Monday, October 30, 2006

Matthew 2, The Magi

As we look at the second chapter of Matthew, we see several characters involved. Verse one mentions “Jesus,” “Herod,” and the “Magi.” I want to focus on the Magi because in them, we see what human nature is like under the power of grace. Who were the Magi? We know that they were Gentiles, which shows that the grace of the gospel is not limited to the Jews only, but is for everyone in the world, as we saw from the genealogy in chapter one.

The Magi were men from the East, probably from Persia. The Persian Empire was located in the area we would call Iran and Iraq today. Some translations call the Magi “wise men,” and they were indeed wise to follow the star, but their occupation was astrology, which is very far from true “wisdom.” The word “astro” means star, and “logos” means word. So, the Magi were intellectuals, or scholars, who looked for a “word from the stars.” Because of this, many in Persia would have thought of them as “wise” men who had the answers to life’s problems.

But, the people of Israel would have seen them differently. The Israelites would have seen them as idolaters, as men who worship the stars, looking to them for guidance and comfort in their lives. The word “magi” is used other places in the NT in a derogatory way. For example: Acts 8:9 9 Now there was a certain man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city, and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great. Acts 13:6-8 “they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was . . . a man of intelligence, the magician was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.” The Hebrews in Jerusalem would not have seen these magi good men. Matthew 2:3 “And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” The word “all” doesn’t mean every single person in Jerusalem, but it does mean that a great number in the city were bothered by the visit of the Magi.

We shouldn’t think of ourselves as so different from the Magi. The Magi worshipped the stars, but we are idolaters by nature as well. The Magi looked to the stars for guidance but anytime we trust anything other than God’s Word for guidance in how to live our lives, we are idolaters too. To the degree that we look to movie stars, television, the songs on the radio, the voices in newspapers and magazines to give us our philosophy of how to live our lives, then we are really no different than the Magi. Sometimes those outlets say good things, but as a whole, the voices of our culture propagate a pagan worldview and unbelieving way of life. They say that you are the only thing that matters. America has made an idol out of “self.” The voices of culture tell you to listen to your feelings, to make laws for yourself, to throw off external authority. They say that you have to make your own truth, and that you make your own absolutes. The only thing that is immoral is to surrender your right to rule yourself, or to insist that there are absolutes outside of yourself.

The story of the Magi is about how God’s grace reaches into the hearts of the worst idolaters, and powerfully draws them to Christ. God graciously revealed Himself to these men. Ephesians 2:1-2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience [verses 13-14] But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” God revealed Himself to the Magi by grace. But, how did the Magi respond to God’s revelation? (1) They believed and acted for Christ. (2) They worshipped Christ. (3) They gave their gifts to Christ. They believed and acted for Christ. When they saw the star and heard God’s Word, they acted. They weren’t merely observers, but they believed and obeyed God’s revelation. If you truly believe that God’s Word is true and that what is says is for your good, then you will obey it.

They worshipped Christ (v. 11). This means that they regarded Him as worthy of honor, adoration, and obedience. God’s amazing grace had turned them from being, idolaters, worshippers of the stars, to being worshippers of Jesus. Every believer has had the same experience, as God has turned us from delighting in sin and self to delighting in Christ.

They gave their gifts to Christ (v. 11). When we come to Christ we give Him our gifts. We never give Him anything He hasn’t first given us. But, we give monetary gifts. But we also give Him the spiritual gifts He has given us, each of us doing what He has called us to do, as He has equipped each of us. These gifts aren’t given because He needs them, but because we need to give them as a way of demonstrating our love for Him, and that nothing we own comes before Him.

But, what I don’t want us to miss is that all of this started with God’s grace. Their belief, obedience, worship, and giving of gifts was all a response to God’s initiative of grace. God’s grace is first, their response was second. God is the one who put that strange bright star in the sky to draw their attention. God is the one who led them all the way to Christ in the manger.

