Promise and Warning

Jerusalem, Destruction of - Nuremberg_chronicles - Copy
Illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle of the destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonian rule

Isaiah 1:19-20 may be paraphrased this way:

“If you are willing and consequently will obey, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and consequently will rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The Flight of the Prisoners, by James Tissot
The Flight of the Prisoners, by James Tissot

They point back to God’s call for genuine repentance in verses 16-17, and His offer of free cleansing in verse 18. If His people are repentant and would trust in Him alone for cleansing and salvation, then the Lord would protect them from all their enemies and cause them to enjoy peace and blessings in the land that He has given them. But if they remain unrepentant and refuse His gospel call and offer, then God’s covenant judgment and wrath will fall upon them.

Sadly, the Israelites refused God’s offer, and continued to rebel against Him.  “[L]ike Adam they transgressed the covenant… [T]hey dealt faithlessly with” the Lord (Hosea 6:7). Therefore, like Adam, the Lord judged and punished them. They were “eaten by the sword,” and their remnant were taken captive to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:15-21).

The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot
The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot

But 2,000 years ago, Christ the new Adam and the new Israel perfectly obeyed God’s word and never rebelled against Him. Through His sinless perfection and obedience He earned all covenant blessings.

Moreover, on the cross, Christ was “eaten by [God’s] sword” and suffered His covenant wrath and curse. Through His death and sacrifice, He paid for our sins of disobedience and rebellion, and purchased for us forgiveness of sins and salvation from God’s judgment and condemnation.

Without Christ, we will all be “eaten by the sword,” doomed to eternal wrath and condemnation. But because of His perfect life, death and resurrection, all true Christian believers are saved from God’s covenant judgment and curse. United to Him by faith, we have become “heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). In Him we have been granted all the covenant blessings that both Adam and Israel failed to achieve. Because of Jesus, we “shall eat the good of the land.”

Meanwhile, as we wait for Christ’s second coming, the Holy Spirit keeps us from refusing and rebelling against God. He makes us “willing” to heed His call to genuine repentance and accept His offer of free cleansing in Jesus. He causes and enables us to grow in Christlike obedience.

Friends, God’s warning is as real as His promise. Refusing and rebellion are to be persistently avoided at all cost. Willingness to heed God’s gospel call and offer is a must.

In Christ, the Lord has mercifully and graciously provided the means for us to

  1. be forgiven of disobedience and rebellion, and
  2. be enabled and empowered to willingly and persistently turn away from sin and cling to God’s promise of free cleansing in Christ.

Therefore, relying on Christ’s provision and the power of the Holy Spirit, repent. Believe. And by faith, obey.

“… for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Elder Ordination

???????????????????????????????We thank the Lord for the ordination of Bro. Ernnel Tacandong as an elder of Kagay-an Reformed Church.

When I first met him, Ernnel was studying in a local seminary program, and was being groomed to become a pastor. Desirous to learn more about God and His word, he started attending our weekly Bible Training classes in Cagayan de Oro in February of 2012. Eventually, he served as a contractual disaster response worker for Open Eyes Mission. By God’s grace, he and his wife Divine were received as member of Kagay-an Reformed Church last February. Last month, in conjunction with our 9-day Church Government Course, Rev. Jan DeGelder (Minister Emeritus at Flamborough Canadian Reformed Church) and I interviewed him for eldership. Last Sunday, it was my joy, honor and privilege to ordain him as an elder. He also serves as the chairman of our local church’s Administration Committee.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 10.24.30 PMFollowing are his ministry responsibilities:

  • Leads worship services and conducts sermon reading at KRC
  • Conducts weekly new membership classes at KRC
  • Conducts four (4) weekly evangelistic Bible studies
  • Conducts regular visitation of KRC members and new contacts

Please remember to pray for him and our church.

“O Lord God and heavenly Father, we thank You that it has pleased You, for the better edification of Your Church, to ordain in it, besides the ministers of the Word, elders and deacons, by whom Your Church may be preserved in peace and prosperity, and the needy assisted; and that You have at present granted us in this place, men, who are of good testimony, and we hope endowed with Your Spirit. We beseech You, grant them more and more with such gifts as are necessary, for them in their ministration; with the gifts of wisdom, courage, discretion, and benevolence, to the end that every one may, in his respective office, prove himself faithful as is becoming; the elders in taking diligent heed unto the doctrine and conduct, in keeping out the wolves from the sheepfold of Your beloved Son; and in admonishing and reproving disorderly persons. In like manner, the deacons in carefully receiving, and liberally and prudently distributing of the offerings for the poor, and in comforting them with Your holy Word. Give grace both to the elders and deacons, that they may persevere in their faithful labor, and never become weary by reason of any trouble, pain or persecution of the world. Grant also especially Your divine grace to this congregation, over whom they are placed, that they may willingly submit themselves to the good exhortations of the elders, counting them worthy of honor for their work’s sake; give also unto the rich, generous hearts towards the poor, and to the poor grateful hearts towards those who help and serve them; to the end that in every one fulfilling his duty, Your holy name may thereby be magnified, and the kingdom of Your Son Jesus Christ, enlarged, in whose name we conclude our prayers.” - Form for the Ordination of Elders and Deacons

Cleansing: a Gift from God

The Seraph cleanses Isaiah’s lips with a coal (Isaiah 6:6). “The Prophet Isaiah” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1696-1700, Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine, Italy.
The Seraph cleanses Isaiah’s lips with a coal (Isaiah 6:6). “The Prophet Isaiah” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1696-1700, Palazzo Patriarcale, Udine, Italy.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:16-18)

“[T]he Lord calls his people to the bar of his justice where of course, they can only be found guilty. But it is there that they hear words of free pardon based on the substitutionary death of a divinely appointed sacrifice.” – Alec Motyer

To be saved from His covenant wrath and to enjoy His covenant blessings, we are required by God to “wash” and make ourselves “clean” (verses 16-17). But that is humanly impossible because our sinfulness is total and absolute, and the cleansing that the Lord requires is a perfect and radical change of nature ̶ from “scarlet” and “red like crimson” to “white as snow” and “wool” (18). Therefore, in His amazing grace and mercy, He, the covenant King and Father whom His people has wickedly wronged and forsaken, offers forgiveness and renewal as free gift to all who come to Him in faith and repentance (19-20).

The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot, 19th century
The Crucifixion, seen from the Cross, by James Tissot, 19th century

This was fulfilled in Christ when He died on the cross to pay for sins and accomplish salvation for all who believe in Him:

God put him forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:25)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

Confess to the Lord that you are

  • sinful,
  • unable to cleanse yourself, and
  • in need of God’s free gift of cleansing.

Believe and accept God’s offer of total, perfect and eternal cleansing in Christ.

By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, live as a cleansed person in Christ.

Repentance in Action

The Return of the Prodigal Son (Le retour de l'enfant prodigue) by James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894. Kept at Brooklyn Museum.
The Return of the Prodigal Son (Le retour de l’enfant prodigue) by James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894. Kept at Brooklyn Museum.

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)

“Such is the manner in which we ought always to deal with men who are estranged from God. We must not confine our attention to one or a few sores of a diseased body but if we aim at a true and thorough cure, we must call on them to begin anew, and must thoroughly remove the contagion, that they who were formerly hateful and abominable in the sight of God may begin to please God.” – John Calvin

There are two things about repentance that we must keep in mind:

  • It is a gift.
  • It is a command.

I wrote about the first point in a previous blog. In this post, let us focus on the second point.

Isaiah 1:16-17 is a two-step call to action:

  • turn away from sin and evil, and
  • turn towards what is right and good.

Yes, repentance is practical. Always has been. Always will be. And we must do it. For the sake of our own souls (verses 19-20; see also Luke 13:1-5).

1. STOP

The Lord commands us in Isaiah 1:16 to turn away from our sinful and evil ways. We cannot do this with our own strength or ability (Romans 7:18-19). Therefore, let this difficult word lead us to Christ in humility and prayer (Luke 18:13). Let us ask Him to forgive us of our sins and to change our hearts and lives.

From "Zacchaeus" by Niels Larsen Stevns.
From “Zacchaeus” by Niels Larsen Stevns.

Then we can claim God’s promise of washing and cleansing through Jesus:

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14)

Then we can claim the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to cause and enable us to “remove the evil of [our] deeds” and “cease to do evil”:

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

But fellow believers in Christ, let us be careful to always remember these parallel truths:

a. The Holy Spirit gives us the grace and power to repent.

b. We must do the repenting. In deed. In action. Practically.

2. START

Through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, we must live in accordance with God’s goodness and righteousness (Isaiah 1:17).

Now, we cannot do this without the church. First, the Lord commands us to “learn to do good”, to be discipled in His good way for living.  This means that, above all, we must be busy learning and studying God’s word through church services, Bible studies, catechism classes, personal and family devotions, seminars, etc. Then trusting in His enabling grace alone, we can apply the Scripture’s teachings in our everyday lives.

keysSecondly, the Lord commands us to “seek justice”, to make His will (i.e. what is right) our new objective. We are to do so in two ways:

a. by “correct[ing] oppression”, and

b. by helping orphans and widows;

and in two levels:

a. corporately in the context of the local church, and

b. individually by all professing believers of Christ.

Corporately, this is a call for pastors and elders of local churches to faithfully exercise biblical discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:4, 5, 13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14; Titus 3:10), ensuring “that evil men are disciplined in a spiritual way and are restrained” (Belgic Confession, Article 30); and for deacons to fulfill their God-given duties (Acts 6:1-4), “that the poor and all the afflicted are helped and comforted according to their need” (ibid.).

Individually, as light and salt (Matthew 5:13-16), we must be faithful in championing what is just and right in society. And we must all do our best to demonstrate Christ’s love in word and in deed to the poor and needy, specially Christians (Galatians 6:10).

In conclusion, let me share with you a two-pronged application of the two-pronged “pillar” points that I shared in the introduction:

  • Repentance is a gift. Admit your sinfulness and hopelessness without God, and ask Him to change your heart and life.
  • Repentance is a command. Do it. Turn away from sin and evil, and turn towards what is right and good. Change.

Pray for Hong Kong

What started as a protest by pro-democracy students escalated into a paralyzing demonstration after riot police tried to clear the streets using tear gas, batons and pepper spray over the weekend. (Photo: Vincent Yu/AP)
CNN: What started as a protest by pro-democracy students escalated into a paralyzing demonstration after riot police tried to clear the streets using tear gas, batons and pepper spray over the weekend. (Photo: Vincent Yu/AP)

Protesters in Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution” have expressed determination to remain on the streets until Beijing agrees to their demand for free elections. With the Chinese government’s notorious reputation for “killer” suppression of pro-democracy protests, another Tiananmen Square Massacre is feared.

Demonstrators' use of umbrellas to protect themselves from choking tear gas and stinging pepper spray has caused the demonstration to be dubbed the "umbrella revolution." Hong Kong authorities say that more than 40 people have been injured. (Photos: Vincent Yu/AP and Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)
CNN: Demonstrators’ use of umbrellas to protect themselves from choking tear gas and stinging pepper spray has caused the demonstration to be dubbed the “umbrella revolution.” Hong Kong authorities say that more than 40 people have been injured. (Photos: Vincent Yu/AP and Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

Newsweek’s Bill Powell reports,

“The Federation of students vowed ‘not to give up,’ and they have been in the vanguard of the current protests. But the likelihood of achieving what they desire seems bleak. The NPC [National People's Congress of mainland China] statement made it clear that Beijing at the highest levels is in no mood to compromise.”

From the University of Southern California’s U.S.-China Institute, Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow, who covered Tiananmen in 1989, tweeted,

“I see no way the Chinese government can tolerate what is happening in HK. Greatly fear this will end badly.”

Hongkong protests 2014 e
Philippine Daily Inquirer: A pro-democracy demonstrator gestures in front of a police line near the Hong Kong government headquarters. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill on Sunday in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days. AFP

Regarding the uncertainties of the present situation, Roderic White, an associate fellow at London-based Chatham House, comments,

“Everybody is in completely unknown territory. … How these things end, we just don’t know. A lot will depend on the attitude of the authorities, and whether at some time there will be room for somebody to talk to somebody.”

Pray for the people of Hong Kong. Ask the Lord to intervene on behalf of His children there and for the sake of the work of the gospel both in Hong Kong and in mainland China.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4, NIV)

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. He directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1, NLT).

