of the Messianic King.  And in doing so, he puts the blade to his throat. 

My friends, He provokes this crowd because he knows he must atone for your sin.  He knows that he must force the situation as your priest.

And when you think about it like this you realize that this is a far different thing than what others have said in ages past about Jesus.  There have been some who have believed that Jesus was just an ordinary guy.  He wanted to be Israel’s Messiah, but he saw that his plan was going awry.  They say that he finally realized that the people weren’t going to make him their king and so he gave himself up to be crucified as a last ditch effort to gain their graces.  It was his last attempt to elicit some sort of esteem as a great man.

Fredrick Nietzsche was one such person who exposed this.  Neitzsche once picture Christ as a frail, world-weary Hebrew, who doubting his future, bowed forward in despair and fell into deaths arms.  All in a last shot at being received by the people.

That’s all bunk.  The story given to us puts everything in a whole different light.  It shows us a priest-king who puts everything in order.  He didn’t accidently fall into the clutches of murderers.  He was in command the whole time.  He intentionally provoked them in order to set the stage for his sacrifice.
 
And even as this happens, you can’t help but see him already in the midst of his sufferings.  Don’t forget that as he provokes this crowd, the crowd also provokes Jesus.

II. The crowd unwittingly provokes Jesus [37-44]
In the midst of the wild jubilation that is no doubt rocking Jerusalem, if you listen hard enough you might be able to hear through all that noise one man weeping.  Now, it is so triumphant, why is Jesus in tears?

Again, it sounds so glorious, doesn’t it?  People are skipping around with delight.  Sounds of Psalms are echoing off the walls of the city.  You have the accolades of the crowd reverberating throughout the valley.  It is a procession unlike any in history.  The singing is no doubt reaching decibels that put the Roman governors on edge.  And then you look at Jesus, nad you see him with water filled eyes.

Jesus knows that this mighty chorus is all sung in falsetto. 

The passage makes this clear enough. First, you have the people’s praises.  They are singing because they expect Christ to inaugurate the Davidic kingship again.  You notice that they don’t sing because they recognize who Jesus is as the Redeemer.  It says in verse 37 that they sang because of “all the things that they had seen.”  They were caught up in the miracles.  And their nationalistic juices were stoked.

So Jesus knows that every note that resonates in that valley is sung to a completely different god.  They were singing to a Messiah of their own invention.  They were singing to a military leader and a physical warrior. 

Their singing might have been musically harmonious, but to Christ it was the greatest dissonance that there ever was—especially when you consider how they were twisting up the Scriptures and miss applying them.  Anytime you take Christ’s words and miss apply them, you not only dismember the Scriptures, you attack the very soul of Christ. 

Dutch preacher Klass Schilder once said on this passage, “A rent in the body of the Bible, which is God’s Word made Scripture, is equivalent to a dismemberment of Christ’s body, which is the Word of God made flesh.”

So don’t think for a second that the chanting and the jubilations were by any means pleasantries to Jesus.  Jesus is in the initial stages of his passion.  Every word might better be conceived as some of his very first scourges received that week.  The false notions of these people would have grieved him to no end and struck wounds deep in his chest.

Add to this pain the snide remarks of the Pharisees.  They provoke him, perhaps more than the crowd.  They tell him to hush up all this commotion.  In essence, they one up the crowd because they are saying, “We don’t want you to be our king at all!”  At least the crowd hadn’t gone that far, at least not yet.  But the Pharisees make no bones about it.  They openly proclaim, “We don’t want you.”

The passage goes on to show us just how Jesus much all this affected Jesus.  In verse 41 it says that he comes to the city in tears.  And what he says confirms his heartbreak.  Out of the anguish of his heart he decries the unbelief of the city and what it will lead to.  He prophesies the coming destruction of Jerusalem.  “The days will come,” he says, “When your enemies will build barricades and lay siege to this place.”  All this because they “did not know the time of their visitation.”

 So yes, this procession is far from anything that Jesus takes delight in.  It is downright irksome to him.  All this crowd does is provoke him.  All the rumpus brouhaha—all the wild fervor—is like a whip raking his soul.  Every cheer and every note of jubilation was basically a fist clubbing his spirit.

Conclusion:
You might then wonder, why did he whip up the crowd in the first place then?  You might say that this is kind of his fault.  We just established the fact that he was the one who went out of his way to provoke the crowd.  Isn’t he to blame for it all?

I don’t know if we can answer that question fully.  We can say this though:  Christ is our Mediator—and it is beautiful.  He’s presented to the Roman Establishment as a Triumphant Warrior, but to us he is presented as the Man of Sorrows.  Though the throng declares him to be the Messianic King, we see him as the Messianic Priest and a Sacrificial Lamb, already being led to the slaughter.

So, yes, in a sense he does bring it all upon himself.  And, rightfully so!  Because he is the Priest, and the Priest’s job is to bleed the sheep.  Priests were not to have any mercy on those little creatures.  They were to inflict upon them the pains the sacrifice demands without holding back in any degree. 

And our great High Priest does not hold back.  He orders these events so that he might receive the pains that sin deserves.  He must begin his passion.  The lamb’s blood must be shed.  And it is.  The wrath of God is being poured out.  It might not be completely visual, but there is an internal bleeding that has begun, as he receives the pangs upon his soul. 

And we take comfort in it.  For these things point us towards the atonement that Christ makes for our sins.  As Christ undergoes these miseries he does so as our substitute.  As his spirit is wrenched, we know that it is for us and for our salvation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Christ Cast into the Outer Darkness

There is a life giving force to the light.  After coming through the deeps of winter, we embrace the illumination that accompanies spring.  I know for my family Daylight Savings is on the par of a national holiday.  

