Remarkable Remarks

Offhanded, parenthetical remarks open fascinating windows into the speaker's mind. Peter gives us just such a view into his mind in 2 Peter 3:15-16, where he writes,

"And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures."

He speaks of the patience that God to suffering and persecuted a Christians, a unique Divine gift to support them in difficulty. To add support to his theological idea he mentions, offhandedly, that this same concept was found in the letters of Paul that these Christians had read. Don't miss all the truth packed into this seemingly off-the-cuff remark of Peter. From it we learn:

  • Paul and Peter shared the same theology.
  • Some things in Paul's letter were difficult for Peter to understand. Theology has shallows and depths, even for an apostle.
  • Some people twist theology, especially theology drawn from the more difficult to understand portions of Scripture, to their eventual spiritual destruction.
  • Peter considers Paul's letters as authoritative words from God. Peter, as a Jew, had an incredibly high view of the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, and places, in a passing comment no less, Paul's letter in the same category as, "the other (Old Testament) Scriptures."

Don't miss even the passing comments of Scripture. God has buried treasure there.

Updates

  • Membership Class - Our membership class is ongoing. If you're interested in the next round, let me know.
  • Leadership Cohort - Our leadership cohort for men interested in growing in Christian leadership is ongoing. If you're interested in the next cohort, let me know.

Sing

For those of you who missed my, "you should sing," rant on Sunday, I'll provide you with a more authoritative encouragement to the same from the Bible.

"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us comes into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!" -Psalm 95:1-2

We underestimate the spiritual encouragement that a singing congregation provides for the people of God. Your loud, joyful song to the Rock of your salvation is a crucial component of our worship at Christ Covenant.

That is another reason why you should attend coporate worship every week. But that is another rant for another time.

See you on Sunday. Come ready to sing!

Remember Jesus

As I said this past Sunday, part of our church calendar commitment to celebrate Easter in late March or early April undermines the very doctrine that it seeks to protect—the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection, in Christian tradition, is an every Sunday focus. It is the reason that the Christian Sabbath moved from Saturday, the seventh day—the rest of creation finished—to Sunday, the first day of the week—new creation begun.

In the last letter we have from the apostle Paul, he writes to his pastoral intern, Timothy, to "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel."1 If we pause for moment to consider that statement, the oddity and import of it hit us like an avalanche. Did Timothy forget about Jesus? Did Timothy forget that Jesus had risen from the dead? Did Timothy forget that Jesus was the offspring of David? Did Timothy forget that Paul's theology and preaching dripped with the resurrection? No to all of these questions.

At the time of writing 2 Timothy, Paul would've have been the foremost living theologian on Jesus and his resurrection. Timothy, as Paul's friend and disciple, would have been in the select few people in the world who were most knowledgeable in Christian doctrine and able to preach it. And yet, we have Paul reminding Timothy to not forget Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.

It wasn't that Paul thought that Timothy might actually lose all memory of Jesus and his resurrection. Instead, Paul is impressing the importance to major on that basic doctrine of the person and work of Jesus, especially his resurrection.

It is a lesson for us, especially the week after Easter. Remember, focus on, center your whole life around Jesus and his resurrection.

Updates

  1. Our next New Members Class begins this Sunday at 9:00 AM in the center room of the gym at CCS.
  2. Community groups are ongoing. Talk to me about which one might be the best fit for you.
  3. April has been a better giving month for us but we still aren't where we need to be for the year. As we move into the summer months making supporting your church family a priority that is reflected in your bank account.

  1. 2 Tim. 2:8 ↩︎

Good? Friday

Good Friday reveals the paradox of Christianity. How can Christians mark the day of their leader’s brutal death as good? It is only by looking back on it from view of Sunday’s resurrection, realizing the atonement provided on that cross, full and spilling over with love. But from Friday to Sunday morning darkness and sorrow reign.

