Monday, January 29, 2007
I sometimes think that today's church will toss the Abrahamic Covenant aside because "that is in the Old Testament". But, this is the promise of God. We ALL need to understand and appreciate what God has done throughout all of redemptive history and how He has been faithful to complete it. God said to Abraham... "This I will Do..." So it was a covenant that would come to pass no matter what man does. Un-conditionally, God's covenant to Abraham will come to pass, and can ONLY come to pass no matter how well we mess things up.
Setting the Stage
Imagine the worship service as a magnificent theater of divine action. There is the pulpit, lofty and grand - this is God's balcony from which He conducts the drama. Beneath it is the baptismal font, where the announcement, "the promise is for you and for your children" is ful-filled. Also prominent is the communion table, where weak and dis-turbed consciences "taste and see that the Lord is good." That which God has done to, for, and within his people in the past eras of biblical history he is doing here, now, for us, sweeping us into the tide of his gracious plan.
This chapter briefly sketches the backdrop or stage for this divine production, taking the covenant renewal theme in Scripture as the start-ing point. What are we doing on the Lord's Day, especially when we are gathered as God's people in church? How do we understand Christian growth and discipleship - as chiefly corporate or individual, as nour-ished by the preached Word and the divinely instituted sacraments or by self-approved "means of grace"? Would an outsider coming into our worship services be immediately impressed with the centrality of preach-ing, baptism, and the Supper, or would he or she be more likely to notice the importance given to other performances, whatever the style?
The Covenant Renewal Ceremony
Central to a biblical understanding of worship is the notion of covenant. As biblical scholarship has shown in recent decades, the Old Testament is largely in the form of a treaty, with the great king or emperor promising to protect smaller nations that could not generate their own standing army. In exchange, the great king would receive loyalty from his vassals. They would not turn to other kings for security but would uphold the treaty. A covenant always involved three things: a historical prologue that gave the narrative rationale for the covenant, a list of commands and prohibitions, and a list of sanctions - the bene-fits for those who fulfill the treaty's terms, the penalty for violating them. To understand the context of worship, we need to do a bit of spadework with respect to this covenant motif.
In Eden, Adam was created by God to be the federal head of the human race. In him, humanity would either be confirmed in righ-teousness if Adam fully obeyed and endured the time of testing, or humanity would be judged in Adam, should he violate the terms of the covenant of works, also called the covenant of creation. "Do this and you shall live" was (and remains) the principle of this covenant. But this is, happily, not the only covenant in Scripture. There is the covenant of grace. We can trace the steps of this covenant of grace in the following brief summary.
Even after the fall, God promised Eve a son who would crush the ser-pent's head, and although Cain murdered Abel, God provided another son, Seth. While Cain's descendants were building their own proud city of rebellion (Gen. 4:15 - 24), "Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD" (v. 26). Thus, the two cities (God's kingdom and the world's cultures), fully inte-grated in creation, were now divided, and they pursued two separate ends through distinct means. Jesus' warning that the world will hate his disciples and Paul's contrast between the wisdom of this world (works-righteousness) and the wisdom of God (the righteousness that comes by faith) are not born out of any hostility toward the world per se. Rather, it is the world in its sinful rebellion that the biblical writers have in mind.
After calling Abram out of Ur, God commanded a ritual sacrifice as a way of making the covenant. In fact, the Hebrew phrase is to cut a covenant. In ancient Near Eastern politics and law, a suzerain (i.e., great king or emperor) would enter into a treaty with a vassal (i.e., the king or ruler of a smaller territory) by cutting various animals in half. Then, walking together between the halves, both partners agreed to perform all the conditions of the treaty with the following sanction: If I should be unfaithful for my part, may the same end befall me as has befallen these animals.
