Parenting

Parenting

Children, obey your parent in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor you father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1-4 
(Sermon follow-up)

For many of us, it is easy to honor our father and mother. For those of us who were blessed with godly or moral parents, they are worthy of honor because their actions are honorable. But some of us are not in this category; unfortunately, some of us were abandoned by our parents or suffered physical or emotional abuse growing up. How do we honor such parents? Should we honor them?
 
With the help of the Holy Spirit, the first way to honor an abusive parent is to come to a place of forgiveness. We all must forgive those who have wronged us, no matter how grievous the wound. This will honor your parent and bring a measure of healing to your own heart. This does not mean that you should allow the abuse to continue. It is important to set up appropriate boundaries. If conditions allow, you can discuss those boundaries with them and explain why they are needed. In many cases though, this may not be fruitful or wise. It is not possible to provide good counsel for each individual circumstance in a general sermon or newsletter. If you have suffered abuse from a parent (biological parents or other caregivers), I would encourage you to seek a mentor or Christian counselor if you need help establishing proper boundaries and working through forgiveness.

Honoring our parents means that we work to ensure that they are cared for, especially as they age. It does not mean that we meet their every expectation or desire. But we should maintain involvement and connection with them (again, assuming abuse or neglect is not an issue). Few people have ever expressed regret over giving their parents too much of their time, but many have regretted losing connection with their parents. I know how easy it is for the weeks to slip by, but I am reminded of how important it is to stay in touch.   In closing, I want to address the discipline of young children.

As I detailed Sunday, the Bible uses the word “rod” in describing how to discipline a child, but the “rod” itself is not described. It is important to never wound your child, so the use of a proper “rod” will ensure that you get their attention and correct their heart attitude without abuse. A good “rod” for young children is a simple one-gallon paint stirrer. Again, if you have questions, please reach out to older parents who have successfully raised their children.  

God bless,
Bob Sawyer
Elder

Mission Update

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecution and in the afflictions that you are enduring.”
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4    

This week in Rwanda has been tremendous and full of answered prayer. Thank you for your faithfulness to pray for us while we are out of country. I’ve been posting daily updates to our church Facebook page. What I have not been able to post there, or write about here, is the strangulation of the Rwandan church through dictatorial government regulation. It’s death by a 1,000 cuts. We’ll talk more about this when we are together in person. For now, pray for the Christians here, and pray for the Luttrull’s mission to this country. Pray that both will know how best to share the share the Gospel with boldness and wisdom.

On another note, I have been thankful throughout this week to be able to speak about the vibrant health of our church. I am thankful for your growing faith, increasing brotherly love, and steadfast Christian character. I am thankful for what God is doing in our church, so that I might go to other places and encourage them with what is possible. I’m able to speak with people about what the Lord is doing in our time and under the current world situation in realities, not possibilities. It is greatly encouraging for people to hear what the Lord is doing at Redeemer. We didn’t just read about these things in a book but have lived them and seen them happen by the power of the Holy Spirit in our town.        

Important Note:
Josiah and Stephanie Luttrull, the missionaries we are visiting in Rwanda, are looking for in-country missionary partners for the next two years. The IMB has approved a position for a married couple, or two single men, to assist in the work of teaching and church-planting missions for two years. This posting is fully funded by the IMB. Do you feel the call of God to be involved in foreign missionary work in Africa? Here’s your open door! I’ll be talking more about this when we return and pressing to see if God will fill these positions from Redeemer.  

Sermon this Sunday:
Many thanks to Bob Sawyer for filling the pulpit this Sunday. I am announcing this sermon because I know it will be of particular value to the church. Bob will be preaching from Ephesians 6:1-4 which speaks to Christian parenting. In an age when almost every cultural force is pulling our children away from Christ, this is vitally important teaching. We must struggle, according to God’s will, against the spirit of this age to see our children come to salvation and grow up in godliness. With four godly children and four grandchildren, Bob and Kim have much practical experience in this area as Christian parents. Sometimes the task of Christian parenting can be very discouraging. I urge you to come so that you can be both instructed and encouraged by God’s word in your Christian parenting.
 
May the Lord Jesus strengthen His church in Rwanda,
Pastor Vic

Rwanda Mission Trip

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”  Matthew 28:18a

We’re off to Rwanda! I’m writing this waiting for our plane to depart Dulles. Please pray for me, Clay Hicks, Rodney Swann, and Coleson Herron this week as we strive to obey the missionary call of Jesus. Below is our itinerary for the week. Please print it off and pray for us as you have opportunity. By prayer, you truly partner with us and undergird these efforts. All fruit and progress in ministry comes from the Lord by His Holy Spirit. The same Lord Jesus reigns in Kigali, Rwanda as in Spotsylvania, Virginia!
 
