Matthew Adams

Truly Meeting with God on the Lord’s Day

We must know that God especially condescends to us as we gather with His people on His Day. If we truly believe that, we will be motivated to prioritize Lord’s Day worship in our lives. Who wouldn’t, like the Psalmist David, say, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple…for a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps. 27:4; 84:10).

Slowly but surely, I am learning that I am not an abnormality within the PCA. That comment has nothing to do with my quirkiness, and I would have friends who, at this point, would like to highlight all of my peculiarities. No, that comment has everything to do with my feelings as I moved away from my childhood Pentecostalism into Presbyterianism during my freshman year in college. For the longest time, especially as I began the PCA ordination process, I thought I was the only one with such a drastic denominational move. Many often asked, referring to my “spiritual faith journey,” how I left the Pentecostal church and became a confessional Presbyterian. I was asked this question so often that I admittedly got tired of answering the question. Nevertheless, as the denominational pendulum swung in my life, I tried denying anything and everything I had learned in my upbringing. It wasn’t until Dr. Doug Kelly, one of my predecessors here at First Presbyterian Church – Dillon, challenged me over lunch to not forget the suitable lessons that I had learned from my fellow believers in the Church of God (the Cleveland, TN flavor of pentecostalism).
As I began to wrestle with that appropriate challenge, I thought about everything I disagreed with – spiritual gifts, emotionalism, altar calls, eschatology, sanctification, etc. As my mind automatically started at the negatives, I quickly began thinking that there was nothing I should hold on to theologically. Yet, after a few days, I grabbed hold of a particular lesson that I believe is of utmost importance and one we would all do well to remember – on the Lord’s Day, as we gather together as God’s people, we are truly meeting with a living, powerful, and holy God.
Looking back, I thank God for my parents and their commitment to have me in the local church for morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day.
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“Illustrious and Noble Examples” of God’s Sovereign Care

When God sends the angels, they serve and minister in his name. So, this does beg the question, “In what ways do they serve God?” Calvin gives his answer by discussing three aspects of the angels’ service on behalf of the believers. These three aspects of the angels’ service, according to Calvin, are how they function as messengers, protectors, and helpers.

The Angels’ Function and Purpose
As Calvin continues to write about angels in his Institutes, he moves from their origins to their functions. Calvin spends ample time warning his reader not to move into speculation but to be guided by the Word of God regarding the angels’ occupations.[1] Following his warning, Calvin opens his comments on the angels’ functions by stating,
“One reads here and there in Scripture that angels are celestial spirits whose ministry and service God uses to carry out all things he has decreed.”[2]
This quote is a foundational summary statement. As the hosts of angels move about God’s created order, their entire purpose is to minister as servants of the Lord. Calvin even says that it is through the angels that the Lord “wonderfully sets forth and declares the power and strength of his hand.”[3] Their function and purpose, in many ways, mirror the divinity of the Almighty to his children.[4]
Many theologians join Calvin at this point to specify what the Bible teaches about the angels’ works amongst creation. First, though, before mentioning any specifications, it is good to dwell for a moment on the fact that they are servants to the Almighty.
The Puritan John Owen is beneficial at this point. While writing about the angels’ service, Owen points back to the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the reign of the Lord, the Ancient of Days.[5] In this vision, Daniel, the faithful servant of the Lord, sees many thrones surrounding one centralized throne, and there amid the thrones, the Ancient of Days took his seat. This seated One is the Lord, for Daniel sees the pure white garments visualizing his holiness and the fiery flames of his throne illustrating his awesomeness. Furthermore, around the throne stands “a thousand thousands…and ten thousand times ten thousand” of the heavenly hosts.[6] It is this standing posture of the angels which Owen dwells. The angels’ standing posture shows their readiness to serve the Lord and perform his will. This scene is breathtaking. The hosts of angels are standing as a mighty army ready to obey every command of their Master. Together they are prepared to serve the Lord.
Owen likens this mighty scene in Daniel 7 to the Old Testament priests and Levites. Owen writes, “God chose the priests and Levites to stand and minister in the LORD’s name.”[7] In the name of God, this standing and ministering is the service of the angels, ready to do his will at a moment’s notice. From this standing posture, they wait in gladness and expectation to minister to God’s people on behalf of God himself. Owen continues, stating that the angels are standing endlessly before the throne of heaven, and God continually sends them out.[8]
As we see throughout the scriptures, sometimes God sends out many angels, like the hosts who proclaim the birth of Christ to the shepherds in the field,[9] and sometimes it is one, like the angel sent to stop Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac on the mountain.[10] No matter the number of angels God sends, he always sends out a sufficient number for the work he has them to do.[11] When God sends, the angels go in humble obedience, for they are servants of the Master.
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A Godly Man Weeps