Here are a few selections from one of my favorite George Herbert poems for you to meditate on between now and when we gather to worship our risen Christ, the one who redeemed us with his own blood.

Oh all ye, who pass by, whose eyes and mind
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blind;
To me, who took eyes that I might you find:
                                Was ever grief like mine?

The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread;
                                Was ever grief like mine?

But, O my God, my God! why leav’st thou me,
The son, in whom  thou dost delight to be?
My God, my God ———
                                Never was grief like mine.

Betwixt two thieves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robbery suffereth.
Alas! what have I stollen from you?  Death.
                                Was ever grief like mine?

They give me vinegar mingled with gall,
But more with malice: yet, when they did call,
With Manna, Angels food, I fed them all:
                                Was ever grief like mine?

They part my garments, and by lot dispose
My coat, the type of love, which once cured those
Who sought for help, never malicious foes:
                                Was ever grief like mine?

Nay, after death their spite shall further go;
For they will pierce my side, I full well know;
That as sin came, so Sacraments might flow:
                                Was ever grief like mine?

But now I die; now all is finished.
My woe, mans weal: and now I bow my head.
Only let others say, when I am dead,
                                Never was grief like mine.

See you this Sunday, when grief turns to celebration and death begins to die. 
 

Catechism Resources

One of the reasons that we use the New City Catechism in worship at Christ Covenant is the wealth of resources associated with it, available to anyone who wants to go deeper into any of the truths that we publicly confess together on Sunday. With the release of some additional published resources for engaging with the New City Catechism, Tim Keller provides an explanation of why catechesis is important. 

Welcoming Well

Church family, how are you?

On Sunday we studied faithful stewardship from 1 Corinthians 4. How has God used that text in your life since Sunday? Have you grown as a faithful steward?

On another note, know how grateful I am to serve such a welcoming congregation. Visitors regularly comment on the friendliness of our church. When the service ends each Sunday, I search for visitors to greet. Often, by the time I've taken off my microphone, you have already engaged our visitors, leaving me no visitors to greet myself. That is a problem I'm happy to have.

Keep up the good work. You encourage me!

This week

This Sunday we'll study John 12 together. Jesus will enter Jerusalem to the praise and palms of the Jews only to be killed by crucifixion a week later. Don't miss the opportunity to draw near to God during the Easter season

Know your Bible

Nature can teach us about God. You might climb Old Rag and be awed by the power of a God that created such a mountain. You might gaze at a hawk circling in the sky and wonder at a God who thought up such a thing as a bird of prey. You may hold your infant child and be brought to tears that God creates life. But all of these things, with all their beauty and wonder, cannot clearly reveal God and how we, as fallen human beings, might know him and find mercy from him. 

We must have the Bible for that. God has chosen to reveal himself cleary and unto salvation only in the Bible. It isn't because he couldn't have done it another way it is because he chose to do it that way. And God has ensured throughout the centuries that the Bible was preserved accurately and inerrantly—from scrolls, to bound pages, to iOS apps. God has called faithful elders to preach and teach the Word of God accurately. God has brought creeds and confessions alongside of Scripture to help summarize what it teaches. And God has placed his Holy Spirit in you, Christian, so that you might read the Bible for yourself and so know him and how you can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ, the one whom the whole Bible is about. 

You cannot love God and not love the Bible. You cannot love God and not want to know more about him from the Bible. Aspire to many things, but aspire most to a life of constant growth in seeking the Lord in his Word. 

 

Three Upcoming Opportunities

Church family, don't miss these upcoming opportunities:

  1. Easter Invites - I said this last Sunday, but am reiterating it here. There are people currently in your life who are not church attendees but would happily join someone on Easter (or Christmas). All that is missing is the invitation from you. Who are you going to invite to our Easter service?
  2. New Members Class - Our next New Members Class will begin the Sunday after Easter, at 9:00 AM. Our New Members Class is a low intimidation way to find out more about Christ Covenant and whether you're ready to become a member. Let me know on Sunday if you're interested in participating or need more information. 
  3. Men's Leadership Training - In advance of officer nominations, we're beginning a ten session men's leadership training cohort. The goal of the cohort is to provide each participant with an accurate measure of gifted he is for Christian leadership, what his current areas of growth are, and whether or not he should consider pursuing becoming an elder or deacon. Let me know if you're interested in participating in this cohort. 

