What About Cremation?

For the majority of its existence, the church has been adamantly opposed to the practice of cremation. While rarely commanding burial or condemning cremation on theological grounds, the people of God throughout biblical history, have consistently practiced internment. The Bible describes, but does not prescribe, the practice of internment against cremation (Gen 25:10; Deut 34:6; Amos 2:1; John 19:42; Acts 8:2).

Julian the Apostate, a pagan Roman emperor who lived in the early fourth century chronicled how Christians, “filled the whole world with tombs and sepulchers.”[1] One of the marks of early Christianity was the rejection of cremation. In the same article, Kathryn Wehr recounts Tertullian’s opposition to cremation, she raises concerns that the 21st century practice of scattering ashes reveals an exclusive focus on the soul, and she encourages Christians to allow resurrection to take center stage as the focus of hope about the future.[2] Similarly, David Jones asserts, “This unfavorable view of cremation found in the Church Fathers was echoed by the majority of Christian thinkers who followed.”[3] Jones warns against the practice of cremation based on the implications of the image of God in man. Genesis 9:6 prescribes capital punishment for murder because murder is an attack on the image of God. Possessing life in physical bodies is part of what it means to possess the image of God. The human body, therefore, must be treated with dignity. Historically, cremation has been understood as an affront to the dignity of the human body. Additionally, 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 engender hope in grief precisely because these particular bodies will be raised.

With caution, noting that there is nothing inherently evil or immoral about accelerated decay caused by cremation, historical theology, and the consistent biblical practice of internment, encourage Christians to practice burial with explicit hope in the resurrection of the dead at the return of Christ. If cremation is practiced, the remains should not be scattered but interned with future hope.

[1]Emperor Julian the Apostate quoted by Kathryn Wehr in “Notes and Comments: The Orthodox Bioethics of Cremation,” St Vladimirs Theological Quarterly 55, no. 4 (2011): 502.

[2]ibid., 503-507.

[3]David W. Jones, “To Bury or Burn? Toward an Ethic of Cremation,” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 53, no. 2 (June 2010): 338.

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Weep and Rejoice with Your Neighbors

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Concerning the command to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15), Cranfield writes:

The Christian is to take his stand beside his fellow-man (whoever he may be), to have time and room for him in those experiences in which he is most truly himself, in his real human joy and his real human sorrow, and to strive to be both with him and for him, altogether and without reserve, yet without compromising with his evil or sharing, or even pretending to share, the presuppositions of this age which is passing away, even as God Himself is in Christ both ‘with us’ (Mt 1:23) and ‘for us’ (Rom 8:31) all. Commentary on Romans, vol 2, page 642

R.C. Sproul on Abortion

I believe that the greatest ethical issue today is that of abortion. In recent years many have come to see terrorism as more concerning than abortion. I am baffled by that, because more people were killed on September 10 in the womb of U.S. women than were killed on 9/11 in New York City. More babies were slaughtered on September 12 than adults were killed on 9/11. If we had a camera on the womb so that CNN could show us graphic videos of what actually happens in the slaughter of unborn children, abortion would be quickly abolished, but the reality of it is covered up. If there is one thing I know about God, it is that he hates abortion. The German ethicist Helmut Thielicke indicated something unusual in his massive mid-twentieth-century work on Christian ethics. The work appeared before Roe v. Wade; that is, before Western civilization had embraced abortion on demand. In his book Thielicke wrote that abortion has always been considered a monolithic evil in Christian thought among both liberals and conservatives. That is clear from the very first century, in the Didache, which called abortion “murder.” Abortion is an unspeakable evil that God abhors, one that the American church tolerates and winks at. That troubles me deeply, and I do not understand it.

Sproul, R. C.. Romans (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (pp. 422-423). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Christianity

A Christian is a person who feels the wrath of God for sin and calls out to Jesus for salvation from God’s wrath.

A Christian is a person who wants to be with God and trusts Jesus alone to get there.

A Christian is a person who believes the good news of Christ’s righteous life, atoning death, victorious resurrection, and soon return.

Are you a Christian?

Jesus is Fully Man for Us

Text: John 1:14                                                           12/24/2017

Main Point: God became man to reconcile God and man.

Who is Jesus and what is Christmas all about?

God becoming a man, the celebration of Christmas, is all about God’s great rescue plan. God wants to save, restore, and redeem people. In order to do that, in order to reconcile God and man, God must become a man.

Now let’s do some meddling for a minute. Some of us don’t like to hear, “You can’t do it.” “You can’t do it,” becomes a personal challenge that must be defeated. “Oh, I’m about to show you that I can do it.” Christmas morning is all about the fact that you can’t do it. One of the most faith-filled biblical things you can say when you roll out of bed tomorrow morning is, “I can’t do it.” You can’t face the kids and their greed. You can’t face the kids and their disappointment. You can’t face your crazy family members. Friend, our problems with one another are symptoms of our problems with God.

A broken relationship with God will lead to broken relationships with others. Separated from God, we don’t have what it takes to do life. We need help. We need Jesus.

Who is Jesus? He is fully God and fully man. Why do we need Jesus? We need a perfect man to come and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We need perfect righteousness credited to our accounts. We need an atoning sacrifice to pay the sin-debt we rack up. We need a ransom, a savior, a messiah, a deliverer, and redeemer. We need Jesus.

Read Galatians 4:4-7

I. The Bible tells us God became a man to redeem us

We are going to trace that argument. God became a man. God became a man for us. Then we’ll get really pointed; the Son of God is sinless man for us. God became a man to restore man to God.

  • The Son of God became a man
    1. John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God became a man. The Word, who is God, became flesh.
    2. John 8:40, Jesus said, “You are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth I heard from God.” Jesus, who understood himself to be God (we talked about that last week), he also understood himself to be a man.
    3. Acts 2:22, Peter preaches, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst…you crucified him.” Peter, who confessed the deity of Jesus in Matthew 16, witnesses the resurrection then preached the humanity of Jesus in Acts 2.
    4. 1 Timothy 3:16, “He was manifested in the flesh” This means God, who already existed, became visible. He appeared in the flesh.
    5. The apostle John said the disciples heard, saw, and touched Jesus (1 John 1:1). That means Jesus has a body.
    6. In the early church, believing or confessing that Jesus has come in the flesh was a test of one’s orthodoxy (1 John 4:2). “By this you know that Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Confessing the incarnation of the Son of God is still a test of biblical Christianity.
    7. Hebrews 10:5, “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.’” The preexisting Son of God became a man.
    8. Throughout Scripture we see Jesus being born, growing, eating, sleeping, getting tired and dying precisely because he is a man with a physical body.

Why does this matter? Fundamentally, it matters that God the Son became a man because that is exactly what God’s Word teaches. We submit to the authority of Scripture. We believe the Word and we want to think biblically about Jesus. This is the making of a biblical worldview. We try to understand and engage our world according to the truth of Scripture. So, we test every idea against God’s Word. Does what we believe match what Scripture teaches? Knowing that God became human also matters because we humans need a savior. God wants us to know that Jesus possesses everything it takes to be human for our salvation. God became a man to reconcile God and man.

  • The Son of God became a man for us
  1. Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeemed those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
    1. We used to be sons of God but that privilege and inheritance was lost in the Garden of Eden. Jesus came to restore us to our place in the family of God. Jesus is the perfect man who makes us perfect sons and daughters.
  2. 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
    1. The man Christ Jesus is the only means of getting back to God. He’s the only thing sufficient to make that happen.
  3. Hebrews 2:14-15, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself like wise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” The things that make us human are the things Jesus took on. And there is a purpose for Jesus taking on flesh and blood…
  4. Hebrews 9:14, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to serve the living God.”

The Son of God became the Son of Man. He took on the body and soul of a man. Jesus became fully man for us.

Why does this matter? Why does God want us to believe Jesus became truly man for us? Well, there is a lot of junk in our pasts. We are guilty and therefore separated from God. We have guilty consciences and need a redeemer. We humans are under the condemnation of the law. We need a human redeemer to fulfill the law’s requirements.

Think with me. This is worth hours of thought. Jesus took on himself and did for us all the law requires. He took our punishment the law requires, and Jesus fulfills the commandments of the law. All that the law requires for sin and for righteousness is accomplished for us in Jesus. We need a fully God and perfect human mediator. We need a human death conqueror. We need a human law obey-er. Church, be in awe and wonder, God the Son became a man for us. Let’s get even more pointed in our study

  • The Son of God is sinless man for us

Judas confessed that Jesus is innocent, Pilate’s wife confessed that Jesus is a righteous man, and the thief on the cross confessed that Jesus has done nothing wrong (Mt 27:4, 19; Lk 23:41). Listen in

  1. Hebrews 4:15, “Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.”
  2. Hebrews 7:26, “It was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”
  3. 1 Peter 2:22, “He committed no sin, neither was their deceit found in his mouth.”
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake, God made him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  5. 1 John 3:5, “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (John 8:29, 46; 15:10)
  6. Why does this matter? Why does God want you to believe Jesus became a sinless man for us? Remember our problem? You can’t do it. Psalm 49:7, no man can ransom another. We are sinful, and we are small, therefore we are insufficient. You cannot save yourself. Your parenting and choice of schools cannot save your child. Jesus, only Jesus. Jesus is the sinless and sufficient sacrifice for your sins. Jesus, God become man, is righteous for you and took the penalty of sin for you. For our sake, the Father put our sin on the Son and put the righteousness of the Son on us. Jesus became human so that humans can become righteous. Do you believe this? Through Jesus, the perfect God-man, we are reconciled to God. Praise God for Christmas. We can be saved.

II. Objections to the humanity of God the Son

Unlike last Sunday, today I’m going to spend less time on objections. If any of these touch a nerve and you want more, then let me know and we’ll talk it out or I’ll connect you with someone with whom you can talk it out.

  • God cannot become a man

This objection simply states, God cannot change. So, part of what it means to be God is to be perfect and you cannot change perfect. So, if God becomes a man that implies a change which implies some deficiency. Therefore, God cannot become a man. God cannot change. He’s perfect and unchangeable.

The response is that the incarnation, God becoming a man, does not in any way imply a change in the nature of God. God doesn’t change in his knowledge or nature when the Son of God takes on flesh. Jesus is not less than God. Jesus is fully God, without change, in the flesh. The nature of God, what it means to be God, does not change when the Son of God becomes a man.

  • It only looked like God became a man

This old error is called Docetism- Jesus is fully God but he only appears to have taken on flesh. God really did not become a man; it only seems like he did. This is really the product of the idea that God can’t change or become a man, so we have to have some other explanation for Jesus. But look back at the testimony of Scripture for your answer to this one. God was really a man. Others claim

  • God became only partially man

This old error is called Apollinarianism- Jesus did not take on all of what it means to be human. He had a physical body and a divine soul. Jesus only took on flesh (John 1:14). This makes Jesus only partially man.

The problem with a fully God but partially human Jesus is redemption only applies to those human parts Jesus possesses. Biblical Christianity says Jesus possesses a human body and soul. Therefore, all of who we are and not part of what we are is redeemed. We need a fully human Jesus, body and soul, to redeem fully all of who we are.

That’s a sampling of objections and answers. Mainly I want you to see that Christianity can and has stood up to deep and difficult objections for nearly 2,000 years. There are good answers to your tough questions. Ok, now we are in a place to draw some good soul satisfying conclusions. Let’s talk about

III. Why the humanity of Jesus matters

  • Since Jesus became a man, the atoning death of Jesus can be applied to us

How do you know that God will forgive you and reconcile with you if you repent and believe in Jesus Christ? I know God will save me through Jesus Christ because I am a human and Jesus became a human to save humans. God became a man to reconcile God and man. Jesus did not become an angel to save fallen angels. Jesus became a human to save fallen humans. Are you a fallen human? Do you feel your weakness, sickness, and sinfulness? Take heart. Jesus has come for you. Repent and trust his work in your place so that you can be with him and enjoy the benefits of his place. Jesus will save you.

  • Since Jesus became a man, Jesus can truly sympathize and intercede for us

Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses because he has, in every respect, been tempted as we are yet he did not sin. Jesus knows what it feels like and Jesus is able to help. You are never “the only one.” To say, “I’m the only one and no one knows what it feels like,” is a lie and an attack on the full humanity of Jesus. We go to God in prayer knowing he experienced the same struggle We go to God in prayer asking for the way of escape that Jesus found. Because Jesus became a man and was tempted in every respect like we are, there is help and you are never alone. Pray. Take advantage of all the help of Jesus.

  • Since Jesus became human, Jesus shows us what it truly means to be human

There is so much here for us to see and enjoy. For the sake of time I want to quickly give you three points to ponder. First, what it means to be human is sinlessness not sinfulness. Adam and Eve were created without sin. Jesus was and is without sin. If we trust Jesus, our day is coming. It’s going to get better. Second, having a spouse and children is not what it means to be human. Humans get married and have children but marriage and children are not required to be human. Was Jesus less than human because he didn’t have a spouse or children? No! Jesus is fully human without a spouse or children. Lastly, read the Gospels looking to Jesus as a life worthy of imitation. The gospels show us a man in the full. Strive, by his grace, to become more like Jesus in 2018. Let’s keep moving

  • Since Jesus became a man, Jesus models prayerful dependence on the Father

Depending on the Father is a good thing. Taking your cues from your heavenly Father is a good thing. Jesus only said what he heard his Father saying and Jesus did only what he saw his Father doing. Jesus did nothing on his own. Everything Jesus did, he did as a response to and in relationship with his heavenly Father. Jesus lacked nothing, and he lived a life of glad and fruitful dependence on God.

We lack everything and must live our lives in glad and fruitful dependence on God the Son. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Apart from him we can do nothing and as we depend on Jesus we will bear much fruit. Making disciples, doing good work, a team-work marriage, powerful parenting, and a joyous Christmas are all the product of depending on Jesus. Let’s get really practical. Let’s talk about

IV. Ways you can give and receive Jesus this Christmas

  • Expect your lost friends and family to act like lost

If it hasn’t happened already, people are going to say and do things that hurt, embarrass, and frustrate you. Our friends and family don’t need a good talking to, your famous dish, or the perfect present. Our friends and family need Jesus. I want to encourage you to see the offense that will happen as an opportunity for the gospel. Pray, search your Bible, talk to your church, and graciously confront, with the gospel of grace that offers a better way. Expect to be offended and determine today to bring gospel reconciliation. It is an opportunity to bring Christ into the darkness. If you want to know more about that, let’s talk.

  • Expect your Christian friends and family to need your help.

You are not the only person who will be hurt, embarrassed, or frustrated. Your brothers and sisters who make up this church need your help. Your children will need your help. Your spouse, your parent, and your sibling will need your help. Make room and make time for gospel conversations. Expect God to bring out brokenness. It is an opportunity to bring gospel healing to their needs. If you want to know more about that, let’s talk. Lastly,

  • Expect to need the help of your friends and family

One thing the incarnation teaches us is we can’t do it. We need help, so God sent the God-man Jesus Christ. One thing the church teaches us is we can’t do it. We need help, so God puts us in a family and gives us brothers and sisters. Walk out of this gathering and walk into Christmas firmly convinced that you do not have what it takes to do the next thing. Walk out of this gathering and walk into Christmas firmly convinced that with Christ and His church you have everything you need. Reach out to God; pray for help. Reach out to God; search his Word for wisdom. Reach out to the church; get the guidance, encouragement, and correction you need. Then go and tell the good news that Jesus Christ has come.

Go, Tell it on the Mountain!

Life Groups

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What are life groups?

  • Life groups are small groups (about 8 people) who commit to meet up every other week to get to know one another and help one another follow Jesus.

What do life groups do?

  • Generally, life groups meet for lunch every other week after our Sunday worship gathering. One of our elders writes questions so the group can better understand and apply the sermon to their lives. Depending on the season, life groups meet for 2-3 months.

How can you be a part?

  • You can join a group. Let Pastor Paul know you want to be a part of the group. You can comment here, sign up in the foyer, call the office (817) 573-4901, or send him an email paulduncan@mambrino.org.
  • You can host a group. Each group needs host homes where the group can meet. Usually the host home provides the meat for the meal and the other members bring sides. Most groups share the responsibility of hosting.
  • You can lead a group. Each group needs a leader who will choose a few of the questions and start the discussion. This is not a lecture but a time for each person to process how God’s Word applies to his/her life in community.

Salvation and Football

prescottBear with me as I use football to explain the glories and struggles of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Jesus alone.

Concerning salvation and football, some of us limit what it means to be saved by Christ to being baptized. We are like those who limit what it means to play football to a bunch of guys who wear jerseys. Surely football includes jerseys, and salvation includes baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and membership, but salvation is gloriously more than initiation.

Concerning salvation and football, some of us limit what it means to be saved by Christ to speaking in tongues. We are like those who limit what it means to play football to a bunch of guys holding up signs, making signals and calling plays. Surely football includes signs, and salvation includes communication with God, but salvation is gloriously more than speaking in tongues.

Concerning salvation and football, some of us limit what it means to be saved by Christ to keeping the law. We are like those who limit what it means to play football to a bunch of guys following the rule book or play book. Surely football includes rules and plays, and salvation includes commands, but salvation is gloriously more than keeping the rules.

As we seek to understand salvation, our football illustration breaks down. Playing football is something a person does in his own strength. Surely he wears his team’s jersey, communicates to his coaches, and follows the rules, but he needs no outside strength. A football player doesn’t need the power of the Spirit to play the game. He simply plays the game. Salvation, on the other hand, while also including the signs (baptism, Lord’s Supper, and membership), communication (prayer), and the rules (the law of Christ), a person cannot be a Christian in his/her own strength. We need the Holy Spirit for every act of faith.

This week, on Sunday the 21st, we will look in Romans 7:13-25. Surely there we see the inability of any person, even a Christian, to keep the law in his/her own strength. Our flesh is weak. We need to learn to follow the Spirit (Romans 8). This, I believe, is no second blessing or Spirit baptism. This is discipleship; learning to follow the Lord according to the power of the Spirit within you at regeneration.