From Our Meetings

Sunday, July 6

This past Sunday, Stan continued preaching in Matthew 5.  In verses 33-37, we focused our attention on the teaching of Jesus as he continued to contrast his demands of righteousness to that of the Pharisees.  Here, we see the Old Covenant practice described in the Law given to Israel as the taking of vows.  Our Lord shows us that the people of his Kingdom should are expected to show forth truth in all their dealings, no matter how big or small they may seem.

Through this passage, we see how man will twist any regulations set before them to their own selfish ambition.  In this case, the Jews had set up a system that they justified as coming from the Law of God, given through Moses, but had used the system to justify sin instead of pursue righteousness.

As followers of Christ, let us never abuse the Word of God to justify sin.  Let us pursue the glory of God in truth and righteousness.  May it never cross our minds to purposefully defraud one another for our own selfish ambition.  Instead, let us rejoice in Jesus, the Righteous.  Let us see His beauty and seek to reflect that through our lives.

This will only come about through the power of Christ’s resurrection in us and the work of the Holy Spirit to enable us.  May God bless us to do so for His glory!

During out Bible Study hour, we continued studying the flow and logical progress of Paul’s argument in the epistle to the Romans.  We spent most of the time discussing issues from the week before but we are poised to pick up in Romans 6 next week!

Sunday, June 15

Hymns:
Come, Christians, Join to Sing.
I Stand Amazed at the Presence.
Heaven Came Down.
Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult

Sermon:
Stan’s text was from Matthew 5:21-26

Bible Study:
David led us through Revelation 3:1-6

Acts 3: His Lips with Grace O’erflow

Over the past two weeks we have looked at the third chapter of Acts. Here we have seen the continued work of the powerful Holy Spirit as the Kingdom continues to be proclaimed in Jerusalem.

At the gate of the Temple, known as “Beautiful”, we see the graphic work of the Spirit and the power of the Gospel through the name of Jesus, as Peter heals the lame man. Here is proof of the impotence of the Old Covenant. This man sits here, wrecked by sin and he becomes the object of Israel’s self-vindicating works. He would beg of alms. His cry would be to those passing by into the Temple something such as “Oh tenderhearted one, by me gain merit, to thine own benefit”. The apocryphal book of Tobit (Tobit 4:8-10) expresses the Jewish belief “If thou hast abundance give alms accordingly: if thou have but a little, be not afraid to give according to that little: For thou layest up a good treasure for thyself against the day of necessity. Because that alms do deliver from death, and suffereth not to come into darkness. ”

Oh how this picture is a stark contrast from the end of chapter 2. There, the New Covenant people of God are shown with great love and compassion for all in their midst, selling all of their possession if necessary, not for deliverance from judgment, but by the power of the Holy Spirit!

The healing of this lame man shows the efficacy of the New Covenant. The Gospel holds the power of deliverance and this leads to Peter’s explanation in the rest of chapter 3. There we see Peter lay out the testimony of judgment against the nation of Israel for rejecting Jesus, the Messiah. Note the force of his words in 3:13-15. But even in this testimony of their guilt, what stands out is the grace that overflows from the Gospel. Consider the following:

  • The Lord used Peter to heal this lame man as an appeal to Israel that the Gospel is true. In spite of their continued rejection of the Gospel, the Lord continues to appeal to them to repent and come to Him for rest and deliverance.
  • Peter states that he knows that they have acted in ignorance, as their rulers did also (Acts 3.17). In light of the weight of being responsible for the death of the promised Messiah, the words of the Gospel still appeal with loving gentleness and mercy.
  • The Gospel calls them to repent and return so that their record of sins my be blotted out (Acts 3.19). In the ancient world, the ink would not bleed into the papyrus below, but it remained on the surface. The ink on top could be purposefully removed, leaving no trace that it had existed on the surface below. The Gospel indeed offers grace! By the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our sins may be washed away as if they never existed…for He has paid the price for them!

There is much more to this text that we will continue to explore, but the call now comes to us. Will we be faithful witnesses in our generation for the Lord Jesus? It will only be done if we seek it through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be quick to leave our worldly concerns, knowing that He has promised to provide all things if we first and primarily seek the Kingdom of God. My we be testimonies of His grace. And may we learn by this text that grace is persistent. May we never stop proclaiming the Gospel to those who have rejected it, just as Peter continued to preach it to these people of his day.

Acts 2: Community

This past Sunday, our text in Acts 2:44-47 called us to consider the beauty of the Spirit’s work in the Body of Christ. This earliest church demonstrated that the Spirit’s power brings unity, love and provision. Darrel Bock indicates in his commentary that the early church’s preaching (just as Peter had finished preaching earlier in Acts 2) was matched by its community.

By God’s providence, we discussed this text on the first Sunday of the month, and at Heritage we enjoy partaking of the Lord’s Table together and then we have a meal together after the services. So, we recognized that the Lord has blessed us, and thousands of years after Acts 2 was written, the Spirit still causes us to enjoy one another in Christian fellowship.

Let us always find ways to increase in this sort of fellowship. May we enjoy hospitality and provision. Acts 2 displays the splendor of love demonstrated in the selling of individual goods for the needs of one another and the good of the whole Christian community. May God grant us wisdom to be stewards of what we have been given so that we are quick to meet the needs of others. Let us always be empathetic, always be loving, and always be seeking the Spirit’s power to display Christ-like love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Men’s Fellowship – Prayer

This past Sunday evening, we met for our Men’s fellowship and experienced a time of challenge, of encouragement, and of repentance. Our thoughts were drawn to the subject of corporate prayer and we expressed our struggles, frustrations, and hopes regarding this important subject.

