You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘The Good News’ category.

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.

There were three parents, with three precious children.  Only children.

A woman had lost her son, her only son.  As the procession passed, what overwhelming grief she suffered!  To add to the torment, she was a widow.  Stripped not only of her last remaining joy, but her last, flickering ember of hope.

Jairus was a great man and very devout.  But neither his position or piety could prevent the virus.  His dear little daughter, his one and only child, was on the verge of death.  He was desperate.  So as he sought after Jesus, the miracle Healer, time was of the essence.  But the crowds slowed the Master down, and finally the time was up.  His daughter was gone.

Another father came to Jesus.   His one and only son had for years been plagued with a demon, seizing his weak and weary body, convulsing him, and even casting him into the fire.  As the father watched, what agony!  Could Jesus spare his helpless boy?  His one and only son?

Because of Jesus, each precious, ‘one and only’ was spared.  And in sparing them, their poor, tormented parents were spared.

Jesus was also a precious, ‘one and only.’  Not that He was the only child of Joseph and Mary.  He wasn’t.  But He was, is, and evermore shall be, the precious, one and only Son of the heavenly Father.  From eternity, He is “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  Yet in infinite love, to lost, undone parents and children, God did not spare His ‘one and only.’  He gave Him, surrendering Him to  the cursed death of the cross, that by such a sacrifice we and our children may be spared for ever.

* * *

Join us this Lord’s Day (Sunday), June 9, as we consider Jesus, the “only begotten Son,” whom the loving Father sent into the world.  “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 Jn. 4:9).

 

 

The evangelists share precious little of the youth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Luke, the ‘beloved physician’ and inspired historian, pulls the curtain back just long enough for us to catch a glimpse at the twelve-year-old God-man.  Given this fact, it is all the more striking that the first and last scene from his boyhood shows him scolded for being naughty!  Here is the account –

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.  And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man (Lu. 2:40-52).

Boys will be boys, it is said.  They tend to get into mischief, cause trouble, and give their parents grief.  Had this been any other child, then, it wouldn’t have been newsworthy.  But it sticks out precisely because the boy who got into trouble was Jesus.  The sinless boy!  The one of whom the apostle would later testify that He was and always shall be “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”  Yet his parents in a moment of weakness fail to see the bigger picture and scold Him.  Add to this wonder that in His defense He stayed well within the bounds of the Fifth Commandment in honoring father and mother.  And add to that wonder – the God-man responded so mildly to the impudence of His creatures!

* * *

A message was delivered on this passage on Mar. 18, 2002.  It can be accessed here



Are you tired? 

Tired of the monotony?  Every day the same?  Tired of the treadmill of life?  Tired of the aches and pains that won’t go away?  The post-holiday bills?  The post-holiday dreariness? 

Or are you tired of certain people?  Do they make your life complicated?  Do they cause you more work, or make your work less of a joy and more of a chore?  Are you tired of your relationship?  Is it no longer the exciting adventure it once was? 

Are you tired trying to keep up with expectations?  Your boss is ever making demands that always seem out of reach.  Or, you can never make your parents happy – or maybe it’s your children.  How demanding they can be!  They always need an extra $20, or $40.  And if you won’t cough it up, they’ll make a scene. 

Are you tired, my friend?  Out of breath? 

Maybe you’re tired of trying to be thin.  Trimming down can be hard work!  You see your husband’s eyes wandering, and you don’t fit into the clothes you used to wear five years ago.  You try and try, you work and work.  And yet that perfect body dangled in front of you in every commercial and on the cover of every magazine is just out of reach.  And you’re tired of it.

Perhaps you are tired intellectually.  You have tried to wrap your mind around challenging problems.  You’ve read, you’ve studied.  You’ve become quite a scholar, and you thought that would put your mind at ease from all those thorny questions of life.  What is it all about?  Is there ultimate meaning?  Is there any certainty in ethics – or, for that matter, is there any certainty at all?  Are we just left with rival points of view, like bickering children without parents to intervene? 

Are you tired in your pursuit after happiness?  You’ve tried so many things to get it.  You want it in the perfect job, but there is no perfect job.  You want it in the perfect man.  How tired you are of men!  Perhaps you indulge yourself in one sexual encounter after the other.  But have you found happiness yet?  Is true rest there?  Or isn’t this quest just a cruel taskmaster, driving you on like a slave? 

Are you tired?  Exhausted?  Weighted down with a load that you just can’t bear another minute?  I have good news for you.  Jesus, the eternal Son of God, has stepped into your weary world.  Full of life, full  of joy, full of rest – and He offers it to you.  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”(Matt. 11:28).  The ease, the comfort, the quiet, the contentment – everything you have been seeking, longing for.  It’s in his hands.  The Father gave it to Him, and He welcomes you to it.

You know, your problem not so much that you seek the comfort of rest.  You’re wired to avoid trouble and seek rest.  God made you that way.  Your problem and mine, though, is that we have fallen into sin.  Sin has spread through the whole of your being, tainting everything.  It has perverted your mind, telling you to find satisfaction in things and not the Giver of those things.  It tells you even to justify doing evil and to call it ‘good’ – as long as it makes you happy. 

Sin has also warped your will and emotions.  You’re wired to seek pleasure, but the wires are now twisted, bent out of shape and broken. Perhaps you find pleasure in sexual uncleanness or in gawking and ridiculing others.  Maybe you get comfort from venting your angst at people who frustrate you.  The release – oh, the release!  You got that off your chest (and now it’s on hers)!  But after all of that nasty business, have you found rest after all?  Isn’t it still out of arm’s reach, if not just a bit farther off? 

