Advent Week 3: Longing For Christ




Advent Week 3: Longing For Christ

Already but not yet is a theme that rings throughout the New Testament church and history. Christ has come; Christ has defeated sin and the grave; Christ has won the final victory. Yet we still longingly await His second coming. We still wait for the end of sin and death and heartache and destruction. The full storyline of the Bible has already been written, but is awaiting completion. Trevin Wax explains this storyline as follows:

 Creation: One Hebrew word sums up the picture of Genesis 1 and 2: shalom. Peace. Earth was full of God's shalom, the kind of peace in which everything works according to God's intention. The world was made for human flourishing; there we could live in joy in the presence of our Maker, worshiping God by loving Him and one another forever.

 Fall: Adam and Eve rejected God's rule over them. We refer to their rebellious choice as "the fall," and because they represented all of humanity, their action affects us too. We have -- through our attitudes and actions -- declared ourselves to be God's enemies. This rebellion results in physical and spiritual death.

 Redemption: Thankfully the loving Creator who rightly shows Himself to be wrathful toward our sin is determined to turn the evil and suffering we have caused into good that will be to His ultimate glory. So the next movement shows God implementing a master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing fallen sinners. In the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself comes to renew the world and restore His people. The grand narrative of Scripture climaxes with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

 Restoration: The story doesn't end with redemption. God has promised to renew the whole world, and the Bible gives us a peek into this glorious future. The restoration of all things will take place in two ways. Christ will return to judge sin and evil, and He will usher in righteousness and peace. God will purge this world of evil once and for all.[1]

 Beaux Williams gave us an excellent explanation of how the fall brought a curse upon man, woman, the serpent, and all of creation:

 ·         alienation and condemnation before God

·         alienation between each other

·         death (Physical and Spiritual)

·         the ruin of all humanity

  • hostility between the serpent and the woman

  • hostility between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman[2]


[1]Ed Stetzer, The Big Story of Scripture, ChristianityToday.com, November 28, 2012, accessed December 12, 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/november/big-story-of-scripture-creation-fall-redemption.html

[2]Beaux Williams, Looking Forward to Christmas, Sermon, Calvary Baptist Church, Holland, MI, December 2, 2018.

Advent Week 1: Longing For Christ




Advent Week 1: Longing For Christ

I would like to invite you to join me in recognition and celebration of the Advent Season. It may be you have faithfully observed Advent every year from your childhood. Perhaps this is the tradition you learned from your parents or the church you grew up in. Or it may be you are completely unaware of the meaning of the Advent Season. Regardless of which camp you find yourself in, the season of Advent is a time in which we look with eager anticipation towards the revelation of our Savior Jesus Christ. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” “Advent looks back in celebration at the hope fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s coming, while at the same time looking forward in hopeful and eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when He returns for his people” (Outreach.com). In a time of busyness and distraction, it is an opportunity for us to reflect and remember God’s great redemptive work of sending his Son, Immanuel, God With Us.

This We Believe: Last Things



This We Believe: Last Things

As a kid, I remember hearing mother talk about reading The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. They made the book into a movie narrated by Orson Welles. I watched the movie and felt terror at the idea that the world as we know it was going to end. The view presented by Lindsey was classic dispensationalism and historic pre-millennialism. Later Tim LaHaye continued this view writing his series Left Behind. Both works are fictional, but based upon theological viewpoints I would contend the culture at large assumes they represent the only Christian view of the end times.  

Over the past two months, we have examined our beliefs and basic doctrines in preparation for approving an updated Statement of Faith. The last portion of doctrine to be included is our doctrine of Last Things, or end times. There are many doctrines we believe and hold dear which are clearly and easily defined or described in the Scriptures. What we believe about Jesus Christ from the virgin birth to His death and resurrection are unmistakably plain and evident to the reader. The doctrines of the Holy Spirit, God the Father, the Trinity, the Scriptures, the church, the ordinances, humanity, the atonement, salvation, and resurrection are plain and generally agreed upon among Bible-believing churches. The doctrine of Last Things offers the biggest challenge in understanding what truly is to come. Today we will examine our position, which includes the common truths accepted across a broad spectrum of Christian belief, and we will also look at the varying positions which have been predominant in the church.    

My hope is our study of Last Things will not give you all the information you need to debate a position, but will stir the longing in your soul for Christ’s return. I hope that stirring will drive you to the Word and to prayer. I am not going to give you a specific timeline of events because no one truly knows. We will briefly mention various historically held views of end times, but this will certainly not be comprehensive.

Historically the Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulation view has been taught at Calvary. This view may in fact be completely accurate. However, as one digs deeply into the text of Scripture, a clear timeline of End Times events cannot be plainly established. We have reworded our doctrinal statement in a manner which does not exclude this particular view, but is also gracious to other views which have just as much Scriptural grounding and historical support. We have included only those ideas where the Scriptures leave no doubt.

