From Your Pastor: The Biblical Importance of Catechizing

“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed…Train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:6-7).

A friendly, pastoral reminder to remember to review and memorize your catechism this year! I especially encourage parents and officers to go through the Westminster Shorter Catechism as a helpful and important reminder of what you believe. “Catechize” comes from a Greek word that means to teach, to instruct, it can have the nuance of covenantal nurture in the faith, for both adults and especially children in the covenant.

Briefly, why should you catechize yourself and your family? A few reasons to get you thinking…

  • Meditation/Nurture of Your Soul: Good catechisms, like the Westminster Shorter Catechism teach Scriptural truth that we are called to meditate upon day and night and remember (Deut. 6:6-7; 11:18-19; Psalm 1; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15- Timothy’s catechizing was used to bring him to faith in Christ!).
  • Jesus was catechized: Jesus sought to understand the scriptures, sitting at the feet of His teachers, learning from an early age how to understand and interpret the Scriptures (Luke 2:40-52). (If Jesus needed to be catechized, how much more…?? Well, you get the idea!). Jews were catechized from the Law (see Rom. 2:18, lit. “catechized” from the Law).
  • Jesus catechized: Between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, he catechized His disciples with the truth about His Kingdom (Luke 1:44-53; Acts 1:1-4; cf. Luke 1:4). Jesus is also teaching catechism when he says that disciples should be receiving constant teaching: “…Teaching them everything that I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:20a).
  • Early believers were catechized: Luke knew Theophilus had been catechized (see Luke 1:4: “…Certainty of those things, you have been “catechized” or instructed in”). The great Apollos had been catechized in the Scriptures (see Acts 18:25).
  • Better hearing and “getting” of sermons: Catechism helps you to understand rich, theological, words that have been inherited from our forefathers and foremothers in the faith. Catechism is honoring our fathers and mothers in this way. You can better “hear” and understand sermons. It is an observed truth that those who “get” sermons the best in the Reformed tradition of preaching, are those who are catechized (see Nehemiah 8:8 and context).
  • Membership Commitments/parental responsibility: As a congregation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, catechism is a very important way of covenantal nurture: “Do you promise to teach diligently to [name of child] the principles of our holy Christian faith, revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and summarized in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church?” (Book of Church Order, DFW, chap. III). If you’re a member of the OPC, we have vowed to do this in reliance upon God’s grace in Christ.
  • Meditation on Scripture: While you seek to be faithful in catechism, don not neglect the reading, memorization and meditation upon Scripture. Biblical truth is the foundation on which we build faithful catechism. Meditation on scripture is the parent of prayer and the care and ministry of others.

There are free copies of the Shorter Catechism in the front of church building available, and the catechism is also at the back of the Red Trinity Hymnals. Let me know if I can assist you in your pursuit of catechizing, and practically, let me know if I can purchase more copies for you to have to keep in your pockets.

For more information on catechizing and catechism, you may read these excellent articles:

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/blessing-catechizing-our-children/

http://opc.org/new_horizons/NH01/0001d.html

http://www.alliancenet.org/placefortruth/column/theology-on-the-go/catechizing-grounded-in-scripture

Your pastor and elders pray for you regularly to grow in your faith, this will help you to grow. If your child completes the memorization of catechism, please let your elders know and we will glorify God in praising Him by featuring this in the OPC’s ‘New Horizons’ issue. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask myself or one of your elders.

“The One who is taught [lit. “catechized”] the word must share all good things with the one who teaches [“catechizes”]” (Gal. 6:6).

“…What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

Lets’ begin now. Ketoctin Covenant: “Question: What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “_________________”

Now see, that wasn’t too difficult. Mediate on your answer today, and in Christ, you will be “blessed”; it is a promise of God (Psa. 1:1-3).

 

IN Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

 

From Your Pastor: Preparing for Preaching and Worship

Beloved of Christ at KCPC: Remember prayerfully to prepare for worship and to be ready to worship the Living God and to hear His Word as it is read and preached to you.

