New City Catechism – Week 13

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“Not In Me”
(Hymn #405 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q13: Can anyone keep the law of God perfectly?

A13: Since the fall, no mere human has been able to keep the law of God perfectly, but consistently breaks it in thought, word, and deed.

In the early days of America, there was a schoolbook that children received called the New England Primer. Each letter of the alphabet was taught with an accompanying rhyme. It began, “A—In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”

When God created Adam and Eve, they were without sin. They enjoyed fellowship with God in the garden. They were productive and at peace. Their lives were defined as “good” as was all creation.

But temptation came, and they went their own way. They broke covenant with Him and disobeyed His commandment. They chose the creation over the creator and so God cast them out. The intimate relationship with God ended.  Spiritually, they died, and physically their bodies began the process of dying. A curse came upon them and their descendants.

Paul says, in Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Through Adam, we all became sinners. Someone has said, “We are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners. “

The sinful nature is a fact of our humanity. Paul says of our sinful nature, Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Paul states this even more strongly in Ephesians 2:1 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.” Our sin was so grievous that we were spiritually unresponsive. We could not hear God or respond to Him. We could not please God. We could not live as God required.  We were in bondage to sin and death.

A person might complain that unbelievers are, in fact, capable of doing good. We see this in various acts of kindness and philanthropy. This is true in one sense.  These are limited goods and they are part of a common grace from God. If left to our own, this world would be evil beyond measure.

However, relative good, when not motivated by a love of God and a desire for his glory, still falls short. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to do this out of a desire for the glory of God.  In this we all fall short (Romans 3:23).

Our inability to live perfectly shows us our need for salvation. This inability points us to the cross of Jesus Christ, through who we have forgiveness of sin and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Though we are not perfect, we have been freed from the dominion of sin over us. And when we are glorified with Him, in heaven we will be like him. We will no longer fall short, but rather share in His glory.

-Pastor Jay

Full True Faith

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “Full True Faith” from Hebrews 11:7-16.

Hebrews 11:7-16 (ESV)

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

We need full true faith.

  • Faith endures in waiting.
  • Faith does not fall back.
  • Faith does not compromise.
  • Faith obeys God.
  • Faith fears God.
  • Faith trusts God.
  • Faith leads to salvation.
  • Faith desires God.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Name some things that you have a hard time waiting for.
  • Who does faith obey?
  • How does faith trust in God and desire Him?
  • What does faith lead to?

New City Catechism – Week 12

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“My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”
(Hymn #175 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q12: What does God require in the ninth and tenth commandments?

A12: Ninth, that we do not lie or deceive, but speak the truth in love. Tenth, that we are content, not envying anyone or resenting what God has given them or us.

Christ gives the “greatest commandment” in Matthew 22 — loving God with all our heart should be our purpose in life. I get that. I like that. The problem is, he doesn’t end there. He gives a second part. He tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That one always feels a bit more difficult.

Here’s the problem: I like myself. Before you judge me, I think we all like ourselves. If we didn’t, there would be more people out there committed to ruining their own lives. We try our best to not ruin our lives. In fact, we make every effort to keep our lives as far from ruin as possible. Self-preservation is a good thing. So what’s the problem with the second part of Christ’s command? Loving myself is easy. Loving others isn’t.

In the ninth and tenth commandment from Exodus 20, we see this concept clearly. God says we are not to lie. This includes little white ones, tax cheating, keeping the change when it’s too much, intentionally misleading others and other examples. I don’t like it when I’m lied to. If I don’t like it, then I shouldn’t do it. Seems pretty simple, but putting that into practice is a little more difficult.

The tenth commandment in Exodus 20 states we are to be content with what we have. Be happy for those who have more, and help those who have less. Don’t be envious of what others have. This leads to loving them less. “They don’t deserve to be that happy. They don’t even realize what they have.” Envy is so dangerous because it shows our resentment towards God for giving them what they have, and our resentment towards those who have it. It’s a negative two for one.

It’s far too easy to love ourselves and even claim to love God, but not love those around us. It’s a constant struggle not to put ourselves first. It’s completely counter-cultural! We find our highest joy when God comes before all. When our love for him overflows, we begin to love others more. The more we love him and others, the more content we become.

-Pastor Jon

Pleasing Faith

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “Pleasing Faith” from Hebrews 11:1-6.

Hebrews 11:1-6 (ESV)

Faith in Action

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Faith pleases God.

  • Faith trusts in the invisible things for which it hopes.
  • Faith trusts God’s invisible work creating all that we see.
  • Faith trusts God and is counted for righteousness.
  • Faith trusts in the existence of the invisible God.
  • Faith trusts that God’s reward is superior to all other things.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What does it mean to you to trust someone?
  • Who does faith please according to Hebrews 11:1-6?
  • What does faith trust about God?
  • What does God count our faith as?

New City Catechism – Week 11

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“My Worth is Not in What I Own”
(Hymn #98 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q11: What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments?

A11: Sixth, that we do not hurt, or hate, or be hostile to our neighbor, but be patient and peaceful, pursuing even our enemies with love. Seventh, that we abstain from sexual immorality and live purely and faithfully, whether in marriage or in single life, avoiding all impure actions, looks, words, thoughts, or desires, and whatever might lead to them. Eighth, that we do not take without permission that which belongs to someone else, nor withhold any good from someone we might benefit.

