Sermon delivered at First Reformed Church in Edgerton, MN on January 28, 2018
Sermon delivered on January 21, 2018 at First Reformed Church in Edgerton, MN.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 3 (ESV)
I like Reuben sandwiches. In fact, I am on a quest to find the perfect one. So far the best one I've ever had is at Valois in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago. If you are ever on Chicago's South Side, I recommend you make trying one a priority.
The problem with enjoying a Reuben is that it isn't the type of thing you go the refrigerator and make for yourself. I also can't walk up to the sandwich line at Drooger's to enjoy my favorite sandwich. It is something I am rarely able to enjoy. At times Subway will have a Reuben as a special option. So when I was near a Subway at lunchtime recently I decided to stop in and have one. Who knows how long the promotion will last? I better take the opportunity because, for a fast food chain, the Reubens there aren't too bad.
I walked up to the sandwich line and ordered a Corned Beef Reuben. The first nice young lady behind the counter asked me what kind of bread I wanted it on. Well, of course, it's a Reuben so I should have it on rye. So that is what I asked her to get from the large, clear bread receptacle behind her. She grabbed the corned beef and before putting on the sauerkraut, she asked if I wanted Swiss cheese on it. Again, I responded in the affirmative. I had, after all, ordered a Reuben. They placed my sandwich in the fancy sandwich toasting box. When it had been sufficiently toasted, the next young lady in the line had a question for me. She asked what vegetables and condiments I wanted on it. I replied that I wanted the thousand island and she kindly put it on my sandwich. I paid and headed to the car.
As I was driving down the road, unable to eat because I knew it would drip all over my tie, I thought about my experience. They had offered me all these options but at what point would my sandwich cease to be a Reuben. What if I had ordered the Reuben but requested the regular white bread? What if there was no sauerkraut and it had American cheese and lettuce? Maybe I would take the sandwich artist up on the offer of pickles, spinach, and raspberry vinaigrette. If I omitted thousand island, sauerkraut, and rye would my sandwich still be a Reuben?
We know the answer, right? The sandwich I described is not a Reuben. It is a sandwich of my own design.
This is why creeds and confessions are important. They help us to know whether the God that we worship and serve is the true God of the Bible. For example, the Apostle's Creed formulates for us what the Bible teaches about the Triune God. If we remove Jesus or the Holy Spirit from their work, we lose the God of the Bible. If we deny the resurrection, we no longer confess what the Bible teaches.
Creeds and confessions help us identify false teaching. A Reuben with ranch dressing, green peppers, asiago cheese bread, spinach, and water chestnuts, isn't a Reuben at all. It is a sandwich of our own design. In the same way, creeds and confessions teach us, in a concise way, who God is. They help us to worship the one true God, not a god of our own design.
We want to worship God in spirit and in truth. We desire to adhere to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. To do this we need to know what the Bible teaches about this God we serve. Creeds and confessions help us to know this is a concise way so that we can identify false teaching. They are also a way for us to pass on the faith from generation to generation. As you confess the creeds in worship or study the confessions for personal devotions, you are learning to contend for the faith.
Sermon delivered on January 14, 2018 at First Reformed Church in Edgerton, MN.
When it comes to reading the Bible there is one thing that I hear more than anything else. People have trouble understanding some parts of the Bible. My conviction is that a significant part of this is rooted in the way that we view the Bible. Rethinking how we view the Bible is an important first step for knowing how to understand it and apply it.
When I was younger I was reading the Bible looking for things that I could do. I saw the Bible as a big book filled with stories and rules that were telling me how to live. In a sense this is true. God's word shows us how to live but I was approaching it completely from the wrong perspective. Because of this I found myself frustrated and confused at times. I could get into the Proverbs because that gave me clear ideas of how to live and to have wisdom. The Ten Commandments were clear cut for me. So were the portions of Paul's epistles that were telling his readers how to live. My understanding of the story of the flood was that Noah was righteous and so God saved him. My application was to be like Noah and not like the people taken in the flood.
What confused me were when the stories didn't fit the way that I thought they should. Noah was a righteous man but after he gets off the ark, he is getting drunk. Abraham, the man who left idolatry at the command of God, has his wife go into the harem of Pharaoh to protect himself. David, the giant slayer whose courage I thought I was to mimic, commits adultery and has a man murdered. How does all of this fit? Are these stories in there to show us how not to live or is there something deeper going on in the pages of scripture?
Over time, through gifted Bible teachers, I was able to get a better understanding of how to read the Bible. The Bible is more than an owners manual for life, giving me instructions on how to perform tasks or fix problems. It is the story of God redeeming his people. The Bible is the story of Jesus. Not from Matthew to Revelation but the whole of Scripture. From Genesis to Revelation the story is about Jesus and his saving work for us.
As we open to the first page of our Bibles we see that God created the world in six days and he rested from his work. He calls it very good. If we were to stop reading right there we would end up being very confused. While there is great beauty in the world there is also a lot of bad in the world. There is disease, war, bloodshed, and death. How can God possibly call this world good?
As we keep reading we see that through the sin of Adam and Eve this world fell into sin. Ever since we have suffered the consequences of this rebellion against God. How we understand our world and the Bible hinges on what the next part of the story is. Right there in the garden in Genesis 3:15, God made a promise. Someone would come from the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent.
This head crusher is Jesus. From that point forward the story of the Bible is about this savior. The book of Genesis follows the line of his ancestry. Noah was not simply a righteous man, he was a righteous man descended from Seth. He was in the line to the Messiah. He couldn't perish in the flood because God had made a promise that the head of the serpent would be crushed. All humanity cannot drown in the waters of judgment. That would make God a liar and worst of all this fallen creation would remain broken. The serpent would have had the last word.
The story of David and Goliath is not that David has courage and we should have courage too. David is the one in the line to the Messiah and he sees the people of God under threat by the forces that oppose God. They are representatives of the serpent. David stands up and defeats the forces of the serpent by defeating Goliath and cutting off his head. What a beautiful picture of the gospel! David, the ancestor of the Messiah, crushes the head of the serpent. He defeats Goliath just as Jesus would one day defeat Satan at the cross.
You can see the difference. To talk about having courage like David treats the story as though it is a fable. A story to teach me how I should behave. While we should have courage like David that isn't the story in 1 Samuel 17. It is the story of God rescuing his people from their sin. That is so much deeper and richer than approaching the Bible as an advice book.
Still, this approach to reading the Bible does show us how to live. By understanding God's amazing love for us in Christ, we are motivated to live our lives for him. Knowing that we have been rescued from the wrath of God, we love God by serving our neighbors. We also share this good news with others. We are motivated by God's love to keep God's law.
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone. This not only directs how we live our lives but it also helps us to understand scripture. The gospel needs to be our interpretive lens as we open up God's Holy Word. When we understand the great big story, God's Word opens up for us.
I encourage you to pick a book of the Bible. Dig into it and read with Jesus and the gospel in mind on every page.
Sermon delivered in Edgerton, MN at First Reformed Church on January 7, 2018
Sermon delivered in Edgerton, MN at First Reformed Church on December 31, 2017