The New Has Come!

December 31, 2017 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Church Calendar, Faith, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification

Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This morning we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year. The old has passed away, behold the new has come! As we prepare to enter into this new year, I want to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians. New years provide opportunities for renewed resolutions, hopes, and dreams. Paul’s words in Ephesians 3 contain profound wisdom for us as we consider these things.

So let us note that in our text Paul is giving glory to God in the process of which he gives instruction to us. So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words. First, Paul gives glory to God: to [God] be glory. So who is this God to whom Paul is giving glory? He is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever dreams or hopes you have for this upcoming year, Paul tells us, they are not too difficult for God to accomplish. God is able to do far more than we can articulate with our mouths or that we can even imagine with our heads. God’s power is infinite. He is Almighty God. Dream big.

Second, Paul tells us that this God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is the very God whose power works in us. Did you catch that? If you are in Christ, then the omnipotent God, who rules and reigns among the affairs of men, is at work with His power in your life. As we will see in Psalm 37 today, God’s favor is toward His own and the meek shall inherit the earth.

You see, Paul wants the Ephesians to grow in wisdom and maturity and the way we grow is through a deep and personal knowledge of all that God has done and is doing and promises yet to do for us in Christ. So note that Paul gives glory to God in the Church by Christ Jesus. Note that the glory to God is by Christ Jesus – Jesus is the center of our faith. It is through His death and resurrection that we have forgiveness and newness of life; through His death and resurrection that the power of God is at work in us. Glory to God by Christ Jesus.

But note that this glory that is by Christ Jesus is in the Church. In other words, Paul wants glory to abound to God’s Name in and through you and me. God’s power is on display in His people – He has forgiven us and empowers us that we might display the wonder of His work in a dark and hopeless world, that we might display the impotency of Satan and his minions when confronted with the power of our Christ. In ourselves we are weak and powerless; but in our God we can run against a troop. God wants to display the wonder and the power of His grace in your life. Are you looking for a proof that God exists? Look for it as you grow in faith and godly character.

So what this means is that those excuses you’ve been making for not addressing that sin pattern in your life are groundless; those despairing voices that have been telling you that there’s no hope for change are lying; those urges to complacency that have said it’s okay that you’re just coasting along spiritually, that you’re not really growing or being intentional about serving Christ, those urges are from the devil. God gives His omnipotent strength to His people because He loves us and longs for us to “comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18b-19).

So as we enter into the presence of our Lord on the cusp of a New Year, let us confess that we have often failed to believe Him, failed to trust Him, and let us seek His forgiveness through Jesus Christ that He might empower us as His humble people to bring glory and honor to His Name. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

What does it mean to abide in Jesus’ love?

October 22, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Ten Commandments

John 15:9–10 (NKJV)
9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

It has been a persistent temptation throughout history to separate the love of God from the law of God. In the passage before us today, however, Jesus teaches us to unite them. First, Jesus instructs us to love God. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” The Father has loved the Son for all eternity, delighting in Him and in the honor that He receives. Likewise, the Son delights in His people, loving and cherishing them. So, Jesus commands, “abide in My love” – remain in the love with which I have loved you.

It is at this point that much ancient and modern mysticism wanders astray. One of my professors used to define mysticism as that religious philosphy which begins in “myst”, centers in “I”, and ends in “schism.” Mysticism makes abiding in Jesus consist in certain feelings of dependency, or in a certain emotional state, or even in some sort of mystical enlightenment. Mysticism often sounds very spiritual. It urges us to listen to the promptings of the Spirit who, we are told, will guide and direct us through the course of our lives as to whom to marry, where to go to school, what car to purchase, or which job to take. It is important to experience God, to discern what His intentions are in each and every situation and then to follow them. This is to abide in Him.

But note that Jesus does not define abiding in Him in this way. To abide in Him is not to have an ongoing mystical experience but to devote yourself to His commandments. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. The one who abides in Jesus is the one who loves His commandments and keeps them; it is the one who meditates on the law of God and finds his delight in it; it is the one who hides God’s word in his heart that he might not sin against God. Abiding in Jesus is not mysticism but obedience.

So note that obeying Him means giving attention to His commandments, to His revealed will, to His written Word. We are not called to tune our spiritual antennae to the secret voice of Jesus but to tune our ears to the written word of God. So, for example, Jesus does not call upon us to have a mystical enlightenment which tells us which apple to buy at the store. “Oh, I think it’s that one there on the bottom of the bin.” No! He calls upon us to use our God given discernment and common sense to choose a decent apple and then to abide in Him by purchasing the apple rather than stealing it from the store. The abiding happens not in choosing the apple but in purchasing it. Why? Because God’s law has not commanded me which apple to buy; but His law has commanded me, “You shall not steal.” I’m free to choose any apple I want – green or red, ripe or rotten, small or large, fuji or macintosh – so long as I pay for it.

The same principle applies in many other realms. Whom shall I marry? Whomever you want, only in the Lord. Which home shall I purchase? Whichever you want, provided you can afford it. Which job shall I take? Whichever you prefer, provided that it is a lawful calling. Behold the liberty of abiding in Christ’s love! Behold the liberty of living by the commandments of God!

Reminded this morning that abiding in the love of Christ means keeping the commandments of God, let us confess that we have often disobeyed His commandments, that our sin has often separated us from our God. And reminded of our sin, let us kneel and confess it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

A Pentecost Liturgy

June 4, 2017 in Holy Spirit, Law and Gospel, Liturgy, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Pentecost, Ten Commandments
One of the ancient associations of Pentecost is with the giving of God’s Law on Mt. Sinai. While the feast of Passover was associated with the deliverance from Egypt, Pentecost 50 days later came to be associated with the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. As Christians, it is important, as we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, that we not drive a wedge between God’s Law and His Spirit. For the Spirit who has been poured out upon us is the Spirit of holiness who enables us, by His grace, to live lives that fulfill God’s law. The Spirit teaches us to cry out with David, “O how I love your law! It is my meditation day and night.” So this morning we mark our celebration of Pentecost with a responsive reading of God’s law – the men will be reading each of the Ten Commandments and the women will respond with passages from the New Testament that parallel these commandments.
Responsive Reading of the Law of God (Exodus 20:1-17)
Pastor: Then God spoke all these words, saying,
Men: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Women: For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
M: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
W: Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
M: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
W: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.’” (Matthew 6:9)
M: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
W: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.(Hebrews 10:24-25)

M: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
W: Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)
M: “You shall not murder.”
W: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8, 9)
M: “You shall not commit adultery.”
W: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. (Hebrews 13:4)
M: “You shall not steal.”
W: Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
M: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
W: Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25)
M: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
W: Do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Ephesians 5:3)
All: Amen!

The Spirit not only teaches us the law of God, He also convicts us of the ways we have fallen short of its demands. And so reminded of God’s law, let us respond by confessing our sin to the Lord – and let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

If there is any virtue…

November 21, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Today we bring our series of exhortations on Philippians 4:8 to a close. Paul has catalogued numerous “excellent things” for us that we might meditate upon them and so be transformed by the Holy Spirit’s working in us. We have considered Paul’s call to meditate on whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report or praiseworthy. Today we close by meditating on that quality which unites all these others together, virtue.
In his 1828 dictionary Webster defines virtue in this way:
Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion.
Virtue, therefore, is the pursuit of moral excellence and the avoidance of vice. It is the love and practice of whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Furthermore, in the Scriptures, virtue is the pursuit of moral excellence out of a sincere love for God and for neighbor. God’s mandate is not merely that we do “virtuous things” but that we become“virtuous people.” He crafted us to be men and women who long to do what is right in any given situation – to love truth, honor, integrity, purity, justice, chastity, temperance, mercy, etc. and to practice the same willingly and joyfully no matter the cost.
The English word “virtue” derives from the Latin virtus, virtutis which means “manliness or courage.” You may think it strange that a word which originally referrred to courage came to be used to describe moral excellence. However, the pathway from its use to refer to strength or courage and only later to moral excellence is helpfully explained by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. He writes,
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
So what of you? Does your virtue have conditions? Or are you truly virtuous, willing to stand out, willing to ruffle feathers, willing to suffer ridicule, willing to be ostracized, willing to be scorned out of love for God and love for others? We must become courageous men and women precisely because God wants us to be virtuous men and women. “I, even I, am He who comforts you,” [says the Lord,] “Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” (Is 51:12) Solomon warns us, “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”(Prov 29:25)

Reminded of our calling to be virtuous, to choose to do and say the right thing regardless the consequences out of love for God and our neighbor, let us confess that our virtue often has conditions and that we are often ensnared by the fear of man. And, as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Whatever Things are Pure

October 30, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Job, Bible - OT - Psalms, Holy Spirit, Justification, Meditations
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and Paul catalogues some of them in our text. So let us meditate on whatever things are pure. To be pure is to be untainted, free from stain, or blameless. Such definitions invite us to ask, “Tainted by what? Stained by what?” The answers to these questions vary depending on the context – but typically to be pure is to be to be free from sin or compromise or dishonor or blame or corruption.

The word behind “pure” is the Greek word hagnos and is closely related to the Greek hagioswhich means “holy.” As with the other virtues we have considered, the foundation for purity is God Himself. God is pure; He is holy; He is free from stain, free from corruption, free from dishonor.

  • “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness…?” (Exodus 15:11)
  • No one is holy like the LORD….” (1 Samuel 2:2)
  • “Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His footstool— He is holy.”(Psalm 99:5)

Because God is pure, the world as He originally created it was pure. “God made man upright but he has sought out many schemes.” (Eccl. 7:29) God made us upright; He made us pure. We were fashioned to worship Him alone not idols; to speak pure words not lies; to be generous not greedy; to be sexually pure not lustful.

In short, God created us to be pure of heart, to practice purity ourselves and to delight in it when we see it in others. “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.”(Psalm 73:1) “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus says, “For they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8). The pure man or woman is one whose motives, thoughts, and actions are free from the pollution of sin. God made us upright; He made us pure.

But we have sought out many schemes. We have tainted the purity with which we were created. We taint the worship of God; taint the service of God. Our motives are often impure; our thoughts impure; our words impure; our actions impure. “If God puts no trust in His [angels], And the heavens are not pure in His sight, How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, Who drinks iniquity like water!” (Job 15:15–16)

When we meditate on the things that are pure, therefore, we find ourselves like the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah saw the glory of God filling the Temple and heard the cherubim crying out to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is filled with Your glory!” Confronted with the purity and holiness of God, Isaiah was immediately made aware of his own impurity. “Woe is me, for I am undone. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips….” I am an impure man – therefore, I am doomed!

Meditating on purity reminds us that there is only One Man who has been completely pure. God did not God abandon us in our impurity. In His mercy and grace, He sent our Lord Jesus Christ as the Second Adam, who came to rescue us, His people, and to reconcile us to Himself. He came so that we who are impure might be declared pure through faith in Him and be restored to fellowship with God. And all those whom He declares to be pure through faith, He then teaches to be pure by the power of His Spirit. The Apostle John tells us that “everyone who has this hope in [Jesus] purifies himself just as He is pure” (1 Jn 3:3). He is restoring the purity of humanity in us and through us. We are to point our unbelieving neighbors to the beauty of purity.

And so reminded of the purity of our Creator and Redeemer and the call that He has placed on us to be pure in heart, let us come into the presence of the Pure One, requesting that He have mercy on our impurity because of the purity of Jesus. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Necessity of Holiness

