September 14, 2008, Monaca First Presbyterian Church

Not the best Sermon I have ever written. Sounds a bit discombobulated. May God bless my incoherence.

First Monaca Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) September 14, 2008

Scripture Lesson Exodus 14: 19-31

Sermon “Baptized Unto Moses” Benjamin P. Glaser

Moses in the verses preceding our Scripture Lesson this morning has been negotiating with Pharaoh over the release of the Israelites from the hand of bondage in Egypt. They have gone through all ten of the plagues, the rivers have turned to blood, the frogs have come and gone, the outbreak of gnats and flies has ceased, the livestock of Egypt have died, boils have appeared, hail has rained down from heaven, locusts have eaten their food, darkness has come and gone, and finally the firstborn of all of Egypt and those who had not sacrificed the Paschal Lamb and placed its blood on the door frame have had their first born die at the hands of the Angel of the Lord. Only after all this has Pharaoh released the Israelites from their bondage and allowed Moses to lead them out. However Pharaoh in chapter 14 has reconsidered through the hardening of his heart by God so that, as verse four says, “Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.” It is at this point where we come to what we have read this morning, that is the crossing of the Red Sea and the fullness of what we can learn from the events of that day and what came after it.

But before we get to that it is important when we come to texts like this that seem too far-fetched or too much like myth to believe in our supposed more enlightened times that we appreciate what kind of God it is that we are given the delight to worship. We cannot treat these events as having no real meaning for us in the 21st century living in America reading them as we would Aesop’s Fables or the stories of the Brother’s Grimm. As if they are some type of legend only meant to teach some kind of moral lesson. We must comprehend that the Holy Scripture’s speak as one unified voice displaying for us the Almighty majesty of the God whom we have the pleasure of coming to worship this Lord’s Day. The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter ten says,” For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were [punished] in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. “ In other words these events have a very important thing to teach us, because as the chosen people of God passed through the Red Sea many moons ago we too who have been chosen in Christ and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, pass through the cloud as Paul says to be on our way to the Promised Land. But just as the Israelites who were saved by God from the attacking Egyptians, they were also punished for their refusal to submit to God’s Will and God’s Law given to them by Moses at Sinai.

The people in the Exodus event all perform actions that occur not for any other reason but for the Glory of our Almighty God alone who is the sovereign and the supreme ruler over all of His creation. Nothing happens but for the Glory of God and only according to the purposes of God. We would think that the Israelites having seen this work, this parting of the seas that had been done through Moses, would have followed to the letter what Moses tells them to do. However we know it takes but a few days after witnessing the awesome power of Almighty God for the Israelites to fall away and construct an idol of their own making, bowing down to worship an inanimate object that has no power, no glory, no holiness because they had already forgotten the salvation God had provided for them in their rescue from the hand of the Egyptians. Refusing to submit to the Grace God had provided for them in the Law given to Moses. Of course it easy for us today to look back at the Israelites with disdain and contempt, but how we follow the same pattern. Falling for the wiles and the snares this world provides for us, trusting not in the power of our Almighty God who has rescued us from our own sin, instead trusting in the weak, powerless, and falsity that is the world.

This fight we have with God is as old as humankind itself. This fight is this old because we refuse to humble ourselves before the Lord our God. Why do we do this? Why do we who know that our omnipotent God, powerful enough to free His people from bondage, to part seas, destroy the most powerful Army on earth, Our God whom alone we can cleave, to save us from ourselves, why do we continue to deny him in this way? We are reminded of the words of David in Psalm 18:27 “The humble O Lord, thou wilt save; and the eyes of the proud wilt thou cast down:” We must be humble before God. We must recognize our fallen nature, our inability to save ourselves. That is what we do when we ask forgiveness for our sins. We recognize that we have fallen short of the Glory of God and that we need his help in reaching that Glory because we cannot do it. Romans 3:9-18 says, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit”; the poison of bees is under their lips”; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” We are utterly incapable of coming to God, He must come for us. As He has sent Moses to bring the Israelites from Egypt so to He has sent Christ to bring us to Him. Submitting ourselves to His Law as the Israelites are called to submit to Moses and the Law God has given him.

We must not look at submission as a burden but must look at it as the exact opposite. Submission is the glorious reality that we do not have to rely on ourselves for our own salvation. For I know if I had to rely on my own will to get me to the promised land I might go backwards let alone go forward towards the Promised Land. So we must look at this call to submit to the will and Law of God not as a yoke that we have been made to bear but that the yoke has been lifted from us so that we may be with Christ in Paradise. You see Christ died so that we do not have to. So that death could lose its sting and we could have victory over our foe. It was so that fallen humanity which cannot even come close to reaching the perfection that God requires of us could be with our Father in Paradise. There is a glorious reality in understanding that God has shown us any mercy at all. We who dishonor him at every step and deny his calling have been given this magnificent gift that is Jesus Christ so that we may have a right relationship with our creator. We shall not deny His will should we? We cannot allow the Devil to deceive us to believe that we can be the author of our own salvation or that we can of our own power perfectly follow this will. The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter Eighteen puts it this way: “I. Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions: of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation; which that hope of theirs shall perish: yet those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God: which hope shall never make them ashamed.”

It is God’s will that we submit to Him, that we stop resisting His will, that we allow Him to have complete control of our lives. Submission requires humility because it requires that we acknowledge that God is more capable of directing our lives than we are ourselves, and it also requires that we acknowledge that God has a greater right to direct our lives than we do. God is in opposition to our foolish pride. He demands our complete submission to His Word and to His Word alone. This is what the first commandment is all about. We shall have no other Gods before him. Humanity cannot serve both God and Mammon. We must only serve Him that created us not just because that is what God commands in Scripture but also because we are incapable as fallen humans to perfectly follow the Will of God in and of our own ability. The devil tries to get us to resist God’s Will by telling us that we can know better than God, that is what the words to Eve in the Garden were all about and that we have a right to do as we choose with our own lives, the sin of the time of the Judges chapter 17 verse 6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The fact is all sin is rebellion against God’s will and submission is part of true repentance towards God. We resist the devil by submitting to God, and submitting to God is the same as drawing near to God; therefore, when we submit to God the devil flees from us because he does not want to be near God. When we humble ourselves before God by submitting to His will, we acknowledge that His rights and abilities are greater than our own, and He rewards us by exalting us. God may exalt us in differing ways. He may deliver us from temptation, trial, suffering, or whatever difficulty we are experiencing, or He may strengthen us to bear up under our circumstances. Furthermore, He always exalts us by strengthening us in our faith. The Almighty Father has called us to completely deny ourselves and to follow him. However we should not look upon this as a burden but as glorious freedom. We are as babes in arms leaving ourselves to completely trust in our safety, our feeding, and our protection entirely on the Almighty. Submission is not a burden it is a release from the weight of sin. Let it go. Let God take your anxiety. Let God take your worry. Do not fear this World for if God is for us who can be against us?

As we come to the end of our morning service here on the Lord’s Day and as we begin to prepare to go out from this place into a world that has denied Christ crucified, a world that wants nothing to do with the free offer of Grace given by Jesus Christ, with the Law that he has given to us, we remember Christ’s words in Matthew chapter 5 starting at verse 13 going to verse 20 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Brothers and Sisters know that just as we who are sinners in need of a savior from our bondage to sin as the Israelites were in need of saving from their oppression in Egypt we have been brought forth from that bondage, passed through the Red Sea which is our baptism in Christ, being cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb, having the weight of the Law taken off our back so that we can now submit to the Law of God out of Love and worship to the Lord our God who has died for us on a cross so that we may partake in His Righteousness and that our righteousness may surpass that of the Pharisees who though they followed the Law could not do so with perfection, but those of us who are in Christ Jesus we have been brought forth from the Wilderness of Sin to the Promised Land that is Jesus Christ. All those in Christ will be like the Israelites who are in Moses, and they will pass safely to the other side as the Israelites did. However all those who are not in Christ will be like the Egyptians, and will be swallowed up in the furious wrath of God in the torment of the sea.

To God Alone Be the Glory of This Day and Forevermore. Amen.

Why Do We Learn Greek and Hebrew?

And why do we not learn Latin? (Or Dutch, French, <u>or</u> German) But that is the subject of a different post.

As the time for Ordination Exams begins at the end of this week for many of my PC(USA) colleagues here at Pittsburgh Seminary I am beginning to wonder at the purpose of teaching the primary languages. For the vast majority it is nothing but a hurdle that will be jettisoned after Tuesday afternoon of next week when exegesis papers are due. If I was a professor who spent hours laboring over the instruction of Hebrew and Greek the shear knowledge that what I was teaching was a nuisance for most and an outright waste of time for the majority would cause me epileptic fits. No wonder most department heads have a hard time encouraging the faculty to teach these courses. (Of course a notable exception is at PTS where Dale Allison and Robert Gagnon teach Greek, though I am sure both are somewhat disheartened in the understanding that most of their students are not that interested in having a working knowledge but in knowing enough to pass exams).

This is of course a rhetorical question. The knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is non-negotiable. A direct corollary can be drawn between the abandonment of the linguistic studies and the ignorance/shallowness of the Pastorate. The purposeful ignorance of the original languages (and any other language) is of course  not a problem that is localized to the PC(USA) or other liberal denominations. It has been my experience that this is a disease that infects most theological students (this one included, for which I am currently paying) despite their individual denominational affiliation and the otherwise orthodox nature of their theology. Is it the lack of focus given to Greek and Hebrew in other courses? The lack of focus in existing clergy? Whatever the reason for the decline of the seen importance of knowing Hebrew and Greek one thing remains true. <u>We</u> as graduate students need to make it a priority to not only take our languages seriously and to make a concerted effort to help the new students understand the vital nature of knowing how not only to translate but develop a love for the words used by the Holy Spirit through the hands of Moses, the scribes, Apostles and the other writers of Holy Writ as well as the knowledge of properly applying the tools to preaching, teaching, and, believe it or not, Pastoral Care.

Sermon for May 18th, 2008

For my 200th Post here is the Sermon I am giving tomorrow morning. Here is the audio of the sermon (let me know if it works and how it sounds). The text is Matthew 28:16-20.

Linway United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) May 18, 2008

Scripture Lesson Matthew 28:16-20
Sermon “Baptizing and Teaching” Benjamin P. Glaser

Jesus in our Scripture lesson today is preparing to leave the Apostles and He is meeting with them here at a mountain in Galilee before his Ascension so that He can advise them what it is they are to do after He is no longer with them in the flesh. He tells them to go out and preach and teach and convert followers to Christ and to baptize them accordingly. One of the commands that Jesus gives them is that they are to make disciples among all the nations and it is here that I would like to focus your attention. If you could I would like you to get out your pink slip provided in your bulletin or open your Bible to the Scripture lesson in Matthew 28:16-20 and I am going to read again this short passage right now and I want you to think over it as I read it and as I preach this morning, especially verse 19 and I want you to think about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in light of this passage.

As a young child I was fascinated by how things worked. I would take apart my toys with screwdrivers and other tools to ascertain how exactly these things operated. I can remember one particular incident with my sister’s easy-bake oven. I had taken the little oven from her room and was sitting on the floor of my room and as I sat there with a screwdriver and a hammer I took the cover off and exposed the electric motor that operated the oven and as I sat there with the oven in various stages of unity I had the bright idea of plugging in the oven to see if it would become hot enough to melt some of the metal matchbox cars I owned. Well to make a long story short, it does and I have the scars to prove it. What I discovered that day, apart from the fact that a toy that it is made to cook actually gets hot enough to melt metal, is that I did not have the technical know-how to operate an easy-bake oven properly, of course one could say I just did not have the good sense to not take apart a working oven. One need not be anything more than a 6-year old to take things apart but to know how things work I needed more than just the tools of the trade I needed to have the know how. If one wants to become an electrician or a carpenter or a plumber or any type of trade you cannot just pick up a hammer and a nail and announce to the world that you are a carpenter. They’ll put you away. There is training you must go through, an apprentice time one must undergo, certifications you must receive and in many areas a union you must join to seek work as a carpenter. So why is it that we believe that all one needs to do to be a Christian, a follower of Christ is to just say, “Hey God I’m one of yours” and then go about your normal life claiming to be a follower of something and a member of something you have not studied or sought teaching about? Well this morning I want to talk with you about why it is we are called to do as apprentices to the Master who is Jesus Christ do and seek to study and know God’s word to his people given to us in His Word, the whole counsel of God not just the stuff we like, and why it is important in our day that when we are challenged by the ways of this world, when you are confronted at work by unbelievers who want to compromise your faith, when you are moved at school to violate the Laws of God that you have more than just a “well it’s a faith thing” answer as if faith is one way or another divorced from learning. One of the pitfalls we have made as a church is that we have somehow come to believe that Faith is antithetical to knowledge, that “science” or “truth” for that matter and “faith” have separate areas of responsibility. In other words we have moved from a place where we once believed as a Christian community that faith in Jesus Christ had a real knowledge component and that knowledge deeply affected our relationship with Christ to the place where “church” and “faith” are for our spiritual life and “science” is for our physical life. This over-reliance by most in the Church on science to answer questions that Scripture already has is an entirely different problem that we do not have time to get into this morning but there is a vibrant and rabid anti-intellectual movement within our community as believers in Christ and it is killing the church in America as it has already killed the church in Europe. The Apostle Paul in his writing to the Corinthian church in the first letter chapter 3 is confronting the same problem we have today in the church, the Corinthians have not moved passed where they were when he last saw them, beginning at verse 1“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” What Paul is saying here is that there is more to the Christian life and the understanding of Christ but since you have chosen to continue in ignorance and apathy I cannot feed it to you because if I do you will be damaged. If we choose not to move past our infancy in our understanding of Christ how can we do as the Apostle Peter demands of his readers and for us today saying in his first epistle chapter 3 verse 15 that we must be able to “[give] an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” It is not enough and it is not fair to Christ to give some convoluted and contrived answer to your unbelieving co-worker for the reason why you will not look at porn on their computer screen. As a disciple of Jesus Christ you need to be able to not just tell them why you will not scan their screen but to witness the Gospel to them so that they might believe as you have. This is what Christ is calling the Apostles to do and it is what he is calling us to do today not just in the church but in every area of our life.

One can hardly think the Apostles are ready for such a challenge. I mean was it not less than a week earlier that when their Master, Jesus Christ, had been arrested at Gethsemane that they had fled and hid in the wilderness so as to not be arrested themselves. Are these not the same Apostles that include Peter who had denied that he even knew whom Christ was? Or Thomas who doubted all that he had seen until he actual touched Christ’s physical wounds. How capable really are they to go and teach anyone anything? For one they are not exactly people who we would think would be much good at preaching and teaching. The majority of them barely have an elementary level education, they have not studied under the Rabbi’s or spent their days reflecting and studying the centuries of writings. These are mere fishermen, tax collectors, and a rag tag group of nobodies who have been chosen by Jesus Christ to go out into the world and teach and preach. How is it that Peter is to go and argue against the Jews and the Greeks who have had years of training in rhetoric, public speaking, apologetics, and philosophy? How can Stephen, who is soon to be martyred, stand up and counsel the Pharisees and the Sadducees as to the error of their ways and do so with conviction and confidence? They do so because they have an answer for the faith that is within them, the can do so because most importantly they believe what they are saying contains the words of Life, it is intrinsically what Christ himself had taught them so why should they not be ready to face the struggles and attacks of those who hate Christ? I am sure some of you are saying to yourself, “Well I am not Peter or Stephen” or “I have not had the luxury of sitting at the foot of Jesus” so I cannot hope to come to be able to do such things. Well you may not, like Stephen, ever be called in front of a Church court under the threat of death or you may never be walking around what is modern-day Syria and Turkey defending the faith against Greek philosophers and Jews like Peter. And you would be right to say you could not come to the knowledge that Peter or Stephen had if you do not take the time and the effort to become an apprentice, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Look again at verse 18 through 20, “And Jesus came up and spoke to [the Apostles], saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The word “disciple” as Matthew and others throughout the New Testament use it has a much deeper meaning than we usually inscribe for it. We could just as easily think of a disciple as a “pupil” or a “student”. The real meaning behind what we hear and what we read is that as disciples of Christ we are not meant to be just a follower, like one who follows around a band, the Apostles are not called by Christ to go out and create a sort of Jesus Christ groupie movement, but to go out and teach all that Christ had instructed them, all that the writers of the Older Testament had taught them and see to it that those who through a profession of faith had been moved by the Holy Spirit to proclaim faith in Christ are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. But their discipleship did not end with baptism it had just begun. In the Reformed faith we believe in baptizing infants not just because its pretty and cute but because we believe that in baptism we are bringing this child into a community of faith where the child will be brought up not only by believers but so that the child can become a believer, and not just that, we as a church make a promise that we will teach this child more than just their ABC’s of faith but that we will disciple them, making them students of Jesus Christ. The meaning of being a disciple of Jesus Christ calls us to be students of Christ, Christ is our teacher in the fullest sense of that word. Just as Christ taught the Apostles more than the basics so we should seek to know Christ at a much deeper level than just the nuts and bolts of faith. None of us after learning our ABC’s in kindergarten were able to obtain our High School diploma and go straight into college. There was much more involved in us receiving our High school diploma than just being taught our ABC’s and this is where we are as a church today. We have through the last 100 years or so dumbed down our religious life to the point that we are satisfied with our ABC’s, we are content with just coming to church on the Lord’s day and going home and not allowing the worship of Almighty God to crack through the insulated life that exist outside these four-walls, creating a compartmentalized faith that leaves Christ and his message for two hours each Sunday and maybe a prayer hear and there during the week. This is where Christ’s word to his Apostles strike us to the heart today in this very Service of Worship this morning. Why is it we are here? Are we here to be discipled or are we here to fulfill some kind of social responsibility? Why do we make ourselves get out of bed on Sunday morning when the rest of the world sleeps in? These are all questions we must answer for ourselves and these are questions that can only be answered if we seek ought to know them. Brother and Sisters in Christ I am here to tell you this morning that we are called as disciples of Jesus Christ that we are called to defend our faith and give not only ourselves a reason for being here but to give one to our unbelieving neighbors and family. Because if you cannot answer for the faith and hope that is within you why should anyone else believe either?

But before we trudge off to do the 37 other things we have planned for the Lord’s Day let us remember one thing. Today the session and the members here at Linway have brought these seven young people into the body of the visible church; you have brought these kids into the body of Christ. They are yet apprentices; their learning process has just begun. It is the job of this Church family to lead them and to teach them, discipling them in the way of the Christian Life, in how to properly understand the God whom we worship on the Lord’s Day, teaching them how to observe the Laws of God, teaching them how to observe the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and so on and so forth. The primary teacher in their lives will be and should be the Church. While none of us will ever be the master, because Christ is the Master, we must strive not only to bring ourselves into a deeper and more complete understanding of the faith we confess to believe we must not only exemplify that faith to them through the works of our lives but also through the words we confess.

To God Alone Be the Glory, Amen.