Friday Sermon | “A Man in the Night” by Alistair Begg

2011-alistair-begg

Today, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg. Today’s sermon aired yesterday (May 14th, 2015). I found it a good way to bring this week’s theme to a close. We’ve been focused on Resting in Christ, in His Saving grace, by faith. The occasion of Nicodemus sneaking in the night to speak to Jesus gives us an opportunity to recognize that works of the Law are not where we find our rest, our peace, nor our assurance. Rather, it is in believing in faith the work that He has done for us.

Sermon link:  A Man in the Night (Part 2 of 2)

Nicodemus was a law-abiding, religious man. But when he encountered Jesus, Nicodemus was surprised to learn how little he actually knew about entering the Kingdom of God. Sincerity, and even following all the rules, was not enough to qualify.

Sermon Text

John 3:1-16 (ESV)

You Must Be Born Again

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you dounless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him,“Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in himmay have eternal life.

For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Supporting Texts

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESV)

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Numbers 21:4-9 (ESV) | The Bronze Serpent

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the peoplespoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

 

May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | Alistair Begg – A Superior Covenant (Hebrews 8:1-13)

2011-alistair-begg

Today, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg. Given yesterday’s tough examination of Tithing and the Malachi 3:8-10 proof text, I thought it best that we reach into the archives of Truth for Life and listen to Alistair Begg teach on the topic of understanding the covenants, and really about how to approach the whole of Scriptures.

Sermon link: A Superior Covenant

The Bible is like a two-act play: the second act makes no sense without the first. The New Testament is understandable and significant only in light of the Old Testament. In this passage, the writer helps us understand the necessity of the Old Covenant sacrificial system as it foreshadows the perfect sacrifice of the New Testament Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

Alistair shares a breakdown of the Bible (from his Sunday school teacher back in Scotland) that I find extremely helpful in recognizing how we should approach the Scriptures.

  • The Old Testament – Jesus Predicted
  • The Gospels – Jesus Revealed
  • The Acts of the Apostles – Jesus Preached
  • The Epistles – Jesus Explained
  • The Revelation – Jesus Expected

Sermon Text

Hebrews 8:1-13 (ESV) | Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant

1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Friday Sermon | Alistair Begg – In This is Love (1 John 4:10)

2011-alistair-beggToday, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg. The world doesn’t get to define love. It isn’t theirs. It isn’t ours, honestly… God is the very definition of Love. The world first redefines “love” and then flips this scripture to read “love is god”, but they’ve made their own god by taking the liberty of first defining what they want love to be. Now, this isn’t really where Alistair takes this message, but this is why I’m choosing this sermon for this day.

Sermon link: In This is Love

God’s love for us – for each one of us – is expressed in the great cost He paid at Calvary, bearing the wrath that our sins deserve. But as we learn in this Good Friday message, until the Holy Spirit shows me my sinfulness, I won’t understand my need of salvation.

1 John 4:7-21 (ESV) | God is Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

OT | Jethro’s Advice (Exodus 18)

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

In our last Old Testament Study, we took a quick look at the closing of Exodus 17, and we left room for folks to catch up to where we are in the text. Today, we are going to take a look at Jethro’s Advice recorded in Exodus 18. We are going to see 2 major themes here, first we are going to take a look at the proper (Biblical) sharing of a testimony and worshiping God. Then we will look at Jethro’s advice to Moses and we will examine how churches today get this part wrong.

So let us dive right into the text beginning in the first verse of Exodus 18.

Exodus 18 (ESV) | Jethro’s Advice

Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her home, along with her two sons. The name of the one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”), and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”). Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when he sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,” Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. And they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians.

Testimony… we give testimony not of ourselves and how awesome we’ve become or how wonderful our life has become now that we made a decision or said a prayer. Our testimony is of what the Lord has done on our behalf. Notice the section that follows that Jethro doesn’t lavish praise upon Moses; rather, he offers praise and worship to the Lord God.

10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”12 And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

All praise and glory and honor be to God. They worshiped God (blessed His Name, confessed Him as God, offered burnt offering and sacrifices) and then they broke bread together. Now this act of worship takes a great deal of time, and led to the breaking of bread at the end of the day. The following day, we see Moses fulfilling his role as the Prophet of God to the Children of Israel, in the day-to-day affairs of leading such a large group through the wilderness. Until now, we’ve seen when the people murmur and complain to Moses, who then cries out to God and He acts, granting manna from heaven, quail from the wilderness, and water from a rock.

13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws. 17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.

