Philippians 3 "Citizens of…"

Christians in the early church faced a problem: how to live as earthly citizens of the Roman Empire, one the required pagan worship and had few morals, while living out their true, and higher calling as Disciples of Christ. For them, the two were not compatible and a choice had to be made, a choice that often put their earthly life in danger for the sake of the Cross. We can thank God that things are not necessarily that way here as we gather for worship.

Americans are granted the extraordinary blessing of religious freedom, one of many things we celebrate on Independence Day. There can be a danger here, though, as well. Christians have been lulled into a false sense of security, valuing our comfort over any sacrifice we are called to make. In some cases, we may even be guilty of putting our hope in a government to protect us rather than transforming power and hope of the Gospel.

This independence day, let us pray for our nation and our leaders, but remember that our salvation, our hope, and ultimately our freedom comes from Christ alone!

Questions to take home:
1. Paul talks about putting confidence in the flesh in verses 4-6. Are there places in my life where I put more confidence in myself or even my nation/government over the message of the Gospel or the cross of Christ?
2. Do you think Christians in the United States tend to value things like comfort and security over the call to make disciples or the cost of being a disciple? How is being comfortable potentially dangerous? What can we do to fight against that?
3. How is God calling me to be a faithful witness for Him amidst the celebrations of this Independence Day?



All Cleaned Up! H.C. Lord's Day 26

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 26

Q 69. How does holy baptism remind and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross benefits you personally?
A 69. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it promised that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, that is, all my sins.

Q 70. What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?
A 70. To be washed with Christ’s blood means that God, by grace, has forgiven our sins because of Christ’s blood poured out for us in his sacrifice on the cross.

To be washed with Christ’s Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed and sanctified us to be members of Christ, so that more and more we become dead to sin and live holy and blameless lives.

Q 71. Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
A 71. In the institution of baptism, where he says:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

“The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”

This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism “the water of rebirth” and the washing away of sins.

The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is the first place that we see it expressly commanded that Baptism is a vital part of the life of Christ followers.  It is important that we recognize how, though.  In Jesus’ parting words, the key action is not “go,” it is “make disciples.”  How we are to “make disciples” is by going, baptizing, and teaching.  These three supporting actions provide for us the model for outreach, discipleship, and the Christian life in general.

Baptism is an important part of this, not just because Jesus tells us to do it, but rather because of the significance and the reality that it points to.  The water of baptism symbolizes washing and it reminds us that God’s forgiveness is for us, no matter what age we are.  We are shown physically the grace of God and reminded of the promise of God that whoever believes in His Son, Jesus WILL be saved.  Jesus’ blood doesn’t stain, it washes us clean and makes us righteous before God.

We don’t think about this enough.  Baptism, far too often, is just a cute thing that we do.  Especially in the Reformed Church, where we practice infant baptism, it is an even that takes place where we get to see a little baby and celebrate a new life.  Sadly, we don’t often think of the reality that the event we are witnessing reminds us of.

Every day, at the end of the day, I take a shower.  I honestly cannot go to bed without doing so.  If I try, I feel sticky and gross and just can’t get around laying in my own filth.  So I shower.  The water washes me clean and I can end the day, crawling into bed free of the day’s filth.  Perhaps you have a similar experience?

In baptism we are reminded that, through faith in Jesus Christ, we too are washed clean.  Infant Baptism, something we will talk more about next week, reminds us of the true nature of this washing: it is the promise of God available to all, no matter how unaware of this reality we may be.  This washing removes the filth, the blemishes, the grime that is sin in our lives.  It taints every aspect of who we are and, without Christ, we would constantly be working to scrub it from ourselves.

But, we are washed.  You may notice that in the baptismal liturgy that is often read, it doesn’t say “you washed yourself clean,” but rather “you are washed clean.”  In Jesus Christ, we are washed clean.  We don’t have to lay in our own filth anymore.  Rather, we have been cleansed!  This is God’s work in our lives through Jesus Christ and it is an integral part of our identity.

Whether babies or new believers, the symbolism is the same: Forgiveness is for you, through faith in Jesus Christ.  The next time you take a shower, jump in a pool, take a dip in Lake Michigan, or even wipe the sweat off your face with a cold, wet cloth, think about your baptism.  Remember that you are washed in Christ’s blood, you have been made clean, and you can rest assured that we no longer have to wallow in our own mess but can dwell in God’s presence and security through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen!!