First Catechism Class for Children and Youth

1

IMG_2233Finally, our church has weekly catechism classes for children and youth. This morning’s session was the orientation. Next week, Question and Answer # 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism will be taught in a joint session followed by discussions in 2 small groups – one for grade schoolers and another for high schoolers. In the afternoon, catechism classes will be conducted for college students and young professionals.

IMG_2265Thank you, Balulang Christian Alliance Fellowship, for providing the venue.

Please continue to pray for the work of the gospel at Kagay-an Reformed Church.

View more pictures here.

RCP webPraise the Lord!

Imperfect, Perfect, Perfecting, To be Perfected

2014-09-26 Imperfect, Perfect, Perfecting, To be Perfected

I am glad to learn that my blog post on Isaiah 1:10-15 titled God Hates Hypocrisy (read here) created quite a stir among our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Rhyse Furio posted,

I agree, Pastor Glem. It is so difficult to make our worship pure. In fact, a sister of mine said during a meeting, “We’re fooling ourselves if we say we’re not sinful. In fact, at this very moment, I’m sinning [in thoughts and emotions].” Truly, if not for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to cover our imperfect worship, it would never be accepted. Could our worship ever become completely hypocrisy-free this side of heaven?

“No”, I replied. “Our worship will never become completely hypocrisy-free this side of heaven.” But that doesn’t mean that we are hopeless.

'The Penitent Apostle Peter' by Anthony van Dyck, 1618
‘The Penitent Apostle Peter’ by Anthony van Dyck, 1618

We must think about our moral failings (in this case, worship that can never become hypocrisy-free this side of heaven) in terms of the order of salvation. For this discussion, let us focus on four:

1. Regeneration

By the grace of the Holy Spirit we have been born-again. Unlike non-believers, we now have a new Christlike nature (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26) that desires to worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). But like non-believers, our sinful nature remains, therefore our worship can never become hypocrisy-free this side of heaven (Romans 7:15; Galatians 5:17). As regenerated believers, we never claim perfection. As expressed in the Belgic Confession, “Although great weakness remains in them [us], they [we] fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their [our] life” (Article 29).

2. Justification

By faith, our sins have been forgiven (Isaiah 53:5-6; Colossians 2:13-14) and Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed/credited to our record in God’s heavenly court (1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9). Therefore, even if our worship is never hypocrisy-free this side of heaven, sins of the heart, mind and eyes that we committed during worship are covered by Christ’s blood, and God accepts our worship as though it is perfect and pure, even if it is not. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, “Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart” (Lord’s Day 23, Question and Answer 60). This is the heart and core of the gospel.

Rembrandt, 'Jacob Wrestling with the Angel', circa 1659
Rembrandt, ‘Jacob Wrestling with the Angel’, circa 1659

3. Sanctification

The Holy Spirit causes and enables believers to grow in Christlikeness (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ezekiel 36:27). More and more, we are being set free from sin and hypocrisy. More and more, our worship is becoming Christlike in purity and sincerity. Because our sinful nature remains, we will never be perfect and our worship will never be hypocrisy-free this side of heaven. But because of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we are constantly and consistently growing in Christlikeness in all areas, which most especially includes worship.

4. Glorification

On the second coming we will be made perfect like the Lord Jesus (Philippians 3:20-21). Then, we will never sin again and our worship will be perfectly hypocrisy-free and Christlike.

In short, we, believers in Christ, are (a) imperfect though regenerated, (b) perfect in justification, (c) perfecting through sanctification, and (4) to be perfected on the day of glorification, the second coming of our perfect King and complete Savior.

Personal Application

Therefore, we must regularly do the following:

  1. Confess the heart, mind and eye sins that we commit during worship and ask the Lord for forgiveness.
  2. Believe and thank Him that (a) Christ paid for all our sins (including heart, mind and eye sins that we commit during worship) on the cross and that (b) through faith in Him we have forgiveness of sins.
  3. Ask the Lord to continue to sanctify us and make our worship more and more Christlike and hypocrisy-free through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s easy to remember because the acronym is ABC inverted. C-onfess, B-elieve and A-sk.

Christian. Husband. Dad. Pastor.

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