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: The First Commandment (WSC 45-48)

WSC 45: Which is the first commandment? A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exod. 20:3).

WSC 46: What is required in the first commandment? A. The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly (1 Chron. 28:9; Deut. 26:17; Matt. 4:10; Ps. 29:2).

WSC 47: What is forbidden in the first commandment? A. The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, (1) or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, (2) and our God; (3) and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone. (4) (1) Ps. 14:1 (2) Rom. 1:21 (3) Ps. 81:10,11 (4) Rom. 1:25,26.

WSC 48: What are we specially taught by these words [before me] in the first commandment? A. These words [before me] in the first commandment teach us, That God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God. (1) (1) Ezek. 8:5,6; Ps. 46:20,21.

Memory Verse: “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (Matt. 4:10)

An Explanation: As we continue through the Ten Commandments in the next few questions and answers from the Shorter Catechism, let us keep an illustration in mind. The Law of God can be likened to a mirror as you might find in an enchanted land. The mirror can be seen in, but it can also be seen through. We look through the mirror of God’s commandments to see the wonderful and perfect character of our God, and His perfect holiness and righteousness. We look into the mirror and see the reflection of how we are living in light of His character and righteousness. As we look through the mirror, so we see a gracious and forgiving God who provides all the grace and power we need to live holy lives. As we look into the mirror and see our own reflection, we learn where we specifically need to repent of our sins, and seek in Christ the grace and power to live holy lives. Through the mirror to behold the happy and joyful life we were created to live; in the mirror to behold the progress we may be making in living before Him but also to be aware of the ongoing need of repentance and forgiveness we need in Christ Jesus!

How do you see God and His character in questions 45-48? How do you see Christ? What is your need of change? Use the Shorter Catechism exposition of the Law to focus your sights on God, His glorious Christ, and your need of ongoing repentance and faith!

Prayer: Father, let me live my life before you, seeking to please you in all I do and say by your grace (2 Cor. 5:9). Teach me your ways, and let me demonstrate my love for you in joyful obedience, as my Savior before me has shown to me! (John 15:9-11).

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

From Your Pastor: A Gracious and Holy God (WSC 43-44)

WSC 43: What is the preface to the ten commandments? A. The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Exod. 20:2).

WSC 44: What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us? A. The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, That because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments (Luke 1:74,75; 1 Pet. 1:15-19).]

Memory Verses: “…That we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (ESV Luke 1:74-75).

An Explanation: Zechariah’s song of praise in Luke 1:74-75 summarizes how we are to think of and live out our lives before God as His beloved children: God has delivered believers “from the hand of our enemies” so that we might serve Him without fear “in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days”! Believers are to live out their lives before the face of God, in fearless, courageous, holy, and righteous obedience to His commands. Why? Because God is Lord and King, and in Jesus Christ, He has become our Redeemer and Father!

Before God reveals the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, He reveals His saving love, grace, and power for believers, so that we might remember that we need His love, grace, and power from His Spirit in order to live the holy and righteous lives He has called us to in Christ. Without grace, not one sinner could ever please God and perfectly keep God’s commandments in our words, thoughts, and/or deeds.

Yet the Law revealed in the Ten Commandments is a revelation of the character of God and the will of God, and because we are God’s creatures, we should all seek to honor Him by glorifying Him and enjoying Him through obedience. Because of our sinfulness, we need God’s effectual call by His Spirit to make us alive and bring us by His grace into the light, granting us His immeasurable power so that we might truly desire to obey and enjoy Him!

In the preface to the Ten Commandments, we see, as Dr. Joel Beeke has written, that in the time of the law there is grace; in the time of grace, there is law. In justification, law and grace are opposed; in sanctification, law and grace are friends (Rom. 8:1-4). God teaches believers that our deliverance is all because of His grace—nothing that we have done, merited, or earned—all of grace: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you…out of the house of slavery” (Ex. 20:2). Salvation is a deliverance from slavery, and not merely a slavery of the real, physical bondage of Egypt, which was typical for the Old Covenant Church, but of the spiritual bondage and oppression of sin and the evil one. Once delivered from that terrible bondage, believers are brought into a state of grace (Col. 1:13-14), so that we are obligated (privileged!) to live holy and righteous lives before God, displaying to the world how man was created to live. This way of freedom in Christ is a life of holiness and righteousness that is particularly revealed in the Ten Commandments.

As we go through the Ten Commandments in the next few questions and answers from the Shorter Catechism, let us keep an illustration in mind. The Law of God can be likened to an enchanted mirror. The mirror can be seen in, but it can also be seen through. We look through the mirror of God’s commandments to see the wonderful and perfect character of our God, and His perfect holiness and righteousness. We look into the mirror and see the reflection of how we are living in light of His character and righteousness. As we look through the mirror, so we see a gracious and forgiving God who provides all the grace and power we need to live holy lives. As we look into the mirror and see our own reflection, we learn where we specifically need to repent of our sins and seek in Christ the grace and power to live holy lives. We look through the mirror to behold the happy and joyful life we were created to live, and in the mirror to behold both the progress we may be making in living before Him and the ongoing need of repentance and forgiveness in Christ Jesus!

Prayer: Father and God, thank you that you have delivered me from slavery and bondage to sin and Satan. Let me live before you all the days of my life in holiness and righteousness, serving you without fear.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Biggs

From Your Pastor: The Wonderful Benefits of Christ’s Resurrection (WSC 38)

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 38: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

Answer: At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory,(1) shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment,(2) and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God(3) to all eternity.(4) (1)1 Cor. 15:43 (2)Matt. 25:23; Matt. 10:32 (3)1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 13:12 (4)1 Thess. 4:17,18.

Scripture Memory: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (ESV Jude 1:24-25)

An Explanation:

“Raised up in glory”: Grace begun in the believer’s regeneration is glory begun. Full glory in the resurrection is grace fully realized! What Christ has begun now in our union with Him by His Spirit will be accomplished, and completed, and we shall be perfectly blameless and holy in His sight. As Jude 24 promises believers: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy”.

 “Openly acknowledged and acquitted”: Though there is no condemnation now, and we have been fully and finally acquitted before God’s holy judgment throne in Christ through our justification by faith alone, we shall be openly acknowledged as God’s sons and heirs of His Heavenly Kingdom. We shall be openly and publicly acquitted before the world that hated and persecuted us. We shall be seen and acknowledge to be the victors we are in our union with Christ (Rom. 8:31-39)! We shall hear the glorious words: “Well done, my good and faithful servants! Enter into the joy of your master!” (Matt. 25:21, 23, 34).

“Made perfectly blessed”: Although Christians struggle greatly here in this life against the world, flesh and the devil, in heaven we shall realize the perfect freedom in Christ that we possess to love and serve Him and our neighbor as ourselves. We will realize and enjoy the presence and love of God without sin causing our hearts to sin. We will realize the victory that is ours against hell, death, and the devil, and against all the wiles and temptations of the wicked one! We are not made perfect here, but we await perfection. When we shall see Christ face to face in the resurrection we shall be fully like Him, free from all sin, and able to enjoy God as we were created to enjoy Him! (1 Jo. 3:1-3).

“Full enjoying of God to all eternity”: What a hope that we believers have in Christ. As one of our forefathers put it, Christians have the greatest struggles of anyone else in the world, yet they can rejoice each day in their sufferings in Christ (Rom. 5:3-5). Yet this world, this life is the only hell that Christians will ever experience. For all unbelievers this is the only heaven that they will ever enjoy. For Christians, we will enjoy God in Christ in heaven forever and ever without the contamination of sin and wickedness. The world will be fully restored, cleansed from all sin and misery, and purified in Christ (2 Pet. 3:9-14), we will be fully healed of all sins and transgressions and able to live in perfect bliss in the enjoyment of God! And with hope we say together: “…and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17b).