Blood and Spirit: H.C. Question 71

Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:16 – Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Titus 3:5 – he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Acts 22:16 – And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’



Washed: H.C. Question 70

What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?

Zechariah 13:1 – “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Ephesians 1:7-8 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,

Hebrews 12:24 – to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

1 Peter 1:2 – who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Revelation 1:5 – and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,

Ezekiel 36:25-27 – I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

John 3:5-8 – Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Romans 6:4 – We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

1 Corinthians 6:11 – And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Colossians 2:11-12 – In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.



Reminder: H.C. Question 69

How does holy baptism remind and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross benefits you personally?

Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:11 – “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Romans 6:3-10 – Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

1 Peter 3:21 – and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,



The Holy Sacraments: H.C. Lord's Day 25

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 25

Q 65. It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: where then does that faith come from?
A 65. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

Q 66. What are sacraments?
A 66. Sacraments are visible, holy signs and seals. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them he might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and seal that promise.

And this is God’s gospel promise: to grant us forgiveness of sins and eternal life by grace because of Christ’s one sacrifice accomplished on the cross.

Q 67. Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
A 67. Yes! In the gospel, the Holy Spirit teaches us and by the holy sacraments confirms that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.

Q 68. How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?
A 68. Two: holy baptism and the holy supper.

It is probably safe to say that if there is something that most people in the church don’t think much about on a regular basis, it would be the sacraments.  In my opinion, this is often due to either a lack of appropriate understanding or a misunderstanding of the purpose, meaning, and nature of the sacraments.  Far too often, when we celebrate them, a liturgy is read from a book in a rather monotone voice and then we do something… something we do the same every time without thinking about it.  Then we continue on like it never happened.  It’s a sad sort of traditional thing that seems to be overlooked…

Apart from the doctrine of justification by God’s grace in Jesus Christ through faith alone, the Reformers (those writing, teaching, and standing against much of the abuse of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century) wrote more about the sacraments than any other topic.  They are, as many would say, very important to the life of Christ followers.  But why?  What purpose do they play?

First, it is important to point out that the sacraments themselves do not save.  We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ only, and while partaking in the sacraments can be a sign of that faith, their physical actions have no saving element to them.  The Reformed Church, in which I am ordained, practices Infant Baptism, yet baptizing an infant does not ensure that child’s salvation.  This act is sign and symbol that salvation is available to that child and that, in a special way, that child is called and a part of the community of faith; but it is only through faith that we are saved and infants are completely incapable of having a saving faith (far as we know).

The second thing that is important for us to remember about sacramental celebrations or rememberances are that they are signs and seals of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Unlike the Roman Catholic Church of the 16th Century, which taught that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist) was a reenactment of Jesus’ death, we believe that this is a symbol of the promise that is confirmed in Jesus’ once for all death on the cross for the sins of the entire world.

Related to that is the reality of what takes place in the sacraments.  As signs and seals of the promises of God the sacraments do not create faith, they confirm it, making us understand the Gospel promises more clearly through the work and revelation of the Holy Spirit and confirming to us our salvation.  I often say, when speaking of the Lord’s Supper, that we are nourished spiritually through the sacrament in a similar way to the fact that the physical food nourishes our body.

The sacraments are called “visible signs of invisible grace.”  It is another way that God works to reveal Himself, His love, and His grace to us.  For those who are visual learners, these sacraments can speak volumes!  In fact, the sacraments take sensory worship to a whole new level, providing for us the ability to see, smell, taste, and touch the promises of God made physical in the elements of the sacraments in the same way that we hear these promises proclaimed through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.



Which Sacraments? H.C. Question 68

How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?

Matthew 28:18-20  – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-26  – For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.



Word and Sacrament: H.C. Question 67

Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?

Romans 6:3 – Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

1 Corinthians 11:26 – For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Galatians 3:27 – for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.



Sacraments: H.C. Question 66

What are sacraments?

Genesis 17:11 – You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

Deuteronomy 30:6 – The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Romans 4:11 – And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.

Matthew 26:27-28 – Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 10:10 – And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.



Faith's Source: H.C Question 65

It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: where then does that faith come from?

