Holy Week At Harbins 2018

holy_weekTwo years ago, due to an increasing burden the HCBC pastors had over the lack of attention and focus on the Easter season (especially compared to Christmas) we launched a new tradition.   To help enhance your Easter worship, we deemed it right and good to formally observe Holy Week and encourage all of our members to do the same.

As significant as Christmas is, it is not an end unto itself.  The reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was to bleed on Golgotha.  He was laid in a manger for the purpose of having His body laid in a tomb.  He descended to earth as a lowly Man so that He could later rise triumphantly from the grave.  The whole purpose of Christmas is Easter.

For this reason, Pastor Jeff and I are eager to continue our Holy Week tradition by providing additional opportunities for corporate worship, as well as encouraging HCBC families to have times of personal and/or family worship in their homes which revolves specifically around the events we remember during Holy Week.

Holy week is March 25th-April 1st.  Below is the HCBC Holy Week schedule, followed by some resources you can use personally or with your family during Holy Week.  (Please note that due to the additional worship services we are adding during Holy Week, we will not be having our regular community groups during that time.)

blue grapes cornerSunday Morning, March 25th, – Palm Sunday.  Sunday School at 9:30.  Corporate Worship at 10:45.  We all want to have a fruitful life, and the reason Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was to die on Good Friday so that He might bear much fruit through you! On Palm Sunday we’ll continue our sermon series, “Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ” by considering Jesus’ metaphor of the Vine and the Branches in John 15.  Following the service stick around for our fellowship meal and games!

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Thursday night, March 29th – Maundy Thursday Service  w/Communion, 7pm-8pm.

The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word where we get our English word “command” or “mandate” from.  Jesus gave a special mandate the evening before He was crucified, that we would love one another as Jesus loves us. (John 13:33-34).  In addition to a time of worship through singing, Pastor  Demer will deliver a brief sermon followed by the Lord’s Supper.

imagesFriday night, March 30th – Good Friday Service, 7pm-8pm. 

John 3:16 is perhaps the most popular verse in the Bible.  Certainly it captures the essence of what Good Friday is all about.  In addition to a time of worship through song, Pastor Demer will share a gospel-centered message anchored in this beloved verse.

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Resurrection Sunday, April 1st – Easter Service, Sunday School at 9:30am, Corporate Worship at 10:45am- Join us as we celebrate Jesus Christ’s triumph over the grave and the powers of darkness!  Following the service come out to Harbins Park for a picnic.  Bring lunch for your family and meet us at the pavilion closest to the playground (just up the little hill).  This is located at the 2nd entrance to Harbins Park and it’s the same place that we met last year.

And finally, here are some great Holy Week resources for you and your family from Desiring God Ministries.

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

It is my prayer that HCBC’s Holy Week focus will be a blessing as it helps you and your family turn your eyes all the more to the sufferings and triumph of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

What’s up with those 500 witnesses?

One of the things I appreciate about my church family is that it is full of students of the Bible who eagerly pour over the text of Scripture, not wanting to miss anything that God is saying, and wanting to understand it.  That leads to me getting great questions from our members.

Recently I was asked about the 500 witnesses who saw the risen Christ.  How specifically do they testify of the resurrection?

The question refers to the apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15,images

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

While we are presently not in any possessions of any extant written extra biblical testimonials from any of these 500 people,  (Actually Paul says more than 500)  this does not mean that their inclusion in Paul’s letter is unimportant.  So let’s consider these witnesses.

We know very little about them.  We know they were Christians because he calls them “brothers.”

We also know that this would have taken place very early.  Paul probably wrote 1 Corinthians in the early to mid 50’s AD.  Obviously, Jesus’ appearance to the 500 would have happened earlier than the writing of 1 Corinthians.

imagesIt appears that Paul gives us a rough order of the resurrection appearances, beginning with the appearance to Peter and the disciples and concluding with the appearance to Paul.  Between those appearances, Jesus revealed Himself to these more than 500 brothers.  So this event would have happened before Paul’s Damascus Road experience.  Paul’s conversion was probably around 33 or 34 AD, which means the 500 would have witnessed the resurrected Jesus shortly after He emerged from the tomb.  So this event would have been roughly 20 years prior to Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians.   That’s not a long time, and that’s why, according to Paul, most of these people were still alive at the time of his writing, “though some had fallen asleep.”

