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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Why Become a Member of the Church

With membership classes set to begin in a week or so (at least as of the time of this writing), I thought that it might be good for us to take some time to look at why someone should become a member of the church. This might be helpful for those who may find themselves on the fence right now about whether or not to join the church as well as those who have been members of the congregation for quite a while now but who have forgotten the significance of their membership. We all could use a reminder of why it is necessary for us to be an active member of a local church.

One reason why every Christian ought to be a member of a local church is to be obedient to Scripture. Now, you may say, “Wait a minute. Where does God give us a specific command to officially and formally join a local church anywhere in Scripture?” While it is true that you will not find mentioned a “Thou shalt become a member of a local church” in the Bible, we do have a number of commands given to Christians that practically cannot be lived out properly outside of the context of being a member of a local church. For instance, there are 51 “one another” commands in Scripture such as love one another (John 15:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25), and pray for one another (James 5:16) just to name a few. These are all things that you cannot do unless you are continually with some “another” Christians on an ongoing basis to get to know them. How else can you effectively understand how specifically to encourage them? What ways you can go about to show love to them? If you have nothing more than a loose connection with a group of people, you can’t effectively love, encourage, pray, or anything to or for them. Also, keep in mind that the initial entrance ramp onto the road of membership is baptism, which clearly is a command that Jesus Himself has given Christians. In His parting words to His Church, He instructed that all new converts are to be “baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). And there is no idea in the New Testament of a Christian who would not be baptized and committed to a local congregation.

            Another reason a Christian should become a member of the church is to officially be counted as part of the congregation. Until a formal commitment to the other members of the congregation has been made, someone who attends the services and volunteers their time are just “hanging out” with us but are not fully “all in” with us or “belong” to us. It is like the difference between spending time with someone as their boyfriend or girlfriend rather than being committed to them as their husband or wife. In the first case, there is no close bond of commitment holding the two parties together whereas in the other they are bound by a commitment expressed in vows. There are many folks today who merely “date” a congregation but who fail to commit to join it. And while someone can point to the church that they have merely be attending and say that it is MY church, that doesn’t carry as much weight as if they have made an official commitment to the people there and can say that they are a member of it. Then, and only then, they rightfully can say that they genuinely belong to it.

            A Christian should be a member of a congregation to affirm their faith in Christ. In both baptism and being received as a member of the church, a Christian professes their faith in Christ publicly before the congregation that they are joining. The congregation in receiving them as members in essence affirms that they recognize that profession and will seek to hold them accountable to it (more on that in the next point). One of the reasons why we at Mt. Joy require every candidate for membership to first have a meeting with the pastor and one of the deacons is to ensure that, as much as we are able, we can affirm someone’s faith. We can affirm that there has been a moment in their life where they came to, by the work of God’s Holy Spirit, see their sinfulness, were brought to repentance and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone to be their only Lord and Savior. In a sense, when someone is received into the membership of the local church, the congregation is saying “we recognize that you belong to us as a fellow believer in Christ and will both view and treat you as being a blood bought member of the family”.

            A Christian also should join a local congregation of other believers to be held accountable for their faith. The truth of the matter is that every single one of us have blind spots. Areas of sin in our lives that we just cannot see or are aware of. (Or sometimes, perhaps more often than not, they are areas that we are aware of but don’t want to address or deal with.) What we need are brothers and sisters in the Lord who love and care for us and our walk with the Lord enough that they will point out to us some of those areas when they become visibly noticeable to them as we spend time together. The desire of every Christian should be to grow in grace and holiness. The reality is that this growth does not occur on our own. God must bring it about and one of the primary means that He uses is the local church; through the faithful encouragement and challenge of fellow believers as we sing, pray, worship, listen to God’s Word, serve and live together.

            And, finally, a reason a Christian should become a member of a local church is so that they can take a more active role in the life and ministry of the church. There are some privileges that are understandably restricted to only members such as voting in our congregational business meetings and teaching a Sunday School class as well as serving on certain committees and boards. Once someone joins us as a member, they are free to serve fully with the gifts that God has graciously given them in the areas that He has called them. Certainly you want to use those gifts in their fullest capacity, right? Officially becoming a part of us enables you to do so in the way that God has intended.

            If you have any questions yet about becoming a member here at Mt. Joy, why not come to the membership classes to see what it is all about? You can find out more there about the importance of becoming a member of the church. (More than I was able to share here in this brief article.) And for those of you who faithfully have been serving as members, in some cases for a number of years, let me say “thank you” for honoring the Lord with your commitment to those in this congregation and encourage you to continue for His glory.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Lee

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Christ's Marvelous Ministry of Intercession

The past month I have been preaching through Isaiah 53 and just finished what turned into a four part series last Sunday. It was a wonderful study exploring the details of our Lord's suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation written down 700 years before any of them came to be. (If you are looking for proof of the inspiration of Scripture, there you go! Only the Spirit of God can write of the future in such detail that many years ahead. Man can't accurately predict what the weather will be like tomorrow and that is from watching patterns.) The very last statement of this song or poem really struck me. In speaking of the Messiah's exaltation, the prophet states, Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Part of the Messiah's exalted work is to make intercession for the transgressors. While His pouring Himself out His soul to death, being numbered with the transgressors, and bearing the sin of many all are in the perfect tense in Hebrew, communicating a completed event in the past, the verb for make intercession is in the imperfect tense, indicating that it has not yet been completed. It is a work that the Messiah continues in His exalted state. The New Testament speaks of this continual intercessory work of Jesus as well. Paul mentions Jesus being the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:34). And the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (7:25). This work of intercession is one that I don't think that believers ponder enough but would serve as a great encouragement to us. 


