Your Problem is Internal not External

March 28, 2021 in Bible - OT - Jeremiah, Children, Confession, Depravity, Ecclesiology, Heart, Human Condition, Meditations, Regeneration, Responsibility, Sexuality

Jeremiah 17:9–10
9“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

In our sermon this morning, we study Romans 3 and the universality of unrighteousness. As Paul will summarize, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Or, as Jeremiah reminds us today, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” So let us consider some implications of our sinful, fallen nature.

I am sure that many of you have heard of the man who shot and killed several people at a massage parlor in Atlanta recently. A professing Christian, he apparently told police that he had been struggling with sexual sin and so decided to attack the massage parlor. Apparently, he believed that if he were to get rid of these women then he would be eliminating that which he found so tempting. In other words, he believed that his primary problem was outside of him.

But what Jeremiah insists is that our fundamental problem is not outside us; the problem is inside us – in our hearts and minds. Your problem is not other people. Your problem is not your circumstances. Your problem is your heart. You are corrupt and do not fear God. This is your root problem.

So if you are a man dealing with sexual temptation – your problem is not women. If you are a woman dealing with envy or bitterness – your problem is not that others have wronged you or that others have the gifts you want. If you are tempted to drunkenness – your problem is not alcohol. Your problem is not outside but inside. Men are not the problem; women are not the problem; sex is not the problem; liquor is not the problem; money is not the problem; the problem is your sinful heart that twists and abuses these good gifts that God has given.

So notice what this means. This means that the chief threat to your home is not outside your home. The chief threat to your home is inside your home. It is inside every sinner who resides in your home. You are a sinner. If you are married, your spouse is a sinner. If you have children, your children are sinners. And the chief threat is there, in those sinful hearts.

So let’s say you’re relatively poor. You don’t own your own home, have as nice a car, have as many toys; you can’t travel like your neighbor does or afford those organically grown foods – truly you’re suffering for Jesus. So you make some impulsive and foolish financial decisions. You buy a car you can’t afford; you run up credit card debt; you get yourself in a bind and now you feel like you’re drowning. What do you do? Do you blame your circumstances for your impulsive decisions? If you do, then you will never grow, you will never change. In most situations, finances are more about our hearts than our circumstances. “The love of money,” Paul writes, “is the root of all kinds of evil…” If you’re willing to confront that heart issue, then you can truly grow.

Or, fathers, let’s say you’ve had a hard day at work. You come home. Your children disobey and, rather than get up and do the hard work of lovingly disciplining your child, you lash out at him with your voice or strike him in anger. Whose fault is that? When your conscience smites you, can you say to your conscience, “Hey, I was tired! He shouldn’t have disobeyed. It’s his fault. It was a hard day.” No! Your circumstances do not justify your sin. Now, they may help contextualize your sin. By observing them, you may be able to learn more about yourself, to understand when you are particularly tempted to sin so that you can fight that temptation in the future. That is the process of sanctification and it is a good and right process. But what you cannot do, if you really want to grow in Christ, is blame your sin on your circumstances.

Let’s say, teens, that you get frustrated with your parents. You don’t think they’re listening to you or understanding you or seeing things the right way. So you roll your eyes or you speak disrespectfully. Whose fault is that? When your parents confront your disrespect, can you excuse yourself? Can you say, “Well you made me angry! It’s your fault!”? Is your disrespect their fault? Will God excuse you? No!

There are times when we Christians act as though our problem is primarily external not internal. We say to ourselves, “We are raising our kids in just the right way, so we won’t have the problems that people out there in the world have. Our kids won’t look at porn. We won’t have unwed mothers. Our kids won’t be drunkards. We’ll never have a child tempted to commit suicide. Our method will work.” If you think that way, then you have not yet reckoned with the depth of your sin, your spouse’s sin, and your children’s sin. Methods will not save us. Laws will not save us. Only the grace and mercy of God in Christ can save us and our children from destruction.

And so reminded that our hearts are desperately wicked and that we cannot save ourselves, let us confess our sin. Let us confess our need for the forgiving and transforming grace of God in Christ. And let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

What Happens in Baptism?

February 28, 2021 in Baptism, Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Children, Faith, Liturgy, Meditations, Sacraments

1 Corinthians 12:12–13 (NKJV)
12For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

Later in the service we have the privilege of welcoming ——– into membership and then baptizing their son —– into the body as well. ——- dad, Alan Burrow, who is the pastor of our sister church in Meridian, Idaho will be assisting with the baptism and so I wanted to say a couple words about baptism for our exhortation today.

We see here in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that baptism connects us not only with the Triune God in whose Name we are baptized but also with the body of Christ, with the Church. In baptism, the Spirit unites us with Christ and with one another, that together we may worship the Father and experience the transforming work of the Spirit.

In Biblical Theology sacraments are visible words not magic talismans. Even as God speaks to us in His written Word, the Bible, so He speaks to us in visible words, in covenant signs and seals – what we call sacraments or ordinances. One of the earliest covenant signs was the rainbow – God placed the rainbow in the sky as the sign of the covenant that He made with Noah (cf. Gen 9:12). The rainbow visibly proclaims God’s promise that He will never again flood the earth. Every time we see the rainbow, God invites us to believe His promise and trust Him. In other words, the rainbow isn’t our word to God but God’s word to us.

What is true of the rainbow is also true of baptism: it is primarily God’s Word to us, not our word to God. This is why Paul uses the passive voice to describe baptism, “For by one Spirit we all were baptized into one body…” We were baptized; we didn’t baptize ourselves. Why not? Because, first and foremost, baptism is God’s act, God’s word, not my act, my word. In Paul’s words, it is the Spirit who baptizes us into the body of Christ. Hence, the human agent who baptizes us represents God Himself. When Alan comes forward to baptize —— today, he does so not primarily as —–‘s grandfather, as wonderful as that is, but as a minister of the Gospel, a representative of Christ Himself. Robert Rayburn explains:

The reason why no one [but the minister] baptizes someone in our churches… is so that it be absolutely clear that baptism is not our act; it is Christ’s…. Suppose we were to have an infant baptism here next Lord’s Day: and suppose on this moment alone of all the moments in the history of the Church since the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ this was a sacrament by sight and not by faith: Just as the minister was prepared to begin, with a loud, tearing sound the roof of the building parted; and lo and behold, the Lord Christ Himself descended to where I am standing right now… He took the baby in His arms and He pronounced the Divine Triune Name over the child and made the promise of His Gospel and covenant to this child by name and then by name summoned him or her to the life of faith and godliness and consecration… Then He blessed the child and poured water on its head and ascended back into Heaven and with a loud crash the ceiling came back to where it was before and everything was as it was.

Let me tell you a few things that would be inevitably true. One is that that child, though he or she would be too young to have any personal recollection of that moment, would remember his Baptism forever and better than he would remember any other event in his life because scarcely a day would pass without his parents telling him what happened in the church when he was three weeks old and what the Lord Christ said and demanded and promised. He would live as he grew up—at 3, at 4, at 6, at 8, at 12, at 18, at 26—he would live under the specter and under the mercy, the glory of Baptism. His whole life would be colored and shaped and formed by it. That’s what Baptism is. That’s exactly what happens in the Baptism of a child or adult when it happens in this church. The only difference is that it is by faith that you see it and not by sight.

Baptism, therefore, is an invitation to trust God’s Word; it is a call to faith. In baptism, God speaks to each of us individually. He claims us as His own and promises us forgiveness and newness of life through faith in His Son. Consequently, baptism is not only for adults but also for our children – for God graciously claims them as His own and gives them His promises as well. Today, therefore, God speaks to —– and assures him that His promise of forgiveness and renewal is for him; even as He spoke to you in your baptism and made the same promise to you.

So reminded that in baptism God claims us as His own, puts His Name upon us, and summons us to trust Him and to walk in newness of life, let us confess that we often respond to His Word with unbelief. We often despise our baptism and forget the call that He has issued to us in it. Hence, we have need of His forgiving and cleansing grace as even our baptism signifies. 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 in your bulletin.

The Delight of Discipline

February 7, 2021 in Authority, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Covenantal Living, Human Condition, Judgment, Lord's Day, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

Proverbs 29:17 (NKJV)

17 Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.

Last week we insisted that a good father, an earthly father who imitates our Father in heaven, will discipline his children for their good. A loving father does not discipline out of frustration or anger or impatience. Outbursts of wrath are not the fruit of the Spirit but the works of the flesh. Such outbursts do not reflect the loving discipline of our Heavenly Father but the perverse self-interest of Satan and his minions. For, as James reminds us, the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

While our discipline of our children is not to be self-centered, there is a blessing that comes to those parents who discipline their children. It is to this blessing that Solomon points us today, Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.” A wise son gives delight to the soul, gives a deep and abiding sense of comfort or, as Solomon puts it, rest. Parents have no greater joy than to see their children joyfully serving the Lord and walking uprightly. “My son, if your heart is wise, My heart will rejoice—indeed, I myself; Yes, my inmost being will rejoice When your lips speak right things” (Prov 23:15-16).

But note that this delight and rest are the fruits of godly discipline. “Correct your son, and he will give you rest…” A child left to himself when young rarely brings delight when old. So Solomon urges you, “Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction” (Prov 19:18). Now, while your children are young and the concrete is still wet, discipline and train them so that, when the concrete sets, it doesn’t have to be destroyed. Use your lips, in love, to correct your son. Use the rod, in love, to correct your son. And if you want to know how to do that faithfully, then contact Bob or Jackie and join their upcoming parenting class; seek out older mentors who can give you wisdom.

The fact that we parents are to train our children to be a blessing, reminds us that untrained children are a curse. Children, considered in the abstract, are a blessing from God and the fruit of the womb is His reward (Psalm 127:3). However, parents who fail to train their children take that blessing and twist it into a curse. “A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him” (Prov 17:25). Untrained children are a curse and a grief to mother and father as well as to others. So be diligent to train your children that they may be a delight. This is one way that you love your neighbor as yourself. Who enjoys being in the company of a child that lacks self-control, that refuses to listen to correction, or that is a regular disruption? No one. So if you don’t like it, then love your neighbor as yourself by training your own children so that they are not like that.

And, children, notice what your calling is. Your calling is to learn the lessons that your parents are teaching you. Give heed to their verbal corrections; welcome their discipline; and strive to bring joy to your parents and to others by growing in wisdom and maturity. Little children, pray that you may be like your Lord Jesus who “grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Lk 2:40). Teens, be like your Lord Jesus who “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk 2:52).

Reminded that discipline is to train us to bring joy to others, let us acknowledge that we often fail to bring the joy that we ought; we often fail to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. So let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness through Jesus Christ. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Other-Centered Discipline

January 31, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Love, Meditations, Parents, Wisdom

Proverbs 3:11-12

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights”

The Word of God assures us that God is absolutely sovereign, absolutely in control of each and every event, good or bad, which befalls us. Hence, even when we are experiencing a severe trial, we can be assured that it comes from the hand of God. As Job reminded his wife, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away…” (Job 1:21; 2:10).

So why do such trials come? Do they come because God hates us? If you are in Christ, the answer to that question is, “Absolutely not!” If you are in Christ, then Solomon assures you that the Lord sends trials to correct you because He loves you. “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov 3:11-12 cf. Heb 12:5-6). God corrects us because He is a good Father who loves us. It was this knowledge that enabled Jacob to endure under Laban’s evil schemes; that fortified Joseph with joy and hope despite the treachery of his brothers, the lies of Potiphar’s wife, and the forgetfulness of the cupbearer; that emboldened Israel to cry out to God while suffering under Pharaoh’s heavy hand; and that comforted our Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Whom the Lord loves He corrects.

So notice what this means for earthly fathers. A righteous father, one who loves and cherishes his children, is concerned for his child’s spiritual and personal growth and maturity. Consequently, a righteous father corrects his son. He knows that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of his child” (Prov 22:15) and so he uses “the rod of discipline” to “drive” this foolishness far away from him. He wants his child to receive God’s blessing. And this blessing only comes to those who have been trained in the ways of righteousness and self-control.

So fathers, how are you doing? Are you engaged with the discipline of your children? Are you concerned for them even as your Heavenly Father is for you? A loving father disciplines his children. “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Pr 13:24). And loving discipline, discipline that glorifies our Father in heaven, that imitates His character toward His children, must always be for the good of our children. Our discipline must be designed to bless them and strengthen them; to train them in righteousness and self-control; to make them ever more faithful servants of Christ Jesus. Biblical discipline, discipline that imitates our Heavenly Father, is a gift not a noose. God commanded Israel, “You shall not boil a kid [a baby goat] in its mother’s milk.” Yet how many children have been destroyed by the very discipline that should have been the means of blessing them?

So what are ways we can be tempted to distort the gift of discipline? Our chief temptation is to discipline our children not for their good but for our good. So we discipline them to get them out of our hair – to prevent them from disturbing our tranquility or our enjoyment of some other activity. Or we discipline them because we are frustrated with ourselves or with our day at work – we take out our frustration on them. Or we discipline them because we are concerned about what others might think of us, perhaps because we are embarrassed by our child’s behavior. In all these cases, the discipline is for us rather than for them.

Note carefully, however, that this is not how our Heavenly Father treats us. Therefore, if we discipline our children in this self-centered fashion, we are preaching a false Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so concerned about Himself that He lashes out at those who irritate Him.” Let us rather teach a true Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so satisfied in Himself and filled with love for His sons that He disciplines them for their good.”

And for you children out there, remember that this passage teaches you an important lesson – if your parents love you, they will discipline you. It is the permissive parent, the parent who says, “Oh do what you like I don’t really care” who truly doesn’t care. So when your parents limit your screen time, when they rebuke your attitude, when they spank you for disobeying them, when they give you consequences for your behavior, when they question your choice of friends or music or movies, be sure to thank them for loving you and caring for you. Discipline is a gift – and we all know what we’re supposed to say when we receive a gift, don’t we? Haven’t your parents trained you to say, “Thank you!”?

Reminded that the Lord chastens those He loves even as a father the son in whom he delights, let us confess that, as parents, we often fail to train our children as we ought, and that, as children, we often fail to thank God for disciplining us. And, as we confess our sin, let us kneel as we are able before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Rapunzel and the Sanctity of Life

January 17, 2021 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Ezekiel, Children, Depravity, Judgment, King Jesus, Meditations, Parents, Politics, Responsibility, Satan, Sexuality, Sin

Ezekiel 16:20-21 (NKJV)

Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to [your gods] by causing them to pass through the fire?

Once upon a time there was a man and wife who longed to have a child. But for some years the wife could not conceive. Finally, to their great delight, she found herself with child and both husband and wife eagerly awaited the birth of their first child

It just so happened that the couple’s home overlooked a walled garden that was owned by a terrible witch. As the wife’s pregnancy progressed, she developed an intense craving for the nut lettuce or rapunzel that she saw growing there. She begged and pleaded with her husband to get her some of the Rapunzel. Initially, he refused. He knew it was wrong to steal; besides, he was afraid of the witch. However, his wife persisted and eventually refused to eat anything else. So he relented, broke into the garden, and stole some rapunzel.

His wife was delighted. She made herself a great salad and devoured the rapunzel. But her desire for the rapunzel only increased. The next day she demanded more – and then the next day again. But just as the husband was making away with the lettuce, he was discovered by the witch. Great was her wrath as she loomed above him.

“How dare you steal from my garden?” demanded the witch. “You must die!”

“Please,” begged the husband, “have mercy! I would not have dared to steal from your garden, but my wife is pregnant with our first child and declared that she would die without this rapunzel.”

At these words the witch’s demeanor softened though her lips curled in derision and her eyes bore a hungry look. “Very well, you may take the rapunzel. But this is the price you must pay – when your wife has borne this child, you must give it to me.”

The man agreed. What else could he do? He had stolen from her garden and would surely die if he refused. Besides, perhaps the witch would forget? So he departed with the rapunzel. Soon his wife gave birth to their child, a lovely daughter. Immediately the witch appeared to claim her prize. The parents watched helpless and brokenhearted as she took the child away.

The story of Rapunzel reminds us that when we serve other gods, they sometimes give us gifts – even as the witch gave her rapunzel – but the gifts always come at a cost. And that cost is frequently our children. It was for this abomination of handing their children over to other gods, that God denounced our fathers:

Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to [your gods] by causing them to pass through the fire?

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Since the diabolical Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, we have slaughtered over 61 million children. The gods that we have been worshiping – consumerism, greed, immorality, power, influence, convenience, beauty – have been claiming our children. Like the Israelites, we have taken the children we have borne to God and we have caused them to pass through the fire.

Is there hope? Only in our Prince, the Lord Jesus Christ. He can rescue us and our children from these false gods, deliver us from the madness that has overtaken us, and grant us joy in His own kingdom. For though He too demands our children, He demands them that they may live not that they may die. So let us listen to Him, hear His voice, and turn from the false gods we have worshiped.

Reminded that we Americans have been worshiping other gods and sacrificing our children to them, let us confess our sins to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Do Christmas Again!

December 20, 2020 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Christmas, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Fabulosities, King Jesus, Thankfulness, Worship

Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)

30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.”

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas, I doubt that I have to remind you that children love these times of festivity. While we adults often grow tired, kids never tire; they long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open stockings and presents? When is everyone coming over?”

We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. Wisdom was daily God’s delight and rejoiced in His presence, rejoicing in God’s creative genius, and delighting in the sons of men. So who is the blessed one? What does Wisdom speak to you children? “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.” The blessed one is the one who keeps and observes the way of wisdom – and the chief of wisdom’s ways is to delight in God and to rejoice in His works. The blessed man or woman or child is he who looks upon the world with wide-eyed wonder at God’s creativity and genius and generosity; who marvels at the intricacy of the human cell; who laughs at the gangliness of a giraffe; who delights in the companionship of a friend. The cursed man is the one who has grown too dull to perceive the wonder of the world and those who dwell therein.

G.K. Chesterton explains all this in his inimitable way in his book Orthodoxy. He writes:

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

So what of you? Have you sinned and grown old? Have you ceased to look in wide-eyed wonder at the world? You teens, have you become too insecure, too self-important, or too distant to rejoice with joy? You young adults, have you become too self-absorbed or too ambitious to slow down and enjoy family and friends? You adults, have you become too tired or too lazy to celebrate with joy? Or perhaps too greedy to enjoy the simple delights of friendship?

Reminded that we often sin in various ways and that our sin causes us to “grow old”, that we become bored and complacent with God our Creator and Redeemer and with the world in which He has placed us, that we complain and mutter rather than overflow with thanksgiving, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The End of Fatherhood

November 22, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Faith, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

For the last couple weeks we have considered the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood here in 1 Thessalonians 2. We have seen that fathers are to cultivate a certain character: we are to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the eyes of their children. We have identified the basic duties of fathers: we are called to exhort, comfort, and bear witness to their families. Today we wrap up our consideration of this text by learning from Paul the end or goal of this conduct. Why ought fathers to be men of character? Why ought fathers to fulfill their duties toward their families well? Paul answers: so that our children may walk worthy of God.

Note that Paul declares that he had been as a faithful father among the Thessalonians “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (12). Paul’s burning passion was to see these men, women, and children in Thessalonica loving and serving God. As the Apostle John wrote in 3 Jn 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Both Paul and John wanted Christ’s disciples to reflect the glory of God in their own character. And praise God that they did for this desire led them to write the books which now form part of our New Testament canon. The apostles’ passion for their children paved the way for generations of believers to grow and profit.

So fathers (& mothers), two thoughts follow from this: first, how passionately are we praying for our children that they would walk worthy of God? Are we reminding them of what is most important in life? Calling them to believe the Lord, to trust Him, to honor Him, to cherish Him and His law? Our greatest privilege and calling as parents is to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in order that they themselves may walk worthy of God.

Second, fathers, let us beware putting any stumbling block before our children. After setting a little child before His disciples, Jesus warned them, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offences! For offences must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Mt 18:6-7) God forbid that any one of us parents be the means that God uses to blind our children to the truth. Instead, let us so live, so speak, so labor that we are the means God uses to call them into His own kingdom and glory.

Alongside these exhortations for fathers (and mothers), let me remind you children of your calling. God has given you the glorious privilege of growing up in a Christian home – a home where you have access to the Word of God, where you are receiving a Christian education, and where your parents are striving to raise you in the fear of the Lord. So treasure that privilege, thank God for it, and grow into it. Your calling is, as Paul admonishes the Thessalonians, to walk worthy of the God who calls you into His kingdom and glory. Learn what that means in order that God may use you to bless future generations even as you have been blessed.

These admonitions remind us of the many ways in which we all fall short of our calling as fathers, mothers, and children. We have sinned and we are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord.

The Duties of Fathers

November 15, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Discipline, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Last week we began looking at this text in Thessalonians and the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood. We learned that our goal as fathers is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the face of our children, our church, and our community. We are to be men “above reproach” as Paul says elsewhere.

But Paul not only tells us about the character of fathers in Israel, he also reveals the duties of fathers. Paul tells us that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of [the Thessalonians]” as a father does his own children. So notice the triad of responsibilities that Paul ascribes to fathers.

First, fathers are to exhort their children. The word is parakaleo – to call alongside. Hence, fathers are not only to model what it means to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly but are to call their children to join them in this type of life. The life lived in the fear of God, lived in obedience to Him, is the truly blessed life. As fathers, we are called to point this out to our children and encourage them to recognize it and love it. Even as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to learn the ways of Christ and honor Christ with their lives, so we fathers are to exhort our children to follow Him.

Second, fathers are to comfort their children. The word is paramutheomai – to cause them to be consoled. Fathers are not to be distant, not to be hard to reach, not to be unkind or uncharitable to their children. Rather we are to comfort them, to come alongside them, to stoop down and lift them up. Our comforting kindness to our children serves, after all, as a picture of the kindness of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103 declares that even as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. Thus even as Paul comforted the Thessalonians in the midst of hardship, fathers are to comfort their children throughout life.

Finally, fathers are “to charge” their children. And many a father out there says, “Yes, I wish I could charge my children but they don’t have any money!” Well it’s not that kind of charge. The word is martureo – to bear witness. It is the word from which we get our word “martyr.” Our calling is to bear witness to our children, to point them to Christ. We are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, pointing them to Christ as the only hope for individuals, families, and societies. In a Christian home, the daily witness of a father (and mother) who loves and serves Jesus is the ordinary means that God uses to bring our children to faith. Even as Paul bore witness to Christ before the eyes of the Thessalonians, calling them to trust in Him and believe in Him, fathers are to do for their children.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you daily with your children encouraging them, comforting them, bearing witness to them so that Christ might be formed in them? Or have you been lazy, assuming that your children will just “get it”? Have you abdicated, relying on your wife to accomplish the task? Have you been distant, failing to engage your kids? Then the Word of the Lord comes to you today – repent and start being a real father.

The calling of fathers to encourage, comfort, and bear witness to their children, reminds all of us that we have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

The Character of Fathers

November 8, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
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You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

In our text today Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his conduct among them – and he uses the metaphor of a father. In so doing, Paul gives us a vision of fatherhood that we will consider for the next couple weeks. Today I would like us to observe that Paul helps us understand the character that fathers are to possess: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe…” What sort of character are fathers to cultivate? Our character is to be devout, just, and blameless. This is our calling. As fathers in Israel we are to set a standard that all others can witness and imitate. And so, though I speak primarily to fathers this morning, these words apply to all – for fathers are to set the tenor and tone for all who believe.

First, we are to live devoutly. We are to model love for God, love for His law, and love for His people. We are to be the ones encouraging our wives and children to grow in their love for the things of God – for His law and for His people. And the principal way in which we encourage this is by modeling it – loving the Lord, loving to read His Word and to pray, loving the singing of the psalms, loving fellowship. We are to live devoutly.

Second, we are to live justly. We are to be models of justice and fair-mindedness, listening carefully to complaints and judging justly based on the principles found in God’s word. This is to be especially true when it is necessary to discipline or exhort our children. We are not to discipline in anger or rage for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. We are to beware being blinded by our own prejudices or simply delighting in our own opinions. We are to be steadfastly loyal to the principles of God’s Word and to apply them faithfully in our homes. We are to live justly.

Finally, we are to live blamelessly. We are to listen to the Word of God and implement it in our lives. We are to live above reproach. Our standard is not that we be cool or hip or that we be fashionable or well liked or that we be conservative or liberal. Our standard is that we be blameless – scrupulously obeying the Word of God while trusting in the forgiving grace of Christ. We are to live blamelessly.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you leading your homes? Are you setting the standard for devotion to God in your home or are you lagging behind? Are you a minister of justice in your home or are you a minister of disruption or disinterestedness? Are you striving to live a blameless life, growing in holiness, or are you stagnant? The goal of fatherhood is to live devoutly and justly and blamelessly among those who believe. How can we possibly live this way? Only by the grace of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. He is the One who must work in and through us to glorify His Name. In ourselves we are not capable to live this way – but by the grace of God we can.

So reminded of our calling to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before the Lord and His people, reminded of our need for God’s grace to empower us to obey, let us confess that we often fail in our calling and cry out for His grace. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.