I don’t think any of us would deny that there is a renewing affect of light.  Perhaps this was why light was the first gift of creation.  The first recorded words of God were “Let there be light.”  This light is appreciated so much that it comes to signify that which is good and joyous.  The climax of this comes in the Savior’s designation of himself.  He said, “I am the Light of the World.”  

But in this passage (Matthew. 27:45) we see that light was taken from our Lord as he hung on the cross.  Darkness covered the land from the sixth hour to the ninth hour.  In essence, Jesus was stripped of that first and great blessing of creation.  



We might say that the Light of the World was not allowed to enjoy the light of the world.

We might not think much of these words, but we should not overstep them.  These words show us something of Jesus’ sufferings.  Though we cannot see anything through the darkness, when we hear these words we must understand that we are peering into the pit of hell.  

This should have been the brightest hours of the day.  The 6th to the 9th hours was a Roman way of talking about Noon. to 3 p.m.  But it seems like midnight.  Is this a freak occurrence?  Is it an super eclipse of the sun?  

No.  Science cannot explain how the sun, moon and stars were all deleted for a space of 3 hours.  It can only be explained one way:  The rays of the sun forsook him.  God had turned his back on Christ.  Therefore he is excommunicated from the presence of light.  All of God’s favor is removed.  

All of us know something of punishment.  We certainly know that there are different forms of punishment.  The form with which we are most familiar is the use of brute force.  Parents spank their children.  Criminals receive whippings or floggings.  As we have seen in other places tonight, Jesus certainly received his fair share of brute force as he was beaten, whipped and crucified.

But the use of blows and scourges are not the only way to punish.  Some of the worst punishments are ones that do not involve contact.  By that I mean the elimination (or removal) of blessings.  Sometimes children can endure a spanking pretty easily.  But if you tell him he cannot go to a much anticipated party he might break.  If you forbid him from going out to a game you can bypass his skin and bones and touch a part of his soul.  


Solitary confinement has been used as one of the most painful sorts of punishment.  Isolation from people and even light itself can torment a person in the mind, and afflict them far beyond what one might attain by scourging.

As he underwent the wrath of God, Jesus suffered more than simple afflictions upon his body.  He was stripped of all good things.  Even this most basic good: the one that all men enjoy to some degree.  Remember, God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45).  But at this point, the Sin Bearer could not be permitted to have even the most basic joy.  A blanket must be cast over the sun.

He must experience the cruelty of the great Day of the Lord.  This is what the Prophets foretold.  Isaiah said, “Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both in wrath and fierce anger, for the stars of heaven and the constellations shall not give their light:  The sun shall be darkened in its going forth and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.  

Again Isaiah said regarding the day of the Lord, “I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.”  Jesus himself had even spoken of this terror.  He said that the evil doers would be cast into the outer darkness.  Now, as the darkness descends upon him, we understand (in a chilling way) that he is descending into hell.

Don’t forget too the effects of the darkness on one’s mental capacity.  Why is it that we love Daylight Savings?  It is because it brightens our spirits as well as our neighborhood.  Some of you know that doctors prescribe more anti-depressants during the months that the sun seems to slumber.  Up in Alaska darkness covers the land for days on end.  During these times the government holds events (carnivals, races, etc) to try to lift people’s spirits.  Our brother Lyle tells me that lots of people end up committing suicide or drinking to cope with the despair that accompanies the long darkness.

Think about that.  Think about the mental agonies that accompanied his physical pain.  Klass Schildner has made the comment, “No man saw what terrors distorted [Christ’s] face or how the affliction of hell entered his body… He allowed no one to look into hell.”  

The furry of hell takes on new dimensions, doesn’t it?  You might not see flames, but you certainly feel them.  That’s because God’s wrath burns deeper than skin in the darkness.

Could there be a darker message?  Certainly not.  But as we try to look at what we cannot see, we do see the glimmer of good news.  What?  Good news?  Where do we see that?  If we see anything it is the horror of hell, isn’t it?

That is not the only thing we see.  We do see one more thing.  Through the darkness (or perhaps, in the darkness) we see that Christ is fulfilling his office of Mediator.  He is saving his people from their sins.

At our other meeting place—at Armstrong—I find a good illustration of this.  Each night when I go there to prepare for evening service, it is pitch black in that room.  I open the door, but the light switches are on the other side of the room.  Someone has to walk across the darkness to allow others to experience the light of the room.

Is that not what Christ did?  In those three hours He made the trek through eternal darkness.  By doing so he saves us from the darkness and despair of God’s wrath.  Christ allows the light of heaven to radiate around those of us who are his people.  We have opportunity to enjoy the inexpressible light of God’s presence because he took upon himself the dark curse of hell on our behalf.

Though we cannot see anything, we see something miraculous.  Even though the cross is hidden by a wall of black velvet, we see something beautiful:  We see the Son of God bringing light and life to his people.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Calvinistic Pick Up Lines and Covenant Theology

Yep, you heard right:  Calvinistic pick up lines.  That's just one of the things you'll find in our church's latest newsletter.  

Of course, it is chuck full of many other tasty morsels which are of a more edifying nature.  This issue is dedicated to covenant theology.  Covenant theology is the interpretive key to Scripture and helps us understand how God relates to us.  This issue will define a covenant for you and begin to unravel the covenants of Scripture.