Blessings on the Righteous

November 26, 2017 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Judgment, Justification, King Jesus, Meditations

Proverbs 10:6–7 (NKJV)
6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked. 7 The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.

The proverbs of Solomon guide and teach us in order that we might be full of wisdom; in order that we might govern our daily affairs in a way that glorifies and honors our Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of hosts. In Proverbs chapter 10, Solomon identifies practical ways that the law of God teaches us wisdom. So today he urges us to be righteous.

The contrast between the righteous and the wicked pervades Proverbs and centers us, as does the entirety of Scripture, on the Person of Jesus. The only truly righteous man is our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can say, “I have walked uprightly! My footsteps have not slipped!” He is the One whose memory is blessed; He is the One on whose head blessings rest. And when He appeared on earth, He was despised and rejected of men, because we are wicked. His friends abandoned Him. His enemies, driven by violence, pursued him to death. Their deeds resound to their shame even now. The name of the wicked has rotted.

But for the wicked, Jesus gave His life over to death and forgives the wickedness of the wicked through the shedding of His blood. Therefore, if we would inherit blessing, if we would be remembered for good, then we must hide ourselves in Him. He alone is the source of life and of blessing for all the world. And so gracious is our Christ, that He not only secures our forgiveness by His death, He also empowers us to be righteous by His resurrection from the dead. Consequently, in Him, we are called to be the righteous upon the earth who oppose the wicked.

If we do so, if we like our Christ pursue righteousness, holiness, and peace, then blessing will rest upon our heads. Our memory shall be blessed in the earth. When Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, we will stand with Him in bright array and receive the kingdom promised from the Father.

If, however, we are wicked; if we practice violence, then our name shall rot. If we practice violence, if we break apart our family by dishonoring our father and mother, if we bite and devour others with our tongues and so destroy their lives, if we break asunder marriage covenants through adultery and divorce, if we steal from others to satisfy our own lusts, if we slander and gossip and destroy the reputation of our neighbor, then our name shall rot – we will face the scorn of other men and the judgment of God.

So reminded that God contrasts the righteous and the wicked and that He summons us, in Christ, to live lives of righteousness, let us confess that we have not sought out Christ and that we have often practiced wickedness. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession 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.

Whatever Things are Just

October 23, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Deuteronomy, Bible - OT - Psalms, Judgment, 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, in our text, Paul catalogues some of them. He calls us to meditate on these things – to give them our attention, mull them over, and let them shape our attitude and actions.
So let us meditate on whatever things are just. The word in Greek is dikaios – righteous, upright, equitable. God is Himself the foundation of justice. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He” (Dt 32:4). “The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works” (Ps 145:17).
Because God is just, all that He does reflects His justice. He cannot be anything but just. So Paul calls us to meditate on God’s just dealings. Meditate on the worldwide flood, on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and on the gruesome death of Herod Agrippa who was eaten by worms. Meditate on the deliverance of Joseph, on the vindication of Joshua and Caleb, and on the exaltation of David. Meditate on the peg in Sisera’s head, on Samson’s blindness, and on Jezebel’s defenestration. Meditate on whatever things are just.
Of course the preeminent display of God’s justice is in Jesus Christ. Justice demands that our rebellion against God and His law be punished. Jesus took on human flesh that He might bear the guilt of our sin, that He might endure God’s just wrath. He did this because God so loved us that He would show His mercy toward us – but His mercy could not and cannot be unjust. Paul tells us in Romans 3:25-26 that Christ sacrificed Himself for us to demonstrate at the present time [God’s justice], that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. The Second Person of the Godhead took on human flesh and sacrificed His life in order that God might remain just and yet extend mercy and forgiveness to the one who has faith in Jesus. Such is God’s love of and commitment to justice even while showing mercy.
Because we worship the God of justice, we are also to delight in and practice justice ourselves. God’s mercy does not eradicate a concern for justice; it strengthens it. The just God delights in just weights and measures, rejoices in just judgments, and revels in just words – and we are to do likewise. “It is a joy for the just to do justice, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity” (Prov 21:15). It is a joy for the just to execute a murderer, to demand that a thief make restitution, and to uncover and punish a false witness. It is a joy for parents to spank a disobedient toddler, for elders to excommunicate an unrepentant church member, and for employers to fire an unfaithful worker. Meditate on whatever things are just.
So what of you? Do you delight in justice? Are you aware that there are times it is sinful to show pity? God warned Israel:
“If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Dt 19:16–21)

