My God, in Him Will I Trust

March 22, 2020 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Discipline, Faith, Judgment, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Providence, Sacraments, Sovereignty of God, Worship

Psalm 91:1–8 (NKJV)

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.

Well it’s been an interesting week! We thank you for your prayers that we and the Schumanns were able to return home from Guatemala. We witnessed many evidences of the Lord’s lovingkindness and care for us while we were away – we managed to arrive in Guatemala just before they began quarantining visitors from America; while at the airport in Guatemala City waiting to have our temperatures taken, we stood in line immediately behind a fellow believer who “just happened” to take his family to Antigua for the weekend and “just happened” to stay in the rooms right next to ours and who provided us with timely counsel and help as we were trying to decide whether to leave Guatemala or not; while we were unable to contact the airlines from our hotel in Antigua, Andy Schumann worked tirelessly back home and secured us tickets on one of the last flights out of Guatemala; and in the midst of all the turmoil, we experienced remarkable peace and enjoyed a relaxing, fulfilling few days in a beautiful hotel with friendly people and sweet fellowship. Praise God.

Now we’ve returned home and we have this appalling circumstance in which I am speaking to a mostly empty sanctuary rather than gathering face to face with the flock. I should be seeing your faces, shaking your hands, hearing your voices, rejoicing in God’s mercy and deliverance together. Instead, we are broadcasting a service of prayer and preaching. I trust that you recognize that this is not normal, nor is it an acceptable substitute for our assembling together – livestreaming is not assembling. We must view this as a chastisement from the Lord on our nation for our many sins and transgressions. God is isolating us from one another as a small taste of the isolation that shall face us for all eternity if we do not turn from our sin and seek the forgiving grace of God in Christ.

God has placed us in the wilderness. So what ought we to do? We ought to acknowledge our sin, acknowledge the justness of the Lord’s rod of correction, and entrust ourselves to God Himself and to every word that proceeds from His mouth. We have yet to see what the final outcome of the current crisis will be. Yet we know that our Sovereign Lord is in control, that He governs in the affairs of men, and that He is at work. For all those who acknowledge their sin and trust in His forgiving grace, He promises to grant us long life, eternal life, through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son to deliver us from the fear of death and to grant us the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead – is that not good news?

And so reminded that we are to turn to the Lord in times of disaster, let us do so together. Let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiving and empowering grace, praying that He would have mercy upon us as a people. 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.

They are Disobedient to Parents

March 8, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Children, Confession, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Ten Commandments

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are disobedient to parents.”

While our broader culture has degraded the authority of parents and often treats rebellion to parents as a minor or routine affair, God treats such disobedience seriously. Obedience to parents forms the foundation of social stability and the first pillar of love to neighbor. If the summary of the second half of the law is to love one’s neighbor as oneself, which it is, then the first pillar of love to neighbor is the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12). To dishonor one’s parents, therefore, is to hate one’s neighbor, undermining God ordained authority structures and forcing the care of elderly parents on others. So our Lord Jesus honored Joseph and Mary and obeyed them. He likewise submitted His own will to the will of His Father in heaven. Thus, Paul exhorts the children in Ephesus, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). Obedience to parents is an essential part of reverence for God.

God takes this obedience so seriously that His law classified violence to parents or incorrigible disobedience to parents as capital crimes, crimes deserving the death penalty (Ex 21:15; Dt 21:18-21). Certain forms of disobedience, in other words, are not just sins but crimes. And Jesus appeals to the criminal nature of such rebellion to rebuke those Jewish leaders who were failing to care for their parents behind a façade of piety to God. “If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’ – (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition…” (Mk 7:11-13).

To serve God faithfully, therefore, is to uphold and revere the authority of parents. Societies that undermine parental authority – whether by treating rebellion as insignificant or by exalting the authority of the state over that of parents or by enabling children to neglect their aging parents – have been handed over to a debased mind and are in danger of yet further judgment.

Let us, therefore, give heed to Martin Luther’s words in his Large Catechism concerning the 5th commandment. He writes:

“You are to esteem and prize [your parents] as the most precious treasure on earth. In your words you are to behave respectfully toward them, and not address them discourteously, critically, and censoriously, but submit to them and hold your tongue, even if they go too far. You are also to honor them by your actions (that is, with your body and possessions), serving them, helping them, and caring for them when they are old, sick, feeble, or poor; all this you should do not only cheerfully, but with humility and reverence, as in God’s sight. He who has the right attitude toward his parents will not allow them to suffer want or hunger, but will place them above himself and at his side and will share with them all he has to the best of his ability.”

So what of you? Children, are you obeying your parents in the fear of the Lord? Adults, are you caring for your aging parents? This is what the Lord would have of us. And so reminded of our call to be obedient to parents and of the disobedience to parents that has come to characterize so much of our society, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Inventors of Evil Things

March 1, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Meditations, Responsibility, Sin, Temptation

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom the just God has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are inventors of evil things.”

Louw-Nida’s Greek-English lexicon describes the phrase as follows – an inventor of evil things is “one who thinks up schemes or plans of action—‘contriver, inventor, one who thinks up.’ φευρετς κακν ‘they think up ways of doing evil.” They scheme and plot and determine how to do evil.

Consider the case of Queen Jezebel. Ahab was grieved that Naboth would not sell his vineyard to him. So what did Jezebel do? She plotted to do evil. She called a day for public fasting, sat two disreputable men beside Naboth, and then had them accuse Naboth of blasphemy. An accusation of guilt was the same as proof in Jezebel’s kingdom. Naboth was given a shame trial and then summarily executed. Ahab now had his vineyard. Jezebel was an inventor of evil things.

Likewise, the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees were inventors of evil things. When many believed in Jesus because of the witness of Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead, they “plotted to put Lazarus to death” (Jn 12:10). They also plotted against the Lord Jesus Himself. “When morning came,” Matthew tells us, “all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death” (Mt 27:1). Not content to oppose His teaching, they determined to destroy Him. They were inventors of evil things.

Paul too was no stranger to this sin. Angered by those who professed faith in Christ and who preached the Way, he plotted against them. He traveled from city to city, trapping God’s people in their words and persecuting them from house to house. Paul himself had been an inventor of evil things.

But thanks be to God, Paul was delivered from this sin. And the same is true for all those who turn in faith to Jesus Christ and cease rebelling against their Rightful King. When we are in rebellion against Him, we plot and plan and scheme to do evil. We look for occasions to break God’s law or even injure others, to steal their property, seduce their spouse, or damage their reputation. But when God confronts us in our sin and grants us the grace of repentance, then He turns us from being inventors of evil things and transforms us into inventors of good things. We no longer plot to do evil; we plan to do good.

So Joseph of Arimethea orchestrated with Nicodemus to care for Jesus’ body and lay it in his own tomb. Paul coordinated with Barnabas to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor and bring the Gentiles to the knowledge of Christ. St. Augustine no longer stole pears from his neighbor but fed food to the poor. The grace of God transforms us from inventors of evil into doers of good.

So what of you? Have you been plotting and planning and scheming to do evil? Or have you been meditating and planning to do good? Reminded that God would have us to delight in what is good and to plan to put that good into action, let us confess that we often invent evil things and let us seek His forgiveness through Christ. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Boasters

February 23, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Meditations

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind. Because God is just, when peoples rebel against Him, He delivers them over to a debased mind. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that these people of debased mind “are boasters.”

Paul uses the term “boasters” both here and in his similar list of sins in 2 Timothy 3:2 where he writes that in latter times,“men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud…” G. Delling defines the boaster as [either] “the one who ‘makes more of himself’ than the reality justifies, ‘ascribing to himself… more and better things than he has, or even what he does not possess at all’; [or the one] who ‘promises what he cannot perform’” (TDNT, 226). So let’s consider these two features.

On the one hand, the boaster is the one who ascribes “to himself more and better things than he has, or even what he does not possess at all.” He seeks to make himself look big in the eyes of others. He boasts of wealth he does not possess; luxuries he has never enjoyed; conquests he has never achieved; grades he has never earned; friends he has never made; creations he has never fashioned; character traits he has never developed. The boaster, in this sense, is the braggart, “a person who has a self-exalting, self-absorbed conceit of their own superiority; especially one that believes that all achievements are of their own doing.”

On the other hand, the boaster is the one who “promises what he cannot perform.” He over promises and under delivers. The boaster assures his customer that the paint will never fade; that the weeklong job will be done within 24 hours; that the product will create a utopia on earth. James describes this boaster as one who says, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit.” But James reminds such a man that, in fact, he does “not know what will happen tomorrow.” Thus, rather than boast, he ought always to be humble and say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But the boaster is not characterized by such humility. “But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).

So what of you? Are you boastful? Do you think more of yourself than you ought to think? Do you promise what you cannot perform, giving no thought to the will and Providence of Almighty God? Or do you acknowledge honestly in the fear of God both your strengths and weaknesses? Do you couch your promises with, “If the Lord wills”? This is what it means to be a humble man. As the Lord declares through the prophet Jeremiah, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things…” (Jer 9:23-24)

Reminded that we are called to boast in the Lord and not to have inflated and unreasonable thoughts of ourselves and our abilities, let us confess that we often boast in our wisdom, riches, and might. 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 found in your bulletin.

They are Proud

February 16, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Heart, Meditations, Responsibility, Sin

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with proud. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are proud.”

So what is it to be proud? Webster defines proud as, “Having inordinate self-esteem; possessing a high or unreasonable conceit of one’s own excellence, either of body or mind… Arrogant; haughty.” Paul includes the term “proud” not only here in Romans 1 but also in 2 Timothy 3:2 where he writes that in latter times,“men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud…” And Jesus tells us that such pride emerges from a heart that is estranged from God: “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed [among other things] … pride… All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk 7:20, 22).

Pride has reference, first and foremost, to our relationship with God. The sin of our first parents was motivated by pride, believing that they could be God’s equals, determining good and evil. Ever since the Fall, that impulse to be a law unto ourselves has characterized unbelieving man. We are proud.

However, we often strive to conceal our pride. So in our broader, unbelieving culture, we say that the “humble” man is the one who embraces relativism; who refuses to be dogmatic; who keeps a perpetually open mind on moral issues. Christians, therefore, are frequently accused of “pride” for maintaining a fixed moral standard. But the Scriptures maintain that this so-called “humility” is a sham. To stand before Almighty God and to hear His voice speaking truth in the Scriptures and then to say to Him, “Perhaps but perhaps not…” is the essence of pride. It is to repeat the sin of the devil, “Has God indeed said…” The truly humble man is he who hears the Word of God, who believes it in his heart, who obeys it in his life, and who articulates it with his lips. The humble man is willing to stand against a multitude in order to be on the side of God.

But pride not only twists our relationship with God, it also twists our relationships with one another. For instance, the proud man endeavors to avoid submitting to men, refusing to give honor to the lawful authorities God has put in his life. Peter writes, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet 5:5-6). The humble man willingly submits to his parents, his elders, his governors; he welcomes their rule, acknowledging them as God’s instrument in his own life.

Because the proud man stands against God and His word and often rebels against God’s lawful authorities, he incurs the wrath of God. So Mary sings in her Magnificat that God “has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts” (Lk 1:51). They imagine themselves to be God’s equals, capable of determining good and evil for themselves. But God shall scatter them because, as James reminds us, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6).

So what of you? Have you humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God? Determined that His Word shall be the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path? Submitted to His lawful authorities in your life? Or are you kicking against Him? Pushing against His law and repudiating the authorities that He has put over you?

Reminded that God summons us to be clothed with humility, let us acknowledge that we often resist His law and indulge in pride. And, as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of private confession, followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

They are Violent (Insolent)

February 9, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics, Sin, Trials

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with violent. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are violent.”

The Greek is hubristeis from which we get our English word hubris or pride. Yet the lexicons tells us that hubristeis means “more than merely an attitude of pride, for βρίζω implies an attitude of superiority which results in mistreatment of and violent acts against others” (Louw-Nida). Most translations opt for the word “insolent” which Webster defines as “proud and haughty, with contempt of others; overbearing; domineering in power.” In the only other use of this exact term, Paul describes his manner of life prior to his conversion, “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1 Ti 1:13). His insolence, his proud and haughty countenance combined with violence, led him to persecute innocent men like Stephen and to supervise their imprisonment or murder.

The same root word appears in other places and reveals that a people given over to insolence increasingly persecute those who love God and who treasure His law. So the unbelieving Jews of the Old Testament “treated [the prophets] [insolently], and killed them” (Mt 22:6). Jesus Himself was “mocked and [treated insolently] and spit upon” (Lk 18:32). In Acts 14:5, “a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews [at Iconium], with their rulers, to [treat insolently] and [to] stone [Paul and Barnabas].” Paul recounts that he and Silas “were [insolently] treated at Philippi” (1 Thes 2:2).

It is no surprise, therefore, that as our culture has drifted away from God and embraced various forms of unbelief, God’s people have become objects of inceasing persecution. You may have read how Swiss Air recently terminated its contract with the chocolate maker Läderach after the sexual revolutionaries protested because the owner of Läderach leads a pro-life, pro-family Christian group. Läderach is not alone. Others have faced lawsuits, political pressure, financial punishment, ostracism – in a word, insolence.

But though the insolent persecute the just and may momentarily triumph, it is always better to serve the Lord and to be numbered among His people. “Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the [insolent]” (Pr 16:19). Why? Because God is against the insolent and will destroy them: “The LORD will destroy the house of the [insolent], But He will establish the boundary of the widow” (Pr 15:25). God urges Job to conduct himself even as God does, “Disperse the rage of your wrath; Look on everyone who is [insolent], and humble him. Look on everyone who is [insolent], and bring him low; Tread down the wicked in their place” (Job 40:11-12). And Isaiah reminds us, “For the day of the LORD of hosts Shall come upon everything [insolent] and lofty, Upon everything lifted up— And it shall be brought low—” (Is 2:12).

And so the Lord summons you today to flee from insolence, from the violent pride that opposes His work in the world and joyfully to number yourself among His people. Reminded that the Lord will judge the insolent, let us confess the sin of our people in opposing the Lord and His Christ, and let us pray that He would have mercy upon us and turn our hearts back to Him lest we continue to experience His judgment. And, as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of private confession, followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

They are Haters of God

February 2, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Heart, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Responsibility, Sin

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with haters of God. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are haters of God.”

This is the only occurrence of this word, thĕŏstugēs, in the Greek New Testament. But though this is the only occurrence of this specific word, it is not the only occurrence of this thought. By nature, we are all estranged from God and at enmity with God, hating Him and hating His law. Paul writes later in Romans that the carnal mind, the mind guided not by the glory of God but by selfish desires, “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (8:7).

So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words in Romans 8. First, Paul insists that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” The carnal mind is the mind that has not yet been renewed by God’s grace. This is the unbelieving man or woman who puts the longings and desires of self or the longings and desires of some other god ahead of God Himself. For this person something holds preeminence in his life other than God. Consequently, the carnal mind hates God because God demands absolute and complete loyalty and obedience; He must be first in our minds and first in our hearts; He will brook no competitors nor opposition. The carnal mind despises such loyalty and views it not as the pathway to life, as it in fact is, but as an infringement on its freedom.

The carnal mind hates God, Paul writes second, because “it is not subject to the law of God.” Paul makes a simple statement of fact. God’s law is an expression of His will, His desires. This law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, requires us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The carnal mind is not subject to God’s law. Oh, it might pick and choose among them. But the carnal mind does so not because it recognizes God as its Lord and Ruler and wants to honor Him but because it claims to be its own lord and ruler and decides that such laws are helpful or advantageous. The carnal mind is not subject to God’s law.

Paul then makes a startling comment: “nor indeed can be.” Here Paul proceeds from the actions of the carnal mind to its abilities. The man or woman with a carnal mind is not able to obey the law of God. So perverse is the human heart that we none of us, by nature, can choose to love God or to obey His law. We are not able. As Paul says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot [are not able to] please God.” Apart from Christ, we are all enslaved to our sin, possessed of a carnal mind, and haters of God.

Our only hope, therefore, is if the Spirit of God transforms our heart desires and frees us from our blindness and stubborn hatred of God. He must convict us of our sin and guilt; He must enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Christ; He must renew our wills so that we become able and willing to love God and to rejoice in His law. We all of us are completely dependent upon the grace of God for salvation.

If we would see a revival in our nation, therefore; that our neighbors turn from their hatred of God and begin to love Him, then we must seek it first and foremost from the Lord of Glory Himself. We must pray for God to have mercy upon us and rescue us from our stubborn rebellion and hatred of Him. He alone can deliver us.

And so reminded of our need for the grace of God, and that apart from the work of His Spirit we are not only unwilling to subject ourselves to the law of God but unable to do so, let us confess that we hate God by nature and seek His forgiving grace. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord.

They are Backbiters

January 26, 2020 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Meditations, Tongue

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we return to Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind. Today we consider the twelfth of these fruits: backbiters. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are backbiters.”

Most modern translations opt for the word slanderers to convey the sense of the Greek. The word frequently occurs in company with the previous vice, “whisperers” or “gossipers.” For instance, Paul warns the Corinthians “lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, [and] tumults” among them (2 Cor 12:20). Backbiting and whispering, slander and gossip form a deadly duo.

So what is it to backbite or slander? Webster writes that it is “to defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report respecting one; to tarnish or impair the reputation of one by false tales, maliciously told or propagated.” To backbite, therefore, is to discredit another person unjustly; it is to speak of their character that which is not true. So the people of Israel slandered God in the wilderness, accusing Him of plotting their destruction: “And the people [slandered] God …: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?’ (Num 21:5) Such slander, either against God or against one’s neighbor, is abhorrent to God.

James writes in his epistle, “Do not [slander] one another, brethren. He who [slanders] a brother and judges his brother, [slanders] the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (4:11). He reminds us that to slander another is to cast God’s word aside, to act as though we are the arbiters of right and wrong. And to do that is to invite God’s judgment on ourselves. “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor,” God declares in Psalm 101:5a, “Him I will destroy…”

If we would be a people after God’s own heart, therefore, we must put away backbiting or slander. We must delight in God’s law, God’s word; and to delight in God’s law is to delight in the truth. “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all [slander], as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet 2:1-2). The one who has come to know and serve the God of truth delights in the truth.

Because slander is so pervasive among rebellious peoples, the Apostle Peter reminds us to live in a way that convicts unbelievers of their slander. He writes, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they [slander] you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet 2:11–12). Later in the same epistle, he urges us to be men and women of truth so that “when they [slander] you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (3:16). The proper way to expose slander is to live in such a way that there is no ground for accusation.

The Scriptures would remind us, therefore, to be men and women of the truth. “Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Pr 23:23). Never slander another; never speak of them things which are not true; to do so is to expose their reputation to ruin and to rebel against God and His law.

So what of you? Are you faithful to speak the truth always? Or are you a backbiter? Reminded that God summons us to speak the truth about Himself and others, let us confess that we and the American Church are full of backbiters, that we have oft spoken lies against God and others. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

January 20, 2020 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Exodus, Confession, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Politics, Sexuality

Exodus 21:22–25 (ESV)

22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. For 47 years now our nation has given legal sanction to the murder and dismemberment of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. Our hands are covered with the blood of innocents and God is exacting and will continue to exact vengeance upon us as a people for our bloodshed.

For the last few years on this Sunday, we have contrasted our law which does not recognize the personhood of the unborn child with the case law in Exodus 21 which does. The opening admonition declares: When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.” 

Note, first, that this law recognizes the personhood of the unborn. The ESV accurately captures the Hebrew and identifies the baby or babies in the mother’s womb as her “children” – not her property, nor her bodily tissue, but her children.

Second, note that this legal protection fosters a culture that honors pregnant women and the life they carry. This law specifically addresses incidental or accidental contact. If two men are striving with one another and, in their striving, intentionally or inadvertently hit a pregnant woman so that her children come out, then the men are held guilty for their action. God so honors the life-giving woman that He judges these men culpably irresponsible. And note that this is the case even if no harm happens to the woman or child – if “they strike her so that her children come out but there is no harm, then they shall pay as the husband demands and the court allows. In other words, God demands that people honor a pregnant woman by restraining their rage in her presence.

Finally, note that this law adds additional consequences in cases when harm does occur. Verse 23 declares, “if there is harm, then you shall pay.” If there is harm – harm to whom, we ask? The woman or the child? The answer is either. The ambiguity of the text indicates that both woman and child are protected by the law. And what shall be paid? The lex talionis is applied: “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Biblical law protects the mother and her unborn child.

We see, therefore, how perverse our law has become. And because our law refuses to protect the unborn, our honor for life generally has regressed. As God’s people, our calling is to reverse this trend by loving pregnant women, loving the unborn, loving little ones, and granting them due honor and protection. So thank God for the baby showers, for regular prayers, for the love of life displayed here in this congregation. May such things continue. Men and young men, let us lead the way by honoring the women in our congregation, especially those with child: open doors, yield your place in line, make offers of help. Children, we have many pregnant women in our midst; be careful when you are running around lest you accidentally hit them. Parents, train your children to recognize and honor those who are with child.

Reminded this morning that God honors and protects the women who bear children and the children themselves, let us confess that we have betrayed the unborn and that we are guilty as a people. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.