Prayer: Father and God, thank you that in Christ, I have already participated in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, but I await the full realization of this glorious salvation when Christ my Savior returns. Help me to live for Him as a resurrected, renewed person in Him, longing for His appearing so that I might be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the race” (2 Tim. 4:8)! Amen and amen.

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Biggs

From Your Pastor: The Benefits from Christ at Death (WSC 37)

Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 37: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
Answer: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness,(1) and do immediately pass into glory;(2) and their bodies, being still united in Christ,(3) do rest in their graves,(4) till the resurrection.(5) (1)Heb. 12:23 (2)2 Cor. 5:1,6,8; Phil. 1:23; Luke 23:43 (3)1 Thess. 4:14 (4)Isa. 57:2 (5)Job. 19:26,27

Scripture Memory: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:14).

An Explanation: What a privilege as believers to know that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, the One who has overcome death, hell and devil, and rose in newness of life and power to bestow resurrection life upon all of His people (John 11:25-26; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 8:31-39)! Jesus says: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (John 5:21). “Perfect in holiness”: Though we struggle our entire lives against sin, and seek to live lives of holiness that are pleasing to God, we know that we will not be made completely perfect until heaven! (Gal. 5:16-25; Heb. 12:14, 23; Phil. 3:12-16). Jesus Christ, our Beloved Savior, has turned the horrible curse into death into a blessed window of hope through which we achieve the glorification-perfection of our bodies and souls. We cry in response: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Perfection is coming, let us fight the good fight now!

“Pass into glory”: Our hope and blessed encouragement as those who die in the LORD (1 Thess. 4:13-18) is that we shall pass into glory and see our Christ face to face, and we shall be like Him. Though we now walk by faith on our pilgrimage in this world, one day soon we shall walk by sight, beholding the glory of Jesus, being fully at “home with the Lord” (1 John 3:1-3; cf. 2 Cor. 5:1, 6-8). In our regeneration, we are united to Christ by the Spirit, and this is a uniting of the whole man unto a whole redemption (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:22-24; 2 Cor. 5:17). “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:24). This means that our whole selves, our bodies and souls, are united to Christ by faith. Our whole selves in union with Christ by the Spirit are renewed into His likeness, and will eventually at the Last Day, rise to be fully restored in glory as whole persons, embodied souls, dwelling in incorruptible, eternal bodies made like unto the LORD’s glorious body (1 Cor. 15:42-48; cf. Phil. 3:21; Rev. 21:3-7).

“Bodies being united to Christ”: But in the intermediate time, between our deaths and the Last Day, our spirit-souls at death will be perfected with Christ in heaven, as we await the raising up of our bodies, and this reunion of body and soul that Christ will perform on the Last Day. In the meantime, our bodies, though they corrupt in our graves, they are nevertheless still united to Christ! (1 Thess. 4:14; cf. Psa. 16:9-11). “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21; cf. 1 Thess. 4:13, 16-17). We look forward as believers to the day where we shall dwell with God in Christ in Zion, in fully glorified, renewed, perfected bodies and souls, seeing God in the very flesh and blood in which we were clothed here on earth and did enjoy Him in Christ!

Let us exult with our forefather Job in meditating upon this future glory:

“And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:26-27).

A Prayer: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the union I have body and soul with my dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living One, the Resurrection and the Life. Thank you that by your grace, I am an heir of the Heavenly and Glorious Kingdom to come! Thank you that you have made me a partaker of this Heavenly Kingdom Life by the Spirit even now (2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:14; Heb. 6:4-6). Thank you that grace in Christ received is glory begun!!

In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Biggs

From Your Pastor: The Glorious Benefits of Justification, Adoption and Sanctification

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 36: What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

 

Answer: The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, (1) joy in the Holy Ghost, (2) increase of grace, (3) and perseverance therein to the end. (4) (1)Rom. 5:1,2,5 (2)Rom. 14:17 (3)Prov. 4:18 (4)1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 1:5

 

Scripture Memory: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13)

 

An Explanation: What a glorious joy it is to be one of God’s beloved children! What lavish grace God has been kind enough to bestow upon repent sinners who receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord! To be in Christ by His grace is to be the treasured possession of the Triune God, possessing an imputed righteousness given by faith alone in Christ alone because of grace alone, knowing confidently that one is loved by a good and faithful Heavenly Father, and enjoying some measure of growth in Christ-likeness, and in conformity to the holiness of the Son of God (Rom. 3:24-26; 5:21; 1 Jo. 3:1-3; Eph. 1:3-6, 4:19ff; Rom. 8:29-30; Tit. 2:11-14).

And there are glorious benefits of this salvation that we should be enjoying in this life on our way to heaven!! Though we suffer, and are often weary from battling flesh, the allurements of the world, and the temptations of satan, we can possess assurance that we are loved by God (1 Jo. 5:13), and we enjoy the joy of the LORD that is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Though the unbelieving world is often given moments of happiness (Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:17), it does not possess the joy of the LORD which is a (as I paraphrase from Dr. David Murray) “God-given…God- centered understanding of God’s love for you in Christ”. Only believers possess true and lasting happiness which is true joy, and found in the love of God in Christ. The Holy Spirit has been given to believers so that we are sealed as God’s children until the Day of Redemption, and enjoy God’s love that has been poured out abundantly into our hearts (Eph. 1:14; Rom. 5:5).

And another benefit is that believers, the children of God, possess consciences that have been reconciled to God its Creator, and have peace that passes all understanding, though shaken at many times by different temptations and trials! (Rom. 5:1-11). Our consciences tell us about God and His righteous requirements for all mankind, but they will only haunt us if we do not possess as God’s children the reconciling mercies of God our Creator found in Christ! The Bible teaches that in fact there is “no peace for the wicked” (Isa. 57:21), and their consciences bear witness to the fact that they offended the true and only living, Triune God (Rom. 2:15; cf. 1:32). Only justification, adoption, and sanctification can bring peace to a sinful, troubled soul!

And as God is committed to making His children holy as Christ is holy, we can expect fruitfulness in Christ as we abide in His love, keeping His commandments, and loving God and one another by His grace (John 15:1-11). We ought to be thankful that this very day, we can expect an increase of grace as we turn from our sins to more grace in the Living God because of Christ. Christ is enthroned as Mediator at God’s right hand full of grace for all we need, full of mercy for all of our sinful struggles, and whatever grace we need, we can find it. We are promised this as God’s Beloved children! “God gives more grace…” (2 Pet. 1:3-11; Heb. 4:14-16; John 1:14-18; James 4:6).

And if this is not enough, because heaven has begun in us now through union with Christ by His Spirit, we shall also confidently, yet humbly persevere until the end because Christ is praying for us that our faith will not fail us in His Heavenly Intercessory ministry (Heb. 7:24; Rom. 8:34; cf. Luke 22:32). Yet we do not grow lazy because of this, but work all the harder, knowing that as we have been possessed by Christ and we have a zeal to possess more of Him! (Phil. 3:8-16; Tit. 2:14; cf. Phil. 2:12-13). In fact, as beloved children of God, we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, growing in holiness and in the fear of the LORD, and attain to our full heavenly inheritance knowing that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ, and no one, or nothing—absolutely nothing!!—can snatch us out of the tight and loving grip of Christ’s beautiful, strong, and saving hand (Heb. 12:1-2, 10, 14; Rom. 8:31-39; John 10:27-30; 1 Pet. 1:5). Let us rejoice in the benefits that do accompany and flow from our salvation in Jesus!

 

A Prayer: Father, I am your treasured possession. Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. Your heart is with beloved children. Grant me to grow in the benefits of my salvation, in possessing more joy in Christ, in growing in holiness, humility and honesty, in enjoying more peace, and persevering grace unto the end all for your glory! Amen. Let my life adorn your precious gospel this day! Amen and amen.

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Biggs

 

From Your Pastor: What Is Sanctification? (A Study of the Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 32: What is Sanctification?

Answer: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace,(1) whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God,(2) and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.(3) (1)2 Thess. 2:13 (2)Eph. 4:23,24 (3)Rom. 6:4,6; Rom. 8:1

Scripture Memory: “…Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4)

An Explanation: Man was created by our good God as upright, holy, and righteous. But man rebelled against our kind king (Ecc. 7:29). Although the fall did not completely destroy the image of God in man, it did great damage of deeply tainting him with sin. In the fall, man lost his original righteousness and communion with God, became spiritually dead in sin, and was defiled in all parts and faculties of soul and body (Gen. 2:17; 3:6-8; Gen. 6:1; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:1; see WCF, 6.2). What was holy about man became corrupt, what was righteous became sinful and rebellious what was enlightened and illumined by God’s truth became darkened (Eph. 4:19-24). We are not our former selves; we have been plunged into an estate of sin and misery. Fallen mankind can sing with sadness the popular song: “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they’re here to stay…I’m not half the man I used to be, there’s a shadow hanging over me…”

“…A work of God’s free grace…” But God in His steadfast love and kindness has not left us in an estate of sin and misery (see WSC, Q&A 19-21). He has provided our Lord Jesus as a Savior from the guilt and power of sin. In Christ, we are sanctified and restored (1 Cor. 1:30). Sanctification is a work of the Spirit of God in our union with Christ where the damage done by sin to the image of God is renewed in us.

“…We are renewed in the whole man after the image of God…” When thinking of sanctification, we should be reminded that Christ is the true image of God (Heb. 1:1-2; Col. 1:15). Christ Jesus is what man was created to be and how man was created to live as obedient son to a loving Heavenly Father. Jesus is the ideal son of the perfect Father. Adam as son rebelled ungratefully against his Father, Israel as son rebelled against his Father, we as sons have rebelled against our Father. But Jesus has perfectly lived, died, been raised and exalted as the ideal son and perfect man made in God’s image, who is a willing and able Savior and Sanctifier of sinners (Heb. 2:10-18). Man was created for the worship, service and love of God. Christ Jesus did that with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength for us! (cf. Matt. 22:37-40).

“…Enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousnesss…” In Christ, believers are taught to cooperate with this new nature that has been implanted into us by the precious and powerful Holy Spirit of God, by putting off the old tarnished self, the contaminated self, the poisoned self, the sinful self, and to be renewed by putting on the new self given to us in Christ Jesus!

“…To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (ESV Ephesians 4:22-24).

When we are united to Christ in our union with Him His Spirit not only imputes His perfect righteousness to us, but we begin to be renewed in the likeness of Christ (Phil. 1:6). Conformity to Christ for the glory of God is the ultimate reason for our salvation.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (ESV Romans 8:29a; cf. Eph. 1:4).

Conformity to Christ, or holiness is not optional for the Christian. Without holiness, or Christ-likeness, no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14b). Let me be clear: conformity to Christ is holiness. Holiness, or being conformed to Christ’s likeness has two important aspects: mortification and vivification. Mortification is a dying to our old way of doing things through the flesh. Vivification is living a new life in obedience to God. Believers can only mortify flesh and live by the Spirit knowing that in reality they have died and been raised with Christ (see Rom. 6:4-14). The Christian believer is in a constant warfare to do this by God’s grace (Gal. 5:16-25). God is faithful to work in us to will and to do what He commands; this is all for His good pleasure. In Christ, we desire to please our Heavenly Father!

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”( Philippians 2:12-13)

A Prayer: Father, sanctify me through the blood of Jesus Christ, cleansing my heart this day, and fill me with your Spirit that I may do intense and intentional warfare against my flesh, and live by your Holy Spirit, producing much fruit! May I keep my eyes on Jesus, and be conformed to Him more today!

