Our Precious Truth: Jesus Christ suffered for our salvation

Jesus Christ suffered for our salvation

Though He was shamefully betrayed by a disciple and friend, he patiently accepted the humiliation of being kissed and turned over to his enemies.

Though he knew he was innocent of any charge against him, he endured this mockery of a trial.

And though he alone has the power to give life, he was cast down for us and beaten by the guards of Israel and Rome and brought to the cross of Calvary to suffer and die so that He might satisfy the demands of God's justice

Earlier in Jesus' ministry, in the lead up to his passion and death on the cross, “he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again." (Mark 8:29-31 ESV)

These things he told them to prepare them – as he told them, “ 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

But could anyone fully expect what happened?

Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

So, in the moment of this betrayal, Peter the bold steps forward to free them. 

But what do we see?

Peter's strike demonstrates the futility of fisherman, peasants, and tax collectors resisting trained Roman guards. 

Peter's strike also demonstrates a willingness of the disciple to die for him but they could not die with him – they could not go through what Jesus was now going through for their deaths would not accomplish what the death of the Son of God accomplished for our salvation!

As one writer put it, “Salvation would come to God's people not through the defeat of their enemies but through the death and resurrection of the Saviour” (Kernaghan, 306)

That was the only way – let us never forget that!

I Believe that Christ Shall Come Again!

Dr. J.I. Packer, in his simple book on the Apostles' Creed, writes,

"Nowhere does the strength of the Creed as a charter for life come out more clearly [than in the phrase "He shall come"].
In today's world, pessimism prevails because people lack hope. They foresee only the bomb, or bankruptcy, or a weary old age -- nothing worthwhile. Communists and Jehovah's Witnesses attract by offering bright hopes of heaven on earth -- following the Revolution in one case, Armageddon in the other; but Christians have a hope that outshines both -- the hope of which Bunyan's Mr. Stand-fast said, "the thoughts of what I am going to... lie as a glowing Coal at my Heart." The Creed highlights this hope when it declares: "he shall come."

This was a truth that we saw so plainly in our study of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians and the Apostle Paul's repeated efforts to set before his hearers the assurance that Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead!

Take this message to heart as you live each day in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ!

"How Can I Say What I'm Feeling?

Dr. David Murray, on his blog Head Heart Hand, offers some very good reasons why the Psalms are so impactful in a Christian's life. The whole piece is worthwhile reading as we think of that age-old dilemma of expressing how we feel about something.

Whether it is feelings of loss or despair, loneliness or fear, joy or thanksgiving... all who come to the Psalms discover that the words which capture our experiences and emotions are already composed for us by the One who identifies with us in our suffering and thanksgiving!

"Despite hundreds of new Christian songs, of every possible genre, being composed every year, the ancient Psalms are experiencing somewhat of a revival in various places. Why?

I believe the main reason is their therapeutic value; in a day of so many disordered emotions, worshippers are discovering how the Psalms minister so powerfully to their emotional lives."

...

The Psalms express the full range of human emotions
"The Psalms contain an incomparably rich mixture of extreme and varied emotions: grief and joy, doubt and confidence, loneliness and fellowship, despair and hope, fear and courage, defeat and victory, complaint and praise, etc.

Is it any wonder that Calvin called the Psalms “an Anatomy of all Parts of the Soul”? As he explained: “There is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”

Read the whole piece online here: http://headhearthand.org/blog/2012/02/13/therapeutic-praise/

Rollercoaster photo credit: Matt McK on Unsplash

"Fresh Reasons for Doxology" in the "Details of His Saving Plan"

In his recent book on the Westminster Confession of Faith, Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn writes,

"Many of the topics raised in this confession of faith have deterred the faint-hearted, such as the problem of evil, the divine decrees, and the freedom or bondage of the will. The [Westminster] assembly offers careful sketches on each subject as well as clear counterpoints to associated errors; both new initiates to Christianity and seasoned theologians will find these outlines helpful."

