Stirring Up Strife

February 25, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility

Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV)
12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.

When we live in community sin and strife are inevitable. Often in our exhortations, therefore, I take the time to warn us from sinning against others and provoking strife. We need to beware lest we be a cause of strife in our relationships.

But today’s Scripture reminds us that we not only need to beware lest we cause strife in our relationships, we also need to beware lest we perpetuate it. It addresses the victim of sin and strife not the perpetrator. What do you do when you are the victim of another’s sin? There you were, living piously, saintly glow radiating about your face, angelic halo dancing above your head, and then, out of the blue, comes a sinner who treads on your toe and picks a fight. Your husband ignores you. Your wife snaps at you. Your friend speaks maliciously to you. Your sibling breaks your toy. How do you respond?

Solomon gives you two options and he paints them in black and white – “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” The first option is hatred. You can respond to the sinner in turn. He stepped on your toe? Then step on his and poke him in the eye for good measure. Hatred stirs up strife. Hatred says, “I’ll see your sin and raise you some.” The second option is love. You can respond to the sinner out of turn. He stepped on your toe? Then overlook it and do good to him; or, if you can’t overlook it, then confront it graciously. If he confesses, you have gained your brother. If he persists, then you can choose to overlook it or to bring along others to help you resolve the matter. Love covers all sins.

Solomon’s words remind us that God does not give us a license to sin when someone else has sinned against us. Even when we are the victim of another’s sin, we are to respond to that sin in love. We are to beware lest we stir up strife by our response to the sin. Hatred stirs up strife. You didn’t introduce it, but you increased it. In other words, Solomon tells you, there is no situation so bad that you cannot make it worse by your sin. Our calling as victims, therefore, is to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, “who, when he was reviled, did not revile in turn; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23). Jesus’ life reminds me that your sin doesn’t justify mine.

But often when we are the victim of another’s sin, we justify our sinful response and we get angry with those who would correct us. Imagine that a thief stole your money and stabbed you in the arm. You are a victim. You go to the doctor. The doctor expresses sympathy for you, stitches up your arm, and gives you instructions about keeping the wound clean. “Keep it clean and you’ll be fine in a couple months.” But you’re so angry about this situation that you ignore the doctor’s orders. You refuse to change the bandages and the wound gets badly infected. Finally, you return to the doctor and he’s dismayed. “Did you keep it clean? Did you do what I said?” he asks. “No,” you sullenly respond. So he rebukes you and tells you that you may lose your arm; you may even lose your life. But you angrily respond, “How dare you blame me? I was the victim! I didn’t stab myself!” What’s the doctor going to say? Is he going patronize you? To apologize for rebuking you? No! Not if he’s a good doctor. He going to tell you that you are a fool and that you’ve only made a bad situation worse.

So what of you? Are you using another’s sin to justify your own? Are you nursing anger or resentment or bitterness in your heart against another? Are you blaming your wife for your outbursts of wrath? Are you blaming your husband for your nagging spirit? Are you blaming your parents for your sullen attitude or sinful rebellion? Are you blaming your employer for your laziness? Or are you taking responsibility for the way that you are responding to the sin of others?

Reminded that the sin of others does not justify our own sin, let us confess that we often stir up strife through hatred rather than cover it through love. And, as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able do to so. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Do it again!

December 24, 2017 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Christmas, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Liturgy, Meditations, Parents

Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)
30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child, I doubt that I have to remind you that children love these times of celebration. While we adults often grow tired, kids never tire; they long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open presents?” Are you children excited?

We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. God never tires of causing the earth to spin like a top; never tires of flapping the wings of a bird; never tires of causing the grass to sprout from the earth; never tires of sucking water out of the earth through the roots of a tree and turning the nutrients into apples that people can eat. All these works of the Lord reveal His untiring joy and laughter, reveal His delight in all His work, His faithfulness and uprightness. G.K. Chesterton explains all this in his inimitable way in his book Orthodoxy. He writes:

“Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

So what of you? Have you grown old? Have you ceased to look in wide-eyed wonder at the world? You teens, have you become too insecure or too self-important to rejoice with joy? You young adults, have you become too self-absorbed and ambitious to slow down and enjoy family and friends? You adults, have you become too tired and lazy to celebrate with joy? Or too greedy to enjoy the delights of fellowship? Reminded that we have sinned and grown old, that we have become bored and complacent with the marvelous world that God has made and in which He has placed us, that we have complained rather than overflowed with thanksgiving, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Thoughts on Households and Church Membership

