The Spirit as Teacher

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 26, 2013 – Pentecost I
Trinity Sunday – Memorial Day Sunday

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15

From the book of Proverbs:
Does not wisdom call; does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the sons of men.”

From St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:
And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

What is truth?

Truth is most often used to mean in accord with fact, reality, sincerity or honesty. The concept of truth is discussed and debated in several contexts, including philosophy and religion. Many human activities depend upon the concept, which is assumed rather than a subject of discussion, including science, law, and everyday life.

There are differing claims on such questions as what constitutes truth: what things are truth-bearers capable of being true or false; how to define and identify truth; the roles that revealed and acquired knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.

We have heard in the news lately, several scandals involving our Federal Government.

The first one involves the terrorist attack on our diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya back on September 11, 2012, where four Americans were killed and many wounded. The concern has been that the American people and the world were told that the attack was a “spontaneous” protest brought on by an anti-Muslim video and not a terrorist attack by Muslim extremists. After several weeks, this narrative was found to be not true. The other accusation was that there may have been military forces available that could have come to their rescue, but were told to “stand down.” It has now been eight months. What is the truth?

The second scandal involves the Justice Department seizing emails and phone records of news organizations, such as the Associated Press and Fox News and their reporters, thus violating the First Amendment of the Constitution, which is Freedom of the Press. Supposedly, it was done to find out, who had leaked information, but instead of looking on the government side, they looked at the press, with a far reaching scope. Were they looking for the truth or was it intimidation? What is the truth?

The third scandal involves the IRS, where the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups such as the Tea Party. The IRS delayed or didn’t process their application for non-profit status. They also obtained donor lists of these organizations and then conducted audits on the donors, to intimidate donors not to give. Some of Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s donors were also targeted for audits. Congress has just started to hold hearings on this matter. What is the truth?

There are other scandals that people have probably forgotten about: voter intimidation by the Black Panthers in the 2008 Presidential election, where the case was dropped; and Operation Fast and Furious, which was gun-running operation where a border patrol agent, Brian Terry was killed and numerous Mexicans as well.

What is very disturbing is that when our government officials are asked to tell the truth, they refuse; they withhold information or mislead the people. All the American people want is to be told the truth. If mistakes were made, fine. Correct them so that they don’t happen again. If people broke the law, then they should be prosecuted. Just don’t lie to us; tell us the truth.

What is this teaching our children about our government; about right and wrong; about telling the truth; and are there consequences for not telling the truth?

Let us remember our brave American men and women on this Memorial Day weekend; many whom have given the ultimate sacrifice, so that we may live in peace and freedom; away from the tyranny of government.

When Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and arrested, he eventually was brought before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate asked Jesus a number of questions to determine His guilt or innocence. One of the questions that Pilate asked Jesus was: “What is truth?”

Jesus not only told Pilate of His origin, that His kingdom was not of this world; He also explained His ministry: to bear witness unto the truth. His was a spiritual kingdom of truth; and He won people to His cause, not through force, but through conviction and persuasion. He spoke the truth of God’s Word, and all who were His people would respond to His call. Rome’s weapon was the sword; but our Lord’s weapon was the truth of God, the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).

Our Lord was always careful to give His disciples the right amount of truth at the best time. This is always the mark of a great teacher. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher today, and He follows that same principle: He teaches us the truths we need to know when we need them, and when we are ready to receive them.

The Holy Spirit would remind the disciples of what Jesus had taught them; this gives us the four Gospels. The Spirit would also “guide” them into all truths; and this would result in the epistles, St. Paul’s letters. “He will show you things to come” refers to the prophetic Scriptures, especially the Book of Revelation.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, he talks about “justification by faith.” What does this mean? Justification means that God declares us righteous, which is a declaration of peace, made possible by Christ’s death on the cross. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Ps. 85:10). But when you are justified by faith, you are declared righteous and saved, and the Law cannot condemn you.

Through Jesus Christ, we now have access to God. Before Christ’s death, the Jew was kept from God’s presence by the veil in the temple; and the Gentile was kept out by a wall in the temple with a warning on it that any Gentile who went beyond would be killed. But when Jesus died, He tore the veil and broke down the wall. In Christ, believing Jews and Gentiles have access to God (Eph. 2:18); and they can draw on the inexhaustible riches of the grace of God (Eph. 1:7). We stand “in grace” and not “in Law.” Justification has to do with our standing; sanctification has to do with our state.

“Peace with God” takes care of the past: He will no longer hold our sins against us. “Access to God” takes care of the present: we can come to Him at any time for the help we need. “Hope of the glory of God” takes care of the future: one day we shall share in His glory!

