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.

The Peril of Hypocrisy

March 21, 2021 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Human Condition, Liturgy, Meditations, Sacraments, Tradition, Worship

Isaiah 29:13–14 (NKJV)
13 Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, 14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work Among this people, A marvelous work and a wonder; For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.”

Whether they acknowledge it or not, every church is liturgical, has a liturgy that directs their public worship week by week. Liturgies are inescapable. For what is a liturgy? Webster defines “liturgy” as “a series of … procedures prescribed for public worship in the Christian church.” In other words, it is simply the order in which the activities of public worship are arranged. Sometimes these liturgies are simple and straightforward; other times they are intricate and complicated. But every church has a liturgy.

The question that must be asked, therefore, is not whether we should have a liturgy at all – that much is inescapable – but whether the liturgy we have reflects the principles given to us in the Word of God. And one of the first principles given us in worship is that it must come from the heart. As human beings we are always in danger of replacing genuine, heartfelt worship with hypocrisy – speaking “holy” words, doing “holy” actions, thinking “holy” thoughts all the while our hearts are far away from God.

Such hypocrisy is an internal problem that comes from the human heart and not an external problem that arises from our circumstances. Hence, hypocrisy infects all types of liturgy, whether a low church Pentecostal service with its planned spontaneity or a high church Anglican service with its elaborate script. Both types of liturgy are prone to hypocrisy because sinners plan and participate in both. And it is this sin of hypocrisy into which Israel had fallen in Isaiah’s day:

Therefore the Lord said: “… these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…”

So what of you? Have you become distant from God? Are you attending the divine service out of mere habit, giving no attention to the words spoken, putting no heart into the service? Have you become a mere spectator thinking that worship is some sort of entertainment for your personal pleasure? Have you become dull of hearing? Or are you actively engaged? Confessing your sin? Learning your role in the service? Singing your part? Contributing your voice? Joining the one leading in prayer? Listening attentively to the sermon?

Brothers and sisters, Isaiah warns us to beware hypocrisy, to beware mere externalism, to beware drawing near to God with our lips when our hearts are far from him. God takes such hypocrisy seriously and threatens His people with His fatherly correction if we fall into such sin. So reminded that when we come to worship, we are to come with our hearts engaged, loving and cherishing the Lord and His law, let us confess that we often draw near with our lips while our hearts are far from him. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to 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.

Contentions

October 11, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Principles and Methods

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

One of the perpetual dangers of sinners in society is contention – the work of the flesh that we focus upon today. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… contentions.” Webster defines contention as “Strife; struggle; a violent effort to obtain something, or to resist a person, claim or injury; contest; quarrel.”

Such contentions are characteristic of sinners in society and so are always a temptation for the Church Militant which is a society of sinful men and women. The Corinthian church, you may recall, was rife with contentions. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:11, “For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.” These contentions saw the rise of party spirit within the congregation. “I am of Paul,” said some. “I am of Apollos,” said others. But Paul rebukes both, “For where there are envy, contentions, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor 3:3) To give way to contentions, Paul insists, is to revert to our fallen nature and ignore the Lord who has saved us and united us together as one people. There is, Paul writes, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph 4:5). Hence, we are to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). By one Spirit we have all been baptized into one body not many. Contentions are of the flesh, our fallen nature.

So why do contentions arise? Contentions arise from pride. Paul informs Timothy that the contentious man “is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words…” (1 Tim 6:4). The contentious man does not weigh matters rightly. He prides himself on his wisdom and discernment but through pride destroys the unity of the Church. He makes every mole hill a mountain and insists that all must agree with him or the church is going to fall into irreparable apostasy. Now, of course, the threat of apostasy is real; there are genuine mountains. But the contentious man cannot distinguish them from his personal preferences.

So what of you? Are you able to distinguish major from minor issues? Are you endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Are you putting to death the temptation to party spirit? Homeschoolers versus dayschoolers; gluteners vs non-gluteners; maskers vs non-maskers; winebibbers vs teetotalers. Among a people who take Scripture seriously, who take theology seriously, and who want to do all things well, there is always the danger of holding our theology in such a way that we destroy the very Church which Christ gave His life to save. So beware your heart; beware the lure of pride; always be open to correction; and pray regularly that God would preserve us all from contentions.

Reminded that contentions arise from a proud and disagreeable spirit and that we are often tempted to pride and contention, 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.

