Saturday, December 26, 2009

Not Christmas but Easter

I meant to post this yesterday, but we were enjoying family way too much! This is a short meditation on Christmas and Easter. Happy Christmas everyone!
"The central celebration of Christianity is not Christmas but Easter. It is a great a miraculous thing that the creator of the universe should be born as a baby in Bethlehem. But a true saying worthy of all people to receive is that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim 1:15): the reason for his birth was his death and resurrection.

It is wonderful that God should visit us - and visit us as one of us. But more wonderful still is that he should die for us, for "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). That God the Son became a man is, of course, enormously important. As the old hymn goes:

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.
(Cecil F Alexander, "There is a green hill far away")

God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19), so it is right to celebrate his birth with joy. But in his birth, he entered the battle, whereas in his death and resurrection, he conquered our enemy and won the war.

This victory contains the great news about God's visit to humanity. Jesus did not come just to share our experience of life, or to teach us the way to live; he came to take our sin upon himself and to bear our punishment in his death. He himself said he came to "give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). As the Apostle Peter said, "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous" (1 Pet 3:18a).

But Jesus' 'visit' to humanity did not cease with his death. He rose again as a man, and not just as a man but as the 'Son of Man' - the man whom Daniel prophesied would rule all nations for all time (Dan 7:13-14). "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive", wrote the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:21-22).

Furthermore, the risen Jesus continues as the man who rules the world. He calls all people to himself by his Spirit and announces the gospel through his servants. As people come to him by the power of his Spirit's work of regeneration, they enter the kingdom of God.

At Easter, we take time to remember with overwhelming gratitude to God that we are saved by his Son's death and resurrection. We know that the crucifixion of Christ is the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18-24). There is no message more important to preach and no song more important to sing than that Jesus died for our sins. This message was delivered by the apostles "as of first importance" - that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried , that he was raised on third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3-4).

For those who are not saved, Easter is a strange and fairly unimpressive festival. A man dies in the first century and we are supposed to celebrate? He may have been a great man - he may have been an innocent man - he may have died a barbaric death - but what is so important about a man who died? How is this action central to history, life, eternity or your relationship to God? In contrast, for those of us being saved, the cross is not a matter of shame and foolishness but the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18).

Christmas will always be more popular than Easter with the non-Christian. It has a message that is easier to understand - a message that tells us of our importance. It is a message of birth and life. But Easter has a message that demonstrates God's wrath upon our sin. It is a message that reminds us of our mortality. It is a message that demands repentance.

And yet Easter is not a gloomy affair. We do not celebrate that Jesus died, but that he died for our sins. We do not only celebrate that he returned to life, but also that he rose to rule the universe as our Lord and king. We do not celebrate God's wrath upon our sin but the victory of God's mercy over wrath - whereby we are justified and pardoned. We do not celebrate life here on earth, but life here on earth and into eternity - the new eternal life of the kingdom of God.

Jensen, Phillip D. By God's Word: 60 Reflections for Living in God's World (Kingsford: Matthias Media, 2007), 208-211.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This is Sin

This was pretty convicting in my devotional time this morning:
"This is sin; a refusal to listen to the voice and to the Word of God. So that if you are living your own life in a very respectable manner, and are not listening to God, you are still a terrible sinner. If you are living that little self-contained, self-satisfied life in which you really only think of God now and again, and remember perhaps morning and evenings that there is a God, and you say your prayers; if that is your attitude to God, if you are not waiting upon Him and listening for His Word, and seeking it everywhere, and living to practise it, then you are as much a sinner as the drunkard or the adulterer; you are not listening to God. That is the essence of sin."

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn Romans Chapter 1 (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 139.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Preaching at Crestwood Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa

This is really late notice, but if you'd pray for Crestwood Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa and myself this morning I'd appreciate it. I'm going to be preaching on Christ the King from Psalm 2 there this morning!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Caution Your Incomes and all Your Losses

Letter LIX. To Earlston, Elder.