The funny images often make the rounds on social media or the web: people taking signs too literally. One of my favorites has a picture of the sign “Draw Bridge” accompanied by someone with a paper and pencil, producing a sketch of a bridge. Get it, draw bridge? Okay, those images produce a laugh or maybe just a groan, but what do they have to do with the Ten Commandments?

Jesus complained that the Pharisees’ way of keeping the Ten Commandments was far too narrow (see Matthew 23:23-24). They were experts at following the literal words of the commandment, but at the same time neglecting the spirit of the law. They found ways that they could break it while justifying themselves (Mark 7:9-13). The Pharisees were missing the point, like the guy drawing a picture of a bridge.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus explained that the implications of God’s law were far greater than most people had assumed. What is forbidden in these three commandments is not just murder, the physical act of adultery, or burglary, but the sinful heart attitudes that are the seeds of these actions.

It’s the simmering anger we harbor towards a co-worker, or the lingering, lustful look at another person. It’s the theft of time from our employer when we spend an hour on social media, or the shoddy work for which we charge full price.

In addition to these prohibitions, the commandments also have a positive aspect. Martin Luther famously said that every negative commandment has a corresponding positive implication. The catechism captures this idea in this week’s answer, putting each commandment in a positive light.

Before God’s law, all of us stand guilty. We cannot keep the Ten Commandments and we fall repeatedly into sin. But by God’s grace, when we trust in Jesus Christ we can stand justified before God (Romans 3:24) because of Christ’s righteousness counted to us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This redemption frees us from the weight of law-keeping to measure up to God’s standard, and instead to work for the good of others. We are no longer slaves, but adopted sons of God (Galatians 4:7), and we are free to joyfully obey (Galatians 5:13). Our hearts have been transformed. May we love God completely and love our neighbor sacrificially, as we follow these commandments.

-Pastor Jonathan

Joyful Endurance

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “Joyful Endurance” from Hebrews 10:32-39.

Hebrews 10:32-39 (ESV)

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Endure with confidence.

  • Because you have already joyfully endured so much.
    • We have hard suffering.
    • We have public reproach.
    • We have partnership with those so treated.
    • We have compassion risked for prisoners.
    • We have plundering of property.
  • Because with endurance comes great reward.
  • Because we aren’t cowards.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • Share about a time when you were made fun of and how it made you feel.
  • What does it mean to be confident about something?
  • What has God promised us as a better possession?
  • What does God tell us to have as we face difficulty?

New City Catechism – Week 10

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“My Soul Finds Rest”
(Hymn #359 in Hymns of Grace)
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Q10: What does God require in the fourth and fifth commandments?

A10: Fourth, that on the Sabbath day we spend time in public and private worship of God, rest from routine employment, serve the Lord and others, and so anticipate the eternal Sabbath. Fifth, that we love and honor our father and our mother, submitting to their godly discipline and direction.

Israel was commanded to rest on the Sabbath as God rested from his labor on the seventh day of creation. As his people they were to emulate him in this seventh day rest.

For the Christian, the first and most important aspect of the Sabbath is that Christ is our Sabbath rest. According to Hebrews 4, we have entered the Sabbath rest by believing in Christ (Hebrews 4:3). We have ceased from our labors in the sense of trying to earn favor with God. Christ’s finished work on the cross saves and brings us into rest. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

But, the principle of taking off one day in seven is still valid. Jesus said of the Sabbath that it was made for man. We still need the rhythm of work and rest. The Lord’s Day should be used to worship God and to rest our bodies and minds from their labors.

The Sabbath challenges us to trust in God and not in our own efforts. It challenges us to trust that six days of labor will take care of our needs. It reminds us that He has things under control and that the world does not turn on its axis because we somehow keep it spinning. As Christ is able to save us and bring us into the final rest, so he can give us rest now in our busy life under the sun.

The fifth commandment tells us to honor our fathers and mothers that our days would be long in the land. As children, we are to be in complete submission to our parents, respecting them and obeying them (Ephesians 6:1-3). When we become adults and are responsible for our own decisions, we are to nevertheless continue to love and respect them.

Ideally, our parents teach us about God. On His behalf, they love us, care for us, instruct us, command us and correct us. They teach us about grace and mercy. They teach us to submit to every legitimate authority over us. As they bring us up in the discipline and instruction in the Lord, they can help lead us to Christ.

-Pastor Jay

The Trouble with Turning Away from Jesus

Pastor Jay continues the series on Hebrews with this week’s sermon “The Trouble with Turning Away from Jesus” from Hebrews 10:26-31.

Hebrews 10:26-31 (ESV)

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We need to understand the danger of turning away from Jesus?

  • We need to understand what kind of person turns away.
  • We need to understand that this is a sin against the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    • Such a person tramples underfoot the Son of God.
    • Such a one outrages the Spirit of Grace.
    • Such a person tempts the wrath of a Holy God.
  • We need to understand the penalty of turning away from Jesus.
    • Such a one has no sacrifice for his sins.
    • Such a one only has a fearful expectation of judgment.
    • Such a one faces the furious consuming fire of God against his adversaries.
    • Such a one will face retributive justice.
    • Such a person will fall into the hands of the living God.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What are the consequences for disobeying your parents?
  • When we turn away from Jesus, who are we sinning against?
  • Why is God not pleased with us when we sin against Him?
  • What does God say is the penalty for anyone who turns away from Jesus?