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Biggs

From Your Pastor: What is Adoption? (A Study of the Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Question 34: What is adoption?

Answer: Adoption is an act of God’s free grace,(1) whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.(2) (1)1 John 3:1 (2)John 1:12; Rom. 8:17
Scripture Memory: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
(Rom. 8:15)

An Explanation: God legally declares believers righteous before Him in justification, but also (very importantly!) legally adopts us into His family, giving us His name, granting us privileges of being His children, and granting us a rich and eternal inheritance in Him, and with Him. We could imagine a judge that would pardon our crimes or sins against the law, but would not necessarily embrace us and receive us into his family. God has pardoned our sins, and received us as sons!!

At the Biggs’ home, we think of the distinction between the legal work that had to be accomplished to adopt our dear daughters from China and Ethiopia, and the actual “Gotcha Day” when we received them as our own daughters, and they officially and legally had a right to all the privileges of being in our family (humble as that may be!). While both justification and adoption are legal acts, justification emphasizes the work that had to be legally accomplished by Christ to achieve adoption; adoption emphasizes “Gotcha Day” with our Great God and Savior! At our home, we’re prone to say when reciting this catechism question: “Adoption is an act of God’s free “Gotcha” grace” (but you don’t have to say it this way!).

Our adoption is because of the Father’s love from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6); it is because of the Son’s redemptive work in willingly coming as our big brother to redeem us and to obtain for us the Spirit of Sonship (Gal. 4:4-7), and it is the Spirit’s work to seal and further reveal this reality to our hearts (Rom. 8:15-16, 26; cf. Eph. 3:16-19). Our adoption changes our relationship to God so that He is no longer merely our Creator, and because of the fall, He is no longer our Judge, but He is now our Heavenly Father, and we cry out: “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). In Christ, believers are now the very heirs of God, and like Jesus Christ, the Father’s dearly and beloved children. “What manner of love has God the Father bestowed upon us that we are called the children of God, and that is what we are!” (1 Jo. 3:1-2). We now have a big brother, the Lord Jesus, who gave Himself for our redemption so that we could take on a family resemblance (Heb. 2:11-18). What joy should characterize us as God’s children, because one day we will be like Him fully (1 Jo. 3:2-3; Rom. 8:23).

Note that in the Westminster Shorter Catechism adoption like justification is described as an “act of God’s free grace” impressing upon us that it is once and for all, whereas sanctification is a “work of God’s free grace” that continues throughout the Christian life. We should never separate justification and sanctification, though we should make the proper distinctions between the “act” and “work” of God’s free grace (act is final, work is continuing). The same is true with adoption. In light of our adoption, though we formerly walked as those who loved the world, with the desires of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jo. 2:15-17), we no longer love the world in this way because the world is passing away and we desire to do the will of our Heavenly Father (1 Jo. 2:17). In fact, because of God’s once for all “act” and as a privilege of being children of God, we as heirs with Christ and now begin to take upon a family resemblance, knowing that one day we shall be fully like Him as part of God’s ongoing “work” of sanctification in believers (1 Jo. 3:2-3; Phil. 1:6; cf. Titus 2:11-14).

As adopted sons in Christ we know that we possess the encouraging word of our Heavenly Father through our labors: “Well down my good and faithful servant” (cf. Heb. 6:10-12). We know that we have in our union with Christ the Father’s blessed affirmation saying: “This is my Beloved…with whom I am well pleased.” This should change how we view ourselves, and make us as believers—and children of God—to want to live faithfully pleasing God as our kind king and father (2 Cor. 5:9). We are part of a new family in Christ and as the Lord Jesus taught, we are to love one another as Christ has loved us (John 15:9-16). In fact, as the Father has loved Christ, so Christ has loved His own in this same way and this is the motivation for doing His commandments with eager joy (John 15:12ff). Love will characterize the children of God as we love one another (1 Jo. 4:7-21). We love because He first loved us (1 Jo. 4:19). Let us rejoice, and live as God’s beloved children!

