From Our Meetings

Sunday, August 3 – To Toot Thine Own Horn

As Stan was preaching from Matthew 6 this past Sunday, his words about the text brought many thoughts to my mind, but one in particular gripped me.

Our Lord was confronting something that was violently wrong.

As Jesus called the people to a righteousness that exceeded that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, he brings up the subject of alms giving. He states that people should not “sound the trumpet” to be seen as they give alms to the poor. If their motive is to be seen by men, then they have already received their reward. The Almighty Judge is not impressed, though men may be.

To me, this teaching shows that there is something at work beyond pride. It is a pride that thrives upon hatred of others. It is a hateful pride that was embraced by the religious community surrounding the Temple in the days of Christ.

Here is what I mean by “a hateful pride”. Image driving to your church service on Sunday morning. There are people of your faith, or your neighborhood who are poverty-stricken and broken by disease. They sit outside the doors to your place of worship. When you walk up, they appeal to you “My friend, gain merit with God by giving me your pocket change.” Instead of being broken in spirit at their condition. Instead of being overwhelmed in empathy with them. Instead of seeking to help them and minister to them…you see this as an opportunity to do two things. First, you can use them to bolster your place in the Kingdom of God. You believe that your gift to them helps you overcome your personal sins and that God is now obliged to show you favor. Second, this is not enough for you. You have decided to use this person for your own pride and arrogance. You will not only give to them, but you will make a show of it so that others may see it.

This is not just wrong, this is violent sin. It is sin that operates upon and thrives in the foundation of poverty and pain. And yet it was religiously acceptable and encouraged.

Our Lord shows forth love and mercy. He teaches to help without regard for self, but only with regard for those who need it.

Oh, what a contrast between the picture of the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 6 with the power of the Gospel in Acts 3! (See this entry for more info).

In our Bible Study hour, David was back and we returned to our Study in Revelation. We looked at the letter to the church at Laodicea and had a very important discussion of the meaning of this letter and its particular relationship to many of us in the churches in America who have much wealth and personal/national pride.

Let us be sure we follow the loving urging of our Lord to seek to buy refined gold from Him and to be clothed and healed of that which blinds us. May we be encouraged both individually and corporately to seek the Heavenly Guest and take our great pleasure and satisfaction in divine fellowship.

Finally, one of the hymns that we sang was written by Timothy Dwight. While our hymnal only has a few of the lines, here are the rest from CyberHymnal:

I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.

I love Thy church, O God.
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And written on Thy hand.

If e’er to bless Thy sons
My voice or hands deny,
These hands let useful skills forsake,
This voice in silence die.

Should I with scoffers join
Her altars to abuse?
No! Better far my tongue were dumb,
My hand its skill should lose.

For her my tears shall fall
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.

Jesus, Thou Friend divine,
Our Savior and our King,
Thy hand from every snare and foe
Shall great deliverance bring.

Sure as Thy truth shall last,
To Zion shall be given
The brightest glories earth can yield
And brighter bliss of Heaven.

Sunday, July 20th – Love that Compels

The Lord Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those would persecute us. This text was the focus of Stan’s sermon and gave us plenty to meditate on and to continue to consider as we seek to obey our Lord.

As I have continued to consider this, I cannot help but think of missions and the proclamation of the Gospel as the ultimate fulfillment of this command. As Stan mentioned during the sermon, in Psalm 139, King David states that he hates those who hate God; they are his enemies who he utterly despises. Under the Old Covenant, David could remain this way and be considered to be a man after God’s own heart.

But the Gospel has brought a different command. The apostles could not agree with King David. Paul would not go into pagan lands if he hated those peoples with an utmost hatred. He did not view them as enemies that he wanted to see destroyed and crushed, but rather he desired to see them redeemed and brought near to God and to one another in the Body of Christ. He begged them, as though God were appealing through him that they would be reconciled to God. This is love. This is the commandment of the New Covenant.

May God grant to us the love which our Lord spoke about. May He empower us through the Holy Spirit to pursue others in love, and may His sovereign mercy go forth for the glory of Christ.

Sunday, July 13 – The Other Cheek

This Sunday, Stan’s text for the sermon was Matthew 5:38-42. Here we saw the challenging words of our Lord which compels us to die to our own desires for justice and for self-seeking. Though the Old Covenant with Israel was very clear in its commands of justice and vindication, striking the offender to bring justice to the victim, our Lord removes not only the commandments of justice, but also our desires to bring about personal retribution.

Stan brought our attention to the book of Acts, where we find the unjust suffering placed upon the Church, yet they lived by the new Law of Christ. Instead of seeking retribution, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer. While Stephen was being stoned, he was not filled with desires of justice, but prayers of mercy to those who were brutally murdering him.

Is this not the theme of the Scriptures concerning the Bride of Christ? Have not we seen this over and over. In our study of 1 Peter on Wednesday nights we found that we should not think it strange when terrible suffering is directed at us for our faith in the Gospel. But let us not return evil for evil, for then our suffering will be just. Instead, let us be empowered by the Spirit to fulfill the Law of Christ. Let us die to self and live for the glory of God!

As George Mueller put it…
“There was a day when I died, utterly died: died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends. And since then, I have studied only to show myself ‘approved unto God.'”

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.