If God Is…

If He (God) is good, and infinitely good, there is all the reason in the world that you should love Him; and there is no show of reason that you should love the world or sin before him.

If He is faithful and true, His threatening must be feared, and His promises must not be distrusted; and there is no reason that you should make any question of His word. 

If He is holy…then He must be an enemy to sin, and to all that are unholy, because they are contrary to His nature. 

Consider that He is almighty, and there is no resisting Him…in the twinkle of an eye can He snatch your guilty soul from your body, and cast it where sin is better known.  A word of His mouth can set all the world against you, and set your own conscience against you too…

and if He is your enemy, it is no matter who is your friend; for all the world cannot save you, if He does but condemn you…

He was from eternity, and you are but as it were of yesterday; your being is from Him; your life is always in His hands, you cannot live an hour without Him, you cannot fetch a breath without Him, nor think a though, nor speak a word, nor stir a foot or a hand without him…no love can be great enough, an no praises can be high enough, and no service can be holy enough and good enough for such a God…

this is not a God to be neglected, or dallied with; nor a God to be resisted, nor provoked by the willful breaking of His laws…O therefore dwell on the meditations of the almighty.

– Richard Baxter quoted by JI Packer (A Quest for Godliness)

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The Only Three Questions that Matter

There are only three questions in life that matter.  First, is Jesus God? Second, did Jesus rise from the dead (in body)?  Third, is the Bible the revelation of God?  If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, then Christianity is false and another worldview is correct.  Let’s briefly take these three one by one and work through their implications.

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1. Is Jesus God?  Jesus asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).  Your answer to this question matters more than anything else in the world.  It encompasses the larger philosophical question of whether God exists and goes straight to the center of Christianity.  If Jesus is God, then Islam and Judaism are incorrect (along with a host of less consequential religions).  Further, if Jesus is uniquely God, then the view of Mormonism that He’s the first of many gods is false.  Look to Putting Jesus in His Place by Robert Bowman or The Deity of Christ by Christopher Morgan. For information on this topic or for a deeper, historical writing On the Incarnation by Athanasius.

2. Did Jesus rise from the dead (in the body)?  The Apostle Paul tackles this question head on in 1 Corinthians 15:14-17 when he wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  Paul sees the resurrection as the cornerstone event of the faith.  If Jesus is still in the ground or He never died on the cross, then all the claims of Christianity are false.  Gary Habermas is the expert on this topic with books such as The Case for the Resurrection

3. Is the Bible the revelation of God?  This question is intertwined with the first two because the Bible provides the basis for God’s revelation about Jesus.  If you believe the Bible is accurate then the natural conclusion is that Jesus is God and died and was raised for our sin.  It also then matters, because it provides a guide for our faith and conduct.  It results in the fourth question, which is “how should I live my life?” If the Bible is not God’s revelation, or a corrupted transmission of His revelation, then we are left to consider claims of truth from other religions or be left without any guide from above.  Resources on this topic include Inerrancy by Norman Geisler, The Cannon of Scripture by FF Bruce and The New Testament Documents by Bruce.

Following these three questions, you’ll want to have a clear picture of the person of Jesus. For this read, Jesus – Made in America or books by Ed Komoszewsi.

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Consumers or Glorifiers

One word frequently used to describe us as a group of people from an economic perspective is consumers.  We consume food, drinks, cars, movies, clothes and a myriad of other things.  The word is used so frequently that it makes consumption appear to be our primary function in life.  However, if you trace the word back to its roots it originally had a negative denotation as ‘one who squanders or wastes’.  The image that comes to mind is a swarm of insects ravaging a field of corn.

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Yet, should one of the primary words that we use to capture our essence define us by our appetites?  Our appetites or the sinful desires of our heart deflect our attention from our primary purpose in life – having everything we do glorify God; even to the point of what we eat and drink (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Instead of describing ourselves as consumers, the word that we should use to describe our reborn nature is glorifiers.  We are not here to consume the creation, but to glorify the Creator.  We are to glorify God in all facets of life – large and small (Luke 16:10).  Nothing is exempt.