Justification is no escape from the trials of life. “In this world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). But for the believer, trials work for him and not against him. No amount of suffering can separate us from the Lord (Rom. 8:35-39); instead, trials bring us closer to the Lord and make us more like the Lord. Suffering builds Christian character. As we go through trials and tribulations, and depend on God’s grace, the trials only purify us and help to get rid of the sin.

Jesus has promised us that one day we will share in His glory, but as we wait for this hope to be fulfilled, the love of God is “poured out into our hearts.” Before we were saved, God proved His love by sending Christ to die for us. Now that we are His children, surely He will love us more. It is the inner experience of this love through the Spirit that sustains us as we go through life’s tribulations.

Faith, hope, and love all combine to give the believer patience in the trials of life. And patience makes it possible for the believer to grow in character and become a mature child of God (James 1:1-4).
The book of Proverbs is a guide to attaining wisdom and truth, but here and there King Solomon points out several important characteristics of the wise man. Of course, the first step toward wisdom is saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Wise people listen to wise instruction, especially the Word of God. Wise people pay attention to spoken instruction as well as to the written Word of God as His Holy Spirit teaches us His will. Jesus warns us to take heed what we hear (Mark 4:24) and how we hear (Luke 8:18).

This means that we must diligently spend time reading and studying the Word of God, appropriating its truths into our hearts, and obeying what God commands (Prov. 2:1-9). It isn’t enough to own a study Bible and read books about the Bible, helpful as they are. It’s one thing to know about the Bible and quite something else to hear God speak through His word and teach us His wisdom so that we become more like Jesus Christ.

People today have numerous translations of the Bible to read and to study. They have a church fellowship, and can look back at centuries of faith as recorded in church history and the Bible. Yet many refuse to believe or they are just not interested.

It is essential that we see that the work of the Spirit of God is never divorced from Jesus Christ or the Word of God. “He will bear witness to me” (John 15:26); “He shall glorify me” (John 16:14). Jesus is the truth (John 17:17), and the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of Truth.” Where the Holy Spirit is at work, there must be truth.

The teaching of the Spirit through the Apostles was not different from the teaching of the Spirit through Jesus Christ. The same Holy Spirit communicated the truths found in the four Gospels, the epistles, and the Book of Revelation; and He also wrote the history and doctrine found in Acts.

It is the ministry of the Spirit to enrich us with the treasures of God’s truth. He enlightened us with God’s truth and enriches us with God’s treasures. The Word of God is a rich mine of gold, silver, and precious jewels (Prov. 3:13-15). What a joy it is to have the Spirit illumine His Word.

We do not study the Word of God in order to “argue religion” with people, or to show off our grasp of spiritual things. We study the Word to see Jesus Christ, to know God better, to glorify Him in our lives.
As we witness in this hostile world, the Spirit uses the Word He has taught us; and we share Jesus Christ with the lost. It is our job to witness; it is the Spirit’s job to convict.

As we study God’s Word, we need to allow God’s Holy Spirit to work through us and teach us the will of the Father and to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou would keep us steadfast in this faith and worship and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son, and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever.

We Share His Glory

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 12, 2013 – Easter VII
Ascension Sunday – Mother’s Day

Acts 16:16-34, Psalm 97, Revelations 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21, John 17:20-26

From the book of Acts:
And the jailer said: “Men, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

From the Revelation to St. John:
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

It’s been about a month now, since the terrorist attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This horrible event continues to be in the news. The FBI and other law enforcement officials continue to gather evidence; government officials are working backwards to see if they missed some intelligence that might have prevented this attack from happening. Perhaps this information might help to prevent another attack from happening. The last couple of weeks we had the drama of where to bury the body of one of the terrorist. “Not in my backyard” was the common response from one town after another. We now know that under the cover of darkness, his body was buried in a Muslim cemetery in Virginia.

If we can see some good to come out of this, it was the uniting of the people in love, compassion, grief, pain and sorrow. Those directly affected, will have to carry these feelings with them for the rest of their lives.

As Jesus neared the end of His ministry here on earth, He begins to pray for His disciples and for us who live today; for the whole church throughout all ages. His prayer is for unity. He is concerned that His people experience a spiritual unity that is like the oneness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christians may belong to different fellowships, but they all belong to the Lord and to each other.

We would like to think of Jesus’ disciples as devote and holy men, but that was not always to case. Like us, the disciples had often exhibited a spirit of selfishness, competition, and disunity; and this must have troubled the Savior’s heart. I wonder how he feels when He sees the condition of the church today! The Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks wrote: “Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous.”

What is the basis of true Christian unity? It is the person and work of Jesus Christ and His glory (John 17:2-5). He has already given His glory to us, and He promises that we will further experience that glory when we get to heaven! All true believers have God’s glory within, no matter what they may look like on the outside. Christian harmony is not based on the externals of the flesh but the internals and the eternals of the Spirit in the inner person. We must look beyond our physical characteristics, such as race, color, abilities, etc. – and build our fellowship on the essentials of our new birth in Jesus Christ.

Over the last few decades, the mainline Protestant denominations celebrated diversity. Unfortunately they got it backwards. They welcomed people’s different beliefs and then incorporated them into the church’s beliefs and values. It didn’t matter too much what you believed; all roads lead to heaven. Our Christian beliefs were watered down thinking that somehow that would unite us. They forgot that the only uniting force is the belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

There was also the feminist movement, where the way to equality was the removal of any and all reference to men. Liturgy and hymnals were rewritten for this purpose. There were even some women clergy, even Bishops who refused to worship God the Father, God the Son, because of the male reference. Around the 1990’s some women clergy and even women Bishops chose to worship the goddess Sophia and nothing was done about it. This heresy is still going on today.

Grace Chapel in Lexington had a very successful men’s ministry. There were several men from our church that went to it. They often had over 700 men from around New England that attended the once-a-month meeting. They would start with fellowship and a lasagna dinner, followed by a speaker. Then the church hired a feminist, a male, and the ministry was shut down because it excluded women, yet all the women ministries (that exclude men) were allowed to continue.

Did these changes in the church unite the people or divide it? Did our churches experience growth or decline? Unfortunately our church leaders concentrated on the physical external elements of the person and forgot about the internal and eternal spiritual elements to unite us. United we stand, divided we fall.
We already possess His glory within, and one day we shall behold His glory in heaven (John 17:24). As we grow in the Lord, the glory within begins to grow and to reveal itself in what we say and do and the way we say and do it. People do not see and glorify us; they see the Lord and glorify Him (Matt. 5:16).

After His resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days and ministered to His disciples. He had already opened their minds to understand the Old Testament message about Himself (Luke 24:44-48), but there were other lessons they needed to learn before they could launch out in their new ministry. Jesus appeared and disappeared during those forty days, and the believers never knew when He might show up. This is how it is today. We never know when our Lord will return. God has not revealed His timetable to us and it is futile for us to speculate. We need to be ready at all times.

Our Lord’ ascension into heaven was an important part of His ministry, for if He had not returned to the Father, he could not have sent the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-15). Also, in heaven today, the Saviour is our interceding High Priest, giving us the grace that we need for life and service (Heb. 4:14-16). He is also our Advocate before the Father, forgiving us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9-2:2). The exalted and glorified head of the church is now working with His people on earth and helping them accomplish His purposes (Mark 16:19-20).

As the believers watched, as Jesus was being taken up to glory, two angels appeared and gently rebuked them. The two messengers gave the believers assurance that Jesus Christ would come again, just as He had been taken from them.

One of the things about the Christian faith that most impresses the world is the way Christians love each other and live together in harmony. What better example is there than the love that a mother has for her child. It is this witness that our Lord wants in the world “that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John 17:21). This is a very big responsibility. Because the world will hold us to this very high standard; but have a very low standard for themselves. The lost world cannot see God, but they see Christians; and what they see in us is what they will believe about God. If they see love and unity, they will believe that God is love. If they see hatred and division, they will reject the message of the Gospel.

There is every reason why believers should love one another and live in unity. We trust the same Saviour and share the same glory. We will one day enjoy the same heaven! We belong to the same Father and seek to do the same work, witnessing to a lost world that Jesus Christ alone saves from sin. We believe the same truth, even though we may have different views of minor doctrinal matters; and we follow the same example that Jesus set for His people, to live a holy life. Yes, believers do have their differences; but we have much more in common, and this should encourage us to love one another and promote true spiritual unity.

Jesus declared that many in the world do not know the Father and that is true today. But we believers know Him because the Son has revealed the Father to us. The world certainly has many opportunities to get to know the Father, but it prefers to go on in blindness, darkness and hardness of heart. Our task as Christians is to bear witness to the lost world and share God’s saving message.

He also declares the importance of truth and love in the church. Believers know God’s name (nature) and even share in that divine nature. Jesus makes it clear that truth and love must go together. It has well been said that truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy. The mind grows by taking in truth, but the heart grows by giving out in love. Knowledge alone can lead to pride (1 Cor. 8:1), and love alone can lead to wrong decisions.

“What must I do to be saved?” was the cry of the Roman prison guard who had the responsibility of St. Paul and Silas. Paul had saved a demonized girl who had made her masters wealthy by telling fortunes. The owners had no concern for the girl; they were interested only in the income she provided, and now that income was gone. So, the owners complained and had Paul and Silas arrested. Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten and put in prison.

Instead of complaining or calling on God to judge their enemies, the two men prayed and praised God. God responded by shaking the foundations of the prison, opening all the doors, and loosening the prisoners’ bonds. They could have fled to freedom, but instead they remained right where they were.

Paul’s attention was fixed on the jailer, the man he really wanted to win to Christ. It was Roman law that if a guard lost a prisoner, he was given the same punishment the prisoner would have received. As it turns out, it was the jailer who was actually the “prisoner” (to sin); not Paul; and Paul not only saved the man’s life, but pointed him to eternal life in Christ.

“What must I do to be saved?” is the cry of the lost people worldwide, and we had better be able to give them the right answer. The answer is faith in Jesus Christ! And Paul spoke the word of the Lord to the jailer and to all in his household. The jailer in turn washed Paul and Silas’ wounds and he and his household were baptized at once.

It is touching to see the change in the attitude of the jailer as he washed the wounds of these two prisoners who were now his brothers in Christ. One of the evidences of true repentance is a loving desire to make restitution and reparation wherever we have hurt others. We should not only wash one another’s feet, but we should also cleanse the wounds we have given to others.

In the Revelation to St. John, John assures us that Jesus Christ will return. God is mindful of our sufferings and our service, and nothing will ever be done in vain if it is done for Him. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:14).
Those who accept His Word may enter; those who reject His Word are excluded. Obedience to God’s Word is a mark of true salvation.

The “morning star” announces dawn’s soon arrival. Jesus Christ will come for His church as “the Morning Star.” But when He returns to judge, it will be as “the Sun of righteousness” in burning fury (Mal. 4:1-3). Because God’s people look for their Lord’s return, they keep their lives clean and dedicated to Him (1 John 2:28-3:3).

Christ’s return has been “delayed” for some 2000 years! Yes, He has; and Peter tells us why: God wants to give this sinful world the opportunity to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:1ff). In the meantime, the Spirit of God, through the church (the bride), calls for Jesus to come; for the bride to meet her bridegroom and enter into her home. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

It is up to believers to invite lost sinners to trust Christ and drink the water of life. Indeed, when the church lives in expectancy of Christ’s return, such an attitude provokes ministry and evangelism as well as purity of heart. We want to tell others of the grace of God. A true understanding of Bible prophecy should both motivate us to obey God’s Word and to share God’s invitation with a lost world.

After God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ’s glorious resurrection, He appeared to His disciples; and in their sight ascended into heaven, to prepare a place for us; that where He is, there might we also be, to reign with Him in glory.

Shall we join John in the Bible’s last prayer? “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Are we ready?

Let us pray:
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.

Heaven Awaits

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
May 5, 2013 – Easter VI
Sacrament of Holy Communion

Acts 16:9-15, Psalm 67, Revelations 21:10, 22-22:5, John 14:23-29

From the book of Acts:
And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

From the Revelation to St. John:
And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Since accepting your call to be your Pastor, I have already officiated at 3 funerals. I realize that part of my job at a funeral is to give a brief summary of the deceased’s life during the eulogy, but more importantly it is to give hope and reassurance to those left behind; that there is eternal life for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

One of the scripture passages that I read is from the Revelation to St. John: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Behold, I shall make all things new.
The eternal city is not only the home of the bride; it is the bride! A city is not buildings; it is people. The city John saw was holy and heavenly; in fact, it descended to earth from heaven, where it was prepared. John’s description staggers the imagination, even accepting the fact that a great deal of symbolism is involved. Heaven is a real place of glory and beauty, the perfect home for the Lamb’s bride. In this city, saints of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant will be united.

We are told that the heavenly city will be like a beautiful garden, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. There were four rivers in Eden (Gen. 2:10-14), but there is only one river in the heavenly city. Ezekiel saw a purifying river flowing from the temple, but this river will flow directly from God’s throne, the very source of all purity. Man was prohibited from eating of the tree of good and evil, and prevented from eating of the tree of life (Gen. 2:15-17). But in the eternal home, man will have access to the tree of life. The river and the tree symbolize abundant life in the glorious city.

What will we do in heaven for all eternity? Certainly, we shall praise the Lord, but we shall also serve Him. As we seek to serve the Lord here on earth, we are constantly handicapped by sin and weakness; but all hindrances will be gone when we get to glory.

What will this service be? We are not told, nor do we need to know now. It is sufficient that we know what God wants us to do today. Our faithfulness in life prepares us for higher service in heaven.

Another scripture passage that I read at a funeral is from the Gospel of St. John: Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

If we treasure His Word and obey it, then the Father and the Son will share their love with us and make their home in us. When the sinner trusts Christ, he is born again and the Spirit immediately enters his body and bears witness that he is a child of God. The Spirit is resident and will not depart. But as the believer yields to the Father, loves the Word, prays, and obeys, there is a deeper relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!

This truth is illustrated in the experiences of Abraham and Lot, recorded in Genesis chapters 18 and 19. When Jesus and the two angels visited Abraham’s tent, they felt right at home. They even enjoyed a meal, and Jesus had a private talk with Abraham. But our Lord did not go to Sodom to visit Lot, because He did not feel at home there. Instead, He sent the two angels.

God led Paul west into Europe, to the city of Philippi, a Roman colony. The emperor organized “colonies” by ordering Roman citizens, especially retired military people, to live in selected places so there would be strong pro-Roman cities in these strategic areas. Though living on foreign soil, the citizens were expected to be loyal to Rome, to obey the laws of Rome, and to give honor to the Roman emperor. In return, they were given certain political privileges, not the least of which was exemption from taxes.

The Jewish population in Philippi must have been very small since there was no synagogue there, only a place of prayer by the river outside the city. It required 10 men for the founding of a synagogue. Paul met a woman named Lydia who was a successful business woman from Thyatira, a city renowned for its purple dye. God brought her all the way from Greece so that she might hear the Gospel and be converted. She was “a worshiper of God,” a Gentile who was not a full Jewish proselyte but who openly worshiped with the Jews. She was seeking truth.

Paul shared the Word with her and God opened her heart to the truth, and she believed and was saved. She boldly identified herself with Christ by being baptized and invited Paul and his team to stay at her house. This gave Paul the opportunity to teach them the Word and all in her household were converted.

Our experience with God ought to go deeper and deeper, and it will as we yield to the Spirit of Truth and permit Him to teach us and guide us. If we love God and obey Him, He will manifest His love to us in a deeper way each day.

Jesus revealed Himself to His church and left the church in the world to be a witness of God’s love. Who is the church? We are. He is patiently waiting, still giving lost sinners an opportunity to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:1-10). One day He will return and the world will behold Him.

One of the best ways to ease a troubled heart is to bathe it in the love of God. When you feel alone, let the Spirit of God reveal God’s love to you in a deeper way. Charles Spurgeon said, “Little faith will take your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul.” Your heart can become a “heaven on earth” as you commune with the Lord and worship Him.

We have all heard the greeting: “Shalom” which means peace. Shalom is a precious word to the Jewish people. It means much more than just the absence of war or distress. Shalom means wholeness, completeness, health, security, even prosperity in the best sense. When you are enjoying God’s peace, there is joy and contentment. But God’s peace is not like the “peace” that the world offers.

The world bases its peace on its resources, while God’s peace depends on relationships. To be right with God means to enjoy the peace of God. The world depends on personal ability, but the Christian depends on spiritual adequacy in Christ.

In the world, peace is something you hope for or work for; but to the Christian, peace is God’s wonderful gift, received by faith. Unsaved people enjoy peace when there is an absence of trouble; Christians enjoy peace in spite of trials because of the presence of power, the Holy Spirit.

People in the world walk by sight and depend on the externals, but Christians walk by faith and depend on the eternals. The Spirit of God teaches us the Word and guides us into the truth. He also reminds us of what He has taught us so that we can depend on God’s Word in the difficult times of life. The Spirit uses the Word to give us His peace, His love, and His joy.

Again, Jesus assured His disciples that they would see Him again. Why should they rejoice because Jesus returned to the Father? Because His return made possible His wonderful intercessory ministry on our behalf, our great High Priest in heaven. We have the Spirit within us, the Saviour above us, and the Word before us!

Certainly, many interesting questions could be asked about our future home in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home. In fact, John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven. Until then, may we rest assured that He dwells with us now, in our hearts.

And now as we come to your most sacred table Lord; we remember because of our Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension, that we are partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood; that this Bread and Wine are signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us, until His coming again.

Let us pray:
O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee in all things and above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Night and Day

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
April 28, 2013 – Easter V

Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, Revelations 21:1-6, John 13:31-35

From the book of Acts:
When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.”

From the Revelation to St. John:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
Little children, yet a little while I am with you; you will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going you cannot come.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Have you heard the expression: Night and Day? “Night and Day” was a popular song by Cole Porter. It was written for the 1932 musical play Gay Divorce. It is perhaps Porter’s most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook and has been recorded by dozens of artists. Porter was known to claim, that the Islamic call to worship on a trip to Morocco inspired the song. In this case the expression meant a length of time: He thinks of her night and day; meaning all the time.

It could also mean two opposites. You could have two brothers; one is into sports and the other isn’t. So, you could say that their knowledge of baseball is night and day. It could also represent darkness and light; Satan and Jesus Christ. The expression could also mean the difference between right and wrong.

Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chairman and Republican Vice Presidential candidate said, “Only by taking responsibility for oneself, to the greatest extent possible, can one, ever be free, and only a free person can make responsible choices – between right and wrong, saving and spending, giving and taking.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus was eating with His disciples. Jesus became troubled and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” They all looked at each other and wondered, who it could be. Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Jesus said to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

A dark shadow now fell across the scene as Jesus dealt with Judas, the traitor. It is important to note that Judas was not a true believer. At that hour, Jesus had two concerns: to fulfill the Word of God (John 13:18-30) and to magnify the glory of God (John 13:31-35).

The remarkable thing is that the others at the table with Jesus did not know that Judas was an unbeliever and a traitor. Up to the very hour of his treachery, Judas was protected by the Saviour whom he betrayed. Had Jesus openly revealed what He knew about Judas, it is likely that the men would have turned on him. Remember what Peter did to Malchus when the soldiers came to take Jesus; he cut his ear off.

From the very beginning, Jesus knew what Judas would do (John 6:64), but He did not compel him to do it. Judas was exposed to the same spiritual privileges as the other disciples, yet they did him no good. He chose darkness over light.

Keep in mind that Judas knew what he was doing and that he did it deliberately. He had already met with the Jewish religious leaders and agreed to lead them to Jesus. They wanted it to be in such a way that there would not be any public disturbances (Luke 21:37-22:6). Judas had heard Jesus say, “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born!” (Matt. 26:24). Yet, he persisted in his unbelief and treachery.

The instant Judas was gone, the atmosphere was cleared, and Jesus began to instruct His disciples and prepare them for His crucifixion and His ultimate return to heaven. It was after Judas’ departure that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, something that Judas as an unbeliever certainly could not share. Judas was out in the night, controlled by the prince of darkness, Satan; but Jesus was in the light, sharing love and truth with His beloved disciples. Night and day; what a contrast!

From the human perspective, the death of Christ was a dastardly deed involving unspeakable suffering and humiliation; but from a divine perspective it was the revelation of the glory of God. “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified” (John 12:23).

What did it mean for Jesus to glorify the Father? He tells us in His prayer: “I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gave me to do” (John 17:4). This is the way all of us glorify God, by faithfully doing what He calls us to do. In our Lord’s case, the Father’s will was that the Son die for lost sinners, be raised from the dead, and then ascend to heaven. The Son glorified the Father and the Father glorified the Son (John 17:1, 5).
There would come a time when the Son would be glorified in these disciples (John 17:10), but they could not follow Him at that time. Peter boasted that he would follow the Lord even to death, but unfortunately ended up denying Him three times. One day the believing disciples would go to be with Him, and they would also see Him after His resurrection. But during this time of His suffering and death, it was important that they not try to follow Him.

It is still fresh in our minds of the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. Four people were murdered and countless others were hurt and maimed. Memorial and prayer services were held this past week for the victims; and the important question is “why?”

From the very beginning, man was given the ability to choose right or wrong and man unfortunately chose sin. Judas chose to betray his Lord and Master and set in motion the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Why did these two men and others come to the point of believing that by murdering innocent civilians, would somehow bring glory to their god? And it isn’t just the few who actually carry out the dastardly deeds who sin, it’s also a large number of people around the world who feel that it is justified. This is truly night and day; and Jesus Christ is the light who came into the world to shed light on the darkness. Obviously, darkness still exists; and it will exist until Jesus Christ returns.

Human history begins in a Garden and ends in a City that is like a garden paradise. In the Apostle John’s day, Rome was the admired city; yet God compared it to a harlot. “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). The eternal city of God is compared to a beautiful bride (Rev. 21:9), because it is the eternal home for God’s beloved people.

The first heaven and earth were prepared for the first man and woman and their descendants. God had readied everything for them when He placed them in the Garden. Unfortunately, our first parents sinned, ushering death and decay into God’s beautiful world. Too often man chooses darkness, instead of light. Creation is in bondage and travail (Rom. 8:18-23), and even the heavens “are not clean in His sight” (Job 15:15).

God has promised His people a new heaven and earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified. Jesus called this event “the regeneration” of the earth (Matt. 19:28), and Peter explained it as a cleansing and renewing by fire (2 Peter 3:10-13).

It is difficult to imagine what the eternal city will be like. John characterizes it as a holy city, a prepared city and a beautiful city, as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day.

But the most important thing about the city is that God dwells there with His people. The Bible gives an interesting record of the dwelling places of God. First, God walked with man in the Garden of Eden. Then He dwelt with Israel in the tabernacle and later the temple. When Israel sinned, God had to depart from those dwellings. Later, Jesus Christ came to earth and “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14).
Today, God does not live in man-made temples (Acts 7:48-50), but in the bodies of His people (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and in the church (Eph. 2:21-22).

In both the tabernacle and the temple, the veil stood between men and God. That veil was torn in two when Jesus died, thus opening a “new and living way” for God’s people (Heb. 10:19ff). Even though God dwells in believers today by His Spirit, we still have not begun to understand God or fellowship with Him as we would like; but one day, we shall dwell in God’s presence and enjoy Him forever.

This “new and living way” is open to everyone: Jews and Gentiles. Peter had the task of uniting the converted Jews and Gentiles in the Christian faith. Having fellowship with the Gentiles was a new experience for these Jewish Christians, who all their lives had looked on the Gentiles as pagans and outsiders. Tradition said that a Gentile had to “become a Jew” in order to be accepted; but now Jews and Gentiles were united in the church through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). It was not only a matter of religion, but also of culture; and cultural habits are very hard to break.

Peter had nothing to fear. After all, he had only followed orders from the Lord; and the Spirit had clearly confirmed the salvation of the Gentiles. Peter presented three pieces of evidence: the vision from God (Acts 11:5-11), the witness of the Spirit (Acts 11:12-15), and the witness of the Word (Acts 11:16). Of course, none of these men had seen the vision, but they trusted Peter’s report, for they knew that he had been as orthodox as they in his personal life.

Peter reviewed the entire experience from beginning to end; and, when he was finished, the Jews dropped their charges and glorified God for the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18). The conversion of the Gentiles was God’s gracious work. He gave them the gift of repentance and the gift of salvation when they believed. In later years, God would use the letters of St. Paul to explain the “one body,” how believing Jews and believing Gentiles are united in Christ (Eph. 2:11-3:12).

Christians are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction (Rom. 14-15). Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews, and some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles. This caused problems in the early church, but through love it was overcome.

Jesus left His disciples with two important commandments: first to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. The second is like unto it: to love your neighbor as Jesus had loved them. Love would take on a new meaning and power because of the death of Christ on the cross (John 15:13). With the coming of the Holy Spirit, love would have a new power in their lives.

Jesus said to the people and says to us today: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). He also said: “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36).
Let His light so shine through you, so that others will know Him through you.

Let us pray:
O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Do You Know Me?

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
April 21, 2013 – Easter IV

Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelations 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

From the book of Acts:
But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

From the Revelation to St. John:
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

And from the Gospel of St. John:
“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

I am sure that all of us know about the horrific act of terrorism that was committed last Monday at the finish line of the Boston marathon. Two bombs exploded seconds apart; three people were killed, including an 8 year old boy, and over 170 people were injured. Several people lost limbs and amputations were necessary. The survivors will have to live with the scars for the rest of their lives. A few days later an MIT cop was murdered.

On Thursday, the FBI decided to release photos of the two suspects suspected in connection with the bombings. Within hours of the release, things started to happen. There was a shootout and the older brother, Tamerlan, 26 years old, was killed. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19 years old, escaped. On Friday, the governor imposed a kind of “lock-down” where people in the Boston area were asked to stay in their homes and businesses were asked not to open. After a house to house search in Watertown, with no results, the governor removed the “lock-down” late in the day. As luck would have it, a few hours later, the younger suspect was found and captured alive.
The question on peoples’ minds is why? Why would two brothers who came to America with their families a decade ago turn on their adopted home with a brutal attack on a cherished tradition, the Boston Marathon?

The Tsarnaev family arrived in the United States, seeking refuge from strife in their homeland. They were ethnic Chechens and Muslins, who were persecuted in Kyrgyzstan. The two brothers and two sisters grew up and went to our schools. The older brother was an amateur boxer and thought of one day being on the U.S. Olympic team. The younger brother was on the wrestling team and attended the prestigious Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

The other question is how well do we know our neighbors, our friends, and our family? Most of the people that knew these two young men are in a state of shock and denial. Especially the younger brother; his friends thought of him as well-adjusted, well-liked, smart, funny, a really sweat person, very kind hearted, and a kind soul. His father, who now lives in Russia, thought is younger son was a “second year medical student” though that wasn’t true. Their mother thought they were set up.

There is an expression: “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” You need to delve into the book and read its pages in order to know what the book is all about. What we find in the book can be positive or negative.

In 2011, the FBI was alerted by Russia to the possibility that the older brother, Tamerlan, might be a problem. The FBI talked to him, saw nothing wrong and let him go. They chose to look only at the surface, the cover of the book; and not do any follow up by delving into the pages of his life. They chose not to know him. In the days and weeks ahead, as the FBI and other law enforcement officials delve into the lives of these two men, the truth may come out as to who they really were and why they perpetrated such an evil act.

If I were to ask all of you who is Jesus Christ? I am sure all of you would be able to answer the question. Of course the bigger question is: Do you know Him or just know of Him? How well do you know Him? How often do you delve into “The Book” to find out about Him?

That was the problem in Jesus’ time: Who was He? Was He the Messiah? A few people figured it out, but even His disciples struggled with the truth until after His resurrection. In our Gospel reading today, the Jews were celebrating the “Feast of the Dedication” which takes place in December, near the time of the Christian Christmas celebration. The feast commemorates the rededication of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C., after it had been desecrated by the Romans. This historical fact may bear a relationship to the words of Jesus for He had been set apart or dedicated by the Father and sent into the world.

