I am thankful for First CRC. Can I say I am proud of you, without stirring up the sin of pride? You have received this sermon series on serious sins well. Many have expressed appreciation or spiritual benefit. You haven’t complained to the elders that the pastor talks about sin too much. Considering we live in a culture that increasingly chooses violent kinds of options when confronted with sin and evil, it’s to your credit that you have endured this series without calling it hate speech or wanting to shoot me. First Church still has prayer of confession as a part of our weekly cooperate worship. Many churches have abandoned this spiritual discipline. Church is where we should be able to be honest about our spiritual condition, where we can all say we are sinners and learn what kind of sinners we should be, which is repentant sinners. The only people in heaven are repentant sinners, the only people who can be members of this church are repentant sinners. Jesus didn’t come into the world for the righteous but for the unrighteous, to seek and save and have fellowship with sinners. The goal of these sermons has been to open our blind eyes to how all of us are caught in the entangling web of self-destructive sins and passions and sinful desires and to encourage us in the fight for our true joy and pleasure, which will never be found in sin.
The season of Lent is a penitential season of preparation that leads up to Resurrection Sunday. This Lent we have studied six of the so called seven serious sins. The snow day in February pushed anger to next week. This serious look at our sin should heighted for us our joy on this Sunday when we see what God has done to forgive us all our sins. Today truly is a day for rejoicing. The sting of death is sin and the wages of sin is death, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. As our deeper look at sin gives us more of an appreciation of this day, so also a deeper look at our victory will give us a deeper appreciation of this day. Paul paints a vivid picture using four scenes to show us what Christ has done for us. They show us four blessings that are ours because of Christ, that are ours as Christians. Two internal blessings and two external blessings.
My goal this morning is to move us out of our spiritual complacency. It is essential to our eternal souls that we have an encounter with the living God. Apart from Him we are nothing, we have nothing, we will come to nothing. Only in Him do we live and move and breath. Do you know God? I mean do you really know God? An unknown God can neither be trusted, served nor worshipped. Consider with me some divine, holy encounters with God in human history.
I have in my library two two-volume sets of books. One two-volume set contains many of the apocryphal and apocalyptic and pseudepigraphal writings from the OT times. The word pseudepigrapha means “false writings.” This refers to writings that circulated under false titles. The second two-volume set contains many of the apocryphal writing from the NT times. The word apocrypha comes from the Greek word “apokruphos” and means “hidden” or “secret.” And I also have a couple of Bibles that contain the Apocrypha in the OT such as the Roman Catholic Bible. Strictly speaking the term Apocrypha refers to the 14 or 15 books from the intertestamental period between 300 BC and 100 AD that were included in some versions of the Bible. They are all of unknown origin and authorship and suspect authority. But the term can be used more broadly to include numerous writings from before Christ to well into the second century AD. During the early centuries of the Christian church various Gnostic, Jewish and secret sects produced dozens of gospels, acts, epistles, and apocalyptic writings. None of the Apocryphal books were ever part of the Hebrew OT. But later they were included in the Greek translation of the OT called the Septuagint. A couple of centuries later when Jerome translated the Septuagint into Latin he included the Apocrypha, though he made it clear that he distinguished between the canonical Scriptures and these other books. But from that time on the Apocrypha stayed in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bibles. At the Council of Trent in Rome on April 8, 1546 the Roman Catholic Church in reaction against the Protestant Reformation declared: “If any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.” We do not condemn the Apocryphal books nor do we say no one should read them. They are not evil or bad. We may read them and receive the same benefit from them we receive from any other ancient piece of literature. Reading them gives insight into the life and times of Jews between the time of Malachi and Jesus. They contain great examples of heroism, faith, devotion and persistence. But they require discernment as they contain errors, inconsistencies and spurious details. There are also some crazy, impossible things and magic. What the Belgic Confession Article 6 is contending is that the Apocryphal books are not authoritative, they are not the Word of God, they don’t have divine inspiration. Let me give ten reasons supporting this position.