The significance of this is that there was ample opportunity for anyone who questioned this to go and talk to the witnesses.  Paul would have been a fool to put that number out there, especially such a large number, if he was just fabricating a story.  That would have completely opened him up to being exposed as a fraud.  John Piper explains,

“What makes this so relevant is that this was written to Greeks who were skeptical of such claims when many of these witnesses were still alive. So it was a risky claim if it could be disproved by a little firsthand research.”

But Paul’s not worried about that because he knows he’s telling the truth.

Interestingly, Paul says that Jesus appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time.  The hallucination theory has been thrown out there before regarding why people saw Jesus.  The problem is that hallucinations are very personal, individual experiences.  People don’t “share” hallucinations anymore than they share dreams.  To have hundreds of people see the same mirage is more unbelievable than the notion that they saw the risen Jesus.

Again, the number of people that Paul throws out there is shockingly large.  If he’s making the story up, it would be much safer to make that number much, much lower or not give a number at all.  The best explanation for why Paul would do something like that is simply because he’s recording what actually happened.

Paul is saying to the Corinthian readers, “Listen, the resurrection is a real, historical event.  This isn’t a fabrication.  This is not just based on my testimony.  There are literally hundreds of people who can corroborate my testimony.”

Now, I can’t specifically tell you how these 500 testified of the resurrection.  We have no information about them outside of this one reference by Paul.  On the other hand, I can tell you what they testified and continue to testify.images

The value of these 500 witnesses back then was that this was part of Paul’s strong case for the importance of the historicity of the resurrection.  The value of the 500 witnesses to us today is that Paul’s argument emphasizes the most important truth about the resurrection.  That it’s real and literal and that it’s reality matters!  Paul is not simply preaching some sort of nebulous, ambiguous, metaphorical resurrection.  He’s preaching something very specific.  He’s claiming that after three days in a tomb, a body that was once a corpse began to have life flow through it again.  A heart that had been still all weekend long now was beating again.  A brain that was completely shut down began to function again.  Lungs began to operate, inhaling and exhaling the Judean air.  A body that was carried into the tomb by others, now exited the tomb under it’s own power.  And this flesh and bone body with Galilean features was actually perceived through the physical senses of other people, over 500 people.

There are many liberal “Christian” scholars and theologians who claim to have some sort of belief in the Bible and Christianity on the one hand, but on the other hand deny that Jesus literally and physically rose from the grave.  The importance of the resurrection story, they say, is that Jesus, though still dead, continues to live on in our hearts and our memories.  Jesus served as an example of love and the resurrection story, though just a story, contains true moral and inspirational principals for our lives today.  I just read the following on a website dedicated to “Progressive Christianity.”

” There are many alternative ways to view the resurrection in a spiritual light, or a purely mythical light to convey a lesson, or a metaphorical light of the rebirth we all have when we give of ourselves for others.  There are so many fulfilling, inclusive, and enlightening ways to experience Easter in the light of Christ once we move beyond the idea of a physical resurrection.

It is amazing to me the amount of mental and rhetorical gymnastics “progressive Christians” go through to give meaning to a resurrection that wasn’t really a resurrection.

However, if the bodily resurrection of Christ did not occur, then what’s the point of Paul listing a series of witnesses who really saw the risen Lord?  If the resurrection of Jesus is just a fairy tale that can provide us with some moral inspiration and encouragement, then he doesn’t need to concern himself with the historicity of the resurrection and it’s over 500 witnesses.  But the reason why Paul emphasizes witnesses is because he is trying to tell us that whether or not the resurrection is literal actually does matter.

Paul, seeming to be speaking to liberal, progressive “Christians” today, identifies the core problem of their belief with laser precision.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Corinthians 15:12-15)

But it gets worse.  If there is not a literal resurrection, if there was a mass hallucination among over 500 people, if the disciples concocted some bizarre story about a resurrection or were simply trying to say that Jesus, though dead, lives in our hearts…. if that’s the point, then we’re all doomed.  Paul goes on to say,

…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)

imagesIn other words, if the “progressives” are right, you’re in Hell. Game over. Death is still victorious which means death is your destiny because your sins haven’t been dealt with. If Christ is still in the grave it proves that He’s a sinner just like the rest of us because the wages of sin is death. He can’t pay for our sins if He himself has sin. If there’s no payment for sin, then we’ll all pay for it in Hell.

This is why Paul is eager to lay down a case for the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ. Whether or not you’re forgiven hinges on it.

Thankfully, the liberal scholars in academia are dead wrong.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

There is a lot at stake in whether or not the resurrection is real.  There is much riding on whether or not those 500 witnesses, and Paul, and the disciples, are right. It’s not just heaven for you that’s at stake. It’s a New Creation, a restored universe, an overthrow of demonic, AntiChrist rulers and authorities and powers, and a Cosmos that is in subjugation to Him. Whether or not these things will happen hinges on whether the resurrection has happened.  We should thank God for these 500+ witnesses.  They remind us of the significance of the reality of the resurrection, and point us forward to the reality of what is to come at the end of the age.

While the people of Paul’s day could talk to the 500 eyewitnesses for evidence of the reality of the resurrection, we don’t have their specific testimony today. But we have a better word. We have the words of Jesus Himself. We have the promises of a Man from Nazareth who, during His earthly ministry, got everything right. He accurately predicted what would happen to Him. He predicted that one of His disciples would deny Him down to the hour. He predicted all His disciples would abandon Him. He prophesied His betrayal, His arrest, and even the exact manner that He would die. He predicted that three days later the tomb would be unoccupied. There was nothing that came from His lips that proved to be false. He said things would happen, and they happened. There is only one being in the universe who can speak and all things happen according to His Word. If He has been thus reliable so far, how foolish we would be to dismiss what He says about what is to come,

“…you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)

imagesIf His resurrection is real, literal, and physical, so will be His return.  And at the end of the age, all of mankind will stand before this Man, and real knees will bow and real tongues will confess that Jesus Christ is really Lord to the glory of God the Father.  Praise God that the tomb is empty and that Jesus did not stay dead!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Resurrection and Redemption

The following is based upon the Adult Bible Study that I led on Easter Sunday:

The Theological Implications of the Resurrection

If when Jesus said, in John 19:30, “It is Finished” redemption was indeed finished, why then was the resurrection necessary? Have you ever wondered that? Well, one answer is that the resurrection was the visible proof that the work of redemption was finished. The empty tomb showed that the atoning sacrifice of Christ was indeed accepted by God. It is was His seal of acceptance and approval. The resurrection, therefore, is part and parcel with the crucifixion, the other side of the proverbial coin. But there is more to it than that.

empty-tombWe must also understand that the resurrection itself actually does something for us. It plays a vital part in our redemption. There is a subtle in danger lurking in our churches whereby we fail to focus sufficiently on the resurrection itself. Our understanding of depravity naturally leads us to focus greatly on the cross and all that Christ suffered for our sake, but we cannot let a necessary focus on the cross unintentionally cause us to lessen our attention to the resurrection and what God did for us through it.

One way to understand at the dynamic relationship between the cross and the empty tomb is to see that what was finished at the cross was applied at resurrection of Christ. Christ’s righteous life and death accomplished our redemption. Christ’s resurrection, however, is the application of that redemption. Redemption means “to be bought out of bondage and set free.” The purchase was made at the cross, the application was secured at the open tomb.

Hang with me a bit as I try to show that Jesus’ death and resurrection and inseparably linked, and then I will share with you six aspects of our redemption that would not be possible without the resurrection.

Hebrews 2:9 reads, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels (incarnation), namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor (resurrection) because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

From this text and others, there is a sense in which we can say that Christ’s resurrection was His own redemption. As 100% human, His righteous life and death bought Him out of bondage to the curse of death that all mankind was subjected to and freed Him to resurrection and eternal life. The curse of death was the just sentence for sinners, but Christ being without sin was freed from the sentence and thus the grave had no claim on Him and could not hold Him. Jesus’ perfect life and substitutionary death fulfilled God’s law, satisfied God’s justice, and therefore deserved to be rewarded with resurrection to eternal life.

The word “because” in Hebrews 2:9 shows that Jesus’ suffering and death was the ground of His resurrection. Jesus’ righteous life and substitutionary death satisfied the demands of the law. God was therefore legally bound by His own justice to raise Jesus from the dead.

