Category Archives: Christocentricity

Sermon Notes: The Lamb of God (John 1:18-34)

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The following is an outline based on the notes taken during the sermon preached by Rev. Joe Troutman at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Bedford, Texas on October 26, 2014. Audio

The Lamb of God (John 1:18-34)

John the Baptist points away from himself to Christ, so that all may know that Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

I. Who Are You? (1:19-21)

A. Leaders’ First Question

1. “Who are you?” (1:19)

a. Not asking for genealogy—they likely know of his father, Zechariah.

b. Jewish leaders would be remiss to not examine John the Baptist.

 B. John the Baptist’s First answer (1:20)

1. Confesses Christ by denying being him.

2. There were many itinerant claimants to Messiahship.

C. Leaders’ Second Question (1:21a)

1. “Are you Elijah?”

a. Matthew’s description of John the Baptist an allusion to Elijah (Matthew 3:4)

b. Rabbis frequently expounded on Elijah’s expected return (Malachi 4:5)

D. John the Baptist’s Second Answer

1.  “I am not.”

E. Leaders’ Third Question (1:21b)

1. “Are you ‘The Prophet’?” (Deuteronomy 18:15)

F. John the Baptist’s Third Answer

1. “No.”

2. Christ himself is ‘The Prophet’ (Acts 3:22; 7:37).

II. The Voice (1:22-28)

A. Leaders’ Fourth Question (1:22)

1.“Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

B. John the Baptist’s Fourth Answer

1. “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (1:23)

2. Prophesied in Isaiah 40:1-8; see v. 3

3. A metaphorical call to repair the roads to ease the return of repentant Jews from Babylonian Captivity—the literal near fulfillment.

4. John the Baptist and his baptism of repentance (Luke 3:3) is the spiritual and ultimate far fulfillment.

5. John the Baptist is like a pre-battle bombardment to soften a target before an attack.

C. Leaders’ Fifth Question (1:25)

1. “The why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

D. John the Baptist’s Fifth Answer (1:26-27)

1. “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

2. Like his confession by denial above, John the Baptist magnifies Christ by diminishing his own importance (John 3:30).

3. Christ was there, yet remained unrecognized (cf. John 1:10).

III. That He Might Be Revealed (John 1:29-34)

A. John 1:32-34 takes place after Jesus’ baptism.

B. “The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’

1. John 1:29 is the gospel in a nutshell.

a. John the Baptist refers to Christ in terms of the Passover Lamb.

b. “The world” in John 1:29 does refer to all people in the world, but not all people without exception (see John 1:12).

C. John the Baptist’s twofold ministry

1. Negatively, he calls the Jews to his baptism of repentance.

2. Positively, he points to the Lord Jesus Christ to bear witness that he is the Son of God that they might believe.

D. If you believe in Christ, he has borne your sins; therefore, repent of your sins and reaffirm your faith in him in Christian worship.



Sermon Notes: Crossing the Jordan, Part 1

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The following are notes from the sermon I heard yesterday, October 13, 2013 at Mid Cities Presbyterian Church. The sermon is called “Crossing the Jordan, Part 1,” and is based on Joshua 3:1-5. Rev. Joseph L. Troutman preached the sermon. Some of the material below is original to me, however.

1Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. 2 At the end of three days the officers went through the camp 3 and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. 4 Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” 5 Then Joshua said to the people,“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

The big idea of this sermon is that the gap between God and Man is caused by our sin, and is bridged only by Christ, who is God with us.

1. Follow Me (verses 1-3) they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan The distance between Shittim and the Jordan River is about 12 miles. The trip took about a day.

and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. Day 1:Their arrival, there for partial day; Day 2: “Lodged” all day; Day 3: There a partial day before crossing the river. Similar to the timing of Christ in the tomb–he wasn’t in the tomb for precisely 72 hours, but part of the first day, all of the second, and rose before sunup on day three.

Condition of the Jordan River, see verse 15: (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest) It was springtime, and the river was turbulent.

“As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”

The ark of the covenant symbolized God’s presence. It was holy because God is holy. In the Bible, all visible signs of spiritual truths are so closely associated with the spiritual truth that it is identified as if it were the spiritual truth. In the Hebrew text of Joshua 3:17, the ark is not only called the ark of the covenant, but the covenant itself. This is why some mistake baptism as the thing that actually saves, and that the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are actually transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ. The sign is called by the name of the reality, but the sign only points to the reality; the sign is not the reality. That’s why, in chapter 27, section 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, it reads:

There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

In a sense, the ark was treated by the Israelites the way the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are treated by Bible-believing Christians today.

2. A Safe Distance (verse 4)

Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it,

Two thousand cubits is about three thousand feet–over half a mile. This distance which the Israelites were to keep between themselves and the ark of the covenant symbolizes the distance between the holy God and sinful humanity. Although God was with his people, their sins still separate them from him; however, the Levites were graciously allowed to carry the ark, and thus the priesthood does its job of mediating between the holy God and sinners. They represent the people to God, and thus he is near his people while keeping a safe distance for the good of his people. This nearness of God with Man, while at the same time being separate from them is ultimately bridged in the person of Jesus, our Great High Priest.