Take a moment to reflect on the point that Jesus is praying for you at this very moment? Isn’t that an encouraging thought? In the midst of our weakness and struggles, our very Savior who bore our sins upon Himself and took the punishment for them is speaking to the Father on our behalf. When you can’t find the words to pray, and who of us haven’t been there, Jesus continues to intercede for us. When we are negligent in our praying, Jesus is never negligent in bringing our needs to the Father. Young Scottish Pastor Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne put it this way, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” If we were more aware of this throughout our day, how much more confidence in our Christian walk would we have? Let me encourage you to remind yourself of this very thing. That Jesus is praying for you. See if that doesn’t strengthen your faith and help you better get through whatever it is that you are going through right now. And, of course, the Father will always answer Jesus' prayers. There is never any reason to worry about that.

What specifically is Jesus’ praying for us you may wonder. One thing that we can be sure of that is included in those prayers is the forgiveness of our sins on the basis of His shed blood. Similar to what He prayed for the transgressors as He hung on the cross. The very first of those seven sayings that He uttered just before His death. When He cried out to God, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). As J. C. Ryle has said, "as soon as the blood of the Great Sacrifice began to flow, the Great High Priest began to intercede." Jesus continues to plead for the forgiveness of our sins on the basis of His shed blood. John alludes to this in his first letter when he writes, if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).


We have an enemy who continues to accuse us before God’s throne. Who constantly brings up our sins to the Father. But we have an Advocate in Jesus who keeps reminding the Father that He has paid the price for every single one of our sins. Who continually pleads for our acquittal. That’s part of His intercessory work that Isaiah prophetically draws our attention to here. I can imagine Satan coming up to God and saying, “Did you just see what Your child did there? Did You notice that sinful thought? Hear that cross word? He deserves hell for that.” And then Jesus stepping up and pointing out that He experienced hell in the believer’s place and that the believer has been cleared of such.


We may find another hint of the content of Jesus' ongoing prayers for us in the prayer that He prayed for His disciples both then and now in His high priestly prayer of John 17 where He asked that the Father would keep them from the evil one (v. 15), sanctify them in His truth (vv. 17-19), and to make us all one as He and the Father are one (vv. 20-21). Such are prayers that we still very much need prayed for us today since we continue to face threats from the evil one, are not fully sanctified, and are not completely one as the members of the Trinity are with each other. In fact, none of these will be a reality for us until we get to glory. Hence, why we should be thankful for Jesus' prayer for them.


I think that Jesus is also praying for us like He did for Peter in Luke 22:32 that our faith will not fail. How else can anyone explain how a Christian’s faith, as much as it is tested and tried by the things of this world, will not fail and continues to hold fast to Jesus, even in the most difficult times? Wouldn’t it have to be due to Jesus’ praying for us? It certainly can’t be because of how strong it is on its own. If it wasn't for Jesus praying such, I'm convinced that none of us would be able to keep the faith.


So, fellow weary believer, take heart in the fact that your Savior is praying for you right now in the midst of whatever it is that you are going through. That He is bringing your needs before the Father as you read. That He is continually pleading with the Father for your forgiveness based on His sacrifice, your protection from Satan, your sanctification, our unity together, and for the perseverance in the faith and be comforted. If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).


Love in Christ,


Saturday, April 3, 2021

It is Finished!

As we come to celebrate Easter this month, I thought that it would be good for us to explore the most significant word ever uttered in human history. Granted, if it was said by anyone else in any other context, it would nowhere near carry the same weight as it does when coming from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross that Good Friday. The word that I am talking about is the Greek word tetelestai. It is rendered in most English translations as It is finished. This is the next to last saying that Jesus cried from the cross before His death and is recorded for us in John 19:30.

The 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 about 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 this 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; a price paid to purchase someone’s freedom. He came to live the obedient life that Adam didn't live and to 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.

This Greek word communicates a full completion of the task at a specific point in the past with ongoing results into the present of its writing. This was something fully and completely done in the past with ramifications for years following. Like an earthquake or a hurricane that strikes fully but leaves results felt for years to come, what Jesus did on the cross was fully accomplished, leaving results felt far into the future. It could be translated as “It is finished, it stands finished, and it always will be finished.” There is a finality to Christ's work of redemption that He accomplished on the cross which we still benefit from today. In fact, this Greek word was often used in the marketplace during the time of Christ's life and would be stamped upon a receipt after a purchase of a good to indicate that the transaction had been "paid in full." Our debt of sin has been "paid in full" by Christ's death on the cross and remains paid for all those who put their trust in Him. And that would include all of our sins, 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. 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. It was a declaration that those Old Testament priests could never have made since their work of offering sacrifices was not finished but our Lord could because His work was done. Everything needed to bring us into a right relationship with God had been fully accomplished.

For us, Easter is a specific celebration of the finished work of Christ. We celebrate the work of redemption that He has accomplished that Friday on Calvary and the His victorious defeat of death itself in His resurrection. And as I have heard it said, “The resurrection is the Father’s ‘amen’ to the Son’s ‘It is finished.’ ” 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.

Love In Christ,
Pastor Lee