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  1. The Triumph of Humility (Mt. 21:1-17)

    March 24, 2013 by Pito

    Jesus came into Jerusalem heralded, not the rulers, but by the common folk. They understood more about the Kingdom than any of the elite.

    In keeping with His humiliation, Jesus rode on a donkey, not a white horse. There were no trumpets, no keys to the city, and no chariots of state. Jesus, the owner of the whole universe, even had to borrow an animal to ride on.

    In the midst of all this humiliation, he was faithful to be sure the animal he borrowed was returned to the owner. Even the donkey was a fulfillment of the Scriptures, in detail.

    Everything that happened to Jesus was according to God’s plan and so it is for us. Although that plan may appear to be arbitrary and capricious at times, let us not for a moment think that it is so. God’s plan for you is grounded and rooted in the eternal love of the Holy Trinity. Everything fits His purpose for your salvation. God declares that He His plan for you is good and not evil, that you might have a future and a hope.

    According to the plan of God Jesus emptied Himself as He took the form of a servant, in his birth, life and death, subjecting Himself to the law, enduring the indignities of the world, the temptations of  Satan, the infirmities of the flesh, being betrayed by Judas, forsaken by His disciples, scorned and rejected by the world, condemned by Pilate, tormented by His persecutors, and having conflicted with the terrors of death and the powers of darkness, He felt and bore the full weight of the wrath of God. He laid down His life an offering for sin, enduring the painful and shameful, cursed death on the cross.

    Like the lowly crowd, we bring our praises to the King. We lay down our lives at His feet as we obey His commands, as we worship together, as we raise our children in the fear of the Lord, as we take dominion over all things for His glory, as we eat His body and drink His blood each week. Through all these things we enjoy the victory Jesus accomplished on the cross.

    And we sing with the Jerusalem crowd, “Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

  2. Moving Out or Moving Up? (Hebrews 6)

    March 13, 2013 by Pito

    The fact is, the church is made up of wheat and chaff and trying to divide them before the consummation can hurt the wheat. While the elect can never fall from grace, men and women in the church, men and women in covenant with God, men and women who have tasted of the Holy Spirit, men and women who have been baptized into His body, can and do fall away. This is what the writer of Hebrews is telling us for our own progress in salvation.

    His warnings are not hypothetical. Real people in real covenant with God commit real apostasy, in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. This means that the New Covenant, like the Old Covenant, has sanctions, real sanctions, more terrible sanctions because rejection of Christ is a greater sin than rejection of the Mosaic Covenant. Apostates in the church are sinning against greater knowledge, greater Grace and the Person of Christ, God incarnate.

    It is an error to identify the New Covenant as the elect, but this is what so many in churches today do. This hurts the wheat by encouraging pride in them and by robbing them of sober Biblical admonishment.

    After his genuine and fearful warning, our author seeks to encourage us with the things that accompany salvation; full assurance of hope to the end, faithful and patient inheritance of the promises, the unchangeable nature of God’s intent to save, strong encouragement for heirs of this hope and an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast.

    Covenant members with a true faith are not left to twist in the wind. Along with real warnings is the real grace of God which is able to keep us from falling.

    The power we need to persevere comes from His broken body and His shed blood. Our watchword this morning is never “We are able” but “He is able. God is able. Christ is able.” Able to succor the tempted, able to save to the uttermost, able to support you and keep you from falling, able to subdue all things unto Himself, able to secure you in death’s darkest hour, able to raise you up to feast with Him in heavenly places. “O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

  3. Grow Up! (Hebrews 5)

    March 7, 2013 by Pito

    In Hebrews 5 the author rebukes his readers for not being able to teach, for needing to be taught the basics, and for needing milk and not solid food. They were not mature enough to pass judgment on sticky situations of controversy or applications of wisdom. Like Adam, they were seizing the fruit without having the experience or the training to make good decisions.

    Being able to discern between good and evil takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. Are you still on milk or are you able to digest solid meat? What are some of the signs of maturity in the Christian life? If maturity does not infer perfection, what are some signs by which we may judge ourselves?

    A mature Christian has stability in knowledge, a biblical knowledge that keeps him from being tossed to and fro by the winds of doctrinal goofiness. Forcing ourselves to see the big picture by learning and submitting to the whole counsel of God fences us in for our protection.

    A mature Christian has stability in discerning right and wrong. Mature Christians have come to understand their own flesh, the temptations of the world and the devil and to know what is sin. They have their senses trained to sniff it out when it is about.

    A mature Christian learns from God’s wisdom the difference between what is significant and what is not. We must not strain at gnats and swallow camels. Church members who cannot distinguish significant issues from insignificant issues are used by Satan for the destruction of the peace of the Church. These are dishonoring to the Lord.

