Why We Need the Psalms

October 14, 2018 in Bible - NT - James, Dispensationalism, Liturgy, Meditations, Old Testament, Singing Psalms, Thankfulness, Worship

James 5:13 (NKJV)
13
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

What are we to do when facing the ups and downs of life? When we are suffering and weighed down, heavy of spirit – what are we to do? On the other hand, when cheerful, full of joy and wonder at God’s work in our own lives or in the world – what are we to do? Today James tells us. “Is anyone among you suffering – feeling poorly, enduring trouble? Let him (an imperative, a command – this isn’t simply good advice) Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him (again, an imperative, a command), Let him sing psalms.”

James tells us that when we are suffering we are to pray; we are to take our troubles straight to the Lord. Cry out to God; He wants to hear; He wants to be the one to whom we direct our cries. Likewise, when we are cheerful, we are to sing psalms. Why? Because singing enables us to funnel the joy that we are experiencing in the right direction – in praise and thankfulness to our Creator and Redeemer.

But as we think about the psalms, remember that many of them express grief and longing for God, not cheer – so how do they fit with James’ theme of cheerfulness? It is here that we must return to James’ command to pray when sorrowful. For what are many of the psalms but model prayers of sorrow, embodying what desperate cries to God look like? Singing them enables us to funnel our sorrow in the right direction – in prayer and petition to our Creator and Redeemer.

In other words, James’ exhortation in this verse directs us to the psalter in times of both sorrow and cheerfulness. Notice then the priority that James places upon the psalter. What are we to do when suffering? We are to pray. And where do we find examples, patterns of prayers offered up in the midst of suffering? In the psalter. What are we to do when joyful? We are to sing psalms. And where do we find these psalms of praise? In the psalter.

So here’s the question for you – do you know your psalter well enough to obey James’ exhortations? How well do you know your psalms? Do the psalms, when you are burdened and weighed down, come to your mind and fill your soul with cries to God? Do the psalms, when you are cheerful and lifted up, come to your mind and fill your home with praise and thanksgiving?

I dare say that if you are like me there is some lack in this regard. Not many of us grew up singing the psalms; hence, the psalms are often strange and foreign to us. Some of the tunes that we have in our English psalters are hard to learn. Some of the words of the psalms are difficult to understand or even believe. But the problem is not with the psalter but with us. We need to grow in our ability to sing and to understand the psalms.

Consequently, one of the things we are committed to do as a congregation is to become more skilled in our ability to sing the psalms and more knowledgeable of their content. To facilitate that, we prioritize the psalms in our worship and hold regular psalm sings in which we can learn to sing more skillfully. We do these things so that the entire congregation, not just a few individuals, can fulfill James’ exhortations – is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

Reminded that in our suffering and in our joy God has given us the psalms to channel our prayers and praises, let us confess that the American church has largely ignored the psalms of late, believing that we no longer need them; and let us confess that even in our attempt to recover them, we too have neglected to hold them close to our hearts. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

Rejoicing in Male and Female

October 7, 2018 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Homosexuality, Image of God, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality, Thankfulness

Genesis 2:18-24 (NKJV)
18
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The recent hearings of Judge Kavanaugh have reminded us just how fragile the relationship between male and female is. Men often abuse women and women often make false accusations again men. But our text today reminds us that this tension was not God’s original design. God’s design was that the relationship between men and women image Him, be a representation of His own glory and splendor. God created man, male and female, to live in harmony and God has sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from our sinful corruption of this harmony and restore us to God’s creation design.

We see in our text that God has no interest in a world populated only by men or, for that matter, only by women. He hates chauvinism and He hates feminism. Throughout the creation narrative, God repeatedly pronounces that each part of His creation is“good.” But when God assesses the solitary male, He declares, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper suitable to him.” God declares that the solitary male was “not good” – a world filled with males only or females only is barren.

God created men and women to live together in harmony. Men are not supposed to be women nor are women supposed to be men. A soft man is shameful and a hard woman is cruel. Men and women are not interchangeable – no matter how hard our culture may try to make them so. God has created us different, He has hard wired us differently – and these differences are a gift from Him, a gift to teach us more about Him.

And so, women, have you given thanks that God created the men in this world to be men; have you given thanks that God created your fathers to be men, your husbands to be men, your brothers to be men, your sons to be men? Have you not simply taken mental note of the fact but actually thanked God for it; thanked God that He had the wisdom to put male and female into the world that we might learn to love and respect and honor Him more fully?

Men, have you given thanks that God created the women in this world to be women; have you given thanks that God created your mothers to be women, your wives to be women, your sisters to be women, your daughters to be women? Have you not simply taken mental note of the fact but actually thanked God for it; thanked God that He had the wisdom to put male and female into the world that we might learn to love and respect and honor Him more fully?

These are the challenges that God’s creation of Adam and Eve place before us. Reminded that we often grumble about our differences as male and female, that we often express bitterness and resentment toward the opposite sex, that we often fail to thank God for these differences, let us confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Discipline is Purposely Painful

September 30, 2018 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Discipline, Meditations, Parents

Hebrews 12:11 (NKJV)

11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline should be a lively topic in our homes. We ought frequently to be reminding one another of the reasons for chastening. And as we do so, the text before us today should be on our lips.

Notice that Hebrews tells us two things about discipline. First, discipline is purposely painful. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful… No discipline seems enjoyable at the time it is administered; its intention is to be painful. And so, you children out there, when your parents give you a spanking or when your parents give you a consequence for your disobedience – don’t expect the discipline to be enjoyable. Paul tells us that it is supposed to be painful because it is the pain that trains us and fashions us; the pain that teaches us to avoid disobedience in the future.

Most of us parents are adept at delivering this lesson to our children. But how often do we deliver this message to ourselves? Brothers and sisters, the discipline of the Lord does not seem pleasant at the time. When the Lord puts us through some trial or when the Lord disciplines us for sinning against Him, why is it that we expect things to be jolly? He is sharpening us; disciplining us; chastening us. And no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful. We expect our children to learn that; so why do we have such a hard time applying it to ourselves? Discipline is purposely painful.

The second thing Paul teaches us is that while discipline is painful temporarily, it is not intended to end in pain. Nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. The ultimate goal of godly discipline is to cultivate the peaceable fruit of righteousness in our lives. Our Lord is training us, sanctifying us, making us more holy. And that which He uses to accomplish this growth is discipline. And it is this goal that should guide us as parents as well. We ought not to discipline our children to vent our anger or to express our frustration or to cover our embarrassment. Discipline is for their good, to train them in righteousness. Its goal is growth.

But note that this growth is not an automatic biproduct of discipline. If we are to see the fruit of righteousness in our lives then we must, in the words of our text, be trained by the discipline. In other words, we must take the discipline to heart and learn from it. We must not harden ourselves to the discpline; must not complain that we have been treated wrongly; must not kick against the goads. Rather we must take the discipline to heart and learn the lesson.

And so, children, how are you responding to the godly discipline of your parents? Are you taking that discipline to heart? Are you acknowledging God’s authority in your life by receiving your parents’ discipline? Does discipline produce in you the peaceful fruit of righteousness? Do you respond to their discipline with humility? Or are you becoming angry, resentful, bitter, or depressed? And what of you adults? Are you responding to the Lord’s chastisement with humility? Or are you becoming angry, resentful, bitter, or depressed? Does a dark cloud surround you when you’ve been disciplined or does the day shine brighter because of it?

As we come into our Father’s presence this morning let us confess that we often respond to His discipline poorly, grumbling and complaining, growing angry or resentful. And as you are able let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Curse of Laziness

September 23, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Creation, Meditations, Work

Proverbs 10:26 (NKJV)

26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy man to those who send him.

When God created the world, He spent six days laboring and one day in rest. This rhythm of work and rest He then gave as a pattern to men. This pattern is made explicit in the Fourth Commandment. While we typically focus upon the imperative of rest in the Fourth Commandment, we should note that it also contains the duty of work. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt do no work… We are to imitate our God who worked hard by working hard ourselves. Work, in other words, is not among the curses of the fall. Work is one of the tasks that God gave to us in the garden.

In our sin, however, we often invert the rhythm that God has given to us. We either refuse to rest as we ought on the Lord’s Day or we refuse to work as we ought the remainder of the week. It is this latter sin, the sin of laziness, the refusal to work as we ought, that Solomon confronts in our Scripture today. As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy man to those who send him.

Solomon reminds us that we were not created to be lazy. You were made to work, to labor, to His glory. Ora et labora, the Latin phrase says. Pray and work. God has commissioned you to bring order where there is disorder, to bring beauty where there is ugliness, to bring joy where there is sorrow, to bring truth where there is error, to bring light where there is darkness. God has placed you here as His emissary, to work for His glory, and to advance His kingdom.

When we work thus diligently, we are a blessing to others. The lazy man, however, is a curse to his fellow man. He is, Solomon writes, like vinegar to the teeth, removing the enamel so that one’s teeth rot; he is like smoke to the eyes, causing pain and irritation from whose irritation the rational man flees.

So what of you? Are you lazy? God has placed you here to work not to fritter away your time binge watching Netflix or scrolling endlessly through social media. Men, are you devoting yourself to your work, diligently blessing your employer or your customers? Or are you making excuses for why the tasks entrusted to you just never seem to get done, why the service you perform is always slipshod? Parents, are you diligently training your children, bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Or are you making excuses for why they are ill prepared and ungovernable? Children, are you working faithfully at your studies, striving to expand your knowledge and understanding? Or are you failing to complete your work and doing it poorly?

Reminded that we have been called to bless others and to expand God’s kingdom by working diligently to the glory of His Name, let us confess that we are often lazy instead. And as we confess our sins, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Crisis of Unbelief in the Church

September 16, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Judgment, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Sovereignty of God

Proverbs 10:23–25: To do evil is like sport to a fool, But a man of understanding has wisdom. 24 The fear of the wicked will come upon him, And the desire of the righteous will be granted. 25 When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.

It is important to understand that increasingly we live amongst a people who act as though there is no God. We live amongst fools; for it is the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.” He runs up debt with no intention to repay; he makes promises and does not fulfill them; he commits sexual immorality, performs lewd acts, divorces his spouse, violates his oaths. He does not believe there is anyone who will call him to account, “I am my own master.”

Consequently, in Solomon’s words, doing evil is like sport to a fool. Life is just a game where decisions are not a matter of life and death; not a matter of heaven and hell; everything will turn out fine. “It’s all good,” so the saying goes.

A man of understanding, however, has wisdom. He understands that his choices have consequences – not only in the next life but also in this life. God is the Lord, rewarding the just and judging the wicked. The wise man lives his life aware of this fact; lives his life in the fear of the Lord.

Though the fool may claim that there is no God who rules in the affairs of men, the wise man knows better. God does rule; God does see; and He shall reward the righteous and judge the wicked – both in this life and in the next. The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by – when God’s judgment falls – the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation. As Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 11:31,“If the righteous will be recompensed on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner.” God is just and His justice will manifest itself in the course of human history.

Today Christians are facing a crisis of unbelief: it’s not that we don’t believe in God, it is that we do not believe that God’s justice will triumph in human history; we do not believe God executes justice in space and time. As a result of pessimistic end-times teachings about the nature of history, we have become convinced that wickedness is going to triumph in history. “The world is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

It is understandable that unbelievers think this way. The unbelieving worldview is cynical by nature. This week Peter Hitches wrote a review of Game of Thrones, highlighting the way in which it basks in this unbelieving cynicism. He writes:

In [the author’s] imaginary country, virtue and trust are always punished… almost everyone associated with honesty, selfless courage, and justice is doomed…. Bravery and charity toward others are rewarded with death or betrayal. The simple poor are raped, robbed, enslaved, and burned out of their homes. Chivalry… is… a fraud. All kinds of cruelty and greed, typified by the House of Lannister, flourish like the green bay tree. Treachery and the most debauched cynicism are the only salvation, the only route to safety or advantage.

While this debauched cynicism is not surprising in unbelievers, believers should know better. The Scriptures assure us that God’s justice will triumph in history. Though the wicked may temporarily triumph, God shall cause their fears to come upon them.

So what of you? Have you become cynical, believing that God’s justice will sleep forever? Have you become discouraged, longing for God to reveal His justice on your schedule? Do not give way to this unbelief but be a man, a woman of wisdom. Trust in the Lord. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Reminded that the wise man lives His life in the fear of God, knowing that God’s justice will triumph, let us confess that we have often been cynical, often been discouraged. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able.

The Blessing of Riches

September 10, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Wealth

Proverbs 10:22 (NKJV)

22 The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.

Marcion was an early church heretic who pitted the god of the Old Testament against the god of the New. He claimed that the god of the OT, whom he called the Creator, was evil and dictatorial while the god of the NT, whom he called the Father, was good and merciful. While Marcion’s teaching was condemned as heresy, the temptation to pit the OT against the NT has persisted throughout church history. One of the areas this has been repeatedly done is in the area of wealth.

Many are tempted to say that while the OT presents a positive view of wealth , the NT gives us a negative view of wealth and urges us to forsake our wealth for the kingdom of God. Didn’t Jesus tell the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and to come follow Him? Didn’t Paul say that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil? The answer to those two latter questions is, of course, yes. Jesus did tell the rich young ruler to sell his belongings and Paul did declare that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. But they did so because the OT declared the same things.

Solomon reminds us today that wealth in itself is not a problem. The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He [i.e., the Lord] adds no sorrow to it. Abraham was a wealthy man and a model of faithfulness. David was a wealthy man and a man after God’s own heart. Barzillai the Gileadite was a very wealthy man and provided for David when he was fleeing from Absalom. Joseph of Arimethea was a wealthy man and prepared a tomb for our Lord’s body. Wealth in itself is not a problem; it is a gift from God.

But like all blessings, wealth is susceptible to misuse. Wealth is a tool; a tool that is to be used in the service of our Creator and Redeemer. As a tool, as a gift, it is something for which we are to give thanks to God and use to the glory of His Name. We are to give thanks for it and use it to the glory of His Name. We are to beware lest it ever come between us and Him – as it had with the rich young ruler. We are not to set our heart on our riches. We are to hold our wealth with an open hand – permitting God to give and to take as He sees fit. To have God and wealth is an incredible blessing; to have God and no wealth can be borne with contentment. But to have wealth and no God is hopeless misery.

So consider a couple ways that we can be tempted to sin in regard to wealth. First, we can permit others to make us feel guilty for our wealth. Social justice warriors will happily do so. Many in our political arena will flog you and make you feel guilty and try to use that false guilt to steal your freedom. “You shouldn’t have so much; think of all those poor people with so little; vote for higher taxes, more regulation.” But if wealth is such a bad thing, then why in the world would we want to distribute it to others? They might catch the infection! The reason that we want to share wealth freely through charity not through state enforced redistribution is because we know it is a blessing. It is a gift from God – so the righteous man shares it freely but never feels guilty for having it. So repent of your false guilt.

Second, have you permitted your wealth to intrude between you and your God? The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Augustine spoke about disordered affections. Our affections are disordered when we love God’s gifts more than God Himself. This is idolatry. It is to make God a means to an end rather than treating God as our great end. What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So repent of making wealth more important than God.

Reminded that we often view wealth and use wealth in a sinful manner, let us confess our sins to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. 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.

The Lips of the Wise

September 2, 2018 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue

Proverbs 10:18–21 (NKJV)

18 Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool. 19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of wisdom.

Throughout Proverbs and the rest of Scripture we are frequently exhorted to keep watch over our tongues. Though the tongue is small, it has immense importance and tremendous impact. So we must learn, as God’s people, to control our tongues.

So take note of the contrasts in our text today. On the one hand we have the tongues of the wicked and the fool. Not all fools are wicked; but all wicked men are fools. We are told two things about the tongue of the wicked. His tongue speaks lies and it speaks lies because what comes out of his mouth emerges from his heart. And, Solomon tells us, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The heart of the wicked is corrupt and so their lips speak corruption. For their part, fools spread this slander. They pick it up from the wicked and then spread it abroad rather than locking it away. Rather than restrain their lips, they repeat whatever they hear. They are fools.

On the other hand, we have the tongue of the wise. The wise man restrains his lips. He exercises self-control over his tongue. He is aware that just because he knows something, or feels something, or thinks something, that doesn’t mean that those things need to be shared. Before speaking, the wise man weighs matters in his heart and so he speaks with discretion. Consequently, his tongue is as choice silver. His words have value because he chooses carefully when and what to speak.

Notice, therefore, that while the tongue of the wise feeds others, the tongue of the foolish can’t even sustain the fool himself. The lips of the righteous feed many – the lips of the righteous bring blessing, encouragement, and edification to those they meet – but fools die for lack of wisdom ­– the lips of fools bring discouragement and destruction, blight and famine in their wake so that fools no longer have relationships, food to sustain themselves.

So what of you? How have you used your tongue this week? Have you wickedly slandered others? Have you foolishly repeated the slanders of the wicked, listened to their lies and shared them with your neighbors? Have you multiplied words without knowledge? Or have you restrained your lips and considered carefully in your heart each time you speak? This is the mandate Paul gives us, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (4:29).

Reminded that we are called to exercise self-control over our tongues that we may give life to others, let us acknowledge that we often speak when we should be silent and that, even when we should speak, we often tear down what is good rather than build up others in the truth. We often behave like fools and so sin in the multitude of words. Reminded of this, let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able.

Common Sense Has Become Less Common

August 26, 2018 in Bible - NT - Titus, Depravity, Homosexuality, Meditations, Worship

Titus 2:11–12 (NKJV)

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

 

For the last few weeks I have been meditating on Paul’s insistence in this text that we should live soberly…in the present age. The term translated “soberly” is better translated “sensibly.” It is the Greek word sophronos. The term summons us, as God’s people, to live in accordance with the way God has made the world. To live sensibly is to live in harmony with the moral and social universe that God has created; it is to do that which is fitting / sensible considering one’s calling and station in life. I noted last week for the folks in CdA that Paul utilizes this term extensively in his letter to Titus though its use is often obscured by translations. By way of review, consider the variety of places in the letter that this term is used:

  • 1:8 – Elders are to be “sober-minded” (sensible)
  • 2:2 – Older men are to be “sober” (sensible)
  • 2:4 – Older women are to “admonish” (make sensible) the younger women.
  • 2:5 – Younger women are “to be discreet” (sensible)
  • 2:6 – Young men are to be “sober-minded” (sensible)
  • 2:12 – Grace of God teaches us to live “soberly” (sensibly)

Clearly this is an important virtue that Paul wants Titus to inculcate in the congregation. He wants all – officers and laity, men and women, old and young – to be sophronos, sensible.

Paul’s assumption, therefore, is that there is to be a correspondence between the created world and our attitudes and actions. To live sophronos is to embrace the world as God has made it and ourselves as God has made us.

Notice, therefore, that within a Christian worldview there is such a thing as “common sense.” Because God fashioned the world and because Paul commands us to live sensibly, to live in harmony with our creatureliness, common sense exists. Common sense reflects those created realities that we deny to our folly and peril. Within American culture, common sense used to be a much praised virtue. Unfortunately, we thought that we could keep common sense and abandon the God who made the world sensible. “Everybody has common sense regardless whether they believe in God.”

Recent decades have revealed, however, that when we deny God, when we apostatize or worship idols, then common sense is not so common. Everyone knows that you can’t spend more than you make and prosper, right? Everyone knows that boys are boys and girls are girls, right? Well, we used to. Just this week one of my children attended a choir class at the University of Idaho. On the first day of class they were handed 3×5 cards and instructed to write their name on one side and their preferred pronoun on the other. “Never mind how God made you; you can establish your own identity.”

Of course, there’s just one small problem. You can’t. God is the Creator; you are the creature. We must conform ourselves to the world He has made; we cannot remake the world as we desire.

So here’s the rub. We must repent the notion that common sense exists separate from the God who made the world. We believe in common sense; but we believe it because God has created us to live sensibly. So reminded that as sinners we often try to keep God’s virtues while rejecting God Himself, let us confess our sin and beseech Him to bless us with common sense. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

To Live Sensibly in the Present Age

August 19, 2018 in Bible - NT - Titus, Depravity, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Quotations, Sanctification

Titus 2:11–12 (NKJV)

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

 

For the last couple weeks I preached on this text from Titus. Last week we studied Paul’s insistence that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. I emphasized that the term translated “soberly” is better translated “sensibly.” This morning let us expand on what we learned.

Paul utilzes the word sophronos to summon us, as God’s people, to live in accordance with the way God has made the world. To live sensibly is to live in harmony with the moral and social universe that God has created; it is to do that which is fitting / sensible considering one’s calling and station in life. Paul utilizes this term extensively in his letter to Titus though its use is often obscured by translations. Consider the variety of places in the letter that this term is used:

  • 1:8 – Elders are to be “sober-minded” (sensible)
  • 2:2 – Older men are to be “sober” (sensible)
  • 2:4 – Older women are to “admonish” (make sensible) the younger women.
  • 2:5 – Younger women are “to be discreet” (sensible)
  • 2:6 – Young men are to be “sober-minded” (sensible)
  • 2:12 – Grace of God teaches us to live “soberly” (sensibly)

Clearly this is an important virtue that Paul wants Titus to inculcate in the congregation. He wants all – officers and laity, men and women, old and young – to be sophronos.

Paul’s assumption, therefore, is that there is to be a correspondence between the created world and our attitudes and actions. To live sophronos is to be in one’s right mind, it is to act in the way one ought to act; it is to do that which is right and fitting considering one’s calling and station in life. To live sophronos is to embrace the world as God has made it, it is to take responsibility, to avoid drugs and drunkenness, to delight in generosity, to abhor sexual unfaithfulness.

Paul’s words remind us, therefore, that God’s law, His righteous requirements, are not simply dictates from on high that force us to act in a certain way. It is not as though we are square pegs that God is endeavoring to force into the round hole of His law. “You will fit!” No! It is that we are round pegs that were designed to fit perfectly into that round hole. However, because of the machinations of the Evil One and our own sinful rebellion, we are marred pegs and we no longer perfectly fit into the hole. But, glory be to God, the grace of God has been poured out to restore us to our original design. God’s law expresses the pattern according to which we were originally designed and Jesus exemplifies that pattern in His own life.

C.S. Lewis well expresses the idea behind sophronos in his essay, “Men Without Chests.” Sophronos “is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are. Those who know [this] can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within [an objective universe] I recognize this as a defect in myself—just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind.”

What this means, therefore, is that we are called to be students of God’s creative design and to conform ourselves – our attitudes, our actions, our longing, our loves, and our hates – to the objective reality of the created order. Reminded of this, let us confess that we have often been lazy, failing to study as we ought, and that we have not lived sensibly as we ought. We will confess our sins privately and then corporately using the printed confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.