Why pursue wisdom?

October 29, 2017 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Bible - OT - Psalms, Confession, Discipline, Image of God, Meditations, Parents, Wisdom

Proverbs 10:1 (NKJV)
1 The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.

The proverbs of Solomon guide and teach us in order that we might be full of wisdom; in order that we might govern our daily affairs in a way that glorifies and honors our Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of hosts. In chapter 10 of Proverbs, Solomon begins to identify practical ways that the law of God teaches us wisdom. And where does he begin? He begins with your motivation. Why should you pursue wisdom? Because it is the wise son who brings joy to his parents.

Every child is born with an innate desire to please his parents. This desire is a gift from God, part of what it means to be made in the image of God. God the Son has eternally delighted to do the will of His heavenly Father, a delight on display in His Incarnation. “I delight to do Your will, O God,” Psalm 40:8 declares, “Your law is within my heart.” This delight of the Eternal Son in the Eternal Father has been hard-wired into the world such that children long for the approval of their parents, oftentimes even when those parents have been cruel or unkind.

So how can a son, young men, how can you, please your parents? Solomon gives you the answer: strive for wisdom and avoid folly. Cultivate the fear of God; meditate on the commandments of God; imbibe the promises of God; flee greed; flee lust; flee covetousness. Why should you do these things? Because it is the wise son who makes his father glad; because it is the foolish son that brings grief to his mother. And which would you rather do, bring your father joy or bring your mother grief? I pray to God that you would rather do the former.

But perhaps you don’t care about pleasing your parents. Perhaps you could care less what they think; perhaps you just want to cause them pain because you are frustrated with their restrictions or upset by their rules or hurt by their inattention. What should you do then? The first thing you should do is stop making excuses for your sinful attitude, confess it to God, and pray that He would change it. The fifth commandment is clear: Honor your father and your mother, that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth. God’s desire for you is that you honor your parents. So if you are failing to do so, if you have no desire to do so, then you are in sin and you need to repent.

But what if you are the parent? What if your child doesn’t care about pleasing you, what should you do? First, ask yourself whether you care about pleasing your parents. Much more is caught than taught. If you do not long to please your parents it may very well be that your kids are simply taking a page from your book. If so, repent and confess your sins to the Lord and to your kids. Second, are you embittering your children, treating them tyrannically? A child’s innate desire to please his parents, though strong and resilient, can be destroyed by such behavior.

Reminded this morning that the innate desire that God has placed within us to receive the praise of our parents is often twisted, distorted, or even annihilated by our sin, let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: Convince!

August 20, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Titus, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Preaching

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

What exactly does it mean that Timothy is, in Paul’s words, to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season”? Thankfully, Paul gave Timothy some guidance and direction, guidance and direction that can help ministers of the Gospel today understand their task. Paul continues, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” So let us consider each of these commands, beginning today with what it means to “convince.”

The Greek word behind “convince” is elencho and means “to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance” (TDNT). The ESV translates it as “reprove” in this case and that captures the sense. Paul uses the word elsewhere in the pastoral epistles:
· 1 Tim 5:20 – He commands Timothy, “Those [elders] who are sinning [reprove] in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”
· Titus 1:9 – Paul notes that elders are to “be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and [to reprove] those who contradict.”
· Titus 2:15 – Paul commands Titus, “Speak these things, exhort, and [reprove] with all authority. Let no one despise you.”

To reprove, therefore, involves two components. First, the preacher must identify what is erroneous or sinful – he is the “reprove” those who are sinning, to “reprove” those who contradict, and to “reprove” with all authority. Second, the preacher must summon the offender to repentance. “Let no one despise you,” Paul commands, since the preacher is to speak the very words of God to the one sinning.

What this means is that the minister of the Gospel must be prepared to deal with the sins of his people. It is not the job of the preacher to tell smarmy stories that make God’s people feel good about themselves; it is not the minister’s responsibility to make people feel comfortable; his responsibility is to speak the Word of God into the lives of God’s people so that their sins are exposed and they grow in holiness and in the fear and love of God.

If this is the duty of ministers of the Gospel, if ministers are “to show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance” then what corresponding duty does this require of those who are reproved? What is your responsibility? Your duty is to listen and to give heed. Your duty is not to harden your neck and resent correction, but to cultivate a spirit that longs for reproof.

So reminded this morning that preaching the Word involves exposing sin and summoning God’s people to repentance, let us acknowledge our sin: preachers often fail to speak clearly about the sin that so easily entangles us and Christians often bristle when our sin is exposed and confronted. Rather than humble ourselves before the Word of God, we are tempted to say, “What will they think of me if I say that?” or “Who do you think you are to confront me?” And so reminded of our sin and that there is only one sacrifice, Jesus the Christ, whose shed blood can cover the guilt of our sin, let us confess our sin, beseeching God’s forgiveness. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Church’s Task of Discipling the Nations

May 8, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Matthew, Discipline, Evangelism, King Jesus, Politics, Sanctification
Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
The passage before us today has appropriately been labeled the Church’s Great Commission. This commission contains both indicatives (statements of fact, of what is the case) and imperatives (commands, moral obligations). Let us consider each in turn. First, the indicatives. Jesus gives two. First, He informs the disciples that He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth – through His conquest of sin, death, and Hades, He is now Lord of all, God’s Messiah come to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Second, He assures the disciples that He will be with them forever – though He would be absent physically, He would remain present with them, by the power of His Spirit, to comfort, encourage, enlighten, and empower them to fulfill the task He has given them.
So what is this task? What are the imperatives, the commands? What is the commission? Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… Notice that the task is quite clear: our task is to disciple the nations. What does this mean? Well, our Lord explains the task by adding two phrases: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. Notice the two components of the discipling process: baptizing and teaching. Baptizing introduces someone into the life of faith; teaching them to observe Jesus’ commandments helps that same person learn to live out the faith. In other words, our task is both to bring the nations into the faith and to bring them up in the faith.
It is not sufficient for someone to be incorporated into the faith if they remain, in their thinking and acting, an outsider. If a mobster gets a job on the police force, we won’t rejoice if he’s simply puts on a uniform; we’ll only rejoice if he actually becomes an officer in heart and mind. So too – those who are brought into the faith through baptism are to be taught to observe the things that Christ has taught through instruction. Discipleship, in other words, involves both conversion and transformation.
Paul writes in Colossians 1:28, “we preach [Jesus], warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man [mature] in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s words reveal that the church is called not simply to get people “saved” or to get them to “make decisions” for Christ, but to grow them up in the faith. We are to disciple the nations not just evangelize them. We are to aim for their growth and maturity. In other words, we are to create civilizations not mere converts.
Today we will see that the task Jesus lays out for the Church in the Great Commission is the same basic task to which Jesus calls parents. We are called to disciple our children. We are to train and instruct them so that they mature in Christ. We are to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Parents are to warn their children and teach their children in all wisdom, that they may present their children mature in Christ Jesus. That is the task.
Parenting involves, in other words, not only having a child but raising that child in the fear of God. Any fool who has passed puberty can sire or conceive a child – can becomea parent; however, it takes a man or woman of faith to raise a child in the fear of God – to be a parent.

So reminded that Christ is the exalted Ruler over all, that He remains with His Church to this day, and that He has summoned us to disciple the nations, including our own children, let us confess that we have often distorted or neglected our calling. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Apostate Children

February 22, 2016 in Children, Discipline, Parents, Quotations, Ten Commandments

Note, The gross misconduct of wicked children is the grief and shame of their godly parents. Children should be the joy of their parents; but wicked children are their trouble, sadden their hearts, break their spirits, and make them go mourning from day to day. Children should be an ornament to their parents; but wicked children are their reproach, and are as dead flies in the pot of ointment: but let such children know that, if they repent not, the grief they have caused to their parents, and the damage religion has sustained in its reputation through them, will come into the account and be reckoned for.

Matthew Henry (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 74). Peabody: Hendrickson.