God’s grace conquers the hearts of people we would never expect would come to Him. Why does He do this? It’s to show that salvation is not by human wisdom or power, but by God’s great grace. That way He gets all the glory. Does this grace of God still win your heart, even today? When you think of all the times you’ve broken His laws as a believer, and how there are times when you don’t believe Him, and how your heart is prone to wander, to chase after idols, to look to the world for wisdom and life, aren’t you amazed at His unwavering grace and gentle love toward you, that He hasn’t thrown you off, but faithfully keeps you? As you look back across your life as a Christian do you remember times when your heart grew cold and distracted by the sorrows, pains, and hardships of life? Do you remember how He wouldn’t let you leave Him. Instead, He came to you again, and fanned the flames of faith and love in your heart and drew you back to Himself? God doesn’t only initiate a relationship with us by grace. He keeps us by His grace as well. Everything we are and everything we have is by grace and grace alone. 1 Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

Monday, October 23, 2006

Matthew 1:18-25, The Birth of Christ

Matthew 1:21-23, "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us."

Who is this Christ who was born? These verses tell us that Jesus has two names: Immanuel and Jesus. One name, Immanuel, tells us who Christ is, and the other name, Jesus, tells us what Christ does. Verse 23 says, “they shall call His name Immanuel (which means God with us.).” When Jesus entered into human history, God Himself entered into human history. The Bible everywhere affirms that Jesus Christ is God. Jesus is God. John 1:1, 14 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen His glory.” John 5:18 says that Jesus “was making Himself equal with God.” When Thomas put his hands into the hands and side of Christ, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Romans 9:5 says that Christ is “God over all, blessed forever.” Colossians 2:9 says that in Christ, “All the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Hebrews 1:8 says, “But of the Son he says, Your throne O God is forever and ever.” Those are just some of the explicit references to the divinity of Christ in the New Testament.

But, why is it important to believe that Jesus is God? First, it’s important because if Jesus is not God, then He could not pay for our sins. Our sins offend an infinitely holy God and so deserve infinite punishment. Therefore, nothing short of an infinitely valuable sacrifice could pay the price for our sins. No mere human being or creature could possibly make atonement to satisfy God’s holy character. Therefore, if Jesus is not God, then there can be no salvation in Him.

Second, if Jesus is not God, then we must not worship Him. We must never worship a creature, but are only allowed to worship God. Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.” Revelation 22:8-9 says, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." So, if Jesus were not God, we must not worship Him.

But in Matthew 2:2, 11, the wise men come to worship Jesus. That would be wrong if Jesus were not God. In Hebrews 1:6, all the angels are said to worship Jesus. That would be wrong if Jesus were not God. Revelation 5:12-14 says, “12 say with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" 14 And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.” That would all be wrong if Jesus were not God.

The name "Imanuel" not only tells us that Christ is God, it tells us that Christ is God “with us.” Jesus is both God, and man, a human being, who is one of us, and “with us.” It says that he was Mary’s son, born a little human baby. The Bible teaches that Jesus is truly God and truly man. That is a great mystery, but it is what the Bible teaches, and there is no contradiction in it, even though it is beyond our abilities to grasp fully.

This teaching is an amazing comfort to us during times of trial. Because Jesus is man, he can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He shed tears. He felt pain. He had to endure hunger. We can pour out our prayers to Him boldly knowing that He sympathizes with all our sufferings in this world.

The fact that Christ is human also tells us something about the heart of our God. He isn’t a God who keeps Himself aloof from us, but He walked with us, was willing to be touched by us, and to stand beside us. God the Son was willing to leave the comfort of sweet fellowship with the Father to live a hard life in order to save men and women from their sins.

Don’t you find this God lovely? Do you love this Christ and will you follow Him wherever He says to go? He has proven His commitment to you, and He will not turn against you. So, this passage tells us that the Christ is Immanuel. He is God with us. The name “Immanuel” tells us who Christ is.

The second name of Christ is Jesus (verse 21). The name “Jesus” tells us what Christ does. The name Jesus, or Yeshua, like Yehoshua (Joshua), comes from the Hebrew word “Yasha,” which means Yahweh, or God, saves. The name of Jesus is “God saves” because that’s what Jesus does as God. He saves.

So, who does Jesus save? Verse 21 says He saves “His people.” Jesus doesn’t save everyone and anyone. He only saves those who come to Him, who enter into His kingdom by faith. The whole book of Matthew describes what it means to be a follower of Christ.

