Matt. 11:1-6 - Blessed Is the One Who Is Not Offended by Me PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Sunday, 19 July 2009 13:00
  1. Introduction

    1. Expectations.

      1. Jesus asked, "Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?" (Matt. 7:9-10) We know how to give good gifts to our children, and delight to do so. But sometimes we have to tell them, "No, you can't have it." And what do they say in reply? "But I want it!"

      2. At Westminster Seminary Dr. Witmer often told suffering students who might also one day be suffering pastors, "Disappointment is a function of expectation." There is wisdom in that maxim, but I never found it encouraging. I always wondered, "Do you really mean we should lower our expectations?" Do you truly want me to lose all hope? What happened to "Aim high" and "Be all you can be?" "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." (Prov. 3:5-6) "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Ps. 37:4) It's not wise to lower your expectations when you hope for or even expect something good. But make sure you expect the right things, not the wrong things! That's where Dr. Witmer's advice will help you. "Disappointment is a function of expectation."

      3. John the Baptist and John's disciples were disappointed with Jesus. Are you? Jesus replies, "Blessed is the one who is not offended by me." In this passage Matthew shows you the way to that blessing.

    2. Outline. In v. 1 Matthew reminds you of the nature of Jesus' ministry. In vv. 2-3 he raises the question, "Does it fit with God's Messianic promises?" In vv. 4-6, Christ answers "Yes, to eyes of faith."

      1. The Nature of Jesus' Ministry v. 1

      2. Does It Fit God's Messianic Promises? vv. 2-3

      3. Yes, to Eyes of Faith vv. 4-6

Why a public profession before taking communion? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Friday, 17 July 2009 15:00

Greg asked,

What is the history of the practice of Profession of Faith in the church, and how is it considered an element of worship?

Pete asked a related question,

Can you highlight for me where in Scripture [a public] profession [of faith] is tied to entry to Lord's Supper?

Our Directory for Public Worship IV.C.2 clearly states 1 Cor. 11:30 is the central passage:

It is my solemn duty to warn the uninstructed, the profane, the scandalous, and those who secretly and impenitently live in any sin, not to approach the holy table lest they partake unworthily, not discerning the Lord's body, and so eat and drink condemnation to themselves....Let us therefore, in accordance with the admonition of the apostle Paul, examine our minds and hearts to determine whether such discernment is ours, to the end that we may partake to the glory of God and to our growth in the grace of Christ.

1 Cor. 11:30 teaches that the one who eats and drinks is obligated to discern the body. If he discerns the body, he is a believer, and so should also make a public profession of faith inside our outside the worship service simply out of the sincerity of his belief. Every Sunday, every believer makes an informal public profession of faith by participating in the singing, prayers, unison scripture readings, and unison readings of the creeds and confessions (in our bulletin, we often title a reading from the Westminster Confession of Faith a "Confession of Faith.") Consider, for example, the Apostles' Creed begins, "I believe...." But at some point the believer's profession should also be formal--pointed, individual, and before the elders and members of the church, because Christ has charged elders with shepherding and keeping watch over the souls of the members of the church. How will the elders know someone's profession if they do not watch closely and pointedly by asking the (simple but) pointed questions asked during a profession of faith? How will they watch over the "souls" of individual members if they do not ask members such questions individually?

To answer Greg's original question "how is it considered an element of worship?" the many passages in the Psalms which indicate it is good and right to confess one's faith publicly in "the assembly" make it impossible to forbid informal professions of faith in worship services (Ps. 22:22, 25; 68:26; 107:32; 111:1; 149:1). But Greg's question is more specific--why should we require people to make a formal profession of faith in the formal worship service? One reason is that in the formal worship service the congregation is properly constituted as the "assembly" into which the new member is entering by his profession. It is right for adults to enter membership by their profession--in the OPC we confess "The visible church...consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion" (WCF 25.2), because "those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41) Consider also in this connection why baptism should be an occasional element of worship. The other sacrament--the Lord's Supper--is to be celebrated "when you come together as a church" (1 Cor. 11:18, 19, 21, 35), not "at home" (1 Cor. 11:35), which is a different kind of meeting Paul considers not to constitute the gathering "as a church" (1 Cor. 11:19). If the sacrament which is a sign and seal of communion with Christ and His church should be celebrated in the worship service "when you come together as a church," why should not the sacrament which is a sign and seal of entrance into communion with Christ and His church? And if baptism should be in the worship service, why should not the profession of faith by which the entrance occurs which baptism signs and seals? Even more pointedly, in the case of a believer, baptism is a "promise" or "appeal" to God (1 Pet. 3:21). If public professions of faith may not be allowed in worship, neither may believers' baptisms be allowed in worship!

Hope that helps. Now I need to go read Peter Wallace's article and Harinck's Called to Confess, and see whether I generated more light than heat.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 July 2009 22:48
Gen. 17:1-14 - The Meaning of Infant Baptism PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Sunday, 12 July 2009 13:00
  1. Introduction

    1. The relative prominence of circumcision. Among the ceremonial feast days and sacraments of the OT, which ones stand out as the most important to you? Without a doubt the Day of Atonement is the highest day, because at its center stood the sacrifice that pictured Christ's death on the cross which reconciles us to God. After the Day of Atonement, the two most prominent ceremonies are circumcision and the Passover. Circumcision marked the Jews as God's special people among all the families of the earth, and the Passover commemorated God's work of saving His people through the Exodus. In Ex. 12:26-27 God told His people when their children asked what the Passover meant, they should explain it. And so in Reformed churches when we celebrate the sacrament of communion or baptism we explain what it means by preaching the gospel along with celebrating the sacrament.

    2. Outline. Because we have not had a baptism for quite a while, this morning we will take a careful look at scripture's teaching about two things: first, the meaning of baptism, and second, the reason to baptize infants.

Matt. 10:40-42 - The Rewards in Persecution PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Sunday, 28 June 2009 13:00
  1. Introduction

    1. Is this passage unfamiliar? I expect the first two verses of this passage are unfamiliar to many of you. They come at the very end of Christ's sermon in Matthew 10 and it would be very easy to read them quickly and forget them. And because they contain some issues that are difficult to unravel, you may well have forgotten these verses. But there is a good reason to dwell on this passage at the end of Christ's teaching about proclaiming the gospel amidst persecution. These verses tell us there are rewards in evangelism; there are rewards in persecution! Did you know that? If not you might give up. Christ says "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." You will find a reward.

    2. How are these rewards a motivation? That's a motivation to continue proclaiming the gospel amidst persecution. But how are these rewards a motivation? As an introduction it will be helpful to untangle this issue first.

      1. Justification. Consider how these rewards relate to justification. The fact God gives rewards for obedience does not mean we earn a righteous standing in God's eyes by our works. "By works of the law no one will be justified." (Gal. 2:16) The ground of our righteous standing before God is not the righteousness of our own good works, but the righteousness of Christ alone. We cannot earn God's favor once we deserve His wrath. Instead we must plead for His mercy. Our first motive for obeying God should not be the reward which He promises in response to our obedience, but rather our obedience must flow from our faith in Christ, and our love for God, and above that, our aim to exalt God's own glory itself. In the end, our greatest reward is God Himself. We should desire God, and God's glory, before our own enjoyment, knowing that we enjoy God most when He is most glorified in us.

      2. Intrinsic or extrinsic? But for those whom God has justified, He provides the encouragement that Christ rewards His disciples, and those who receive them. We can dig into how these rewards are a motivation a little further. Are these rewards intrinsic or extrinsic motivations? Is the reward in the obedience, or for the obedience?

        1. Both! The answer is they are both! There are intrinsic rewards in keeping God's commands: "The precepts of the Lord are right...in keeping them there is great reward." (Ps. 19:8; 11) Like bodily exercise, godliness "holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Tim. 4:8) But God also provides extrinsic rewards, rewards that He gives not through your obedience as their effect, but in response to your obedience because God sees and approves of it. "Your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matt. 6:4, 6, 18)

      3. Truth in advertising. These rewards must not be your first motivation for following Christ, but they are a supporting motivation. The reason you follow Jesus is that you love Him. But as a help and encouragement to you in your weakness, He informs you whether in following Him you will be blessed or cursed. The world may curse you, but Christ will bless you. His is a divine "truth in advertising" campaign. Christ reveals both the hidden costs and the final glorious blessings of being His disciples, and you need to know the blessings far outweigh the cost of discipleship.

    3. Outline. If you should take anything home from this passage today, you should remember these two points which Christ makes:

      1. God Is Your Greatest Reward v. 40

      2. Your Reward Is Certain vv. 41-42

Matt. 10:34-39 - The Division in Persecution PDF Print E-mail
News - Sermons
Written by Tim Black   
Sunday, 21 June 2009 13:00
  1. Introduction

    1. Conversation topics. People say if you want to avoid arguments at family reunions, don't bring up politics or religion. Victorian novels will tell you it's better to discuss "the weather or the state of the roads." But we are intrigued by politics and religion because they are full of difficult questions, and because they are matters of life and death.

    2. In Matthew 10, Christ teaches us how to bring the gospel to others, and how to deal with its rejection and the persecution that may follow. The gospel always creates a division between believers and unbelievers, so Christ continues to teach us to "be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves."

    3. Outline.

      1. Christ Brings Not Peace But A Sword v. 34

      2. Christ Breaks the Closest Earthly Ties vv. 35-36

      3. Choose Christ Before Family and Life! vv. 37-38

      4. Ultimately You Will Lose, or Find, Eternal Life v. 39

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