A Prayer: “Abba, Father” I am grateful to pray with my elder brother, the Lord Jesus, “Our Father in Heaven”. Thank you for your grace and rich mercies in adopting me as your own. You have received me in Christ, and this is my great joy and hope!

In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Biggs

From Your Pastor: Justification by Faith Alone (A Study of the Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Question 33: What is justification?

Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, (1) and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, (2) only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, (3) and received by faith alone. (4) (1)Rom. 3:24,25; Rom. 4:6-8 (2)2 Cor. 5:19,21 (3)Rom. 5:17-19 (4)Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9

 

Scripture Memory: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV 2 Corinthians 5:21).

 

An Explanation: God is holy. Man is sinful. God’s perfect righteousness demands of mankind perpetual, personal, and perfect righteousness in order to be saved and dwell in His most glorious presence. How can there be any hope then? All sinners know how to say: “Nobody’s perfect!” How then can a sinful man or woman, who has continually offended God in word, thought and deed (Rom. 3:9-22), ever hope to dwell in God’s presence with joy?! (cf. Psa. 16:9-11). How can a sinful man or woman be made right before a holy and perfectly righteous God?!

The wonderful news of God’s justifying the sinner is that the holy and just God that requires and demands perpetual, personal, and perfect righteousness in order to be saved and to dwell in His presence is also the one who provides this perpetual, personal, and perfect righteousness for all who believe in the active and passive obedience of Christ Jesus. Christ has graciously obeyed perpetually, personally, and perfectly on our behalf (His active obedience that is imputed to us as our own righteousness, Matt. 5:17; Rom. 8:2-4; John 17:4) and Christ has laid down His life as a propitiation for our sins becoming a curse for us under the wrath of God (His passive obedience that satisfies the justice of God for our sins, Rom. 3:25-26; Gal. 3:13). God is perfectly just in upholding His perfect righteousness revealed in the holy and good requirements of His Law, but He is also the justifier of all who believe in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24-25).

It should be understood that justification is the opposite of condemnation (cf. Rom. 8:1, 33-34). It is God “for us” in the most glorious way! (Rom. 8:31). To be justified by God through the perfect righteousness found in Christ is to no longer be condemned, but freed from the guilt of breaking God’s Law as sinners (Acts 13:38-39; cf. Gal. 2:4; 5:1, 13; 2 Cor. 3:17). In the act of justification, God legally declares believers as righteous in Christ, imputing our sins to Christ, and imputing Christ’s righteousness to believers by faith alone apart from works (Rom. 4:5, 8, 11-12, 16). Our faith that receives this gift of grace is also a gift from God (Eph. 2:6-9). Faith is never a work, only an instrument given by God that receives all the righteousness and perfection one needs in Christ.

Now there is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus! (Rom. 8:1). We are declared righteous by Christ’s blood (Rom. 3:24-26). Our consciences no longer condemn us (1 Jo. 3:20). We are reconciled to God, and we have peace in our union with Jesus (Rom. 5:1). We have confidence for the day of judgement because of God’s love for us in Christ (1 Jo. 4:17-18).

What a benefit to know that God has legally declared you righteous in Christ—there is no condemnation, no judgment awaiting you! We will face the Judgment Seat of Christ clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, and though our every word, thought and action has been tainted with sin, the Lamb without blemish has loved us and given Himself for us! (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:14-15). We are spotless in Him! We can rejoice with the Psalmist: “…Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Psalm 32:2).