But, what does Jesus save His people from? He doesn’t immediately save His people from Roman occupation, from poverty, from sickness, or from the struggles of this world. Instead, the text says He saves His people “from their sins” (verse 21). Matthew says that there are two ways in which Christ will do this.

First, He saves us from our sins by dying for us. At the end of the book, we find that by His death and resurrection, He saves His people from the guilt and power of their sins by suffering the penalty that His people deserve.

Second, He saves us from our sins by teaching us how not to sin. Throughout the book of Matthew, we find Christ giving instructions about how to overcome specific sins in our lives, teaching us how to live holy lives, rather than lives of sin.

May the nature and character of the Lord Jesus Christ strenthen and encourage you to live by faith every single day.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Matthew 1:1-17, The Genealogy

Have you ever wondered about the meaning of the genealogy at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew? It's there to teach many things, but one of the things it teaches is God’s grace.

"Grace" is one of the most amazing attributes of God in all of the Bible. The idea that God would have anything to do with poor sinners who deserve His judgment is hard to believe. But, in this genealogy, we see clearly God’s heart of grace shown toward great sinners. We can see God's grace manifest throughout this list of names.

Abraham is listed in Matt 1:2. Do you remember the story of Abraham? God called Abraham to be the father of a great nation and promised to bless all the nations through him. He called Abraham out of idolatry and mercifully promised him salvation. But Abraham was not nearly so faithful to God as God was to Abraham. Even though he was a man of great faith, Abraham lied twice about his wife, Sarah. Out of fear for his life and lack of trust in God, he told two different pagan kings that she was his sister (Gen 12:11-19; 20:1-18). The kings then sought to have Sarah for themselves, though she was Abraham’s wife. Abraham’s lie brought shame upon Sarah, Abraham, and upon God. But, God was gracious to Abraham and did not turn away from him, but made Abraham the father of God’s chosen people, Israel. He made Abraham’s name great and made Israel a great nation, from whom the Messiah would come.

David (Matt 1:6) sinned terribly by committing adultery with Bathsheba and then compounded the sin by having her husband, Uriah, killed so that he could marry her. So, David, who is known throughout the Scriptures as a man of faith, was an adulterer and a murderer. On top of that, David was also classic example of a horrible father. He didn’t discipline his children, but let them do as they pleased. One of them, Absalom, even tried to take the throne from him by armed rebellion. And yet, God made David the father of the royal line from whom the Messiah would descend. God was full of grace and mercy toward David, even though David was a great sinner.

Any Jew reading this genealogy would wonder why Rahab is in this list (Matt 1:5). First of all, she was a woman. This genealogy includes five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Matthew might have simply stopped after listing her husband, Salmon, but he doesn’t. These women are listed because Christ came to be the Savior, not just of men, but of women as well. In biblical times, women were not well regarded, but here we see God’s grace toward women. The Bible says that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, nor male nor female (Gal 3:28). All are spiritual equals before God. Secondly, Rahab was a Gentile by birth, rather than a Jew. The fact that she is in this genealogy shows that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, not only of the Jews but also of Gentiles. The fact that this genealogy includes women and Gentiles demonstrates the "wideness" of God's grace.

Rahab is also notorious for her sins, which are recorded in the Old Testament. You remember that Joshua sent spies into the land of Canaan to find out what they were up against. While they were at Jericho, these spies hid in the house of Rahab, who was a prostitute by profession. She was an adulteress. When the city police came looking for the Israelite spies, Rahab hid them on her roof, and then lied to the police about where they were. So, Rahab was very clearly a sinner. Yet, God was gracious to Rahab. When the walls of Jericho fell, her house, which was next to the wall, remained standing, and she and all of her family were saved. That’s grace. God then brought Rahab into His kingdom, and gave her an Israelite husband, and put her into the ancestral line of Jesus Christ. So, God's grace is not only "wide," but it's also "deep" because it saves even the worst of sinners.

So how can we benefit from understanding God’s graciousness toward sinners? We learn from God’s grace that He uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines. You may think of yourself as disqualified from serving well in God’s kingdom for some reason or another.