Friday: Arrive in Kigali and go to hotel for required quarantine. We cannot be released from quarantine without a clear COVID test. Please pray for a clear test.
 
Saturday: Depart hotel for airbnb near the Luttrull home. Visit with and encourage IMB missionaries Josiah and Stephanie Luttrull, and their four boys. Get bearings for a week of ministry. Coleson will join a local church to practice with their worship team.
 
Sunday: Vic will preach at one local church through an interpreter, and Coleson will help lead musical worship at another local church. After service, we’ll fellowship with and start getting to know local Christians.
Monday / Tuesday: We will be going out into a more rural location to teach a group of rural pastors and Christian leaders. These brothers and sisters have a very basic understanding of Christianity. Vic, Clay, and Rodney will rotate throughout the day teaching, and Coleson will lead in worship. This teaching will be done through an interpreter.

Wednesday / Thursday: We will be teaching a group of thirty urban pastors in the city of Kigali. They will have gathered from various places for two days of prayer, teaching, and worship. This will be a more seasoned group of pastors, and teaching will be in English.
 
Friday: We will begin the day at the child food assistance charity. This Christian charity feeds hungry children and shares Jesus with them. We will be delivering the total gift collected ($327) from our children during VBS and, in Jesus’ name, giving it to these needy children. It will supply meals for approximately a week.

We will then meet with a group of young Christians interested in planting churches outside Kigali. We’ll take questions and speak to them about what God is doing at Redeemer, and how to form a biblical New Testament church.

This day will end with the first session of a community teaching session. Approximately sixty people will gather for teaching from Vic, Clay, and Rodney, and Coleson will again lead us in worship.
 
Saturday: We will complete the seminar by lunch, sign-off with the Luttrulls, then head for the airport.
 
We love you all. See you soon!
 
May the gospel of Jesus Christ go forth in power,
Pastor Vic

Prayer, Book Review, Rwanda

Prayer, Book Review, Rwanda

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
2 Corinthians 1:5


Please continue in prayer for Afghanistan, our fellow Christians facing increasing persecution, and our soldiers in harms way. First, with the August 31 deadline approaching when the Biden administration will end the airlift, we must continue in prayer for the escape of Christians and others from the captivity of Taliban rule. Join us TONIGHT at the Patterson’s house for prayer. Second, many airlift efforts are underway by public and private organizations. If you feel led to contribute to the airlift effort, I suggest donating to Samaritan’s Purse or No One Left Behind (nooneleft.org). Both organizations are well established, well organized, and have already effectively evacuated 1,000s of people in their target groups.
—-
Book Review: “Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel” by Drew Hill
 
I want to recommend an excellent and unique book. I think we all struggle with how to best love and communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to teenagers. We all know teenagers, and many of us have teenagers, that we love deeply. We should long more than anything for them to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and follow after Jesus with genuine faith. But we live in highly divided and confusing times. There seem to be new competing and conflicting struggles every day that make it harder and harder to communicate with our teens – much less communicate life changing spiritual truths.
 
“Alongside” teaches parents and youth workers, through inspiring and practical chapters, how to walk with our teens through the struggles of life. Each short chapter includes vital teaching, practical advice for parents, practical advice for youth workers, and lots of questions. These questions are not for you, but for your teen. The questions apply the truth of the chapter in a way that gets the conversation going with your teen. The beginning of any relationship is conversation. If you’re not talking with your teen in a meaningful way, your relationship is doomed.
 
In my opinion the single greatest theme of this book is that we show our gospel love for our teens by pursuing them. Often teens withdraw to themselves, or for some reason conflict comes into our relationship and shuts down communication. It’s our job to show our teens how much we love them by pursuing them. We must demonstrate the love of Christ through relationship. This is not the kind of book you sit down and burn through. This is the kind of book you read one chapter a week and then do your best to apply each week.

I strongly suggest every parent of teenagers read this book, and prayerfully get after pursuing your teens for Jesus. I thank God every week for the work that Mark and Kimberly do with our teens, but the role is given primarily to us as parents. May God bless your efforts and may none of our children be lost to the world.
—-
Mission Trip Rwanda: From September 2-12 Pastor Vic, Rodney Swann, Clay Hicks, and Coleson Herron will be working with International Mission Board missionary Josiah Luttrull in Kigali, Rwanda. This trip will be a combination of preaching, teaching, evangelism, encouraging local pastors, and encouraging our local missionaries on the ground. Please pray for clear passage there and back and for open hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for the Luttrulls and for local churches in Kigali.

