Out of Enmity
I have asked the question before, but “the book of life of the Lamb” brings it up again. If you were the lover par excellence, if you were the being in the universe who knew and expressed love above everyone else, how would you go about communicating that love to others? As a lover, the impulse to share your love and invite others in would be as natural as water runs downhill.
God is love (1 John 4:16). God sent His Son because He loved (John 3:16). Jesus is the one “who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). The Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5). These are things that give us hope, that enable our endurance.
John wrote about the “outsiders” in Revelation 13 who will not worship the beast. They are those whose names have been “written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, KJV). The saints take courage to believe and to bear up under the attack of the beast with this knowledge.
What do they know? Was it that their names were written in The Book before the world began, or was it that the Lamb was slain before the world began? Are we encouraged by our election to salvation, or are we encouraged that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23)?
Beloved, it is both. We are “elect…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” and Christ, the lamb, “was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:1, 18-19). You who believe were chosen to know the God of love, whose love dies for sinners. He reveals His love not by loving those who already love Him, but by loving enemies out of their enmity. You were chosen to be loved, and nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lamb.
September 8, 2020
A Big As
No true church exists without the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sin destroys our fellowship with the Triune God and ruins relationships between one another. Death is separation, and spiritual death is not only separation from God but disregard for His Word and enmity toward His person.
No man can work his way to God. The wise of the world can’t philosophize their way to Him. There are no quests, no treasures, no mutilations that earn salvation from God. Dead men are, by definition, incapable of making themselves alive. The gospel, the good news, is that Jesus died, was buried, and on the third day rose again so that any who believe in Him might be forgiven of their sin, cleansed of their guilt, and reconciled to the Father.
The Latin word for gospel is evangel, from the Greek word * εὐαγγέλιον* (euaggelion). It is the message of divine, free forgiveness in Christ.
Christians, by definition, are those who believe this gospel. Christians are the forgiven. Christians, sadly, often sin by refusing to forgive others.
The Evangel in Trinity Evangel Church was largely chosen because of seeing this sort of failure to forgive from professing Christians, and committing ourselves to obedience on this front. Paul told the Colossians, “as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13). It’s a big as. Jesus told a parable about the servant who was forgiven much who refused to forgive one who owed him little (Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
We thought about being “Evangelical,” but that is too mushy a category anymore. Evangel takes just a little more effort to say, and so to think about. Forgiving just as we’ve been forgiven is supernatural, it is beyond the ability of the flesh, and it absolutely must be proclaimed and practiced by us because our sins are forgiven for His name’s sake (1 John 2:12). “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Forgive your spouse, your children, your brother, your mother, your neighbor. Forgive as you’ve been forgiven.
September 7, 2020
The Biggest Poser
Other than the simple fact that they are not the same, the greatest difference between the mortal wound of the Lamb and the mortal wound of the beast (Revelation 13:3) is that the beast’s wound enabled him to deceive the nations into worshiping him for a limited time while the Lamb’s wounds purchased the salvation of a great number from all the nations into eternal life.
The beast was wounded in imitation, the Lamb was wounded for our transgressions. The beast took a hit so that he could be exalted, the Lamb was slain so that we who believe would be resurrected with Him. One is a poser, the Lamb is given the name above every name. One will deceive many into worshiping him for a time, the Lord will be acknowledged by every mouth and every knee as the truly glorious one. The beast’s authority—the dragon, killed the Lamb, but the Lamb’s authority—the Father, knew that the killing would be the dragon’s defeat. The beast copies the Lamb to his own undoing.
As people of the Lamb, we also lay down our lives in imitation. We follow in His steps. We do it not to replace Him, but as conscious reflections of Him. We make loving sacrifices to serve others, not to be served. We learn the way to true glory is not by exalting ourselves, but by exalting Him, who raises us up.
This is one of the reasons why communion is a political act. Every week when we declare our peace with God we’re saying that we don’t depend on the State to give us life. We have all that we need in Christ, and that is a threat to every earthly wannabe poser lusting for power. This Table is where the glory is, this Table feeds our faith and our obedience, this Table is where we remember the death of the Lamb, who ransomed us for God (Revelation 5:9-10).
September 1, 2020
I mentioned last week that since we’ve been seeing a number of new families, not just over the last few months, but even over the last year, we want to communicate some of the core things we care about. Even for those who’ve been here many years, well-placed reminders can be edifying.