September 19, 2016 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification
Hebrews 12:14 (NKJV)
14
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.
Back when I was in college a nefarious idea was spreading itself through Christian circles and continues to exist even to this day. The idea was that one could receive Jesus as their personal savior while refusing to submit to His Lordship; that one could be delivered from eternal destruction and yet have no evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in his life.
The text today belies such a notion and informs us in no uncertain terms that the pursuit of holiness is not optional. We are to pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.
Notice first that we are to pursueit. To pursue means to strive to do something with an intense effort to a goal, to press forward, to follow in haste. In other contexts this same word is used to describe persecution – to hound someone so that they cannot escape your clutches. And so, Paul tells us, this is to be our approach to holiness. We are to hunt it down, seek it out, latch onto it, press forward as to a goal.
And what is the goal? Holinessor, as it is called in other places, sanctification. To be holymeans to be separated to the Lord’s service, distinct from the world. And so the temple in the OT was called holy – a sanctuary, a place set apart for the worship of God. Holiness, therefore, is dedication to the Lord, manifesting itself particularly in moral purity. The goal, in other words, is to be living sacrifices, set apart for the worship and service of the Lord.
And so, Hebrews tells us, we are to pursue this holiness. We are to hunt it down. Bring out the blood hounds and find it. And he appends a warning to his admonition to prod us in the posterior lest we become complacent – without this holiness, we won’t see the Lord.
So, how are you doing? Are you hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Are you seeking first the kingdom of God? Are you selling everything to buy the pearl of great price? Are you scouring the house to find the lost coin?
None of us, of course, are adequate for such things. And this is why we stand in such need of the Spirit of grace who creates within us this very holiness, who cultivates within us the desire to pursue.

And so, as we come into the presence of our Lord this day, let us confess that we have not pursued sanctification as we ought and let us kneel and call upon His mercy to receive us and forgive us for the sake of Christ. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

What is Worldliness?

February 28, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Confession, Creation, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification
Ephesians 2:1–3 (NKJV)
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
For these first three Sundays in Lent, we are addressing our three chief enemies as Christians: the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we are outside of Christ, these forces dominate our lives and compel us to sin. Consequently, God must act to deliver us from their hold. And it is this that He has done in Christ. Listen again to Paul’s words: And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh… The world, the flesh, and the devil are a deadly trio. So what is meant by “the world”?
Unfortunately many Christians throughout history have misconstrued this warning against “the world” as a repudiation of creation itself. Worldliness, in this view, is any attachment to the created order or physical things: marriage, food, beauty, drink, sexuality, technology, etc. To be “heavenly-minded”, therefore, to escape worldliness, is to reject created things. But this is to misconstrue Paul’s understanding of worldliness. After all, Paul reminds Timothy, that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim 4:4-5). The created order is not the problem.
So what is worldliness, then? “Worldliness is,” David Wells has written, “anything that makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal.” It is anything that makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal. The “world”, therefore, is not the created order or mere physicality; the “world” is the collection of assumptions, practices, and desires embraced by our broader community or culture that run contrary to the Word of God. It is the assortment of unbiblical values that strive to have preeminence over God’s values. It consists of ideas, institutions, and vocations that marginalize God and His law.
It is from this “world” that we have been delivered by God’s grace; and it is against this “world” that we are to do battle through the preaching of the Gospel. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds [institutions of the world], casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God [ideas of the world], bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” We are to do battle against “the world.”
But in order to do battle against the “world” out there, we must first do battle against the world “in here.” We must root out unbiblical manners of thinking and acting that characterize us individually and that characterize us as a congregation. We must strive to resemble not the kingdoms of this world but the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And one of the first characteristics of the kingdom of God is humility – a willingness to confess our worldliness. There are many who would come here today and be asked to kneel and confess their sin and worldliness and recoil. “That is strange,” they would say. But in God’s kingdom, kneeling to confess sin is not strange, it is normal. “Worldliness is anything that makes righteousness look strange [like kneeling to confess sin] and sin look normal.” So reminded of our calling to fight against the world, let us kneel and confess that we often fail to do so.