Our Larger Catechism instructs us helpfully: WLC 160  What is required of those that hear the word preached? A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence,(1) preparation,(2) and prayer;(3) examine what they hear by the scriptures;(4) receive the truth with faith,(5) love,(6) meekness,(7) and readiness of mind,(8) as the word of God;(9) meditate,(10) and confer of it;(11) hide it in their hearts,(12) and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.(13) (1)Prov. 8:34 (2)1 Pet. 2:1,2; Luke 8:18 (3)Ps. 119:18; Eph. 6:18,19 (4)Acts 17:11 (5)Heb. 4:2 (6)2 Thess. 2:10 (7)James 1:21 (8)Acts 17:11 (9)1 Thess. 2:13 (10)Luke 9:44; Heb. 2:1 (11)Luke 24:14; Deut. 6:6,7 (12)Prov. 2:1; Ps. 119:11 (13)Luke 8:15; James 1:2

Pastor Phil Ryken says very insightfully: “Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday. However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before. It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach. In addition to helping the preaching, our prayers create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God’s Word. This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.”

Are you remembering to pray for the worship and preaching every week? This is so very important. Let me remind you to pray for the worship and preaching as if you were the one to lead worship and to preach! What needs more preparation the hard ground or the farmer who sows the seed?  Listen to the wisdom of the great Charles Spurgeon:

“We are told men ought not to preach without preparation. Granted. But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation. Which, do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground? I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in. It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than by the preacher.”

Pastor Ken Ramey in Expository Listening (Kress Press, 2010) writes that Christians can better prepare themselves to hear God’s Word read and preached each Lord’s Day if they will seek to cultivate certain good habits each day (here are his helpful suggestions):

  • Read and meditate upon God’s Word every day.
  • Pray often throughout the week.
  • Confess your sins daily before God.
  • Reduce your media intake.
  • Plan ahead, and schedule your week around the ministry of the Word: try to be home on Saturday nights; be careful not to watch or listen to anything that might cause lingering distractions in your mind during worship; get things ready on Saturday to avoid the inevitable Sunday morning rush; get a good night’s sleep because you’ll be doing the hard work of listening; get a good breakfast that will hold you over until lunch; as you’re getting ready and traveling as a family to worship seek to sing and pray together; arrive for worship at least 10 minutes early to get everything done (even the unexpected things), and sit down ready to receive.
  • Be consistent in worship attendance.
  • Go to worship with a humble, teachable, expectant heart (it is not the preacher who is on trial before you; you are on trial before God’s word as to whether you will hear and receive what is spoken if Biblical truth).
  • Worship with all you heart: sing enthusiastically because you believe what you’re singing; follow along in Bible when read; listen attentively to prayers when prayed and respond with hearty “amen”; during the sermon follow along in the Bible; take notes).
  • Fight off distractions
  • Listen with diligent discernment so that you can determine humbly if what you heard was biblical and presented Christ and His Gospel to you and your family.

Let’s remember to pray unceasingly for one another that we will prepare our hearts for worship, and particularly for hearing the Word of God preached, and expect great things from our Great and Faithful God! (1 Thess. 5:18; Ephesians 6:18-20; 3:20-21).

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the LORD!”

 

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

From Your Pastor: One Thing Necessary in a World of Distractions

“…A woman named Martha welcomed [Jesus] into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42)

Beloved, before Jesus tells us to serve, He first calls us to Himself to teach us and to fill us with His grace and Spirit for service. Before we serve, let us first learn to sit. There are many distractions in each age. How can good and lawful blessings and activities like hospitality, service, jobs, raising our children, and even loving our families potentially become distractions that can be spiritually dangerous to us?! When these things take priority over spending time listening and learning at Jesus’ feet. How are you doing with this?

Martha was serving; she was a Christian woman seeking to honor Jesus. She was taking seriously the Bible’s teaching on hospitality, and the need to feed others. Martha wanted to feed Jesus, but Jesus wanted to feed Mary and her. As Richard Sibbes put it well: “Christ came to feast them, not to feast with them.” There was disorder in Martha’s heart; while her intentions were noble, her affections were confused at this moment. Her “excessive zeal for temporal provisions, made her forget for a time, the things of her soul” (J. C. Ryle), while Mary sought what was good (read: best). We can so easily be tempted to make something good like serving too important, and then we ask the Lord to bless our idolatry. This is not right.

