New City Catechism – Week 9

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“To God Be the Glory”
(Hymn #19 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q9: What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?

A9: First, that we know and trust God as the only true and living God. Second, that we avoid all idolatry and do not worship God improperly. Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and reverence, honoring also his Word and works.

The first three commandments in Exodus 20 give an indication of how seriously God takes his relationship with us and how we need to take seriously our view of him.

Imagine a man who is interested in a woman. He tells her of his affections, and she reciprocates. They begin to spend more time with one another and develop into a more mature relationship. He is a soldier who is sent away for a period of time. While away, they communicate regularly, and the photo he has of her is always near his heart. He looks at that photo several times a day and pines over the love of his life.

He’s finally sent home and they are again together. Over the next week though, she begins to feel as though he’s distant. While he still calls and texts, he doesn’t appear interested in spending any personal time with her. She knows he’s out and about with other friends, so he seems emotionally and psychologically healthy.

She worries that it’s her fault somehow. She approaches him about this, and he states it’s not her fault at all! He loves her more and more each day. In fact, he begins to talk of marriage! She wonders out loud how they could be married when it seems clear he isn’t interested in spending time with her. He explains he loves her with all his heart, but doesn’t need to spend time with her since he still has her photo.

Obviously, this sounds foolish. Why would a photo do when the person is alive and wanting to enjoy the company of their beloved? This is similar to what God does with us. He is alive and well. And he’s a jealous God. He’s jealous of our time, love, loyalty, and obedience. He makes this clear in the the beginning of Exodus 20.

He’s the only one we are to have a relationship with, he is the only one we are to love, and the only one we are to treat with all the respect and love he deserves. No mere photo will do in this relationship. Why spend time in a relationship with something false when the real Creator is alive and working in us?

God wants to make sure we are following him, not an image of him. He is too great for a photo. Only the one true God is worthy of our complete devotion.

-Pastor Jon

Entrance to Holy Places

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “Entrance to Holy Places” from Hebrews 10:19-25.

Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)

A Call to Persevere in Faith

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

If in Christ you had full access into God’s holy places what would you do?

  • You would draw near.
  • You would hold fast your confession.
  • You would consider how to stir up others.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Share about what you are excited to be able to do when you are older.
  • Why are we now able to draw near to God with complete confidence?
  • What did Jesus accomplish when He was sacrificed in our place?
  • Why is God now able to forgive our sins once and for all?

New City Catechism – Week 8

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“O Great God”
(Hymn #35 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q8: What is the law of God stated in the Ten Commandments? 

A8: You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below—you shall not bow down to them or worship them. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not covet.

The next five weeks of the Catechism will be focused on the Ten Commandments. It may at first seem odd in a Christian catechism to be memorizing the Ten Commandments. Didn’t Jesus say he came to fulfill the law? Aren’t we now under grace, not law?

Last week, Pastor Jay considered the role law plays in the life of the Christian. This time we’ll look specifically at the Ten Commandments. What benefit can they have in our lives? Why memorize and meditate on them? Let me offer three brief reasons.

First, the Commandments reveal God to us. Exodus 20 records the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. God’s law is the foundation of his covenant with Israel (Exodus 19:5-6). His first statement is “I am the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:2a). The Ten Commandments then flow out that statement of God’s identity. They tell us in a moral sense what he is like. When we study them, we can understand something of God’s nature. We see what is important to him, and that he is morally perfect and just. As we see God’s beauty, the Ten Commandments lead us to worship.

But secondly, the Commandments reveal our sinful nature. For to have fellowship with a perfect and holy God, we must ourselves be morally perfect. This is impossible because of our sin. We are all sinners by nature and by choice. We break God’s perfect law and stand justly condemned for our disobedience. Jesus clarified that keeping the Commandments is not just a matter of outward obedience but of the heart (Matthew 5:17-47). The Ten Commandments lead us to repent.

Finally, the Commandments point to our Savior. For Jesus lived a righteous life, in perfect obedience to the Ten Commandments, so we can be made righteous before God (Romans 5:19). This happens when we put our trust in Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and believe that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). The Ten Commandments lead us to the Savior.

Charles Spurgeon connected the dots in a 1908 sermon, when he said that the law is “the sharp needle which makes a way for the fine silken thread of the gospel to enter our heart, and so to bless us.” Let’s thank God for his law that leads us to worship, to repent, and then to our Savior Jesus Christ in whom we may joyfully keep God’s law.

-Pastor Jonathan

The Really Good Things

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “The Really Good Things” from Hebrews 10:1-18.

Hebrews 10:1-18 (ESV)

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

God wants good things for us in Christ.