You see, the God who wired us to seek rest is Himself the only restful rest.  Or if you like, God is the only rest that is worthy of the name.  St. Augustine once put it this way, “our souls are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Rest cannot be found in sin.  Nor can in be found in the myriad of otherwise good things in this world that just weren’t designed to fill the God-shaped void in our soul.  What we, tired and burdened  wretches need is in the Father – and in His Son. 

Come to Him.  He invites you, if you are tired.  Leave behind your sins, as wearisome as they are.  “The way of transgressors is hard.” Turn from your vain attempts to find rest in people, in property, in pleasures.  They are mirages.  Their breasts are dry – there is no nourishment, no satisfaction there. 

Are you tired of being tired?  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 26:6-13

6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Matthew 26:1-5

1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, 2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

3 Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, 4 And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. 5 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people. . .

(from flickr.com)Human beings are greater imaginers. They dream big. What young person has never aspired to great things? To make something of himself? To invest, invent, exceed and excel?

Mankind has dreamed it, developed it, and done it. We dreamed electricity, and the dark nights shone. We dreamed, and the Model T rumbled off. We dreamed yet again and took flight. And then we dreamed once more, setting foot on the moon. “One small step for man” – the incarnation of our wildest dreams!

Yet, man’s imagination is actually quite meager. Yes, it is amazing when it comes to science and technology, music and the arts. But when it comes to things much higher, it’s actually quite, well, unimaginative.

Little does man imagine what he and his world could have been before sin. He can’t imagine history uncrippled by disease, death, and disaster, or unmarred by jealousy, envy, theft, and murder. Nor does he think of what this world could be. He dreams, but he’s so short-sighted. A dollar here, a trust fund there, a wife and two kids. He simply can’t dream of anything bigger than his own miniscule bottle, while all along it drifts on the ocean of eternity.

Even when many think of heaven, yet its just the best of this world times ten. It’s the big pie in the sky. Or for jihadists, it’s an orgy of wine, women, and song. Is that the afterlife? Just a big frat house up yonder? If so, I’d hate to experience the hangover!

Paradoxically, it was man’s very imagination that paralyzed his mind. The Devil told him to dream. ‘Think of the possibilities!’ he suggested. If only he ate the forbidden fruit, he would truly see – just like God. Tragically Adam, the father of our race, listened. He dreamed of something much greater and larger than God allowed him, and so disobeyed. God punished this sinful dreaming. Yes, Adam’s eyes opened. But instead of beholding something great, he only saw evil in all its starkness. That evil descended like a cloud over him, so that he could no longer envision truly great things. The best he could envision was a world stricken with the thorn and thistle, groaning under God’s curse. And finally, he and his world would be consumed in the fires of holy anger.

But then God, full of grand thoughts, stepped into man’s sin-shrinked mental world. He proposed something new, something truly big. Here are visions of what can be . . . what will be. And those who believe these promises will one day enjoy them.

Those who believed after that fateful fall of Adam, those who embraced these ideas, began to dream again. Abraham believed in God’s promise, that he would be the father of many nations. All peoples of the earth would be blessed in him. He, though his body was old and impotent, looked up to the stars and dreamed. His seed, his offspring would be just as numerous, God said. Moses, standing before Pharaoh, dreamed of Israel freed from oppression to serve God, according to the promise. And on the brink of death, he stood looking upon the land, flowing with milk and honey, and envisioned what could be – what would be.

Throughout their history, they dreamed of greater, bigger, and more glorious things, as God unfolded His ancient promise. And each and every time, the fulfillment of the promise was far beyond what their little minds could have conceived. That was especially the case when the Christ child was born to a poor virgin in Bethlehem. Yes, they had dreamed that God would come to be with them. But could they have imagined this? Immanuel was literally Immanuel – “God with us,” God in the flesh (Mat. 1:23)! This was truly beyond their wildest dreams: and yet there He was, quietly nursing at his mother’s breast. “When the LORD turned back the captivity of Zion, we were like those that dreamed” (Psa. 126:1).

But when Christ came, that wasn’t all. That was great, but there was something greater yet. The early Christians were given even more “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4). The Christ who died, rose again (much to their initial disbelief!), and who visibly ascended into heaven, would one day come again in all His glory. He would come with fiery armies of angels, He would summon the dead from their graves, judge the wicked, acknowledge the righteous and usher them into the glorious and unending Kingdom of heaven on earth.

While Christians are reborn and can see things that others cannot (Jn. 3:3), yet still, they must admit that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). One writer has put it well, “Of these … promises we must have some intelligent apprehension. But the implications of his promises and the reaches of [God’s] mind and will surpass our understanding.” In that way, even believers after the coming of Christ are in many ways like those before them.

We dream like they dreamed, because the God who promised then still promises today.  But since the promise still awaits fulfillment, we yet dream of what shall be.  We are saved by hope unseen (Rom. 8:24).  While the believer must beware of wild speculation, yet he with pure longing, as a virgin anticipating her wedding day, wonders and imagines.  “Beloved,” writes the Apostle John, “now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2).

Reader, God’s thoughts are much greater than yours.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8, 9).  His thoughts for men and this world are truly lofty.  He has promised salvation to those who believe, beyond their wildest dreams.  Promised!  Deliverance from sin, both its guilt and power.  Promised!  The restoration of all things – of the body, of the world – and the very reunion of heaven and earth (Acts 3:21, Eph. 1:10).  On that day, under the reign of the Messiah, “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6).

How long will you think so small?  How long will you imagine nothing but life darkened by sin and misery?  How long will you refuse to accept the vision of things truly great?  Won’t you turn, won’t you believe, and imagine?  Won’t you join those of us who have by grace relearned how to dream?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 37 other followers

Follow on WordPress.com