Thank you for you faithful giving to Redeemer Bible Church. Most of the cost of this trip, for all participants, was offset by the general church budget. We believe strongly that the budget of the church should support foreign mission efforts. This is the first of many trips, God willing, that will be sent out from Redeemer. We plan to continue work with the Luttrulls and expand to work with unreached people in Madagascar through the work of Nathan and Tessa Baker.
—-
Church Planting Podcast: I had the chance to tell some of my story for the first on “The Church Planting Podcast.” This started as a journey Maria and I were on together, but along the way we all joined in together to plant a church. It’s our story now! Only Jesus knows what will happen over the coming years, but I’m excited to find out.
Episode 1: here
Episode 2: here  

May the good news of the gospel be proclaimed by each of us this week,
Pastor Vic  

Taliban

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:2-8

This Psalm is about the Lord watching over and delivering His people in times of great trouble. I want to bring your attention to the Christian population in Afghanistan. They are our persecuted brothers and sisters. Afghanistan is estimated to have around 150,000 Christians (.3% of the population). These Christians were already a tiny minority in the midst of a traditionally Muslim nation. Now, they are a tiny minority in the midst of the Taliban, a radical Sunni Islamic sect waging jihad on the nation to fully implement sharia law. These Christians are in grave danger and need our prayers.

Reports are coming out of the country from many different sources reporting direct physical threats to Christians. Christians being trapped in their homes in dire need. People’s phones being searched for Bible apps under threat of being shot on the spot if a Bible is found. (Death for owning a Bible is the same penalty enforced in North Korea.) In the end, to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord is to apostatize (forsake) Islam. The sharia law penalty for apostacy is death. Those found believing in Jesus are given three days to decide their fate. To maintain belief in Jesus, means death. Our brothers and sisters are facing a terrible situation.

We saw this gruesome reality work its way out in Iraq under the Islamic State.  Unknown masses of Christians were put to death, or driven out of their homes as refugees, for believing in Jesus as Lord. This Islamic effort was successful in nearly eradicating Christianity from Iraq, one of Christianity’s ancient homes. It’s been some time since this tragedy unfolded, and the reality of radical Islam has been pushed to the back of our minds. It’s now back with a vengeance. Many of those being subjected to these ways have never known this form of oppression. Youths in Kabul have enjoyed American style freedom and prosperity for twenty years and have only heard about the Taliban. Those same youths are now facing the armed reality of the Taliban.

Not only Christians, but women in general are feeling the full force of Islam as they are reduced to property status. Under radical (meaning fully applied) Islam women are enslaved to their possessing husband. They are not allowed to show any part of their body (including their face) which powerfully works to dehumanize them. They are not allowed to go to school, drive, or hold any position of influence. Instead, they are put to labor, as if an animal.

We must truly pray for our Christian brothers, and especially sisters, caught up in this terrifying situation. God knows their names and their needs. The Lord is on their side and will spare them according to His purposes. Let’s pray for:

  • Protection against death, physical abuse, and imprisonment
  • Escape
  • Provision
  • Mercy
  • Wisdom and courage

Let us, in general, pray against the spread of Islam in the world. Pray for the efforts of Christian missionaries amidst Islamic people. May the Lord work in supernatural ways to bring Islamic people to salvation. May the Holy Spirit give them an extra measure of courage to believe in the face of persecution and being cut off from family and friends.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,

Pastor Vic

New Church Plant

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” –Acts 2:46-47

I want to update you on some exciting developments in our church family that have been prayed about for months but are now beginning to take shape. We ourselves are a church planted by another church – Spotswood Baptist Church. We believe that the multiplication of local churches is the foundation of how the great commission will be accomplished. It is in the local church context that new believers grow in their faith, use the spiritual gifts given to them, partake in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and grow in relationship to each other. This has been the plan and purpose of God since the ascension of Jesus Christ. We believe that the multiplication of local churches happens best through churches planting new churches, instead of denominational structures planting churches or one famous preacher’s words being broadcast to many campuses.

Planting a local church begins with an able spiritual leader that feels called of God to lead a new church. Since early on in the life of Redeemer we have had a group of passionate Christians driving nearly an hour one-way from north Stafford (through weekend I-95 traffic) to be a part of what the Lord has been doing at Redeemer. I rejoice in the devotion and friendship of these dear brothers and sisters, but I have long felt that at some point in the future the Lord would call one of the spiritual men in this group to lead and form this group into a new church. That time has arrived.

I’m excited to announce that Justin Woodruff feels called of the Lord to begin forming up our first new church plant in northern Stafford, VA. Please be praying for Justin and Molly and their amazing family. Forming and planting a church is not like launching a business. A healthy church is formed around relationships, not marketing techniques. Relationships take time to grow and form in healthy ways. At this point, Justin has simply raised his hand and said “Yes!” to God’s call to lead. The current Redeemer elder board is working with Justin to establish a starting elder board for the new church. We are together in an exploration phase of determining where they will meet, what needs they will have, and who will fill key positions. When we were at this stage with Redeemer, it was a year before we launched our first service at Ni River Middle School. There is no set timeline, only steady and intentional progress forward.

Our goal is for Redeemer Stafford to become it’s own autonomous (self-governing) church. By creating new self-governing churches, there is a greater multiplication of Christian leaders and teachers. There is a greater focus on Jesus being the head of the church, than any one personality. There is also a greater accessibility to pastoral care. We talk often about not wanting Redeemer to become so large that we lose meaningful personal relationship. The answer to this is not to close the doors, but to expand the mission outward. My prayer is to create over years, a cooperating group of Redeemer churches that intentionally share doctrinal agreement, a commitment to expository Bible preaching, elder led / congregationally ruled church governance, and meaningful church membership.

Our vision is a group of churches that are organically related through shared discipleship and planting, but functioning under the SBC denominational umbrella. This will allow for much more personal encouragement and cooperation, but retain the benefits of national affiliation. We’ll see how this goes as the Lord leads! At this point, the elders ask you to pray for Justin and Molly, pray for the initial elder group, and consider whether you may want to join them in this effort. We strongly believe north Stafford needs a church like Redeemer! If you feel like you may want to be a part of this new church, please let Justin know.

One of the hardest things about sending out strong leaders on mission is…sending out strong leaders on mission. There’s a reason why so many of the New Testament letters are filled with emotion about missing beloved friends. Separation is hard. We would all prefer to stay together and just enjoy those we already know, but this is not what Jesus would have us to do now. This rejoicing and rest will be fully enjoyed in heaven. We must now have a great love for the lost, like Jesus did. We must go out and seek them in Jesus’ name. We must be fishers of men. But for every leader that goes out, another must stand up and grow into their vacant place. As some of our strong leaders go out, I will be calling on others of you to fill their places.

My prayer is that this will be the first of many new churches planted out of Redeemer. Together let us live on mission for our Redeemer Jesus Christ.

What a joy to serve Jesus with you,

Pastor Vic

Cross, Death, Burial

“God shows His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, The Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried

It is an incredible truth that Jesus Christ died upon a cross for the ungodly! During his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter makes clear (Acts 2:23) that Jesus was delivered up “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” The death of Jesus Christ was not an accident, or happenstance. Jesus knew throughout His ministry that it was God’s will that He be delivered over to wicked men, mocked, shamefully treated, spat upon, flogged, and crucified (Luke 18:32-34). Each one of the Gospels record this event which is essential to our salvation.

The crucifixion of Jesus accomplished atonement for the sins of God’s people. As defined by Wayne Grudem, the atonement is “the work that Christ did in His life and death to earn our salvation.” We did not earn our salvation; Jesus did what was necessary by grace alone. It’s right to ask why Jesus had to die upon a cross. The answer to this question has to do with the holiness of God, the justice of God, and the love of God. In His holiness, God is perfect in all His character and all His actions. He is perfectly righteous and without sin. His command from the beginning with Adam and Eve still stands – if we rebel against the perfect ways of the Lord, we will surely die (Romans 6:23). The perfect justice of God requires a satisfaction be made for our sins.

The Bible calls this satisfaction of sin a propitiation. A propitiation is a sacrifice that bears punishment, or wrath, so that a just judge might be satisfied. Romans 3:23-26 speaks to this situation very specifically. We are justified (or made right) before God by the gracious substitution of Jesus Christ. God the Father sent His Son Jesus to be the substitutionary atonement for our sins (John 3:26). Through the cross of Christ the justice of God is met, and the overflowing gracious love of God is open to us in Jesus. For us, God is both just and the Justifier. This is good news!

Many people are offended by the cross, but a denial of the cross is a denial of the gospel. Those who would call the cross a form of “child abuse” wrongly isolate the crucifixion event from the broader Biblical narrative. It is clear in the New Testament that God the Father loves the Son (Matthew 3:17) and that through the saving work of Jesus on the cross, the Father will exalt the Son and bestow on Him a “name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus willingly gave up His life for His chosen people. He laid down His life for the sheep. But unbelieving non-Christians will never recognize these spiritual realities. They do not recognize their own sins, and they do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God (2 Corinthians 2:7-10). Without discerning these two basic spiritual realities, the cross just doesn’t make sense.