The Ordinary Means of Grace

November 15, 2015 in Bible - NT - Luke, Church Calendar, Holy Spirit, King Jesus, Meditations, Sanctification
Luke 13:18–19 (NKJV)
18 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
As I have emphasized the last couple years at this time, we are often tempted to muddle our Christianity with our Americanness. This temptation to mistake our cultural mileau for Christian piety is not unique to us, but the particular ways in which our culture influences us are unique. One way our Americanness affects our conception of Christianity is our love affair with that which is spontaneous or new or different. We tend to grow tired of, what we call, the “same old thing” and have a hankering for some new fad to bring life back into our Christian walk.
But what Jesus articulates for us in his parables of the kingdom is that the way the Holy Spirit works both in our individual lives and in the life of His Church is better pictured by the growth of a tree than the lighting of a sparkler. Sparklers, of course, are fun and exciting – they burn bright and shed their fire on all around them. But sparklers soon burn out while trees, planted and taking root, slowly grow over time; growing almost imperceptibly, soaking up the nutrients in the soil and increasingly displaying the glory of their Creator.
This steady, slow, natural growth is the way Christ typically works in the lives of His disciples. Normal Christian growth involves long periods of steady plodding – plodding that brings prosperity but plodding nonetheless. Steady plodding. Few sprints; mainly marathons. A long obedience in the same direction.
You may not know, but the last five months in the Church Year are called “ordinary time.” It is a time of year when there are no special feasts and celebrations; just the regular time of the Spirit’s work in the Church. After the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, the Spirit began working in the Church, gradually transforming the people of God into the image of Christ. Hence the color of this period is green, a color of growth. Tree-like growth.
So one thing that you probably noticed, if you’ve been at Trinity Church a while, is that for these last five months we have used the same greeting, the same words of confession, and the same version of the Creed. For five months. Why have we done this? There’s no biblical requirement that we do so. We could have changed them weekly, monthly, or periodically – and we have in the past. God has left such decisions to the wisdom of church officers. So why have we kept them the same the last couple years? To highlight that the course of our Christian lives is only occasionally interrupted by unusual acts and works of God. More typically God works in our lives through steady plodding, slow growth, gradual transformation – through what theologians have called the ordinary means of grace: the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
In a couple weeks we’ll be introducing some changes: entering a new church year when Advent arrives and we’ll have a different Call to Worship, a different Confession, a different Creed. Before we change, I wanted to draw to your attention the fact that for these last five months we haven’t changed. Perhaps you noticed; perhaps you’ve wondered if this is ever going to change. And perhaps you’ve thought the same thing about periods in your own life and spiritual development. And the message of Jesus is that He is at work growing His kingdom and even growing you – so trust Him and keep plodding.

Reminded that Jesus’ work in our lives is often gradual, like the growth of a tree, we are alerted that often our hankering for something spontaneous or new or different is not an impulse of our Christian faith but our Americanness. And this reminds us that we need to confess our fickleness to the Lord and ask Him to enable us to practice a long obedience in the same direction. So let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

The Sin of Drunkenness

June 21, 2015 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Bible - OT - Ecclesiastes, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Holy Spirit, Meditations
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Today we continue to study Paul’s catalogue of sins from which God in His grace and mercy has determined to free us through Christ. These sins damage and distort the image of God in us, destroy our humanity and subvert community. Hence, God’s intention in Christ is to deliver us from such things. Today we consider drunkenness.
Throughout Scripture wine in itself is considered a gift from God, one of the blessings that He has given to the sons of men. The psalmist reminds us that God has given wine to make glad the heart of man. God created it to give joy and delight; this is its design.
As sinners, however, we often misuse the good gifts that God has given; rather than use wine for joy and refreshment, we misuse it for drunkenness, laziness, and destruction. So the Scriptures routinely command us to use and not abuse this gift of God. Solomon writes in Proverbs 23:29-32:
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.
In his list of qualifications for elders and deacons, Paul writes that no officer may “be given to much wine.” Likewise, he tells Titus to command the older women to “be reverent in behavior,…not given to much wine.” Drunkenness is the opposite of reverence and honor.
Paul commands us in Ephesians 5:18-20, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation [a lack of self-control]; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart ot the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s words reveal that drunkenness dulls not only our physical senses but also our spiritual senses. And so the opposite of drunkenness is being filled with the Spirit – and how does being filled with the Spirit manifest itself? In singing. Drunks sing in folly; Christians sing in joy, delight, and self-control.
So what of you? Are you given to much wine? Are you misusing the good gifts of God? Or are you using these good gifts of God so that you might become more strong physically and spiritually?
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, And your princes feast in the morning! Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, And your princes feast at the proper time— For strength and not for drunkenness!

Reminded that drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God, let us kneel and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for abusing the gifts of God.