The English poet William Cowper (1731-1800) reflected on the condition of England in his day in his poem, “Expostulation.” His words condemning the compromise of the Church and her ministers are as true of the American Church in our day as of the English Church in his. The first two lines are golden: “When nations are to perish in their sins, ‘Tis in the church the leprosy begins.” Cowper informs us that the future does not look good for America primarily because things do not look good in the Church. So if we want to see reformation and revival in America, then it must begin with the Church and her ministers returning to God’s Word.
Church Discipline: SuspensionFebruary 18, 2018 in Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Sin
2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 (NKJV)
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Several weeks ago we spoke of the biblical rationale for practicing church discipline. In our text today, Paul commands the Thessalonian church to implement the first stage of that public discipline, a stage we commonly refer to as Suspension from the Lord’s Supper.
Paul begins with an exhortation to the congregation at large, “brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” Paul’s command presumes that it is a temptation to grow weary in doing good – after all, we don’t warn against things that aren’t threats. The temptations of the Evil One, combined with the allurements of the world and the sinful desires of our own hearts, often make the task of doing good challenging. So Paul commands us never to grow weary.
Paul then commands the Thessalonians to practice a particular good – to take seriously disobedience to God within the congregation. Paul knows that if a congregation permits blatant sin to go unchecked, then that sin will spread. As Paul says elsewhere, a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (1 Cor 5:6). So Paul writes, “if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Paul’s command involves two parts – first, the Thessalonians are to note – that is, mark, point out, or publicly identify – that person. Second, they are to refuse to keep company with him – that is, they are to suspend normal fellowship with that person, including sharing in the Lord’s Supper. Why? Note Paul’s words: “that he may be ashamed.” In other words, the purpose of the discipline is to awaken the sinner to the seriousness of his sin. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 20:30, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”
It is in keeping with Paul’s words here and elsewhere (1 Cor 5:4) that the elders announce the Suspension of ——– from fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. Despite private counsel and warnings for the last year and more, ——– has hardened his heart in opposition to the wife of his youth, has ceased marital counseling, and has declared his intention to seek a divorce, something that God hates (Mal 2:16). Because ——– has failed to give heed to our private exhortations, we are now announcing this to the church, praying that God will use this to convict and restore him to his family and to the church.
In so announcing, we would remind you of Paul’s exhortation, “do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” Your duty is to pray for and, as occasion permits, admonish ——– as a professing Christian to repent of his sinful conduct and to strive for reconciliation with his wife and with this body. And remember that you are to do this in a spirit of gentleness, taking care lest you also be tempted (cf. Gal 6:1-5). So how might you be tempted at this time?
- Pride – Imagining that you are above such sins and morally superior to ——–. Such is not the case. Were it not for the grace of God, we would all be in like circumstances. So please pray for ——–, asking God to show him mercy.
- Gossip – Using this as an opportunity to speak uncharitably about ——– or about his wife and children rather than as an opportunity to pray for him and them, expressing a longing for his restoration and love and affection for those he is hurting by his sin.
- Slander – Making or entertaining false accusations against the elders, accusing them of heavy-handedness or insensitivity in disciplining him.
- Flattery – In conversations with ——–, permitting him to blame others for his plight rather than urging him to take responsibility for it. We should want him to deal with his sin in a godly fashion – by confessing it to the Lord and forsaking it (2 Cor 7:8-12).
All this reminds us of our susceptibility to sin and our need of God’s grace and mercy; reminds us of our need to humble our hearts regularly and to confess our sins to the Lord. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.
Homily in Remembrance of Tom MadisonJuly 22, 2017 in Bible - NT - Acts, Bible - NT - John, Cross of Christ, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Faith, Funeral Service, Law and Gospel, Resurrection, Sin
Acts 26:28–29 (NASB95)
28 Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” 29 And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”
The passage that I have quoted today contains Paul’s witness to a Jewish king named Agrippa. Two years prior to this exchange, Paul had been unjustly imprisoned and had remained in Roman custody that entire time, awaiting a trial, awaiting his freedom. At the end of those two years, however, the Roman Governor Festus was prepared to deliver Paul into the hands of his enemies; consequently, Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal for justice to Caesar in Rome; his appeal was granted.
Shortly after he made his appeal, King Agrippa arrived and Festus decided to use Agrippa to help him explain to Caesar why Paul was being sent to Rome. Festus permitted Paul to explain why he was in prison; Paul, as was his custom, used the opportunity to preach about Christ. He wanted to persuade Agrippa to become a Christian. So Paul highlighted the way Jesus had fulfilled all the promises that God had made throughout the Jewish Scriptures – “that the Christ [God’s chosen Ruler of the world] would suffer [and die], that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (26:23). Jesus is proof of God’s intention to reconcile human beings with Himself.
This may seem an unusual passage for a memorial service. But it is fitting for this reason: even as Paul had suffered in prison for about two years, our beloved brother Tom suffered in a prison of sickness these past two years. Tom would not have chosen that trial for himself any more than Paul would have chosen to be imprisoned. Far better to be free, far better to be well, and able to do what he was accustomed to doing.
But Tom knew, even as Paul did, that his Heavenly Father had some purpose for his suffering. Consequently, Tom used his suffering to speak to others about Christ. Tom’s faith was always strong – as the testimonies we have heard illustrate. But these last couple years Tom’s faith was even deeper; his perception of eternal realities clearer; and his understanding of the fragility of life keener. Though Tom suffered much in his sickness, he suffered in faith. When I would meet with Tom to encourage him, I would regularly go away encouraged. For he would remind me of God’s promises, remind me of God’s purposes, and remind me of God’s lovingkindness. Perhaps Tom did the same with you?
I was reminded of Agrippa’s encounter with Paul as I spoke with Connie and the children this week. They told me of a conversation that Tom had with an unbelieving friend in which he spoke of Christ and repeated Paul’s words in our text: I would wish to God…[that you] might become such as I am, except for this cancer. Tom would want all to know the hope of being reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ and having hope even in the face of suffering and death.
So I am here to repeat Tom’s urgent appeal; I am here to remind you of the fragility of life; I am here to tell you that you will die and face your Creator and your Judge; and the only way to look forward to that moment in hope, as Tom did, is if you have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Your sins – your failure to worship your Creator as you ought, your acts of selfishness and spite, your mistreatment of your spouse, your unjust divorce, your anger and bitterness, your lust for money, for sex, for control, for youth – your sins have separated you from God; if you should die and stand before your Creator with those sins between you and Him, you will perish eternally.
But hear the Good News: God has been gracious to you – He has offered clear and irrefutable evidence of His existence and of His determination to reconcile you to Himself. Jesus’ death and resurrection are that proof – proof that God has provided a sacrifice to forgive your sins and reconcile you to Himself and proof that death is no longer a cause of hopelessness for those who believe in Jesus. So I am here to plead with you: be reconciled to God before it is too late. Turn from your sin and turn in faith to Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Sacred Scripture:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)
These words remind us that our condition as sinful human beings is so dire that there is no way to deal with our sin and be reconciled to God other than through Jesus; He is the only sacrifice for sins. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). These are the only two options. Believe in Jesus or face the judgment of God.
Despite God’s gracious proof of His existence and His purpose to reconcile us to Himself, many continue to resist Him and refuse to believe in Jesus. The Scriptures say again:
This is the [sober truth], that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God… (John 3:19-21)
So what of you? Are you willing to humble yourself before your Creator? Are you willing to come to the light and have your deeds exposed now? Or will you try to hide and hope that the day of death will not overtake you? Tom’s death illustrates that that hope is vain. It is appointed unto all men to die once and after this to face the judgment. So hear Paul’s wish once again: “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.” Let us pray.
Baptism speaks about us and about GodMarch 6, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Exodus, Children, Ecclesiology, Sin
We are far too easily pleasedNovember 2, 2016 in Glorification, Human Condition, Quotations, Sanctification, Sin
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Whatever Things are NobleOctober 17, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Depravity, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin
I have three tame ducks in my back yard,Who wallow in the mud, and try real hardTo get their share and even moreof the overflowing backyard store.They’re fairly content with the task they’re atOf eating and sleeping and getting fat.But when the wild ducks fly byIn a streaming line across the sky,They cast a wishful and quizzical eyeAnd flap their wings and attempt to fly.I think my soul is a tame old duckWallowing around in the barnyard muck,It’s fat and lazy with useless wingsBut, once in awhile when the north wind singsAnd the wild ducks hurtle overheadIt remembers something lost and almost dead,And it casts a wistful eyeAnd flaps its wings and tries to fly.It’s fairly content with the state that it’s in
But it isn’t the duck that it might have been!
The Flesh conquered by Jesus’ Death and ResurrectionMarch 6, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 John, Church Calendar, Easter, Good Friday, Meditations, Sin
The Seriousness of SinFebruary 14, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Numbers, Church Calendar, Meditations, Sin