I have heard of the mind and malice of your adversaries against you. It is like they will extend the law they have, in length and breadth, answerable to their heat of mind. But it is a great part of your glory that the cause is not yours, but your Lord’s whom you serve. And I doubt not but Christ will count it His honour to back His weak servant; and it were a shame for Him (with reverence to His holy name) that He should suffer Himself to be in the common of such a poor man as ye are, and that ye should give out for Him and not get in again. Write up your depursments for your Master Christ, and keep the account of what ye give out, whether name, credit, goods, or life, and suspend your reckoning till nigh the eveing; and remember that a poor weak servant of Christ wrote it to you, that ye shall have Christ, a King, caution for your incomes and all your losses. Reckon not from the forenoon. Take the Word of God for your warrant; and for Christ’s act of cautionary, howbeit body, life, and goods go for Christ your Lord, and though ye should lose the head for Him, yet “there shall not one hair of your head perish; in patience, therefore, possess your soul.” (Luke xxi. 18, 19) And because ye are the first man in Galloway called out and questioned for the name of Jesus, His eye hath been upon you, as upon one whom He designed to be among His witnesses. Christ hath said, “Alexander Gordon shall lead the ring in witnessing a good confession,” and therefore He hath put the garland of suffering for Himself first upon your head. Think yourself so much the more obliged to Him, and fear not; for He layeth His right hand on your head. He who was dead and is alive will plead your cause, and will look attentively upon the process from the beginning to the end, and the Spirit of glory shall rest upon you. “Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Zech. xii. 2, 6.) (Rev. ii. 10). This lovely One, Jesus, who also became the Son of man, that He might take strokes for you, write the cross-sweetening and soul-supporting sense of these words in your heart!

These rumbling wheels of Scotland’s ten days’ tribulation are under His look who hath seven eyes. Take a house on your head, and slip yourself by faith in under Christ’s wings till the storm be over. And remember, when they have drunken us down, Jerusalem will be a cup of trembling and of poison. (Zech. xii. 2, 6) They shall be fain to vomit out the saints; for Judah “Shall be a hearth of fire in a sheaf, and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left.” Woe to Zion’s enemies! They have the worst of it; for we have write for the victory. Sir, ye were never honourable till now. This is your glory, that Christ hat put you in the roll with Himself and with the rest of the witnesses who are come out of great tribulation, and have washen their garments and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Be not cast down for what the servants of Antichrist cast in your teeth, that ye are a head to and favourer of the Puritans, and leader to that sect. If your conscience say, “Alas! here is much din and little done” (as the proverb is), because ye have not done so much service to Christ that way as ye might and should, take courage from that same temptation. For your Lord Christ looketh upon that very challenge as an hungering desire in you to have done more than ye did; and that filleth up the blank, and He will accept of what ye have done in that kind. If great men be kind to you, I pray you overlook them; if they smile on you, Christ but borroweth their face to smile through them upon His afflicted servant. Know the well-head; and for all that, learn the way to the well itself. Thank God that Christ came to your house in your absence and took with Him some of your children. He presumed that much on your love, that ye would not offend; (Stumble; be offended) and howbeit He should take the rest, He cannot come upon your wrong side. I question not, if they were children of gold, but ye think them well bestowed upon Him.

Expound well these two rods on you, one in your house at home, another on your own person abroad. Love thinketh no evil. If ye were not Christ’s wheat, appointed to be bread in His house, He would not grind you. But keep the middle line, neither despise nor faint (Heb. xii. 5). Ye see your Father is homely with you. Strokes of a father evidence kindness and care; take them so. I hope your Lord hath manifested Himself to you, and suggested these, or more choice thoughts about His dealing with you. We are using our weak moyen and credit for you up at our own court, as we dow. We pray the King to hear us, and the Son of Man to go side for side with you, and hand in hand in the fiery oven, and to quicken and encourage your unbelieving heart when ye droop and despond. Sir, to the honour of Christ be it said, my faith goeth with my pen now. I am presently believing Christ shall bring you out. Truth in Scotland shall keep the crown of the causeway yet. The saints shall see religion go naked at noon-day, free from shame and fear of men. We shall divide Shechem, and ride upon the high places of Jacob. Remember my obliged respects and love to Lady Kenmure and her sweet child.

Yours ever in his sweet Lord Jesus,

S. R.

Antwoth, July 6, 1636.

Rutherford, Samuel Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2006), 133-135. (I edited the text for ease in reading)