God delights in justice and so judges, priests, and people are to imitate Him. So reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are just, let us confess that we often gravitate toward that which is unjust instead. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Repent or Perish

June 19, 2016 in Bible - NT - Luke, Hell, Homosexuality, Judgment, Justification, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Politics
Luke 13:1–5 (NKJV)
1 There were present at that season some who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Last Sunday morning a deeply disturbed Islamic man attacked a gay and lesbian night club in Orlando, killing 49 people and wounding 53 more. Many have wondered how to respond to this tragedy. Does this indicate that those who were slain were worse sinners than others?
Jesus answers this question in our text today in the negative. No – they were not worse sinners. Their sin deserved the wrath and judgment of God and our sin deserves the wrath and judgment of God. Tragic events of this sort are intended by God as a shot across our bow, a warning of the judgment to come on all who spurn His lawful authority and pretend as though there is no higher law over them. The warning from our Lord Jesus Christ is simple, “Repent or perish.”
The reason that these are the only two options is that God is just. He has faithfully revealed His moral law in the human conscience and in His Word. When we violate His law – in minor or major ways – He cannot just wink at our sin and pretend it’s no big deal. Sin is an attack on His honor and an attack on the very foundations of the world. The one who sins becomes objectively guilty in the sight of God. And we have all sinned – we are all guilty.
And because God is just, there are only two ways to deal with our guilt – repent or perish. The first way is to repent: turn from your sin, acknowledge your guilt, and seek the forgiveness of God through the shed blood of His Son Jesus. Jesus is the only fully righteous Man who has ever lived. And He lived and then died and rose again from the dead in order that He might bear the guilt of our sin, that He might take away our guilt. For those who repent and trust in Christ, God’s justice is satisfied, judgment has fallen on Christ, and we can rejoice even in death knowing that God is on our side. Repent.
The second way to deal with guilt is to perish. Stand in the presence of God day by day declaring that the sacrifice of His Son is unnecessary. Tell Him hour by hour that you don’t need the blood of Christ to cover Your guilt. Announce minute by minute that your hands are clean; wash them with water like Pilate and say, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood.” And day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute fill up the full measure of your sin knowing that God will judge you and you will perish. Repent or perish – those are your options.
Do you suppose that those men and women in Orlando were worse sinners than you? I tell you, no, but unless you repent you shall all likewise perish – without hope, without God, and without Christ.

And so reminded of Jesus’ call to repent, to turn from our sin and acknowledge our need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, let us confess our sin to the Lord and cry out for His mercy. And as we confess, let us kneel.

40% of the Gospels to .1% of Jesus’ Life?