In Genesis 15, when God makes his covenant with Abraham and his descendants, this ancient Near Eastern treaty is the pattern:
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain pos-session of it?" So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves oppo-site each other. As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a coun-try not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.". . . When the sun had set and dark-ness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram. verses 8 - 10, 12 - 14, 17 - 18
Two sorts of things are promised by God in this covenant: a holy land (Canaan, the earthly Jerusalem) and everlasting life (the heavenly Jeru-salem). What especially distinguishes this treaty is the fact that although God and Abram are covenant partners, the Lord (appearing as a smok-ing firepot with a blazing torch) walks alone through this path, placing on his own head all the sanctions and assuming on his own shoulders the curses that he himself has imposed should the treaty be violated. Then in chapter 17 there is another cutting ceremony:
Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, "As for me, this is my covenant with you. . . I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.... This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you."verses 3 - 4, 7, 10 - 11
Signifying the cutting away of uncleanness, especially of original sin, which is passed on from Adam through every subsequent father, circumcision was a bloody rite of consecration. But here, instead of the knife being plunged into the body to bring down the curses of the transgressors, it is used to cut away the sin so that the recipient may live.
Taken from A Better Way by Dr. Mike Horton. Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright 2002. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. You can purchase A Better Way for a total of $20 by calling the Issues, Etc. resource line at 1-800-737-0172.
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Well it was a challenging week and a great time of learning and sharing with some brothers and sisters in Christ from different parts of the country. The class I attended during this week long residency was called "Communicating the Gospel". The friendship and the encouragment of my new friends in the class was truly humbling.
I was also able to stop and visit with the Sutherlands in Columbia, Missouri on the way home and attend worship where Scott is the Senior Pastor at Forum Blvd Christian Church.
I'm very thankful to the Lord for this gift of friendship. Both old and new.
Grace and Peace,
Below is a link to Covenant Theological Seminary's website:
Below is some links to Ministry Resources:
containing over 1000 print and MP3 audio messages from Covenant Seminary's faculty, guest speakers, publications, and more. Each message can be downloaded free for your personal use or use with a small group or Bible study, or they may be shared with a friend.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Have you ever considered how you could use the doctrine of election as a means to share the Gospel. As a way to evangelize? Just imagine if you were to ask someone if they were "Chosen by God?" What do you think their reaction would be to that? I think they would start to ask questions, like... "Why wouldn't I be chosen by God? Or if they thought that they were too bad or had too much sin in their life, show them to Paul. A man who sought to have Christians killed.
Click on the link below (cute huh?)
Listen to the following clip by John Piper. I hope you will like it.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Click on the above link to download the audio file approx. 14 min.
Today I want to share with you a wonderful conclusion on a four part series by by Ravi Zacharias. I love hearing Ravi tell his stories and the passion he has for sharing the truth all around the world.
Condemnation is the subject of this audio clip.
Scripture verses that Ravi mentioned are as follows:
2 Thess 1:9
Here is one of my most favorite parts and I can't remember a time in my church where I have heard it said this way from the pulpit. Lately, it seems we have been getting the "moral" teaching and a little less of the Gospel. Below is a quote by Ravi.
"The biggest difference between Jesus Christ and ethical and moral teachers who have been deified by man (I'm thinking of Buddah and Mohammed and others). These moralists came to make these bad people good. But, Jesus came to make dead people LIVE!!!"
Now go listen to the words to Amazing Grace by John Newton.
How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news and who publish peace, and proclaim salvation. Isaiah 52:7
The Lostness of Man (part 4 of 4)
by Ravi Zacharias
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Welcome to a New Year of Reform-Shire postings. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are ready to go for another year.
I think he's right on with a lot of what he says below. I hope you enjoy it.<>"In the Name of Love!"
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Psalm Like It Hot
What Elvis was to rock'n'roll, David was to the blues. Bono, U2's singer and a campaigner to end Third World debt, argues that the psalms truly rock the soul.
The Guardian (U.K.), October 31, 1999
Explaining belief has always been difficult. How do you explain a love and logic at the heart of the universe when the world is so out of kilter with this? Has free will got us crucified? And what about the dodgy characters who inhabit the tome known as the Bible, who hear the voice of God? Explaining faith is impossible: vision over visibility; instinct over intellect. A songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one in his head.