Maybe you think that you can’t be a good servant of God because you think you lack the pedigree that you need to serve effectively in God’s kingdom. But remember Ruth, who was a Moabite woman. She wasn’t even an Israelite, and certainly didn’t have what anyone would consider “qualifications” to serve in God’s kingdom, and yet the Lord put her in the line of Christ and used her to be one of the ancestors of our Lord.

Maybe you never finished school, and don’t have the educational qualifications that some people have. That cannot and should not stop you from serving in God’s kingdom. The Lord has a place for you, and if you are a believer, then you are qualified to do what God has called you to do.

Maybe you think that because you didn’t grow up in the church and don’t have the same Christian family heritage as others that you aren’t as qualified to serve in God’s kingdom, and to be used of God, as those who grew up in Christian homes. But that’s a lie from Satan. The Lord delights in using all of His people, regardless of family background. And, the fact that you don’t come from a Christian home may actually qualify you to minister to some kinds of people, since those raised in Christian homes may not know how to relate to certain kinds of people.

Maybe you think that because of your past, you cannot be a good servant in God’s kingdom. But remember Rahab, who had a very sinful past. She lived as a prostitute for much of her life. But, God forgave her and received her into His kingdom, and He even used her for His glory and for the good of His people.

Maybe you have sins in your past, and you remember them very well. Sometimes you may wish that you could forget them, but you can’t. There may even be times when the sins of your past come to mind while you are at church, and Satan uses those past sins to torment you, to tell you that you’re too sinful to be used of God, that you could never bring glory to God like other people can. But, you, beloved, are a trophy of God’s grace. God is in the business of redeeming and changing sinners. Your faith in Christ and His overcoming sin in your life can be a great help and encouragement to other believers. Your past does not disqualify you from being used of God right now.

One of the things we see in this genealogy is that God took the believers in this genealogy and used them in spite of their sins. Our sins cannot thwart God’s ultimate purpose of grace. Job 42:2 says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” None of the sins of these people stopped Christ from coming or thwarted God’s redemptive design. There were wicked kings who set themselves in opposition to God. There were unfaithful followers. But, Christ came and brought redemption anyway. This tells us something about the loving and gracious character of our God. Sins cannot stop God’s gracious purpose.

Isn’t this encouraging? You may look back at your life and think about past sinful mistakes. You may still be living with some of the consequences of those sins. But, you can be encouraged that if you are in Christ, your sins cannot thwart God’s purpose of grace.

Here is a Christian man who has a problem with sinful anger and it shows up in his life. He works hard for his family, and tries to give them what they need to live in this world. One day, he and his wife decide to take the whole family on a vacation to get a break from the daily grind. And so, they get in the car and head off to Disney World. They aren’t 30 minutes down the road until the kids start fighting and bickering in the back seat. And the man loses his temper and becomes sinfully angry. He screams and yells at his children, not out of a love for them and a desire to discipline them for their good, but because they are making his vacation miserable. His anger flows from the selfishness of his own heart, and his desire for a restful vacation. After some time to think about what he had done, he pulls the car over, gets into the back seat with his children, and he confesses his sin to his children and sincerely and lovingly asks for their forgiveness, explaining that his sins are the reason he needs Christ to save him. In that moment, his children got to see a living example of the gospel of grace in the face of their father. The father’s sins, which were absolutely wrong, were used as an opportunity to sincerely and lovingly show the gospel to his children.

Because of God’s grace, God used this man to be an example of Christ to his children, in spite of his sin. So many fathers and mothers become discouraged and think, “How could God use me when I’m so inconsistent?” But, because this man was a man of faith, even his sins could not stand in the way of a consistent, faithful testimony of grace.

We can learn from this that the sins of believers are an opportunity to apply the gospel of grace, and to turn from sin and toward faithful loving obedience to Christ. If we do this, then our sins do not stand in the way of God’s grace, but are a testimony to it. So, do you struggle with sins in your life? So did every believer listed in this genealogy. Some of them struggled with horrible sins. But, God uses Christians to advance the gospel of His kingdom in spite of their sins. So, don’t let the fact that you are a sinner be a stumbling block to serving the Lord, trusting in Christ, and being used in to advance His kingdom.

