Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Christ and Him Crucified

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
~1 Corinthians 2:1-2

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that his preaching to them when he had been with them was not with fanciful words nor persuasive language. He did not try to manipulate them with the way he communicated. There were no special effects or cleaver gimmicks in his presentation. Instead, his focus centered on the message itself. He preached the word of the cross (1:18), the truth of Christ dying on the cross to suffer the punishment of those who would place their faith in Him so that they would be saved. He describes this message as being foolish to unbelievers but the power of God to those who are saved (1:18, 23). Recognizing the transforming power of the message of Christ and His crucifixion, he centered his preaching on Christ and Him crucified.

Notice that Paul’s message was very exclusive. He resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. He did not focus on the contemporary debates of the day, the popular entertainment from the theater, or how one can have their “best life now.” All of Paul’s teaching and preaching revolved around Christ and His work on the cross. This doesn’t mean that the cross was all that he talked about. He discusses marriage later on in this letter as well as spiritual gifts. However, everything he preached and taught were done so in light of the cross. He realized that to have a godly marriage, you have to first understand Christ’s work on the cross that would enable you to have such a marriage because you cannot have that kind of marriage without Him and the work that He accomplished on the cross. In fact, you will notice that in many of Paul’s letters he begins with doctrinal teaching of Jesus’ salvation accomplished on the cross and then moves to the practical way that His work should factor into and influence a Christian’s work. (Compare Romans 1-11 and 12-16; and Ephesians 1-3 and 4-6.) Paul didn’t provide the Corinthian church with a “twelve step plan to recovery” for anything they were going through. Instead, he just points to Christ and His work as the ultimate remedy for whatever the problem may be and shows how that should affect their life. Of course, our ultimate problem is a spiritual one and unless we come to Christ for the forgiveness that He provides though His sacrificial death, and the life changing power of His Holy Spirit, other issues can never be solved. Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross even serves as the centerpiece of the Bible. The authors of the Old Testament pointed forward to it and the writers of the New Testament looked back to the event.

Too often today the cross becomes just a meaningless symbol. We wear it around our neck or have it pasted to our shirt without any passing thought of the very One who hung on that cross to save wretched sinners who cry out to Him. Have we lost the focus on the cross that the apostle had? Have we grown too preoccupied with the world that we no longer cherish the “old rugged cross” that we sing about?

For the Christian, the event of the crucifixion of Christ can never be viewed as something meaningless and irrelevant. In fact, nothing can be described as more meaningful or relevant. It is because of Christ and His crucifixion that we are saved, that we can be viewed as righteous by God, and that we can have a relationship with God.

This Lenten and Easter season, let us not forget about the cross. May we not lose sight of the salvation secured on that cross. Take some time this month to study and reflect upon Christ’s work on the cross: Paul’s central message, the centerpiece of the Bible, and the foundation of our salvation. May we determine to focus on Christ and Him crucified.

The church can only live and breathe at the cross; without it, there is no life and reason to exist.
~Erwin Lutzer

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It is Finished

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
~John 19:28-30

Lent is a season that should specifically remind us of what our focus should continually be upon; Christ and His crucifixion. Just as Jesus When the days were approaching for His taking up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) for the anticipation of His death on the cross, we should also be setting our face towards the cross during this time as well as every day. The significance of one of the last words that Jesus uttered while dying on the cross can serve as a good reminder of the importance of the reason behind our celebration.

The great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, has commented on this word that it "would need all the other words that were ever spoken, to explain it . . . It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it." The word in which I am referring is the Greek word tetelestai. It is rendered in most English translations as It is finished. This is one of seven utterances that Jesus made while hanging on the cross. He would have said this with His very last breaths. It is the last thing that He says before willingly giving up His life.

Mission Accomplished
The Greek term literally means bring to an end, finish, complete, accomplish. It conveys the idea of carrying out a task. It is what one would say triumphantly after laboring hours or days at something and now having finished it. In fact, Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus said this with a loud voice or cry . This served as a cry of victory and not defeat.

