My father had a flair for the dramatic. Every Christmas Eve, he would conduct his man-on-the-street interview with us, always wrapping up with the devastating question, “Have you been good this year?” Of course, I always tried to answer a confident, “Yes.” But in the quiet of my mind and the long night, conscience began to do its work. Had I been good? Had my merits exceeded my demerits? How good did I need to be? These days the darker side of Santa is rarely discussed – the vindictive, cold, works-based side of Santa Claus that delivers the punitive gifts of a lump of coal and a bundle of switches to bad children. On my bed, I pondered the question, “Had I been good?”
A man once came to Jesus and posed the same question, but concerning for a more serious outcome. “Good teacher, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus reply was devastating. “Why do you call me good, no one is good except God alone. You know the commandments!” How good do you have to be ‘good with God?’ Well if it is up to you, you have to be perfect. Who can make a claim to this kind of goodness? The Bible tells us that “no one is good, no not one.” But it is in that same context that we are told the good news that the judgment of God is not the last word. There is no hope for bad children with Santa, but with the eternal God, sinners have hope. For Jesus said, “the one who comes to me, I will never turn away.” Listen to “Coal and Switches” from Genesis 3:1-15 as we consider the judgment and grace of God in Christ.
Have you curated your funeral playlist yet? If not, let me encourage you take some time to look at what the scripture says about life after death – both for the believer and the unbeliever – so that every part of our funeral service can bear witness to the goodness of our God and the truth of the gospel. But what does the Bible say?
While the Bible speaks about life in the New Heavens and the New Earth, very little description is given to the time between death and the resurrection and return of Christ. Theologians refer to this time as the Intermediate State. Some hold this is a time of unconscious soul sleep, others that it is a dreary dream world of souls in limbo. Still others view this as a time of probation with a second chance for those that either did not hear the gospel or rejected it in this life. But the Bible soundly refutes all these ideas and gives us a much better picture of a life absent from the body, but present with the Lord. Listen to “In-Between” as we examine 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 and consider life after death.
Where will Jesus find us when He comes again? Will we be like little children waiting just for Him? With our fingertips and noses pressed to the windowpanes Longing eyes, expectant hearts for Him to come again.
– Fingertips and Noses, NewSong
The final instruction of the Bible is to live expectantly, longing for Christ’s return. Our mantra is to be maranatha, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’ Is that your mantra? Can you say with the Spirit and the Bride, ‘Come!’ Or is your cry, “not yet!”
How eager are you for the return of Christ? How convinced are you that the day of His return will be the very best day, not a day of disaster? Join us this Lord’s Day, as we examine Revelation 22:6-21 and consider a how to live expectantly and cultivate a longing for the return of Christ, training our hearts to cry, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Always Reforming. The church is always in need of correction, sanctification, renewal, discipleship, gospel preaching, the faithful and diligent use of the ordinary means of grace. The marks of the church imply as much — faithful preaching of the Word, faithful administration of the Sacraments, and church discipline. The Reformation of the Church is not an event, it is ‘laundry work.’ Ever doing and never done. That is, until the day when the church descends from heaven – holy, radiant, finally and fully prepared to be the bride and wife of the lamb. For now, the church must be ‘always reforming.’ But a day is coming when faith becomes sight and every promise, every ‘yes and amen’ in Christ, is fulfilled. Then the church will at last be all she has been created to be. All brokenness and blemish will be gone.
Her beauty, her perfect fellowship with her Beloved, and her indescribable life, so beautifully captured in Revelation 21:9-22:5, are the hope to which we press. Because a day is coming when the laundry work of reformation will reach its end, we press on with the work of always reforming. As the scripture commands us, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Join us this Reformation Lord’s Day, as we examine Revelation 21:9-22:5 and consider a day when the church will no longer be ‘always reforming.’
The conclusion of a book is as important as its introduction. We can all think of those introductions which have grabbed our attention. But the conclusions also get our attention because they remind us of what an author really considers to be important. This is certainly the case in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. He begins his letter calling to mind that the church of Thessalonica is God’s church. In the conclusion, he offers exhortations on how that church is to live in light of the fact that it belongs to God. We see in these exhortations principles for honoring church leaders, principles for peace among fellow Christians, and the importance of rejoicing and praying. But all of these commands are rooted in Paul’s benediction in verse 23. Paul writes in that verse, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
How can a Christian really live as one of God’s chosen people? How can a Christian have confidence that they will grow in grace? How can a Christian have the hope that they may endure to the end? It is because God is at work in the life of the believer and because He will keep them blameless. Paul has a settled confidence that “he will surely do it.” God has redeemed His own people from destruction, and He has promised to keep them to the end. Do you have the kind of settled confidence that Paul displays in this passage? Are you hopeful in the power of God to keep you and in the second coming of Jesus Christ? Listen to “In Conclusion” from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28.