3. Consecration (verse 5)

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

The people must set themselves apart from unclean things, as well as from common things. God is holy, so they must be holy. God is clean and he is uncommon, therefore, so should the Israelites make this spiritual fact ceremonially visible in the same way the ark makes the presence of the Lord ceremonially visible. They were to wash their clothes and abstain from sex, as in Exodus chapter 19, which gives a good description of the way the people must consecrate themselves and keep a safe distance from Mount Sinai, and the severity of the consequences if they do not.

the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it.Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

Similarly, Christians should see themselves as called out from the unclean and the common, to be God’s chosen possession.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

“…for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Miracles are a sign of God’s power announcing that the observer is in the presence of God. Christ himself so far surpasses Old Testament miracles that if we are unaffected by the fact of his incarnation, righteousness, substitution for us on the cross, his resurrection and ascension to be enthroned on the right hand of God the Father, this speaks ill of our spiritual condition. Jesus, the God-Man bridges the gap between the holy God and sinful humanity, and consecrates those who repent and believe that they might draw near to God to serve and worship him.

The Christ of the Bible

HT: Cado Odac

Union with Christ and Justification

Happy Reformation Day! October 31, 2011 marks the 494th anniversary of the legendary event considered the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation when Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, nailed the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences(commonly known as the 95 Theses) to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. In the years that followed, Luther lead the movement to reform the church’s understanding of what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of justification by God’s grace alone, received through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. The Lutheran tradition would build on Luther’s work on justification, and they placed it at the center and starting point of all of the benefits of the redemption purchased

Purchase your Martin Luther T-Shirt from

by Christ for his people. But biblical reformation of soteriology didn’t end with Luther and the Lutherans. The Reformed movement also grew alongside of the Lutheran movement, and while both were co-belligerents against the Roman doctrines of justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ, they differed on the most biblical way to systematize these truths.

Friday on the Reformed Forum’s podcast, Christ the Center, Camden Bucey, Jim Cassidy and Jeff Waddington interviewed Dr. Lane Tipton, the new Charles Khrae Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Tipton was allowed two hours to spell out the differences between the Lutheran and Reformed approaches to justification and many current issues related to this essential aspect of Protestant theology, such as whether Dr. Michael Horton’s academic work on the subject is moving Reformed theology toward a more Lutheran, and therefore,according to Dr. Tipton, semi-Pelagian doctrine of justification. Listen to the podcast at this link

I was introduced to Reformed theology by Michael Horton’s materials and the Lord used his parachurch ministries Christian United for Reformation (CURE) and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE) and the White Horse Inn radio show to gradually bring me around to embrace it. I will certainly be looking forward to a future Christ the Center program in which Dr. Horton responds to Dr. Tipton’s characterization of his work on justification and the other benefits of redemption in Christ. More public dialogue on this ought to take place, IMHO. At this point, Dr. Tipton’s case sounds convincing and more in line with the Reformed confessions and catechisms, as opposed to Dr. Horton’s efforts to, as I once heard him state on the air, build a kind of ecumenism between Reformed, Lutheran and Anglican traditions. I can see how some synthesis may be taking place in that effort. But what do I know?

Reformata, Semper Reformanda!


Walking By Faith, Not By Sight (Matthew 20:29-34)

My daughter, Abigail, frequently announces that our pastor at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC), Rev. Joe Troutman, is her favorite preacher. Mine, too, Abigail! I think I’ll begin posting links to his sermons so his exposition and application of God’s Word can build you up in your faith, or grant saving faith to those of you who may not already have it. I’ll include my notes of his remarks and sometimes will include a few of my own. Sunday, October 2, 2011, the text was Matthew 20:29-34 and the sermon was entitled, “Walking By Faith, Not By Sight.” (Listen here)

The Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ, opens the eyes of the blind and sets his people free.

Blind Men Who Could See “And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, ’Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’” (Matthew 20:29-30 ESV)

  •  “Lord, have mercy!” This phrase was adapted and sung as Kyrie Eleison in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican liturgies, but according to church historian, Philip Schaff, “The Reformed liturgies dropped it altogether” (The New Schaff-Hertzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, “Liturgics,” page 503).
  • Jesus approaches Jerusalem in military procession in anticipation of his triumphal entry. Blind men are bold to call out for him to stop. We are given such boldness by in faith in Christ, to call on God with our requests.

Lord Have Mercy “The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’ And stopping, Jesus called them and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened’” (Matthew 20:31-33 ESV).

  • How persistent are you in your prayers? If God will listen to a couple of blind beggars, he will certainly listen to his children who believe, worship and glorify him. These blind men have literally “walked by faith, not by sight.”

Mercy “And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him” (Matthew 20:34 ESV).

  • “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18 ESV).
  • Healing these blind men was part of Christ’s mission; he was not sidetracked by their bold request.
  • Christ’s touching the blind men to heal them was not necessary, but rather a benedictory laying on of hand.
  • “[T]he LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous” (Psalm 146:8 ESV).
  • Their calling Christ the Son of David indicates their confession of faith in him as the Messiah who has come to save them. Healing is a sign of the deity of Christ who came so sinners who believe will have eternal life.
  • The Lord Jesus Christ, the true King of Israel, does what we cannot: he gives spiritual sight to us who are spiritually blind, that we may see him as the coming Messiah who was born to die for our sins. May your eyes be opened, and may the Lord graciously grant you such saving faith!

Harold Camping Preached Judgment, Not Christ

This is the day proclaimed by false teacher Harold Camping as the beginning of Judgment Day. According to him, May 21, 2011 begins a five month period in which earthquakes will destroy those of us who do not believe his false gospel of God’s wrath. But God will rapture those, and only those, believers in him who have believe that Satan is in control of all the churches (and has been since 1988), have left them and have embraced the message, not of Christ’s sinless life, propitiatory death and glorious resurrection for sinners, but of the coming of Judgment Day on this day, May 21, 2011. Camping and his followers see themselves, not as the apostles bearing witness to the death and resurrection of Christ and proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in his name, but as the Old Testament prophets, principally like Jonah, who are sent with a message of impending judgment, calling on all to “cry mightily unto God for mercy.”

This is nothing but a simple case of losing focus on the centrality of the cross of Christ in Christian proclamation. The apostle Paul writes that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Elsewhere, he writes, “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:8-11). What is the principal work of Christ in focus in this call to faith? His resurrection on the third day after his death for sinners. Verse seventeen of this very passage points out that it this word of Christ, his death and resurrection for sinners, through which faith comes, and no other. If we lose focus on the cross of Christ, even in favor of his other works, like his promised return in glory, we will not be preaching the message through which the Holy Spirit will impart faith, and those to whom we preach will not be saved. This is just one of Harold Camping’s numerous errors, not to mention heresies, in his so-called “radio ministry.”

For this reason, I want to survey the Acts of the Apostles and see how that they who were called to lay the foundation of the church (see Eph. 2:20) bore witness to Christ throughout the world in order to be reminded of the centrality of the cross in our testimony before the lost world.

In the first book [The Gospel According to Luke], O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

            And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart fromJerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-11; emphasis mine)

With this introduction of Christ’s call to bear witness to him throughout the world to an ever-widening extent, our focus in this survey will be upon a selected few of the ten major speeches recorded in the Acts. Three are preached by Peter, one by Stephen, and six by Paul, of whose consist of one from each of his missionary journeys (the first addressing Jews, the second Gentiles, the third Christians, followed by three defense speeches before authorities).

 Peter’s Witness (Acts 2:14-36)

In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost after Christ’s Ascension, he first explains how that the disciples’ speaking in tongues is a fulfillment of Joel’s apocalyptic prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) emphasizing not the coming of Judgment Day, but salvation through faith (Acts 2:14-21). In verse 22, he transitions from the miraculous to the subject of his sermon by the fact that Jesus’ miracles attested to his divine sanction, and immediately proclaims the death of Christ as being the predetermined plan of God (v. 23), and proclaims his resurrection, explicitly stating that it is this to which they bear witness: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32).

Stephen’s Witness (Acts 7:1-53)

After preaching Christ as the promised prophet who is like Moses in that he would mediate a better covenant than that which Moses mediated (Acts 7:37; cf. 2 Cor. 3), although explicit reference is not made to Christ’s death and resurrection, it is at least assumed (his audience were Jews who were well aware of the death of Jesus), and his resurrection and ascension are implied by his declaring his vision of the exalted Christ, sitting on the right hand of God the Father (Acts 7:56). Then Luke, the human author of Acts, portrays Stephen’s death as an allusion to the propitiatory nature of Christ’s crucifixion (that it renders God favorable toward sinners) as the martyr prays that his executioners’ sins would be forgiven, just as Christ also prayed (see Luke 23:34), and his very death is thus a testimony to the cross of Christ itself (cf. Col. 1:24). The word “martyr” in fact means “witness,” and such witness Stephen indeed bears to his death. Saul of Tarsus held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, but he would not come to faith until he himself would come face to face with the risen Christ.

Paul’s Witness (Acts 17:22-31)

Contrary to Harold Camping’s emphasis that the cross and resurrection need not be preached, but exclusively the coming judgment, Paul preaches God’s judgment as signified and assured to come due to Christ’s resurrection from death (v. 31). The response of the Athenians to Paul’s preaching of the resurrection shows its central character in his sermon (v.32) and we see that as a result of such preaching, faith was granted to Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris (v.34).



If I’ve learned one thing in my past teaching ministry, it is that the easiest thing in the world to do is to forget to tie that which you teach or apply to the cross and resurrection of Christ. We must redouble our efforts to make sure the gospel is kept central in all of our preaching and teaching because it, and only it is the message by which God promises to save those who believe (1 Peter 1:25; James 1:21). If we learn anything from the tragedy playing out before our eyes this weekend, let it be the importance of the cross of Christ. Pray for your friends and loved ones who may have been deceived by Camping’s false gospel of Judgment Day that they might lose faith in Camping, but that their faith in Christ crucified and risen for them may not fail. 

Michael Horton on Rightly Divided

Here is Lane Chaplin’s video interview of Dr. Michael Horton on his new book, The Gospel Commission (2011, Baker Book House)part three of a series starting with Christless Christianity, followed by The Gospel-Driven Life. I’d also like to direct you to the Riddleblog, where Dr. Kim Riddlebarger has provided a nice launch pad to read all seven parts of Dr. Horton’s lengthy and informative review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins.

Finding Your Way

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger has written a helpful article in the January/February 2011 issue of Modern Reformation Magazine called “‘You Are Here'”: The Map of Redemptive History.” Especially enlightening for us recovering Dispensationalists is his treatment of the ever-popular “signs of the times.” If you like scouring current events for prophetic fulfillment, be ready to have your bubble burst! You’ll have to subscribe at the Modern Reformation website to view the entire article.

I’ve frequently repeated the saying of apparently unknown origin, “you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” I, however, usually modify it this way: “When you learn where you’ve been, you can see where you are, and know where you’re going.” In other words, as this applies to the visible church, when we’re informed by church history, we learn from many of the valuable lessons learned in the past, and it helps us figure out how to avoid those mistakes in the future. But if we ignore the past lessons learned, we in the present are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past (an allusion to a better known saying). Dr. Riddlebarger assists us by appropriately moving us further back into our formative collective past by summarizing the history of redemption as progressively revealed in the Bible. His article helps us see where the church has been from the very beginning, the book of Genesis, and the promise and fulfillment of redemption in the Person and Work of Christ. But especially, we learn how to better interpret those signs of the times which we recognize in the present, and the portions of Scripture that reveal them, and how they point forward to the future coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you want the theological terminology, Dr. Riddlebarger helps the Dispensational-Premillennialist see how the Amillennial view of eschatology interprets end-times prophecy. If you’d like to learn more about Amillennial eschatology, I’d like to recommend Dr. Riddlebarger’s audio series “Amillennialism 101” located in the sidebar of his Riddleblog, and his books, A Case for Amillennialism, and Man of Sin. If you give this position some thought, I think you’ll find it makes clear some things that remain fuzzy for the average Dispensationalist.

In “You Are Here,”  His synopsis of the article is as follows:

In this article, I will concentrate upon the nature of the course of the post-apostolic history of the church as defined in the New Testament itself, and consider several of the signposts—given to us by those same New Testament writers—that serve as indicators of what to expect as post-apostolic history continues to unfold until the end of the age.

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger (Left) and myself (Right) after services at Christ Reformed Church, Anaheim, CA.

Dr. Riddlebarger illustrates the history of redemption and the end times by the image of a Mall Directory with it’s “You Are Here” sign. He writes:

The practical ramifications of finding the “You Are Here” arrow are immediately apparent. Since we live in the post-apostolic age—some two thousand years removed from the time of the apostles—how do we relate to the apostolic age so long ago? Should we do as many Pentecostals do and understand the dramatic events found in the book of Acts as normative for what should go on in the church today? Or should we see ourselves as living in a different age entirely—one that has little or no connection to the time of the apostles?

We can push this matter even further. How do we as Christians living in the post-apostolic age relate to the old covenant era that preceded the time of the apostles? Can we look to the history of ancient Israel to help us understand how we are to relate to non-Christians around us? Should we look to the monarchy in Israel for guidance as to how the nations of the earth should govern themselves in the modern world?

These questions find their answers in knowing where we are in terms of the progress of history after the close of the canon of Scripture with the composition of the book of Revelation, written in the early- to mid-nineties of the first century. For those of us who live nearly two thousand years after “Bible times,” where do we place the “You Are Here” arrow? In order to place that arrow properly, we need to have a good understanding of what has gone before, especially since those living during the apostolic era (that is, Jesus and the apostles) told us what to expect after the close of the apostolic age.

We are also introduced to the so-called “Already/Not Yet” approach to the Kingdom of God in the New Testament:

In the so-called prison letters (Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians), Paul speaks of a believer’s heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20) based on the believer’s assurance that Jesus’ bodily resurrection guarantees our own resurrection at the end of the age (Phil. 3:21). Paul also tells us to seek the things above where Christ is (Col. 3:1-3) because this gives us a heavenly perspective on earthly things. Paul reminds us that all those who trust in Christ are seen as though they were already raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:4-7). For Paul, Christ’s death and resurrection (the critical historical events of the apostolic era) ensure our own salvation and grant us a heavenly perspective on earthly things. Even though the “You Are Here” arrow is placed in our own day and age some two thousand years after the apostolic age, the placement of the arrow itself must be seen as the guarantee that the same Savior—who was crucified, died, and was buried—will also ensure we reach our final goal: the redemption of our bodies and life eternal.

This future hope based upon certain historical events reflects another major theme running throughout the New Testament: What God has done in Jesus Christ (“the already”) ensures that everything God has promised his people will come to pass (“the not yet”). Paul speaks this way in Romans 8:23-25 when he talks of understanding our present sufferings in the light of that glory yet to be revealed when Christ returns at the end of the age. Because we trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who not only grants us hope (based on what God has already done for us through the doing and dying of Jesus), but the Spirit’s indwelling is itself the guarantee of the redemption of our bodies (Eph. 1:13-14).

This “already/not yet” perspective on things reminds us that we are pilgrims making our journey to the heavenly city. Although God has ordained all things in this life—giving everything we do meaning and purpose—the journey is not complete until we reach our final destination. Like the ancient Israelites who wandered through the wilderness of the Sinai desert awaiting entrance into the Promised Land of Canaan, we too look forward to our entrance into that heavenly city of which the earthly Canaan was but a dim shadow. Material blessings are not an end in themselves, but point to heavenly blessings far greater than our minds can conceive. This is what the author of Hebrews was getting at when he commended Abraham for looking beyond the land of the promise to what lies ahead at the end of the age (Heb. 11:9-10).

When we see God’s record of faithfulness in the past, we are able to look to the future, knowing that God keeps his promises. Knowing how things will turn out in the end gives us the “big picture” perspective we need to make sense of a life lived between the time of Christ’s first advent and his second. The “You Are Here” arrow makes sense only when placed on a map of the whole shopping mall. An arrow on a blank sheet of plastic does us no good. The same holds true for seeing our current place in redemptive history in the light of all God has done before we came along, knowing that Christ’s finished work is the guarantee of reaching our final destiny. The arrow makes sense only against the big-picture backdrop of redemptive history.

But what about the signs of the times? Here’s an excerpt of Dr. Riddlebarger’s treatment of them:

There are three categories of “signs” of the end in the New Testament. The first category of signs includes those that are specific to the apostolic era. The second group deals with those signs that characterize the entire interadvental age (the time between Christ’s first and second coming). The third group of signs includes those that specifically serve to herald the end of the age.

As for those signs that are specific to the apostolic age—those signs to be witnessed by the disciples in their lifetimes (“this generation,” Matt. 24:23)—there are four specific events foretold by Jesus. There will be false prophets, along with the arrest and persecution of the disciples (Matt. 24:9-14; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19). Jesus also predicts the Roman siege of Jeru-salem, as the so-called “times of the Gentiles” begins (Luke 19:41-44; 21:24). Our Lord also speaks of the destruction of the city and the temple in A.D. 70 (Matt. 24:1-2; 14-22; Mark 13:1-2; 14-20; Luke 24:56; 20-24). Finally, Jesus speaks of the desolation and the Diaspora of Israel (Matt. 23:37-38), which came to pass with the complex of events associated with the Jewish Wars. These signs have been fulfilled with an amazing accuracy.

Then there are a series of signs that characterize the entire interadvental-period birth pains of the age to come. Jesus warns of false Christs (Matt. 24:3-8; Mark 13:3-8; Luke 21:7-11), wars and rumors of wars (Matt. 24:3-8; Mark 13:3-8; Luke 21:7-11), earthquakes and famine (Matt. 24:3-8; Mark 13:3-8; Luke 21:7-11), false teachers and false doctrine (2 Tim. 3:1-5), as well as the persecution of believers (2 Tim. 3:12-17). These things are not only present during the lifetimes of the apostles, but may be said to characterize the entire post-apostolic era. Given the presence of such things until our Lord returns, Jesus compared the interadvental age to the days of Noah (Matt. 24:37-38). God has announced that judgment is at hand, yet unbelievers go on with their immorality as though nothing important was about to happen.

Finally, the New Testament speaks of certain signs that particularly serve to herald the end of the age and the return of our Lord. The first such sign is that the gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth (Matt. 24:14)….

The second sign that foretells of the end is the salvation of “all Israel” as recounted by Paul in Romans 11:25-26….I take Paul to be speaking of the dramatic conversion of large numbers of ethnic Jews immediately before the time of the end as gospel progress rebounds from a largely Gentile mission to a Jewish one. I understand “all Israel” to be a reference to those ethnic Jews who embrace Jesus as their Messiah because God once again has mercy upon his ancient people. These folk become members of Christ’s church as a testimony to the grace of God. This mass conversion of “all Israel” tells us the end is at hand….

The land promise God made to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21) has already been fulfilled—at least that is what Joshua reports (Josh. 23:14). It is Paul who universalizes the original land of promise far beyond the narrow confines from the rivers of Egypt and the Euphrates to include the whole world (Rom. 4:13). Although Israel’s national role in redemptive history has run its course with the coming of Jesus, when we see large number of Jews becoming Christians we know that the end is rapidly drawing near. The presence of a modern nation-state of Israel in the ancient land of promise is certainly tied to God’s mysterious purposes for the Jews, because all of the promises God made to the true children of Abraham (those Jews and Gentiles alike), who believe the promise and receive the Holy Spirit, have come to pass because Christ has come and the gospel has been preached to the Gentile nations….

The third sign of the impending dawn of the end of the age is a great apostasy, which is closely connected to the appearance of the man of sin (“the antichrist”), who is the final eschatological enemy of the church (2 Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 20:7-10). Although Christians have often been tempted to see any moral decline in their own age as a sign of the end, the final apostasy will surpass anything witnessed to date. Even though there have been many “wannabe” antichrists since the apostolic era, and many of the signs associated with the antichrist have been present to some degree throughout the post-apostolic period, at some point in the future God will cease his restraint of the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7), when Satan is released from the abyss (Rev. 20:7-10). Only then will the final antichrist appear, soon to be crushed by Jesus at his return.

When this final apostasy occurs and the final antichrist is revealed, God’s people will face horrific persecution from a reinvigorated beast (the state) and its leader (the antichrist) who insist that the people of God declare “Caesar is Lord.” This is the one thing Christians will refuse to do, while at the same time refusal to do so is that which provokes the beast to its great fury against the people of God. Thankfully, the reign of this archenemy of Christ and his people will be short, as he is revealed only to go to his destruction (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 20:7-10).

Although it would behoove you to invest in a subscription to Modern Reformation Magazine to read the entire article for yourself, and benefit from the other helpful features, I’ve pretty much given you the heart of the article. I don’t want you to wonder as you wander, unnecessarily fearing things you shouldn’t as you look forward to the return of Christ. Reformed theology in general, and Reformed Amillennial eschatology in particular, is a liberating, comforting and most importantly, Biblical approach to our redemption in Christ from “In” (see Genesis 1:1) to “Amen” (see Revelation 22:21).

Revisiting “The Right Story”

  • (The following was originally posted on March 3, 2006. It reappears here in a slightly edited form.)

“You can’t help nobody if you can’t tell ‘em the right story.” Jack Cash, brother of Johnny Cash, as portrayed in the movie, Walk the Line.

Every story is about fall and redemption in one way or another. There would be no plot if there were no problem to solve or conflict to resolve. The story of the entire human race is that of its fall and redemption. Your story is about your fall and your redemption. The mission of the church is to tell this story; to introduce the characters to the plot: they’ve fallen and they can’t get themselves up on their own, their problem is so bad, they can’t solve it themselves, they need Another to solve it for them, the conflict that has entered their life has killed them, and they need Another to return them to life.

Stories are often considered mere entertainment. And to be sure, the church in this Laodicean (Revelation 3:14-22) generation has caught on to the idea that entertainment will help them tell the Story. Even if at times they’re telling the right story, that of the fall of man into sin and the sinless Christ who was crucified and raised for sinners, they’ve wrapped it up in so much entertainment that many are in danger of overlooking the Gift because they’re so fascinated by the wrapping paper. If sinners are distracted from the Story by trappings geared toward appealing to their interests, or meeting their felt needs, the church can’t help them. At other times, the church forgets to get around to the Story at all because they’re so aware of all the other stories in the Bible. “Christians don’t need to hear the Story this week, they’ve already heard and believed and received it, now they need to hear what they need to do,” and thus the Story is placed on the shelf in the interest of relevance or practicality. But no matter how much they mean to help, they “can’t help nobody if [they ain’t tellin’ ’em] the right story.”

The church seeks to tell a story, but all too often it’s not the Story they were commissioned to tell (Matthew 28:19-20). Many times they tell their own story. A story about how they’ve picked themselves up by their own bootstraps, a story about what a great example they are. When this is the story they tell, the Holy Spirit won’t bring sinners to life, nor will he empower believers to serve. All applications and all examples, and all pastoral autobiography are not to stand alone. They are to be built on the firm foundation of the Story, explicitly told each week.

We’ve fallen into sin so there’s nothing we can do to redeem ourselves:

the sinless Christ was crucified because we are sinners who deserve to die;

Christ rose from the dead on the third day because God has accepted Christ’s death in the place of sinners who come to believe and repent of their sins;

saved sinners are called to be holy and to serve others, which brings them into conflict with the sin that yet remains in their natures and they aren’t always able to be holy and serve others (Romans 7).

That’s why the Right Story must remain central: The Gospel is for Christians, too!

They must be reminded that even though they’ve been saved they still need to hear the Gospel addressed to them (1 John 1:9) to cleanse them so they can progress on the journey to glorification by way of sanctification (Proverbs 4:18).

When the preacher neglects to tell the church the Right Story, he can’t help the church grow in grace.

  • (Dr. R. Scott Clark gives a fuller, more Christ-centered summary of the Right Story at Westminster Seminary California’s Valiant for Truth blog. Read his post, “The Christian Life.”)

Gospel-Driven: From Doctrine to Discipleship

Dr. Michael Horton and me

New St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church in Dallas hosts an annual Reformation Conference the weekend before Reformation Sunday. This year saw their fourth such conference, “Gospel-Driven: From Doctrine to Discipleship,” featuring the teaching of Dr. Michael Scott Horton, Associate Pastor of Christ United Reformed Church of Santee, CA (see Dr. Horton’s Adult Bible Class page), J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, host of the White Horse Inn radio show (and podcast), Editor-In-Chief of Modern Reformation Magazine, and author of an ever-growing number of books, three of which were the subject of this year’s conference (see his Wikipedia entry for more info).

Two of the three books have already been published, but the third, on which Dr. Horton spoke, is to be published in the coming months. These books are (in order), Christless Christianity, The Gospel-Driven Life, and I think the title of book three will be The Gospel Commission. The first volume addresses the heart of the problem with all of contemporary evangelical, even Reformed, Christianity–an exchange of preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for the preaching of self-salvation by self-improvement in a variety of manifestations–preaching “good advice” at the expense of preaching the good news. The Gospel-Driven Life addresses why preaching the gospel (along with regularly receiving the Lord’s Supper) is essential for Christian growth and sanctification, not just evangelism. Finally, The Gospel Commission (if that is it’s actual title) will go into how the church is to obey the imperative Great Commission out of a conscious response to the gospel indicative of the complete authority over heaven and earth given to the Lord Jesus Christ by his Father (Matthew 28:18).

This was an exciting opportunity for me to meet the man who first introduced me to Reformed theology. Back in 1991 Dr. Horton published his first book, Mission Accomplished (later revised and republished as Putting Amazing Back Into Grace). In the providence of God, Dr. Horton was invited to promote the book on a morning talk show on, of all places, the Trinity Broadcasting Network! During this interview, Dr. Horton had the unique opportunity to introduce Calvinism to the constituents of the Word of Faith heresy of Kenneths Hagin and Copeland, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, and more recently Joyce Meyer, John Hagee and Joel Osteen, myself among them. I recall mostly his emphasis on how the doctrine of election and predestination, far from squashing evangelism, actually motivates it. I found my introduction to Reformed theology and its benefits fascinating and exciting. At the time Dr. Horton was leading a ministry called Christians United for Reformation (CURE). I subscribed to CURE’s newsletter for a short time–I found it equally fascinating and really cool, but I also found it to be waaay over my head. So I got on with my life, marrying my first wife, moving off to Missouri to study to be an Independent Baptist missionary (which plan would change), living life between my initial and later providential and interesting encounters with Reformed theology.

I brought my copy of Mission Accomplished with me to the conference to get it autographed by Dr. Horton, along with the copy of The Gospel-Driven Life which I purchased at the conference. It was my joy to be able to personally thank him for his introducing me to Reformed theology, and when I mentioned that I saw him on TBN, he grimaced with shame as if a deep, dark secret had been exposed, and we all enjoyed a laugh at the stark irony of his television debut. Then as he opened my book and began writing on the first page, he informed me that the host of that talk show was fired not long after that episode. He assured me that the fact that he had been a guest on the show “was not unrelated” to his firing–WOW! But it makes perfect sense, considering that it would not be long before Dr. Horton would edit an expose of the Word of Faith movement, The Agony of Deceit. But just think, that TBN host’s firing may have just been one of the best things to ever happen to him. I consider it a noble sacrifice for the cause on his part. I just wish I could remember that host’s name so I could search for videos of his interviews on YouTube in the hopes of finding his interview of Michael Horton. Now that would be a blast!

If you’ve never listened to the White Horse Inn, then you are not aware of just what a heady, yet eminently edifying and motivating speaker Dr. Horton is. The way he helped us understand the covenantal nature of God’s relationship to Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church simply boggles the mind with how it brings together so many aspects of the biblical revelation of redemption and also highlights the importance of the doctrine of justification by grace alone (sola gratia) that is received by faith alone (sola fide). He even mentioned how Pope Benedict XVI has admitted that the Bible’s use of the form and content of ancient Near Eastern Suzerainty/Vassal treaties in his covenantal dealings with his people makes it understandable that the Reformers taught what they did about justification. Horton observed that when the Pope sounds more like the Reformers than contemporary Evangelical theologians, you know you are living in a Salvador Dali painting!

You can download the audio of the messages below  (PS–I hear there’s a video in the works, but haven’t heard if and when it’ll be released):

  1. Christless Christianity: The Problem
  2. Gospel-Driven Life: The Solution
  3. Gospel Commission: The Application
  4. Questions and Answers with Dr. Horton
  5. The Missionary Servant: The Sermon


My “Perfect Church” (With Apologies to My Current Church)

Redeemer Pres Exterior

I know the old saying, “If you find the perfect church, it’ll stop being perfect because you’re there,” or something like that. Well, I’ve been around the block a few too many times to think that there is such a thing as a church full of perfectly consistent Christians who always forgive each other, are loving, generous and caring, while at the same time utterly devoted to offering the purest, most biblically ordered and sincere worship of God. I may be a bit naive about some things, but when it comes to church, I’m . . . well, not so naive. But that doesn’t keep me from getting enthusiastic about church from time to time.

Perhaps a little closer to what I have in mind is the way people talk about “your own hell.” You know, some conceptualize hell by making it an infinite and eternal punishment of enduring whatever any given individual finds the most unpleasant or distasteful. Like hell for some people is lying on a bed of nails for eternity, for others it’s having to watch Family Matters reruns (I never did like that show), and still others may dread an eternity of reading poorly written blog posts, or something. But you get the idea. This is more analogous to what I have in mind when I say that this past Sunday, I visited what I consider to be “my perfect church.” It had just about everything I could ever ask for in a church (with very few exceptions).

In the world of debating the Reformed notion of the “Regulative Principle of Worship,” the matters that come under discussion are usually categorized in two ways: elements of worship (mandatory things the Bible requires:preaching, prayer, sacraments, etc.), and circumstances of worship (optional things utilized for practical reasons: choice of musical instruments, sound systems, carpet color, etc.). I think I’ll try to categorize the elements and circumstances of my own personal concept of the perfect church, which I discovered in Overland Park, Kansas at Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Redeemer's Sanctuary (Not "Auditorium" or "Worship Center")

 Elements (Absolute Musts!)–
  • Preaching that explicitly centers all exposition and application on the good news of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, with a minimum of autobiography, corny jokes, illustrations and sundry other rabbit trails.
  • Weekly communion
  • Long-winded prayers full of Scripture
  • The predominance of classical, historic hymnody (I can tolerate a dose of contemporary music, as long as it’s done tastefully)

Circumstances (Icing on the Cake!)–

  • Big, beautiful church architecture and a really cool pulpit (not a glorified music stand)
  • Pipe organ accompaniment of at least the primary psalms and hymns sung by the congregation (okay, there were no pipes–just giant speakers, but the organ had the sound!)
  • A book table full of Reformed literature
  • A pastor who runs a Reformed blog
  • Members who demonstrably care about me

Anyway, that gives you a pretty good idea of what gets me all giddy and makes me start speaking in terms of “the perfect church.” These were all to greater and lesser degrees present at Redeemer Presbyterian. I was even impressed by the hospitality of the couple in the pew in front of us with whom we “passed the peace” (my first time for that practice, but I’d heard of it from an Episcopal friend before). When they learned that we were from out of town to visit our daughter who attends UMKC, they gave us their name, phone number and address with an invitation to crash with them whenever we return to Kansas City.

Then there was the pastor and the preaching. First of all, when I was searching online for a church to visit last Sunday morning, I noticed on Redeemer’s webpage that their pastor is the man who runs the blog called “Reepicheep,” which I’d seen a few times before in the blogrolls of other blogs, but had yet to begin regularly following. Well that’s changed. When I shook his hand at the door on my way out, I told him I’d add him to my blogroll (see sidebar). As for the preaching, a thorough exposition and application of Philippians 2:9-11 on God’s and man’s response to the supreme humility of Christ sealed the deal (listen here).  It was obvious by it’s predominance that the gospel is a priority for the preaching ministry of this church. If I lived in Kansas (or Kansas City, this would be the church for me). But I don’t, so it isn’t. But this is the heart of what I consider to be my “perfect” church.

P.S.–I would’ve taken more pictures like the tourist I was, but I was embarrassing my wife. 🙂




“We Put the NO in Innovation”

This commercial is great! It bears a striking resemblance to a biblical attitude about worship. God has prescribed how we are to worship him, and innovation is not what he had in mind. Ask Nadab and Abihu. You can read about the consequences of their “innovation” below. But first, watch the illustrative video.

Leviticus 10:1-3 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can get caught up by reading up on what the Reformed call “The Regulative Principle of Worship.”

Twenty-first Century New Testament Textual Criticism

Constantin Von Tischendorf (r); Daniel B. Wallace (l)

Constantin Von Tischendorf (r); Daniel B. Wallace (l)

Will the 21st century go down as another great age of discovery when it comes to our knowledge of the transmission of the text of the Greek New Testament? While many skeptical and liberal scholars like Bart Ehrman are busy using their expertise in the Biblical Studies to destroy faith in God’s revealed Word in the Scriptures, others, like Dr. Daniel B. Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary, founder of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, is using modern technology to “discover” ancient manuscripts which have until now been inaccessible due to their fragile condition. According to an interview of him on Friday’s edition of Christ the Center, in the past year, about 36 manuscripts have been discovered and are in line behind about 75 others to be catalogued at the place in Munster, Germany where the knowledge of such manuscripts are warehoused for use by scholars the world over.

No time to finish this post. But I want you to listen to the program. Here’s the link:

Mission Accomplished

Now, this is what I call music…!

In case you can’t keep up, here’s the lyrics. Read along, then consult your Bible and read and pray and think!

Verse 1

Here’s a controversial subject that tends to divide
For years it’s had Christians lining up on both sides
By God’s grace, I’ll address this without pride
The question concerns those for whom Christ died
Was He trying to save everybody worldwide?
Was He trying to make the entire world His Bride?
Does man’s unbelief keep the Savior’s hands tied?
Biblically, each of these must be denied
It’s true, Jesus gave up His life for His Bride
But His Bride is the elect, to whom His death is applied
If on judgment day, you see that you can’t hide
And because of your sin, God’s wrath on you abides
And hell is the place you eternally reside
That means your wrath from God hasn’t been satisfied
But we believe His mission was accomplished when He died
But how the cross relates to those in hell?
Well, they be saying:

Lord knows He tried (8x)

Verse 2

Father, Son and Spirit: three and yet one
Working as a unit to get things done
Our salvation began in eternity past
God certainly has to bring all His purpose to pass
A triune, eternal bond no one could ever sever
When it comes to the church, peep how they work together
The Father foreknew first, the Son came to earth
To die- the Holy Spirit gives the new birth
The Father elects them, the Son pays their debt and protects them
The Spirit is the One who resurrects them
The Father chooses them, the Son gets bruised for them
The Spirit renews them and produces fruit in them
Everybody’s not elect, the Father decides
And it’s only the elect in whom the Spirit resides
The Father and the Spirit- completely unified
But when it comes to Christ and those in hell?
Well, they be saying:

Lord knows He tried (8x)

Verse 3

My third and final verse- here’s the situation
Just a couple more things for your consideration
If saving everybody was why Christ came in history
With so many in hell, we’d have to say He failed miserably
So many think He only came to make it possible
Let’s follow this solution to a conclusion that’s logical
What about those who were already in the grave?
The Old Testament wicked- condemned as depraved
Did He die for them? C’mon, behave
But worst of all, you’re saying the cross by itself doesn’t save
That we must do something to give the cross its power
That means, at the end of the day, the glory’s ours
That man-centered thinking is not recommended
The cross will save all for whom it was intended
Because for the elect, God’s wrath was satisfied
But still, when it comes to those in hell
Well, they be saying:

Lord knows He tried (8x)

Thank you, Shai Linne, whoever you are.

Christ is Risen! Happy Easter!

Cut away of a tomb like the one our risen Lord vacated! from the ESV Study Bible

Cut away of a tomb like the one our risen Lord vacated! from the ESV Study Bible

John 20:1-10


Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 

So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 

Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes

1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you,

which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved,

if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:

that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 

that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 

and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,

most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 

Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Listen to “Corinthian Creed” in the audio Box toward the bottom of the sidebar. “Corinthian Creed” is a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 15, the great apologetic of the resurrection, sermon on its implications for the Christian life, and source of hope of our own resurrection in Christ. The lyrics may be viewed here. Praise and glorify the risen Savior with me!

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