The Value of Discipline

February 7, 2016 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Trials
“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Discipline should be a lively topic in our homes. As fathers and mothers we ought always to be reminding our children of the reasons for discipline. And as we explain these things, the text before us today should frequently be on our lips. “Now no chastening [discipline] seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Notice that the author of Hebrews tells us two things about discipline that we can pass on to our children but which we should also be passing on to ourselves. After all, first and foremost this passage concerns the way in which God disicplines us; only by analogy does it discuss an earthly father with his children. What then do we learn about discipline?
First, we learn that discipline is painful. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time it is administered. Its intention is to be painful. And so, you children out there, when your parents get out the rod to spank you or when they give you consequences for your sinful behavior or when they refuse to give you permission to do what you want – don’t expect this discipline to be enjoyable. Hebrews tells us that the whole purpose of the discipline is quite the opposite: it is supposed to be painful. For it is the pain that teaches us to avoid that pattern of behavior in the future; the pain that trains us and fashions us into mature men and women.
Most of us parents are adept at delivering this lesson to our children. But how often do we deliver this message to ourselves? Brothers and sisters, the discipline of the Lord does not seem pleasant at the time. When the Lord puts us through some trial or when the Lord disciplines us for violating His commandments, why is it that we expect things should be jolly? He is sharpening us; disciplining us; chastening us. We expect our children to know what those things mean; so why do we have such a hard time letting it soak in to our own consciousness? No discipline is enjoyable at the moment.
But this is not the only thing we learn about discipline. While discipline is painful, it is not intended to end in pain. The ultimate goal of the Lord’s discipline, as should be the goal of parental discipline, is the cultivation of the peaceful fruit of righteousness in our lives. Our Lord promises to use discipline to make us more lovely, mature, godly people. He is training us unto righteousness.
But note that this righteouness is not an automatic biproduct of discipline. If we are to see the fruit of righteousness in our lives then we must, in the words of our text, be trained by the discipline. In other words, we must take the discipline to heart and learn from it. We must not harden ourselves to the discpline; must not complain that we have been treated ill; must not kick against the goads. Rather we must bow the knee before our Lord and learn the lesson.
And so, children, how are you responding to the discipline of the Lord through your parents? Are you bowing the knee? Are you acknowledging the authorities that God has placed over you and submitting yourself to them? Does discipline produce in you the peaceful fruit of righteousness? Or is it instead producing anger, resentment, bitterness, complaining, grumbling, or depression? And what of us adults? How are we responding to the discipline of the Lord? Does discipline produce in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness? Or does it instead produce anger, resentment, bitterness, complaining, grumbling, or depression?

As we come into our Father’s presence this morning let us kneel and confess that often we have not received His discipline as we ought.

Face to Face Communication

January 31, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Bible - NT - Matthew, Confession, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Trials
2 John 12–13 (NKJV)
12 Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you. Amen.
Today we bring to a close our series of exhortations on 2 John. John has reminded us time and again of the intimate relationship between truth and love. Truth and love are not competitors but companions. As we emphasized, truth is like our skeletal structure and love is like our flesh. Truth without love is dead and love without truth is an amorphous blob. Only truth and love together, bones and flesh together, enable us to serve Christ to the glory of the Father.
And because of this intimate connection between truth and love, John is not content simply to write to his audience. Written words are great; written words are important; written words can convey a lot. But written words cannot convey adequately the heartfelt love and loyalty that John had for this congregation. He wanted to speak with them face to face – so that they could not only read what he had to say but see how he said it. He wanted them to know how deadly these false teachings really were; how reliable Christ really is; how burdened John really was for their spiritual growth. There is no substitute for face-to-face communication.
John’s words remind us that when we are facing difficulties and challenges with others, the best remedy is face-to-face communication. Face-to-face interaction forces us to remember who this person really is; gives us an opportunity to clarify ourselves, to express our heart and to ask questions.
At no time is this face-to-face interaction more important than when someone has sinned against us. Jesus commands us in Matthew 18:15, “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.”Jesus commands us to pursue face-to-face communication with a brother or sister who has sinned against us. We are to “tell him his fault” privately – to speak to him, tell him the offense, and attempt to bring about reconciliation. We aren’t to give him the cold shoulder; aren’t to post his transgression on Facebook; aren’t to write him an email; aren’t to get even; aren’t to gossip to others. We are to go and tell him his fault privately. We are to seek him out face-to-face.
And the goal of this face-to-face communication is reconciliation. The goal is to re-establish peace and to again experience joy in the relationship. John writes, “I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” Doing the (often) challenging thing of pursuing our brother or sister when there is tension in the air is the only way to eliminate that tension and reestablish joy.

So reminded this morning of our calling to unite truth and love and to do it by seeking face-to-face contact with our brethren, particularly when there is tension in the relationship, let us confess that we often grow cold and distant instead; that we often keep to ourselves, become resentful or indifferent, and rob ourselves and our brethren of joy. And as we confess these things, let us kneel before the Lord.

Treasuring the Word

January 29, 2015 in Bible - NT - James, Discipline, Newsletter, Word of God

A happy Thursday to you! This past Sunday I preached on Treasuring the Word. So have you considered this week how to implement a plan to get into the Word more in the coming year?