I hope you're enjoying our journey through 1 Corinthians together on Sunday. I'm looking forward to seeing each of you this Sunday as we gather to worship our risen Savior, Jesus.

Total Depravity’s Wager

Whenever someone says in anguish, “It’s just not supposed to be this way,” they are making an astute theological proposition called “the doctrine of total depravity.” When Adam rebelled against God, he acted not only for himself but also for all of his natural born progeny. The consequences of that sin, that “fall,” stretch into ever human heart so pervasively, so personally that our every act and intention; our every thought, word, and deed; even our decisions to act or not act; all of it is affected by the putrefying work of sin. Every human is totally depraved not in that they are as bad as they possibly could be (that would be utter depravity), but that every area of every human’s life is tainted by sinful motives and motions.

It sounds pretty depressing, and it is. You will never have a thought, word, or deed that you could offer up to God as pure and righteous in and of itself. But what we find in the gospel is that Jesus bore our curse on the cross to reconcile us to God, forgiving our pervasive sin, and setting about the work of restoration in us, restoring the ravages of sin, a grand renovation of the highest order. In that way, the diagnostic discovery of metastasized sin is an invitation to apply the forgiveness of Christ and implement the obedience of faith just as pervasively to every area of life. Seen in this way, the totality of depravity in your life—sin touching everything—is an invitation at the same time to watch for the totality of regeneration in your life—grace transforming everything.

And so we find that total depravity and personal renewal are mirrors to one another, the first predictive of the restorative work of the latter. This is why we say that, far from cosmic fire insurance, the gospel applies to every area of life. In the same way that sin produces sexual immorality, greed, and bitterness, so grace not only forgives but also restores us to purity, generosity, and peace.

Jesus offers a double invitation in the doctrine of total depravity. First, he invites us to see how destructive and pervasive sin truly is in our lives. But he also invites us to buckle in and watch his great restorative work in those very areas so marred and poisoned by sin. That isn’t to say that we are passive in sanctification. Fighting sin isn’t easy. Repentance will gut you. Remaining sin will knock you to your knees. But what God starts he finishes. In the end, the posturing of darkness only serves to predict the triumphant power of Christ.

Our Family Heirloom

Christians are a people of the Book. 

We are requisite readers and historians. Ours is a lifelong study of the most influential book in human history. 

But that doesn't describe the half of it. We believe that God has revealed himself inerrantly and authoritatively in the Bible. The Holy Spirit that resides within us sets affections and understanding on that precious Book, the single heirloom of our faith family, passed down generation to generation. 

In that book, in the Bible alone, we see and know the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Grace and forgiveness are revealed nowhere else. 

So, Christian, member of Christ Covenant, where is the evidence in your life for a deep love for God's Word? How much of your empty flailing against sin can be attributed to an ignorance of God's Word and ways? How much of your confusion and misunderstanding of God's power and grace are more because of your neglect of that book rather than an infirmness of mind or body? 

Whether you live your life with resolutions or not, resolve this one thing: that you will be a student of Christ in the Bible for all your days. 

Updates

  1. Potluck - The potluck on Sunday was a huge success. Thanks to all who came and helped. Be on the look-out for our information on when our next potluck will be scheduled. 
  2. New Members Class - We're rounding out the class for our next New Members Class. Let me know if you're interested. 
  3. This Sunday - We're going to take a look at the beginning of the second chapter of 1 Corinthians asking ourselves this question, "How can I tell what good Christian preaching, teaching, and writing is?"