Jesus was crucified and died. Jesus called out from the cross, “It is finished,” then He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit (John 19:30). All the will of God the Father for Jesus to accomplish the atonement and salvation of His people – was finished. Jesus had accomplished this glorious atonement for which He had come into the world. There was no other way. He had drunk the cup of God’s wrath to the bottom and had born the penalty of our sins in His own body on the cross. It was finished! When He died, the gravity of this spiritual reality spilled out into the physical world with an earthquake, darkness, and the veil of the temple being torn from top to bottom.

Jesus was crucified and was buried. His burial was not just a matter of course. Jesus’s body was buried with honor and with love. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had watched Jesus’s ministry from afar, but in the end came out of the shadows and, by faith, honored the body of Jesus in burial. His death should have been our death. His grave should have been our grave. Jesus died in your stead, so that you might live.

May we never lose sight of the cross of Jesus,

Pastor Vic

< This is part six in a series of articles on the Apostles’ Creed. If you have missed previous articles, they can be found on the church blog. To learn more about the Apostles’ Creed read: “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler. >

Grow in Grace

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

              This is the last verse of the epistle of 2 Peter. It is the last words of the apostle Peter to us. It’s a call to make individual progress in the Chrisitan faith. It’s a commendation toward spiritual growth. There can be no neutrality in the Christian life. You are either growing in discipleship toward Spirit-filled maturity in Christ, or falling away in apathy and worldliness. We are convinced that God is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), but we are commanded in passages like this to respond to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives. We must grow up in the gracious ways of Jesus and love the Lord with all our minds by applying ourselves to study out a right knowledge of God. Let me share with you Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones’s six part pattern of Christian living that has helped me focus on how to apply Peter’s command.

              First, you must study the Bible. Studying is different from just cursory reading. Reading is often for relaxing or entertainment. Study is for knowledge, understanding, and life-change. Study takes the time to dig out details, and study takes seriously remembering important things. Lloyd-Jones writes, “You will find invariably that the people who do not grow in grace are the people who are neglecting to read their Bible. On the other hand the people who have grown have been regular, daily students of this Book.” If you need help reading and understanding the Bible, please reach out to an elder. We are happy to point you in the right direction!

              Second, participate in the ‘means of grace’ given to us by God, such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, gathering of the local church, and biblical preaching. You must walk in these ways. If you neglect these ways in which God pours out His grace in your life, your Christian life will be weak and divided. After you have believed in Jesus as Savior, obey the command to be baptized. Regularly partake of the Lord’s Supper, and in so doing confess your sins and reflect upon the work of Christ on the cross. Do not forsake the local church and the building of vital, meaningful relationships with other Christians. Lastly, bring yourself under the preaching of the Bible. By doing this, you are opening your heart to the work of the Holy Spirit.

              Third, avoid every sinful thing that is harmful to the life and growth of the soul. In terms of a garden, if you let all the weeds grow unchecked, none of the fruit-bearing plants will survive. In a similar way, you must pull up, cut down, and avoid sinful practices in your life. It is a constant theme of the Bible that those who love the world, and count themselves friends of the world, will not grow in grace. The affections of their heart are captured by the world.  We must put to death (mortify) the desires of the flesh, turn away from evil, and walk in holiness.

              Fourth, if spiritual life is to grow, it must be exercised. It is true with the soul, as in all other areas, that knowledge must be applied and acted on to become transformational. We are not called by Jesus to become academics. We are called to become living disciples that observe all the commands of Jesus. We will quickly realize that great knowledge will be corrupted by a weak will. In this we must call out to the Holy Spirit to bear fruits in our lives that only He can bear. The Holy Spirit will take what we learn in the Bible, reveal its truth to us, and help us live it out!

              Fifth, in this process of striving to grow in grace and knowledge, we must each get the right amount of rest. There must be regular periods of rest to maintain the Christian life. You must be able to slow down, cease striving after the world, and unplug enough to regularly have a quiet mind to contemplate the Bible and pray. God has commanded that we keep the sabbath. This builds in a day of rest each week.

              Sixth, you should practice self-examination. You should look at your life objectively. Are you growing? Do you understand more of who God is now than years ago? Is your obedience to the commands of Christ increasing? Do you have a greater sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit? Most importantly, is the love of God increasing in your life? Does your life bring glory and honor to Jesus? Is God using your life and witness to bring others to salvation? It is very important in self-examination that we remind ourselves that we are justified by faith alone. It is by grace that we are saved through faith. Our hope is fully in the grace of Jesus, but by His grace we will become more like Jesus.

              In closing, Lloyd-Jones writes, “The object of growth is not that I may be better than someone I know to be worse, or better than I used to be; it is that thereby I may glorify God, that God may use me more, that I may be a more efficient instrument in the hand of God. In other words, the motive must be right.”

May we grow in grace for the glory of Jesus Christ,

Pastor Vic

To read more fully on this subject, see chapters 22-25 of Expository Sermons on 2 Peter” by D.M. Lloyd-Jones – available in the church library.

Worship

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

 Singing praises to Jesus is a natural result of being born again to new spiritual life. When we learn the good news of who Jesus is and what He has done upon the cross that our sins might be forgiven, the word of Christ begins to dwell within us. You have to make decisions about what you believe about these things. Do you believe that Jesus really rose from the dead? When you believe what you have learned, knowledge becomes faith. What was once a curiosity becomes a passion. Jesus, who was once far off, becomes more precious to you than anyone. Where you once knew so little about Him, you now seek every day to know Him more through studying the Bible. You want more and more of His words filling your thoughts and shaping your life. This is the point where you begin to understand what Paul wrote about the word of Christ dwelling richly in you! You want to memorize the words of Jesus, write them where you can be reminded of them, and tell them to your friends and children in times of trouble.

 We then enter into the community of the church and, in love, begin to “teach and admonish” each other wisely with the words of the Bible. All this culminates in the congregation being filled by the Holy Spirit to sing praises together – psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs – expressing truth in song. Christian congregational singing is a special activity where people joyfully and together turn truth into song and add even more beauty to already beautiful truths. God would have us sing to Him. He has given us this ability and would have us use it, above all, to bring glory to His name. The risen King Jesus is worthy of our praise!

 Part of what motivates us is thankfulness from the heart: an overflowing thankfulness for forgiveness of sin, the removal of the guilt of sin, the unspeakable joy of free grace through Jesus, eternal life, a new identity in Jesus, and peace that passes understanding. This deep thankfulness is not fake, it’s deeply seated in the heart. It makes you want to sing – loudly and joyfully.

 I’m thankful for the gospel-teaching churches I was raised in, but one of their significant weaknesses was worship. One of the first times I remember as a teen being moved by musical worship was at a Promise Keepers rally. These were large events that revolved around calling men to deeper devotion to Christ. Much emphasis was put on men truly singing biblical truth with a full and thankful heart. It was powerful, authentic worship, and I know Jesus was pleased to hear thousands of men sing that were thankful to God for His grace.

But during all that time, I never heard a sermon like Bob preached last week. No one explained to me, from the Bible, how worshipping God can and should involve even more than our voices. We should prepare our hearts for congregational worship through confession, prayer, and time in Scripture. We should seek the presence and filling of the Holy Spirit, and we should engage in worship with our voices and the posture of our body. Our worship should involve our entire person.

I distinctly remember the first time I felt deeply moved to raise my hands to honor the Lord as I sang in church. No one else had their hands raised, and it was going to be weird to have my hand raised when no one else did. But I had reached a point in my Christian life where I was determined to obey the leadings of the Holy Spirit. I raised my hand and sang with a full heart of thankfulness to Jesus. It was like I had been freed from something. I have never felt inhibited again in raising my hands to God as I sing.

There is no specific way that we are commanded to sing, or certain set of things we are to do as we sing, but there are important principles we must not ignore. First, the Lord God is worthy of worship – and He will be worshipped (Psalm 113:2-3, Malachi 1:11). The name of Jesus will be worshipped among the nations. He is God, and He is the Savior. He is worthy to be praised.

Second, singing together at church is about God being worshipped by you being involved in congregational praise. Musical worship on Sunday morning is not about people performing something for you to listen to and experience. They are playing music to lead us all in praising Jesus together. I’m always grieved when my heart is overflowing with joy to Jesus, and I look over the congregation and see people standing stone still, not singing a word. They stand in the midst of worshippers, not worshipping. It’s always shocking to me and turns my joy to sadness. It causes me to pray for these people, that they may come to understand the fullness and glory of who Jesus is.

If you are one of those people that does not sing, I urge you to spend more time prayerfully reading the Bible this week. Fill your heart with more of the words of Christ. Draw near to Jesus in personal relationship. Confess your sins. Pray to Jesus about the things that trouble you. Live out your Christian faith in sacrificial obedience and love. You will find that you have plenty to sing about on Sunday. And it doesn’t matter if you can’t sing well. This is part of God’s plan in singing together as the church. Your voice will blend with others, and the result is always beautiful when the song is from a thankful heart.

Whoever you are, if you think singing is embarrassing and not for you – you’re wrong. When you feel the tug of the Holy Spirit on your heart, obey and sing. You may start timidly, but press to honor God with a full heart. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit concerning the posture of your body, whatever is appropriate for the work the Holy Spirit is doing in your heart at the moment (joy, thankfulness, confession of sin, praying for those in need, etc…).

Lastly, we are admonished in the Bible to be “doers” of the Word and not merely hearers (James 1:19-27). Singing with a full and thankful heart is an important part of “doing” obedience. Intentionally not singing when you know you should withholds honor from the Lord and is sinful. Be a part of the worshipping congregation of the church. Sing! Obey the leading of the Holy Spirit and may God the Father look down upon us in the field and be pleased by what He hears!

May our voices reach the heavens,

Pastor Vic

Suffered

“Everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.” Luke 18:31b-33

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate

Who was Pontius Pilate and why would his actions be included in an essential expression of Christian faith? Let’s begin with the fact that Pontius Pilate was a real Roman governor and judge. The purpose of noting this is that the record of Christ’s suffering is not one of mythology and legend. The sufferings of Christ were real, and the effect of His real atoning sacrifice will be our real eternal salvation. Through Jesus we are delivered from the penalty of sin and death.

 Jesus’ entire ministry was directed toward the cross. The cross was the cup of suffering and wrath that He would drink to the bottom. It is essential to note that Jesus was innocent in His suffering; he was falsely accused. The gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion record that the Jews pressed for His crucifixion from unbelief in His claim to be the Son of God, and from jealousy of His popularity with the masses. From Pilate’s perspective, crucifying Jesus was the most politically expedient way to calm a riotous crowd and consolidate his political power. Pilate even admitted publicly that Jesus was innocent. However, all these conflicting and sinful motives ultimately worked out the purposes of God that Jesus might be put to death in His innocence as the Lamb of God.

The sufferings of Christ were atoning and substitutional. Jesus was pierced for our transgressions crushed for our sins (Isaiah 53:5). The sufferings of Jesus unto death were more than sufficient to pay the price of justice before God. Jesus suffered according to the will of God, but Jesus was motivated by love – a love for you and me. Obligation and duty were not His motivation. Jesus went to the cross for the “joy” set before Him of accomplishing the salvation of His beloved children (Hebrews 12:2, John 1:12).

However, the sufferings of Christ were not only physical. In His death, the wrath of God toward sin was poured out on Jesus. In His just anger, God the Father turned His favor and face away from Jesus. Jesus was forsaken on the cross because of the sins of the world counted against Him (Matthew 27:45-50). In His resurrection from the dead, Jesus overcame death.

By grace through faith, we are not destined for the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). We are sparred by the substitution of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-12)! We will receive the blessing and reward of being counted righteous in Christ! Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate so that we might not have to face death and judgment before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Jesus, we will receive eternal life, a place in the Kingdom of God, a place of welcome at His table … but not yet.

It is the will of God, that as we live this life, we take up our cross and join Jesus in His sufferings. By sharing in difficulty and hardship, we do not expect to rise above the station of Jesus Our Savior. We expect in this life we will be poured out for the sake of accomplishing God’s will. Like the Apostle Paul, we count all that the world has to offer as loss in light of the opportunity to have eternal life and personal relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord. “The way of glory comes through the way of the cross” (Mohler). The fullness of the Kingdom of God will not come in this life. His Kingdom is not of this world. Now is a time of sowing, a time of labor, a time to be poured out to accomplish the will of God. Now is a time of dying to self, a time to go into the world making disciples of Jesus Christ, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.

As we go into a time of the Lord’s Supper this Sunday, consider reading over the words written long ago by Isaac Watts in the hymn “When I Survey the Wonderous Cross.” Consider Jesus who suffered under Pontius Pilate. He suffered for you that you might be forgiven of your sins and have eternal life.

May you believe in Jesus today!

Pastor Vic

Virgin Birth

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary …“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” See Luke 1:26-38

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary –The Apostles’ Creed

              Jesus’ ministry began and ended with dramatic and unprecedented supernatural events. A supernatural event consists of something that cannot be explained except for the action of God upon the world from outside the natural order of things. The ministry of Jesus began with His conception within a virgin young woman and ended with His permanent resurrection from the dead. It is a hallmark of theological liberalism to be embarrassed over these two essential teachings of Scripture. They are embarrassed for the very reason that they cannot be explained by science and they cannot be accounted for by anything other than a divine work of God. They are both included in the ancient Apostles’ Creed because they are both essential to rightly understand who Jesus is. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is essential Christian doctrine.

              The Gospels record that Jesus was conceived by a sovereign act of God and born of a virgin. This is very significant for at least three reasons. First, Jesus was born according to the will and timing of God the Father, not according to the will or action of a man. However, Jesus was born of a woman and did not simply appear or descend from heaven. In this Holy Spirit initiated human birth, we have the beginning of Jesus as truly God and truly man. Jesus was not a man indwelled by the Holy Spirit, or a spirit that appeared to be physical. Jesus was a mysterious fusion of God and man, and this begins at the virgin birth.