This We Believe: The Church and The Ordinances




This We Believe: The Church and The Ordinances

Today we continue our overview of doctrine with the topic of the church and its ordinances.  When it comes to these doctrines, we are different than many denominations. There are some who don’t believe that the rite of baptism is important and don’t practice it and others believe who baptism is required for salvation. Still others agree with us that baptism is symbolic of what Christ has done, but their mode is different (sprinkle water vs immersion).

This We Believe: Humanity And Atonement




This We Believe: Humanity And Atonement

We believe humans were created by God in His own image as perfect, holy, and upright, able to keep God’s law, yet liable to fall. As the representative of the human race, Adam freely chose to disobey God, thereby plunging humanity into the death of sin, thus all men are now sinners by nature and practice, deserving eternal condemnation and unable to rescue themselves apart from God’s free and sovereign grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe God created humans as male and female and ordained marriage to be a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

 

It is a very good thing that God created us after His image; it would seem that God places a great deal of importance on us because He created us after His likeness. He created us in a manner that is different than that of animals and that of the angels. While we don’t have a scriptural definition of what God means when He says that He created man in His image, there are some things that we can point out as possibilities

This We Believe: The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit



This We Believe: The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Last Sunday we began our study with the Bible. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us. The big story of the Bible is Creation, the Fall, Redemption and Restoration. The entire story is written, superintended and sustained by a sovereign God.

 

As we continue This We Believe, we need to remember that just because we do not understand something does not make it untrue. The questions before us today are “Who is God?” and “How has He revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures?”

This We Believe: The Bible



This We Believe: The Bible

In an age where truth is continually assaulted, it is more important than ever for the church to know and embrace what she believes. Our doctrinal statement does not contain every detail of our beliefs, but it is intended to communicate the core truths which bind us together as the Body of Christ.

We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in the original manuscripts, though written by human authors, were breathed out by God, and are therefore authoritative, inerrant, and sufficient, containing all things necessary to be known and believed for salvation, life, and godliness. 2 Peter 1:19–21 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Living as the Church: Prayer for Ministry



Living as the Church: Prayer in Ministry

As we continue in our study of this letter by Paul to Thessalonica, we come to Chapter 3 where Paul starts by saying “Finally.” What this teaches us is that when a preacher says that word, and they continue on for quite a while, it’s biblical! Our text for today is the first five verses, where we find the following:

1.    Prayer request of Paul

2.    Faithless fellows who fight against the faithful

3.    The faithfulness of God

4.    The protection of God

5.    Obedient believers’ blessings

 

Unfortunately, or fortunately, time does not allow the opportunity to address each of these topics fully. As you can imagine, both The Faithfulness of God and The Protection of God could be their own series. But from this text I want to unpack:

1.    The verses that address prayer for the Apostle Paul

2.    The distinct differences between the Apostle Paul and those who are NOT of faith. 

The Apostle Paul was not shy about asking for prayer. Paul often asked other Christians to pray for him.

Living as the Church: End Times Error



Living as the Church: End Times Error

If a person has the wrong view of history, they will invariably have an incorrect world view.  For instance, if you believe that we are all the product of evolution, completely apart from God’s creative design, you will have a different moral compass than a person who believes that God has fearfully and wonderfully created us for a specific purpose.  One person could view human history as an endless cycle of repeating events that are summed up in what we call the rise and fall of world empires; another person may view the history of man as random events with no meaning and headed towards oblivion.  You likely know someone who views the world this way; where all events are pointless and have no meaningful consequences.

Without belaboring the point, most of us can see how our view of the past will have an impact on how we make decisions and live our life.  An incorrect view will lead to incorrect decisions and a wasted life.  The way we view the past extends to and colors our view of the future.  A person who believes all past events are random will extend randomness and meaninglessness to all future events.  In their view, the life of a fly would have as much meaning as that of a person.  On the other hand, a person who sees the past as God revealing Himself through historical events will likely understand that God is a God of Judgement, Mercy, and Grace and will know that future events will be handled in a way consistent with God’s attributes.  Everything that you learn about God from history as presented in the Bible can (and should) be applied to current events as well as future events.

Through Gospel-Colored Lenses


Through Gospel-Colored Lens

 

Our experiences, upbringing, traditions and context affect the way we see and understand life. This morning we’re going to talk about these as “lenses” through which we view the world. The lens you view life through affects what you see and how you understand it.

Have you seen that commercial advertising those glasses with the yellow tint that help you basically see in the dark? They change the way you see your surroundings. Sunglasses change the way you see things around you. We want sunglasses when the sun is shining brightly through our windshield, or beating down on you at the beach, but when the sun has gone down and it’s dark, sunglasses become much less helpful. They change the way you see your surroundings. Prescription eyeglasses change the way you see things around you. If you have poor vision and you’re NOT wearing your contact lenses or eyeglasses, you’re really going to struggle to see things clearly.

Today, I want to make the point that if you claim to follow Jesus Christ, the Gospel must be the lens through which you view the world. We must see through Gospel-colored lenses. The Gospel affects (or, at least, ought to affect!) the way we see and understand and engage with everything and everyone in this world. The Gospel changes everything.