Now, we have not yet been given the 10 Commandments. Moses was God’s servant and he heard God’s voice and God listened to Moses. Jethro knew that Moses alone could not be the only judge over all of the people. Moses needed to appoint men and delegate authority to them to sit as judges over tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands. Delegated authority, not surrendered authority. Moses was still is held accountable to God for the people… he still represents the people before God. However, the smaller cases that have already been made clear can now be heard by able, God-fearing, trustworthy men who hate a bribe.

So how does the present-day church get this wrong? Modern-day pastors read themselves into the position of Moses when they should be reading themselves into the “able, God-fearing, trustworthy men who hate a bribe”. Jesus Christ is the head of His Church. Jesus Christ is our advocate with the Father in Heaven… the role of Moses is a shadow of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the Head of His Church, not your senior pastor. Your elders/pastors are the ones to whom have been delegated authority in Christ Jesus to watch over, tend, teach, and feed His sheep. Some are placed over thousands, some hundreds, some fifties, and some tens. The children of Israel were divided up into tribes, clans, houses… but all were God’s Chosen People. The Church today is even more diverse and equally unified through the Gospel of Jesus Christ as written in His Word. Beware the false teacher, the false prophet, and the falsely anointed one (false christs). In closing, let us visit Paul’s exhortation to the elders of the church in Ephesus:

Acts 20:28-32 (ESV)

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

OT | The Lord is My Banner (Exodus 17)

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

Moses fountain in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

In our last Old Testament Study, we looked at how after God had provided the Children of Israel with mana in the wilderness (Jesus is the Bread from Heaven) He also provided them with water (Jesus called Himself the fountain of living water in the wilderness). Today’s post will be extra short so that (hopefully) you can take some time to review the OT studies leading up to Exodus 17.

Let’s jump into the text.

Exodus 17:8-16 (ESV)

Israel Defeats Amalek

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Several interesting things here. The first thing I’d like to mention is that we shouldn’t read this portion as an isolated event, separated from all previous events. Such is the current, post-modern paradigm of viewing everything that happens as “new” and completely disconnected from everything that has happened before.

Who is Amalek?

They are descended of Esau (Genesis 36). Though himself a son of Isaac, God rejected him in favor of Jacob, whom he would rename Israel. Esau took wives from the daughters of Heth (Canaan) further separating himself from the Promise to Abraham. Now, after so many generations, Amalek is waging war with the People of God, the Children of Promise.

Whose Victory of Battle?

Moses sends Joshua to choose men for battle, but to whom is the victory attributed? The Lord. Moses goes up on a hill and holds, not his staff, but the Staff of God. While in some cases it might be referred to as Moses’s staff, in this case Moses is clear to Joshua what is going to take place. The very staff that God instructed Moses and Aaron to use for each the plagues against Pharaoh, the staff with which God parted the Red Sea and the same staff God commanded Moses to strike the rock with at Horeb. Moses wasn’t saying “I’ll make sure you win”, he was saying “the Lord God is your Banner in battle”.

Banner?

While researching this passage, there was an entry in the Reformation Study Bible I thought was very informative, demonstrating something that might be lost in translation for us.

17:15 The Lord is my banner. The Hebrew word translated “banner” underlies “staff” in v. 9 and is used for the “pole” on which the bronze serpent was later placed (Num. 21:8). Since “banner” suggests cloth to us, this connection is lost. A spear could serve as a standard in battle, with or without bits of cloth tied to it. Later, a staff might have a device on it to mark the rallying point for troops. In the ancient world, these were sometimes images or signs of the gods. Moses’ staff is the ensign to which Joshua’s army could look and that symbolized God’s saving power. Moses declares that God Himself is the Standard, the Ensign of His people.

Very cool. Once again, what we are seeing here is not the greatness of Joshua’s leadership, but the Mighty Hand of God at work, showing His favor upon Israel, Moses, and Joshua. Remember the Song of Moses as recorded in Exodus 15.

Exodus 15 (ESV)

The Song of Moses

15 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
    the Lord is his name.

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
    and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
    you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;
    pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
    trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
    all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16 Terror and dread fall upon them;
    because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
    till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
    the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

In Hebrews 11, we are taught that all of the mighty deeds accomplished in Scripture were by faith. Faith in whom? In the Only Living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator of all things. The Lord is my Banner… while there was a physical symbol of the favor of the Lord, neither Joshua, Aaron, Moses, nor Hur were under any misgivings that there was something in the staff itself, nor in the efforts of Moses. This was God’s work and God’s victory over Amalek.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)

Benediction

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

May the Grace of God be with you today and forever,
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge