Benjamin Glaser

Here Comes the Light of the World

What a precious and lovely promise is Jesus. He is the author of life in all its different facets. He not only forms us in the womb, but He rescues us from the grave in the gift of His righteousness. He provides us life day-by-day in the daily bread of grace. He feeds us the nourishing love of Himself in the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 

When we were in our series from Ecclesiastes we read through a popular passage, quoted at length by the Byrds in their hit song Turn, Turn, Turn. There is a season for everything under Heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. We at Bethany have had the blessing and the misfortune to experience both in recent weeks. As one life entered into the world, one has passed from it. Some at this point would make reference to the cycle of life. However, as Christians we don’t believe in such a thing. Our understanding of the world is of a beginning and an end, or maybe better said a beginning and an eternal future. The Bible starts off with an existence that is outside of time. There is no night nor day, morning or evening. When the Lord speaks, it comes to be, the light and the darkness separated. It is not the darkness which is scary. Before sin it is good. There is no reason to fear.
Yet, Adam did sin.
Which leads us to the subject of today’s prayer and worship help. The life which comes from death. When we think of life and death our minds are often drawn towards Jesus’ words to Martha in John 11. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” When Christ says that He is the resurrection He is not merely noting that He is the one who brings the resurrection about, though that is true. No, even more than that He is testifying to the fact that it is by the power of Jesus that resurrection comes. He is the definition of resurrection. He is the resurrection. Resurrection only exists in the Son of God because He is the creator. It is in a very real way the only way it can happen. How does that make sense? Go back to Genesis 1:1 for a second and the beginning of life. Who speaks it into existence? Christ. Who is the one who raises up Adam from the dirt and breathes life into Him? Christ. How do we know that? Remember what John says at the opening of the gospel which bears his name.
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
As you read John in both chapters 11 and 1 you are seeing what it is that enables the Christian to have comfort both in life and death. It is what moves us to praise His name and to worship Him. What a precious and lovely promise is Jesus. He is the author of life in all its different facets.
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The World of Avarice and Skepticism

As we think about how it is God would have us to live and enjoy His glorious world we need to rest in two truths. First, that what matters is of God, not of man. Cars, trucks, TV’s, vacations, hunting camps, etc… are all good and right in their own way. But they ain’t more than they are. If we seek the material and forsake the spiritual we are impoverishing our soul, and our future.

The twin enemies of biblical religion have always been materialism and skepticism. The early apostates, Jubal-cain and Tubal-cain, descended from a man who built a city and named it after his own son. An act of hubris which illustrates the hope the materialist relies on when he places his future faith and trust in those things of steel and wood. Lamech in Genesis 4 boasts that he will avenge seventy-fold those who stand in his way, especially the weak and the young. A destroyer questioning the power of God to order His world according to His ways. It is what we would expect from a son of Cain. The attitudes which motivate the skeptic surround a lack of desire to see the world through the eyes of God. They would rather make decisions from their vantage point in the spiritual underground. Darkness leads to more darkness.
For our prayer and worship help today we are going to spend a moment explaining how these two ways of approaching life only lead to damnation. Our goal should be, as those who love our neighbor as ourselves, to see all men come to the knowledge of truth, to have the shroud of the devil removed from over their eyes. It may seem as if we are jumping around from the previous two weeks where we talked about creation, agrarianism, and the considered life. However, the reason why we need to define these words is to helpfully teach others what the good and true is.
Materialism is a word which means a way of looking at life that believes that only what can be touched and moved has any value to human life. A good example of the hope found in materialism is the lottery. While we understand scratch tickets and the Powerball to be a violation of both the third and eighth commandments many people spend their dollars in the expectation that their Abe Lincoln or George Washington will turn into many Benjamins. My dad always referred to this kind of activity as a tax on people who can’t do math well, or as Solomon says it, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Prov. 13:11). If you have some free time, check out the documentaries on folks who won the Mega Millions. Around 75% of them are bankrupt within two years of their victory. There is no permanence to money. It not only loses its value, but the love of it is the root of all evil, and why is that? It is not because coins and paper are bad in themselves. We all need money to function. It derives from the fact that as the rich young ruler found out, and as the rich man found out in Hell, you can’t take it with you, and you can’t purchase your salvation with it. Riches may prosper for a season, but greed always leaves pain and anguish in its trail. Abandoning the Lord for the glory of stuff leads to nothing.
A large part of the desecration of our hills and valleys comes from the mindset that more is more, and that you can never have enough.
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Creation Care and the Biblical Christian

Having the right relationship with the world that the Lord has made is central to our proper use of it. One of the great concerns of Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry was a warning against the allurement of riches. It isn’t money itself, but the blindness of thinking you must keep up with the Jones’s to maintain the view you want the world to have of you on Instagram or whatever. Far more of our concern as believers should be in considering how the Lord has called us to live in light of the free grace offered in the gospel. 

I’m sitting at ball practice looking over a small herd of donkeys and cattle as I write this, and it seems a fitting sequel to what we talked about last week. The creation which God made, and called good, is more than just a physical representation of the power of Jehovah to make things. It is as much a part of who He is as a good God as is the spiritual world itself. We live in strange times where on the one hand people deny the supernatural, but also have little regard as well for the maintenance of mountains and valleys. It may sound as if I am going into a diatribe on environmentalism. However, all theological conservatives should be as excited about conserving social and moral blessings as they are stewarding the resources and gifts of the natural world. Both are a part of the Lord’s purpose in ensuring that all things are done well and for His glory.
We should believe as Christians that the Lord has a purpose for the rock and river, for His own glory and our benefit.
In Psalm 19 we hear the well-known testimony that God has made two books, that of the Heavens and of the Law. One seen, the other written. Each in their own way illustrating to the mind of man who their Creator is. The sky above shows His glory, His presence everywhere, and the fact that no one who has sense (in a physical, tensile way, not mental capability) can deny His reality. The Bible, the word of God, merely confirms what the natural world reveals about who God is and why He is not only to be obeyed, but worshiped. We were blessed this past Lord’s Day at Bethany to hear an excellent sermon on this passage from Rev. Justin Brickey who only worked to confirm what we read above. The earth itself cries out to the living God, it groans under the weight of sin, and the call of Adam to watch over it and express the dominion of the mandate of Genesis 2 and 3 is no less true today than it was in the time of Eve’s youth. This is such an important truth for the believer to confess. We must affirm that Christ has more than just a future interest in who we are. He wants us to live well now and to enjoy His world.
As we make plans and think through the work God would have us to do on a daily basis we can only ensure a biblical understanding of success when we think about the small things as much as the big things.
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Apathy and the Forsaking of Remembrance

It is not until we are humbled by the reality of what the Gospel teaches, that Christ has died for the ungodly, and we give up our feeble claims to might and self-identity that we can come and take on the yoke of Jesus our Lord. Yet, in some sense that only gets at the beginning of the solution. It is that need not only to know, but remember this in the use of the means of grace, our reliance upon the love of God for sinners, the gift of the Holy Spirit who as we read the word convicts us, opens our eyes, and gives us a power that is not own.

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
— Revelation 3:16
The letter our Savior wrote to the people of Laodicea is probably the one that we know the best of the seven. The picture of Christ spewing out members of a local body is quite arresting, yet it’s why He does it which makes all the difference, and that will be the subject of our prayer and worship help today.
I said in the sermon Sunday that I’d much rather someone hate me than not recognize my existence. At least when someone frets about your existence they recognize that you matter to them, even if it is in a negative way. Apathy has a way of causing more trouble than disagreement. But what is it that causes that kind of thing, especially as is the case with the people of Laodicea, when it comes to the Lord of Glory Himself? It’s a question that may or may not hit too close to home, because it is a matter of a heart which is alive or at least thinks it is. Everything seems to be going well in their church. It’s a time of prosperity, as v. 17 says, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing . . .”.
A common sin that the prophets condemn Israel for is that in the times of plenty they forget and forsake the God who had not only enabled their blessing, but had chosen them out of all the nations of the world to represent His covenantal mercies.
At the end of the story of Gideon Judges 8:33-35 reports:
So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-Berith their god. Thus the children of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal (Gideon) in accordance with the good he had done for Israel.
Gideon of course had been selected by God to deliver His people from the scourge of the Midianites, and the Lord had sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring that message to the father of Gideon, Joash the Abiezrite. As He appeared (Judges 6:11) under the Terebrinth tree of Ophrah Gideon’s response to His presence is instructive. First, He doubts God’s goodness in allowing the evil that had come upon the Israelites, which to be sure is an inauspicious start. However, the Second Person of the Trinity is not undaunted in His encouragement of the future savior himself. As Christ witnesses in His forbearing grace to the questions that Gideon asks we see something of the nature of the mercy of God in the calling of His children.
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The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Sacraments

The promises of the gospel are always yeah and amen in Jesus. When it comes to that inward work Baptism is only effectual when it is done in accordance with the commandment of God (John 14:15) and when the Holy Spirit by virtue of Christ’s call is exhibited. Our assurance then in the sacrament comes not from the people, whether the person receiving the sign (infants or new believers) or the person placing the sign (the minister), but from, “. . .  the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Rom. 8:16). The same is true of the Lord’s Supper. 

On the Lord’s Day evening since about Thanksgiving at Bethany we’ve been spending time going through what the Reformed believe about the sacraments. It’s not so much that we are special in what we understand them to be, but that the mechanics of how we go about honoring Baptism and the Table testify to something very important about the way the Scriptures teach us about feeding on Christ in the bread and the cup and benefitting from the waters of Initiation. It cannot be emphasized enough that our church confesses, as the WLC makes clear, that these acts of eating and drinking and the pouring of water over the head are neither bare memorials nor the kind of things we do because we are supposed to. We commune and receive the fullness of God in a way we do not in any other portion of the life granted by our Creator. The sacraments must maintain their special place in our hearts. Yet meditation upon them often alludes our busy schedules and we rush into taking them without right due consideration as to what we’re doing.
It can be a struggle sometimes to keep fresh in the means of grace. As we walk through the catechism questions today I want to take the time to really think through what we gain in these covenantal signs of mercy and grace given to us by our Heavenly Father in His Son and through the application of that blessing in the inward work of the Holy Spirit. Everything we do in the Christian life must not only be done exclusively by the expressed command of our Lord, but it needs to be acted upon with a right heart and mind.
Merely going through the outward motions leaves us in a state of spiritual starvation as we gain none of the nutrients of faith promised in the sacraments. So, what can be done about it?
Here’s are the Q/A’s for this week:
Q. 163. What are the parts of a sacrament?
A. The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and sensible sign, used according to Christ’s own appointment; the other an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified.
Q. 164. How many sacraments hath Christ instituted in his church under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament Christ hath instituted in his church only two sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s supper.
The doctrine of our union with our Lord Jesus is central to comprehending why God in His wisdom reduced the number and adjusted the outward circumstances of the sacraments in the new covenant, as promised in Jeremiah 31.
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Meeting God in the Sacraments

Faith without works is dead and so is the bread a condemnation to the eater at the table if it is not mixed with existing, real lively belief found in a person previously redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We miss the glory available to the true Christian if we forget the simple reality of the already incredible event of our salvation purchased in and by our Lord. 

A way that contemporary Christianity is weak is that we have a very poor understanding of the practical nature of the Trinity. Our lack of a proper doctrine of God has led us to not only to lose the right fear of the Divine we should have, but we have severed ourselves from the source of our creation. We have become parched in soul primarily through our not attending to the well which produces eternal life. The focus of our faith should never be Jesus in Himself, as if we can separate our Lord from His Father, or the Holy Spirit. What I mean by that is sometimes our approach to the Christian life is merely transactional. We come to the Bible, to worship, to prayer, and to the subjects of our catechism questions today, and ask the question, “What do I get out of this for what I need today?”. This misses the richness available to us in the shared mercy of our spiritual union with God. Our big “O” orthodox friends can take 2 Peter 1:4 too far, but there is much truth to the idea that in our redemption purchased by Christ we are, “. . . partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Central to the story of the blessings of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is to take our hearts and minds and reorient them towards the mystical nature of what is happening when we pour water on the head of a covenant child or an adult convert or eat the bread and drink the cup. We inhabit the anti-supernatural ethos of our age in no more way than by not really believing that this stuff matters. No matter our pushback on that we testify to what we truly hold in our heart of hearts by what we do with our feet. Let’s take a look at the Q/A’s:
Q. 161. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.
Q. 162. What is a sacrament?
A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without.
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The Power and Authority of the Word

The Bible is the very word of God. That means the one who made the Heavens and the Earth speaks to us in His word. I’m not keen on repeating terms, but I think it apropos at this point. God speaks to you in His word, and applies that word to your soul, to the very inner part of your being as a human. We can almost not overstate how radical that is, and how much we sin against Him by not coming to the Bible with a humble heart, born out of love and grace.

If there is anything that rubs people the wrong way in today’s culture, I don’t care if you are conservative or liberal or somewhere in between, it is to insist on authority. Everyone is at least a little bit egalitarian. Some of that is the still rippling effects of the French Revolution, where the cry was to strangle the last nobleman with the entrails of the last priest. We spend a lot of time and energy bewailing the breaking of the seventh commandment (and we should), but really all of that is downstream from our failure to give honor to whom honor is due and to recognize the natural law of superiors and inferiors. Again, just writing those words out is likely to cause some heartburn. However, there is no escaping that not everyone is allowed to do whatever they want.
There are rules and procedures established by the Lord which are good and holy, and that are given by reason of His wisdom. In the days of the Reformation there were a sect of protestants who desired that all people, regardless of age or sex, would have the right to preach, teach, and distribute and oversee the sacraments of the Church. We sometimes think these ideas were born out of the Nineteenth and Twentieth century feminist movements, but they have been with us for as long as there has been opportunity to engage in preaching and teaching.
Concern over who is allowed to read the Scriptures publicly in the Lord’s Day worship service is part of the reason why the two catechism questions before us today are in the WLC to begin with. Sometimes we tend to think that these ideas are new, but they are not. To confirm that only those set apart by God through the keys of the kingdom given to the Church are to read the Bible in front of the congregation of Christ’s sheep is to step on some toes. The logical end of that is to say that only ordained men (and students licensed and approved by the Presbytery), not women or children, are authorized by the Lord to feed His people with the word as they gather together on Sunday to praise His name. That’s what the first clause of the opening Q/A is saying, and anyone who confesses the Standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church should be able to say yeah and amen. Let’s read the two questions for today and come back:
Q. 156. Is the word of God to be read by all?
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Desiring to See Christ in the Word

The goodness of worship and the reading of the word and the singing of the psalms and the communion of the saints along with the signs of the covenant found in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper all work in their own unique and significant way to show us Christ. The question is if we are interested enough to listen, be corrected, and find peace in His shed blood?

If we were to note one of the doctrines of Christianity that was somewhat missing from the shorter catechism it would be the twin blessings of the Church and her worship. It is not that the WSC did not care about it. There are certain advantages to being the Larger catechism. The opportunity has arisen in the WLC where the writers can now introduce this particular aspect of the life of the believer. Our divines are interested in helping men and women know what to do with the convictions of sin they have felt from the deep, and clear, expositions of the law they read in the Ten Commandments from Q. 91 through Q. 152. God’s work in His word is to bring people to Christ. As 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” All godly ministers have (or at least should have) the same desire, so it should surprise us not that our standards provide a warm invitation to close with the Redeemer and find peace in Him.
God has given ways, or what we call means or instruments to see that sinners might know the way to the redemption purchased by Jesus. They are not complicated, nor are they via secret handshakes or flashy showcases. The plain use of words through the power of the Holy Spirit is the manner in which He seeks that the lost might be found. Key to understanding the beauty of New Testament worship is being reminded that the shadows have passed. Our pattern for worship today is to be found in the exile life of the synagogue as we await the return of Christ. It is not the Temple of sacrifices and trumpets, but the simple exposition and praise of the word of God for men. The Church gets it wrong when it thinks it needs to gussy up the message of salvation. However, before we go too much into the explaining let’s go to the Q/A’s:
Q. 153. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?
A. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requires of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.
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God’s Loving Goodness to His People

In the Proverbs Solomon spends much time helping us to see that walking in the paths opened by God for us is the only means by which we can flourish. The goodness of God is what we are denying when we choose a different path. We are saying to the Creator that His plan is wrong and that we have a better idea on how to get to Point A than the one who made the map. 

If we were to name the number one problem amongst all men, but especially Christians who should know better it would be: sin. Why is sin such a problem? Because we are sinners. Why are we sinners? Because Adam sinned. Why do we refuse to deal with sin? Because we love sin. Why do we love sin? Because there is no fear of God in our eyes. We are the captains of our own desires.
That little syllogism matters due to the fact that we, and obviously unbelievers, forget the reality of the subject of our Larger Catechism question and answer for today. Eternal damnation by its very definition is forever. Whatever enjoyment/blessing/gift we receive from sin will never last that long, nor will it actually provide what we desire for the time period we want. We know that, or at least we should, in our heads. So how do we keep the truth of the consequences of sin in the forefront of our mind in order that we might be wise to its pain? The Bible tells us that each and every transgression of the law is equally deserving the full and complete condemnation by God of the individual who sins. We know this, but continue to do it anyway. Why?
It is a good question, one that every human being needs to be able to give an answer to. Today’s Q/A will be taken up with providing a workable and straight-forward solution that as usual has its grounding in the Lord’s triune nature. Let’s get to it:
Q. 152. What does every sin deserve at the hands of God?
A. Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and against his righteous law deserves his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come; and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.
While last week we talked about the gradations of sin in regard to their heinousness we should not allow that simple fact to get in the way of how all men should revolt at the idea, let alone the act, of sin. We should hate sin with a perfect hatred. In the WLC above the first item that the writers bring up as an assistance in this matter is the concept of God’s sovereignty. How does this provide help in remembering why we should not sin? First it humbles us. Our desire to sin usually arises from our hope to organize our life according to our own wisdom, aka pride. In Ephesians 1:4 the word says, “. . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Notice in the construction of the verse by Paul that our divine election is the source of our obedience.
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You Are a Sinner to the Praise of Christ

It is a dangerous way of thinking to consider ourselves outside the need of the means of grace, outside the call to sanctification. Often we do not take advantage of worship, prayer meetings, the Sabbath Day, singing, etc… because we don’t think we need it. Brothers and sisters, if this catechism question teaches us anything it is the simple message that we need Jesus, and to especially experience the free offer of His forgiveness, daily, weekly, regularly, through the reminder offered in the Holy Spirit’s ministering labors.

Today is going to be the last post for 2023. I am taking the week between Christmas and New Year’s off and we’ll come back with WLC Q.150-151 on January 4, 2024, and then the Tuesday devotion will return January 9, 2024. As we continue the Tuesday/Thursday blogs I want to thank you for reading them. I never talk about it in this space, but over the last year the readership of this Substack has doubled, and that doesn’t count the folks who take this in other forms and places. I am grateful, and humbled, you consider the reading of the Tuesday/Thursday posts worth your time and it is my goal to continue to write these for the foreseeable future. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at your leisure. Likewise, after we conclude the Larger Catechism in August (d.v.) this Thursday space will be taken up with a to-be-determined confession, same chronological format. It has been without a doubt helpful for me as a pastor and as a Christian to be reminded of the richness of the Reformed faith as it has been summarized by our forefathers.
Again, thank you for reading. The responses and commitments I have already received from people are a blessing in and of themselves. Y’all have a blessed rest of 2023.
Now to the Q/A:
Q. 149: Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.
Having completed the ten our Divines now come to the first use of the law. They have, in various ways, mostly by the what/why/how structure of the catechism’s take on the commandments, already in some sense done this. However, they want to always ensure that as we as believers are molded and formed into the image of God so that we do not forget that at its base the law acts as a mirror for us. In other words, the more the law is in our eyes the more we see the glory and perfection of the person of our Lord, and by that our inability to either match-up with Him in His holiness or keep the law perfectly in order to be saved is made known to us.
It is important for believers to never fail to recall that we are sinners, even after the historical application of the redemption purchased by Christ. Read Romans 7, or Romans 3 for that matter. We still struggle with the old man within us and when we cease to fight, we will be crushed by the weight of it. Romans 6 of course is taken up with recoiling against the idea that the free grace granted in justification (Romans 5) means we no longer need to follow the law, that we can be antinomians, that is outside the law. We are never away from the content of the ten commandments.
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