Now, admittedly, calling each other glorifiers sounds a little ethereal and may bring to mind an caricature of a brightly lit angelic being floating around heaven singing praises to God.  It also sounds a little cultish; maybe with the ring of Scientology.  However, if we can overcome these negative pictures and replace them with an image of us as people whose thoughts, words and deeds (Luke 10:27) are captive to God in such a way that each and every action is motivated by showing God’s glory to the world, we would begin to see ourselves as differently.  We would better internalize that we are those who bring attention, praise, exultation, worship to Another.  We would be like telescopes that magnify the unimaginably glorious, so that His majesty may be more clearly seen through us (Matthew 5:16).

Take a minute and begin to think of yourself as a glorifier.  Begin to reframe your identity around the idea that your mission during your brief time (James 4:14) here is to do all for the glory of God by living for Him and not yourself (Romans 12:1).  Resist the idea that glorifying is limited to singing and consider how your nature as a glorifier should direct all of your relationships and activities – family and friends, vocation and avocation.  As a glorifier, how does this recast identity change your actions and interactions?  Ask yourself whether they honor God and show His glory to the world.

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Movies that Teach Christian History

Those who cannon remember the past are condemned to repeat it

– George Santayana

With all that’s going in on the present, it’s easy to never look in the past and learn from history. Most children don’t know the sacrifice of the previous generations of Christians to give us the Bible translations and establish the religious freedom in many parts of the world today. The struggle continues in areas like China, North Korea and Iran. These movies provide a window into the past to give a brief taste of the cost of following Jesus, so we don’t take the present for granted.

The Reformation

  • John Wycliffe – The Morning Star: As the first to translate the Bible into English, Wycliffe planted the seeds of the Reformation that would bloom over the following couple of centuries
  • John Hus – A Journey of No Return: The last days of John Hus and earlier translator of the Bible, who faced persecution from the Catholic church
  • Reformation Overview: Six part series in 30 minute increments mixes movie clips with historical context. It covers how the Reformation moved through Europe including segments on John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, Michael and Margaretha Sattler of the Anabaptists and William Tyndale
  • Luther – The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer: Theologians and historians tell the story of Luther’s life

18th Century

  • Wesley – A Heart Transformed Can Change the World: The founder of the Methodist church’s struggle with faith
  • Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce struggles with the tension of living his faith in a political role and his commitment to eradicating the slave trade in Britain
  • David Brainerd – Missionary to the American Indians: Captures Brainerd’s life and ministry to the Indians, which inspired the ministry of many others in America

19th Century

  • Adoniram and Ann Judson – Spent for God: America’s first missionaries went to Burma and struggled through persecution to translate the Bible and proclaim the Gospel
  • Robber of the Cruel Streets – The Prayerful Life of George Muller: The prayerful life of George Muller who saved thousands of children in England through is orphanage

20th Century:

  • The Printing: Christians in Communist USSR struggle to print and distribute Bibles
  • Tortured for Christ: The story of Richard Wurmbrand pastoring a Lutheran church in Romania during the Communist reign when he was imprisoned and tortured for fourteen years for His faith. The movie graphically depicts torture, so it’s not appropriate for younger children
  • Corrie Ten Boom: The Ten Boom family hid Jews in Nazi occupied Holland before they were caught and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp
  • The Hiding Place: A similar story of the hardships the Ten Boom family faced during World War II
  • Shadowlands: The story of CS Lewis how his struggles to losing his wife to cancer
  • The Fanny Crosby Story: The author of more lyrics than anyone in history, Crosby wrote more than 10,000 hymns
  • A Cry from Iran: Iranian Christians face persecution and death in the hostile Muslim country
  • End of the Spear: Nate Saint and Jim Elliot make the ultimate sacrifice in attempt to evangelize a tribe in Ecuador

Separately, I’ve created a list of other movies with moral themes that aren’t necessarily about Christian history.

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Free Advent Devotional

John Piper’s 25 reflections on advent entitled The Dawning of Indestructible Joy is available for free at Desiring God.

Reposted from its site:

Advent is for adoring Jesus. The Christmas season is one of the busiest times of the year. But it is also a season of reflection and preparation for that special day when we mark Immanuel’s coming — the arrival of our eternal God in our own frail humanity.

This is the greatest of history’s many wonders, something too stupendous to celebrate just on one day. Advent is a way of lengthening and intensifying the joy of Christmas.

These 25 brief devotional readings from John Piper begin on December 1 and carry us to Christmas Day. Our hope is that God would use these meditations to deepen and sweeten your adoration of Jesus and help you keep him at the center of your Christmas season.

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All-time Favorite Articles

There are a few articles that I return to repeatedly because of the unique insight they provide on difficult issues.  The links are provided below:

Which articles have you found to be the most valuable and repeatedly return to?

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Impactful Christian Book Chapters

John Piper wrote, “It is sentences that change my life, not books.”  This may be true, but elaboration on those sentences is what really reinforces the point.  Clearly some ideas are worth dwelling over more than others, but sometimes we need more than one sentence to help them soak in and change us into the likeness of God.

This list is a work in process, but these chapters have had significant impact on me because of their distilled wisdom.  I return to them frequently to help quickly and effectively re-clarify key topics:

  • A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson – Man’s Chief End (Chapter 1): Masterfully explains how our purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever
  • The Death of Death by John Owen – JI Packer’s Introduction to the book: It may seem odd that an introduction to a book is so powerful, but Packer does an amazing job of distilling Owen’s argument and explaining reformed theology in a few pages
  • The Weight of Glory essay by CS Lewis: This essay is best known for the quote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit. … Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses”  There are many other memorable quotes as well
  • Ordering Your Private World by Gordan MacDonald – Living as a Called Person (Chapter 5): This book isn’t a classic in its own right, but the short chapter on living as a called rather than a driven person is a helpful reorientation of our priorities
  • A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke – The Puritan Practice of Mediation (Chapter 55): Beeke’s who section on Theology in Practice is worthy of being reread several times to ensure it’s fully absorbed, but the chapter focusing on Meditation is particularly helpful on the topic of thinking about God’s Word
  • Grounded in the Gospel by JI Packer – Three Facets of the Faith (Chapter 6): In the book and this chapter in particular, Packer lays out an argument for using catechisms for discipleship.  This chapter elaborates on a faith, hope, love framework that ties to a grounding in the Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments
  • Real Christianity by William Wilberforce – Chapter 4: Wilberforce, known for his work to eradicate slavery in Britain, covers mistaken ideas about Christianity, the desire for admiration and applause among other topics
  • Soul Searching by Christian Smith – God, Religion, Whatever (Chapter 4): Smith is known for introducing his influential view of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as the primary pseudo-religion of youth today. The chapter fleshes out this idea based on a research study he help run
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Communion and the New Covenant

Introduction

Take yourself back 2,000 years to Jesus’ time.  It’s Thursday, April 2, 33 A.D.  Jesus is about 36 years old.  He’s been traveling with His disciplines for three-and-a-half years teaching the Jewish people about the kingdom of God.  On this day, the twelve disciples are gathered with Him in a second floor room in Jerusalem celebrating the Passover meal to remember God saving His people from the angel of death and releasing them from the Egyptian captivity. 

The Jewish people have been celebrating this meal annually for over a thousand of years.  In the middle of the meal, Jesus picked up a cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  It wasn’t the first time the disciples heard Jesus make a similar shocking statement.  During the feeding of the 5,000, He told people that anyone who eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have eternal life.[1]  However, the reference to the new covenant might have made them gasp in awe as they considered the implications of His words.