Jesus went into the temple and the religious leaders surrounded Him so that He had to stop and talk to them. They had decided that it was time for a “showdown” and they did not want Him to evade the issue any longer. “How long are you going to hold us in suspense?” they kept saying to Him. “Tell us plainly – Are You the Messiah?”

Jesus reminded them of what He had already taught them. He emphasized the witness of His words and His works. But our Lord went much deeper in His explanation this time, for He revealed to the Jewish leaders why they did not understand His words or grasp the significance of His works: they were not His sheep. From the human standpoint, we become His sheep by believing; but from the divine standpoint, we believe because we are His sheep. There is a mystery here that we cannot understand or explain, but we can accept it and rejoice (Rom. 11:33-36). God has His sheep and He knows who they are. They will hear His voice when He calls and respond.

The lost sinner who hears God’s Word knows nothing about divine election. He hears only that Christ died for the sins of the world, and that he may receive the gift of eternal life by trusting the Saviour. When he trusts the Saviour, he becomes a member of God’s family and a sheep in the flock. Then he learns that he was “chosen…in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). He also learns that each saved sinner is the Father’s “love gift” to His Son.

In the Bible, divine election and human responsibility are perfectly balanced; and what God has joined together, we must not put asunder.

Jesus went on to explain that His sheep are secure in His hand and in the Father’s hand. “They shall never perish” is His promise. The false shepherds bring about terrorism, death and destruction, but the Good Shepherd sees to it that His sheep shall never perish.

The security of God’s sheep is assured here in several ways. First, by definition – we have “eternal life,” and that cannot be conditional and still be eternal. Second, this life is a gift, not something that we earn or merit. If we were not saved by our own good works, but by His grace, then we cannot be lost by our “bad works” (Rom. 11:6). But most important, Jesus gave us His promise that His sheep do not perish, and that His promise cannot be broken.

It is important to keep in mind that Jesus was talking about sheep – true believers – and not counterfeits. The dog and the pig will go back into sin; but the sheep, being a clean animal, will follow the Shepherd into the green pastures.

As you delve into the pages of “The Book,” and read about our Lord’s teaching about His ministry as the Good Shepherd, you will note the threefold relationship to His sheep. He has a loving relationship because He died for the sheep, as well as a living relationship because He cares for the sheep. It is also a lasting relationship, for He keeps His sheep and not a one is lost.

So when the Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a plain answer: Who is He? Our Lord made a statement that He knew would startle His enemies and give them more reason to oppose Him (John 10:30). It was the “plain answer” that the religious leaders had asked for. “I and My Father are One” is as clear a statement of His deity as you will find anywhere in Scripture. This was even stronger than His statement that He had come down from heaven (John 6) or that He existed before Abraham ever lived (John 8:58).

The word “One” does not suggest that the Father and Son are identical persons. Rather, it means that they are one in essence: the Father is God and the Son is God, but the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. He is speaking about unity, not identity.

The Jewish leaders understood clearly what He was saying! He was saying: “I am God!” to speak this way, of course, was blasphemy; and according to Jewish belief, blasphemy has to be punished by being put to death.

Could they have believed? Jesus invited them, urged them, to believe, if only on the basis of His miracles (John 10:37-38). If they would believe the miracles, then they would know the Father, and that would open the way for them to know the Son and believe on Him. It was simply a matter of examining the evidence honestly, delving into the pages, and being willing to accept the truth. But they chose not to know Him as the Messiah.

Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, was commissioned by Jesus to care for His sheep and Peter was faithful to fulfill that commission. He evangelized, taught and encouraged the church in the faith. Peter journeyed to Joppa, a seacoast community. This is the place where Peter raised Dorcas from the dead. This miracle attracted great attention and resulted in many people trusting Jesus Christ. During the “many days” that he tarried in Joppa, Peter took the opportunity to ground these new believers in the truth of the Word, for faith built on miracles alone is not substantial, it’s just the beginning.

In the end times, we are reminded that the Lamb died to redeem people “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The great multitudes, refers to all believers: Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles; all people who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord!

In the heavenly city, all distinctions will cease and we shall all simply be the people of God in glory. But while God is working out His program in human history, distinctions still exist between the Jews, the Gentiles, the church, and the Tribulation saints. We are assured that through the Blood of Jesus Christ, we are saved. No matter what the age or dispensation, God’s way of salvation has always been the same: faith in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Do you know Him? Have you delved into the pages of His Word? If so, then share the Good News of salvation with others! May your book of life, be a witness to His love, His mercy and His grace. As people delve through your book, may they come to know Him through you.

Let us pray:
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of thy people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. AMEN †