April 5, 2015 in Bible - NT - Romans, Cross of Christ, Easter, Justification, Meditations, Resurrection
Romans 4:24–25 (NKJV)
[Righteousness] shall be imputed to us who believe in [the Living God] who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was [crucified] because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
For nearly two millennia our fathers and mothers have been celebrating Holy Week – beginning last Sunday with Palm Sunday and culminating today in the feast of Easter. Part of the rationale for this celebration is the unbalanced record of Jesus’ life found in our four Gospels. What do I mean by that? What I mean is that each Gospel devotes about forty percent of its narrative to the last week of Jesus’ life. Let that sink in for a moment. Jesus lived for about 33 years – or approximately 1,716 weeks. One week of those 1700 weeks amounts to less than 1/10 of 1% of Jesus’ total life – yet the Gospels devote 40% of their narrative to that one week.
In so doing they announce – as does the rest of the NT – that Jesus’ ministry reaches its dramatic climax in this week. Jesus’ birth was not the climax; His childhood in Joseph and Mary’s home was not the climax; not even His interaction with John the Baptizer nor His teaching nor His miracles were the climax. Though all these events were important in their way, they were mere preludes to this one week in Jesus’ life.
So why is this week so important? Paul answers that question here in Romans. It is in this week that Jesus “was crucified because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” First, Jesus was crucified because of our offenses. In other words, all of us have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. We have failed to love our Creator with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Consequently, by nature we all stand guilty before God – estranged from God and in need of reconciliation with Him. We are, Paul says, “children of wrath.”
So how shall we be set right with Him? How shall we be reconciled to God? Only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Jesus gave His life that He might take away our guilt and set us right with God. He was crucified because of our offenses.
But how do we know that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted by God? How do we know that trusting in Jesus to reconcile us to God isn’t just some pie in the sky hope; just wishful thinking? We know because Jesus rose from the dead. In the resurrection, God has given proof to all men that the sacrifice of Christ has been accepted. Jesus was raised because of our justification. In other words, Jesus was raised to set us right with God.
So what of you? Where have you placed your hope for acceptance by God? Have you placed it in your good works? This hope shall fail. Have you placed it in your sorrow for your bad behavior? This hope shall fade away. Have you just hoped that God won’t care? That He is a benign and easy-going deity? That hope is vain. Our only hope lies in Jesus, the Lamb of God who was crucified for us and then rose again from the grave that we might be set right with God. So put your trust in Jeus. On the last day, we shall all rise from our graves and stand before our Creator – and the only way we shall endure that interview is if the crucified and risen Christ is our Defender.

Reminded that we can only be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, let us kneel and seek His forgiveness in Christ.

Why Manners Don’t Matter

March 15, 2015 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Human Condition, Justification, King Jesus, 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.
Once upon a time there were two pirates, Gordy and Plunk. Gordy was an uncouth, rude, and despicable character. He had stringy hair that he hadn’t washed in years; his teeth were yellow; his breath smelled like garlic and onions; and he had tatoos of skulls, ravens, and cutlasses on most of his body. He slobbered on himself when he ate and had food matted in his beard that he occasionally picked out and ate. He swore at friend and foe alike, was drunk most every evening, and regularly stole things from his fellow pirates. He leered at the women in the cove and couldn’t fathom why even the prostitutes shunned him and his money.
Then there was Plunk. Plunk was as cultured and debonair as Gordy was rude and uncouth. He prided himself on his cleanliness: his hair was well kempt, his teeth were brushed, and his breath smelled like mint. He ate with fork and knife, used a napkin to dab the occasional crumb from his face, was moderate in his consumption of alcohol, and never stole from his fellow pirates; he even had a reputation for sparing the lives of soldiers he took captive. He seldom lost his temper, was a smooth talker with the ladies, and rarely had to use his money to conquer them. It is said that he even bathed regularly and kept rose petals in his pockets to perfume his path.
But as different as Gordy and Plunk were they shared one thing in common: they had no interest in serving the king. They were happy to be pirates. They had even refused the king’s offers of amnesty for all who would give up their piracy. They preferred their life of rebellion – serving with Redbeard was the life for them, as different as their lives were.
It came to pass that the king, though he had been patient, grew tired of the pirates’ raids on his ships and settlements. He sent his most experienced captain to bring them to justice. Redbeard’s ship was captured and Gordy and Plunk found themselves facing the captain of the King’s ship. He examined the men carefully, being sure to pinch his nose as Gordy came closer, and gave orders to hang them both from the yardarm. The seargant at arms collected a length of rope, placed the nooses around their necks, and hung them without further ado. Beneath Gordy’s body were crumbs from the breakfast he’d eaten that day; beneath Plunk some of the rose petals that had been in his pockets.
Our story reminds us that whether our manners be uncouth or cultured, if we are found on the day of judgment refusing obedience to King Jesus, the Creator and Redeemer of all, then we shall be judged. Solomon exhorts his son in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Our chief problem as human beings is not so much in what we dobut in who we are, in what we desire, in whom we serve. All men, Paul tells us, are born pirates in the world: we are rebels against the lawful King – God Himself. Some of us are uncouth; some are cultured; but by nature we all share this in common: we have no interest in serving the King. This King invites us to turn from our life of piracy, to seek His forgiveness, and to begin serving under His banner. But many refuse His offer – they prefer their life of rebellion to submission to Him. So what of you? One day the king will grow tired of your rebellion and call you before Him; will you end up with Gordy and Plunk hanging from the yardarm? Or will you turn now and seek the King’s amnesty before it’s too late?

This morning as we enter into His presence, let us acknowledge our piracy, seeking forgiveness through His Son Jesus. And let us kneel as we seek His mercy.

Repent and Believe

February 15, 2015 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Confession, Evangelism, Faith, Holy Spirit, Justification, Meditations, Sanctification
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.
It seems that the Church today is in a crisis. We want to proclaim God’s holiness and the unchanging moral standards that proceed from him; simultaneously we know that we all stand in need of God’s forgiveness and that God transforms even the vilest offenders into glorious saints. So which do we preach? Do we preach God’s forgiveness for even the worst? Or do we preach God’s righteous standards for all?
The Bible’s answer is yes; we preach both. We preach that sinners both inside and outside the Church must repent and believe – must turn from sin and turn to Christ. The glorious good news of God’s salvation through Jesus does not stop with forgiveness; it includes righteousness and holiness by the Spirit. The same God who grants us free forgiveness through the shed blood of His Son Jesus also grants His Spirit to all those who believe on Jesus. And His Spirit empowers us for holiness and righteousness.
Repentance and faith aren’t like peanut butter and jelly – yummy together but enjoyable separately. Rather they are like sodium and chloride – remove one or the other and you no longer have table salt but poison.
So how do we preach the Gospel? Just like Paul we preach that men must repent and believe – turn from your idols, turn from your sexual sin, turn from your thievery, turn from your drunkenness and believe that Jesus is the One through whom you can receive God’s forgiveness. The man, woman, or child who wants to hold on to his sin does not truly want Christ. When a French Officer strode up to the British Admiral Nelson to congratulate him on his victory, Nelson stopped him. “First, give me your sword.” And Jesus says to you, “Take up your cross and follow Me!” “Die to your selfishness, your sin, your unrighteousness, and follow me!”

So Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians and to us remains: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Pursue Christ; and pursuing Christ means shunning sin, turning from it day after day; confessing when we fall and seeking grace to live new lives by the power of the Spirit. Each day we must repent and believe anew – today if you hear his voice harden not your hearts. So this morning let us lay aside the sin that so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel before our Lord in token of submission.

Law and Gospel

February 4, 2015 in Holy Spirit, Justification, Law and Gospel, Mosaic Law, Quotations, Sanctification

“It makes sense to say that we should not confuse God’s demands with his promises. Nevertheless, the kind of sharp distinction that Luther proposed [between Law and Gospel] is not biblical. for one thing, biblical proclamations of gospel include commands, particularly commands to repent and believe (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38). And God gave his law to the children of Israel in a context of gospel: he had delivered them out of Egypt; therefore, they should keep his law (Ex. 20:2-17). The law is a gift of God’s grace (Ps 119:29)….

We are not saved by keeping the law, but we are always obligated to keep the law, and once we are saved and raised from death to life, we desire to keep the law out of love for God and for Jesus. The law not only is a terrifying set of commands to drive us to Christ, but also is the gentle voice of the Lord, showing his people that the best blessings of this life come from following his will.”

John Frame, Systematic Theology, pp. 96-97.