Like a Tax Collector and a Sinner

April 7, 2019 in Authority, Bible - NT - Matthew, Communion, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Responsibility, Sacraments, Sanctification, Satan, Sin

Matthew 18:15-18

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 

The Scriptures make plain that our love for God is directly connected to and demonstrated by the fruit in our lives (Luke 6:43-49). As we have seen in the Gospel of John, love for God is not defined by our feelings but by God’s law-word: Jesus says that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (Jn. 14:15; 15:10-17). Because our love for God is revealed in such visible fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26), Jesus instructs us in our text today how we are to respond when a brother fails to bear such fruit and sins against us.

Recently, we went through this passage in detail. We saw that following private attempts to confirm that our brother really has sinned and that he refuses to repent, the church is to come alongside this brother publicly and correct him. When the church acts in this way, then the brother is summoned “to hear the church” – to take ownership for his sin, make concrete changes in his attitude and actions, and submit to his brethren in the Lord. This is the Lord’s calling upon us as His people.

However, if he refuses “even to hear the church”, then Jesus instructs us, “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Mt 18:17). Jesus insists that we are no longer to treat him as an erring brother in need of correction but as an unbeliever in need of the saving grace of God in Christ. This action is a mercy to him for it endeavors to speak God’s own word to the man, warning him that a refusal to humble himself now will only incur God’s judgment later. After all, Jesus’ command is accompanied by the sober promise that heaven itself will concur in the sentence of excommunication: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven” (Mt 18:18).

As elders it is our duty to apply Jesus’ words to a member of our church. A little over a year ago, we told the church that —— was refusing to repent of his contribution to persistent strife and discord in his marriage and home despite receiving over a year of marital counseling with three different pastors in our community. At the time, we asked you to come alongside him in prayer and, as your relationship permitted, accountability. Rather than respond to this attempt at increased accountability with humility, however, he has steadfastly refused “to hear the church.” He has absented himself from worship and from meaningful accountability. He has refused the elders’ offers to meet with him and help him grow. Most recently, he has asked that we remove him from membership at Trinity.

Since he has refused “to hear the church”, our obligation is to put him out of the church. Therefore, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we, the elders of Trinity Church, hereby excommunicate ——- from the church of Jesus Christ and hand him over to Satan, praying that God may yet have mercy on him and restore him to the true faith, that his soul may be saved in the Last Day (1 Cor 5:4-5).

As we do so, we would deliver to you two exhortations. First, remember prayer. As you think of —-, please pray that the Lord would humble him, expose his sin, and bring him to a true faith in Christ. As you think of his family who remains in the church, please pray that God would empower them, by His grace, to continue to serve the Lord in humility, to honor —— as a husband and father, and to be faithful witnesses to —— in his unbelief that they might be a means of touching his heart with the Gospel. Remember prayer.

Second, remember humility. Apart from the grace of God, we none of us would humble ourselves before Him. Our hearts are deceitful, our thoughts are vain, and our consciences are darkened. We all of us stand in constant need of God’s grace and mercy. So if you meet or interact with —–, be gracious, be kind, be loving, express your desire for his salvation, and your commitment to the well-being of both him and his family. Remember that Jesus regularly ministered to tax collectors and sinners, bringing them the truth of the Gospel in the hope that they would repent and turn in faith to Him. —– needs the Gospel. But hear the Word of the Lord: so do you. So beware the lies of the devil, the lusts of your own heart, and the snares of the world. Remember humility.

And so reminded this morning of our call to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, let us kneel and acknowledge our sin to Him, praying for His mercy and grace. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Household Baptisms

March 31, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Covenantal Living, Ecclesiology, Election, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)

31 So [Paul and Silas] said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

 Later in the service I have the privilege of welcoming several new members into our flock and of baptizing several of their children. While these parents have been baptized, their children have not. And so, having come to the conviction that God welcomes not only them but their children into His church, they are bringing their children forward for baptism today. So why have they come to this conviction?

