Disclaimers

Disclaimers

What’s the catch? Our mothers always warned us, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” The cunning of the salesman is to promote the benefits and overcome the objections. Unfortunately, ‘the catch’ often gets lost in a sea of euphemism. And so, to bridge the gap between the sunshine of the salesman and the rainy day of reality, we have disclaimers.

Everything comes with disclaimers. The fine print. The low-toned, rapid-fire voice at the end of the commercial offering a hurried, but dire warning. Asterisks and double-daggers qualify every statement, so as to evade charges of false advertising. The dictionary defines a disclaimer as, “a statement, document, or assertion that disclaims responsibility, affiliation, etc.; disavowal; denial.” To disclaim is the opposite of claiming. The salesman claims, the legal department disclaims. Offers are made, then qualified, modified, mortified. The sales pitch promotes benefit without borders, then the disclaimer draws a very small map of possibilities.

Disclaimers makes us jaded to every remarkable promise, suspicious of every offer. Yet, I suppose this is nothing new in the history of the world. From the beginning, the Great Deceiver, deceived our forefather Adam to believe that it was God who was deceiving him. Satan added disclaimers and man doubted. Ever since, man has doubted. God offers man more than he can imagine. The offer requires only faith, yet man can only doubt. Satan suggests disclaimers. Surely God is up to no good. Surely it is a trap to defraud and destroy. And so, in our fallenness we trust the Deceiver, and view the Trustworthy One with suspicion.

But God gives something else. He gives faith as a gift. God in his mercy, gives us the faith to trust that his offer comes without disclaimers. Nothing in our doing or undoing undoes God’s offer of eternal life. And to remind us of this, He brings the great story of redemption to a close in Revelation 21 with a vision of all His promises kept. Everything He offered is given. Nothing is withheld. There are no caveats, no conditions, no last-minute substitutions – no disclaimers.

What was true regarding the people of Israel entering the promised land, is also true all who will experience the new heavens and the new earth.

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Joshua 21:45

Have you trusted these promises? Have you accepted God’s offer? Have you believed that eternal life in Christ appears too good to be true, but really is? Or has the Deceiver kept you looking for a disclaimer, a loophole, a conviction that God’s promise comes with asterisks and double-daggers and will come to nothing? Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Revelation 21:1-8 and consider the offer that appears too good to be true, but really is.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Final Judgement

Final Judgement

Rock and roll ballads rarely offer helpful counsel for life’s existential angst.  But they do put their finger insightfully on the pulse of the angst itself.   The bards of rock know well their condition and articulate it with great intensity.   Examples are copious, but some lyrics are more poignant than others. 

Creed’s title track, My Own Prison, has always grieved me.   It’s clarity regarding the ultimate existential crisis, but unwillingness to accept its acknowledged solution underscores the inability of man, unaided by the effectual calling of the Spirit, to find peace. 

Court is in session, a verdict is in
No appeal on the docket today just my own sin
The walls cold and pale, the cage made of steel
Screams fill the room, alone I drop and kneel

Silence now the sound, my breath the only motion around
Demons cluttering around, my face showing no emotion
Shackled by my sentence, expecting no return
Here there is no penance, my skin begins to burn

I hear a thunder in the distance, see a vision of a cross
I feel the pain that was given on that sad day of loss
A lion roars in the darkness, only he holds the key
A light to free me from my burden and grant me life eternally

I cry out to God, seeking only His decision
Gabriel stand and confirms, I’ve created my own prison.

While its theology is askew, the songs’ message is clear.   Without God’s grace, men are self-condemned in a prison of their own sinful making.  The Bible is clear about our condition apart from God’s grace.  Men try to ignore it, deceive themselves about it, and rail against it, but the they cannot escape their own prison.    Though many mock Christianity and scoff at the Bible, all men sense the truth of what Paul wrote in Acts 17:31 and dread it.

[God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

Judgment is coming.   God has not hidden this truth.   Throughout the Scriptures the inevitability of God’s judgment is proclaimed with clarity and certainty.   The final judgement is never expressed in conditional language.   As the author of Hebrews wrote.

It is appointed for man to die once and then comes the judgement.

HEBREWS 9:27

All men will face it.  Great and small, righteous and wicked, believers and unbelievers.  Yet not all men will be condemned.    In a moment of remarkable literal clarity, Revelation 20:11-15 speaks of the final judgment – of its certainty, scope, basis, and sentence.   But like every word of judgement in Scripture, this picture of the final judgement includes a word of grace.   

Among the books of men’s deeds is found another book, the Book of Life of the Lamb Who Was Slain.   This book does not contain men’s works, but their names – the names of those who have trusted Jesus’ works, not their own.   For these men and women, boys and girls, justice has been satisfied.    The one on the throne executing judgement has, himself, endured judgement in their place.  

What about you?  Which book determines your eternal destiny on the day of judgement?   Will you hear, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” or “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Revelation 20:11-15, commonly called the Great White Throne Judgement, and consider what makes the difference between eternal life and death at the final judgement.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Coronation Day

Coronation Day

Surely no one was surprised by Brexit?   Like a young couple crafting a prenup in their first premarital counseling session, Brexit was an inevitable outcome.    As my ASDA House coworker explained in 2001 when I asked about Britain adopting the Euro, “they won’t let us put the Queen on it!”   I knew then that the tenuous EU marriage between Britain and the Continent could never last.   Despite its pretense as a representative democracy, Britain is forever committed to its Crown.