    A mature Christian believes the Lord. We must trust Him in the good times and in the hard times. This is the stability of faith. Our faith is not to ebb and flow like a wave driven by the winds. Faith is a constant aspect of the Christian’s life.

    A mature Christian has a stable character. Even in and especially in the storms of life, he is a blameless, sober, a patient man, walking in humility, without guile and without self-deception.

    A mature Christian’s prayer life reveals his maturity. He realizes that walking humbly with the Lord is a confession of his sin. He realizes that being thankful is the habit of his life. As he sings his way to the heavenly City, he is offering the praises of his heart. Prayer is more than a few timed hours out of his week. His whole life is a prayer to God. All this does not eliminate verbal prayer; it undergirds it as the mature Christian remembers  to supplicate for his friends even as he meditates on God’s law, day and night. This is how we obey the command to “pray without ceasing.” Our life is to be our happy, thankful, humble, petitioning prayer. May God grant us all the stability to walk as mature Christians, laboring in God’s vineyard and bearing much fruit to the glory of God.


  4. Rest for the Weary (Hebrews 4)

    February 26, 2013 by Pito

    By His death on the cross and by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus brought rest to His people. The author of Hebrews recognized that some in the church were not resting because they were not believing. God promised the Old Testament saints in the wilderness that because of their unbelief, they would not enter into His rest. He promises New Testament saints the same.

    Have you found your rest in Jesus? Is your soul at peace or are you anxious, distracted, feeling guilty or full of shame? Our fragmented and frantic culture would mold us into its image, but Christ has come to break that mold and to make us into His image. May we crush our idols of comfort and impatience, for we have been delivered from that bondage. Jesus says,

    “Come unto me all you that are weak and heavy laden, and you will find rest for your souls. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly, and you will find rest for your souls.”

    In a divine twist of wisdom, we are commanded to be diligent to enter into that rest. What can this mean? We have to work to rest?  Yes—God deals with His people by means of a covenant. Therefore, when we live under Him in a covenant fashion we are living in the way that He made us to live. This does not work because “it makes sense to us;” it works because this is how God made us.

    We find our rest in the grace of our Lord Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us. He has brought us through the changes and challenges of life to wait at His table. He has opened the door of access to His presence, giving us His sacrament as a means of grace. We repent of all that has made our lives so bereft of rest, our darkened sky, our enslaved wills, our lust for comfort. Kneeling at the Cross we wait, humbly invoking His blessing on our thankful hearts. Lord, we believe, help our unbelief.

  5. We Are His House IF….. (Hebrews 3)

    February 20, 2013 by Pito

    Both Moses and Jesus were faithful in the house but Jesus is the Lord of the house. The house that Jesus is building is composed of people—including Moses. We are that house…Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house…”

    We are his house if… There are three classes of people today; those who are never in the house. They have no connection to Christ at all. Some are in the house, but only temporarily. They are covenantally connected to Christ, and the connection is a real one, but they are not elect. They are in the church but the church is not in them.

    The true sons of the house are the elect who abide there forever. “No man can snatch them from my Father’s hand…”

    The author quotes Psalm 95 and applies it to his readers. We need to guard against hardness of heart in just the same way as the Israelites in the wilderness were to guard their hearts, but many did not believe, so they were not allowed to enter into God’s rest. The warning is not hypothetical, but real, as real as the fact that they died because of unbelief.

    We are not to look at our faith but to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We are to see the evidences of our faith as a basketball player sees the ball, in our peripheral vision. In our peripheral vision we see whether we love the brethren, whether we hate our sin, whether we understand spiritual things, but we look straight forward to Jesus, and not at our faith. We are called to be full of faith, not full of doubt and we are called to encourage faith, not doubt, in our children.

    Being full of faith, they can conquer the spirit of their age in the power  that the Spirit gives them for their generation. Let us draw near that we may go in the power of His name to serve our generation as its feeders, as its revitalizers, in conscious acts of reconciliation. Let us be fed so that we may feed others.

  6. Free from Shame and Guilt (Hebrews 2:10-18)

    February 12, 2013 by Pito

    When it comes to glory and grace, our God throws it around all over the place. It is like the waves of the ocean that never stop pounding on the shore. It just keeps coming. God glorified Jesus as our forerunner, our Captain, as the center of our salvation. Because He is our Captain, he tells us what to do and we do it.

    He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Because He does not hold his nose at our inability, our depravity, or our sin,  we must not be overcome by the sweat of self-flagellation. Neither must we think our sin so trivial as to need just a little bit of grace.

    Jesus was not ashamed of us and neither should we be. The difference between shame and guilt is important. Guilt says I’ve done something wrong. Shame says there is something wrong with me. Guilt says I’ve made a mistake; shame says I am a mistake. With guilt we try to make amends to correct, to heal. With shame, there is just a painful felling of depression, alienation, self-doubt, loneliness, isolation, paranoia, perfectionism, inferiority, failure, helplessness, hopelessness and narcissism.