Everything comes with disclaimers. The fine print. The low-toned, rapid-fire voice at the end of the commercial that you somehow know is offering a hurried, but dire warning. Asterisks and double-daggers qualify every statement, so as to evade charges of false advertising. To disclaim is the opposite of claiming. The salesman claims, the legal department disclaims. Offers are made, then qualified, modified, mortified. The sales pitch promotes benefit without borders, then the disclaimer draws a very small map of possibilities.
Disclaimers makes us jaded toward every remarkable promise, suspicious of every offer. In Eden, Satan disclaimed God’s promises and man doubted. Ever since, man has doubted. God offers more than man can imagine. The offer requires only faith, yet man can only doubt. But God gives something else. He gives faith as a gift. God in his mercy, gives us the faith to trust that his offer comes without disclaimers. The great story of redemption draws to a close in Revelation 21 with a vision of all God’s promises kept. Nothing is withheld. There are no caveats, no conditions, no last-minute substitutions – no disclaimers. Join us as we consider Revelation 21:1-8 and consider the offer that seems too good to be true, but really is.
Rock and roll ballads rarely offer helpful counsel for life’s existential angst. But they do put their finger insightfully on the pulse of the angst itself. Creed’s, My Own Prison, is a poignant example. While its theology is askew, the songs’ message is clear. Without God’s grace, men are self-condemned in a prison of their own sinful making. The Bible is clear about our condition apart from God’s grace. Men try to ignore it, deceive themselves about it, and rail against it, but the they cannot escape their own prison.
Judgment is coming. God has not hidden this truth. Throughout the Scriptures the inevitability of God’s judgment is proclaimed with clarity and certainty. The final judgement is never expressed in conditional language. Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Revelation 20:11-15, commonly called the Great White Throne Judgement, and consider what will make the difference between eternal life and death at the final judgement.
Surely no one was surprised by Brexit? Like a young couple crafting a prenup in their first premarital counseling session, Brexit was an inevitable outcome. The tenuous EU marriage between Britain and the Continent could never last. Despite its pretense as a representative democracy, Britain is forever committed to its Crown. But, as Americans, we mistrust any idea of the monarchy. So, it is hard for us to fully appreciate the implications of Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Scripture passages that speak of The Kingdom and of Christ and the saints ruling and reigning resonate only lightly with us.
Yet, the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding the reigning of the saints. To miss the meaning of this powerful image is to miss some of the richest gospel comfort offered in Scripture. Join us as we examine Revelation 20:4-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort from one of the Scripture’s most enigmatic passages. Listen to “Coronation Day” from Revelation 20:4-10.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification….” We often ask, “What is the will of God for my life?” As the Christian writer Kevin DeYoung notes in his book, Just Do Something, we tend to overcomplicate that question. We certainly ought to pray when it comes to major decisions and should always want to submit to the will of God, but Paul is making a point about what the will of God is ultimately for every Christian—sanctification. God is at work in you to make you more like Jesus. Do you love Christ more and hate sin more than you once did? That is because the Lord God is at work in you. Is your fellowship marked by brotherly love? Listen as we consider “The Will of God for the Christian” from 1 Thessalonians 4.
Rivalries are often in good fun. Perhaps you have a favorite football team, and you enjoy the “rivalry game” each year. But even in activities such as sports, rivalries can get out of hand. Imagine a rivalry over something as important as the ministry of the church, the worship of God and the conversion of the lost.
Paul’s response to these teachers who set themselves up as rivals serves as a backdrop for the book of 2 Corinthians. And when we come to 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, we see Paul quite concerned that false teaching is seeking to disrupt the church. The Corinthian church is being tempted to allow worldly principles to shape its practice. Paul, in this passage, gives a warning both to the church and to the individual Christian not to have a partnership with that which is in conflict with the Gospel of Christ. As a Christian is in union with Christ, this precludes a union with idols. Join us this week as we consider Christ, the great salvation offered in Him and how this impacts our lives and our worship.