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Christ Church Sunday Morning Services (8:30 & 11:00)
May 8, 2016 @ 8:30 am - 12:00 pm
ANNOUNCEMENTS & MEDITATION
– Call to Worship –
Minister: The Lord is risen!
Congregation: He is risen, indeed!
2 Samuel 22:47-49
Minister: Lift up your hearts!
Congregation: We lift them up to the Lord!
All Peoples Clap Your Hands for Joy…………………87
– Confession –
Psalm 123………………………………Bulletin pg. 10
Confession of sin
Congregation is invited to kneel if able
+ Assurance of Pardon
Minister: Your sins are forgiven through Christ.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!
+ Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed
Minister: Christian, what do you believe?
Congregation: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
+ Responsive Reading: Heidelberg Catechism: Question 28
Minister: What advantage comes from acknowledging God’s creation and providence?
Congregation: We learn that we are to be patient in adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot even move.
Psalm 47………………………………..bulletin pg. 12
– Consecration –
+ Scripture Reading
Genesis 1:26-30; Mark 16:15-20
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!
God the Lord Is King………………………………….138
Opening: Psalm 35:18
Thanksgiving: Psalm 95:1-2
Petitions: Matthew 21:21-22
Psalm 93……………………………….Bulletin pg. 13
We always mark and commemorate what we believe to be important. From birthdays to anniversaries, from independence days to holidays, we will take note. The issue, therefore, is what we find to be important. Attempts to banish this reality will only have the effect of selecting the wrong things to commemorate.
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:6-11).
Summary of the Text:
The disciples asked the Lord, now that He had conquered death, if he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus replied that it was not for them to know the (eschatological) times or seasons, for that belonged to the Father. But He then said the disciples would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. But before the power was given, the authority for that power had to be established, and that is what the Ascension is all about. Jesus was taken up into heaven until a cloud received Him. While they were looking up, two men appeared and asked why they were doing that. Jesus, who was taken up, will return in the same manner. Now note two central points that we learn from this passage. First, the end times are not our direct business. Second, heaven-gazing is not our business either. We do not escape to “the end,” and we do not escape “up.” Rather, in the meantime, our time on earth is defined by these realities.
Not Quite Reformed?
For some, the logic is compelling. If we do not celebrate the festivals of Christ, then our year will be full of secular holidays. But if the logic is compelling, they somehow assume that this is a place where the Reformed tradition got it wrong. In other words, the strict regulative principle, as interpreted by some, says that we must not celebrate anything that is not directly commanded in Scripture. First, most importantly, this is not consistent with Scripture. But we should also note (incidentally) that it is not consistent with the history of the Reformed faith.
In the late medieval period, the calendar had become clogged with saints’ days, and this meant, of course, that meaningful commemoration became impossible. Try to imagine your family observing some kind of birthday celebration for someone every day. But when the Reformation was established, there was a strong desire to commemorate what really mattered. Under the heading of “The Festivals of Christ,” the Second Helvetic Confession “highly approved” of the practice of religiously celebrating “the memory of the Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit.” This was important because the definition and ownership of time belonged to the First Table of the Law.
Authority and Power:
Authority without power is meaningless and impotent. But power without authority is manipulative or tyrannical. And this is why the doctrine of the Ascension is so important. Without it, attempts at evangelization are bound to degrade into various forms of deception, manipulation, or coercion.
The Scriptures settle this question, beyond all question.
First, the Ascension was prophesied by Daniel. “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13-14).
We see the same thing in the second Psalm. “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps. 2:7-8).
Jesus assumes it in His Great Commission. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power [exousia, authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20).
And the early Christians understood it this way. “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24).
Jesus is Lord:
And this is why we must return, again and again, to the basic Christian confession of faith, which is that Jesus is Lord. This does not assume a fragmented universe, with Christ put in charge of some of the pieces. Jesus is Lord is the basic personal confession, but it is only true and sound because it is the cosmic confession. In other words, Jesus saves the individual only because He has been given authority over heaven and earth.
2nd Service: 2 & 3 John
These two epistles are quite distinct, but being from the same author, and being so short, we will consider them together. As it happens, some of the issues raised are intertwined.
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 10–11).
“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9).