In his short work, The Emotional Life of Our Lord, BB Warfield writes of the compassion, love, indignation, and sorrow that Jesus experienced during His earthly ministry. Jesus was “subject to all sinless human emotions.” [4] So, what were the occasions that caused the Lord to weep? Three moments in Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry stand above all others:  at the tomb of Lazarus (Jn. 11:35), over the unbelief in Jerusalem (Lk. 19:41), and in the Garden of Gethsemane as He pleads for the cup of God’s wrath to pass from Him (Lk. 22:44; Heb. 5:7-9).

There is an assumption that real men are not supposed to cry. Of course, this misconception probably stems from the authoritative positions in the home and the church where God has placed men. Biblical manhood reveals a man who is not driven by emotion. It calls for men to be wise, self-controlled, and sober-minded, not being blown “to and fro” by life’s changing circumstances. However, the refusal to be driven by emotion is not the same as understanding that emotion is a natural part of the Christian life. Therefore, a godly man will weep when necessary. A godly man will understand that weeping is often influential. [1] Furthermore, a weeping heart is often a product of the Holy Spirit melting the hardest of hearts in the believer (Ez. 36:26). [2]
Watson lays before his readers several situations where weeping is proper. Interestingly, every one of these appropriate circumstances focuses upon the godly man’s recognition of sin in his own life. This focus should be telling. Not only does a godly man recognize his own sinful corruption, but he hates the sin that causes his guilt in the sight of his God. Therefore, Watson pens that a proper understanding of biblical manhood will see sin, hate sin, weep over sin, and ultimately, kill sin.
Regarding weeping over sin, it must be understood that the godly man ought to have a sense of his sins of omission and commission. This means that the godly man will understand that he falls short of God’s standards and strikes out against God’s law. Watson says that a proper understanding of weeping will lead to a godly man shedding tears each time he is “overpowered by pride and passion.” [3] Additionally, he will grieve that he cannot be more holy. Watson continues, “It troubles him that he shoots so short of the rule and standard God has set. ‘I should,’ says he, ‘love the Lord with all my heart. But how defective my love is! How far short I come of what I should be….”
Thomas Watson rightly teaches that the ongoing presence of sin is the reason for the godly man to weep. Yet, does Watson fall short in targeting circumstances in which the godly have the right to weep? He does. Knowing that Jesus Christ was truly man, but a perfect man, emphasizes that he was not driven by emotion but was often moved to emotion.
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A Godly Man is “Full of Knowledge”

Biblical manhood must start with knowing God as He is revealed in His Word by the power of His Holy Spirit. Additionally, a godly man must understand that he must be full of the knowledge of God. This means that he must be full of the Word of God, entrusting his time in the Word to be profitable through the work of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual disciplines of reading the Word privately, with his family, and humbly sitting under the preaching of the Word must be an unwavering part of his life. 

It is no secret that today’s society devalues manhood. Furthermore, society now considers manhood narrow-minded, even bigoted. Society declares it foolishness to believe, affirm, and proclaim that God has established what manhood should look like by His Word. There is no doubt that culturally the LGBTQIA+ [1] agenda, with its glowing endorsement of homosexuality and transgenderism, has directly attacked biblical manhood. However, even in evangelical Christianity, there are diminished, and extreme views of manhood, taught, directly attacking against how God has taught men to live through His specially revealed Word.
It should not be surprising that the surrounding worldly culture has denied God’s view of manhood. Not only does the world hate the gospel and stand in defiance against its message, but a sin-filled society will also rebel against and resist what God has established as good. Yet, regarding the extreme views of biblical manhood in evangelical Christianity, it is alarming to know that men’s fundamental roles and characteristics in God’s created order have been severely diminished. The solution is rooted in knowing God’s Word. Where are the days when men had genuine love and longing for God’s Word? Admittedly, in many churches, they seem to be long gone. This sad reality becomes more evident when compared to the great Puritans’ adoration for their Bibles. In their book, Thriving in Grace, Joel Beeke and Brian Hedges speak of Charles Spurgeon’s esteem for John Bunyan and his love for God’s Word. They write,
“What Spurgeon once said of John Bunyan could be said of all the best Puritan Divines: ‘Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with scripture…Prick him anywhere – his blood is Bibline; the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.’” [2]
It is vital to understand what Beeke and Hedges declare in this quote; what Spurgeon said of Bunyan can be said of all the best Puritans. The Puritans were men driven by the Word of God; their biblical faith was an experience that impacted every facet of their lives, this includes their views on biblical manhood.
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Teach Them Diligently

Through worshipping together on Sunday mornings and worshipping throughout the week in the home, our children will have been in the presence of God so much that they know exactly how these counterfeit gods look and their response will be to flee from them. Parents, disciple your children. Make going to church a habit and worship regularly together, in your church and in your home. Teach your children diligently. It’s vital for your family and our culture. Now the time to take Deuteronomy 6 seriously.

I have a dear friend who works in the banking industry, and as he was training I was fascinated by a particular story that he shared with me. He was sitting in the training room and his manager began to lay twenty-dollar bills on the table. As he laid them down he looked up and asked, “Which one is a counterfeit?” My friend carefully examined the bills and chose one. He chose the wrong one. The manager picked the bills up and began to teach him how to spot the counterfeit bill. This happened everyday until he could spot the counterfeit within seconds. Likewise, we must train our children so well that they can spot the counterfeit gods that our society invites them to serve within seconds. These brazen invitations to serve counterfeit gods are the reason our children need to be trained just like my friend who works in the bank.
Teach Them Diligently
These are the words of God in Deuteronomy 6:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. –Deuteronomy 6:4-9
When we think about raising children, these words from God come quickly to mind. God commands believing parents to raise their children diligently.
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
This training is a lifestyle and you must teach it to your children.
We must answer the question, “Why?” Why do we need to be teaching this to our children? It is quite simple—because as believing parents, we are the primary means of discipleship in our family. God tells us to teach our children diligently and that is exactly what we must do. Besides, as you may have figured out, this command has many practical implications for your life and your children.
God is very clear in why he commands his people to train their children up in the way they should go; because when they go into the land that he has promised them, there will be counterfeit gods and they will be tempted to go and worship them! Well, we know that the only God that must be worshipped is the Lord and he is a jealous God for his people (Deut. 6:15). He demands we worship him and him alone (Exod. 20:1-6).
My mind immediately goes to Galatians as Paul warns those believers not to turn to a “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6). Well as frankly as I can put it, believers are finding their children turning to a different gospel and falling into the temptations from its counterfeit gods because we have not followed the command from Deuteronomy 6 to diligently teach our children.
More times than not I hear parents say, “I’m just going to let my child be a child. They don’t need to worry about things like homosexuality, abortion, transgenderism, etc until they’re out of college.”
This response is oblivious at best because everything that surrounds them in life pushes them to counterfeit gods and their “gospels.” Our children are pushed by the media to care more about the latest Tik-Tok trend than the devaluation of human life. Their schools teach them that it’s foolish to believe in any absolute truth and only their feelings should be trusted . I could go on and on about how our world is telling our kids to run far away from God and into a different gospel of false love and acceptance—where anything goes and God does not exist.
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True Friends in Ministry

We see Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah standing the test of time. They are wise and godly. When they needed to stand in the face of temptation, they stood while everyone else bowed. Together they kept the faith, even in the middle of Babylon.

Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,    but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.Without counsel plans fail,    but with many counselors they succeed.(Proverbs 15:21-22)
Throughout the Proverbs, the author urges us to seek wisdom. We could even say that repeatedly wisdom “calls out” to us so that we might gain knowledge and understanding (Prov. 1:20-22).
Why do we need wisdom? Why do we need knowledge and understanding? The answer is simple: so that we might live to the glory of God. Therefore, the Proverbs speak about several practical aspects of our daily lives. They talk about the incentives of living wisely concerning wealth, power, and social status. However, at the same time, they teach us about wisdom concerning more intimate matters like familial and friendly relationships. I want to focus on this idea of friendships, especially regarding pastors and ministry leaders.
Often the temptation for ministers is to be stubbornly individualistic. We are good at keeping our heads down and our hands on the plow. We are, probably more than we like to admit, wading through rough and rugged waters while thinking, “I will do this on my own, and I will do it my way.” Besides, wasn’t this how the Apostle Paul “did” ministry? No, it was not how the Apostle planted churches, evangelized, preached powerful sermons, and the like. Paul wisely surrounded himself with godly friends. One New Testament scholar has pointed out that Paul identifies more than 65 people as friends in ministry or members throughout his letters. This can be seen in the closing remarks of his letters, as he repeatedly makes mention of men and women with whom he enjoyed gospel partnership and deeply committed friendship.
If you reread the above proverb, you will notice that it bluntly states that those who seek to go their own way, the stubborn individualistic minister, is one who “lacks sense.” However, the one who surrounds himself, like Paul, with godly counselors has understanding, walks intentionally forward, and finds success.
Why is it considered wise to have godly friends as a host of counselors in ministry? Here are three reasons:
They stand as an encouragement against temptation and sin.
Evangelical authors have spilled much ink regarding the hardships of ministry; therefore, I do not feel the need to spend much time convincing you of that truth. Nevertheless, with trials and tribulations comes overbearing temptation. Our great enemy, Satan, knows it is the opportune time to attack when we are at our lowest points. Therefore, he moves swiftly and convincingly, attempting to bring shame and despair into the minister’s life.
I think about Christ as the Spirit drives him into the wilderness. There he spends forty days and forty nights fasting and praying. Matthew 4:2 says that Jesus was “hungry.” What an understatement! Jesus was physically exhausted, and in his flesh, he was low. It was then, in this moment of weakness, that the tempter came to him.
That is the scene that I am painting for the minister, too. When we are at our lowest point, the spiritual battle rages. We must, like Christ, always be ready. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we often do not look to Christ when Satan tempts us to despair and tells us of the guilt within. Instead, we find ourselves looking to our circumstances; we look for instant gratification. In the low points of our ministry, we long to feel acceptance, success, and affection. Therefore, when temptation comes, we are often weak.
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Distinctive 6: Reformed Worship and Vibrant Community

As we commit ourselves to being distinct from the world around us and even the ebbs and flows of modern worship practices, we come together with like-minded brothers and sisters to form a vibrant community, one in which the glory of God is the central focus! When that is the case, we will understand that gathered worship is no ordinary thing, but it’s an extraordinary foretaste of the grandeurs waiting for us in Glory!

Recently I have been considering this idea of a “distinctive.” Seemingly, in all facets of life, we have distinctives. For example, you have aspects of your family that distinguish you from other families. Likewise, everyone has gifts that distinguish them, and some particular practices and doctrines make denominations dissimilar. When considering this last example, not only does the practice of and the driving principles behind Reformed Worship differentiate between denominations, but sadly, it is not a distinctive that all our congregations in the Presbyterian Church in America share. However, to make the case that our church must hold this distinction across our denomination, let’s first consider how gathered worship makes Christianity distinct from the world.
Distinct from the Sin-Filled World
The Reformed world has an eschatology that declares that the church will continue to look more and more different than the world. This eschatological view suggests that the Bride of Christ will progressively be more distinct in this sin-ruined creation that She currently inhabits. Now, I believe that the church will continue to grow as it becomes more and more distinct, but even if you do not, the overwhelming consensus is that the distinctives of God’s people will be increasingly more evident.
These eschatological thoughts consume me when I think about the distinctives of the early Christians in the Roman Empire. The countercultural, revolutionary actions of the Early Church are often overlooked by many Bible readers and preachers today. In the Acts narrative, the stories like Peter’s Pentecost sermon, where thousands are convicted of their sins and seek the salvation of the Lord, are beloved. Yet, there’s very little attention to the declaration of faithfulness unto God that the early Christians made by their ordinary actions. Believers need to consider these “ordinary” actions. For example, gathering for Lord’s Day worship was, and still is, countercultural.
Consider this, as Christians who believe in the authority of the Word of God and seek to obey its commands, we gather for the public worship of God. We are making a public declaration that we strive to live by God’s standards. If we regularly gather with the saints on the Lord’s Day, we are publicly demonstrating our obedience to the commands of God – to worship Him and find our rest in Him. It is a public display that our lives and days are not our own, but they belong to our Lord.
Does not that distinguish us from this postmodern, individualistic world surrounding us? It did for the early Christians in the Roman empire, and it does so today.
Distinct from the Evangelical World
Often, when considering the broad worship practices of the evangelical world and the lasting beauty of reformed worship, I begin humming John Newton’s well-known hymn, Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken, as it sings:
 Savior, if of Zion’s city
I, through grace, a member am,
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name:
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure
None but Zion’s children know. [i]
Many evangelicals desire a worship style full of “pomp and show.” Usually, evangelicals defend this desire with the practice of contextualization; teaching that our worship must look like the world around us so that we may better reach the lost and make the skeptic feel more comfortable attending our services. Yet, if we consider the worldling’s pleasure, as John Newton writes, it is ever fading and constantly fleeting. Therefore, what might gain the attention of one seeker will not gain the attention of the next. Likewise, what might attract this generation will not attract the former or subsequent generations.

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Christian Identity According to the Apostle Paul

Our identity in Christ should only be seen as something glorious! No longer are we slaves to those sins that once defined us, but now we belong to our heavenly Father. He clothes us in the righteousness of Christ, our elder Brother, and He gives us a new identity by making us new creations.

During my freshman year of college, I made a friend who informed me that he was adopted during his elementary years. It was an overall great experience for him, and he and his family shared a deep love for one another. During our second semester, his adopted dad passed away. You could see the tears building up in his eyes as he spoke about his father’s sudden massive heart attack.
My friend attended his dad’s funeral and returned to college a week later. As he returned, we sat and talked about our faith and his dad’s death. Then he began talking about the shock he felt to be listed as a son in the obituary. Even more, he begins to tell me how his dad left him money in a trust for the future. He was shocked to learn that he received the exact same amount as his two brothers and sister. Being the only adopted child, he admitted that he assumed that he would receive less. He kept saying repeatedly, “I didn’t realize that my dad loved me like them.”
I was struck by his words. As he spoke to his mother about his feelings, he admitted that he never would have imagined that his dad considered him as a true son. To this his mom replied, “Son, on the day you were adopted, everything changed.” Everything changed. He was a son. A true son!
This made my mind race to Paul’s words in Romans 8:14–17 about our adoption into the family of God.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God…you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…
While the word “identity” might not appear in this text, there is no doubt that the Apostle Paul is clearly teaching that there is a radical change within the life of the believer at the moment of their salvation. Just like the declaration from my dear friend’s mother, at the very moment of our adoption, everything changed.
Our Adoption by our Heavenly Father
While our adoption into the family of Christ is not the full picture of our salvation, it is a vital element of our redemptive story. As the Apostle Paul reminds the church at Corinth of these gospel truths, he proclaims this hope on the heels of a challenge to turn away from every evil habit that pursues them internally and externally. He begins to list specific sins for the Corinthian believers; to proclaim that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10)
In Paul’s exhortation against worldliness, he continues to remind those who have professed faith in Christ that they were identified of these very sins and, as such, would not receive the gift of the kingdom.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:11)
The key phrase: “And such were some of you.” Clearly, the Apostle Paul is referencing an identity change that has taken place in the life of these believers. They are no longer sinners, but saints; no longer unrighteous, but righteous. It is a radical change, and one that cannot be undone.
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