An Invitation

New City Catechism Week Forty-Six Q&A: What is the Lord’s Supper? Christ commanded all Christians to eat bread and to drink from the cup in thankful remembrance of Him. The question for week forty-seven is: Does the Lord’s Supper add anything to Christ’s atoning work?

Jesus sent me to tell you that He’s ready to meet with you. Just the two of you in private whenever you’re ready. And He says that He’s available for as long as you want.

I’m currently reading an outstanding book entitled, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. The author is Dr. Donald S. Whitney. In the chapter on worship, Dr. Whitney talks about the absolute importance of worship in a Christian’s life. For discussion purposes, Whitney divides worship into two categories: public worship and private worship.

Hebrews 10:25 makes it clear that God wants us to “gather together” in public worship. He wants us to develop the habit of faithfully assembling with fellow Christians where our primary purpose is to honor and glorify our Creator and Savior in worship. Dr. Whitney says,

“There’s an element of worship and the Christian life that can never be experienced in private worship, or by “watching” worship. There are some graces and blessings that our Father gives only when we meet together as His Family.”

On the other hand, no matter how much of a blessing God affords us through regular public worship services, there are some experiences with God that He gives only in private. Think about it, Jesus did both. Each Sabbath Jesus was faithfully in the synagogue (Luke 4:16). However, the good doctor Luke also tells us that Jesus would often “withdraw to desolate places to pray (Luke 5:16).”

“If Jesus is our role model, He makes it very clear that we need to be practicing both public and private worship, and that the two complement and enforce each other. Whitney says:

“How can we worship God publicly once each week when we do not care to worship Him privately throughout the week? Can we expect the flames of our worship to burn brightly in public on the Lord’s Day when they barely flicker for Him in secret throughout the week? Could it be that our corporate worship often dissatisfies us because we do not pursue satisfying worship in private?”

Then Dr. Whitney touched my heart when he talked about how God wants us to worship Him in private so that He can bless us, and He doesn’t want to do so just once a week at church. What an incredible blessing; we have unlimited access to God “twenty-four-seven.” Every day the guidance, encouragement, strength, discipline, forgiveness, and joy that only God can give awaits us if we take advantage of His invitation.

Well, here it is. Jesus sent me to tell you that He’s ready to meet with you. Just the two of you in private whenever you’re ready. And He says that He’s available for as long as you want. He says you’ll be blessed.

Written by Jim De Horn

That They Have Been With Jesus

New City Catechism Week Forty-five Q&A: Is baptism with water the washing away of sin itself? No, only the blood of Christ can cleanse us from sin. The question for Week Forty-six is: What is the Lord’s Supper?

Of course, you know that Lynnelle Pierce is leading one of our Family Night classes this fall. She’s doing a wonderful job leading us through the book of Acts. Week after week, in her own unique style, she’s been helping us see the amazing way that God, through the Holy Spirit, spread the Gospel by using a tiny cadre of very common men and women to build His church and through it evangelize the world. It has indeed been inspiring.

A few weeks back we were discussing Acts chapter four, where Peter and John were defending themselves and their ministry before the Jewish authorities (“the intellectual hotshots,” Lynnelle’s words). In this situation, Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” declared boldly that their message was one of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone, and that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved.” Peter boldly and intelligently defended the apostles’ actions and seized the opportunity to call these religious leaders on account for the crucifixion of Jesus.

When the authorities realized that they couldn’t defend their accusations against Peter and John, they turned to threats and intimidation. The Apostles were ordered, ”not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” In response to that Peter answered them with, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge.” But, (and we’re paraphrasing now) we can’t keep ourselves from sharing this amazing good news, because “of what we’ve seen and heard.” At that point in Lynnelle’s presentation there were, believe it or not, several (spontaneous mind you) “Amens” from different parts of the classroom. And our discussion turned to how we, like Peter and John need to be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we “can’t keep from sharing” the joy of our salvation.

But the portion of Acts chapter four that has always been the most precious to me is when the authorities (the intellectual hotshots), after hearing Peter and John boldly defend the Gospel and stand staunchly unafraid before the same people who had crucified Jesus, uttered the words: “[We] recognize that they have been with Jesus.” How awesome is that! Lord, may it be the prayer of all of us--that we would be so intimate with you--that we’ve spent so much one on one time in your presence, that the world around us would look at our lives and say, “we recognize that they have been with Jesus.”