"Why is it not enough to speak simply about being 'saved' or being 'in Christ'? Why must the confession also define 'justification' and 'imputation' and 'forgiveness'? If I am to be candid, it seems to me that one reason for the specificity of the confession has to do with the simple pleasure of its authors. Thoughtful Christians sometimes develop an appetite for God that can become an insatiable desire to discover fresh reasons for doxology.... We are told to rejoice in the details of his saving plan and in the distinct blessings we receive from God and his gospel. Serious students in Christ's school become instinctively equipped to enjoy every brush stroke on the canvas of God's revelation of redemption, and not simply the final effect that the Master has produced."

"The other reason why we see a careful attention to precise terminology in this confession is that labelling can promote learning. We see this in chemistry or grammar. We see this in theology too. Take the doctrine of justification as an example. The Scriptures tell us about a true righteousness being credited to those who do not deserve it and a free gift of forgiveness purchased for sinners. Sometimes the Scriptures tether this credited righteousness to justification, sometimes they tie forgiveness to justification. The authors of this confession, like many Bible readers before and after them, noted these frequent associations of words and ideas and, in this case, concluded that 'justification' must be the Bible's umbrella term for credited righteousness and divine forgiveness, two distinct but united aspects of the one doctrine of justification."

(Quotes from Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014) Available online here: https://banneroftruth.org/us/store/theology/confessing-the-faith/

Van Dixhoorn's argument that "labelling promotes learning" and that there is a simple pleasure to be found in the careful study of God's Word really resonates, doesn't it?! Do you rejoice in the "details of his saving plan"? Do you enjoy seeing the various brush strokes being laid down in Scripture to describe the ministry and work of our Saviour? Do you find something deeper than curiosity and stronger than wonder at work in your heart as you see the previews of our Saviour's work in the shadows of the Old Testament people, events, and places? 

Let me (Pastor Norm) be one of the many who recommends this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Westminster Confession of Faith and the background to each of the articles of the Confession! It's a great resource and tool for growing in your understanding of sound biblical teaching. Highly recommended!

Augustine and the Defense of the Faith

With the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation being celebrated especially on this day (Oct 31st), it's always important to keep in mind that Luther was not the first to draw attention to the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. St. Augustine was one such figure who stridently defended the doctrines of scripture and the attack on the gospel found in the writings of Pelagius. 

The history of the monk Pelagius is a compelling read and illustrates how he frequently crossed heads with the early church’s St. Jerome and St. Augustine. Augustine spoke out against the merited grace doctrine of Pelagius in a series of letters and doctrinal treatises. Historian Rebecca Harden Weaver describes it thus:

“The issue for him was the utterly gratuitous character of grace. Any connection between the divine conferral of grace and human distinctions in merit would have the effect of making the former dependent on the latter. Grace would be a reward. Such an arrangement was totally unacceptable to Augustine. Instead, he argued that God had created human nature as good; yet in Adam all participated in sin and, as a result, deserve damnation. The grace of God, however, rescues some from their just deserts and bestows on them eternal life.” (Rebecca Harden Weaver, Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1996), 5)

On the Psalms ...

"We should understand the Psalter as a vital part of God's preparation for the coming of Christ. We should understand a particular psalm in its historical context and New Testament usage and ponder how that Psalm relates to Christ. Above all, we should understand the Psalter as divinely-inspired, Christ-centered songs worthy of joyful praise unto God."
(From '150 Questions about the Psalter' by Bradley Johnston; http://www.crownandcovenant.com/product_p/ds199.htm)

Introducing You to the Westminster Standards

In "Welcome to a Reformed Church" Rev. Daniel Hyde offers a helpful intro to the confessional standards of our congregation:

"The Westminster Standards -- the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), the Westminster Larger Catechism (1648), and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1648) -- were written during the brief period of Puritan ascendancy in mid-seventeenth-century England. The so-called "Long Parliament" dealt with the question of what form the English church would take. In January 1643, Parliament met to abolish the office of bishop, which practically ruled the Church of England. This led to the calling of an assembly of 121 theologians and elders ('divines') in July 1643. While Parliament expected a revision of the Church of England's Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion in order to unite the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the delegates to the assembly came to see that something more was needed. In the summer of 1644, a committee was created to write a confession of the united Reformed faith in Great Britain."

 

photo credit: Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash