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.

Preach the Word: Exhort!

September 10, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations, Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

For the last few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A couple weeks ago, we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition, “exhort.”

The Greek word behind “exhort” is parakaleo. In English translations of the NT, the word is variously translated as exhort, plead, beg, urge, beseech, or even encourage. Whereas the one who rebukes stands in front of another and points out his error, the one who exhorts comes alongside him and urges him to imitate Christ in his daily life. So Paul writes to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father…” (5:1). While to “rebuke” is to deliver a short, verbal thrashing, to “exhort” is to appeal, to sidle up beside a fellow believer and direct their eyes to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Exhortations, therefore, are grounded in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. The minister of the Gospel is to “exhort” people to remember Jesus Christ and to imitate His character in their own lives. So consider various “exhortations” that Paul gives in his letters:
· Romans 15:30 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me,
· 1 Corinthians 1:10 — Now I “exhort” you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you…
· 2 Corinthians 10:1 — Now I, Paul, myself am “exhorting” you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ….
· 1 Thessalonians 4:1 — Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
· 2 Thessalonians 3:12 — Now those who are [busybodies] we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.

Note carefully that in each “exhortation” Paul brings us back to Christ’s salvific work. As the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes, “The exhortation is distinguished from a mere moral appeal by this reference back to the work of salvation as its presupposition and basis.” Consider Christ – consider who He is, consider what He has done, consider what He has promised – and in that knowledge, act.

So reminded that Christ is our example and that we routinely fail to imitate Him in our attitudes and actions, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preaching Coram Deo

August 13, 2017 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Judgment, Lord's Day, Meditations, Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Last week we considered Paul’s charge to Timothy, Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. For the next few weeks I would like us to consider other portions of Paul’s exhortation that we grow in our love for the Word and become ever more humble before our God.

So this morning let us consider why Paul charges Timothy to preach the word. The answer? Timothy will answer to God. Paul writes, I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom… Why must Timothy be careful to preach the word in season and out of season? Because God is going to demand an accounting from Timothy for how he executed his responsibility. Did he preach the word faithfully? Did he encourage the fainthearted, rebuke the hardened, convince the doubtful, exhort the sinful?

Paul’s words remind us that we all live Coram Deo – we all live before the face of God. Consequently, we shall give an answer for every rash word that we have spoken, for every wicked action we have committed, and for every sinful thought we have entertained. It is appointed unto men to die once and after this to face the judgment. We shall answer for the foul words we spoke to that other driver; we shall answer for our cowardice in the face of opposition; we shall answer for our use of porn, our indifference to our spouse, our waste of our employer’s time. While such judgment will not result in the condemnation of those who are in Christ, neither will such judgment be a warm and fuzzy encounter with our best bud; it will rather be a sober evaluation before our Lord and Master.

Consequently, Paul charges Timothy to remember that this evaluation is coming and not to take it lightly. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). This reminder was to fill Timothy and us with a due sense of reverence and diligence.

I want to take a moment to thank you all for your continued prayers for me and for my family as we await the results of the biopsy taken on one of the enlarged lymph nodes in my neck. Lord willing, we will receive the results the middle of this next week. The mere possibility that this may be some form of terminal cancer has reminded me vividly of the shortness of life, of how dependent we all are, each and every moment, on the sustaining hand of our Creator and Preserver, and of how critical it is that we be prepared to stand before Him cleansed by the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, robed in His righteousness, and adorned with good works by the power of His Spirit.

So reminded this morning that we shall all appear before our God and His Christ, let us remember that on this Lord’s Day we also appear before Him to hear His voice. And having heard His voice rebuking our complacency and our sinfulness, let us confess our sin in Christ’s name, beseeching His forgiveness. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Need for Converted Wallets

February 19, 2017 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - OT - 1 Chronicles, Bible - OT - Ecclesiastes, Bible - OT - Malachi, Giving, Meditations, Quotations
Malachi 3:8–10 (NKJV)
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
Martin Luther once remarked that every Christian undergoes three conversions: the first of his mind, the second of his heart, and the third of his wallet. Of these three, it may well be that we find the conversion of the wallet to be the most difficult. Charles Spurgeon writes, “With some (Christians) the last part of their nature that ever gets sanctified is their pockets.”
In the last few weeks we have explored various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. As we continue in this vein, let us address our practice of presenting our tithes and offerings before the Lord. Each week we sing a song about giving as we bring our tithes and offerings to the front of the sanctuary. Why do we do this?
Consider just a few of the many reasons: first, presenting our tithes and offerings to the Lord in worship reminds us that God lays claim to our wallets. God is the owner of all we possess and appoints us as His stewards to manage all our wealth in a way that honors Him. And Malachi insists that one of the ways we honor Him is by giving Him a tithe, or ten percent, of our increase. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse. Alongside such tithes are offerings, free-will gifts above and beyond the tithe which can be the fruit of vows we have made, an expression of gratitude for the Lord’s generosity, or an effort to help others who are in need. Presenting our tithes and offerings reminds us of God’s claim on our wallets.
Second, presenting our tithes and offerings reminds us that worship is not confined to Sundays. What are our tithes and offerings but a token of the work that we have done throughout the week? The tithes represent the fruit of our work – all of which is done to the glory of God. There is no division between “secular” work and “sacred” work – all our work is sacred, performed in the presence of God to the glory of God. Presenting our tithes and offerings reminds us of this.
Finally, presenting our tithes and offerings to the Lord reminds us that all we are able to achieve in our employments is a gift from God. As David prayed after collecting supplies for the construction of the Temple, “But who am I, and who are my people, That we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, And of Your own we have given You” (1 Chr 29:14). Of Your own we have given You – it is God who gifts us with intelligence, with opportunity, with ingenuity, and with skill to get wealth. So we are to give Him thanks – and one way we do so is by giving Him a portion of the wealth He gives us.
Presenting our tithes and offerings weekly reminds us, therefore, that God lays claim to our wallets, that all our work is to be done to the glory of the Lord, and that all we are able to achieve is a gift from Him. But it is not enough to know whywe do this; it is also important to consider how we are to do it.
So how are we to bring our tithes and offerings to the Lord? The other Scriptures we sing as we present our tithes give us sound counsel. First, Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 urges us to give generously. “Cast your bread upon the waters,” it says, “…give a portion to seven and also to eight.” These words counsel us to spread our wealth abroad. In Jesus’ words, we are to make friends by means of unrighteous mammon that we may be received into the heavenly dwellings. The tithes and offerings presented here are to reflect a pattern of generosity that characterizes the entirety of our lives. Like the Good Samaritan, we are to help those who are in need. We are to give generously.
Second, Paul urges us in 2 Corinthians 9:7 to give “not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Even as God has freely given to us, He wants us to freely give to others. We are to give, not because compelled to do so, but because we recognize God’s generosity to us. He has saved us from our sin; He has provided for our daily needs; hallelujah, what a Savior!

So reminded of why we present our tithes and offerings to the Lord and howwe are to do it, let us confess that Luther was right – our wallets do stand in need of conversion. Let us confess that we are often stingy, and often give only grudgingly. And, as we confess, let us kneel as we are able and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

That Thanksgiving May Abound

May 1, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection, Thankfulness, Worship
2 Corinthians 4:13–15 (NKJV)
13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? This is the question we have asked during this time of Eastertide. As we anticipate Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday in the weeks to come, I would like to close our observations on the resurrection today. In our text Paul helps us understand the significance of the resurrection. Why did Jesus rise from the dead? Jesus rose from the dead so that we might be thankful and praise our God.
To make his point, Paul quotes from Psalm 116, a psalm of thanksgiving. In this psalm, the psalmist cries out to God in the face of death: “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow.” But the psalmist trusts God – God is capable of delivering him from death and so he cries out to God in these words: “I believed, therefore I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’” He trusted God so he cried out to God, “God help me!” And glory be to God, the Lord answers his prayer: “For you have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” God delivers him, so he does the only thing he can rightly do: praise and thank the Lord for His mercy: I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
The faith and thanksgiving manifested by the psalmist are a pattern for us. The psalmist trusted the Lord in the face of death. When God delivered him, what was his response? He praised and thanked God. This is our calling in light of Christ’s resurrection. Even as God delivered the psalmist from the fear of death, He has delivered us from the fear of death. How? By raising Christ from the dead. Why does this give us hope? Because He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus.Death is a defeated foe; Christ is Risen, so we too shall rise. So what ought we to do? Precisely what the psalmist did: praise and thank the Lord.
You see, the end goal of Christ’s resurrection is that praise and thanksgiving might abound in all the world to Yahweh, the living God. Jesus came in order to restore rightful worship. Jesus rose from the dead in order to restore rightful worship. In other words, Jesus rose from the dead so that you would be here this morning, joining your voice with the voices of all God’s people and thanking God for his mercies, thanking God that He has delivered you from death.
So, brethren, how eager are you to be here? God raised up Jesus so that you would be here this morning; so that you would lift up your voice in company with the voices of your brothers and sisters; so that you would worship him. So how ought we to approach this morning? With sloth? With mere formality? With mumbling and inattention? May it never be! Let us join our voices week by week in thankful acknowledgement of God’s mercies toward us in Christ – Alleluia! Christ is risen! So let us worship.

Reminded that Jesus rose from the dead in order that we might worship Him together, we are also reminded how we often approach worship with insufficient joy and delight. So let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

All Creation is Ours

April 18, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Creation, Easter, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Resurrection
2 Corinthians 4:14–15 (NKJV)
14 … He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
As we continue celebrating the season of Eastertide, it is fitting to meditate deeply on the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. In our passage today, Paul repeats one of his frequent maxims: He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus… The resurrection of the dead is our hope – not that we will die and be spirits in the sky; not that we will perish and lose all consciousness; but that even as Jesus rose from the dead, we too shall rise. In Paul’s words to the Philippians, Jesus will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body… This mortal body shall become immortal; this corruptible body shall become incorruptible; this weak body shall become strong. Glory be to God!
What this means is that the trajectory of all history is to the resurrection. It is the consummation of all world history: the day when Christ shall return again in glory to judge both the living and the dead; the day when the dead shall arise from their graves – those who have done good in the fear of God and faith in Jesus Christ to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil in continuing to ignore or rebel against God to the resurrection of death. It is this moment, the resurrection of the dead and the glorification of God’s children, that creation itself awaits. When we rise from the dead, when our bodies are made new, all creation will share in our glorification. Even as all creation was plunged into death and decay through the rebellion of our first father Adam, so all creation will be renewed into life and glory through the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And what this means, therefore, is that all creation is ours. We shall inherit all things. The sun, moon, stars, and planets are ours; the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, and streams are ours; the mountains and plains are ours; the forests, grassland, and deserts are ours; all creation is ours. Blessed are the meek, our Lord Jesus reminds us, for they shall inherit the earth. You are heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. All things are yours since Christ has risen from the dead and you too shall rise. It is all this that lies behind Paul’s statement here in Corinthians. Listen again:
… He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
All things are for your sakes – all things: birds, beasts, fruit trees and all cedars, the honey bee and the crocus, the lily and the rose.
Now if all this is true – and through Christ’s resurrection it is – what kind of people ought we to be? Our sermon today highlights the destructive power of envy. Envy is poison to the soul. And the way we fight envy is through the promises of God. How does Jesus’ resurrection break the power of envy? It makes us thankful.
For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. God has made us heir of all things – need we envy the gifts that He has given to others? Ought we not to be the most content, the most thankful, the most grateful of people? Jesus rose from the dead in order that you might escape envy and abound in thanksgiving to the glory of God.

So reminded that God has made us heirs of all things and that we ought to be the most thankful of people, let us confess that we are often unthankful and envious. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel together.

Homily for Ross and Taylor Morton

April 16, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Church History, Ecclesiology, Marriage, Politics, Satan
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
It is a truism of Christian discipleship that we are engaged in a spiritual battle. As the Scriptures emphasize, we fight against the wiles of the devil, the distorted perceptions of a fallen world, and the twisted longings of our own sinful nature. In our text today, Paul reminds us that the way we fight this battle is not the way battles are typically fought. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” We do not use swords, battle-axes, guns, or tanks. Our weapons are not carnal, but “mighty in God” for destroying the kingdom of darkness and building up the kingdom of God. So what does all this have to do with marriage?
I would like the two of you to conceive of your marriage as one of the weapons that God has given you in this war. Marriage is a powerful weapon, mighty in God, able to accomplish great good and just as able to effect great evil. The gunpowder that delights us in firework displays, that blasts a path through impenetrable rock, is the same gunpowder that slaughters the innocent victims of a suicide bomber or that maims a child who steps on an abandoned land mine. Marriage is a powerful weapon.
Earlier this week I shared the story of the end of monarchy in ancient Rome – and its end centers around a particularly bad marriage. The last king of Rome, a man named Tarquin the Proud, and his wife, Tullia the Younger, so incensed the Roman people that the Romans revolted against them and overthrew the monarchy. The causes of this revolt centered in Tarquin and Tullia’s marriage. Each had been married to the other’s sibling. But, as it turned out, the couples were tragically mismatched. While their siblings were virtuous and worthy Romans, Tarquin and Tullia were proud and conniving.
Soon Tarquin and Tullia discovered their similarity. So they killed their siblings and married one another. As if this weren’t enough, so insatiable was Tullia’s ambition, that she urged her husband to overthrow the current king of Rome – her own father. Eventually won over by her taunts, Tarquin orchestrated a coup. He deposed Tullia’s father and ordered some soldiers to murder him in the streets as he was making his way home from the palace.
Anxiously awaiting news of the coup at home, Tullia finally could bear it no longer. She ordered her carriage and made her way to the palace where she hailed her husband as the new king. But even Tarquin knew this wasn’t the time and ordered her to go back home. It so happened that her coachman followed the same route that her father had taken when he was fleeing the palace. Soon the coachman stopped. “What’s the matter?” Tullia demanded. “Your father’s body lies in the street; I cannot go around.” “Then drive on!” she commanded. And so Tullia drove her carriage over her father’s dead body.
Thus Tarquin the Proud and Tullia the Younger rose to power in Rome. But so disgusted were the Romans by their evil deeds – coupled with those of their son Sextus – that they cast them out of the city, vowing never again to permit kings to rule over them. Thus the Roman Republic was born.
You see, marriage is powerful. It makes and breaks children. It makes and breaks churches. It makes and breaks nations. It makes and breaks empires. Increasingly in our age, therefore, Christian marriage is an act of cultural warfare. What you covenant now, what you consummate tonight, is a powder keg. Will your marriage delight God’s people and destroy the kingdom of darkness, or will it maim the innocent and bring shame to God’s Name? These are the options: life and death, a blessing and a curse. Which shall your marriage be? I know that you both hunger and thirst for the former; long for your marriage to bring glory to God, joy to your friends, and stability to your (Lord willing) children. So to this end, let me leave you with three exhortations:
1.  Remember what you’ve got – this thing is explosive, it is powerful – for good or for evil.
2.  Because of this, exercise great care – don’t just toss it around; don’t neglect it; don’t treat it lightly.
a.  Ross – cherish your wife, love her, esteem her, protect her; handle her like TNT – or you might just find out what happens when a woman explodes!
b.  Taylor – honor your husband, give yourself to him; he wants you body and soul, completely; so rejoice in him and respect him with your words and your actions.
3.  Plant your charges in the right place –
a.  Make a home that is as electric and joyful as a firework display – that brings delight to your children, peace to others.
b.  Make a home that blasts holes in the walls of Satan’s fortress – a home that is a light on a hill; that is salty and shows others the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Having heard these words. . . . Please face one another.

What is Worldliness?

February 28, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Confession, Creation, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification
Ephesians 2:1–3 (NKJV)
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
For these first three Sundays in Lent, we are addressing our three chief enemies as Christians: the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we are outside of Christ, these forces dominate our lives and compel us to sin. Consequently, God must act to deliver us from their hold. And it is this that He has done in Christ. Listen again to Paul’s words: And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh… The world, the flesh, and the devil are a deadly trio. So what is meant by “the world”?
Unfortunately many Christians throughout history have misconstrued this warning against “the world” as a repudiation of creation itself. Worldliness, in this view, is any attachment to the created order or physical things: marriage, food, beauty, drink, sexuality, technology, etc. To be “heavenly-minded”, therefore, to escape worldliness, is to reject created things. But this is to misconstrue Paul’s understanding of worldliness. After all, Paul reminds Timothy, that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim 4:4-5). The created order is not the problem.
So what is worldliness, then? “Worldliness is,” David Wells has written, “anything that makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal.” It is anything that makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal. The “world”, therefore, is not the created order or mere physicality; the “world” is the collection of assumptions, practices, and desires embraced by our broader community or culture that run contrary to the Word of God. It is the assortment of unbiblical values that strive to have preeminence over God’s values. It consists of ideas, institutions, and vocations that marginalize God and His law.
It is from this “world” that we have been delivered by God’s grace; and it is against this “world” that we are to do battle through the preaching of the Gospel. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds [institutions of the world], casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God [ideas of the world], bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” We are to do battle against “the world.”
But in order to do battle against the “world” out there, we must first do battle against the world “in here.” We must root out unbiblical manners of thinking and acting that characterize us individually and that characterize us as a congregation. We must strive to resemble not the kingdoms of this world but the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And one of the first characteristics of the kingdom of God is humility – a willingness to confess our worldliness. There are many who would come here today and be asked to kneel and confess their sin and worldliness and recoil. “That is strange,” they would say. But in God’s kingdom, kneeling to confess sin is not strange, it is normal. “Worldliness is anything that makes righteousness look strange [like kneeling to confess sin] and sin look normal.” So reminded of our calling to fight against the world, let us kneel and confess that we often fail to do so.

Resurrection, Thanksgiving, and Praise

May 14, 2012 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection

2 Corinthians 4:13–15 (NKJV)
13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? This is the question we have asked for several weeks during this time of Eastertide. As we anticipate Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday in the weeks to come, I would like to close our observations on the resurrection today. In our text today Paul helps us understand the significance of the resurrection: Jesus rose from the dead so that we might be thankful and praise our God.
To make his point, Paul quotes from Psalm 116, “I believed and therefore I spoke.” Long ago the psalmist penned these words while thanking God for delivering him from the pains of death. “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of Yahweh; “O Yahweh, I implore you, deliver my soul!” In the course of the psalm, we learn that the Lord heard the psalmist’s prayer: “For you have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” In reponse to God’s kindness delivering him from the fear of death, the psalmist does the only thing he can rightly do: speak out, praise and thank the Lord. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
The faith and thanksgiving manifested by the psalmist are imitated and expanded by the Apostle Paul in our text today. The psalmist trusted the Lord and was delivered from death – and what was his response to this deliverance? He spoke, he praised God. So we also believe and therefore speak.
13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Note that the reason we can join the psalmist in praising God for deliverance from death is because God in his grace and mercy has given us immense confidence in the face of death by raising Jesus from the dead. We thank and praise God knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus. Death is a defeated foe; Christ is Risen, so we too shall rise.
Notice, therefore, that the end goal of Christ’s resurrection is that praise and thanksgiving might abound in all the world to Yahweh, the living God. Jesus came in order to restore rightful worship. Jesus rose from the dead in order to restore rightful worship. In other words, Jesus rose from the dead so that you would be here this morning, joining your voice in company with the voices of all God’s people and praising and thanking God for his mercies, thanking God that He has delivered us from the fear of death.
So, brethren, how eager are you to be here? God raised up Jesus so that you would be here this morning; so that you would your voice in company with the voices of your brothers and sisters; so that you would worship him. So how ought we to approach this morning? With sloth? With mere formality? With mumbling and inattention? May it never be! Let us join our voices week by week in thankful acknowledgement of God’s mercies toward us in Christ – Alleluia! Christ is risen! So let us worship.
Reminded that Jesus rose from the dead in order that we might worship Him together, we are also reminded how we often approach worship with insufficient joy and delight. So let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.