There is another thing we can learn from God’s graciousness toward sinners. Just as God is kind, patient, and gracious with sinners, we should be kind, patient, and gracious toward sinners as well. Maybe there is someone who has offended you or someone you know. The most natural human reaction is to distance yourself from that person and turn away from them. But Christ didn’t turn away from you, and He has forgiven you, and blessed you; so, won’t you love those who have wronged you and treat them with kindness even though they don’t deserve it? Make it your aim to make others feel loved and appreciated when they are around you. Look for ways to encourage them and serve them. In this way you can reflect the grace of God, which is so evident in this genealogy.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Potential Weaknesses of Expository Preaching

In the comments section of the previous post, Will asked, “Are you going to do a follow up on the dangers of expository preaching?" Sure. I would argue that some of the greatest potential weaknesses of expository preaching include:

1. The tendency to turn the sermon into a "running commentary" without any unifying theme. Expository preaching can easily get “lost in the details” of the text unless a preacher is diligently attentive to the overarching themes of larger portions of the surrounding text.

2. The tendency to treat any given text in isolation from the rest of the Bible. Christian preaching must always include the sweep of redemptive history, particularly the fall (sin, fallen condition focus, law) and redemption (Christ, justification and sanctification). When a preacher neglects the law/gospel contrast in justification and the gospel/law continuum in sanctification, moralism or antinomianism inevitably results.

3. The tendency to neglect application. Among men who value Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic and who have learned how to conduct diagrammatical analysis and tracings of the logical flow, there is sometimes a tendency to preach the language and exegesis without applying the meaning of the text to the souls and every day lives of the parishioners. This is a great mistake and fails to recognize the application-oriented character of the sermons recorded in the New Testament.

4. The tendency to adopt a highly intellectual and anti-emotional approach to the pulpit ministry. But biblical preaching comes from whole men and is addressed to whole men. It does not neglecting the intellect, will, or affections.

Other thoughts?

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Value of Expository Preaching

Why should we preach expositionally though whole books at a time?

1. Preaching expositional sermons forces us to deal with everything the Bible has to say. Some passages of Scripture are hard to understand and some are hard to believe. But, if we preach through whole books at a time, then we have no choice but to deal with the difficult texts, and wrestle with their meaning, and application, even if their meaning and application are difficult or uncomfortable to us.

2. Preaching through whole books at a time guards against misinterpreting the Bible because it forces us to deal with every verse of the Bible in its own context. It would be easy to rip a verse out of context and make it say what we want it to say. But it is much more difficult to misinterpret the Bible if its words and phrases are studied in the context of the message of the book in which they are found.

3. Expository preaching keeps us away from hobby horses, or favorite themes. It would be easy to find a few encouraging things in Scripture and restrict our preaching to those items. But if we study through whole books at a time, then we get exactly the balance that God thinks is appropriate, perfectly and proportionately emphasizing God’s character, judgment, grace, the cross, the call to faith and repentance, how to live as Christians, the church, heaven and hell, etc.

4. Preaching through whole books allows the Holy Spirit, who wrote Scripture, to set the agenda every Sunday. In this way, we can study and apply what God said in the order in which God said it. The expository preacher cannot come to church with his own agenda. Rather, he comes with God’s agenda and nothing more. That is beneficial both to the preacher and to the congregation. The role of the preacher is not that of a chef, but of a waiter, who simply serves the food that God has prepared for His people.

5. We should preach through whole books at a time because every word of the Bible is true. If every word were not true, then we might pick and choose among texts of Scripture, choosing to preach and study what we believe is true, while leaving the rest.

6. Expositional preaching allows us to think God’s thoughts after him. If we work through entire books, then we are enabled to follow God’s own train of thought and logical argument as it moves through a book. The Bible is the mind of God revealed, and if we would know God’s mind, we must know what this book says in the order in which it says it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Communion and Fellowship

1 Corinthians 11:17-22

The Lord’s Supper is partly about the unity and fellowship of God’s people. The people Paul was writing this letter to were anything but unified. They were divided over all kinds of issues. Throughout the letter of 1 Corinthians, we see that they were divided into factions, with some following Apollos and others following Paul. They were divided on important doctrines, with some affirming the resurrection and others denying it. They were divided over the kinds of foods they should eat and days to observe, with some thinking that those things are what true religion is about. In this passage, we see that they were divided socially, between the rich and the poor. Verse 19 says that there were “factions among you.” Rather than observing the Lord’s Supper as it was intended, as a ceremonial memorial meal, they were treating it as a time to fill their hungry bellies, like an ordinary meal of the day. The rich brought their food from home and ate all of it, without sharing it with the poor. Verses 21-22 say, “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?”