Notice too that Jesus did not say I am finished but it is finished. He was not simply indicating that His life was over or that His end had come. The it referred to His mission, not Himself.

What was this mission? It doesn't take long for us to go through the Gospels to find out. In the opening chapter of Matthew's gospel, we read the angel who appeared to Joseph tell him regarding Mary that She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). His mission was to save His people from their sins. In fact, Jesus' very name indicates His mission. In Aramaic, Jesus is Yeshua, which means Yahweh is Salvation or Yahweh Saves. Jesus Himself stated that He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). His mission was to save His people from their sins by giving His life as a ransom. He came to live the obedient life that Adam didn't live and die to experience God's full wrath on the cross in place of those who would trust in Him. A wrath that He did not deserve because He was sinless but that everyone of us does deserve because of Adam's sin and our many sins. He came to serve as a substitute. This was the mission that He declares accomplished. The ransom had been made and the substitution complete.

Mission Fully Accomplished
This Greek word is an extensive perfect, which means that it conveys a full completion of the task at a specific point in the past. One could actually translate it as It has been finished. There is a finality to Christ's work of redemption that He accomplished on the cross. The work had now been "fully finished" and "completely completed." In fact, this Greek word, tetelastai, was often used in the marketplace during the time of Christ's life. It would be stamped upon a receipt after a purchase of a good to indicate that the transaction had been "paid in full." The debt of sin had been "paid in full" by Christ's death on the cross. All of the sins of those who would trust in Christ were paid for; whether they were past, present, or future.

This means that nothing more needs to be done pertaining to our redemption. There is nothing that we can add to Christ's already completed work. We cannot add our own works. In fact, to do so would be to say that the cross was meaningless and that Christ's work had not been sufficient. Former president George W. Bush has stated that one of his regrets during his time in office was giving a speech after the Iraq insurgency in front of a banner that stated: "Mission Accomplished." This communicated to the American people that the work had been done in Iraq when as we all now know, much more work needed yet to be done. However, Christ could loudly declare "Mission Accomplished" as His mission had been fully accomplished. Nothing more needed to be done for those who would by God's grace be brought to Him. He did all that was necessary. This truth is communicated well by the author of Hebrews when he writes Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins of all time, sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:11-12). The Old Testament priests were never allowed to sit down when they were doing their duty of offering the annual sacrifice for their people. This was symbolic of the fact that their work was not done. The sacrifice offered would only symbolically cover the sins of the previous year. They would have to enter into the "holy of holies" once again the next year for the sins of that year. However, Jesus is said to sit down as His work was finished when He offered Himself as the perfect and final sacrifice. No other sacrifice for sin was needed after His death. His cry from the cross communicated this.

We celebrate the finished work of Christ. We celebrate the work of redemption that He has accomplished that Friday on Calvary. Praise God that Christ's work is finished! Let's make sure that we trust the One whose work has been accomplished and live as if it has been complete by not trying to add our own works to the salvation equation.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Wonderful Prayer to Pray

O our God, will You judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.
~2 Chronicles 20:12

King Jehoshaphat did not know what to do and was afraid. He had just received word that A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi) (2 Chronicles 20:2). A coalition of the Moabites, Ammonites, and the Meunites were moving in fast to attack the nation of Judah. They had just come around the south of the Dead Sea and were in perfect range to head North to Jerusalem for a straight forward attack. Since the armies of the three of these nations banded together, the multitude might have been fairly large. Anyone of us in a similar situation as Jehoshaphat might have been fearful as well. I'm not sure how large these armies were but clearly Judah was outnumbered. However, in light of the size notice the king's response.

