Letters to the Reformers

Brothers and Sisters,

One of America’s great writers, Wendell Berry touches upon the matter of the our proper perspective of all work and I think it applies quite well to the work of the church. This is what he has said: 

We don’t have the right to ask whether we’re gonna succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is, ‘what’s the right thing to do?’

It is easy to grow impatient and frustrated in all our labors, especially in the labor of supporting and seeking to grow the church when we do not see the results for which we are hoping. Most often those results are synonymous with some spoken or unspoken measure of success that is best described as numerical growth, and influence within our community and across the globe. What is interesting is that there is some measure of success which Christ does promise to the Church:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18)

One measure of success that Christ gives to His Church, through the disciple is that the church, His bride will be victorious over death, the grave and hell. A victory with Christ Himself secured in his own death and resurrection. Beyond this the details, the more local and subjective matters of success are mysterious and impossible to predict. For instance, whether or not Reformation will succeed in the way that we, the members of Reformation desire, and Berry is right by exhorting people not to ask the question of whether we will succeed, but rather are we faithful. This is a question that everyone can immediately answer in their own hearts in this way: “Have I been faithful to the call to glorify God and enjoy Him, within the sphere of labor in my own local church?” Well… Have you? 

Even beyond the call to the local church, do you seek first Christ’s Kingdom and righteousness in every aspect of your life? Do you seek faithfulness over success? Is it enough that you have been obedient, that you have done what is good, according to God’s call? The path to joy and contentment cannot be trod well if we are consistently worried about success before the simple call to walk well, righteously, and true according to Scripture.

Sermon Synopsis

Sunday Morning - John 20:11-31 - Our coming text serves to answer well this question: How is it that we must behold Jesus that we might be saved? Is seeing believing? Well, yes and no. Beholding Christ in the flesh was and never would be enough, rather the confrontation of disbelief and doubt is through Christ revealing Himself by the Spirit. This is we must behold Christ through the spiritual gift of faith - we must see Him through the eyes of faith. The exaltation of Christ is made manifest among His beloved people by granting them eyes to see and ears to hear. This is yet another incredible example of God’s grace that He is patient, loving and gentle enough to bear our blindness and unbelief and reveal Himself unto our believing, loving, and devoting ourselves to Him.

Sunday Evening - 1 Corinthians 16:12-24 - This is it. The final sermon from Paul’s first epistle to the churches in Corinth. Some might look at the situation and say, “well at least we aren’t as bad as those folks in Corinth.” This is no doubt a reckless statement to make and reveals the very heart of the problem that plagued many in Corinth - spiritual pride that was the result of seeking first another kingdom before Christ’s own. Here at the close Paul gives a simple exhortation to live like faithful soldiers of the Cross of Jesus Christ with all strength and love, and that the love that they have for one another be come first from their love of Christ. You cannot be a disciple of the Cross unless you love the One who died for you, and you cannot love one another unless the love of Christ is alive within you.

Letter to the Reformers - December 9, 2018

To the Faithful Who Await Our King's Coming,

In the book of Job, we find one of Job’s friends asking questions related to the nature of God as infinite and eternal, and our subsequent beholding of Him and knowing Him as those who are creatures: 

“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea." Job 11:7-9

Concerning this very issue of God’s nature and our beholding of Him, the Puritan, George Swinnock stated, "God’s name declares the incomparable nature of His being.” This is to say that God makes Himself known to His creation, namely to those men and women, made in His own image, through the glorious revelation of His names. We see many of these names in both the Old and New Testaments, and when the name is presented something about God’s nature is revealed. When God revealed Himself to Moses from within the burning bush (Exodus 3), as “I Am” or YHWH, we are brought face to face with the God who is eternal, infinite and covenantally bound to His special people - Israel. The Names of God reveal the very being and substance of God. If we wish then to know of God, we must turn our attention to the names that He has given unto to Himself that we might know, worship and serve Him better.

In an effort to more faithfully present the One who is our Blessed Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, I will take up in the final six sermons (three Sundays) which I have left this year, to focus upon the One who came, obeyed, bled and died for His beloved bride, the Church. I will do this by taking the four names given prophetically in Isaiah 9 of the child who would be born of God and man, the Incarnate One, Jesus Christ. In addition to these four, the name Jesus itself, and then the exalted title given to Jesus upon the throne of heaven and earth that we read in Revelation 19.

Here is the outline/schedule for the remaining Sundays:

December 9

Sunday AM - Wonderful Counselor - Isaiah 9:6-7; Isa 28:29; Matthew 13:54
Sunday PM - Mighty God - Isaiah 9:6-7; Psalm 45:3; Jeremiah 32:18

December 16

Sunday AM - Everlasting Father - Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 63:16; John 14:18
Sunday PM - Prince of Peace - Isaiah 9:6-7; Ephesians 2:14; Isaiah 11:6-9

December 23

Sunday AM - You Shall Call Him Jesus - Luke 1:31; Acts 13:23
Sunday PM - Glory to the King of Kings - Revelation 19:16; Philippians 2:9-11

By God’s grace we will become even more familiar with the names and thusly the Person, Jesus Christ, our dear Redeemer and Lord. This will of course not only make us better worshippers, but laborers in the work of the Kingdom because in beholding our Redeemer are we not promised that we will become like Him. In this season of the advent of the earthly ministry of Christ, what better goal is there than to better know, love and become like the only Savior of sinners.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Fowler

Letter to the Reformers - November 25, 2018

Brothers and Sisters,

A quote I read this week on the concept of thanksgiving in general, not having to do with turkeys…

“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good, if it is bad, because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.” - C.S. Lewis

What made Job a righteous man, a man who loved the Lord and was well known by those on earth, in heaven and even hell, was that his righteousness was really a deep and abiding faith that whatever God did was right. He need not understand, he need not be clear on the Divine objective, he needed only to know that God’s purposes were good, and this he knew ever before he suffered and throughout the course of suffering because he believed. Job was a man of profound faith, and it was due to this faith that he, in correcting his wife when she had given up on possessing any more joy in that shared life in which they had lost so much exhorted Job to curse God and die.  We see the dialogue in Job 2: 

[9] Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” [10] But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (ESV)

Thanksgiving is not the exercise of thanking God for the good things, it is the exercise of thanking for all things, for all things come from the hand of God whose chief purpose in bringing about both good and bad for us, was the same for Job - to teach a man who already possessed even great faith, even greater faith and the greatest gift that Job would ever receive a direct and Divine revelation that God is good, that He in fact rules and reigns from heaven and that the greatest testimony of His goodness and greatness is that He will raise up the dead, He will reward the faith of His people with resurrection through His Son.

Sermon Rundown

Sunday Morning, John 18:33-19:16 | This coming Sunday morning we will be returning to John’s Gospel where we find tensions mounting between the light of God, and the darkness that so deeply and violently surrounded him. We see just how alone Christ was in his faithfulness to the mission of Christ. His disciples failed to be faithful. His people, the Israelites had abandoned him, and the chief priests wanted Him dead for blasphemy. They drummed up these charges and others of political insurrection seeking to paint a target on his back before Rome. What we can say about Christ is this, Rome and the Temple in Jerusalem were not the objectives of Christ because they were not the institutions Christ came to conquer in the way that Rome and the high priests thought. Christ thought himself a king, and spoke as a king, but Christ was a suffering king, whose subsequent destruction over death, and redemption of his people would be the foundation for the establishment of the greatest institution of human history, the covenant people of God, the church. Chesterton touches on this concept: 

“When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.” - G.K.Chesterton, Heretics

Sunday Evening, 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 | Sunday evening we will turn our attention again to Paul’s lengthy treatise on Christ’s Resurrection and its implications for the meaning of the Gospel, the mission of the Church, and the heart of what we believe and preach in a world touched so deeply by death. Because Christ is raised, you do not need to loose hope that you will be raised. In fact all men, saint or sinner alike will be judged and raised. Let the reality of the resurrection drive you to obedience, and to bearing in your body which will be raised those outward signs that point to that most glorious inward, spiritual reality that are, the Christian, if anything, a people who believe in Christ’s resurrection and hope in that in the future we too will be raised. In short, live in light of the resurrection of the dead, and bear the signs of Christ resurrection in your body.

Letter to the Reformers - November 18, 2018

Brothers and Sisters,

King David encourages the saint, who lives under the authority of Almighty God to think of his or herself in the following way:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  - Psalm 8:1-4

In the first part of this psalm David reminds not only the covenant people of God, but all the earth that the LORD, being exalted in majesty and glory, is worthy of the worship of all men. In fact God is worshipped by His incredible acts of creation and providence, both small and great - through literal little people and incomprehensibly immense celestial bodies. If God is this great, then who are we by comparison, and who are we to think that this God considers us at all. The incredible covenantal truth is this that God does consider men, not because we are in any way His equals, but because God, though infinitely high loves His creation and works for the good of His people. That God thinks of men is a testimony of His grace, not a testimony of our inherent strength, glory or worthiness. 