Summary of the Text:
The letter of 2 John is written to “the elect lady and her children,” which either means that John is addressing a particular church under the image of a woman, or he is addressing a particular woman who hosts a church in her home. 3 John is a personal and private letter written to Gaius.
Occasion of the Letters:
2 John is basically a miniaturized version of 1 John. The same emphases are there (love and the truth of the Incarnation), and the occasion is likely the result of what happened when the false teachers banished in 1 John made their way to another town, seeking to spread their heresy. Do not receive them, John says. The occasion for 3 John is that John (“the elder”) had sent someone to that church, along with a letter of commendation (which was customary). Diotrephes, a man “who loved to have the preeminence” refused hospitality to this apostolic emissary, and threatened church discipline for anyone who did receive that emissary. John writes another letter (this one), urging Gaius to receive Demetrius, the new emissary.
A Level Playing Field?
We should begin by noting the problem. John requires exactly the same thing that Diotrephes requires. In 2 John, God’s people are required to show no hospitality to false teachers (vv. 10-11). In 3 John, Diotrephes uses the same tactic, insisting that hospitality not be shown to an emissary from John. What’s the difference? The difference is the distance between truth and falsehood.
We are too accustomed to thinking that there is such a thing as a neutral playing field, which has to be “level,” and that in the battle between good and evil, both sides should be bound by the same rules. If one side has to get ten yards for a first down, then it should be the same for the other side. If one side cannot clip, then neither can the other side. Carrying our bad analogy across, we say that if the Pharisees cannot call Jesus names (drunkard, glutton, demon-possessed) then that means that Jesus cannot call them names (white-washed tombs, children of the devil). But this is false because the contest between ultimate truth and falsehood is not that kind of contest. The field is not neutral. It belongs to God.
It is therefore right that John prohibit hospitality to false teachers, and it is therefore wrong for Diotrephes to prohibit hospitality to true teachers. Right? Wrong? These are strange words. Tell me more about this religion of yours.
Emphasis in a Tight Spot:
The size of both these letters was a standard size for that era. These letters would fit on a single sheet of papyrus, and given the space constraints, it is significant to note what sorts of things are repeated. Fee and Stuart point out that in the first six verses of 2 John, the word truth is used 5 times, walk 3 times, and love 5 times.
Truth draws a hard line. Love is the reason why truth must draw a hard line. Truth without love will not remain truth for long, and love without truth has no reason not to devolve into sentimentality. Love becomes ugly without the truth, and truth becomes ugly without love.
The Christ is the love of God incarnate, and so every antichrist is anti-love. The Christ is the truth of God, given to men in the darkness of lies, and so every antichrist is anti-truth. Believe in love, and love the truth. Walk in both of them.
Think of truth as the skeleton and love as the flesh. We are to speak the truth in love, Paul says (Eph. 4:15). If we opt for love without truth, we have bodies like giant amoebae or bean bag chairs. If we opt for truth without love, we want to be a skeleton hanging from a rack in somebody’s science room.
Face to Face:
“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full” (2 John 12).
“but I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name” (3 John 14).
In both letters, John is constrained by the size of the paper. The letters are brief—3 John is the shortest book in the Bible. But even here John gives us an important principle. Communication (which includes teaching) is a matter of relationship and love, and so it is not an “all or nothing” affair. Person-to-person, face-to-face, is better for John and the lady, for John and Gaius. But their face-to-face meetings, when they occurred, are not better for us. The fact that John wrote it down means that we get something that is far better than nothing. Scripture is God’s idea, and when all things are considered, it is not a “second-best” option.
This applies to other things as well, including issues like “distance learning.” The principle is always “compared to what?” Scripture is distance learning, as are books and web pages, and letters and Skype calls. They are not examples of things that drive us apart (unless we want them to). Rather they are additional tools for a loving heart, a heart that never sacrifices the good on the altar of a hypothetical best.
We will see Christ face-to-face in the resurrection. Is that any reason to ignore the letters He has given to us now?
Ending with The Lord’s Prayer………………………411
+ Jehovah to My Lord Has Said……………………..150
– Communion –
The Angels Asked………………………Bulletin pg. 14
See, the Conqueror Mounts in Triumph…….274-75
– Commissioning –
+ CLOSING DOXOLOGY
The congregation may raise hands
Doxology, p. 437 to the tune of “All Creatures of our God and King” ………………………………………288-89
Charge & Benediction
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26