February 26, 2017 in Bible - NT - Acts, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology
Acts 16:31-33 (NKJV)
31
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
This morning we have the privilege of welcoming a number of households into membership at Trinity Church. At such times it is always profitable to recall why we do this membership thing. This morning I would like us to consider why we administer membership vows to the Head of Household rather than to each individual member of the household. Why do this?
The point is certainly not that only the Head of Household is important; nor is the point that in order to be a member of the church you have to be an adult. May it never be! It is important to remember that the Head of Household is taking a vow not only for himself or herself but for his or her entire household. In other words, if you have been baptized and you are part of a member household, then you individually are a member of this congregation. You receive the loving care of Christ, the kindly fellowship of the covenant community, and the gracious accountability of the elders and deacons. You are part of the body, an integral member of the covenant community, and to be treated as such. So as we bring these families and individuals forward, all those who have been baptized join us as members of the church.
If they are all individually members of the congregation, then why have just the Head of Household take the vows? The reason is this: to emphasize that God has created a covenantal world. What this means is that not all the decisions which affect us personally and legally are decisions that we ourselves make. All of us were born to parents that we did not choose; we were born into a country we did not choose; we were born subject to laws and statutes we did not choose. Not only is this the case, we all were born in sin, subject to the wrath of God, because of the rebellion of our father Adam. He was our representative, the one whose sin determined the course of our lives. God created the world in such a way that we have representatives whose choices affect us for good and for ill.
And praise God that this is true – for were it not, none of us could ever be saved. Why not? Because we are saved not because of anything we have done but because of Christ. We have His righteousness credited to our account. Though we have not personally been righteous, God in His grace and mercy looks upon us in Christ and treats us as holy and beloved. Because we are part of His house, under His loving headship, we receive innumerable blessings.

So household vows emphasize three things: first, the critical role that the head of household has for the spiritual vitality and health of the entire household. Second, the incredible blessings that come to the entire household when that household is subject to the Lord Jesus Christ. And third, the need for faithfulness from every member of the household so that, in the future, additional healthy, robust, and godly households can be established to the glory of God.

Why baptize babies?

February 26, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Quotations
Romans 6:3–6 (NKJV)
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
In our exhortations, I have been exploring various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. Since we have the privilege of baptizing a baby later this morning, I thought it beneficial to use our exhortation to explain our rationale for this action. Why do we baptize babies? I’ve written on this elsewhere, but consider a few more thoughts.
In Biblical Theology sacraments are visible words. Even as God communicates to us in His written Word, the Bible, so He communicates to us in visible words, in covenant signs and seals – what we call sacraments or ordinances. One of the earliest covenant signs was the rainbow – God placed the rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant that He made with Noah. The rainbow visibly proclaims God’s promise to Noah and to us that He will never again flood the earth. So every time we see the rainbow, God invites us to believe His promise and trust Him. In other words, the rainbow isn’t our word to God but God’s word to us, God’s promise to us (Gen 9:12-17).
What is true of the rainbow is also true of other covenant signs: they are primarily God’s Word to us, not our word to God. Paul emphasizes this in Romans 6 by using the passive voice to describe baptism. He writes that the Roman Christians “were baptized” (passive) into Christ and “were baptized”(again, passive) into His death. So why the passive voice? Because, first and foremost, baptism is God’s act, God’s word, not my act, my word.
We do not baptize ourselves; we are baptized by another. In baptism, God speaks to each of us individually – He claims us as His own and assures us that, so long as we trust Christ, we are cleansed of our sin as surely as water washes our bodies and are anointed with His Spirit as surely as the water makes us wet. While the preaching of the Word holds that promise out generically, baptism makes that promise personal. Today, God speaks to Piper and assures her that His promise is reliable for her; even as He spoke to you in your baptism and made the same promise to you.
Robert Rayburn illustrates this powerfully while explaining why it is that we have ministers of the Gospel perform the baptism:
The reason why no one [but the minister] baptizes someone in our churches… is so that it be absolutely clear that baptism is not our act; it is Christ’s…. Suppose we were to have an infant baptism here next Lord’s Day: and suppose on this moment alone of all the moments in the history of the Church since the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ this was a sacrament by sight and not by faith: Just as the minister was prepared to begin, with a loud, tearing sound the roof of the building parted; and lo and behold, the Lord Christ Himself descended to where I am standing right now. There were seraphim hovering above His shoulder. We were all on our faces before the glory of God, but He told us to arise. He took the baby in His arms and He pronounced the Divine Triune Name over the child and made the promise of His Gospel and covenant to this child by name and then by name summoned him or her to the life of faith and godliness and consecration. He then spoke a word to this child’s parents about the sacred stewardship He was now entrusting to them and how they would answer to Him for this child’s faith and this child’s life on the Great Day. Then He spoke a word to this congregation about your responsibility and then a word to the minister about his. Then He blessed the child and poured water on its head and ascended back into Heaven and with a loud crash the ceiling came back to where it was before and everything was as it was.
Let me tell you a few things that would be inevitably true. One is that that child, though he or she would be too young to have any personal recollection of that moment, would remember his Baptism forever and better than he would remember any other event in his life because scarcely a day would pass without his parents telling him what happened in the church when he was three weeks old and what the Lord Christ said and demanded and promised. He would live as he grew up—at 3, at 4, at 6, at 8. at 12. at 18, at 26—he would live under the specter and under the mercy, the glory of Baptism. His whole life would be colored and shaped and formed by it. That’s what Baptism is. That’s exactly what happens in the Baptism of a child or adult when it happens in this church. The only difference is that it is by faith that you see it and not by sight.
Baptism is an invitation to trust God’s Word; it is a call to faith; a call to believe God’s promise in Christ personally. Consequently, it is fitting to apply it not only to believers but also to their children – for God graciously names our children as His own and summons them to trust Him along with their parents.
And note that baptism does demand something of us. Paul declares that baptism unites us with Christ’s resurrection such that we also should walk in newness of life. We should walk. Whether we were baptized as an infant, a child, or an adult, God speaks to us through our baptism, unites us to Christ, and calls us to trust Him, to love Him, and to walk in newness of life by the power of His resurrection. We are to respond to His grace with faith and obedience.

So reminded that in baptism God has claimed us as His own, has put His Name upon us, and summoned us to walk in newness of life, let us confess that we often respond to His Word with unbelief, that we have despised our baptism and forgotten the call that He has issued to us in it, and that we have need of His forgiving and cleansing grace as even our baptism signifies. And, as we confess, let us kneel as we are able and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession in your bulletin.

The Rule of the Covenant

January 7, 2015 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology, Federal Vision, John Calvin, Justification, Quotations, Sanctification

“No doubt, [God] adopted Abraham freely, but, at the same time, he stipulated with him that he should live a holy and an upright life, and this is the general rule of the covenant which God has, from the beginning, made with his Church. The sum is, that hypocrites, who occupy a place in the temple of God, in vain pretend to be his people, for he acknowledges none as such but those who follow after justice and uprightness during the whole course of their life.”

John Calvin, Commentary upon the Book of Psalms, Psalm 15.

External Members of the Covenant

July 28, 2014 in Baptism, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Federal Vision, Quotations, Regeneration

“So as with the other covenants, it is possible for someone to join the new covenant community externally without the new heart that defines that covenant. He may be baptized and profess Christian doctrine. But if he lives a life of sin, he shows that he does not have the new heart that is the mark of the new covenant. He has wrongly entered the covenant community and ought to be disciplined by the body. He has become a Christian externally, but without inward change.”

John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 81.

I would add that we should read “wrongly entered the covenant community” as “entered the covenant community deficiently” not that he shouldn’t have entered the covenant community at all. Baptism welcomes us as legitimate members of the covenant community – but, in the case of an unconverted covenant member, his membership is belied by his lack of a new heart. But it wasn’t wrong to baptize him and admit him to the covenant community – for it is not our place to read the heart but to evaluate words and actions to the best of our ability.

The New Covenant is the Oldest Covenant

July 28, 2014 in Covenantal Living, Cross of Christ, Justification, Old Testament, Quotations, Trinity

“So the work of Christ is the source of all human salvation from sin: the salvation of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of Abraham, of Moses, of David, and of all God’s people in every age, past, present, or future. Everyone who has ever been saved has been saved through the new covenant in Christ. Everyone who is saved receives a new heart, a heart of obedience, through the new covenant work of Christ. So though it is a new covenant, it is also the oldest, the temporal expression of the pactum salutis [the covenant of peace between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternity].”

John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 80.

Unconditional Covenants?

July 28, 2014 in Covenantal Living, Faith, Federal Vision, Justification, Quotations, Sanctification

“…all covenants require obedient faith. This is a not a condition of one covenant or another; it is essential to all human dealings with God, simply by virtue of who God is. It is a requirement of what I have called the universal covenant. Individual covenants require specific forms of obedience, but obedience itself, springing from faith, is simply a requirement of all relations between God and human beings. This requirement is implicit in the very distinction between Creator and creature….

“This emphasis on faithful obedience does not compromise grace at all. For we can never begin to earn God’s forgiveness of our sins through good works, and the blessings that God promises to Abraham are far beyond what any human being could accomplish….

“So like all the other covenants, the Abrahamic covenant is unconditional in the sense that in it God declares that he will certainly accomplish his own purpose, the blessing of the nations through Abraham. But it is conditional in that those who would receive that blessing must trust and obey. As sovereign controller, God is the God of grace. As sovereign authority, he demands obedience of his covenant partners.”

John Frame, Systematic Theology, pp. 70-71.

Cleave unto your Wife

June 17, 2014 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, John Calvin, Marriage, Quotations

“The sum of the whole is, that among the offices pertaining to human society, this is the principal, and as it were the most sacred, that a man should cleave unto his wife. And he amplifies this by a superadded comparison, that the husband ought to prefer his wife to his father. But the father is said to be left not because marriage severs sons from their fathers, or dispenses with other ties of nature, for in this way God would be acting contrary to himself. While, however, the piety of the son towards his father is to be most assiduously cultivated, and ought in itself to be deemed inviolable and sacred, yet Moses so speaks of marriage as to show that it is less lawful to desert a wife than parents. Therefore, they who, for slight causes, rashly allow of divorces, violate, in one single particular, all the laws of nature, and reduce them to nothing. If we should make it a point of conscience not to separate a father from his son, it is a still greater wickedness to dissolve the bond which God has preferred to all others.” 

John Calvin, Commentary upon the Book of Genesis.