Worship is the exercise wherein we magnify this existing Creator-creature distinction. We reflect upon our low estate, and the Lord’s high position. We do so that we might number our days, be reacquainted with our powerlessness over creation, and find a heart of true repentance towards a God whom we have offended with our sin. From this place of humility gratitude for salvation, love for the fellows saints and an abiding heart of joy nurtured on the reality that we are not what we should be, condemned and destitute, by rather delivered by God’s grace. We should marvel at God’s loving mercy and care.

Letter to the Reformers - November 11, 2018

Brothers and Sisters,
I would lead this morning with a short stanza from a prayer, taken from Valley of Vision.

Teach me to know that grace precedes,
accompanies, and follows my salvation,
that it sustains the redeemed soul,
that not one link of its chain can ever break. - Valley of Vision

n this short stanza lifted from one of the many wonderfulprayers fromValley of Vision(which I might add would make a wonderful Christmas gift for a loved one or yourself) speaks of the essential nature of God’s grace to the salvation of a sinner. Grace is necessary to every step of our salvation and grace never fails. Grace is God’s extraordinary, undeserved, unmerited disposition of favor towards sinners, like you and me. It erupts not out of a response to our worthiness, but rather the heart of God which abounds with never-failing love and compassion. God does not find beautiful people and then determines to love them, but rather He has chosen objects of love and makes them beautiful, that is like Himself in holiness, by His grace. To quote Martin Luther from his wonderful Heidelberg Disputations from 1518: “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.”

You are the what you are because God, in His particular and eternal affection chose you and has showered you with transforming grace. Let the heart then of your pursuit of holiness, service in the Lord’s Church, fellowship with the saints be grounded upon a spiritual affection whose object is the One who is most beautiful, most glorious, most patient, most GRACIOUS, the Triune Lord of Heaven and Earth. 

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15, ESV)

Letter to the Reformers - November 4, 2018

Dear Saints of the Most High,

This Sunday morning we will be called to worship with these words:

Praise the LORD!
Praise the name of the LORD,
give praise, O servants of the LORD,
who stand in the house of the LORD,
in the courts of the house of our God!
Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel as his own possession. (Psalm 135: 1-4, ESV)

We find among the all out call to worship, this simple phrase “sing to his name,for it is pleasant!” The psalmist reflects upon the fact that worshipping the Lord is pleasing, it is good for the servant of God. Elsewhere we read the Apostle Paul write,Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7–8, ESV). The pursuit of holiness/godliness is that which is most important. The greatest good is that you pursue that which God calls good.What is the discipline of pursuing holiness, well the psalmist says that it at least involves singing. Do you wish to be godly, do you wish to pursue that which is best? Then sing. Sing to the One who gave you a voice, who fills your lungs, who fills your soul with songs of adoration, thanksgiving, confession and praise. 

Letter to the Reformers - October 28, 2018

Saints of the Most High God,

In Psalm 135, we read and encouraged to sing of God’s covenant faithfulness to His beloved people, chosen and preserved by His extraordinary grace. The Lord’s faithfulness informs and motivates us to worship especially in contrast to the vanity of foreign gods, idols of men. There is only one true God, who does whatever He pleases, and He delights in showing mercy and upholding the lives of His people. This is why His “nation,” the Church endures, while all the nations who worship idols perish. That God has shown loving kindness, patience, sovereign choice, covenant faithfulness to those who would otherwise perish in their sins is reason to worship. 

Let’s look at the progress of this Psalm of Ascent, one sung by the people of God on their way to the place of covenant worship:

3 | Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! 
4 | For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession.
8-11 | He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; and Og, king of who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, the kingdoms of Canaan, 
14-15 |  For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants. The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
19 | Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.
21 | Blessed be the LORD from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the LORD!

The beginning an end are a call to worship, and what lies in the middle forms the reason for why we are to worship the Lord and bless His name, the One who dwells in Zion, the One whose life-giving presence is distinct from the the cursing corruption of vain idols (15-18). The worship of idols leads to death, the worship of God leads to life. The psalmist’s point is quite clear - idolatry is suicide. Trusting in the Lord is the only way to life, so worship and adore the only Lord of life. 

This Sunday we have opportunity to embrace the One who has life in His hands, and to come together as a people to receive for ourselves and to declare who have not yet found it, that which the Lord alone is able and so willing to give.