Remember that a wish is different than a goal. A wish comes flying through like a butterfly – it floats about, occasionally landing here or there, but it’s notoriously hard to pin down. A goal lands like an Army Ranger – it hits the ground and sets about doing what it’s supposed to do. When the Word is preached we all – me included – have a multitude of impressions and wishes that touch us. But the Spirit wants not merely to impress us but to change us – to begin transforming our habits.
James reminds us:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (1:22-25)

So what things did the Spirit impress upon you during the sermon? What are you going to do to implement those things? Set a goal. Be very specific – goals are measurable, you should be able to check them off. At the end of the day, week, month, or year you should be able to say, “Yes – I did that.” So what new Bible reading habits do you want to implement this year – in your personal life and in your home? Don’t let that butterfly fly away! Get to it and make a plan.

External Members of the Covenant

July 28, 2014 in Baptism, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Federal Vision, Quotations, Regeneration

“So as with the other covenants, it is possible for someone to join the new covenant community externally without the new heart that defines that covenant. He may be baptized and profess Christian doctrine. But if he lives a life of sin, he shows that he does not have the new heart that is the mark of the new covenant. He has wrongly entered the covenant community and ought to be disciplined by the body. He has become a Christian externally, but without inward change.”

John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 81.

I would add that we should read “wrongly entered the covenant community” as “entered the covenant community deficiently” not that he shouldn’t have entered the covenant community at all. Baptism welcomes us as legitimate members of the covenant community – but, in the case of an unconverted covenant member, his membership is belied by his lack of a new heart. But it wasn’t wrong to baptize him and admit him to the covenant community – for it is not our place to read the heart but to evaluate words and actions to the best of our ability.

God is the Judge

December 20, 2012 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Discipline, Meditations, Sovereignty of God

Psalm 75 (NKJV)
1 We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near. 2 “When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly. 3 The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved; I set up its pillars firmly. Selah 4 “I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully,’ And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn. 5 Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck.’ ” 6 For exaltation comes neither from the east Nor from the west nor from the south. 7 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another. 8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, And the wine is red; It is fully mixed, and He pours it out; Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth Drain and drink down. 9 But I will declare forever, I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. 10 “All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off, But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”
Mary’s song of praise following her visit to Elizabeth centers on the theme of God as Judge. Saturated as she was in the hymnody of the Old Testament, Mary used the words and themes there to shape her praise. And her praise sounds remarkably like Psalm 75.
Psalm 75 celebrates that God is the Judge. God raises up one and casts down another. It is God who is the Lord – who rules in the affairs of men and nations. What then is our duty and responsibility? Our duty and responsibility is to humble ourselves before Him and to honor Him. Why? Because He swears that He will destroy all those who are proud and stiff necked.
This is true both of the rulers of nations and of we simpler folk as well, whether men, women, or children. God takes pride seriously. He hates a haughty countenance, despises him who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think. Therefore, because God is the Lord and we are not, we are to be humble, open to correction. We are to bow the knee before God lest we be destroyed. We are not to be like the fool who advertised his pride on the billboards of Spokane: “Bow the knee? Not me.” But he will bow the knee – either now willingly or in the future unwillingly. Solomon warns us in Proverbs 29:1, “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” So what does this mean?
Men, are you cultivating relationships that provide you with accountability and correction? If you are married, do you listen to the wisdom of your wife and treasure the gift that God has given you in her? Married or unmarried, have you established relationships with other men who can correct you and exhort you? Men to whom you are directly accountable? If not, do so.
Women, are you cultivating relationships that provide you with accountability and correction? If you are married, do you listen when your husband endeavors to fulfill his calling of shepherding and husbanding you, correcting you? Are you willing to humble yourself before him as though he were God Himself and honor your husband for the office he holds? Married or unmarried, have you sought out relationships with other wise women who will speak the Word of God to you and not comfort you in your sin and complaint? If not, do so.
Children, are you listening to the correction and rebuke that you are receiving from your parents? God has put them into your life so that you can learn and grow and develop into godly, mature young men and women. Beware hardening your neck. Beware the hand of pride that would lead you to say, “I know better! My parents are foolish! They just don’t understand.” Listen and cultivate an obedient and humble heart. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus the Lord.
Reminded that this is our calling as the people of God – to be humble and open to correction – let us kneel and confess that we have often been proud and froward instead.