Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Over the last number of weeks, I have made several references to the book I’m reading on Jonathan Edwards and his understanding, his view of the Christian life. I have been moving slowly through this book for the simple reason that every chapter is meaty and requires time for reflection. But the one chapter that has most impacted me is that which addresses Edwards’ understanding of Christians as pilgrims, Christians as sojourners. I’ve read that chapter at least five times and each time its truths sink down more deeply into my soul. I would love to include the entire chapter in this weekly email but I suspect that a fair number of you who do read the Post-it each week would find it daunting. But I will ask your indulgence to quote a couple of pages from this chapter. Hopefully it will incite you desire to read the entire chapter or, better yet, read the entire book. So, here’s a snippet of the richness found in this chapter.
By the standards of Hollywood and Wall Street, Christians are of all people the most to be pitied. But bank accounts and social standing are not the true measuring bar. Life in this fallen world often feels like walking through a tornado; but even in a tornado there is a calm eye of the storm. The eye of life’s tornado is the calm hope of our final destination. Only this delivers true peace. We therefore remain calm and stayed on God when life upends us. We come to echo the sentiment expressed in a journal entry by David Brainerd, who stayed in Edwards home for a time and whose journal Edwards read and published: “I hoped that my weary pilgrimage in the world would be short, and that it would not be a long before was brought to my heavenly home and Father’s house.”
We cannot drive to work or go through the line at the grocery store without being bombarded by the flashy efforts of the multibillion dollar advertising industry to plant our hopes in this life. Edwards reorients us to soul sanity. “Have you had that divine comfort,” he preached,” that has seemed to heal your soul and put life and strength into you and given you peace after trouble and rest after labor and pain? Have you tasted that spiritual food, that bread from heaven, that is so sweet and so satisfying, so much better than the richest earthly dainties?” In the course of our pilgrimage, there is a food that Hollywood does not know of (John 4:32). Not only can money not buy it; money may be a hindrance to the enjoyment of it.
One of the key contributions Edwards makes at this point is his penetrating insight that the final end of our pilgrimage includes the good things of earth. This is part of what makes heaven heaven. We do not trade in the good of earth for the better of heaven. We lose nothing. Our final destination is not heaven minus the joys of earth but heaven including the joys of earth.
Or as he would put it in his famous sermon on Christian pilgrimage, “The True Christian’s Life a Journey Towards Heaven” – “God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of Him is our proper happiness, and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here: better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops; but God is the ocean. Therefore, it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven.”
How can a regenerate man or woman not be changed in reading that? We know such a statement is true. But after days upon days simply living life – paying the bills, working through the marital arguments, fighting and sometimes succumbing to diverse temptations, worrying about the future, picking up meds from Walgreens – heaven fades from view. Left in neutral, our hearts slide away from enjoyment of God, and toward enjoyment of this world. Psychologically we slowly transition from being pilgrims through this world to being citizens of this world.
And then we read a paragraph like that. We read, “To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.” Suddenly the lake home we had been dreaming of owning one day grabs us a little less forcefully. We are liberated. This life, we are brought to feel once more, is not our one shot at joy. We are pilgrims. Our true home, a home better than any money could buy here, is coming – “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Peter 1:4). So why not sacrifice the shadow for the substance, the drop for the ocean? Why not invest where it matters? As Jesus himself taught, we’re all amassing wealth; it’s only a question of where (Matthew 6:19-21).
I hope this brief passage sheds some light on why I have found myself so enamored with this chapter. Those who understand themselves to be pilgrims or resident aliens, have a perpetual ache, an unquenchable longing for a better land. They long for home. C.S. Lewis describes it in this way: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” The author of Hebrews explains it this way: 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off [e]were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
This Lord’s Day, I will be returning to the pulpit (Lord willing) for the first time since January 6….a staggering six weeks. If there is a silver lining in this, it would be that on two of those Lord’s Days we were compelled to cancel our morning worship service due to the weather. I greatly appreciate the willingness of Rev. Brett Mahlen and Pastor Jim Strietlemeier to fill in for me. We will be picking up our exposition of 1 Peter this Lord’s Day. However, in light of our lengthy absence from this epistle, I’m planning on doing a 30,000 foot flyover of the ground he have covered up to this point. In one sermon I will tell you what was said in the preceding 24 sermons. I must confess that I’m a bit apprehensive about my return to the pulpit for several reasons, not the least of them being that I’ll still be in a sling. The presence of the sling is a constant reminder that I need to be most careful with how I use my right arm. Even when my attention is focused elsewhere, I’m subconsciously aware of my damaged shoulder. So, brothers and sisters, I would greatly covet your prayers for peace of mind and confidence as I stand before you and declare God’s Word.
Please remember that this Lord’s Day, we will be conducting our annual congregational meeting. It is crucial that we have representation from each family in our congregation. Please make this a priority for your family. We will be reviewing the budget and answering any questions you might have. We will also provide you with a status report on where our Pastor Search Committee (a.k.a., the Session) is in their search for our next pastor. Here, too, we will endeavor to answer any questions you might have with regard to the process. Additionally, we will be presenting Bob Rotan to the congregation as a candidate for Deacon. You will be voting on whether you believe he should serve in that office. Should he be elected, immediately following the conclusion of the business of the congregational meeting, we will move to ordain and install Bob in that office. So, I trust you recognize the vital importance of broad participation by the congregation as we address these critical issues. The meeting will begin at 6 PM.
· February 22– Family Board Game Night (6:30 PM)
· February 24–Neighborhood Fellowship
· February 24– Annual Congregational meeting (6:00 PM)
· February 25–Ladies group
· February 26– Deacons meet
· March 3– Fellowship Meal
· March 3– Prayer service (immediately following Fellowship Meal)
· March 4– Adults Fellowship Group (townies)
· March 10– Young Adults Fellowship Group
· March 11– Ladies Group
· March 13– Session meets
· March 17– Adults Fellowship Group (westsiders)
· March 18– Adults Fellowship Group (townies)
· March 24– Neighborhood Fellowship
· March 25– Ladies Group
· March 31– Psalm/hymn sing
Through Jesus, the Father shows us his innermost being—in the form of a servant, dying to give us life. —Michael Reeves
The gospel is so simple that those who complicate it are doing the Devil’s work. —Burk Parsons
Calvinism might kill unbiblical, manipulative evangelistic methodologies, but it does not kill missions and evangelism. —Jim Orrick
Love for the Lord, love for neighbor—that is the heart of holiness and how the triune God’s people get to be like him. —Michael Reeves
The worst possible heritage to leave with children: high spiritual pretensions and low performance. —D.A. Carson
The Myth of Influence
W. Robert Godfrey
In the March 7, 1998, issue of the Los Angeles Times, the Religion section featured an article entitled, “L.A.-Area Seminary Teachers Gather to Ponder the Truth.” For the fourth year, the Skirball Institute on American Values drew five seminaries together for discussion: St. John’s Seminary of the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church, Hebrew Union College of Reform Judaism, the University of Judaism of Conservative Judaism, Claremont School of Theology with liberal Protestant connections, and Fuller Theological Seminary with evangelical roots. The article quotes several participants on the positive character of the meeting. The comments of the moderator, Donald E. Miller of the University of Southern California, captured the spirit of the news report: “There is more similarity of religious views among what Miller called ‘progressive’ Jews, Catholics and Protestants than there is between orthodox and progressive believers within each faith.” READ MORE…
Have We Become Pharisees? 5 Evaluation Questions
Last year, my family and I enjoyed some vacation time at the beach. After finding a place to put our towels, my oldest son and I jumped into the ocean to go body surfing. Fifteen minutes later, I looked up to find my wife—but nothing on the beach looked familiar. I thought I was still directly in front of her but, without realizing it, I had drifted a few hundred yards.
The gradual pull of the ocean can be so subtle that it’s hard to notice you’re drifting further away.
Likewise, for the believer who desires to be gospel-centered, the drift toward becoming more Pharisaical is also so subtle we might not even notice it.
How Dismissing the Doctrine of Hell Leads Us to Hate Our Neighbors
The Story: A significant portion of practicing Christians reject evangelism. Could it be because they also reject the doctrine of hell?
The Background: A new Barna report, based on research commissioned by Alpha USA, looks at the views on evangelism by practicing Christians (defined in the report as those who identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives, and have attended church within the past month).
Almost all practicing Christians believe that part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus (ranging from 95 percent to 97 percent among all generational groups), and that the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to know Jesus (94 percent to 97 percent). Almost all practicing Christians (ranging from 86 percent to 92 percent) also say they know how to respond when someone raises questions about faith, and a majority of each generational group (ranging from 56 percent to 73 percent) believes they are gifted at sharing their faith with other people
Yet despite recognizing the importance of telling people about Christ and claiming to know how to share their faith, a significant portion of practicing Christians say it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith. READ MORE…
Let Children Get Bored Again
“I’m bored.” It’s a puny little phrase, yet it has the power to fill parents with a cascade of dread, annoyance and guilt. If someone around here is bored, someone else must have failed to enlighten or enrich or divert. And how can anyone — child or adult — claim boredom when there’s so much that can and should be done? Immediately.
But boredom is something to experience rather than hastily swipe away. And not as some kind of cruel Victorian conditioning, recommended because it’s awful and toughens you up. Despite the lesson most adults learned growing up — boredom is for boring people — boredom is useful. It’s good for you.
If kids don’t figure this out early on, they’re in for a nasty surprise. School, let’s face it, can be dull, and it isn’t actually the teacher’s job to entertain as well as educate. Life isn’t meant to be an endless parade of amusements. “That’s right,” a mother says to her daughter in Maria Semple’s 2012 novel, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” “You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.” READ MORE…
In the RPCNA, when parents bring their children for baptism, they take several vows, one of which regards our responsibility to bring the good news of Jesus to our children:
Do you promise to teach your children of their sinful nature, of the plan of salvation which centers in Jesus Christ, and their own personal need of a relationship with Christ?
As we seek to be faithful to this calling of evangelizing those born into the covenant people of God, reformed Christians are often subject to pressures and trends they might not fully understand. In response to good conversations during a recent Sunday school class, here is an attempt to shine a light on those pressures and on God’s better way.
On one side are the many ways Christians have abused the covenant promises of God. Hearing God tell us that His promises are for us and for our children (Acts 2:39), many in the reformed world have fallen into presuming upon the grace of God. Rather than seeing God’s promises as a reason to have confidence and joy as we bring our children to Jesus (Mark 10:13-16), it’s easy to see those promises as a reason to “let go and let God,” to trust the sufficiency of their baptism and covenant status rather than diligently leading them to faith. This hyper-covenantalism goes by several names, but an unbiblical presumption is always at the heart of it. READ MORE…
How To Be Conformed to the World
Romans 12:2 is consistently one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. In that little passage we are warned that there are forces competing for our attention and loyalty and that even Christians are at times torn between the two. “Do not be conformed to this world,” says the Apostle Paul, “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul assumes that we will not and cannot remain unchanged in life. We will not and cannot remain who and what we are right now. The question, then, is how we will change and who we will allow to influence us. Will we be conformed to the world around us or will be we transformed by God? READ MORE…
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
“In the sphere of religion, as in other spheres, the things about which men are agreed are apt to be the things that are least worth holding; the really important things are the things about which men will fight.” J. Gresham Machen
“When Christ calls a man – he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer