GRACE NOTES- PASTORAL LETTER 6-27-23

Monthly memory verse: “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:6-7).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,It is my hope that this finds you well in both body and soul.  I have been thanking the Lord this week for the blessing and privilege of being part of a local body together with you, and for the great comfort and joy of gathering in unity to praise His name each Lord’s Day.  I have also been praying that the glorious truth of the gospel would continually refresh your hearts and fill you with rejoicing.  This has particularly been my prayer in light of a recent opportunity at the Wednesday evening prayer meeting to examine question thirty-three of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which deals with the nature of justification.  It asks, “What is justification?” and it answers, “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”  It is a glorious answer.  And yet, its significance surrounds a concept almost foreign to many modern minds.The assumption of many today is that people are basically good, that our desires are inherently upright, and that nothing should be allowed to impede their fulfillment.  Thus, if God is brought into the conversation at all, the question many are inclined to ask is something along the lines of, “How could a good God send anyone to hell?”  The question assumes an awful lot.  In the first place, as has just been noted, it assumes the basic goodness of the human heart.  It assumes that people are generally pure-hearted in their intentions, and that if something is sincerely desired then it can’t possibly be wrong.  In the second place, the question assumes that God, if He exists at all, must be all kindness and approval, and never judgmental or wrathful.  Thus, it is assumed that He has a duty to look with favor up on all people and all of their actions (provided, of course, that those actions align with the preferences of the person in question).  Therefore, it is concluded that for anything that one wants to do to be called sin, or worthy of judgment, is an outrageous and offensive thing.  Thus, the question arises, “How could God possibly deny someone like me, a basically good person, entrance into heaven?”But, of course, the biblical assessment of the situation is quite different.  In the first place, the Bible is very clear that the Lord is, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa 6:3).  He is consuming fire (cf. Deut 4:24; Heb 12:29; etc).  He dwells in unapproachable light (cf. 1 Tim 6:16).  He is the judge of all the earth, and He is angry with the wicked every day (cf. Gen 18:25; Ps 7:11).  In the second place, the Bible is very straightforward in stating that we are not holy, but sinful through and through.  “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5).  Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (cf. Jer 17:9).  We have all gone astray from God’s ways and fallen short of His perfect standard (cf. Isa 53:6; Rom 3:23).  Therefore, the Lord being a just judge, and we being a wicked and sinful people, the Bible concludes that His justice demands that our sins be punished with extreme, everlasting punishment.  “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek 18:20).  “And these will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt 25:46).  Therefore, the question faced by those who have come to see the Lord and themselves correctly is not, “How can a good God send anyone to hell?” but, “How can a holy God, who is a righteous judge, not send anyone to hell, but allow them to enter into his heaven?”  It is the question with which each of us must honestly wrestle, and which we must press upon others as well.And the only sufficient answer that has ever been provided to this question is the biblical doctrine of justification.  It is neatly summarized in the Catechism question above, and it is also succinctly presented in 2 Corinthians 5:21, where we read that, “For our sake He [God] made Him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  The righteous Judge will not by any means simply overlook and dismiss our sins against His most high majesty as a thing of little account.  But, in mercy, He would accept the payment of another in our place.  Thus, Isaiah says of Christ, “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6).  It is precisely what Paul, under the Spirit’s inspiration, means when he says that God made Him to be sin.  He imputed, or credited, our sins to His own dear, sinless Son.  And then, treating Him as if He were the worst sinner that ever lived, He punished Christ by crushing Him under the outpouring of His just wrath, condemning our sin in His body on the tree (cf. Isa 53:10; Rom 8:3; Gal 3:13; 1 Pet 2:24).  Thus, the Lord upheld His holiness by refusing to compromise His own insistence that sin be punished.  At the same time, He was pleased to take His Son’s perfect righteousness, His spotless obedience, and to impute, or credit, it to us who trust in Him.  As above, He made us to be the righteousness of God.  Which is to say, He accepted Christ’s obedience as if it were our own, so that His righteous demand that His law be perfectly fulfilled for entrance into His holy heaven was met, not by us, but by Christ for us.  As Paul puts it, “by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19).  Thus, the answer to the question of questions is provided in Jesus Christ.  To all who receive Him by faith, the Lord grants forgiveness for sin through Christ’s death on the cross, and the Lord credits perfect righteousness on the basis of Christ’s sinless life of unwavering obedience.  It has been called the great exchange – Christ was treated as we deserve, and we are treated as He deserves.  In this way, and this way alone, God has provided a fully sufficient, and altogether glorious answer to our question, “How can the Lord ever allow a sinner like me into His holy heaven?”  The answer, in short, is Jesus Christ.  Or, in longer form, it is by justifying us on the basis of Christ’s life and death on our behalf, which we receive by faith when we humble ourselves and trust in Him alone.To say the very least, it is an answer worth celebrating and sharing.  As the Ligonier Statement on Christology puts it, “[Christ] took our filthy rags and gave us His righteous robe.”  Let us not fail to wake up every day and thank Him for it.  And, let us be diligent to press its importance on those whom the Lord brings across our paths, so that they too might come to share and delight in the unspeakably wonderful gift of God’s justification! In Christ,Pastor Eric P.S.Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall – dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30.  Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.Please mark your calendars!  If you ever need to double-check dates, events are usually kept up to date on the church’s website calendar:  https://covenantofgracews.org/event-calendar/· Daily devotions
o I continue to encourage you to daily read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening as we seek to maintain a spirit of unity.  It is widely available – here is one link:
§ https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/today
 

‘Vision Statement’  Covenant of Grace is a loving church family that equips people to know God and His Word through serious, joyful, Christ-centered worship and service, in reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

Matt 22:37-39
37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Love God.  Love people.

 

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Winston-Salem, NC  27103

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Covenant of Grace Presbyterian Church
PO Box 26511
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27114-6511

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