June 2021

Unforgettable Moments

Special moments can change the course of our lives. Looking back across the years of my spiritual journey with Christ, my most unforgettable moment happened when I was eight years old, on the second Sunday morning in November. I was at church where my parents always took the entire family on Sundays and any other night of the week that featured worship services. That November Sunday morning was the last day of revival services. I no longer remember the name of the evangelist or his message.

A Son of Abraham

Many collections of Bible stories for children that I have seen and used include the story of the short man of Jericho (Luke 19:1-9). We even sang a song that emphasized the man’s shortness. When I taught Sunday school children, their interest in Zacchaeus’ promptness to give back to others captured me.

The Initiative of God: Prevenient Grace and Justification

For many of us, the word “justification” means much the same as the word “conversion.” It is that moment in the life of a Christian when he or she believes in Christ. Particularly, it is that moment when, after confession of sin, the new Christian accepts forgiveness and becomes a child of God. That is right as far as it goes. However, the truth of justification is so much greater than that!

Justification and Christ

Pelagius, Augustine, and Arminius

The Reformed Church of the Netherlands (RCN) has been the official denomination of the Republics of the United Provinces of the Netherlands since 1571. On the occasion of the Synod of Endem, they established the Belgian Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism (for the Dutch-speaking provinces) or the Catechism of Geneva (for French-speaking provinces) as the confessional documents and indispensable requirements for the ordination of their ministers.

A Community Born by Grace

Interwoven throughout the testimonies of the Old Testament is the conviction that the Lord graciously initiated and freely established a unique relationship with the community called Israel. Frequently described in terms of covenant, this relationship between God and people finds its most common expression in the Lord’s validating words, “I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:12). As our biblical ancestors spoke of being “rightly related” with God and each other through this covenant, they used words derived from a single Hebrew root: ts-d-q.

The Righteous Judge

The doctrine of justification encompasses more nuances than just the word itself. The Greek word “δικαιοσύνη” used for “justification” extends to a range of meanings in English, including justification, justice, truthfulness, and righteousness. In order to explain the concept of justification, we must capture multiple links between these various words in the δικαιο-family.

Sacraments and Salvation

How should we understand (and practice) the relationship of the sacraments with God’s work of saving grace? We should remember that “saving grace” is not a different kind of grace than “prevenient grace.” Both refer to God’s redemptive work in us but reference different stages in the journey of faith. They are not two different “things” but rather are different ways of speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit. So how do the sacraments connect with God’s gracious work when we come to faith in Christ?

Baptism

Repentance from our Unbelief

Repentance has a significant place and should not be underestimated in the life of a Christian. The ministry of John the Baptist was characterized by “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). When Jesus began His earthly prophetic ministry, His message was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mark 1:15; Matthew 3:2). The question, therefore, that we must ask is this: “What does it mean to repent, and why is it important?”

Change of Mind

A Merciful Savior

Every human is guilty before God because of his/her sin and cannot run away from this guilt and condemnation. Each of us is destined to death, but through our faith in the gracious intervention of the Son of God who took our sins on Him, we can be saved. On the cross, we were rescued and redeemed, freed from the slavery of sin.

Keep in Step with Jesus

I have never lived on a farm—never milked a cow, never plowed a field, never waited for the harvest. I am a city boy. This puts me at a disadvantage, at times, when I read the parables and illustrations of Jesus in the New Testament. Many of His images in preaching came from a context of farming—ancient Israel was an agrarian society. The people not only understood but lived their lives around the planting and harvesting seasons.

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