I am personally convinced that we have many pressures upon us that mold us into patterns of corporate prayer that are far from biblical. Even the best of the books and studies that we have used to help our prayer lives fail at some of the most basic levels. At the core of this is the assumption that the only thing that we care to pray about is our health, our finances, and our relationships…oh, and lest we forget the staple of all modern corporate prayer, travel mercies (forgive the sarcasm). Many of these books and studies try to show us that we are to pray for all of these things with the focus of bringing glory to God. This is an important point, but as I look to the teachings on prayer in the Scriptures I am left to wonder if there is an issue that lies deeper, at the heart of the things that we desire and the things that we do not.

There were certainly plenty of needs in biblical times. There was poverty in many of the places were the churches existed. There were broken families and relationships. There were illnesses and death. The mortality rate was about the same as today! There were accidents, disasters, social injustices, etc. All of these things were just as rampant then as they are now. But what was the focus of the prayers of the Church? Time and time again we see corporate prayer focused upon the unity of the Church, the edification of the Church, the need for wisdom in the Church, for the advancement of the Gospel as the Church continues to proclaim the Word of Life as it expands the dominion of the Lord Jesus as salvation goes forth. The Scriptures show forth the need to ask for God’s strength and provision for the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit and through faith in the risen Lord Jesus.

I am not saying that we should not be praying for material or physical needs. Pray for them all…spiritual, physical, relational. Any thing that urges you to depend upon God and ask of His good provision. We are commanded in the Scriptures to do so! But understand that as a believer, you are able to pray for these things without necessarily needing the help of others in prayer.

Now, if you have labored in prayer and the burden is heavy, if you need encouragement and you need to know that others are bearing the burden with you, by all means, bring it before another brother or sister in Christ. Ask your church to pray for you! But all too often, I think we have reached a point in which we ask others to pray for things that we ourselves are not truly burdened about. Or else, we ask thinking that the Lord will not answer our prayer alone, but that He is more apt to answer the prayers when others are asking Him.

My greatest concern is that there are so many of these requests that there is little emphasis placed upon praying for the earnest and dire needs of the Church. It is very indicting that we do not see sincere and dependent prayers of corporate repentance, corporate supplications, and biblical yearnings for the strength of the Church in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

Perhaps another hindrance to biblical corporate prayer is that we do not want to speak as if there is something wrong in our churches. In other words, if we are going to seek biblical corporate prayer, we will have to admit that we don’t have perfect unity, perfect desires, perfect people, and perfect ministries. It takes corporate humility and corporate repentance. We must not be afraid to admit that we need to grow in these areas. But let us take heart and see the things that the Scriptures call us to value and let us pray that those things take place in our midst!

I am thankful for the discussion that we had Sunday night, and I hope that it continues, no only as a discussion, but that it changes our corporate prayer life to be more biblical, more sincere, and more effectual for the glory of the Lord Jesus! May we pray that it is so.

Acts 2: Devotion

The second chapter of Acts chronicles the incredible display of the power of the Holy Spirit as God poured it out upon these believers. We have looked at the salvation that was revealed, the judgment that was revealed, and the power that was revealed as promised by our Lord that these people would become His witnesses. In verse 42 we see that these believers were changed…they “continually devoted” themselves to the apostolic teaching of the Gospel, fellowship with one another including breaking bread together, and to prayer.

In verse 43, we see that the apostles continued to perform signs and wonders. This is the same phrase used earlier to describe the manner in which God attested that Jesus is the Messiah. I take from this parallel usage that God now was attesting that the apostolic teaching of the Gospel was the true message of the Messiah, the promised Good News of the New Covenant and therefore God was declaring the certainty of the hope that is, and that is to be revealed. In chapter 3, we will see a specific example of the apostolic signs and the validation that they bring upon the Gospel that they are heralding.

Such things are overwhelming. God demonstrated in power with wondrous events that Jesus is the Messiah, that His judgment is against those who oppose Him, even those who were once His people, but now are not His people if they continue in unbelief.

My friends, we need to be overwhelmed. We must be driven from our whimsical nature to lives of continual devotion. This passage calls us to consider the great events of those first days of the New Covenant and we ought to be amazed. Perhaps as we study these accounts we realize that reading about them may not bring the same amazement that we may have had if we were there, experiencing the rushing sound of the Spirit, seeing the manifestation described as the tongues of fire, experiencing the miracle of the tongues. But these signs testify of the reality that can overwhelm us with incredible power. These all attest that the Holy Spirit will empower the people of God to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ and that we will be driven to devotion when we are led by the Spirit.

Let us thirst for this power! Let us ask for this power! And let us seek this power in faith, knowing that it is the will of our God to display His glory through the Good News concerning the Lord and Messiah, Jesus Christ!

Acts 2: The Gospel

This past Sunday, we enjoyed fellowship and worship. Our text for the sermon continued to be Peter’s sermon in the second chapter of Acts. This time, my purpose in the message was to focus upon the Gospel message from this text. Perhaps the aspect that stood out most to me was the Gospel’s presentation of the person of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not merely about Jesus, it is intrinsically centered upon Him.

Peter says, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene…” He does not skip to what Jesus did or what Jesus has now made possible without immediately and primarily presenting to his audience Jesus himself. You do not know the Gospel if you do not know Jesus. You may have an understanding of sin, and understanding of repentance. You may know that faith is essential and that salvation is of grace. But if you do not know Jesus and therefore know these wonderful things that are also part of the Gospel, than you know nothing of the Gospel presented in the Scriptures. In John’s words:

1 John 1:1-3 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

We may not have seen Him with our eyes, heard Him with our ears, or touched Him with our hands, but through faith, we know Jesus. We have fellowship with Him. May He grant to us this knowledge through His great grace!