John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:10-14 – these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Romans 10:17 – Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

1 Peter 1:23-25 – For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  And this is the word that was preached to you.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

1 Corinthians 10:16 – Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?



Ephesians 5:21-6:9 "Patterned After Christ"

The language of submission is not popular in the prevailing culture of the 21st century, and with good reason. The words of Scripture have been twisted and distorted to defend abuse and many other sinful actions and attitudes. Yet the word “submit,” can also be translated as “value,” and draws its deep meaning from the image of mutual submission and mutual valuing from the relationship of God in the Trinity. Each looking to the other, valuing the other, submitting to the other in a perfect, loving relationship.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” On Father’s Day, we might typically hear sermons challenging fathers towards greater valuing of their families (which is certainly important). Today, however, we are all challenged to a greater valuing of others, whether biological family, faith family, or our neighbors all around us looking to Jesus as our pattern and guide.

What are some things that I value in my own life? How do I show that in how I live each day?

What are some of the main values that Scripture encourages for Christians? How do we see Jesus Christ modeling them in His life?

Does my life reflect the values that Jesus modeled in His life and ministry, those set down in Scripture, or do I value my own interests? How can I continue to be, or change toward being more in line with what Christ calls me to?



Faith, Fruit, Gratitude: H.C Lord's Day 24

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 24

Q 62. Why can’t our good works be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of our righteousness?
A 62. Because the righteousness which can pass God’s judgment must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law. But even our best works in this life are imperfect and stained with sin.

Q 63. How can our good works be said to merit nothing when God promises to reward them in this life and the next?
A 63. This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.

Q 64. But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?
A 64. No. It is impossible for those grafted into Christ through true faith not to produce fruits of gratitude.

One of the chief complaints about the notion that our works have nothing to do with our personal salvation, or for that matter, somehow taking us out of God’s grace after we come to faith, is that that it then lends itself to promoting a life of apathy, indifference, and wickedness.

On the surface, this would seem like a valid argument.  Most of the time, when humans are left to their own devices, will pretty much always be selfish, living contrary to God’s call on our lives.  Yet, when it comes to encountering God’s love, grace, and forgiveness, there is something drastically different that takes place.

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 24 asks a question that, at some point in our lives, we have all asked: “why can’t I do it?”  Whether you asked this as a kid about something that was either too large or too grown up for you to do or whether you ask this as a theological question, the same point remains, we almost always want to do things on our own.  This is even truer in the U.S. where this is culturally engrained within us.

Yet Scripture wholly and completely denies our ability to contribute anything to our own salvation… except sin.  There is nothing we can do to bring ourselves closer to God.  Sin itself separates us from God, no matter how little or seemingly insignificant.  We are born into sin, something that is present within us since the day of our conception.

With sin as an ever-present reality in our lives, the barrier is formed and there is nothing that we can do to overcome it because the barrier is us.  As we have said before, we cannot save ourselves; we need a Savior and that Savior is Jesus.  Belief in Him and trusting Him as our Lord and Savior is the only way to receive God’s gift of grace.

This grace, free as it is, also has a secondary effect: it transforms who we are from the selfish, self-serving humans that we once were into a new creation that follows after Jesus Christ.  Essentially, if we truly receive Christ into our hearts, we can’t not live a changed life.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Christians will be perfect all the time or that we will never encounter sin or temptation again.  What it does mean is that our will and our desires are no longer bent solely to ourselves but that they lean into the will of God and seek to live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving for the free gift of grace that we have been given.

The reality that we experience as those who are in Christ is one of grace and freedom.  No longer are we bound by our need to perform or the sin that we are trying to make up for, instead, we are freed to love both God and each other as we both experience and communicate God’s love in Christ to everyone around us.

One other thing that is very important to this topic: As there is nothing that we can do to earn our way into God’s favor, there is nothing we can do to remove ourselves from it either.  This doctrine, known as “preservation of the saints,” has often been criticized as a “free pass” to do whatever we want in life and still claim faith and salvation in Christ.  Sadly, this is a distortion of a beautiful reality that is God’s grace.

The purpose of this doctrine is not “freedom” in the sense that we can do whatever we want, it is a reassurance of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.  This hope is an eternal state that we live in and cannot be separated from.  If we fall into sin once again we must not despair, but instead be comforted in knowing that He who did not spare His own Son, will also never foresake us in our time of need either.  Thanks be to God.



Indifference? H.C. Question 64

But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?

Luke 6:43-45 – “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

John 15:5  – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.



Given, not Earned: H.C. Question 63

How can our good works be said to merit nothing when God promises to reward them in this life and the next?

Matthew 5:12 – Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Luke 17:10 – So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

2 Timothy 4:7-8 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.



Why Can't I Do It Myself? H.C. Question 62

Why can’t our good works be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of our righteousness?

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 – It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Romans 10:10 – For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

1 John 5:10-12 – Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.