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‘The end and intent of the Scripture is to declare that God is benevolent and friendly-minded to mankind; and that he hath declared that kindness in and through Jesu Christ, his only Son; the which kindness is received by faith.”

-from Protestant martyr George Wishart’s (1513-1546) translation of the First Helvetic Confession (1536)

St_georges_church_graveyard_Carrington_Greater_ManchesterThe [Apostles’] Creed next mentions, that he “was dead and buried”. Here again it is necessary to consider how he substituted himself in order to pay the price of our redemption. Death held us under its yoke, but he in our place delivered himself into its power, that he might exempt us from it. This the Apostle means when he says, “that he tasted death for every man,” (Heb 2:9). By dying he prevented us from dying; or (which is the same thing) he by his death purchased life for us. But in this he differed from us, that in permitting himself to be overcome of death, it was not so as to be engulfed in its abyss, but rather to annihilate it, as it must otherwise have annihilated us; he did not allow himself to be so subdued by it as to be crushed by its power; he rather laid it prostrate, when it was impending over us, and exulting over us as already overcome. In fine, his object was, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” (Heb 2:14-15).

-John Calvin

Here is a short clip from our recent morning sermon, “The Announcement of the Lamb,” an exposition of John 1:29. For the complete sermon, click here

Sacrificial_Lamb_of_God_006The lamb is a symbol of everything tender, innocent, and wholly dependent. As an urbanite from boyhood, I have only seen lambs occasionally. My last lamb sighting was on a trip in England. While running through the beautiful countryside, some of these absolutely adorable little creatures arrested me on the roadside. The aww-factor was off the charts!

John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, when seeing him among the crowds cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Now, the above symbolism rang true for Jesus. He was the epitome of harmless good. He was the man of peace, through and through. But there was much more to the lamb-symbolism for Jesus.  The image God gave in the lamb-symbolism was also one blood and gore, because the Old Testament lamb was raised to be a victim. A sacrificial victim.

Why? Is this just a crude hold-over from primitive, superstitious peoples? Are we moderns right to say we have moved on from these gruesome ideas? Really, is the meaning of the cross still meaningful?

Join us as we consider these issues in our Sunday morning service on May 6. 

 

“Find the door of your heart, you will discover it is the door of the kingdom of God.”

-John Chrysostom (c. 349-407)

Last Lord’s Day (Sunday), we considered the weighty saying of Christ, “The Son of man came not to serve, but to be served, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  Jesus was going to the cross, but sadly, his disciples detoured him with their foolish question.  Yet Jesus made this sad detour a boundless blessing for them and us, if we have ears to hear.

Listen – if even for a minute or two – to the message here.

 

The God-Man

Here’s a short clip from our last sermon on 1 Peter 3:17-18, “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

To listen to the entire sermon, click here.

I recently preached on the words of Christ to His faithful servants on the last day, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord.”  This text, among other things, opens up a window into the joy, the happiness, or what some biblical texts speak of as the “blessedness of God” (Rom. 9:5, 1 Tim. 1:11, 6:15).  It is the joy of the Lord.

imagesGod is the self-sufficient One, who enjoys true happiness in and of Himself.  One Swiss Reformed theologian, Benedict Pictet (1655-1724) said of God, “Who would not call God happy, who is in need of nothing, finds comfort in himself, and possesses all things; is free from all evil and filled with all good?”

When Christ speaks to the believer on the last day and ushers him with open arms into “the joy of the Lord,” He is welcoming that believer into the full participation of God’s happiness – at least as far as a creature can possibly sustain in the narrow limits of his being.  What a grand thought.  God wants to share His joy!

Are you, friend, truly happy?  Can you be happy without the blessed God?  Come to Him, then, through Christ – through whom He lavishly pours out joy “unspeakable and full of glory.”

Mark 10:13-16, “And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.”

* * *

Tomorrow, we will be considering this memorable story of Jesus welcoming and blessing the children. First and foremost, we shall see that these little ones do not get “put out” of the adults-only circle of the worthy. No, children are properly citizens of the Kingdom. All who bring their children to Jesus may bring them precisely because theirs is the Kingdom.

But what is more, not only does Jesus’ Kingdom include children. His Kingdom only includes children! Placarded on the gates of this Kingdom, with royal seal affixed, are the words, “no adults allowed.” None who feel adequate before Him, none who feel ‘entitled’ by their long resume of attainments, by their matured and more penetrating minds, by their boasted seniority. Oh no, none of that! Seniority disqualifies from the Kingdom. Only children will receive His saving blessing. Only the inadequate, the insufficient, the undeveloped, and the weak belong. And more, only those who with childlike simplicity receive Jesus as He is – holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners.

I think one of the beauties of this Kingdom mystery lies in the King Himself. He only accepts children because He was a child once. Yes, the Son of God did not become a man fully formed. He didn’t bypass childhood. No, the Lord of all embraced this weakness. And unlike so many adults who forget they were children once, Jesus never forgot. To be sure, there is a natural forgetfulness. Memories fade with time. Yet some of that fading is culpable. How often we forget what it was like to be a child! We can be gruff with children and shoo them away just like the disciples, because we fail to remember our childhoods. We can shut them out because we are in on what is really important. Shame on us.

But not so with Jesus! He got angry at the disciples for shooing away those precious children. Jesus, the childlike One, who was “meek and lowly in heart,” had not forgotten what it was like to be a child. And so with the utmost tenderness, He welcomes them. He takes up their little bodies into his arms, He puts his hand on that disheveled head and blesses.