Now look at Hebrews 13:20: “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…” Don’t miss the significance of little words in the Bible, in this case the preposition “by.” God brought Christ back from the dead “by” the blood of the eternal covenant. Christ’s blood was, therefore, instrumental in His resurrection. His blood was the causal means of His resurrection. In other words, the shedding of Christ’s righteous blood made Him legally deserving of, and ensured His own resurrection.

Similarly we see in John 12:24 these words of Jesus: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The death of a seed is the source and cause of its new life. In the same way, our Lord’s righteous death is the source and cause of His own resurrection to eternal life. We see something similar in Phil 2:8-11.

849-crown-of-thorns-nails-600x399On a theological note, this means that the atonement is definite. It accomplishes something. The resurrection proves that Christ’s blood definitely produces resurrection and life. This means everyone for whom Christ bled and died will definitely be raised to eternal life with Him. None of Christ’s blood fails to accomplish life because it is powerful to redeem. That means that not a drop of Jesus’ blood was spilled uselessly. It saves all whom God intends to save. If any of Jesus’ blood would have fallen to the ground uselessly, then theoretically the resurrection could potentially never have taken place. But the blood was righteous therefore it had to produce vindication which means the grave could not keep Jesus in it’s clutches, it had to release Him because every drop of His blood was righteous.

So what does this mean for us? Well, it means that for us the death and resurrection of Christ simultaneously accomplishes and applies every aspect of our redemption. For, if we are united to Him, then His death is our death, and His resurrection is our resurrection. Romans 6:5: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” So we have to see that our full redemption could not have happened without the resurrection. Here are six ways that the Bible shows us that the resurrection was necessary for our redemption:

1. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have regeneration

Ephesians 2:4-5: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved”

1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”

2. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have repentance

Acts 3:26 “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness”

Acts 5:30-31 “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

3. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have justification

Romans 4:24-25: “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

1 Corinthians 15:17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

4. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have sanctification

Romans 6:6-11 “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 7:4 “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”

5. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have perseverance

Ephesians 2:6 “…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”

1 Thessalonians 1:10 “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

6. Without the resurrection we wouldn’t have glorification

Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Colossians 3:3-4 “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

All the key elements of our redemption are ensured by, not only the cross, but also by the resurrection. Redemption purchased at Calvary, applied at the Garden Tomb.

A New Tradition At Harbins

Over the years at Harbins we have developed several traditions that have become dear to our hearts. Whether its our annual observance of the ancient tradition of Advent at the Christmas season or the unique way we observe the Lord’s supper, Harbins has a unique and special culture that we thank God for.

holyweekThis Easter season we hope to add a new tradition at our church. For years I’ve desired for our church to put more emphasis on the week traditionally known as “Holy Week,” and so this year we plan to do so by offering two new midweek services: a Maundy Thursday service on the March 24th and a Good Friday service on the 25th.

If you are not familiar with Maundy Thursday the name comes from the Latin word “Mandatum” which means command or mandate. Its named this because on the night before his death, just after He had taken on the posture of a slave by washing His disciples feet,  Jesus said 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 13:34). This was a new commandment because the deep love that Jesus’ disciples were called to emulate was something greater than had ever been seen before, and it would reach it climax the next day on an old rugged cross. This was a radically new level of love, love that would bring reconciliation between God and man.

Many of you are probably a lot more familiar with Good Friday.  At this service we will remember the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is “good” not because the death of Christ was not terrible and sad, but because of what the death secured for all those who believe in Him, and of course death had no claim over Him so the profound sadness of Good Friday must give way to overwhelming joy of Resurrection Sunday.

So here’s our Holy Week calendar at Harbins for this year’s Easter Season:

•March 20th- Palm Sunday Service

•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

My hope and sincere desire is that God will bless our church deeply as we observe these specific focuses all in preparation for the glorious truth of Resurrection Sunday.  Demer and I also plan to make available some devotional ideas and resources that you family can use to make Holy Week even more meaningful for your home.

One last note: due to the extra services of Holy Week we will be taking a break from our regular Community Groups gatherings of that week. I look forward to observing Holy Week and establishing this new tradition at Harbins.

Yours In Christ,

Pastor Steve