From the Pastor’s Study – August 18th, 2017

Good afternoon! As I type today’s date into the heading of this post I realize how quickly the summer is passing by. Alaska summers are short to begin with, but it seems this summer barely started and now it’s almost over. The cooler days, the darkening evenings, and the yellowing leaves all signal the coming of our longest season, winter. Before too long the snow will be flying. But until it does, I will be grateful for each sunny and mild day the Lord may yet have in store for us up here in Alaska.

Sunday worship

At the morning service I preached a second sermon on Luke’s account of the ministry of John the Baptist. Our passage was Luke 3:15-20. John was a fire-and-brimstone preacher, and he was fully convinced that God’s judgment was coming with the imminent appearance of Christ. John was wrong about the timing of that judgment, but not the reality of it. So in my sermon I touched on various aspects of that universal judgment that each one of us must undergo when Christ returns. That Christ will hold all of us accountable for every thought, word, and deed, is a sobering truth but one that does us good to recall. In our sin, we all deserve condemnation. And for those who do not know Christ, the Day of Judgment holds out the awful prospect of eternal “wrath,… fury…tribulation and distress” (Romans 2, 8-9). This reality of the coming judgment is John’s “bad news”.

But at heart John was a preacher of good news (Luke 3:18). The good news is that for those who – by God’s grace – repent of sin and put their trust in Christ, he will come for salvation and not for judgment. And though John couldn’t see it, Jesus would secure that salvation for his people by himself undergoing a baptism of judgment (Luke 12:50). This he did at the cross, when he endured the “unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17) of God’s wrath as a sacrifice on behalf of all who put their trust in him.

So now for you who belong to Christ by faith, you should not dread the coming again of Christ as Judge, but you should look forward to it with longing. Why? Because the very One who will be your Judge is he who already endured judgment for you and in so doing has taken away all your guilt (see Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 52). Your Judge is your Savior! And so Christ’s coming is for you a Day of honor, glory, and redemption. Good news, indeed!

At the evening service we continued to work our way through the Heidelberg Catechism. We looked at Lord’s Day 32, and considered in what sense good works are necessary for the Christian.

A Timely Word on Smartphones

I just finished reading Tony Reinke’s 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You and I recommend it to you as a thoughtful, biblical, and balanced assessment of the benefits and pitfalls that come with our smartphones. For most of us, we’ve struggled with the pitfalls as much as we’ve enjoyed the benefits of these pocket technological wonders. By not only describing the dangers of smartphone misuse and abuse (beyond the obvious problem of pornography), but also by musing on how smartphones fit into our calling as followers of Christ and worshipers of God, Reinke’s counsel is well-considered and helpful. If you struggle with bad digital habits, put down the iPhone and pick up this book and you’ll be helped.