Further, our justification by faith alone in Christ alone because of grace alone also begins God’s work of sanctification in believers whereby He renews us in His image (Eph. 4:19-24; Col. 3:10; also see Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 35). Though our sanctification can never precede our once-and-for-all justification, our sanctification must follow if we are truly justified. Justification and sanctification, though they must be distinguished from one another (one is an act of God, one is a work of God, cf. WSC, Q&A 33, 35; WCF, chaps. 11, 13), they must never be separated from one another (see Romans 8:29-30). In Christ, we have all of our righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

 

A Prayer: Holy and Just and Gracious Father full of steadfast love and mercy for sinners in Christ, thank you for declaring me righteous because of the beautiful and glorious righteousness of Jesus Christ! Thank you that in Him I find all the righteousness that I need to live before you, to dwell in your presence, and to thrive in joy in this life and in the life to come. How eager I am to dwell with you in glory because of the grace that I have received in Christ here and now in my union with Christ! Amen and amen.

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Biggs

 

From Your Pastor: Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 31

Question: WSC 31  What is effectual calling?

Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit,(1) whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery,(2) enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ,(3) and renewing our wills,(4) he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.(5) (1)2 Tim 1:9; 2 Thess. 2:13,14 (2)Acts 2:37 (3)Acts 26:18 (4)Ezek. 36:26,27 (5)John 6:44,45; Phil. 2:13

 

Scripture Memory: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

 

An Explanation: God calls sinners to Himself with a general call as well as a specifically effectual call. Both are the works of God’s Spirit. The general call is a work of God’s Spirit in the sphere of common grace and this call can be resisted by sinners (Acts 5:33; 7:51-54). The effectual call is a work of God’s Spirit in the sphere of special grace that always results in powerfully making dead and sinful hearts alive (Ezek. 36:26-27; Eph. 2:4-6), and beginning the work of restoring the image of God in man in the sinner’s union with Christ (Col. 3:10; Acts 2:37-39). Effectual calling can be illustrated in Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead. Until Jesus called Lazarus, he was dead and unable to respond to Jesus’ call. Once Jesus called Him, the dead Lazarus could not resist (cf. John 6:44), for the Spirit had made Him alive, and thus He willingly responded to His master’s voice (John 11:40-43; cf. John 10:4).

 

God the Father particularly calls sinners by the Spirit through the Gospel (Rom. 1:16; 2 Th. 2:13-14). As the Apostle Paul testifies of the power of God through the Gospel: “…Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” (2 Tim. 1:9). Effectual calling is a work of God’s Spirit that is not because of our works, but because of God’s “own purpose and grace” in Christ Jesus. The effectual call is completely the initiating and sovereign work of God, but sinners truly respond to this call. Note four things that the Spirit of God does in this work of effectual calling.

 

The Spirit convinces sinners of our sin and misery (John 16:8-11). We are convicted of our sins, and realize our need for a Savior (Acts 2:37: “What shall we do?”). The Spirit enlightens our minds (Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 2:10,12; Eph. 1:17,18).  The natural man does not understand the things of God; the unregenerate sinner is blinded to the glory of God and “darkened in their understanding” (Eph. 4:18). The enlightening work of the Spirit is described in this way: “…To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18; cf. 2 Cor. 4:6).

 

The Spirit renews our wills (Ezek. 11:19; Phil. 2:13; Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 37:27). By nature our wills are in bondage and slavery to sin and Satan (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 6:16-18). The Spirit frees our wills by His power, so that we will freely choose the grace held out to us in the Gospel of Jesus (Phil. 2:13: “…To will and to work for His good pleasure”). The Spirit works powerfully in granting us freedom and we respond with the obedience of faith and repentance (Rom. 1:5; 16:26; cf. Acts 5:31-32): “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The Spirit persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ offered in the Gospel. This is real Holy-Spiritual power! The apostle describes it as “…The immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…” (Eph. 1:19). (John 6:44,45; Ps. 110:3; John 6:37; Rom. 6:16-18).

 

A Prayer: Father, you predestined me from the foundation of the world. You sent your beloved Son to accomplish my redemption through His blood. In real history, you come by your Spirit to apply that completed redemption on my behalf and effectually call me to yourself by your Sovereign power. Let me live in your love, and dependent upon your power. Amen.

 

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Biggs