  • God did not desire the mere shadows for us apart from Christ.
  • God desired the work of Christ for us.
  • God desired the triumphant final work of Christ for us.
  • God desired the benefits of the new covenant for is through Christ.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Share about the good things that your parents want for you.
  • In what ways was Jesus’ sacrifice better than that of bulls and goats?
  • What did Jesus accomplish when He was sacrificed in our place?
  • Why is God now able to forgive our sins once and for all?

New City Catechism – Week 7

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“My Jesus I Love Thee”
(Hymn #380 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q7: What does the law of God require?

A7: Personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience; that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves. What God forbids should never be done and what God commands should always be done.

Note: this post has a lot of scripture references. We encourage you to take your time this week and look up the verses and passages indicated below, so you can follow along with the progression of thought.

We know that the law of God cannot make us righteous (Galatians 2:21). We can only be saved by grace operating through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The gospel of Christ saves us. We are not saved by our own law-keeping (Romans 4:2).

We cannot keep the Law of God by the strength of our sinful flesh and human resolve (Romans 7:18). As the old hymn says, “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.” The gospel is not about basically good people trying really hard and gaining favor with God by our efforts.

But, this does not make the Christian life lawless. Having been freed from the guilt, curse and judgment under the law, we are now meant to freely obey God (Romans 6:17). The New Covenant in Christ’s blood is defined as the law of God now in our hearts (Hebrews 8:10).

This law of God is expressed in the ten commandments and is best distilled by Jesus in the great two commands (love God and love neighbor – Luke 10:27). These ten and two still express God’s moral requirements of His children.

Grace does not nullify the requirements of God’s commands. He still commands. We are to still required to obey. Yet, now, in Christ, we have forgiveness where we fall short (Romans 3:23-24) and the power of the Holy Spirit put to death the deeds of the sinful flesh (Romans 8:13).

Loving Christ, we now seek to do what he commands (John 14:15). Worshipping Him, we avoid any trespass that would tarnish the name of Christ and His gospel (1 Corinthians 10:31).

-Pastor Jay

Appearing

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “Appearing” from Hebrews 9:23-28.

Hebrews 9:23-28 (ESV)

It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Christ moves himself to help his people.

  • Christ entered heaven on our behalf.
  • Christ appeared in order to deal with our sins.
  • Christ will appear again to save us.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Share about a time when someone did something for you because of their love for you.
  • What did Jesus do for you and I to help us?
  • How has Jesus dealt with our sin?
  • According to Hebrews 9:28, what will happen when Jesus comes for a second time?

New City Catechism – Week 6

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“Take My Life and Let It Be”
(Hymn #375 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q6: How can we glorify God?

A6: We glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and by obeying his will, commands, and law.

“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”

Many have attributed this quote to Albert Einstein.  The truth is, we’re not sure if he was the first to say something along these lines, but we do know it’s pretty accurate. When we’re involved with someone or something we enjoy, time seems to fly. Compare that to the time we spend waiting in line at the grocery store, and you have an accurate idea of how relative time can feel.

Our time with God is no different. On occasion, I’ve felt praying, reading the Word, worshiping, or just being silent with him can speed by. Other moments, I’ve struggled with being honest with God and telling him how I have a million other things I could be doing. I’m thinking it and he knows it already. I’m not about to enter into a moment with God under the auspices of a lie!

The trick is to figure out how to develop our moments of worship into those two hours with someone we love rather than with something we “have to” do. The catechism for this week talks about how we glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and obeying his will commands and law. Those are things we are capable of doing because he desires us to have a relationship with him. We often seem those things as a list of things we have to do rather than a list of “get to’s.”

Are we aware that we worship a God who not only created the entire universe and keeps it in motion, but also desires us to spend time with him as we enjoy him and obey him? He doesn’t need our glory towards him, but he gives us the opportunity to give it all the same. Living to glorify him in all we do seems like more of a privilege than a chore.

So what does this look like in our personal lives? Start by being honest with where we are in your relationship with God. Learn to see your time with him as precious.

-Pastor Jon

Blood Covenant

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “Blood Covenant” from Hebrews 9:15-22.

Hebrews 9:15-22 (ESV)

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.”In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Christ had to shed his blood/die to make the new covenant.

Five things to know:

  1. He did this for those under the old covenant.
  2. He did this for all who were called.
  3. His blood gives us an eternal inheritance.
  4. His blood redeems us from transgression.
  5. His blood is indispensable for the forgiveness of our sins.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Describe what it means to you to make a promise.
  • What did Jesus need to do in order to make the new covenant possible?
  • Who did Jesus shed His blood for?
  • What does the blood of Jesus bring us?