Jehoshaphat didn't let his fear drive him to run away or admit defeat in the face of what looked to be an insurmountable challenge ahead. Instead, he set his face (the literal Hebrew) to seek the LORD (2 Chronicles 20:3). He then called all the people of Judah to fast so the nation as a whole would seek God in this massive time of distress. He went to the LORD for help. He didn't seek to come up with a foolproof strategy of how his smaller army might beat the odds. He knew better. He knew that God served as the people's only hope. This is a good example of someone who modeled Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. So often when we are surrounded by a multitude of problems or burdens, we allow our fear to direct us to flee or we try to handle the challenges ourselves when instead the fear should drive us to our knees like it did Jehoshaphat. While on his knees, Jehoshaphat delivers a powerful prayer that could serve as a great guide for us when we find ourselves in a similar situation and are afraid of a multitude that may be plaguing us.

He starts the prayer recognizing that God is sovereign and omnipotent (v 6). You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. One of the greatest confidences we have is that God is in full control of everything that happens in the universe. There is not one stray molecule outside His sovereign will. In fact, Jesus tells us that not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from your Father (Matthew 10:29). No matter what happens, God is in charge and knows what He is doing. The situation that Jehoshaphat faced was not a mystery to God or out of His control, just as any situation you may find yourself in is not either. Also, Jehosphaphat recognized that God is omnipotent, meaning that He is "all powerful." In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. There is nothing too hard for God. Jehoshaphat rested in the fact that He was addressing One who could handle the threat that he faced. No burden can be described as heavier than God. Likewise, never forget that you are talking to the Almighty and All Powerful God when you pray. He is in control and omnipotent and should be addressed as such.

Jehoshaphat then recounts God's faithfulness in the past as part of His covenant He made with the nation and His ongoing promise to them that they would have an inheritance in the land of Canaan (vv 7-9). Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend? (v. 7). Just as God has helped the people before, he is certain He will again. He also knows that the Lord will keep all His promises, including the one that He had made with them. God had been faithful in the past and he recognized that God would be faithful concerning their present situation. No matter what you are going through, think back about how God has been faithful to aid you in the past and be encouraged that the same faithful God can work in current situation as well. This is what we see Jehoshaphat do when facing this fierce multitude.

The king then requests God's help to protect the people from the threat (vv 10-12a). He calls for God's judgment on the people's behalf. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? (v. 12a).

He reports his dependence upon God (v. 12b). The king acknowledges how much they needed God and could not handle the situation on their own and in their own strength. The heart of the reason for the prayer was because we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us (v 12). Jehoshaphat knew that the people did not stand a chance on their own without God. He also realized that he had no clue how to handle the situation. nor do we know what to do. The one thing he did do was to focus on God; but our eyes are on You. He knew the only one who could help him in this time of trouble was the Almighty God who had looked out for them all this time. The essence of prayer is confessing to God our helplessness and desperate need of Him. This glorifies God as He enjoys aiding His people and displaying His majesty to demonstrate His goodness and mercy.

God was gracious and answered Jehoshaphat's prayer. God fought the battle for the people. The Lord spoke through a man named Jahaziel and said, Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's (v 15). He actually confused the opposing armies and had them take care of each other! The Israelites did not even have to lift a sword!

This is a wonderful prayer that many of us would do well to pray. We often find ourselves "powerless" facing the multitude of things that come our way. Maybe not necessarily a physical army like King Jehoshaphat faced but a multitude of problems and burdens that we feel we just can't bear. We find ourselves in a place where we don't know what to do. Thus, we need to ask God to handle the matter just as Jehoshaphat did upon the threat of the coalition of armies moving closer to Jerusalem. While we are lost concerning the right direction to go, we need to keep our eyes on Him. It is when we seek the Lord and admit that we are powerless that He takes over the battle for us and insures the victory. Then we can say the battle is not yours but God's and praise God for the victory that He will bring.

If you are facing such a multitude, maybe its time for you to follow Jehoshaphat's example and seek God, admit your helplessness, and give the battle to Him. I know I will be spending some time seeking Him for help with some of my multitudes!

In Christ,