Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sovereign Security

In the midst of the tumult and global upheavals of a sin-sick world, where can we find safety and shelter?

It’s a fair question, and there is no shortage of things that cause us to ask it. Whether the whole world is a mess or your whole world is a mess, what has driven you to echo the psalmist’s cry and say, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?”
That’s a question that reverberates throughout the halls of history, building to a crescendo during times of local or global distress, and when that distress or disaster strikes on a personal level then it’s a question that deafens us with its silent presence. It is an accusation and it is a desperate plea. It is a question that you may not have even known was there until you heard it voiced by another, at which point you recognized its residency within your own heart.
Where do we turn for shelter and security from the surging and strife? Is that security sure and certain, or is fleeting and unattainable? How and when do we experience it?
Psalm 46 was Martin Luther’s favorite psalm—it inspired his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”—because it speaks unequivocally to the shelter that we find in the arms of the Most High. The LORD presides over the earth, even in its furor and cataclysmic upheaval, and He gives strength to His people until the day He conquers and brings peace, at which time His name will be exalted in all places among all peoples.
Until the day that the LORD speaks stillness into the surging strife, we can rest assured knowing that He is in control, and that shelter is found in the Savior. The chaos of this world should not embarrass believers and cause them to keep their mouth shut, but should embolden believers and cause them to open their mouths and share the good news of the only one who can provide sovereign security in the midst of the storm. 

We’ll dig into the grand truths of Psalm 46 this Sunday and address these questions:

·         What kinds of unrest face this world, and why?

·         How does God address this chaos and conflict?

·         What does God provide in the midst of these storms, and how do we experience it?

·         In what does God’s secure shelter result and what should it produce in the lives of believers?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Sword of the Spirit

This Sunday’s message, “The Sword of the Spirit”, marks the end of our ten-month preaching series, Jesus Wins!  Rather than starting where most people do – with Ephesians 6 – we chose to start our examination of spiritual warfare before the beginning of time, before Genesis 1, with the prophetic words of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.

You may remember that first message on September 9 in which we talked about how studying the Scriptures is often like putting the pieces of a complex puzzle together.  That’s what we have sought to do over these forty messages.  We’ve sought to take the whole counsel of God and set it like an inverted pyramid on the texts of Scripture we chose to exposit each Sunday.

I hope that you have found the Holy Spirit expanding your knowledge and appreciation for all God has done for you in Christ, our Victor.

Listen to what Charles Spurgeon says of our Christ,

"Our Redeemer’s glorious cry of ‘It is finished,’ was the death knell of all the adversaries of His people, the breaking of the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle (Psalm 76:3).  Behold the hero of Golgotha trampling on every indictment, and destroying every accusation using His cross as an anvil and His woes as a hammer, dashing to splinters bundle after bundle of our sins, those poisoned arrows of the bow.  What glorious blows the mighty Breaker gives with a hammer far more ponderous than the fabled weapon of Thor!  How the diabolical darts fly to fragments…Behold, He draws from its sheath of hellish workmanship the dread sword of Satanic power!  He snaps it across His knee, as a man breaks a dry twig, and casts it into the fire.  Beloved, no sin of a believer can now be an arrow to mortally wound him, no condemnation can now be a sword to kill him; for the punishment of our sin was born by Christ, a full atonement was made for all our iniquities by our blessed Substitute and Surety.  Who now accuses?  Who now condemns?  Christ has died, rather, has risen again.  Jesus has emptied the quivers of hell, has quenched the fiery darts, and broken off the head of every arrow of wrath; the ground is strewn with the splinters and relics of the weapons of hell’s warfare, which are only visible to us to remind us of our former danger and of our great deliverance.  Sin has no more dominion over us.  Jesus has made an end of it, and put it away forever.  O enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end.  Talk of all the wondrous works of the Lord, you who make mention of His name; keep not silence, neither by day, nor where the sun goes to its rest.  Bless the Lord, O my soul!”

This Sunday we come to verse 17(b) of Ephesians 6 to see the last of the six pieces of equipment that make up the full armor of God – the sword of the Spirit.  Throughout our forty-week examination we have been all over this sword, finding truths that characterize every aspect of Jesus’ victory.  Allow me in bullet form to summarize just a few of them.

·        Lucifer, the bearer of light, in five ways willed his own will against God’s will.

·       Together with a third of the angels Lucifer is cast down from his heavenly position.

·       What God had created in Genesis 1:1 is plunged into darkness through divine judgment.

·        In Genesis 1:2, as a result of God’s sovereign determination, the entire godhead refashions His creation and time begins as a parenthesis in the midst of eternity.

·        As a crowning act of divine sovereignty, God breathes into the dust and makes man in His own image and likeness.

·        Man is created in God’s image to walk with God, will His will, and radiate His glory as Lucifer once did.

·        Fallen Lucifer, Satan, tempts, Adam falls, yet God promises total victory in the second Adam.

·        God becomes a man to fully display God’s power over Satan.

·        At every point Satan is defeated, but on the cross Satan is defeated once and for all.  The resurrection and ascension prove it.

·        Just as each member of the Trinity is engaged in creating man, every member of the Trinity is engaged in redeeming sinful man, calling and equipping Him to walk in the Spirit (to will God’s will) rather than in flesh, willing his own will.

·        God demonstrates His glory to all powers and principalities as redeemed men and women walk clothed in the full armor of God.

·        With our standing with God settled and assured in the cross, we, His bride, not only walk with Him in this world, discharging His power, but we are destined to sit with Him in the very place Lucifer sought to grab.

No wonder the church militant, throughout the ages, has gloried in Christ Jesus as Victor.  They have known what the church triumphant has always known – JESUS WINS!