The name of our local church has reminders built in. The Trinity reminds us that God is the God of love and fellowship. While the realities of Father, Son, and Spirit, co-equal and co-eternal, can be hard to wrap our minds around, it does explain what God wants with us and for us. He wants our fellowship, not just our collection of facts.
At first I planned to spend one week on each of the three parts of our name, but there really is more about the Trinity that is important to apply.
The doctrine of the Trinity is an antidote to idolatry (we learn to exalt the true God), and to the Pharisaism of religious correctness (we learn that the true God wants our love that comes from knowing the truth). It is also the place to start to pull down the errors of identity politics, bigotry, intolerance, and envy.
Identity politics is a new name for an old sin: hating our brother, hating our neighbor, and justifying ourselves by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). We need to be “woke” as much as we need a rusty nail to pierce the arch of our left foot, except the nail might be better. Our job is not to find the most oppressed people group, even less to make our case that we are the most oppressed people group. We ought not look for the most superficial things about us and divide up into respective tribes. Our need is to worship the Triune God.
Each Person of the Trinity has a different role, and they don’t compete or complain about it. The Spirit doesn’t envy the Son’s incarnation, the Son doesn’t chaff against the Father’s authority to delegate, the Father neither wishes that He could be another person or that He’s better than the Son and the Spirit.
Because the world was made and is sustained by the Trinity, male and female don’t need to complete, they complement one another. Because of Him, the eyes and the hands have crucial jobs for sake of the body. Because of Him, we know that “different” isn’t an enemy by default, whether the person has more money or darker skin. Because of Him we know that unity does not require conformity. Because of Him, we know that none of it works if we don’t start by submitting ourselves to what He’s elected.
August 31, 2020
An Hebdomadal Schedule
Why do we have communion every week?
The majority of us do not come from churches where communion was every Lord’s Day, and the majority of us came from churches where you probably wouldn’t want to partake in communion on an hebdomadal schedule. The Lord’s Table was set once a month, or once a quarter, and it usually involved a serious talking-to, about the dangers of unworthy eating and drinking, and how you probably could take it, but only after major effort to jackhammer your heart and take a backhoe to your sin.
Of course, and yes, it is possible to partake unworthily, so said God through Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:27. But the Corinthians were in danger of selfish feasting as fellow brothers went hungry. Their “communion” was a lie.
But the selfish party attitude is not the only way to lie about communion. It is also a lie to act like joy is sin.
Jesus did not institute this Supper on the night He was betrayed, so that we could remember Him and what He did, and then go digging the depths for sake of bringing up as sad feels as we can find. He died for us and rose on the third day so that we would have a reason not to be so sad.
He gave His body for our food, and His blood for our drink, so that we might be nourished. This is not a fast. This is not where Jesus asks you to starve your soul. This is a place where He feeds your faith, as He fed the Israelites in the wilderness (John 6:31-33). It is a supernatural meal, a thanksgiving meal, a meal of peace.
Rejoicing is as much a necessary condition for communion as repentance. Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, rejoice!
August 25, 2020
We recently had our annual church leaders’ retreat, and in addition to giving thanks for signs of God’s grace among us, we usually spend at least a session discussing any existing or expected challenges. One crossover item, a reason for thanks and for planning, relates to the increase in the number of persons that have been joining us for our corporate worship.
Where to seat everyone is not the biggest question (though those watching in the basement would probably rather not be). How to transmit the heartbeat of this church body, and the lifeblood of our liturgy, these are more important “building” concerns (1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Our church is almost 10 years old. All of the men who decided to start it are still attending, and I think more excited about how God has grown us. Because we started it, we gave it a name: Trinity Evangel Church. We named it on purpose.
Every Christian must agree to the doctrine of the Trinity. We are baptized into “the name,” singular, “of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), one God in three Persons. Each Person of the Trinity is fully, simultaneously, and eternally God, united in one purpose. God has never been alone. That is key. There has never been a moment of existence with only one person. This is why we can say that God has power and wisdom but that He is love.
When God made Adam, He assigned Adam to name all the animals before pointing out to Adam that it was not good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Male and female are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), which means that human beings are made for relationship.
This holds true between God and men as well. This is the problem with sin. Sin separates our fellowship. God sent His Son to die on the cross not primarily so that we could be correct, but so that we could share communion with the Trinity. Our worship on Sundays requires the truth, but the end of our worship is not knowledge, it is love and identity and reconciliation, being made one in Him (John 17:3, 20-21).
August 24, 2020