You have been redeemed (Identity Matters)

 

Just who do you think you are, anyway?

imagesHow you answer that question is urgently important.  For several weeks now I’ve been blogging through the book of Ephesians which is a book written to Christians to answer that question. Ephesians discloses to us who we really are in Christ. Now, we all have what I suppose we could call, “secondary identities.” “I’m a dad…I’m a mom… I’m a teacher…I’m an American” There’s nothing wrong with recognizing those secondary identities, but when I’m discussing “identity” with you in this blog series, I’m talking about the core of who you are. Identity with a capital “I.”

Who you think you are at your core matters. If one of your secondary identities becomes the core of who you are then you will open up a door to all kinds of problems.

Tim Keller defines sin this way: as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God. Instead of telling them they are sinning because they are sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they are sinning because they are looking to their careers and romances to save them, to give them everything that they should be looking for in God. This idolatry leads to drivenness, addictions, severe anxiety, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment.

We all need reminders of what our true identity is bound up in.  So far in our look at Ephesians chapter 1, you’ve discovered three amazing things about who you are!  If you’ve missed any of these three truths, click on the links below.

You were chosen by God the Father

You were adopted by God the Father

You are delighted in by God the Father.

As spectacular as those truths are, Paul is not finished. He’s not done recounting all the ways we are blessed by God and he’s not done showing us who we really are in Christ. So in Ephesians 1:7-10, Paul reveals three more things to us about your true identity as a believer.

1) You are redeemed

2) You are forgiven

3) You are not the main character in the story

For this article, we’ll just consider the first point.

You are redeemed

In him we have redemption through his blood (Ephesians 1:7)

Redemption is not a common word in our vocabulary anymore. But in the 1st century it was often associated with slavery. Sometimes people became slaves through military takeover. Sometimes, because they didn’t have bankruptcy law (no chapter 11 or 13), they sold themselves or their family into slavery because it was the honorable thing to do. There was no other way for them to repay the debt.

But if a relative heard about your slavery he could redeem you.  He could buy you back and set you free.  All the relative had to do was go to the local pagan temple and pay the redemption cost plus an additional cut.  The temple kept the cut and gave the rest of the money to the slave owner.  Therefore, in theory, you weren’t totally free from slavery.  Instead, you were now a slave to that particular god.

 

The New Testament picks up on this language. Paul in Ephesians 2 says we were slaves to sin and slaves to Satan and now we are free. But we are not free to be autonomous and do our own thing. We are free….to be slaves to God!

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)

There is no such thing as an autonomous, independent person. We Americans struggle with that concept because our country is built on the notion of independent freedom. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How we tend to interpret freedom in America is that we have a right to do whatever we want. “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do. Don’t tell me what I can and cannot say! This is America! I do my own thing and chart my own course.”

That’s how Americans view freedom. That’s not how the Bible sees it.

Every single person on this planet is a servant and has a master whether they realize it or not. And so the Scriptures tell us that man, pre-salvation, is a slave to sin and Satan. If you are not a Christian, your master is sin and Satan. You are a slave.

If you are a Christian, The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6 that you are not your own but instead you were bought with a price. Someone came and purchased you from your old master.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is warning the church to flee from sexual immorality. Now in America, sexual freedom is one of the biggest sacred cows you can think of. You can get away with a lot of things in this country but once you start trampling on someone’s sexual choices or criticizing them, get ready for a brawl!  Get ready for someone to scream, “How dare you tell me what I can’t do with my own body?”

As far as believers are concerned, Paul thinks otherwise.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Notice that Paul tells the Corinthian church to glorify God in their bodies, to honor him by only expressing their sexuality in ways that God intended.  But notice why.  Paul doesn’t just give you a command in a vacuum. He gives a reason. He is essentially saying, “You may think your body belongs to you.  You may think you are autonomous, but you aren’t. You are not your own. You have been purchased. You have been bought with a price. So for that reason, glorify God in your body. God is your new owner. God is your new master.” This is a huge part of your new identity.

God has bought you. And what price did God pay to make you His own?

 

In him we have redemption through his blood… (Ephesians 1:7)

imagesAs sinners and slaves to Satan, God said the penalty we deserved was death and Hell. There’s no way we could pay that price on our own in this life, which is why Hell is forever. So Jesus comes to earth as a Man and He dies in our place. As Jesus Christ hung on that cross, with blood pouring out of His veins, God the Father poured out the Hellish wrath that you and I should have gotten, on Jesus.

Make no mistake.  The death of Jesus wasn’t an accident or a tragedy. It was planned by God. It was His rescue plan to release you from satanic slavery. Jesus deliberately gave His life for this very purpose.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

His life, His blood, was the ransom price to release you from your former condition. You’ve been bought by God.

Now, think about this. If this is a part of your identity, how might this change your life? How differently might you make decisions in how you live? How you talk?  How you work? How you do marriage?  What you do with your money, your time, your body? How might this alter the way you live, knowing that your life is not really your own but that you are a slave to Jesus Christ?

There have been times in my life where one of the truths that helped me to do what I should is the understanding that my life is not my own and I am not my own Master but I am a slave to Christ.  I have confessed sin to people when I was terrified to admit the truth. I have forsaken sin that every fiber of my being wanted to commit. I have taken paths that some thought were crazy. Why? Because my life is not my own. Because part of my identity is bound up as a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ. He owns me.

If you’re a Christian, He owns you.

As a matter of fact, look down at verse 13

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13)

imagesThis notion of sealing would bring a few images to the minds of Paul’s 1st century readers. One, is that often seals were stamped in wax on a document to show who it belongs to. Also, the image of animals being branded, being marked, would have gone through their minds. Of course, that’s a practice we can relate to as the branding of cattle still happens today.

And what does cattle branding indicate? It indicates ownership and protection. It was not uncommon even for slaves to be branded, to have a mark put on them signifying who they belonged to and who was responsible for them.

Paul is saying you, as a Christian, have been marked. You have been sealed with the Spirit. God has put His stamp of ownership and protection on you.

This notion of God marking His people is seen elsewhere in the Scriptures.

In Revelation 13-14, you’ll see that everyone has a mark. They either have the mark of the Beast, Satan’s mark, or they have the mark of the Lamb. If you have the mark of the Beast you are protected by the Beast and you can do whatever the Beast allows you to do.  So in Revelation 13 you have people buying and selling in a world that is under the control of the Beast.  You can live in that world and not face the wrath of the Beast.  But guess what?  You do have to face the wrath of the Lamb, who is Jesus.

Alternatively, the book of Revelation shows us that if you have the mark of the Lamb you’ll   be protected from the wrath of the Lamb.  You will be saved in the Last Day, but on the other hand you will face the wrath of the Beast.  In the book of Revelation you see everyone facing someone’s wrath! Who’s wrath you’ll face depends on who you belong to. And of course, the wrath of the Lamb is far more devastating and terrifying than the wrath of the Beast, and unlike the wrath of the Beast, the wrath of the Lamb is forever.

This is why Jesus says elsewhere,

….do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

 But for those of us who have been bought and purchased by the blood of the Lamb, the book of Ephesians tells you that you have God’s mark, God’s seal, which is the Holy Spirit.

…who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:14)

The Holy Spirit is like a deposit, a down payment, a guarantee that we belong to God and that we will receive a great inheritance from God in the age to come.

imagesNot only that, but the Holy Spirit in us signifies God’s ownership of us and God’s protection over us. And the most important thing we are protected from is the wrath of God, and the reason we are now forever protected from the wrath of God is because God’s wrath has been satisfied in the death of Jesus.  His blood purchased us from our slavery to sin which would have led to Hell.  Thanks be to God that He paid the price.  Jesus, on the cross, said, “It is finished!”  And if it is finished, that means that the purchased ones forever belong to God and are forever forgiven to the praise of His glory!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

 

Good Friday Service

What a wonderful Maundy Thursday service last night. Jesus was certainly exalted as we examined His new commandment that we love one another just as He loved us, and our church demonstrated the unity and love we have for one another in Christ by taking Communion together.

Tonight we follow the events of Holy Week to its darkest point as we observe Good Friday. This particular day in Holy Week is called Good Friday because our Sovereign God in His glorious providence would take the enemy’s greatest bad, the murder of the Son of God, and use it for our greatest good, our redemption and rescue.

We will observe Good Friday this evening by examining the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. Heres’s a video to wet your appetite.

 

A Maundy Thursday Message (2016)

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The following is a transcript of Pastor Demer’s Maundy Thursday message at HCBC

It’s Maundy Thursday.  If you don’t know what Maundy Thursday means, Maundy comes from the Latin word that we get our English word “command” or “mandate” from.  Jesus gave a special mandate the evening before He was crucified. And the mandate was this,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:33-34, ESV)

Now, this is a bit unusual because when you look at this verse you might think, “New?  What does Jesus mean by a new commandment?”  Loving people is not new.  God has always wanted people to love other people.  Take for example Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18, ESV)

Thousands of years before Jesus we have clear commands from God to love others.  It’s not like Jesus forgot about Leviticus 19:18.  He knows about that Scripture.  He’s not thinking, “Well, the Old Testament is all about hate so I better tell people to love because they’ve never been told to love before.”  No.  That’s not it at all.

When Jesus came into the world He didn’t come to change the commandments of God. But He did come to fulfill the law.  Typically when we think of Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament we tend to think of Bible prophecy, or we tend to think of Jesus fulfilling ceremonial law, such as Jesus’ death on the cross being a fulfillment of the Old Testament animal sacrificial system.

But just as messianic prophecies find their imagesultimate meaning, fulfillment, and expression in the person of Christ, and just as the ceremonial law finds it’s ultimate meaning, fulfillment, and expression in the person of Christ, so it is with God’s moral law. The laws of God and the commandments of God revealed in the Old Testament find their ultimate meaning, fulfillment, and expression in the person of Jesus Christ.

All things previously revealed in the Old Testament become clearer in light of Jesus, including God’s commandments.  In the Old Testament God speaks to us by His word,  but in Christ, God shows us His Word.  Indeed, John chapter 1 tells us that Jesus Christ is the Word of God.

God doesn’t just tell us to love God and love our neighbor, God sends Christ into the world to show us what that means and what that looks like.  Jesus knows that God has already told us to love, but through Jesus we see a fuller explanation and a fuller demonstration of love in a way and to a degree that had not yet been revealed.

Again, consider Leviticus 19:18:

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18, ESV)

What does that mean?  Does that mean, “Just don’t do bad things to people?”  That, by the way, is the direction that rabbinic Judaism went.  And shortly before the time of Jesus, you had Rabbi Hillel, one of the most famous of rabbis say, “Whatever is hateful to you, don’t do to others, this is the whole law.”

But when Jesus comes He gives us a fuller understanding of God’s law and He gives us a fuller understanding of love.  In the time of Jesus the conventional wisdom said, “Don’t do things to others that you don’t want them to do to you.”  Jesus turns that conventional understanding on its head and says that’s not the essence of love.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12, ESV)

You just don’t refrain from doing to people all the bad things you don’t want done for yourself, instead you proactively step forward and you do for others the same things you’d want done for you.  Jesus says that this is the essence of love and sums up the law of God.

So God in the Old Testament tells us to love,  and Jesus in the New gives us a clearer explanation through His teaching of what that means, and then Jesus does something amazing.  He actually gives us a demonstration of what that looks like in action.

He says, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”

Jesus is pointing us to Himself as the ultimate expression and definition and picture of love.  He says “You want to know what love is?  You want to know what it looks like?  Look at me.  Look at how I have loved you. That’s what it means to love others, go and do likewise”

And in this way Jesus’ command is a new commandment in the sense that Jesus holds up Himself and His actions towards others as the gold standard of what love looks like.

So then the next logical question is, how exactly did Jesus demonstrate love?

We see it earlier in John 13 don’t we?  What does Jesus do?  He takes the role of a servant. He wraps a towel around His waist, He gets on His knees and He washes the dirty, dusty, smelly, sweaty, disgusting feet of His disciples.  And then He says something very similar to what we’ve already read,

If I then, your Loimagesrd and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15, ESV)

 Jesus says we are to love one another by serving one another, by treating others as more important than ourselves, by setting aside our own comforts to meet the needs of others, thinking about what benefits them more than what’s good for me.

Jesus shows us that love is not just being nice to someone.  Rather, love is going to extreme lengths to bless and benefit someone else even at extreme personal cost.  The greater the cost, the greater the love.

This is why Jesus, two chapters later says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…” (John 15:12-14, ESV)

Jesus pushes us to the limit and says if you want to love, if you want to really love, you lay down your life for your friends.  That’s love.  Jesus sets the standard for love…. and then He exceeds that standard!

For while we wimagesere still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:6-10, ESV) 

If greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, how gloriously great then is the love of Christ that He lays down His life for His enemies?

Scripture teaches us that no one in and of themselves is a friend of God.  As Paul says in Romans 5 we were enemies of God.  In Romans 3 Paul says no one seeks after God.  In Genesis 6 Moses says that every inclination of man’s heart was evil continually.  It is not for good, God-loving, righteous people that Jesus laid down His life for but for rebels and insurrectionists.

Jesus died to pay the price for your wicked, self-centered, cold-hearted lovelessness.   Lovelessness is the essence of our sin.  A lack of love for God and a lack of love for our neighbor.

And why did Jesus do this incredible thing?  Because He loves you.  Because if He didn’t endure the wrath of God on the cross it would mean you’d have to endure it forever in Hell.  If He didn’t pay your price, you’d have to pay it.

And now, because of what Jesus has done, all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved not just from the punishment of sin, but saved from being slaves of self-centered lovelessness.  God’s not interested in merely rescuing you from wrath but He’s intensely interested in freeing you up to be someone you could never be apart from His salvation, namely, a person who loves others as Jesus loved you for the glory of God.

Jesus says,

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, ESV)

Jesus is telling the disciples that their self-sacrificial, self-denying, radical, Jesus-imitating love will demonstrate to the world that they belong to Jesus.  Their love for one another is to point people to Jesus and exalt Him.

You see, ultimately the purpose of our love for one another as a church family is not so we can all just feel good and warm and fuzzy and sing kumbaya around the camp fire. The purpose of our love for one another has a strategic, missional, evangelistic, God-glorifying component to it. Jesus, just a few chapters later in chapter 17, is praying for all believers of all times and places. He is praying for Harbins Church, and He is praying that we would have a unity rooted in love.  He prays that the church,

may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me (John 17:23)

Jesus is saying that when the world sees the church loving one another, serving one another, treating one another as more important than themselves, laying down their lives for one another, it will be a testimony and a witness to a watching world that Jesus Christ has been sent from heaven to earth by God Himself.  It will not point to the church as much as it will point to, exalt, lift up, and glorify God.

So Jesus, in His love for us, dies to free us up to love one another, so that the world may see and know that Jesus was sent into the world by God so that they too may receive Christ and enter into that love.

imagesIn the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, ESV)

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12, ESV)

The work that God does in our hearts is not just for our benefit but for the benefit of an unbelieving world.  There are those that will come to repentance and faith in Christ and will glorify God through the witness of the church’s behavior and Jesus is telling us in John 13 and 17 that particularly they will come to recognize Jesus through our love.

And one outward expression of the loving unity we as Christians share is by taking communion together.

You’ll never see Harbins Church making the announcement that, “From now on we won’t be doing communion gathered together, instead you can do it at home, with your family…or you can just do it by yourself during your personal devotional time.”

imagesWe’ll never do communion that way. We will always gather together and do it as a community of faith.  In taking the communion elements…the bread and the cup at the same time, we are saying something significant.  We are announcing that we are all one.  We all have the same Lord, we have all been saved by the same broken body, we have all been saved by the same shed blood, we have all been adopted into the same family, by the same Father, and we await the same inheritance to be received at the end of the age.

This is why we discourage anyone who is not a believer from taking the bread and the cup, because an unbeliever taking the bread and the cup is announcing something that is not true.  He has yet to experience the benefits of the broken body and shed blood of Christ and remains outside the family of God.

But this is also why we discourage any believer living in a state of unrepentant sin from partaking of the cup.   Paul says in 1 Cor 11,

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:27-28, ESV)

Paul is speaking to a congregation that is struggling with arrogance, with division, with lovelessness towards one another.  He’s telling these people to take communion seriously and to examine their own hearts with an attitude of humble repentance.  Why?  Because when the unrepentant believer who doesn’t love his brother takes of the bread and cup he too is announcing something that isn’t true.  And what he is announcing, whether he realizes it or not is that this shed blood and broken body of Jesus didn’t really reconcile me to my brother…. and that we can be a part of the same family and not be reconciled…and we can go on being unloving towards one another.

If you are in a state of unrepentant sin tonight, I urge you to do business with God right now. Pray, seek God’s help and forgiveness, confess your sin to Him. We all struggle with sin, we all stumble and fall down.  But do not stay down.  Repent and humble yourself before God.

And if you are here tonight and you are an unbeliever, you can, right now, enter into the family of God.  You don’t have to jump through hoops, sign a card, or raise your hand.  All you have to do is receive Jesus.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:12, ESV)

Receiving Jesus means trusting Him to save you from your sins.  It means asking Him to change your heart so that you want to go His way instead of your own way.  It means trusting in His payment on the cross for your sins instead of trusting in anything else.  Oh how I pray you’ll receive Him now, and if you do,  you too are welcome to enjoy communion for the very first time as a child of God.

Scripture tells us that after Jesus and the disciples took the bread and the cup they sang a hymn together and went to a place called Gethsemane. And the gospel of Luke says that,

images ….when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 

 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” 

 And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:40-53 ESV)images

 Jesus says this is the hour of darkness.  The time when the power of darkness is at it’s
most terrible strength and might, all of the twisted and fearsome and terrifying malice of Hell is bearing down at this moment.  It is the hour of the forces of darkness. It is their hour.

But for those who were listening very carefully to Jesus and hanging on his every word, would have remembered that just a few days ago, Jesus also described this same moment as His hour!  Jesus says,

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…” (John 12)

imagesThe moment of Hell’s fiercest and most devastating attack is also the moment of Jesus’ greatest glory and triumph.   God predicted in Genesis 3:15, thousands of years prior to this dark night, that the serpent would strike the heel of the offspring of the woman, wounding Him terribly.

But in the process of such a wicked attack, the serpent’s own head would be crushed and shattered by the mighty foot of the Offspring.

Thursday night is a trying and painful trial and affliction for Jesus and His disciples. It is hard, it is difficult, and it is very dark, and it’s about to get darker.

And all the while things are going according to plan.  What the forces of darkness mean for evil, God means for great good and great glory, and we will celebrate that tomorrow night during our Good Friday service.  Don’t miss it. God bless you. Thank you for coming to worship.  Go in peace.

Grace and Peace

Pastor Demer

Holy Week at HCBC

Friends,

I am excited about Holy Week, a weeholyweekk where we at HCBC will turn our attention to that monumental week in Jesus’ life where His earthly ministry comes to full fruition.  At HCBC, we are offering several opportunities to help you and your family fix your eyes on Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

For starters, here are some resources that you can use with your family between Palm Sunday and Easter.  All of these are from the wonderful ministry of Desiring God.  I’ve provided links below along with helpful descriptions from Desiring God about each resource.

Love to the Uttermost, Devotional Readings for Holy Week by John Piper

This free devotional begins on Palm Sunday, ends on Easter Sunday, and aims to focus our attention on Jesus as he displays his love to the uttermost (John 13:1). These meditations on the self-giving love of Christ are all excerpted from the preaching and writing ministry of John Piper.

Five Helps for Your Holy Week- This link features five of Desiring God’s best articles related to the Easter season.  Topics include a “Theology of Resurrection”, “Was Jesus Really Crucified?”, and 8 reasons why the Resurrection of Jesus is an historically reliable fact.

Your Sorrow Will Turn To Joy, Morning and Evening Meditations for Holy Week

For this free devotional, Desiring God has assembled a team of eleven pastors and scholars to walk us through Holy Week as we walk together with our Lord. This collection of short meditations includes readings for each morning and evening from Palm Sunday to the triumph of Easter.

A Theater Called Holy Week

Tony Reinke prepares us for Holy Week in his brief article highlighting John 12:27-33

Make Holy Week Holy to the Lord

The week between Palm Sunday and Easter is not intrinsically holy, except that all time is holy, since it belongs to God. But we can make it holy by setting it apart for sacred focus.  This link gives you the Scriptures from the 4 gospels that record Jesus’ final hours.  Consider using these Scriptures to supplement your daily time in the Scriptures this week.

In addition to these resources, Pastor Steve and I are excited that Holy Week will feature 4 worship services that will draw our attention to the mighty work of Jesus through His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.  Here’s our Holy Week worship calendar.

•March 20th– Palm Sunday Service, 10:45amimages

•March 24th– Maundy Thursday Service, 7:00pm

•March 25th– Good Friday Service, 7:00pm

•March 27th– Resurrection Sunday Service (Easter) followed by a Fellowship Meal, 10:45am

I look forward to celebrating the Savior with you in the days to come!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Giving some props to Patrick

Friends,
images
It’s St. Patrick’s Day!  So what’s up with that?  And what do parties, parades, and green beer have to do with St. Patrick?  Well, nothing really.  The actual story of Patrick has gotten lost in all of the traditions that have little or nothing to do with him!

Really, the story of Patrick is a story of devotion to Christ, loving your enemies, and a burning passion to spread the gospel to the lost.   It’s a story of missions.

Below you’ll find a couple of resources regarding the inspiring story of Patrick.  Consider sitting down with your kids, watching the video below, and reading the linked articles with them.  Consider incorporating these resources into your regular family worship/devotional time.

Here’s a great two minute video with an overview on Patrick

David Mathis over at Desiring God wrote an outstanding article called Remember St. Patrick.

Mathis writes that, “Instead of acquiescing to the religious establishment, Patrick took the gospel…and ventured all for the unreached Irish. Instead of coasting toward a cushy retirement, he gave nearly three decades to the nation-transforming evangelization of Ireland”  Read the entire article here.  It’s really good!

Finally, be sure to check out Kevin Deyoung’s short post entitled, Who Was St. Patrick?

So be sure to give some props to Patrick today.  But more importantly, give thanks and honor and glory to our great God who changed Patrick’s heart and used him as a vessel to reach ancient Ireland for Christ.  Ultimately any good that is done by any of Christ’s followers is because of what Christ has done.  I’m sure Patrick would agree.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Demer

Feasting on the Whole Counsel of God

When I was living on my own in college my diet basically consisted of Hamburger Helper and spaghetti. That’s it! Nothing too complicated for a single college male: boil noodles, add ground beef, stir in seasoning packet or sauce, enjoy. It was easy, simple, and it kept me living, but few would consider it a well-rounded, much less sufficiently healthy diet. Somehow I survived those years, and then, by God’s grace alone, a beautiful young lady named Heather came into my life and everything changed. Slowly over the past 20 years my wife has expanded my pallet and added a healthy variety into my diet.

food pyramid

A healthy diet requires a variety of beneficial foods. OK, I’m not sure Hamburger Helper qualifies as “beneficial” food, perhaps that’s why I haven’t had it since college, but the few good foods that were part of my diet were added to by my wife and thus I began to eat more healthily over the years. As children in school we are taught the Food Pyramid, where we are told that our diets need to have good variety. Regardless of what you think about pyramid itself (and I know we have some readers that think it’s a big government/Monsanto conspiracy) everyone agrees that a good diet consists of good variety. The same is true of our spiritual diet.

Some at HCBC have wondered how we choose the books of the Bible that we preach through and why we’ve been jumping around to a variety of different books. Well, our reasoning is the same as my wife’s when she introduced me to vegetables (yes, I was 22 and had never eaten veggies), and that reasoning is simply this: the elders of Harbins desire that our church have a healthy and balanced diet of God’s Word.

shutterstock140876329We want to have the type of diet that the Word of God itself calls for us to have. The key to Timothy’s development into a man of God equipped for every good work was that his mother and grandmother believed and taught him that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). And the Apostle Paul, as he said his final farewell to the Ephesian elders charged them to be faithful elders by reminding them of his own preaching saying, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

So Demer and I have committed ourselves to preaching the whole counsel of God, knowing that the full breadth and beautiful variety of the Bible is inspired and useful to edify the people of HCBC. That means that we aim to vary our preaching by not only moving back and forth between the Old and New Testaments, but also by making sure the we are intaking all the different genres of Scripture. Those genres include in the Old Testament the Law, Histories, Poetry & Wisdom, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. In the New Testament the genres are the Gospels & Acts, Pauline Epistles, General Epistles, and Revelation. Our desire is for our preaching to develop a rhythm of bouncing back and forth between the different genres. For example, Demer and I prayerfully looked at what had been preached thus far at Harbins and we realized that we had not touched on much from the Old Testament Poetry & Wisdom, so we chose to preach Job last summer. Then we came back to the New Testament knowing a General Epistle had never been preached at our church so we launched into 1 John. We then bounced back to Esther which belongs to the Histories, a genre we only touched on a bit when Harbins first began. With Esther now concluded, and after our special Holy Week services, our plan is to bounce back over to the Gospels where we will continue our chronological exposition of all four gospels in a series we have called “Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.” After a season in the Gospels we will, Lord willing, bounce to another genre.

I hope this helps you understand the reasoning behind the preaching schedule at Harbins. It may seem haphazard to some, but in reality it is very much thought through and prayed over with the hope that we, as the undershepherds of HCBC, will provide the flock with the Biblical nutrition it needs to be vibrant and healthy. And by the way, there is no Biblical equivalent to Hamburger Helper because all the Bible is healthy all the time. So eat up Harbins, and taste and see how good our God is!

God the Father Delights in you!

This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is taking us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.

Kids often get their picture of God the Father from how they view their earthly fathers.  Dads, I don’t know about you, but that terrifies me, because I know my own flaws and sins and tendencies to NOT correctly image God’s perfect Fatherhood.  For that reason I am so thankful for God’s grace and mercy and patience with imperfect dads as He is conforming us to the image of Christ.images

With that said, as a pastor, it saddens me when I see Christians gripped with depression and despair and hopelessness because of a wrong view of God.  A view that sometimes projects the image of their own imperfect fathers onto our perfect Father in heaven.

There are Christians who feel like God’s attitude towards them is exactly like that of their sinful earthly father’s attitudes.  They see God as irritable, unapproachable, harsh, distant, or cruel.  I’ve known of believers who sincerely think that God is constantly disapproving of them, shaking His head in profound, stern dissatisfaction and anger.

In my last post on Ephesians chapter 1, I noted the amazing truth that we believers have actually been adopted by God into His family.  God has really become our Father and we have really become His children.  We should feel great about that.  But that begs the question, “How does God feel about this arrangement?  How does God feel about you?”

In Ephesians chapter 1 the Apostle Paul reveals to us an astounding truth.  Are you ready?  You may want to sit down for this.

You are delighted in by God the Father.

Look at what Paul writes in verses 4-6.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

 In the ESV translation, that word “purpose” is translated from the Greek word, Eudokia.  I actually like the King James translation here because I think it captures the essence of that word a little better. King James says,

according to the good pleasure of his will…

 Peter O’Brien in his commentary on Ephesians says that this word, Eudokia, signifies

“…not simply the purpose of God but also the delight that he takes in his plans. It has warm and personal connotations, and draws attention to God’s willingness and joy to do good.…the preposition ‘according to’ indicates the norm or standard, showing that his choosing many to come into a special relationship with himself was in keeping with what he delighted to do and with his saving plan….He enjoys parting riches to many children.”

