A New Covenant, July 2024

As you know, we are in a longer sermon series through the book of First Samuel. Samuel has “retired” as the judge and leader of God’s people. Saul became the first king of Israel, yet he focused on his own glory and made God’s glory second place. Saul was rejected and David was selected as the next king, the anointed one. At the point when Saul is rejected as king, The Lord removes the Holy Spirit from Saul and then “an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (1 Sam. 16:14) Both of these actions are worth a deeper dive.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Old Covenant, the relationship between God and his people was based on works. Each had a series of responsibilities and if people didn’t abide by them it would result in the punishment and ultimately the de- parture of the Lord. We see this at work in the life of Saul. He did not abide by the rules of the kingship (Deut. 17:14-20) and so God removed His Spirit from Saul. This is an Old Testament, Old Covenant, problem. In the New Testament, under the New Covenant, we are under grace not works. While in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit departs because of the peoples evil behavior, under the New Covenant the Holy Spirit is an everlasting seal of salvation and eternal life.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. – Eph. 1:13-14

In this way the New Covenant is different from the Old, and we enjoy what Calvin and others called “Eternal Security” or as others call it “once saved always saved”. Some additional verses about this include John 10:27-30, Eph. 1:7-8, Heb. 7:25, and Phil. 1:4-6.

The second part of Saul’s reign is marked by an evil temper and a spiritual tormentor. First Samuel 16:14, 15, 16, 23; 18:10 & 19:9 are some of the mentions of this spiritual tormentor of Saul. This is a very controversial topic, and I am avoiding it during this sermon series. Here are two of the best explanations in my view:
1 – Like Job, God removed his protections from Saul and let the devil test and bother him. And 18:10 refers to false prophecy from the devil with Saul’s behavior being demonic. OR
2 – It was in fact the Holy Spirit (removed as an anointing of kingship but still near) trying to bring about Saul’s repentance.

And 18:10 refers to true divine prophecy, but Saul was so angered by the truth that he lashed out.
Though the complexity of the discussion is interesting, it is not an issue we face today in the church. Because of the Holy Spirit’s new role under grace (resulting in eternal security) we do not face the prospect of the Holy Spirit being taken away. He is the permanent and eternal seal marking us for salvation and eternal life. Praise the Lord.

Grace to you and yours from the Lord Jesus Christ,

Pastor Dave

Sabbath Day? June 2024

Good Summer Day to You,
Yesterday in the sermon, I concluded by talking about the importance of worship. Since we worship the true, holy, living God it only makes sense we should make worship a priority in our lives. Christians and our American culture have forgotten the importance of regular worship. And over the last 50 years or more each generation has made worship less important than the last. During the sermon I was remembering to myself that my grandparent’s idea of Sunday (“The Lord’s Day”) was more than worship; they had a whole idea of sabbath keeping. They had self-imposed rules about gardening, car washing, and shopping that lasted for the whole day. Many of their rules were deeply rooted, but rooted in culture and religion – not scripture. Let’s explore the idea of “Christian” Sabbath keeping.
What instruction do we have in scripture about a “Christian” Sabbath? The short answer is… none.
Sabbath keeping is an Old Testament tradition which started with Moses. It was etched in stone literally among The Ten Commandments saying…

Deut. 5:12-15
12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. 15 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

Breaking the Sabbath was grounds for capital punishment (Num. 15:32- 36), and that is why we see such intense conflict between Jesus and Pharisees about Sabbath rules. Jesus healed, his disciples harvested handfuls of grain, and Jesus cast out demons on the Sabbath day. These comments help explain his thinking… “Then he turned to his critics and asked, ‘Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?’ But they wouldn’t answer him. (Mark 3:4) “And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:12) Jesus, and the disciples, were often breaking the Pharasee’s rules because as Jesus also says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The Sabbath was intended to be a good thing for man. As Billy Graham pointed out, it was intended to be a day of rest for the body, food for the soul, and worship of God.
It would be good for America, at least in my opinion, if only essential businesses were open on Sundays: fast food restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, and first responders. It would be good for America if there were no sports practices or sporting events on Sundays. No NFL, no MLB, no Nascar on the Lord’s Day. But we don’t live in that world. Our world is much more like the world of the first-century church.

Did the early church establish any rules about “sabbath keeping”? When the first church council met at Jerusalem they discussed what Old Testament rules should be required in the new church of Jesus. Their list was few. Their list did not include Sabbath keeping. Read for yourself in Acts 15:23-29.

Did the early church practice or expect “sabbath keeping”? In the Roman world, Sunday was a day of work. They did not have it off as we mostly do today. Those Christians most often met in the evenings after their work was completed. This is what led to the problems Paul corrected in 1 Cor. 11:17- 34. The rich who set their own schedules were able to eat the Lord’s Supper meal as soon as they wished and eat as much as they desired before the blue collar class arrived. The workers had not yet completed their jobs when the Lord’s Supper service began so they arrived only to receive the scraps. There was no “sabbath keeping” for the church in the ancient Roman world because it was a day of work like all the others. Yet Sunday was still the day to be at worship.

Therefore, not only did the early church not expect gentiles to practice Sabbath keeping, but those who worked on Sunday were not punished and, as you read in 1 Corinthians, their equal participation in worship was protected. The early church did expect regular attendance in worship.

The early church was devoted to, faithful in their worship. Acts 2:42 & 46a says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” And what of those who failed to attend worship regularly? Those who chose to regularly skip worship were encouraged to get reconnected. Heb. 10:24-25 instructs, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Throughout the New Testament, we see believers justifiably miss worship for a variety of reasons: work; sickness, injury, pain, and old age; traveling away from home and the inability to travel (imprisonment); and we could add being a caregiver, household crisis, occasional community obligations, and probably many more. Over the years the question of what a Christian is to do on Sundays has had many responses. The Bible is clear that worship was to be part of our regular activity, but there were also common sense reasons a person may not be able to attend. The question of “sabbath keeping” is far more complex. The New Testament never establishes a rule or even a precedent for not working. Yet as Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man”… i.e. for his benefit. A sabbath day would certainly be good practice: for our bodies, for our souls, and for our relationships with God.

Would you establish a personal or national sabbath day? What do you think?

God Bless,

Pastor Dave

Watching and Waiting, May 2024

Happy May First Baptist,

Some weeks ago now I got a call about a person’s concerns. They had seen the news that Iran had launched a missile barrage at Israel. The barrage included around 300 projectiles, and was launched from Iran and its supported groups. The idea that Israel was attacked, brought up fears and ideas about the end of the world and the return of Christ.

The order of events surrounding Jesus’ return is somewhat clouded because so much of the book of Revelation is apocryphal. The book of Revelation uses images and pictures and numerology and it sometimes feels that there is little concrete explanation. I personally believe that Revelation represents a timeline of events, and that each of those images within Revelation represents concrete realities. The overarching picture of a seven year tribulation is not a tribulation I expect to experience. As Peter teaches in his 2nd letter 2:4-9, God plans to rescue the church from such tribulation in the world. It is the reason I and many others expect the rapture to occur first.

As Paul writes in his letter, Second Thessalonians, The Antichrist is being held back. He is being held back by a person, and when that person is removed The Antichrist will be revealed. The one holding him back cannot be a human being, and so we are left with either an angel or the Holy Spirit being the one who restrains him. I suspect that the answer is that the Holy Spirit is restraining The Antichrist from rising. And so, the removal of the Holy Spirit will occur at the same time as the rapture when those who have the Holy Spirit will be caught up together with Christ in the sky.

So I remind you as Paul did the Thessalonians, we are not to become easily unsettled, or alarmed by the words of some that The Day the Lord has already come or the tribulation has already begun. The Thessalonians were under the impression that they had missed the rapture, but that was not the case.

Therefore, as we are still waiting for Jesus to return just as they were, Paul says “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” Jesus says, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father… it is like a man going away: He leaves his servants in charge, each with their own assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch… you do not know when the own- er of the house will come back.”

Watching and Waiting,

Pastor Dave

The Apostle’s School of Prayer, April 2024

As we look forward to April, I will be launching into a new ser- mon series on prayer. We will look at many aspects of prayer, including how to have productive prayers. Prayer is a perennial topic, because we so often pray, but feel like we need to better understand what God desires for our prayers to be like.

So let’s begin with Genesis 4:26, “At this time people began to call on the name of the Lord.” This verse indicates the first time in which prayer becomes part of human life. Worship had already been instituted as we saw in the story of Cain and Abel. But now making special requests and calling on God to do what he promised becomes part of our relationship with him.

At this point, Adam and Eve have already sinned. The garden of Eden is closed. And all the participants in that sin have received their curses. But amongst those curses was a promise that the seed of the woman would produce a person who would crush the serpent’s head, and so defeat the devil and his schemes. This promise was one that was held onto, and each generation was reminded of God’s promise to fulfill it.

Yet much happened in the waning years. Cain’s jealousy of Able led to murder, and it seems that neither of these sons were up to fulfilling the promise. When the third son, Seth, is born. Eve is certain that God will be true to his promise, even though Seth is just as incapable as his previous brothers.

So then, when Seth has his son, Enosh, Seth reveals in his name the despair of the whole family. Enosh means “weakness”, signifying that none of Adam’s race is up to the task of destroying the devil, but instead are under the devils powers and captives in his kingdom. This is proven more true in the next section where the sins of humanity lead to the flooding of the Earth.

And so we see in verse 26 the first time prayer becomes part of our human lives. The “calling on the name of the Lord” were prayers, asking God to fulfill his promise. The people of Seth’s day were calling on the name of the Lord, asking him to send a savior. They were asking for him to fulfill his promise. That prayer repeated over and over as every son of Adam showed their weakness. Every son of Adam and daughter of Eve sinned, and so showed their inability to be free. It is clear by the end of Genesis 4, that the savior would not come from Adam’s line, but from the seed of the woman a child would be born. That child would have the power to destroy the devil and his works, and would rescue Adam’s race.

But God ultimately keeps his promise by sending his own son. A son, not born of a man’s seed, but born of a virgin. A son not of natural descent or a husband’s will, but born of God. The long awaited savior, whom Adam and Eve prayed for, finally arrived. He came without splendor or glory or beauty; He came to die. So that even as the serpent bit to bring his death, by that death… salvation, forgiveness, redemption, righteousness might return to Adam’s offspring. The original promise of God was fulfilled for all mankind.

God Bless,

Pastor Dave