As we consider this question, it is helpful to remember that throughout redemptive history God has dealt with His people both as individuals and as families. His covenants, His relationships with His people, are almost always generational. So, in the beginning of creation, God made a covenant with Adam and all those in him (Rom 5:18). At the flood, God covenanted with Noah and his descendants, rescuing his entire household from destruction (Gen 6:18). Similarly, God called Abram and his household out of Ur of the Chaldees and covenanted to bless all the families of the earth through his Seed (Gen 12:3). God made a covenant with David and his descendants, promising that one of David’s sons would always sit upon his throne (2 Sam 7:12). Characteristically, God works not just with individuals but with families, with households. And this is why the final promise of the Old Testament is that God will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (Mal 4:6).

It is no surprise, therefore, that this same feature characterizes the new covenant. Consider the anticipations of the prophets. Jeremiah prophesied of the day when God would give His people “one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them” (Jer 32:39). Likewise, Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones that come to life closes with the glorious promise, “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes and do them…. and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children forever…” (Ezek 37:24-25a). Similarly, Isaiah promises those who turn in faith to the Messiah: “Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9).

When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, therefore, we find our Lord Jesus at work not only among adults but among children and infants. He raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead; He cures a father’s son who suffered from epileptic seizures; He listens to the woman of Tyre who pleads on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter; He raises the only son of the widow of Nain; He blesses the little children and even nursing infants who are brought to Him; He welcomes the praise of children in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus ministers to families not just individuals.

Consequently, the Apostles did the same. Notice our text today: Paul and Silas proclaim to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household.” The message they preached to him was the same message that they had preached the day before to Lydia. So, having believed, “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15) just as in our text the jailer “and all his family were baptized.” God deals with families and welcomes us and our children into His church through baptism.

So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. Your children belong to the Lord of heaven and earth and have been entrusted to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4), a vow that these parents will be affirming this morning. Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. So you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).

And so reminded that God deals not just with individuals but also with families, let us confess that we have often neglected our responsibilities as parents and children alike – we parents have neglected to train our children as we ought and we children have neglected to honor our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

When Pride Comes Then Comes Shame

March 10, 2019 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Judgment, Justice, King Jesus, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification, Sin, Temptation

Proverbs 11:2 (NKJV)

2 When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.

In Proverbs 6:16-19, Solomon tells us that there are six things that the Lord hates, yes seven which are an abomination to Him. At the head of that list are “proud looking eyes.” God hates pride.

So what is pride? Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines pride as, “Inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable conceit of one’s own superiority in talents, beauty, wealth, accomplishments, rank or elevation in office, which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others.” So pride is first an attitude of the heart that then manifests itself in action. The attitude of the heart is an “inordinate” or “unreasonable” self-esteem and conceit. The proud man imagines himself to be more than he is.

We witness this “boastful pride of life”, as the Apostle John calls it in 1 John 2:16, in the fall of Satan and in the temptation of our first parents. Paul warns us not to appoint a new convert to church office “lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Tim 3:6). It was the devil’s pride, his belief that he could be equal to God his Creator, that precipitated his rebellion against God and then ended in his defeat and judgment. Similarly, Satan lured the first woman, Eve, to eat of the forbidden fruit by promising her that if she rebelled against God and partook of the forbidden fruit then she would “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Pride plunged the entire human race into sin and misery.

According to Solomon, pride always ends in shame. “When pride comes, then comes shame…” Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit and immediately their eyes were opened, and they knew they were naked and were ashamed. The builders of the tower of Babel set out to “make a name” for themselves but ended in mass confusion and dispersion. Miriam rose up in pride against Moses and King Uzziah entered the temple in his pride and both were struck with leprosy, shamed before their peoples. Haman’s pride stretched his neck on the gallows and Herod Agrippa’s pride welcomed the worms that ate his bowels. “When pride comes, then comes shame…”

But Solomon continues our proverb. “When pride comes, then comes shame, But with the humble is wisdom.” “But…” isn’t that a glorious word? We are not sentenced to shame. Shame need not be our lot in life. “But with the humble is wisdom.” The humble man is the one who knows his place and joyfully occupies it to the glory of God. That man shall not be put to shame. “For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’” (Rom 10:11). The humble shall possess wisdom and honor. “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6). Abraham possesses the gates of his enemies; Moses dies an old man, greatly esteemed in Israel; Joshua is summoned by God to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land; Ruth tends to her mother-in-law Naomi; Mary welcomes the Lord’s selection of her to serve as the mother of Jesus. “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). But with the humble is wisdom.

So what of you? Do you struggle with shame? One cause may very well be that you have been proud, thinking more of yourself than you ought, imagining yourself more significant than you are. There are, of course, other causes of shame. However, pride – a refusal to worship God as God and to listen to Him and submit to His Word as our source of wisdom and life – is one of the chief causes of shame.

And so reminded that with pride comes shame but with the humble is wisdom, let us confess that we have often given way to pride, thinking ourselves wiser than we are. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel in His presence. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Honesty in our Business Dealings

February 24, 2019 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Giving, Justice, King Jesus, Meditations, Principles and Methods, Responsibility, Wealth

Proverbs 11:1 (NKJV)

1 Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.

The Proverbs regularly remind us that the Lord is passionately concerned about the marketplace. Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord – He hates them – but a just weight is His delight – an honest transaction causes God to rejoice. Our text reveals that the Living God takes an interest in the food we buy, the gasoline we put into our cars, and the drinks we consume. Unfortunately, however, we often get His interest in such things wrong.

On the one hand, we can get it wrong by imagining that the products we buy or the foods we consume will get us closer to God. If I avoid pig, God will be pleased; if I consume more fruits and nuts, I’ll get closer to God. Nothing, however, is further from the truth. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 8:8, “But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.” Want to avoid gluten or sugars or transfats or squid? Go for it! Want to eat all of those at once? Enjoy. Do you want to put regular unleaded in your car? Go ahead. Premium unleaded? Knock yourself out. In the new covenant, what you use does not matter. None of that will get you closer to God nor distance you from Him.

Second, we can get it wrong because we imagine that these things exist in a little secular part of our life. Since it doesn’t matter what we use, we reason that the way we make use of them must be totally irrelevant to our spiritual life. So we divide the sacred and the secular. Our sacred life is our church life or our prayer life or our Bible reading time; our secular life is our trip to Fred Meyer or our visit to the Exxon station. But there is no such secular/sacred dichotomy. All of life is to be devoted to the service of God. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). All of life is sacred.

So what do the Proverbs teach us about the marketplace? They teach us that, with some notable exceptions, God’s concern is usually the nature of the transaction not the material transacted. God is concerned with the way you are treating your neighbor. He wants honesty in the transaction. He wants sellers who sell what they advertise and buyers who pay with honest money. His interest is in the nature of the transaction – because it is in that transaction that you either love your neighbor or hate him.

So what does our text require? On the one hand, it requires business owners to be honest in their dealings with customers. Don’t claim to sell that which you are not selling. When you have sold a pound of licorice, give a pound. When your pump disperses a gallon of gas, make sure it disperses a gallon. When you bill a certain number of hours on a project, make sure you spent that many hours on it. Be an honest seller.

On the other hand, it requires customers to be honest in their dealings with sellers. Don’t use counterfeit money; don’t buy something so that you can simply use it for 30 days and then return it; don’t rack up debt on a credit card that you cannot repay. When you’ve obtained goods from a supplier or services from a medical professional, don’t perpetually delay payment when you have the ability to pay. Be an honest buyer.

Reminded of our obligation to love others in the way we transact business, let us acknowledge that our culture is awash with injustice and that we ourselves often treat others unjustly – we do those things which the Lord hates. 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.

Restoration to Fellowship

February 17, 2019 in Authority, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Confession, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Responsibility, Sin

2 Corinthians 2:5–11 (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. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 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.

For the last couple weeks we have been studying Matthew 18, in part to prepare for today. We have seen that Jesus teaches us to deal with our brother’s sin compassionately and to rejoice over the one lost sheep who is restored to the fold. Today the elders have the privilege of restoring a lost sheep to worship and to the Lord’s Supper. We are pleased to report that after —- sin was exposed, he responded by confessing his sin and professing repentance. For the last few months he has been walking out this repentance and has humbly submitted to the discipline of the church. He has sought the forgiveness of those he has wronged, has developed a plan for accountability and growth, and has striven to reconcile with his wife. Therefore, based on his profession of repentance and the fruit that has accompanied that profession, the elders rejoice to restore him.

Paul provides us guidance for this action in our text today. Paul had written to the Corinthians commanding them to censure a man in their congregation who was committing sexual sin. The Corinthians acted on Paul’s command and inflicted a fitting punishment upon him – they suspended him from the Supper. It appears that after they disciplined him the man was moved to repentance. Consequently, in our text today, Paul urges them to forgive the man and to restore him to fellowship in the body. Paul writes, “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.”

Jay Adams notes that the “word reaffirm is a specialized term… meaning to officially reinstate.” As part of the restoration process, therefore, the elders want to give you opportunity to reaffirm your love for —— and to assure him that he is forgiven and welcomed back into the congregation. Hence, we have asked him to come up front, to confess his sin to you here in the assembly, and to seek your forgiveness. At the conclusion of his letter, I will invite you to reaffirm your love for him; to declare loudly and thankfully, “You are forgiven. Alleluia!”

Form for Readmission to Fellowship:

Public Confession

Pastor: Brothers and sisters, this sheep that was lost has been found and restored to the fold. So let us reaffirm our love for him.

Congregation: You are forgiven! Alleluia!

Officer Prayer

Family of God, moments such as this remind us how great the Father’s love is for His flock. He forgives us and removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west, He remembers our sins no more. Though our sins be like scarlet, yet, through the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ, He makes them white as snow, white as wool. He grants us forgiveness freely and fully so that we can, in turn, forgive one another. And so, reminded of the greatness of His love and the freeness of His forgiveness, let us all together confess our sins to the Lord and seek His face. 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.

Restoring a Brother in Sin

February 10, 2019 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Children, Confession, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Meditations, Parents, Sanctification, Sin

Galatians 6:1 (NKJV)

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

In our sermon today, we continue our study of Matthew 18. Last week we saw that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is he who deals with his own sin relentlessly and who deals with his brother’s sin compassionately. The truly great disciple is the one who realizes how much he has been forgiven by God and who therefore extends to his brethren the same grace that God has extended to him. As Jesus teaches in Matthew 7, he removes the plank from his own eye before attempting to remove the speck from his brother’s.

So notice that in our text today Paul insists on this same thing: it is he who is spiritual who is in a position to help a sinning brother. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness… The spiritual man who has removed the plank from his own eye, who has dealt with his own sin relentlessly, is in a position to remove the speck from his brother’s eye, is able to deal with his brother’s sin compassionately.

So what does it mean to deal with our brother’s sin compassionately? We will explore that in more detail in our sermon. However, Paul gives us the basic outline. We are to restore our brother when he is ensnared in sin. We are to pursue him even as the shepherd pursues the one lost sheep. And how are we to pursue him? Paul tells us that we are to do so in a spirit of gentleness. Webster defines gentleness as “mildness of temper; sweetness of disposition; meekness; kindness; benevolence.” Knowing how much the Lord has forgiven us, knowing the way in which God in Christ has pursued us as lost sheep ourselves, we are to pursue our brother in kind.

We must be careful, however, that we not mistake a spirit of gentleness for a spirit of indifference or foolishness. After all, Paul tells us that while restoring our brother, we are to consider ourselves “lest you also be tempted.” Satan would like nothing more than to tempt us into sin so that rather than help our brother who is overtaken in a trespass we join him there.

So, parents, consider your calling to restore your disobedient children. When your child disobeys you, your calling is to restore him to fellowship with God and with you in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. But here’s the dilemma we often face: when we are qualified to restore our child we are often disposed to overlook his disobedience but when we are zealous to discipline him it is often because we are not qualified. What do I mean by this?

Well imagine that you come home from a great day at work or you wake up from a particularly great night’s sleep. You’re walking faithfully with the Lord and well with your spouse. Everything is right with the world. Then junior decides to disobey you – defying a clear command that you have given. You are qualified to discipline. What’s your temptation? Your temptation is to let the disobedience pass. But what should happen? You should thank God for the opportunity to discipline your child and you should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

But now imagine a different day – it was a stressful day at work, you had a terrible night’s sleep, you and your spouse just had an argument and you haven’t read your Bible in a couple days. You are on edge and junior decides to disobey you. You are not qualified to discipline. But what’s your temptation? Your temptation is to bear down on him with both barrells blazing. But what should happen? You should repent of your disqualification and then discipline your child in a spirit of gentleness. After all, your calling is to restore him not traumatize him.

And so reminded that we are to restore a brother who is overtaken in a trespass in a spirit of gentleness, that we are to deal with their sin compassionately, let us confess to the Lord that we often show indifference to those in sin or that we treat them harshly. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

The Abomination of Abortion

January 20, 2019 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Exodus, Children, Confession, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility, Ten Commandments

Exodus 21:22–25 (ESV)

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

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. For 45 years now our nation has given legal sanction to the murder and dismemberment of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. Our hands are covered with the blood of innocents and God is exacting and will continue to exact vengeance upon us as a people for our bloodshed.

In contrast with our law which does not recognize the personhood of the unborn child, the case law in Exodus 21 clearly identifies the unborn child as a person and affords that child legal protection. The opening admonition declares: When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.

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

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

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

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

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

Children are a Gift

December 30, 2018 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Children, Christmas, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

Psalm 127:3–5 (NKJV)

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

This morning we meditate on Psalm 45 – a song of love, a song that celebrates the wedding day of the King of Israel. We will meditate on the King and Queen in their glory and rejoice in the ideal of wedded love that is presented to us. Psalm 45, as we will see, closes with this promise to the King and his Queen: “Instead of your fathers shall be your sons, whom you shall make princes in all the earth” (45:16). The psalm, in other words, anticipates the fruitfulness of the King and Queen. God would bless them with children.

It the blessing of children that Psalm 127 sings. Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is his reward. Children are a heritage from the Lord – children are God’s reminder to us that he intends to bless us and to cause His people to inherit the earth. The fruit of the womb is his reward – a treasure far greater than second homes, new cars, expensive toys, or undistracted minds. But children are not an automatic blessing – the blessing of children is contigent upon parents raising their children in the nurture of the Lord so that those children fight alongside them against God’s enemies. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. Does it cost to have children? Absolutely. Is it at times a struggle to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Absolutely. But the psalms orient us to the blessing.

Increasingly, however, our broader society tempts us to view children as a burden rather than a blessing. Our culture of death has not only aborted over 60 million children, but is now making the morning after pill increasingly available to stave off the supposed curse of fertility. Rather than extolling the glory of sexual self-control and celebrating the wonder of children conceived in wedlock, we have endeavored to divorce the sexual act from fertility by murdering the unwanted by-products of our sinful self-indulgence. Tired of confining the fire of our passion to the fireplace, we have lighted it in the middle of the house – and now the house is burning down around us. Rampant divorce, skyrocketing rates of mental illness, the #metoo movement, homosexuality, transgenderism – all are the fruit of our hatred of God and our hatred of the fruit of the womb.

So what of you? Have you given thanks for the blessing of children? Parents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to teach and train your children, to disciple them daily, to show them the paths of the Lord, and to invest in them? Grandparents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to invest in the lives of your grandchildren and point them to the greatness of the Lord? Congregation, when the cries of children are reverberating in our sanctuary and you’re having a hard time following the sermon, are you grateful for the blessing of children?

Brothers and sisters, let us remember on this First Sunday of Christmas that Mary responded in faith to the news that she would bear a child. She rejoiced despite the challenges she would face. So let us imitate her by giving thanks for the children that God has given us and anticipating with joy the arrival of others. And let us confess that as a society we have despised the little ones – as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Expose the Unfruitful Deeds of Darkness

November 25, 2018 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Communion, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Heart, King Jesus, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility, Sexuality

Ephesians 5:8–12 (NKJV)

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

Paul reminds us in our text that when the Lord saves us, He delivers us from darkness and brings us into the light. Whereas we once walked in darkness, subject to the prince of darkness and in bondage to our own sinful nature, God in Christ has brought us out of Satan’s kingdom and made us part of His own. He forgives our sins and renews us in the inner man, giving us a new heart by the power of His Spirit. He makes us to be children of light.

As those adopted into His family and made citizens of His kingdom, He now summons us to walk as children of light. The Lord of Light pours out the Spirit of Light upon children of light. And the Spirit so works in the hearts of those who have truly believed that they practice, in Paul’s words, goodness, righteousness, and truth. The Spirit bears rich and abundant fruit in the lives of His own. He causes us to walk in God’s commandments.

Consequently, those who have been saved want to have open lives. They want to dwell in the light and to have the vestiges of darkness removed from their lives. In Paul’s words, they have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. They don’t hide their emails or their phone conversations. They don’t engage in filthy speech or coarse jesting. They don’t look at pornographic pictures or develop intimate relationships with persons other than their spouse. They cultivate a love for goodness, righteousness, and truth.

While the calling to expose the unfruitful works of darkness is often uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is our duty to do so. We have just welcomed the —- household into membership. I now have the sober duty to announce that the elders are publicly suspending —- from the Lord’s Supper for the sins of adultery and deceit. For several years, —- has been living in sin, preying on several different women, some of whom have attended our congregation. He has been deceiving his wife and others and has been repeatedly unfaithful to her. Thankfully, —- is professing repentance. However, given the length of time he has lived a life of deceit regarding the nature of their relationship and his own walk with the Lord, the elders have determined to suspend him from the Supper until he manifests fruits in keeping with repentance.

We know that this will come as a shock to you even as it has come as a shock to his family and to the elders. We had believed that —- was walking faithfully with the Lord and that he was faithfully loving his wife. The truth, however, is that he has been deceiving us all. He has been having fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness rather than exposing them. Thankfully the truth emerged this last weekend and there is now opportunity for genuine repentance and change.

So please pray for the —-. Pray for —- – that he would truly repent and repudiate the unfruitful deeds of darkness that have bound him for the last several years; that he would seek out help and, by the power of God’s Spirit, break with the sin that has enslaved him. Pray for —- – that she would continue to lean on the Lord, entrust herself to His loving care, and treasure her daughters. Pray for their children – that they would know the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ, experience the comforting presence of their Heavenly Father, and love and obey their mom in these trying times.

Moments like this should cause each of us to reflect on the treacherous nature of our own hearts and the deceitfulness of sin. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (17:9) That judgment pertains to your heart and to mine. It was to forgive the guilt of our sin and to transform our hearts that Jesus gave His life on the cross and then rose again from the dead. So if you are in sin, ensnared by the darkness, come to the light before it is too late. Confess your sin in Jesus’ name and seek the forgiveness of the Lord.

Sobered by the pervasiveness of sin, let us confess our sin to the Lord. 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.