Sinful Hatred

September 20, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Depravity, Human Condition, Meditations, Sin

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

One of my friends is fond of remarking that sins are like grapes – they grow in bunches. So we have seen that Paul groups together various sexual sins – adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness – and then sins of worship – idolatry, sorcery/superstition – and now he addresses interpersonal sins. The first of these interpersonal sins is hatred: “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… hatred.”

The Greek word is ekthra. Foundationally, this hatred refers to a hatred of God. The unbelieving heart from which works of the flesh proceed hates God: “the carnal mind is enmity [hatred] against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom 8:7). The carnal mind is set against against God – it hates God and hates God’s law. And the world – not the planet but the collection of those driven by their sinful nature – also hates God. Consequently, friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4) and the one who wants to be the friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

This hatred of God, this vertical hatred, manifests itself in other types of hatred, horizontal hatred, hatred of others. Cain hated Abel and killed him in cold blood. Esau hated Jacob and plotted to kill him. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. After he had raped her, Amnon hated Tamar and brought shame and misery upon her. Absalom hated Amnon and orchestrated his murder some two years later.

Such hatred ensnares not only individuals but groups – families, factions, tribes, nations, ethnicities. Thus the Edomites hated Israel despite their common heritage as descendants of Abraham: “…you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword…” (Ezek 35:5) King Saul hated the Gibeonites and endeavored to destroy them with a form of ethnic cleansing (2 Sam 21). And in our day, unscrupulous politicians regularly inflame such hatred, pitting rich against poor, black against white, male against female. No wonder Paul describes our fallen state as “hateful and hating one another” (Tit 3:3).

Such ethnic hatred was in part reinforced by the ceremonial law of the old covenant which distinguished Jew and Gentile. Jews were circumcised; most Gentiles were not. Jews refused pork; most Gentiles did not. Jewish men could not shave certain portions of their beard; many Gentiles did. In Christ, these types of distinctions and the enmity they aroused have been broken down (Eph 2:14–16):

14For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

In Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; neither pork eaters nor non-pork eaters are anything; neither beard growers nor beard shavers are anything – what matters is keeping God’s moral law. Now that the Gospel is not limited to Israel but is being preached to all nations, such matters are adiaphora, things indifferent, areas where Christians are to extend grace to those who differ.

Thus, the Gospel teaches us to put away perverse hatred and to love our neighbor as ourselves – to treat our neighbor lawfully from the heart. To love one’s neighbor is to honor one’s own parents and to protect another’s life, marriage, property, and reputation knowing that this is the fear of the Lord. For though hatred often conceals and disguises itself, God will always bring it to judgment:

24He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself; 25When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart; 26Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly. (Prov 26:24–26)

And so reminded that we are to put away hatred and to love our neighbor as ourselves, let us confess that we often are tempted to plot evil against our neighbor instead. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Sorcery and Superstition

September 13, 2020 in Atheism, Bible - NT - Galatians, Bible - OT - Deuteronomy, Depravity, Human Condition, Meditations, Sin, Truth, Worship

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Whenever we as human beings throw off the worship of the Living God, we do not cease to worship, we do not cease religious practices. Rather, we replace the worship of the true God with idolatry, and we replace the practice of true religion with superstitions such as sorcery or witchcraft, the work of the flesh that we focus upon today. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… sorcery.”

The Greek word is pharmakia – from whence we get our English words “pharmacy” and “pharmacist” – one who dispenses drugs. While we often associate “sorcery” with the casting of spells, more frequently sorcery was connected with the use of hallucinogenic drugs, alcohol, and poisons, along with an invocation of demonic forces, to do either harm or good. Sorcerers use their skills to frighten, enslave, and accumulate wealth. They make lavish promises of victory over foes, increased fertility, inevitable prosperity. Because sorcery uses drugs and appeals to dark forces, it is always accompanied by other types of wickedness and incurs the wrath and judgment of God. Thus Moses warned Israel:

“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives [the nations] out from before you” (Dt 18:10–12).

Despite this warning, sorcery has reared its ugly head again and again whenever a people turn away from God toward idols. So King Saul, in his apostasy, consulted the witch of Endor (1 Sam 28); the wicked king Manasseh “caused his sons to pass through the fire… [and] practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists” (2 Chr 33:6). And in our day, too, the practice of witchraft and sorcery is becoming increasingly common. Thus we find Malachi and many other prophets warning that God would come in judgment on those who practiced sorcery (Mal 3:5). And John writes that “sorcerers… shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone…” (Rev 21:8).

When the Gospel arrives, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection and His conquest of the powers of darkness, it drives out sorcery. Even as light drives out darkness, so the true worship of God drives out superstition. God had promised through the prophet Micah, “I will cut off sorceries from your hand, And you shall have no soothsayers” (Mic 5:12). So, after Paul had preached the Gospel in the city of Ephesus, “many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all” (Acts 19:19). The Gospel frees us from lies and superstitions.

So what of you? Have you been freed from superstition? The promise of such superstition is that one can control the future or protect oneself from harm. But the one who has come to love God no longer needs to manipulate the world but can rest in the good providence of God, trusting Him to protect and to prosper those who love Him and keep His commandments. So do you trust Him? Or are you trying to manipulate the world in some superstitious way? 

Reminded that sorcery incurs the wrath and judgment of God and that it is the fruit of rebelling against God, let us acknowledge that it has become increasingly common in our society and that we too, as the people of God, are sometimes lured by its promises of control and prosperity. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Our Hearts as Idol Factories

September 6, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Depravity, Greek Gods, Image of God, Meditations, Sin, Ten Commandments, Trinity, Worship

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Human beings are intrinsically religious creatures. We all have a sensus divinitatis, a sense of the divine, which God Himself has planted within us. However, because of our rebellion against God, we all likewise have a bent away from the Living God. We are inclined toward idolatry; our hearts are, in the words of John Calvin, an idol factory. And it is this work of the flesh that we focus upon in Paul’s list today. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… idolatry.”

Idolatry is the worship of false gods or the worship of the true god through physical images. Idolatry has a bewitching power, enslaving nations and regularly tempting the people of God. So the people of Israel constructed the golden calf in the wilderness. Gideon had to cut down the altar of Baal which Israel had erected in his hometown. Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel and filled Israel with the worship of the Baals and Ashtoreths such that Elijah believed he alone remained faithful. Our fathers regularly turned to idols and so brought on themselves the wrath and judgment of God.

This tendency toward idolatry did not cease with Christ’s incarnation. Christians have regularly turned away from the Triune God to some lesser deity. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Ebionites taught that the Eternal Son of God was just a man while the Docetists taught that He was not man at all. In the great Trinitarian controversies of the 3rd and 4th centuries that resulted in the crafting of the Nicene Creed, the Arians taught that Jesus was not divine but some lesser being. In the 18th and 19th centuries, such idolatries multiplied. The Unitarians insisted that the Eternal Son was just a great moral teacher and example; the Jehovah’s Witnesses rescucitated the idolatry of Arius; the Mormons taught that the Eternal Son of God was some perverse offspring of a carnal union between deity and humanity.

Church history, in other words, illustrates that Paul’s warning against idolatry is necessary. The human heart bends toward idolatry. And so Paul warned the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14). We must remain ever faithful to the Triune God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

One of the chief traps that has ensnared God’s people in idolatry has been intermarriage with idolaters. God warned the people of Israel:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you… You shall make no covenant with them nor… shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods…” (Dt 7:1-4)

Despite this warning, the Israelites regularly intermarried with their pagan neighbors and fell into idolatry. Nehemiah reminded our fathers, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God… Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin” (Neh 13:25-26).

So if you are single and would like to be married – listen to the voice of the Lord – you may not marry a non-Christian! To do so is to court temptation and put yourself in danger of God’s wrath and judgment. As Paul reminded the Corinthians:

14Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God… (2 Cor 6:14–16) 

Reminded that God is jealous the affections of His people and would have us to avoid the worship of other gods, let us acknowledge that we and our father have often turned away from God to idols. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Sexual Freedom vs Slavery

August 23, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Confession, Depravity, Homosexuality, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The psalmist teaches us to sing in Psalm 119:45, “And I will walk at liberty, For I seek your precepts.” To walk in the law of the Lord, to obey the Lord, is to walk at liberty, it is to know true freedom. This is why James calls the law, “the perfect law of liberty” (1:25) – because everyone “who commits sin,” as our Lord Jesus reminds us, “is the slave of sin” (Jn 8:34). Sin corrupts and destroys us as human beings. God designed us to live in righteousness; to sin is to rebel against that design; it is to live in a way that we were not meant to live. The man who lives righteously is the most free. Consequently, the Man Jesus was the freest of men.

In our text today, Paul outlines some of the works of the flesh, sins that corrupt and destroy and enslave us as human beings. At the top of this list are sexual sins: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness… So let us relate this to our current cultural moment. Since the 1960s America has listened to prophets who have promised “sexual liberty.” But if the law is liberty, then what is true sexual freedom? Sexual freedom is the gift of God in which a man and woman who are covenanted together in marriage enjoy sexual intimacy. They are free: free to be naked and unashamed; free to learn the unity of body and soul that reflects the glory of their Creator; free to enjoy sex without the debilitating effects of guilt, regret, and sexually transmitted diseases. This is sexual liberty.

So what is sexual slavery? Sexual slavery is adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness. Sexual slavery is to be so driven by one’s sexual passions that one sleeps with a married man or woman, pursues sexual satisfaction outside the marriage bed, indulges varied sexual urges such as are represented by the LGBTQ agenda or the porn industry, or engages in coarse jesting and foul speech. Sexual slavery, in other words, is all the things our prophets have described as sexual freedom.

So why would they sell such slavery to us? Because tyrants love moral corruption and hate virtuous men. Men who are morally corrupt are men who are manipulable. So Balak, the king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse the people of Israel. But Balaam couldn’t curse them for God had blessed them. So what counsel did Balaam give Balak? Entice them with sexual corruption. So the men of Israel were enticed by the daughters of Moab. What Balak could not do with words he did with sexual slavery. Hence, it is no surprise that those who want to take away our political and economic liberties want to enslave us to sexual bondage. Why? Because morally corrupt men are manipulable.

So what of you? Are you sexually free or are you sexually enslaved? If you are enslaved to porn, then you are an advocate for everything the socialists and communists are trying to achieve in our culture no matter what you may say with your lips. So what is the solution? The solution is the forgiving and transforming grace of Jesus Christ. “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn 8:36).

And the Son willingly sets free all those who turn from their sin, turn in faith to Him, and seek His forgiveness. So as we come into the presence of the Lord today, let us confess our sin and the sexual slavery of our broader society, and seek the Lord’s mercy. And let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Justification and Sanctification

August 17, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Depravity, Faith, Justification, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification, Ten Commandments

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If you have turned away from your life of sin and rebellion and have sought God’s forgiveness through Christ, then your forgiveness will begin to manifest itself in a life of obedience to God. Justification, in other words, is always accompanied by sanctification. As Paul emphasized in the verses just prior to this catalogue of the works of the flesh, the Christ who forgives us also gives us His Spirit; and the Spirit imparts to us the resurrection life of Jesus, enabling us to uproot the works of the flesh and to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Paul insists on this bond between justification and sanctification in his words today. After cataloguing some of the works of the flesh – works that we shall consider in future weeks – Paul writes, “of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21). The one who lives a life characterized by these evil deeds, whose life is characterized by unrepentant sin, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Such a man or woman will face the wrath and judgment of God.

And note carefully that Paul insists that this has been his consistent message. He had told the Galatians these things in time past and he was now reminding them again beforehand, before they engage in such behavior or listen to the lie of those who say, “Hey! You’ve been forgiven! You can live any way you want!”

Paul will have nothing to do with antinomianism. So what is antinomianism? Antinomianism – literally “against law” – is the idea that those who have been forgiven by Christ are no longer under obligation to observe God’s moral law. But this is folly. Shall we who died to sin, who have been forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus Christ for our rebellion against God, live any longer in it? May it never be! When God saves us from our sin, He not only forgives us the guilt of our sin but empowers us to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.

Thomas Chalmers, the great Scottish preacher of the 18th century, once preached a sermon entitled, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” He insisted that when we see our sin in all its ugliness and then we see the forgiving grace of God in Christ in all its loveliness, God’s grace makes sin lose its lustre and appeal. Christ places in our hearts a new affection. So the believing heart wants more of Christ, more of holiness, more of truth, more of light, more of virtue and honor and humility.

So what of you? What do you love? What excites your soul? Enlivens your heart? Inspires your passions? If it is the secret thrill of adultery, contentions, outbursts of wrath, and the like, then you are still in bondage to your sin no matter what you may say about believing in Jesus. You need the forgiving and transforming grace of God. And how do you get it? By crying out to God for mercy. Consider the true heinousness of your sin and the true beauty of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Reminded that justification and sanctification always go together, let us continue to seek the face of God, confessing our own sin and acknowledging the loveliness of Christ. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.