Now if I like how the KJV renders verse 5, I love how the NLT really captures the point.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Don’t let this thought just pass you by.

God is not what some of you may think He is. Some people have this picture of God as some old crusty curmudgeon.  Some stingy old man. And if you call on Him, maybe He’ll respond if you just happen to catch Him in a good mood.

In Ephesians 1, we don’t see here a God who is reluctant to save.  God’s not like, “Well, I imagesguess since I’m supposed to be a good God, I suppose I’ll save a few of those wretches even though I’d rather just squash them all right now!  But since I’m supposed to be a God of mercy I guess I’ll do it, but I don’t have to like it!”That kind of God has more in common with Greek mythology than the Bible!  That kind of God is more like the fake mythological god Zeus who was irritable and short tempered and who would just rather toss lightning bolts at people who got on his bad side.

The true God revealed in Scripture is not a grumpy old man who is dispassionately saving some out of duty. Instead, it gives God great pleasure, great overflowing and abundant joy to extend mercy to you and me! God is not just someone who is saving you. He’s someone who is joyfully and abundantly loving and delighting in you.

I remember once when I was laying on the couch, my son Elijah ran over to me, crawled on me and snuggled up against me.  I remember in that moment just quietly rejoicing over him.  My son is not perfect, and I don’t always respond to my kids perfectly.  But in that moment I realized I was imaging something about God the Father.   Knowing those flaws and imperfections didn’t stop me from enjoying him in that moment. I didn’t turn him away.   I just laid there thinking, “This is my son and I am so pleased with him.” It didn’t matter that he wasn’t perfect, and it didn’t matter that he was adopted.  I love him as I love my biological children and he has full status as a “Webb” in our family.

God has one natural Son from eternity past. Jesus imagesChrist. And when Jesus Christ was baptized the Scriptures record the voice of God booming from the heavens with great delight in His Son.  God the Father cried out, “This is my son, in Him I am well pleased!”

And for those of us who are adopted by God the Father, we are clothed with Christ’s clothing, with Christ’s righteousness, and because we are found in Christ, God looks at you and He says with delight, “This is my child in whom I am well pleased!”

The Lord’s love for His own is beautifully illustrated by the prophet Zephaniah who said,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I’ve often wondered what the singing of God sounds like.  Regardless, this isn’t angry, irritable Zeus.  It is a perfectly loving and happy Father, delighting in His people.  The God described in the book of Zephaniah is the same God who is your Father right now.  And you have full status in the family of God.  The inheritance of your Elder Brother Jesus is the inheritance you will receive.

Jesus stunnimagesingly says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  (Luke 12:32)

“Good pleasure.” There’s that phrase popping up yet again.  God isn’t begrudgingly offering you the kingdom.  Instead, He is with great pleasure and delight promising you a glorious inheritance.  An inheritance which includes the entire Cosmos in the next age where we will rule and reign with Jesus and be with our Father in unbreakable, joyful fellowship forever and ever!

This is your identity!  You were chosen by God the Father to be holy and blameless. (Eph 1:4) You were adopted by God the Father to receive the status of sonship in His family. (Eph 1:5a)   imagesYou are a child of God whom the Father takes great delight in! (Eph 1:5b)

 So if your identity is anchored in these glorious realities, how does this change how you live? How is it going to alter how you live in about 15 minutes when you walk away from this computer screen? How’s it going to affect how you do marriage?  How you do parenting? How you do your job?  How you deal with depression and discouragement and anger and addiction?

I’m not going to give you a long list of answers right now. I’m going to let you wrestle with that and figure that out in the days to come. I actually don’t think it’s that complicated. I just think a lot of times we don’t spend time thinking about how we are to live life in light of our true identity. And as we go through the book of Ephesians in future articles, I promise that we’ll eventually get to some application right in the book itself to help us so stay tuned.

Regardless if you’ve been a Christian for 50 years or if you just received Christ 5 seconds ago, if you missed everything else written today or in my previous Ephesians articles, don’t miss this:

You are chosen. You are adopted. You are delighted in. Praise God for His glorious grace.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer