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.

Now is the Day of Salvation

December 21, 2008 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Meditations

2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (NKJV)1 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Last week we noted that the Servant Songs of Isaiah serve not only as descriptions of the ministry of our Lord and Savior but also, frequently, as commissions for us. The character of our Lord is to be lived out in the life of His people.

But perhaps we have gotten ahead of ourselves? Did the New Testament really think that these Servant Songs with their lavish promises were being fulfilled through Jesus? Perhaps these things weren’t going to be fulfilled for many years yet to come. It is this suggestion that Paul’s words today completely undermine. He has just finished discussing the purpose of the death of Jesus. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And so God is urging us, through His preachers, through His Church – be reconciled to God. Paul concludes this thought with our words today –

We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the
grace of God in vain.

Paul urges His audience not to delay in calling upon the Lord to save them, to deliver them. They were not to be distracted by the deceitfulness of sin or by the winsome words of others but rather to trust in the Lord and believe His Word. To prove His point, Paul quotes from one of the Servant Songs. “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.”

The questions this raises are who is “I” and who is “you”? The answers are that “I” is God and “you” is the Servant of the Lord. Listen to the passage:

Isaiah 49:8 (NKJV)8 Thus says the Lord: “In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages; that you may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’”

So the question we posed at the beginning was this – does the New Testament teach that these lavish promises of restoring the earth, of rescuing prisoners and giving sight to the blind, are being fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus? Well what does Paul declare in our text today?

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

The long promised restoration from exile is upon us. God has acted to deliver His people from their sin; He has lifted up the cross as a standard to the nations and is, by His Spirit, drawing all men to it. And so the call to us is the same – don’t miss out. Don’t miss God’s call and fail to join ranks with His people. He is remaking the world through His Christ – will you be part of this new world of life and joy or will you continue to dwell in the old world of death and war?

Reminded that we often fail to keep the contrast between the world that God has introduced in Christ and the world as it once existed in death; reminded that we too often coddle our sins, coddle the path of death; let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.