Written by Jim De Horn

A Royal Grant

New City Catechism Week Forty-four Q&A: What is Baptism? Baptism is the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Question for week forty-five is: Is baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?

Our recent Open Gate Sunday School class seminar entitled, Continuing Reformation, pointed out that Martin Luther’s life-changing epiphany came when he was studying in the book of Romans. The Holy Spirit suddenly made it clear to him that the new covenant established by Jesus was not dependent on his ability to gain his own righteousness through good works and obedience to the law. His salvation…our salvation…is totally a gift from God that we have done nothing to earn. And that kind of covenant has a name. It’s called a “Royal Grant” covenant. The term Royal Grant Covenant isn’t used exclusively in a religious sense. In the secular world, a “royal” might, just out of the kindness of his heart, “grant” someone forgiveness for a crime he’s committed, or grant to someone an undeserved gift. But, let’s face it, that’s a pretty unlikely scenario.

But I think that we need to pause a minute to discuss covenants. Outside of religious circles, the word covenant isn’t used very often. We make “promises,” we sign “contracts,” we shake hands on a “deal,” and we negotiate treaties. But I’m not sure all of us really even know what a covenant is. So I did some digging. Did you know that there are, by definition, three different kinds of covenants? The first kind is called a Parity Agreement. That’s when two equal parties agree to service each other for their mutual benefit. (I’ll mow your lawn and you’ll wash my car.) The second kind is called a Suzerain-Vassal Agreement. This is a reciprocal arrangement between a superior and his chosen subordinates. (I’ll give you my cottage, but you need to keep it up, do no harm to the environment, and welcome me when I visit.) And the third type is a Royal Grant. As the name implies, this agreement is an outright gift, usually from someone with royal status to someone he favors. (I’ll give you my cottage on Lake Michigan, no strings attached.)

But we didn’t go over all that just so you could impress your friends with your knowledge of covenants. Stick with me here; it’ll be worth it. At Mt. Sinai God established his Suzerain-Vassal covenant with the Children of Israel. (I’ll love and protect you, and be your God forever if you keep all of my laws perfectly; the laws I’ve designed to make you righteous and acceptable.) But of course, sinful man couldn’t possibly keep his end of the covenant. So God added an amnesty provision when he established the system of animal sacrifices as reconciliation for laws not kept (sins). If the animal was acceptable and the priest did everything exactly as commanded, that one worshiper would receive forgiveness until he sinned again. Did you hear what I just said? That one worshiper would be forgiven until he sinned again, which could very likely be as soon as he began walking away from the altar. Are you feeling the absolute futility of this situation? Yet the fear of a God who holds life and death, and even more significantly eternal destiny in his hands, made it impossible to get out from under the weight of the covenant. There was no joy in this crushing legalistic relationship.

As a result, the blood of lamb after lamb, sacrifice after sacrifice muddied the earth, and the endless sighs of anguished souls were raised in the futile hope that God would blot out yet one more sin. This went on day after day, year after year in an endless struggle to appease God. The altar fires never went out. The smell of bloody smoke filled the air without ceasing. But then one day John the Baptist pointed his finger at a very special man and said: “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” And everything changed! The law that we couldn’t possibly keep was no longer needed. And the only possible acceptable sacrifice for our sin was standing there in human form. The need to keep the law and to offer endless ephemeral sacrifices was over.

Because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, the Suzerain-Vassal covenant ended, and God now offers us a Royal Grant. All we need is to simply accept God’s (the most Royal of all Royals) gift (grant) of grace, and the crimes we’ve committed are forever forgiven. And we’re given the gift of eternity in Heaven with our creator. Isn’t that awesome!

So, the next time we celebrate communion and the pastor quotes Jesus by saying ”This cup is the new covenant in my blood…” I pray that we’ll all remember that that new covenant is a Royal Grant in which the gift of love and acceptance is given by the King (Jesus) to someone he favors who has done absolutely nothing to deserve it. We are saved, Sola Gratia.

Written by Jim De Horn