The Unshakeable Kingdom

December 2, 2018 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - OT - Daniel, Christmas, Church Calendar, Dispensationalism, King Jesus, Meditations, Old Testament

Hebrews 12:25–29 (NKJV)

25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

 After the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Jewish kingdom with its bloody sacrifices, priestly rituals, and frail kings, was replaced by the Kingdom of God – a kingdom that Paul describes in our text today as an unshakeable kingdom.

This picture of an unshakeable kingdom harkens back to Daniel chapter 2. Hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had seen the kingdoms of men as a great and impressive statue made of different metals. But as Nebuchadnezzar was looking upon the statue, its feet were struck by a rock made without human hands. This rock caused those kingdoms to shake and totter and crumble while the rock itself became a huge mountain that filled the entire earth. The rock was unshakeable. And what was that rock? Daniel identified that rock as the kingdom of God.

In Paul’s day this rock had just struck the feet of the statue: Jesus had come and fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament: He was the long awaited King who would reign on earth, the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, the Rock that struck the feet of the statue. Through his earthly ministry he established the kingdom of God but the remnants of the old covenant system were still around. The Temple still stood; the priests still offered sacrifices; the feasts of the old covenant were still celebrated. But Paul knew that all that was going to change – the old covenant was ready to disappear, to be destroyed, and in its place would stand the kingdom of Christ, the unshakeable kingdom. Paul’s prediction came to fruition in AD 70 when the Romans, inspired by God Himself, destroyed the temple and the old covenant system collapsed. The kingdom of the Jews came to an end; the kingdom of the Messiah was established.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the time of year that we call to mind this transition from the old covenant to the new, from the age of immaturity to the age of maturity, from the kingdom of the Jews to the kingdom of Christ, from the shakeable kingdom to the unshakeable. As we recall this transition, let us remember that the Lord who spoke to our fathers in the old covenant continues to speak to us in the new and that this means not less accountability but more. Paul exhorts us,“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth [during the old covenant], much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven… [in the new] Because Jesus has risen from the dead and speaks to us as the Lord of all, seated at the right hand of the Father, we are called upon to approach Him with reverence and awe – for our God, Paul writes, is a consuming fire.

Reminded that the Lord has given us the great privilege of being members of His unshakeable kingdom through the sacrifice of Christ, let us confess that we have treated this privilege lightly. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Expose the Unfruitful Deeds of Darkness

November 25, 2018 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Communion, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Heart, King Jesus, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility, Sexuality

Ephesians 5:8–12 (NKJV)

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

Paul reminds us in our text that when the Lord saves us, He delivers us from darkness and brings us into the light. Whereas we once walked in darkness, subject to the prince of darkness and in bondage to our own sinful nature, God in Christ has brought us out of Satan’s kingdom and made us part of His own. He forgives our sins and renews us in the inner man, giving us a new heart by the power of His Spirit. He makes us to be children of light.

As those adopted into His family and made citizens of His kingdom, He now summons us to walk as children of light. The Lord of Light pours out the Spirit of Light upon children of light. And the Spirit so works in the hearts of those who have truly believed that they practice, in Paul’s words, goodness, righteousness, and truth. The Spirit bears rich and abundant fruit in the lives of His own. He causes us to walk in God’s commandments.

Consequently, those who have been saved want to have open lives. They want to dwell in the light and to have the vestiges of darkness removed from their lives. In Paul’s words, they have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. They don’t hide their emails or their phone conversations. They don’t engage in filthy speech or coarse jesting. They don’t look at pornographic pictures or develop intimate relationships with persons other than their spouse. They cultivate a love for goodness, righteousness, and truth.

While the calling to expose the unfruitful works of darkness is often uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is our duty to do so. We have just welcomed the —- household into membership. I now have the sober duty to announce that the elders are publicly suspending —- from the Lord’s Supper for the sins of adultery and deceit. For several years, —- has been living in sin, preying on several different women, some of whom have attended our congregation. He has been deceiving his wife and others and has been repeatedly unfaithful to her. Thankfully, —- is professing repentance. However, given the length of time he has lived a life of deceit regarding the nature of their relationship and his own walk with the Lord, the elders have determined to suspend him from the Supper until he manifests fruits in keeping with repentance.

We know that this will come as a shock to you even as it has come as a shock to his family and to the elders. We had believed that —- was walking faithfully with the Lord and that he was faithfully loving his wife. The truth, however, is that he has been deceiving us all. He has been having fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness rather than exposing them. Thankfully the truth emerged this last weekend and there is now opportunity for genuine repentance and change.

So please pray for the —-. Pray for —- – that he would truly repent and repudiate the unfruitful deeds of darkness that have bound him for the last several years; that he would seek out help and, by the power of God’s Spirit, break with the sin that has enslaved him. Pray for —- – that she would continue to lean on the Lord, entrust herself to His loving care, and treasure her daughters. Pray for their children – that they would know the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ, experience the comforting presence of their Heavenly Father, and love and obey their mom in these trying times.

Moments like this should cause each of us to reflect on the treacherous nature of our own hearts and the deceitfulness of sin. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (17:9) That judgment pertains to your heart and to mine. It was to forgive the guilt of our sin and to transform our hearts that Jesus gave His life on the cross and then rose again from the dead. So if you are in sin, ensnared by the darkness, come to the light before it is too late. Confess your sin in Jesus’ name and seek the forgiveness of the Lord.

Sobered by the pervasiveness of sin, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Finding the Will of God?

November 18, 2018 in Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - OT - Deuteronomy, Covenantal Living, Faith, Meditations, Wisdom, Word of God

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (NKJV)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Many people are confused about the will of God. They speak of “finding’ the will of God as though it is mysterious and difficult to decipher. But Paul tells us in our passage today that the will of God, God’s purpose for our lives, is really quite clear, plain, and simple: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Paul’s words remind us that, as Christians, our calling is not to peer into God’s secret will but to obey His revealed will. Moses writes in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” Our duty as Christians is to obey God’s revealed will not to discover His secret will. Within the fence of God’s revealed law, we are free to choose what we desire, trusting God for the outcome. This is the principle of liberty within law. As Paul reminds widows in 1 Corinthians 7:39 – a widow is free to marry whomever she desires only in the Lord. She has liberty – she may marry whomever she desires – within the context of God’s moral law – she may marry only in the Lord.

But walking as free men requires faith and courage. Sometimes we obey His law and the future ends in victory, prosperity, and kingdom advancement; sometimes we obey His law and the future ends in defeat, poverty, and kingdom retreat. This is the challenge of walking by faith. While pagans routinely practiced divination – looking at the entrails of animals, reading the signs in the stars, and relying upon superstitions in order to discern the will of the gods for each and every decision – God’s people have been called to walk by faith. We aren’t promised how obeying God’s law will turn out; we’re just called to obey it.

So what is God’s will for you? What is God’s will for your life? Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks. God’s will for you is that you learn and obey His moral law. Within the context of His law, you are free to do what you desire. The will of God, therefore, is not hidden or obscure. There is no need to find His will; it has not been lost. God wants you to know His law and then to walk by faith, entrusting the outcome to Him.

That which is true for us individually is also true nationally. This week we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. President George Washington remarked in his first Thanksgiving Proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor… therefore, I do recommend and assign [a day] to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country…

President Washington’s words remind us that our duty is not to find the will of God but to obey it. In the same proclamation, Washington called upon us “to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…” He insisted that virtue is essential for our survival as a people and for securing the continued blessings of Almighty God. We don’t need to discover God’s secret will but to obey His revealed will.

So as we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let us give thanks to the Lord for the Constitutional liberties we have enjoyed, for the peace we have experienced, for the abundance we have tasted, for the families we have been given, and for the salvation with which we have been blessed. If we are to give thanks in everything, how much more ought we to give thanks when we enjoy such manifold blessings?

Reminded that we are to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things, let us confess that we often ignore God’s clear will for our lives and feign ignorance of our duty. And as we confess our sins to the Lord seeking His forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Restoration to the Lord’s Table

November 11, 2018 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Sacraments, Thankfulness

2 Corinthians 2:5-8, 10-11 (NKJV)

5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. 6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him… 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Despite numerous problems in the church at Corinth, they responded to Paul’s exhortations in First Corinthians in faith and obedience. Paul had commanded them to publicly censure one of their members who was living in sin (1 Cor 5) and the Corinthians responded in faith, doing that very thing. In our text today, Paul counsels them what to do now since the man they had censured had repented and sought forgiveness from the Lord and from the church.

The Corinthians thought that perhaps they needed Paul’s approval before welcoming the man back into their fellowship. But Paul insists that they didn’t need his approval – after all, he wasn’t the one who had been wronged. He writes, But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe.” Paul wasn’t the one grieved but them; so it wasn’t Paul who needed to restore the man but them. They had disciplined him originally and, now that he was repentant and desirous of reconciliation, they were entirely capable of restoring him to fellowship on their own. “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority,” he writes, “is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.” They had disciplined him in love; now they ought much more to receive him back in love.

In accordance with Paul’s words here to the Corinthians, the elders have the joyful privilege of restoring — to fellowship in this congregation. — has taken concrete steps of repentance and has expressed to the elders her grief over her sin and her desire to be reconciled to the Lord and the church. —, her new husband, has done likewise. While we plan to read their letters at our next Head of Household Meeting, we wanted to take this opportunity to restore them to the Table and reaffirm our love for them.

As we do so, Paul reminds us not to let Satan take advantage of us. In times like this, Satan plots against us and seeks to undermine the work that God is doing. So how might Satan scheme to turn this happy moment sorrowful? First, he might tempt you to respond to their restoration like the elder brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. The elder brother resented his father’s open-hearted and festal acceptance of his brother back into the home. And so what of you? Are you prepared to rejoice in God’s munificent grace to — and to pray that He would pour out yet more grace upon them?

Second, Satan might tempt you to look down on them, imagining yourself superior. But Paul asked the Corinthians, when they were boasting over one another, “What do you have that you have not received? And if you have received it, then why do you boast as though it is something of your own?” Paul urges us to remember that it is the grace of God that enables us to walk uprightly. Consequently, when one of our own stumbles into sin, it is not an occasion for pride but humility, recognizing our own propensity to stray from the Lord. And when one of our own repents and returns to the Lord, it is an occasion for joy and thanksgiving to God for His outpouring of grace. As the Scriptures declare, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Reminded of God’s forgiving grace and that He extends this grace freely to all who call upon Him in truth, let us confess that we often respond to His grace to others with resentment or a sense of superiority. And as we 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.

A Godly Woman

October 28, 2018 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Covenantal Living, Creation, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

Genesis 2:18 (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.”

The Scriptures insist that male and female together bear the image of God. God made males to be male and females to be female. This was his design, his intention, his plan. He saw that the man was alone and declared it wasn’t good. So He decided to make a helper comparable to the man. This morning let us consider what it means, therefore, for a woman to honor and glorify her Creator, the very Creator who also sent His Son Jesus as woman’s Redeemer.

First, because God is your Creator, His Word is to govern and rule your life. The first woman, Eve, sinned by questioning God’s Word and deciding for herself whether God’s Word or the serpent’s word was to be believed. She set herself up as the judge. But none of us were designed to live that way – and it is the choice to live that way that has wrought calamity and destruction in the world – and that continues to do so. The so-called “battle of the sexes” has arisen precisely because men and women have refused to live according to God’s Word and have instead lived according to their own.

Second, God’s Word declares that men and women were created to complement one another. God’s judgment that it is not good that man be alone reveals not only the relationship that God designed for marriage but also for broader society. Whether the number of men and women would have been perfectly balanced in an unfallen world we are not told – but we are told that God designed man as male and female to glorify His Name and be for the benefit of all. Men as male and women as female were designed by God to complement one another, not compete with one another.

Third, God’s design for women, revealed here in the creation story, is that women were created to help men fulfill their creational tasks. God declares, “I will make him a helper suitable to him.” If you are a woman, God created you to help the men in your life become better men. While this will look different in different situations, a woman’s basic calling is to serve as a pillar of strength and support that enables the men in her life to be all that they can be. As John Piper has written, “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” So, ladies, how are you doing? Are you affirming, receiving and nurturing the strength and leadership of your husbands? Your fathers? Your elders? Are you encouraging the men about you to be men and to be masculine? This is your calling.

And what of you men? Remember Piper’s words: “At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” There are plenty of unworthy men in the world, men who abuse women or men who abdicate their responsibilities. So what of you? Are you weak and irresponsible, overbearing and tyrannical? Or are you stepping up to the plate and providing godly strength, leadership, and protection to the women in your life? This is your calling.

Reminded that rather than submit to God’s design for us as men and women, we frequently develop our own visions for what is good and right, let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord.

The Key to Long Life and Gladness

October 21, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Faith, Meditations, Politics

Proverbs 10:27–30 (NKJV)

27 The fear of the LORD prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened. 28 The hope of the righteous will be gladness, But the expectation of the wicked will perish. 29 The way of the LORD is strength for the upright, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity. 30 The righteous will never be removed, But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.

What is the key to long life and gladness? This is a pressing question that our generation continues to ask. However, because we have apostatized and become a nation of idolaters, our answers are many and vacuous. We have lost our way. So we suggest that the key to long life and gladness is public education, or sexual experimentation, or social justice, or male chauvinism, or women’s empowerment, or state funded health care, or confiscatory taxation, or particular diets and supplements, or violating our marriage oaths. In our polytheistic culture, everyone seems to have their own answer.

But Solomon tells us that the correct answer is the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord prolongs days. It is the one who hopes in the Lord that will experience gladness; the one who walks in the Lord’s ways, observing His moral law, that will be strong; the one who listens to the Word of God and implements it, that will never be moved. As David teaches us to sing in Psalm 1 – Blessed is the man who… delights in the law of the Lord…he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither. The key to long life and fruitfulness is the fear of the Lord for the righteous, Solomon tells us, has an everlasting foundation. When the winds blow and the rains fall, it is the one who builds his house on the rock, who hears the words of Christ and does them, who will stand. Indeed, even if he perishes in this life, he knows that when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, he will be raised eternal and will serve the Lord in gladness forever. The fear of the Lord prolongs days.

So what is it that will bring death and desolation? Is it global warming (sorry, climate change), overpopulation, intolerance and discrimination, sexual repression, unhappiness, poverty, capitalism, processed foods? Solomon tells us that the correct answer is wickedness: the years of the wicked will be shortened, his expectation, his hope, will perish. The one who works iniquity, who violates God’s moral law, will be destroyed and will not inherit the earth. As David teaches us to sing in Psalm 1 – The ungodly [will not flourish], but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. Though the wicked may prosper for a time, God will bring their plans and expectations to naught. He will destroy them and the earth will vomit them out. They are like a foolish man who builds his house upon sand – when the rains and floods come, his house will be destroyed. And this destruction will reach its culmination when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. The years of the wicked will be shortened.

So where have you placed your hope for long life? What do your habits and passions reveal about your beliefs? Have you been distracted by the cacophony of voices surrounding us? Or have you remained centered on the answer that Solomon gives? Is your life devoted to knowing and serving God, to understanding His moral law and obeying His precepts, or have you become distracted by other things? Where have you placed your hope?

Reminded that righteousness is the key to long life and gladness, and that wickedness brings destruction, let us confess that as Americans we have abandoned the living God and embraced wickedness, and let us confess that we who bear His name have become confused by the vacuous answers given by our neighbors. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel together as you are able.

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.

Cultivating Hope

October 7, 2018 in Bible - NT - Romans, Ecclesiology, Lord's Day, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Preaching, Resurrection, Word of God

The following was my exhortation for the worship service which Trinity Church held during the 2018 Knox Presbytery (CREC) Stated Meeting. It was a privilege to host presbytery here in Coeur d’Alene and to worship with old friends and new. May the Lord continue to bless our presbytery and give us men of hope to preach in our pulpits and people of hope to fill our pews.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV)

4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

As ministers of the Gospel and officers in Christ’s Church, our fundamental duty is to give our people the Word of God. The Good Shepherd makes His people lie down in green pastures and leads them beside still waters. So as under-shepherds we are to teach our people to love and cherish the Word of God, to drink deeply of the law and the prophets, to chew regularly on the psalms and the Gospels, and to feast freely on the epistles and Revelation. The Word of God is to be our meat and drink.

Paul’s words to the Romans in our text today remind us how we should teach the Word of God. First, he writes that whatever things were written before were written for our learning. The Scriptures were written for our instruction. As we preach and teach the Word of God, therefore, we must do so in such a way that our people grow in their understanding of the Word. The greatest commandment includes loving the Lord our God with all our minds. Therefore we must instruct God’s people, we must engage their minds with our teaching.

This instruction, however, is never to be merely academic. Jonathan Edwards reminds us, “Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched; and they stand in greatest need of that sort of preaching which has the greatest tendency to do this.” So Paul reminds us that the Scriptures were written in order that we… might have hope. The end of our instruction is to foster hope in our flocks – hope for God’s work in the world and hope for God’s work in their own lives.

So how do we cultivate this sense of hope among our people? Paul writes that we do this through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures. First, through the patience of the Scriptures. One of the ways that we are to feed the hope of our people is by reminding them of God’s patient and persistent work in history and in their lives. When we fail to perceive immediate change – either in our personal fight against sin or in the advance of the Gospel in history – we can grow discouraged. Is there no hope of victory? One of the glorious things that the Scriptures do is remind us that God is patient. He works slowly over the course of our lives, growing us in holiness and righteousness as we walk by faith. And He works slowly over the course of history, causing the Name of His Son to be exalted in the earth. As Isaiah assures us, God’s Servant will not fail nor grow discouraged until He has established justice in the earth.

Second, we feed the hope of our people through the comfort of the Scriptures. We are to remind them regularly of God’s mercy and grace, to direct their vision again and again to the loveliness of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When discouraged by their sin, we point them to Jesus who died on the cross. When overwhelmed with daily tasks, we point them to Jesus who has poured out His Spirit upon us. When despairing of historical progress, we point them to Jesus who sits enthroned at God’s right hand.

So how are you doing? If you are a minister of the Gospel or the head of a family, have you been teaching your flock the Word in such a way that you are enabling them to have hope? And do you embody that hope in your own life? Or have you become discouraged and overwhelmed with the tasks of the day, forgetting the patience and comfort of the Scriptures?

Reminded that we often lose hope, becoming discouraged by our own indwelling sin or disheartened by setbacks in God’s work in history, let us confess our lack of hope to the Lord. 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.