    The feeling of unbearable shame often brings abuse of our bodies in some way to block out the feelings of worthlessness. Where can modern man find a cure for our shame?

    As we saw last week, in Christ we have been crowned with glory and honor. This is the opposite of shame. We can be clean in Jesus. All other solutions for shame lead us back to the dirt of death while we live.

    We have no shame or fear because on the cross He bore the shame for us. We have no guilt because on the cross He bore the guilt for us.

    As we gather on the Lord’s Day, Jesus sees us and sings for joy. Our response should not be mumbling through the psalms and hymns. We have been saved by someone who does not do this.

    Christ came to destroy Satan as the accuser, to destroy Satan in his office. Christ came to bring forgiveness. The whole meaning of forgiveness is that we remain God’s children despite the fact that we all do kill Him in our hearts at times.

    Christ’s destruction of Satan and his kingdom was a humiliating defeat. He now stands in the midst of the congregation as our High Priest, singing and making melody in His heart over us. We have been freed from guilt and shame because He took it all upon Himself. So let us go walking and leaping and praising God that people will be filled with wonder and amazement at the merciful, healing power of our elder Brother.

  7. Supremacy Establishes Victorious Responsibility (Hebrews 2:5-9)

    February 4, 2013 by Pito

    In the church and in the world, a vision for future victory is belied by pessimism, anxiety, shame and despair. The book of Hebrews has the balm for all of these and more. Because of who Jesus is, we may talk about the “world to come,” the world in which we live, with great confidence.

    Because of our sin in Adam, we are crippled in our ability to exercise our God-ordained dominion mandate. This impotency is healed in Christ. God is bringing His church to maturity and as He does, the world will be transformed. Not only do we as individuals have a glorious future, the whole world has a glorious future, but there will be no fruition apart from Christ.

    How will God bring all of this to pass? How will all the nations come to  bow the knee and confess Christ as Lord? It will not come through political rearrangements of Congress Critters or Executive Orders. It will not come through food stamps or full employment. It will come through the preaching of the gospel from the pulpits of our churches. It will come through men leading their families in the statutes of the Lord, loving and sacrificing for their wives and their children. The bottom line is that it will come by men and women conquered by the cross and our Lord says that the “zeal of the Lord will do it.”

    As we grow in our understanding of the gospel, and as we grow in our knowledge of what Jesus came to do, we will grow up into His image. Jesus came to save the world, not just 19 or 56 people. Because of the promises of God, we can sing “Glory, glory Hallelujah, His truth is marching on,” and we are not talking about the War of Northern Aggression. Jesus has won. Jesus is winning and we are in Him.

    The church must not place her faith in what she can see but in things hoped for. She must have a conviction of things not seen. Our world is so corrupt and wicked it is hard to see God’s truth marching on. In order to purify the church, God may have to put us in a situation similar to that of Job. Do you think Job understood what God was doing to him? It is clear from Job’s testimony that he did not, at least initially. Are you ready for God to show His love to you by doing to you (for you) what He did to Job? If he does, do you think that you will continue to walk by faith?

    God calls us as He has called His people, the Church, throughout history, to count it all joy when we are tried and tested. Because all things are from the Lord, we should be thankful for all things. Our individual trials should not keep us from trusting that God is putting all His enemies under His footstool. On the contrary, they are part of His subduing of all things.

    Let us glory in the promises of our faithful God. Let us partake of Christ that our hearts be strengthened, that our faith may increase, that our joy be multiplied and our faithfulness established on His sure promises of victory in this convoluted world.  He came to save the world and He will do it.

  8. Slip-slidding Away (Hebrews 2:1-4)

    January 28, 2013 by Pito

    Amidst the exaltation of Jesus by the author of Hebrews we find several warnings against apostasy. These warnings are not hypothetical but real warnings aimed not at unbelievers, but at the covenant community. “To whom much is given, much is required.”

    While recognizing that the Old Testament commanded tough sanctions against sin and idolatry, many religious leaders deny that the New Covenant has such sanctions. They think that God is now doing His grace thing and has put away all those “harsh” sanctions He required of Old Testament saints.

    However, this error comes face to face with many texts in the New Testament, especially in the book of Hebrews. In this vein our author asks the question, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Of course the answer is, we won’t.

    The God who called us to salvation in Christ Jesus also calls us to persevere in that faith. Great unfaithfulness begins with small driftings. To receive a great salvation with less than the attention it merits is to be guilty of neglecting it, treating it with contempt. How many Christians treat the message of salvation with contempt?

    The Bible that plainly teaches that the elect cannot be separated from the love of God also teaches that there are Christians who have a covenantal attachment to Christ can and will be removed from Him because of unbelief.