In preparation for this Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:

1.      What distinguishes the sword from all other pieces of equipment in the full armor of God?

2.      What is the difference between the first three pieces and the last three?

3.      What did the Romans do to a sword to make it doubly lethal?

4.      Why does Paul refer to the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit?

5.      What other references can you find to this sword?

6.      Why doesn’t Paul mention a spear in the full armor of God?

7.      How did Jesus wield the sword?

8.      How is Jesus the object of the sword?

9.      Why does God keep us here in the world after giving us eternal life when our true home is in heaven?

10.  What tangible benefits are there to taking up the sword of the Spirit?

See you Sunday for the finale!  I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface.  To study more see:

The Invisible War by Donald Grey Barnhouse

The Christian Soldier and The Christian Warfare by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

A History of the Work of Redemption by Jonathan Edwards

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"The Helmet of Salvation"

Pennsylvania motorcyclists and government officials have wrestled back and forth with the question, "Should the law require helmets for those riding motorcycles?"  I don't know all the ins and outs of this debate, but I usually wear a helmet even when riding a bicycle! I knew of a fine Christian man who fell from his bike, sustained a debilitating head injury and eventually passed away. At that point, I decided to protect my head (hard as it is) when bike riding. Our military, along with many workplaces and contact sports, require protective headgear to be worn in certain situations.

Our Biblical piece of armor for this week is the helmet of salvation. We need that spiritual protection for two reasons...1) a head wound can be fatal, and 2) a head wound can injure the brain, impairing our mental processes. While our eternal position as a believer is secure in Christ and because of Christ, we do not want to become "lifeless" spiritually. Furthermore we do not want the devil to affect our thinking through cynicism, discouragement or ignorance. The Apostle Paul describes the helmet as the "hope of salvation" in 1 Thessalonians 5:8. We don't wear the helmet to hopefully be saved, but to preserve our hope in the wonderful and eternal salvation of God when disheartening attacks come against God's people. We are prone to assume that because we are God's people, everything in our lives and in the church should go "right"! The Bible never teaches that but repeatedly warns us that in this world we will have trouble - John 16:33. When these trials and troubles come the helmet of salvation is there to remind us that our new life is secure in Christ, to protect us from unbiblical thinking and to challenge us that it will be WORTH IT ALL when we see JESUS!
Commentator D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones noted the example of our Lord Jesus as though He was wearing the hope of salvation as a helmet. Dr. Jones quoted from Hebrews 12. Note verses 2,3 "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart".

Finally, what a contrast this is between ultimate defeat and ultimate victory in the spiritual war. Lucifer has no hope of redemption, but we have the hope of salvation by the kind grace of God and the precious sacrifice of our Saviour - Hallelujah!
See you Sunday.
1.      Who first wore the helmet of salvation? Isaiah 59:16,17

2.      How important is biblical hope? 1 Corinthians 13:13; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3,13; 1John 3:2,3

3.      Notice the hopelessness of 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

4.      A helmet protects the brain or right thinking. Do a short Bible study of the importance the Apostle Peter puts on knowledge! 2 Peter 1:2,3,5,8 and 3:18.

5.      In the spiritual warfare prophesied in Genesis 3:15 between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman - who gets the head wound (or ultimate death blow)?

6.      Define the term "Salvation".

7.      D. Martyn Lloyd Jones shares that there are 'tenses of salvation' such as past, present and future. The Godhead determined our salvation before creation - 2 Timothy 1:9; Jesus provided our salvation through His death and resurrection - 1 Corinthians 15: 1-3; we (who believe) have been saved from the penalty of sin - Romans 10:9,10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; we are being saved from the power of sin - Philippians 2 :12,13; and we will be saved from the presence of sin - Revelation 21:27!!!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"The Shield of Faith"

Country performer Mary Chapin Carpenter sang "sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug." We are more familiar with windshields than shields in today's world, but they both serve a similar purpose. They protect you from oncoming objects while you advance. The shield as a part of military armor allowed the soldier to advance against the enemy while being protected from oncoming deadly objects. In the Bible the shield served as a powerful symbol of God' protecting power.

Our Ephesians text speaks of the shield being used against the flaming arrows of the evil one. The arrow could pierce, wound, or kill while the flaming arrow had the frightening aspect of spreading greater pain and destruction. This is a way of describing the menacing and dangerous attacks of the devil against God's people in spiritual warfare.

The shield of FAITH indicates the Biblical importance of faith. Biblical faith can be defined as more than just belief. It is a firm conviction and a confident trust in the teachings of God's Word. This faith not only can keep us from Satan's snares but also move us forward to spiritual advances in Christian maturity and service. Like the shoes of the readiness of the gospel of peace, this shield is spiritually valuable for both protection and progress. Commentator Albert Barnes noted that this shield, like faith itself, encompasses the whole of the Christian soldier. The shield not only covers the torso and legs but can be raised to protect the head or lowered to protect the feet. Let us pray to our Lord with the Apostles, "Increase our faith." Luke 17:5

See you Sunday!

1. How does God describe Himself to Abraham? Genesis 15:1
2. How does David use the symbol of the shield in his songs? 2 Samuel 22:1-3; Psalm 91:4

3. Besides Ephesians 6:16 where else is a shield mentioned in the New Testament?

4. Genesis 3: 1-5 is the first recorded attack of Satan in the spiritual warfare against humanity. Identify some of the "flaming arrows" Satan launches in this attack.

5. Hebrews 11 has been called the "Hall of Faith." Read this chapter slowly and note the value, characteristics, and examples of biblical faith!

6. Study Ephesians 2:4-10. Can you find Scriptural support for the gospel statement,"By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone"? For extra credit :) find and read Questions 60 and 61 of the Heidelberg Catechism.