They made two mistakes. First, they were treating the Lord’s Supper like it was one of the ordinary meals of the day, when it was supposed to be an ordinance for the purpose of remembering Christ and what He had done. Second, they turned the meaning of the Lord’s Supper on its head. The Lord’s Supper was designed to depict the unity and fellowship of God’s people. Instead, at the Corinthian church, it was a symbol of their division.

Have you ever thought about the Lord’s Supper in terms of unity and fellowship? Think about it. It is a corporate meal. Meals are times when people come together, not just to eat, but to enjoy one another’s company and share one another’s experiences. If you eat a meal with someone, it’s usually because there is already some kind of personal connection there. So, when we the church eat the Lord’s Supper together, it’s a symbol of our unity in Christ and of our common fellowship in the gospel. What should that unity and fellowship look like practically? It means that when you come in the door of a church, you feel loved by the love of Christ in others. It means others go out of their way to speak to you and to know you, and that you go out of your way to speak to them, to ask how they’re doing. It also means opening our homes to one another, and sharing our belongings with one another (cf. Acts 2:42-47). That’s unity and fellowship.

But, it’s even more than that. It’s unity and fellowship around the gospel of Christ. That means talking about Christ with one another, sharing our experiences in Christ and love for Christ with one another, talking about what we’ve learned from Scripture during the week, and the ways that we’ve found Christ precious this week. It means sharing our struggles in the faith with one another and bearing one another’s burdens, as we walk the walk of faith together, encouraging one another to persevere in Christ. Unity and fellowship means helping one another when you’re in trouble. Unity and fellowship in Christ means knowing about the hardships in the lives of others and finding ways to serve them. It means cooking meals for people when their loved ones die, and letting them know how much you care about them. One example in my own life of how someone once ministered to me and my family is that a couple of years ago when we had that ice storm, a church member went out of his way to check on us. His job was to deliver newspapers early in the morning; so, he was already out in the bad weather in his 4x4 with snow treads, and he gave us a call. He asked us if there was anything we needed him to do for us, to go to the grocery store, or to run an errand. He did it because of his love for Christ and love for us in Christ. He wanted to show the love of Christ to us in a tangible way.

Those are just a few examples of Christian unity and fellowship in Christ. There could be many more. Perhaps you have your own stories about how God’s people have served you and loved you. The Lord’s Supper is a time to remember that, and to think about how you can continue to serve the Lord by loving and serving His people.

Reasons to Study History

1. History is the unfolding of God’s providence. So, the one who studies history is a student of God’s own mind as it has unfolded in each successive generation. In that sense, the study of history ought to be an act of worship that beholds God’s intention to preserve the seed of the woman from the seed of the serpent, both in terms of the preservation of biblical ideas, and of a visible people.

2. History holds the wisdom of ages past. The theologian who studies church history is able to appropriate the wisdom of the some of the greatest teachers who have ever graced the church. It is nothing but unbridled hubris for a theologian to undertake the study of Scripture and theology without consulting the gifted teachers of the past. Theologians who place their distinctive ideas and theological formulas on the level of historically accepted consensus risk making shipwreck on the same errors and heresies against which the earlier generations had to contend.

3. It gives its students a healthy sense of skepticism about things "novel." A person familiar with the history of ideas is in a position to see that there is nothing new under the sun. There may be new combinations of ideas and different ways of arriving at them and employing them, but the ideas heralded as “new” are really nothing new at all, and they carry with them the same power and baggage as they always have.

4. It provides a sense of context for contemporary ideas. The historian gains a sense of the way that contemporary ideas and beliefs are rooted in the past. Knowing the history of contemporary ideas allows us to see how they have been beneficial historically, but it can also shine light on unwelcome influences that may need to be purged, as well as warn against potential abuses of those ideas.

Can you think of any others?