    This truth should cause us to be eternally vigilant in the care of our own souls. We must never stop paying attention to the glory of Christ’s person and the worth of Christ’s work. To do anything else is the source of spiritual sloth, which God is not lax to judge.

    How do we keep ourselves from falling? We keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus, trusting Him to keep us from falling. We depend on His Holy Spirit to keep us on the narrow road. We saturate our minds and hearts with the Word of God. We trust Him to keep us even as we initially called on Him to save us.

  9. Murder No More! Exodus 21:22-25

    January 19, 2013 by Pito

    While the masses vainly opiate that the abortion of a child is between the “mother and her doctor,” we bring a charge against the fathers.  Fathers, who are supposed to provide and protect their children have been legally excluded from the decision and they are not sorry about this. Too many fathers have chosen to op out, wilting under the sneers of ridicule for actually being responsible for the children of their folly. Abortion is the most drastic form of fatherlessness. Until the church makes significant progress in the thinking of the fathers of our nation, through the preaching of the gospel, we can’t expect much change on the human level. Since God has not given the state the jurisdiction or the power to change hearts, God must do it through the Church.

    Since God is intimately involved in the actions of men in history, we can expect that He will turn the hearts of the kings as He wishes. We are assured in Scripture that no one will get away with anything.  God is not mocked. If men refuse to establish justice, God Himself will do it. We see this in the great redemptive act of the Exodus, as God relieved the oppressed and destroyed the oppressor, Pharoah and decimated Egypt. Through Christ, the Greater Moses, God crushed the head of the Serpent and set up a kingdom which shall never end, relieving the oppression of sin and death that hangs over all men. Our God will not ignore the shedding of the blood of innocents.

    As we battle those who sacrifice their children to Molech, we are to use the tools God has provided. Four such tools are prayer, for the promotion of life and imprecatory prayer, calling upon God to destroy these wicked murderers, not out of vengeance or bitterness, but out of a zealous heart for the glory of God. Third, we must give every effort to pollute their idols by showing pictures of aborted babies and such. We expose the “right to choose” into a disgusting thing, which it is. Truthful exposure of deeds of darkness is a strategy of defilement. Fourth, we must be willing to give of ourselves, our resources, our time and money, to promote life.  We can do this by supporting agencies that serve families in a crisis pregnancy situation. We can provide diapers, wipes, formula, etc. for women and their babies. We can offer truthful information and tangible assistance to women and their families who are facing a crisis pregnancy.

    Let us purpose to not be silent, to not be passive, to not be forgetful of the helpless little ones, that we will not stop defending life until all the unborn children are protected, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

    As we come before the Lord each week, we recognize that we have been delivered from the oppression of sin and death. We have been given life, twice over. Our King reigns. Justice will prevail. Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end. Hallelujah!

  10. Jesus, God’s Final Word (Hebrews 1:1-4)

    January 3, 2013 by Pito

    Two pivotal characteristics of the book of Hebrews that command our attention are: 1) its use of type/anti-type constructions and 2) its dependence on the Old Testament as support for its arguments.

    While we are comfortable with many of the figures and devices of God’s Word, “types” give some Christians cause for pause. Because the Bible uses these devices, we must be willing to grow. Paul says that Jesus is “the head of the body, the Church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.” Therefore it is good and right to believe that everything in the Bible is about Him, somehow, in some way.

    Our duty is to lift up the name of Christ and the book of Hebrews, with the supremacy of Christ being a central theme,  will instruct us how to do so. Our author quotes the Old Testament as his foundation and without the Old Testament Scriptures, it could have not been written.

    Abraham looked up in faith and forward to the fulfilling of the promise God made to him. We look back at the fulfillment of the promise and we look up in faith to “the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”

    Jesus possesses all nations as Creator and by virtue of being nailed to the cross, He possesses all nations as Redeemer. Our author describes Jesus as the “…effulgence of His glory.” The Father is the Light and the Son is the Light Shining. He is sitting at God’s right hand, not resting, but ruling over all the nations, shining forth until the consummation of all things.

    His name is far above all angels, a name to be honored by elite authorities and lowly peasants. His name shall be called royal and majestic for He orders and establishes justice and righteousness throughout all the earth. Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end.

    So who will bring all this to pass? Who will make every knee bow and confess that Jesus is Lord? Isaiah tells us. “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

    Jesus is the final Word of God and we have Him in the Holy Scriptures, made sure and certain by His Holy Providence. Looking for Him in any other place is futile, counterproductive, even idolatry. Let us think deliberately on Him as the author of our book leads us in the uncovering of ancient mysteries. May the Lord change us into His glorious, shining image as we are made over by the Spirit through the saturation of His Word in our lives.

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