              Second, this miraculous conception points to how Jesus is conceived without sin. According to Scripture, all who descend from Adam inherit from him the guilt of humanity. We are born with a corrupt nature, dead in our trespasses and sins (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:18-19). By having no earthly father, the normal pattern of conception and birth is broken. A new line begins with Jesus. He is spoken of as the “second Adam,” come to do perfectly where the first Adam failed (1 Corinthians 15:20-49).

              Third, the virgin birth speaks directly to the miraculous nature of God’s redemption. Carl F. H. Henry writes, “The fact that Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary shows the work of incarnation and reconciliation involves a definite intervening act on the part of God Himself.” Similar to how Jesus was not a man that became enlightened and morally better over a period of time and learning, our salvation is not a gradual plan of learning and self-betterment over time. The redemption of each and every Christian is a work of God to intervene and save. We begin in spiritual death and are made alive by God (Ephesians 2:1-10). From death we are born again to spiritual life (John 3:3-17). Our hearts of stone are made into hearts of living flesh (Ezekiel 11:19-21). We were blind but now we can see (John 1:1-13). We are taken from a kingdom of darkness into a kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14). All these beautiful analogies point to the work of God that we respond to by faith. However, this intervening saving work of God is ALL of grace, undeserved and brought about by the favor of God (John 1:12-13).

              As mentioned earlier, the modern secular world is often embarrassed by, or rejects, anything that cannot be quantified in a laboratory. Such people lack faith, and for them the virgin birth teaching of Scripture is relegated to myth. The rejection of the supernatural aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry ultimately caused influential liberal theologians like Adolph von Harnack, Rudolph Bultmann, and Wolfhart Pannenberg to only accept Jesus as a moral reformer, or the New Testament as a collection of myths to “save” Christianity from modern embarrassment. In these conclusions they depart from biblical Christianity and depart from the ancient orthodox confessions of faith passed to us from the early church. These questions and definitions matter. It’s not enough to say that “You just believe in Jesus!” with no definition to what that means. You must ask yourself, and you must ask those you interact with, what basic essentials you believe about Jesus.

May we gladly accept that Jesus was born of a virgin, come to save His people from their sins,

Pastor Vic

< This is part four in a series of articles on the Apostles’ Creed. If you have missed previous articles, they can be found on the church blog. To learn more about the Apostles’ Creed read: “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler. >

Biblical Counter Arguments

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

 As the world continues to press on us LGBTQ+ Pride month, I will continue to press back with biblical counter arguments. Last week’s article can be found at redeemerVA.org on our church blog. Last week I outlined a basic Christian sexual ethic and position against homosexual and transgender lifestyles. This week I want to provide further resources that I hope will be helpful in speaking to your children, friends, and co-workers about these issues.

I would remind you to start where I left off last week – with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should not expect people to follow in the ways of Jesus if they do not love Jesus. Begin by introducing people to who Jesus is. You’re wrong to assume that people know who Jesus is or what He taught about anything. Introduce people to the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, but in doing this, don’t skip the hard news about sin and God’s holiness. Tell people your testimony. Tell people how you were once lost in sin and death, until Jesus forgave your sins and gave you new life. Speak of the joy of living according to God’s will!

That said, there is a great divide between the deeply humanistic thinking of so many people today, and the will of God. How are we to bridge this gap in discussion and debate? Below are a few resources I hope will be helpful. First:
 
We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, and the very meaning of right and wrong by R. Albert Mohler
 
I highly recommend this short and very practical book. The first chapters address how as an American culture we have moved so rapidly from a generally Christian sexual ethic to where we are today. This historical overview is not only vital to understand, but will cause you to stop and consider what ground you may have given up in your own life. He then moves into defining Christian ethics, the place and role of religious liberty, and the role of the local church in our present struggle. The book ends with an extended question and answer section. Mohler directly answers many of the most common and thorny questions related to the LGBTQ+ movement in America.
 
The Gender Spectrum by Sue Bohlin

Raising Gender Healthy Kids by Sue Bohlin
 
I recommend this series of blog posts by Sue Bohlin, writer for Probe Ministries. In this series of posts Sue specifically relates the conversation to raising gender healthy children. It is vital that we not hide from these issues as we raise our kids. Our children are being bombarded by LGBTQ+ propaganda from every side. We need to understand basics of how to affirm our children in the gender God gave them, and help them grow up into the men and women God would have them to be. I hope these resources are helpful.
 
May Jesus give us wisdom, courage, and grace,
Pastor Vic