By proclaiming the new covenant, Jesus is drawing a line in the sand of time, and after over a thousand years, initiating a new relationship with God.  Jesus is saying the covenant of Moses, the covenant of the Ten Commandments, has been superseded by something new; something that the Jews have been waiting for since Jeremiah prophesied about it over 600 year earlier.  The disciples came to celebrate the Passover and instead Jesus turned a page in the chapter of history no less dramatic than we think of BC and AD on our timeline.  With this background on the passage, we’ll cover three key points today:

  • First, that the old covenant was inadequate
  • Second, that the new covenant is the fulfillment of God’s better plan
  • Third, that we, the church, receive the benefits of the new covenant during communion

The old covenant was inadequate

To begin with, the old covenant was inadequate because it depended on frail, sinful people to keep it.  Throughout Biblical history, covenants were key turning points in the story of God and His people.  They’re mentioned over 200 times and referenced in over two-thirds of the Old Testament books.  Covenants were initiated by God as agreements that governed the relationship between Him and a person or a group of people.  Let me say that again, covenants were initiated by God as agreements that governed the relationship between Him and His people.  These agreements were sovereignly established by Him, included specific blessings, and could also include requirements that He mandated the people to follow, which couldn’t be violated.  Only God can initiate this kind of a covenant and He is solely responsible for establishing the terms of the agreement.  He chooses the people.  He establishes the rules to be followed.  He determines the blessings that will be received.  There’s no negotiation like we might think of in an agreement or contract today.

Central to the covenant relationship is the exclusivity of it.  It’s unique to the person or people God chooses and He requires complete loyalty back from them.  The strongest example of this is the first commandment, where God requires the Israelites to have “no other Gods before Him.”  The key theme of the covenants is, “I shall be your God and you shall be My people.”

We see covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David with these characteristics.  God called each of them specifically and he promised them unique blessings.  To Noah and his descendants, He promised that He wouldn’t destroy the earth with water ever again.[2]  He gave Abraham the promise of land and to be the father of many nations.[3]  With Moses, the people received the promise of being a holy nation for God.  David’s promise was the continued kingship in his family line.[4] 

Though there are many covenants, the Mosaic Covenant with the Ten Commandments is the one specifically described as the old covenant because God established it with the people of Israel as a group when they were called out of Egypt.  This covenant described in the book of Exodus specified how God was to be worshiped through the temple ceremonies and declared who the priests were that were responsible to intercede for the people’s sins.  It detailed the need for animal sacrifices for the sins as well.  This covenant was effectively established at the Passover meal with the blood of the lamb on the door posts and expanded upon at Mount Sinai with more detailed commands. 

All of these elements that God included in the old covenant – the sacrifices, priests, temple and laws – were expressions of His nature.  These practices seem foreign to us, but they show us what He’s like in a concrete, tangible way.  God communicated His righteousness in the law, so people clearly knew what was good and evil.  He was present with His people and gave them the tabernacle and later the temple to dwell visibly in their midst.  He is also holy and separate and could not be directly approached by anyone unholy or impure, so He created barriers in the temple so that common people couldn’t enter and then provided priests to serve as mediators for them.  Sacrifices viscerally brought to life the gravity of sin as one would put his hand on the animal’s head to transfer his sins, while its throat was cut and the blood poured out. 

One rough comparison for these things in present day is a court room.  We’re required to follow specific laws of the country and end up breaking them.  We go to court similar to a temple with its chambers and face a judge who represents the law.  We hire a lawyer as our priest-like mediator to represent us before the judge because we’re not in a position to do it ourselves.  If it’s proven that we’ve broken the law, we must make restitution, which is the sacrifice.

But the old covenant was flawed and necessitated a better one.[5]  Flawed not because of God.  He kept His part of the agreement.  Not because of His law, which is right and good.  The covenant failed because of the other party in the agreement – the people, the Israelites.  The priests who stood between the people and God were temporary and sinful.  These priests died and were replaced each generation.  Some were good like Samuel and some were evil like his sons.  None could make perfect intercession for the people.  Because of their depraved nature, the people broke the requirements of the law as Israelites killed, stole, coveted and followed idols.  Even the patriarchs were failures as Noah, Abraham, Moses and David did not follow God without fail.  The ritual sacrifices happened year after year after year because the offerings were an inadequate atonement.  The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins of people, and therefore only served as a reminder of the penalty for sin. 

All of these things were temporal and inadequate because they depended on frail, sinful people.  Yet, the elements of the old covenant served as the foundation for something better.  In Jeremiah 31, Jeremiah prophesied that God would establish a new covenant and write His laws on people’s hearts.  He said,

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke,… For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The new covenant is the fulfillment of God’s better plan

Return back to the first century in the upper room with the disciples.  They grew up with the rigid laws, ritual sacrifices, ornate priests and beautiful temple of stone and gold.  It was the air they breathed.  It was all they knew, but they also knew a new covenant was coming someday.

And then, as they were celebrating God’s faithfulness of providing salvation from Egypt through the old covenant, Jesus spoke the words, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”.  By proclaiming the new covenant, Jesus fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy from 600 years earlier.  With this announcement, Jesus once again laid claim to deity, since only God can establish a covenant.  Just like that, an epoch of history was closed and something new was established.  This new, perfect and final covenant superseded the inadequate old Mosaic covenant and was the fulfillment of God’s better plan for the world from the beginning of time.  This is our second point.  The new covenant is the fulfillment of God’s better plan for His people.

In the new covenant, God once again reached into space and time and dictated a new agreement.  He built on the elements He established in the old covenant, but made everything better.  He provided a better sacrifice, a better priest, a better law and a better temple.  He added a new recipient of the covenant to make it better as well.

God provided the better sacrifice as the propitiation for sin through His own Son.  Jesus said the “new covenant is in My blood poured out for you”.  He was foreshadowing His impending death that would come just a few hours later.  Once again, as we’ve repeatedly encountered throughout history, God gracefully provided substitutionary blood sacrifices to His people.  He provided for Adam and Eve through the death of an animal to cloth their nakedness with its skins after they ate the forbidden fruit in the garden.  He provided Abraham a ram to kill in the place of Isaac when He tested Abraham’s obedience.  He passed over the first born of the Israelites who had lamb’s blood on their doorposts as they were preparing to be freed from Egypt and head to the promised land. 

And now we see that the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant was planned before the foundation of the world through Jesus and His death on the cross.  The final, definitive sacrifice made the old covenant sacrificial system null and void, as “For by a single offering Jesus has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified….and where there is forgiveness, there is no longer any offering for sin.”[6]  Because of Jesus, it’s final and completed.  There is no need for the sacrifice of atonement over and over and over again with bulls and goats.  This is only possible because Jesus lived the perfect life to fulfill the covenant requirements of the law.[7]  Jesus is the perfect, sinless, final sacrificial lamb.  The better sacrifice.

Not only was Jesus the better sacrifice in the new covenant, He’s the final, better priest.  As the perfect, permanent priest, He makes intercession for His people, so there’s no longer the need for a human mediator between us and God.  As Hebrews 7:23-25 tells us, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus as the better priest provides direct access to God the Father.  Aaron’s son’s could be fired from their jobs as priestly intermediaries because His people could go straight to God for forgiveness.

Through Jesus’ teaching, he established a better law.  He raised the standard above what was expressed in the Ten Commandments to go beyond our external actions and include the motives of the heart.  When He taught during the Sermon the Mount, He proclaimed, “you have heard it said, but I say to you…. if you’re angry with your brother, you’re liable to judgement; if you look on a woman with lust, you’ve committed adultery; love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.  You must be perfect as you heavenly Father is perfect.”[8]  He also added separately, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[9]  In the new covenant, commandments are no longer external, written on tablets of stone.  They’re internal, written on hearts of flesh just as Jeremiah prophesied.  Through the indwelling of the Spirit, God makes His chosen people sensitive to His commands to help them do the good works that He prepared beforehand that they should walk in them[10] under the better law. 

Through the new covenant, a better temple was built at Jesus’ resurrection.  One not made with stone, stuck in a specific location.  As Jesus said, Destroy the temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”[11]  In Him, there is no longer a need to worship God in Jerusalem because there is a better temple through His presence and the Spirit.  We come to Jesus directly to worship and serve God.

All of the elements in the old covenant were breadcrumbs, they were signs, they were types, they were shadows, pointing to fulfillment in Jesus through the new covenant, the better covenant that He established.  They were given by God to demonstrate the need for and dependence on Him.  The law provided the knowledge of sin[12] to humble humanity by showing its continual frailty and failure.[13]

The new covenant wasn’t the back-up plan.  It was always God’s plan because Jesus is, “the lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.”[14]  Though Jesus perfect humanity, it was the only way God could fulfill the justice His holiness demanded for our sin.  It was the only way His wrath against covenant breakers could be fully and finally satisfied.  Through the covenant, we get a view of God’s character – His goodness, love, mercy and grace.  We see His goodness and love expressed in the design of this new covenant as everything centers on Christ.  We understand His mercy, as He fulfills the obligations that His people never could.  We feel His grace, as He gives the benefits of Christ’s righteousness to the underserving.

We receive the benefits of the new covenant during communion

Lastly, the benefits of the new covenant to us, the church.  In communion, we experience God as the initiator and provider of the new covenant.  When we take communion as the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, we’re reminded that our loving God initiates the covenant relationship with us.  As I mentioned earlier, the central theme of the covenants throughout the Bible is, “I shall be your God and you shall be My people.”  This is exactly how Paul describes the church in II Corinthians 6:16 when He says, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’”  It’s no longer the children of Abraham who are the promised people, but now anyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved[15] through a circumcision of the heart by the Spirit.[16]  The church is therefore the better recipient of the covenant.  As Paul explained in Ephesians 3:6, “through the Gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

As the recipients of the new covenant, we have two sacraments – baptism and communion.  Baptism happens once to symbolize our new birth in Christ through His death and resurrection.  Through communion, we have a tangible, repeated sign of God as our new covenant provider; not just of a temporary meal that satisfies us briefly, but one that reiterates the good news week after week.  The good news that He’s satisfied with us in Christ for eternity and that we can add nothing to His completed work 2,000 years ago.  Communion is the new Passover meal, replacing the annual Jewish celebration of the old covenant.  It’s a celebration of His saving work in us, not just once from physical slavery in Egypt, but permanently from the all-consuming slavery of sin in our lives.

The old covenant condemned and enslaved.  It was a weighty burden to the people, but the new covenant frees[17] bringing life through forgiveness and reconciliation.[18]  Because of Jesus, the temple veil was torn in two providing us direct access to the Father in ways that were inconceivable at the time of the disciples and before them.  We have no need to confess to a priest as an intercessor between us and God or to sacrifice an animal for our sins.  God provided for us through the broken flesh and poured out blood of Jesus. 

If the new covenant is new to you, and you’re trying to live under the old by keeping the law, then you’re dead in your trespasses and sins.  Repent of your feeble effort to gain God’s favor through prayer, donations, service or whatever it might be and accept God’s forgiveness as tangibly represented in the communion cup.  Then celebrate with great joy[19] what came on Sunday – Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and yours as well if you put your faith in Him to save you.

Conclusion

Reflect on how the old covenant was inadequate, that the new covenant is the fulfillment of God’s better plan and that we, the church, receive the benefits from God as the initiator and provider of the new covenant through communion.

