GRACE NOTES- PASTORAL LETTER 12.20.23

Monthly memory verse: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,I have been praying for you every day this week, and it is my sincere hope that as you read this letter you are sound in mind, healthy in body, and zealous in spirit for the Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior who came low in order to unite us to Himself and draw us up into the heavenly communion, worship, and delight that are enjoyed by those blessed creatures who surround His throne.  It is an amazing reality, the most wonderful gift ever given to anyone, and especially to sinful man.  It is the privilege belonging to all who have indeed been brought into sweet, endless, mystical union with the Son of God by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.  It has been the cause of innumerable festal gatherings and loud songs of praise for many generations, and is always worth pausing to ponder afresh.  And its wonder begins with the terrible reality of our sin and resulting separation from God.The background to the good news of the gospel is the bad news of man’s fall into sin in the garden so long ago.  You know the account well.  Not in the land of myth or children’s stories, but in this very world, from the dust of this earth, the Lord created the first man, our first father, Adam.  Then, to Adam, the Lord gave a wife, Eve.  They were made for communion with God – to glorify and enjoy Him forever.  They were to have children who would have children of their own, for thousands of generations, and they would all do the same – glorify and enjoy the only living and true God who made them for Himself.  But, of course, that isn’t how things worked out.  Instead of close communion with God, which depended upon Adam’s trust in and submission to the Lord, Adam chose rebellion against and enmity with God.  He chose sin.  The result?  Curse instead of blessing.  Death instead of life.  Separation from God instead of intimate, familial relation with God.  A chasm altogether unbridgeable by sinful man, as his sin daily cried out for nothing less than the everlasting wrath and condemnation of the Holy One he had chosen to reject and defy.  This is the condition in which we share as Adam’s natural children, who sinned with him and became guilty in him who stood before God as our covenant head, our representative in all that he was and did, for good or ill.  It is the condition in which we enter into this world.  And, without the Lord’s gracious, sovereign intervention, it is the condition in which we would inevitably be doomed to leave this world and exist forever in that outer darkness called hell.Yet, the good news that shines light the star over Bethlehem against this black backdrop is that the Lord has been pleased to send One in whom sinful man and the holy God can be reconciled and reunited.  The promise was first uttered immediately after man’s fall into sin, as the Lord promised the serpent that one day, One would be born who, through His own suffering, would crush the serpent’s head (cf. Gen 3:15).  The promise was restated, expanded-upon, and illustrated in seemingly countless ways over the long years.  It was perhaps most powerfully illustrated in the shining glory-cloud that resided in the midst of the Israelites in the tabernacle and later the temple, visibly declaring the Lord’s willingness and intention to dwell among a chosen people by means of sacrifice.  It was only a shadowy sign, but it had something beautiful to say.  There was hope.  There was God’s promise.  The Lord would make a way for sinful man to dwell at peace with Him once more.  It is in light of all this that the well-known and much-loved words of Isaiah 7:14 were uttered, as the Lord spoke through His prophet and announced, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  The longed-for reconciliation between God and man would be effected by One who, in His very person, would be Immanuel, that is, “God with us.”  It must have seemed a strange and almost unbelievable thing to wrap one’s mind around.  God with us, as a man?  How?  What could this mean?  The answer wouldn’t become crystal clear for several hundred years when, a young virgin, having miraculously conceived a child by the power of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to a Son who, in fulfillment of the prophecy, was both God and man.  Two natures in one Person.  Truly divine and truly man.  The God-man, Jesus Christ.  Immanuel, God with us.  The union of the divine and the human in one Person.  The one Mediator between God and men, who would live the sinless life God required from men and die under the curse God pronounced on sinful men, in order to render sinful men who look to Him by faith both forgiven and righteous in the sight of God.  It is the blessing that belongs to all who, placing their faith in Jesus Christ, are transferred from standing under the first Adam, in his sin, as their representative before God to standing in the second Adam before the throne of the Holy One, now washed in His blood and clothed in His righteousness.Yes, as much as it sounds too good to be true, it is anything but – in Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God and sinful men are reconciled and reunited, allowing those who deserve only wrath to enjoy fellowship with the Fountain of life and blessedness, both in this life and forevermore.  It is the good news we love to tell.  It is the heartbeat that enlivens our songs of praise.  It is the reason the Christian can rejoice always – not just in December but all year round.  In Christ, God has come among us – not to kill and destroy, but to seek and to save.  In Christ, curse has turned to blessing.  In Christ, death has turned to life.  In Christ, sorrow has turned to joy.  In Christ, darkness has turned to light.  In Christ, alienation has turned to communion.  In Christ, God has come to us, united us to Himself, and assured us that this new bond, forged in the fires of Christ’s sufferings and death on the cross, can never be broken.  In Christ, our communion with God is more blessed than was Adam’s at the first, for his was mutable, whereas ours is not.  In Christ, as Calvin said of old, “God has given Himself to us to be enjoyed.”Therefore, let us enjoy Him!  As you ponder His coming low to lift you up from the pit of despair into the glories of heaven, enjoy Him.  As you contemplate the wonder of a person like you, with all of your sin – all of your rebellion, flaws, and shortcomings – being forever knit together with and welcomed into the presence of the Holy One who invites you to call Him heavenly Father, allow yourself to simply enjoy Him.  And, as you do is, and as the act inevitably fills you with a desire to praise, open your mouth and speak.  Worship Him directly with, “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name” (Heb 13:15).  And, worship Him “indirectly” as you make this glorious, overwhelming, eternity-shaping reality known to others.  Tell them that Immanuel has arrived, and that in Him God is reconciling the world to Himself, not counting mens trespasses against them (cf. 2 Cor 5:19).  Or, in the simpler words of the old hymn, “Go, tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born!” 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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Covenant of Grace Presbyterian Church
PO Box 26511
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