The pageantry, the history, and the utter fascination of being a people ruled by the reign of a Sovereign King or Queen is absolutely repugnant to the American consciousness, however.  Though we began as loyal subjects of the Crown, the abuses our forefathers suffered at its hands have been forever enshrined in our foundational document, The Declaration of Independence.   Every year on the Fourth of July we read.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States….  In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Declaration of Independence

The Declaration’s list of grievances is ingrained on our national identity.  We impute George III’s guilt to every idea of monarchy.   While good for self-governance, our anti-monarchal bias negatively affects our hermeneutics.  It is hard for us to fully appreciate the implications of Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.   Scripture passages that speak of The Kingdom and of Christ and the saints ruling and reigning resonate only lightly with us.   Yet, many sweet promises given to believers in the Bible are related to the rule and reign of the saints over the world.

The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him; 2 Timothy 2:11-12

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 1 Corinthians 6:2-3

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:28-30

And especially in Revelation we read.

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, Revelation 2:26

The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Revelation 3:21

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”   Revelation 5:10-11

And most notoriously,

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.  Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. 

Revelation 20:4-6

Unfortunately, the sweetness of these promises is often obscured by the violence this last passage has suffered at the hands of eisogetes.   At precisely this point, many otherwise sound interpreters abandon the principle of ‘interpreting less clear passages from more clear passages.’   And the questions this text presents are legion?  Where are these thrones?  Over whom will the saints reign?  And who are these saints?  Are they martyrs only?  Or a select few that experience a proto-resurrection?  

Many hearers give up on this passage because of the divisiveness of teachers and preachers.  But the enigmata of Revelation 20 is its ultimate irony.   Like all of Revelation, this passage is not given to obscure, but reveal.  Not to distress, but comfort.  Not to divide, but to unify.   In An Eschatology of Victory, Marcellus Kik notes that accessing the comfort of Revelation 20 depends upon rightly understanding three simple, yet profound images: the binding of the devil, the reigning of the saints, and the two deaths and resurrections.   To miss the meaning of these powerful images is to miss some of the richest gospel comfort offered in Scripture.  Join us as we examine Revelation 20:4-10 and find simple, yet profound comfort from one of the Scripture’s most enigmatic passages.

We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Hope in Christ’s Return

Hope in Christ’s Return

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul seeks to encourage the Thessalonian believers toward godliness.  He has reflected upon their conversion, he is aware of the trials they face, and he has exhorted them toward sanctification.  He knows, however, the tendency to lose heart.  And as these Christians are losing loved ones and even facing persecution, Paul urges them to the hope of Christ’s second coming.  It is really this message of hope and of encouragement that shapes the passage.  Paul, with this hope as the backdrop, encourages them with the coming resurrection, and he exhorts them to be ready for the Day of Christ’s coming.

He writes about the resurrection, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 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 Thessalonians 4:13-14)  Paul is speaking to concern about loved ones who have departed, as some were possibly tempted to doubt the hope that they would share in the eternal hope promised in the resurrection of the believer.  Perhaps you yourself have lost a loved one in Christ, and it is difficult in the midst of the grief to have the confidence that they will rise.  Consider two questions from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  Question 37 asks, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?”  The answer provided is, “The souls of believers are, at their death, made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves until the resurrection.” The believer who dies, according to the catechism, is already present with Christ in glory.  But what is sometimes overlooked is this statement: “their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves until the resurrection.”  The body of the believer remains in that vital connection to Jesus Christ even in the grave—this union with Jesus Christ is the guarantee of the believer’s resurrection.  Christ has been raised; therefore, each of His people will be as well.  Question 38 of the Shorter Catechism goes on to ask, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?”  The answer is “At the resurrection, believers, being raised up to glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.” 

This is your hope—Christ has borne the judgment; therefore, you will be acquitted if you are found in Him.  And, you will be “made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.”  This is also the hope you have for loved ones in Christ who have departed. 

There is great hope in the resurrection.  We ought to look longingly toward the return of Christ.  But Paul also gives the exhortation toward being prepared for that Day.  The believer ought to look to their great hope of salvation in Jesus Christ and pursue likeness to Him as they await that Day. If you are not a believer, won’t you see this great salvation offered unto you by this Returning King, and look to Him? Then you will have a place to stand on that Day, and you will possess an eternal hope. We will discuss this further this Lord’s Day at 5 PM during worship at The Commons at St. Andrews.  For directions, click here, or contact us for more information.  You can also join us on FacebookLive@RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

The Will of God for the Christian

The Will of God for the Christian

In the letter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul recalls the conversion of the Thessalonian believers.  He also rejoices that they are continuing to grow in their faith, and that they are being made more like Christ.  As we come to chapter 4, he continues commend them, but he also exhorts them to press on.  Specifically, he encourages his hearers toward both holiness and brotherly love.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification….”  We often ask, “What is the will of God for my life?”  As the Christian writer Kevin DeYoung notes in his book, Just Do Something, we tend to overcomplicate that question.  We certainly ought to pray when it comes to major decisions and should always want to submit to the will of God, but Paul is making a point about what the will of God is ultimately for every Christian—sanctification.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks in question 35 “What is sanctification?”  The answer provided by the catechism is, “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”  In other words, this means that if you are a Christian, God is at work in you.  You are not saved by your holiness; rather, you are saved by Jesus Christ who lived sinlessly on your behalf and who died bearing your sin and guilt.  But now that you are a Christian, God is at work in you to make you more like Jesus.  Do you love Christ more and hate sin more than you once did?  That is because the Lord God is at work in you.

Paul, knowing that God is doing this work of sanctification in the lives of his hearers exhorts them then unto holiness and brotherly love.  And those two things really go together.  As one is being made to be more like Jesus, they will love His people all the more.  Is your fellowship marked by brotherly love?  We will discuss these things more fully as we meet for worship this Lord’s Day, September 19 at The Commons at St. Andrews Church in Little Rock at 5 PM.  For directions, click here or contact us for more information.  You can also join us on Facebook Live@RiverCityARP or on YouTube

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.