What we’re remembering through communion and celebrating by drinking the wine that symbolizes the blood He shed for us, is the final covenant.  The perfect covenant that offers us access to the Father, through the Son, with the guidance of the Spirit who has been given to us knowing that God has chosen us to be His people and He our God.  In communion, we look backward to Jesus’ institution of the new covenant.  Yet like those before us, we still await something.  We still await the final completion of the new covenant promises through the resurrection of the body, reuniting with the elect, restoration of the earth and return of the King.

When you prepare to taste the bread and the cup, reflect deeply on this great God of ours.  Reflect on how He had a covenant plan for the church from long ago.  Reflect on Christ who makes this relationship possible as the one who fulfills the whole law, offers Himself as the perfect sacrifice, assumes the high priesthood and becomes the great temple of worship for us all.  Then taste the new covenant of Jesus blood and know that He is good.[20]


References


[1] John 6

[2] Genesis 8-9

[3] Genesis 15

[4] 2 Samuel 7

[5] Hebrews 8:7

[6] Hebrews 10:14,18

[7] Matthew 5:17

[8] Matthew 5:27-48

[9] John 13:34-35 and that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” in Mark 2:27

[10] Ephesians 2:10

[11] John 2:19

[12] Romans 3:20

[13] 1 Corinthians 10:5,11)

[14] Revelation 13:8

[15] Romans 10:13

[16] Romans 2:29

[17] Galatians 4:21-31

[18] 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

[19] Matthew 28:8

[20] Psalm 34:8

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Redeeming the Time in Isolation

With the outbreak of the corona-virus, we find ourselves in a new and unusual situation; something out of a movie script like Outbreak.  Our lives have ground to a halt as we become isolated from the rest of neighborhood, community and world.  Though this “social distancing” seems strange, it’s necessary to fight the spread of the virus.

This surprising turn of events provides us with an opportunity to slow down our lives, and take a break from the busyness.  As you consider what to do while locked at home, here are some ideas for how to redeem the unique time that we’ve been given in service to God and your neighbors:

  • Pray through your church directory and send messages to each person after you pray for them.  Especially pray for those who are sick and those whose jobs are threatened by an immobile society
  • Pick a specific book of the Bible and really dig into it using the digital resources available such as YouTube, online commentaries and Kindle books.  Summarize what you discover and teach others in your church via video in 10-15 minute mini-lessons
  • You could also do with with a specific theology topic or event from church history to have a better understanding of God and His work across time
  • Learn or practice an instrument so that you’re better prepared to help with music when church services resume
  • Call people single people such as widows who don’t have others around them during this time of isolation.  To them, it’s not much different that solidarity confinement in a prison and they need interaction with friends and family, even if it’s digitally
  • Find ways to serve others outside of the church by getting their grocery list when you run to the store, sharing tools and other resources or helping them by mowing their lawn or using others skills you have
  • Write friends and family notes telling them how much you love and miss them and sharing how God loves them too
  • Devote time to learning a new skill so that you’re in a better position to impact the world when life returns to normal

Don’t spend the time you’ve been given on movies or other media, but instead find ways to redeem it to the glory of God, so that you can say when this is passed that what was meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

 

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The Importance of Teaching the Apostles Creed

The Apostles Creed on the most historic and foundational statement of the Christian faith.  It’s used by many denominations as the summary statement of what Christians have believed for hundreds of years.  The creed itself isn’t found in the Bible nor was likely written by the Apostles, but captures the key elements of theology and is a good starting point for youth.  Other creeds such as the Nicene or the Chalcedonian are longer and were written to address a specific issue in the church, but the Apostles is concise enough to be quickly memorized and often repeated during liturgical church services.

This document focuses on the creed a one leg of a three legged stool as key summaries of Christianity with the The Lords Prayer and The Ten Commandments serving as the other two.  Together the three should be taught to children, so that they understand how God wants us to pray, what we must believe and how we’re guided to act.  It includes the creed, scripture references and questions to ask about each point of belief: Teaching the Apostles Creed

For more information the creed, see the following two three-minute videos:

 

For more ideas about the importance of teaching the faith to children, read Grounded in the Gospel by JI Packer.

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