Notice Martha’s self-pity and ungrateful attitude that are common fruits of disordered loves: “Lord, do you not care…tell her…” We are tempted sometimes to tell the Lord what is most important, rather than sitting at His feet and learning what is most important to Him. Our hearts need to be ordered with Christ having the priority; He must be our first love, and our first priority at all times. But notice the Lord Jesus’ tender address to his own: “Martha, Martha…one thing is necessary.” Jesus is not angry, but patient with his own. We are His beloved brothers and sisters; we are His dear ones. He speaks our names tenderly putting a firm and fixed focus on Himself so that we can be reminded what matters most. And what does he promise his beloved? The good portion. Don’t you want that!?

But you ask: “What is this?” It is simply Jesus Christ. Jesus is our good portion (Psa. 16:5; 73:26; Lam. 3:24). Time with Jesus is our good portion. This is the only thing that will ultimately last—the only thing that will ultimately satisfy the longings of our souls—and this good thing will last and satisfy us for all eternity. O, to sit at Jesus’ feet! What a privilege. It is at Jesus’ feet where we get focused on WHO matters most, and this is where our loves are properly ordered and we are made effective, Gospel-driven, and Grace-motivated servants. Are you satisfied with having Jesus as your portion? Can you honestly say with the Psalmist:

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you… But for me it is good to be near God…” (Psalm 73:25, 28b).

Stop what you’re doing today. Ask yourself: What is the one thing that is necessary for me right now? You may have a schedule full of wonderful, God-given and lawful activities, but are you aware that these can potentially be keeping you from what, or WHO you need the most?

How can I specifically keep the focus on the one thing necessary in a world of distractions? Here are some suggestions that often help me:

(1) Order: Order your loves and needs under Christ’s Lordship, following His command to “Seek first the kingdom…” (Matt. 6:33). Jesus sets our spiritual pattern and life-pace of seeking first the kingdom by calling each Lord’s Day to worship Him and to sit at His feet both in preaching and at the Lord’s Table. Let us learn to sit without distractions, so that we can learn, and then go serve in the power of the Spirit (Acts 2:41ff).

(2) Watch: Watch becoming too entangled with the “cares of this life” (2 Tim. 2:4). Ask yourself the important question: “What are my main distractions and “time-wasters” (Eph. 5:15-17)? And then rid your life of them to the best of your ability. J. C. Ryle wrote: “Except we watch and pray, [cares of this world] will eat up our spirituality, and bring leanness to our souls.”  Excellent advice!

(3) Remind: Remind yourself of the most important goals—what is your main intention in each of your activities? Is it to glorify God and enjoy Him forever? Don’t get distracted in your service for Jesus and miss Jesus, and the wonderful privilege of knowing Him as your friend and walking with Him in constant communion.

(4) Gospel Goals: Every morning consider what is most needful and necessary for your day. Ask such questions as: Have I renewed my covenant with God in Christ with renewed repentance in response to His kind mercies (Lam. 3:22-25)? Have I prayed and reminded myself of the love of God in Christ for myself and my family? Am I being watchful, sober-minded, and preparing myself for Jesus’ coming (1 Peter 1:13; Titus 2:11-14)? Am I prepared for temptations that inevitably will come my way (James 4:6-8)? Am I ready to meet the needs of others through self-denial?

Beloved, Jesus said: “Martha, Martha” to awaken her to her great need for His grace! She thought she needed help in a particular way, but Jesus kindly showed her that in her busyness she did not realize her true need. This same Jesus calls you by name today, having justified you in God’s sight, and made you an heir with him through His loving sacrifice on the cross. Now He desires for you to sit undistracted and listen prayerfully as He speaks truth to you so that you might change and grow. This is the love of Jesus for sinners saved by grace, and grace is good because it makes us good.

Now find some time to sit—at His feet. It will be the best time spent. Period. Amen.

 

Love in Christ,

Pastor Biggs