The Resurrection and Immorality

April 21, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Easter, Homosexuality, Love, Meditations, Resurrection, Sexuality

1 Corinthians 6:13–20 (NASB95)

13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Throughout my ministry, I have made it one of my goals to articulate the significance of Easter, the most momentous of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the most world transforming event in all human history, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection frees us from the fear of death by securing our hope in the face of death: because Christ has risen from the dead, we too shall rise from the dead. This is our hope.

But it is precisely this hope that is being undermined in the broader Christian world with our inordinate emphasis upon going to heaven when we die. Rather than proclaim the hope of the resurrection, we proclaim the hope of heaven. This is no minor difference. The New Testament repeatedly links the resurrection of Jesus with our resurrection. Consequently, if we start denying or tinkering with our resurrection, we will inevitably end up reinterpreting Jesus’ resurrection and/or the significance of it.

Perhaps you have seen in the news this past week the controversy surrounding the decision by Taylor University, a Christian university in Indiana, to invite Vice President Mike Pence to speak at their commencement. Over 3,300 people, many former students, have signed a petition to get Pence’s invitation rescinded because of his outspoken opposition to homosexual behavior and same-sex mirage. Thankfully the university is refusing to comply. But here’s the thing to note: many of the critics are professing Christians. They claim the name of Jesus and yet want to excuse and extol sexual sin.

Let me suggest that this has happened, in part, because of our inordinate focus upon the immortality of the soul and the hope of heaven. If Christianity is just a nice set of ideas about the immaterial part of our body called the soul, then what do our bodies really matter? Isn’t all that matters what happens with our soul, with what happens inside? Can’t my soul be pure regardless what I do with my body? Why does the body matter? As some among the Corinthians seem to have been justifying their sin, “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” We don’t need to worry about the body.

Paul responds forcefully. He writes to the Corinthians, “Yet the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” So how does Paul know this? How does he know that the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body? Listen to verses 14-15: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Your bodies are members of Christ, joined to Christ. How so? Because that body that you are defiling with your sexual impurity will be raised from the dead. Your body matters. That is what the resurrection announces. So Paul concludes:

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

So on this Easter, let us meditate on the purity of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not defile Himself sexually but devoted Himself to the glory of the Father. And let us pray, that He would have mercy upon us as a people. So many of our fellow countrymen and even our fellow Christians have defiled themselves sexually, denying in practice the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We have given ourselves to impurity and have, like King David, endeavored to cover our tracks by murdering the innocent. So let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Stirring Up Strife

February 25, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility

Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV)
12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.

When we live in community sin and strife are inevitable. Often in our exhortations, therefore, I take the time to warn us from sinning against others and provoking strife. We need to beware lest we be a cause of strife in our relationships.

But today’s Scripture reminds us that we not only need to beware lest we cause strife in our relationships, we also need to beware lest we perpetuate it. It addresses the victim of sin and strife not the perpetrator. What do you do when you are the victim of another’s sin? There you were, living piously, saintly glow radiating about your face, angelic halo dancing above your head, and then, out of the blue, comes a sinner who treads on your toe and picks a fight. Your husband ignores you. Your wife snaps at you. Your friend speaks maliciously to you. Your sibling breaks your toy. How do you respond?

Solomon gives you two options and he paints them in black and white – “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” The first option is hatred. You can respond to the sinner in turn. He stepped on your toe? Then step on his and poke him in the eye for good measure. Hatred stirs up strife. Hatred says, “I’ll see your sin and raise you some.” The second option is love. You can respond to the sinner out of turn. He stepped on your toe? Then overlook it and do good to him; or, if you can’t overlook it, then confront it graciously. If he confesses, you have gained your brother. If he persists, then you can choose to overlook it or to bring along others to help you resolve the matter. Love covers all sins.

Solomon’s words remind us that God does not give us a license to sin when someone else has sinned against us. Even when we are the victim of another’s sin, we are to respond to that sin in love. We are to beware lest we stir up strife by our response to the sin. Hatred stirs up strife. You didn’t introduce it, but you increased it. In other words, Solomon tells you, there is no situation so bad that you cannot make it worse by your sin. Our calling as victims, therefore, is to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, “who, when he was reviled, did not revile in turn; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23). Jesus’ life reminds me that your sin doesn’t justify mine.

But often when we are the victim of another’s sin, we justify our sinful response and we get angry with those who would correct us. Imagine that a thief stole your money and stabbed you in the arm. You are a victim. You go to the doctor. The doctor expresses sympathy for you, stitches up your arm, and gives you instructions about keeping the wound clean. “Keep it clean and you’ll be fine in a couple months.” But you’re so angry about this situation that you ignore the doctor’s orders. You refuse to change the bandages and the wound gets badly infected. Finally, you return to the doctor and he’s dismayed. “Did you keep it clean? Did you do what I said?” he asks. “No,” you sullenly respond. So he rebukes you and tells you that you may lose your arm; you may even lose your life. But you angrily respond, “How dare you blame me? I was the victim! I didn’t stab myself!” What’s the doctor going to say? Is he going patronize you? To apologize for rebuking you? No! Not if he’s a good doctor. He going to tell you that you are a fool and that you’ve only made a bad situation worse.

So what of you? Are you using another’s sin to justify your own? Are you nursing anger or resentment or bitterness in your heart against another? Are you blaming your wife for your outbursts of wrath? Are you blaming your husband for your nagging spirit? Are you blaming your parents for your sullen attitude or sinful rebellion? Are you blaming your employer for your laziness? Or are you taking responsibility for the way that you are responding to the sin of others?

Reminded that the sin of others does not justify our own sin, let us confess that we often stir up strife through hatred rather than cover it through love. And, as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able do to so. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Walk in the Truth and Rejoice in the Truth

December 7, 2015 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Christmas, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Faith, Love, Meditations, Sanctification, Truth, Word of God
2 John 4–6 (NKJV)
4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. 5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
Last week we emphasized that though it is common for people, including Christians, to pit truth and love against one another, the Scriptures do no such thing. In Scripture, truth and love are not competitors but companions. John continues this theme today – rejoicing that the believers walked in truth and calling the church to love one another. Truth and love go together.
So when we see truth and love united together and both being implemented by a group of people; when we see believers who are eager to understand the Word of God and, simultaneously, eager to put it into practice and sacrifice on behalf of one another, what should be our response? John tells us. He writes in verse 4 – I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father.
As children of our heavenly Father, we are to rejoice greatly when we see others walking in God’s truth. Nothing should give us a greater delight than to see folks growing and maturing in the faith. That, John tells us, is something worth celebrating.
So consider a couple implications of John’s words. First, walk in the truth. John forces you to ask, “Am I delighting in the Word of God and so striving to bring delight to others who fear God?” We all know how demoralizing it is when those we thought were on our side suddenly start compromising with the enemy: when Judas betrays the Master with a kiss; when Benedict Arnold sells the colonies out of personal spite; when fellow Christians turn away from you in time of trial or hardship. Betrayal stings. So the first admonition is to treasure the truth – don’t betray the Father and so demoralize the brethren. Instead walk in the truth and so bring delight to those who fear and reverence God. Be a cause of joy to God’s people and a cause of grief to His enemies.
Second, rejoice in those who walk in the truth. The national media, our President, many of our elected officials including some of our local city officials, want you to rejoice in wickedness, to rejoice in those who despise God and show contempt for His Word. They want to shape your celebrations, to shape your delights. Don’t let them. Rejoice in what is good and true and beautiful. In other words, celebrate Christmas with gusto. Rejoice with the wise men, rejoice with Joseph and Mary and Zacharias and Elizabeth and Simeon and Anna. And call Herod, Herod the Tyrant rather than Herod the Great.

So this morning, reminded that we are to walk in the truth and to delight in those who do the same, let us confess that we are often prone to weakness, that we often cower in the face of criticism, and that we are tempted to rejoice in wickedness rather than in righteousness. And as we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able.

Boon Companions

November 29, 2015 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Ecclesiology, Love, Meditations, Truth
2 John 1–3 (NKJV)
 The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
It is common for Christians to pit truth and love against one another. On the one hand are those Christians zealous for truth: we must dot every “I” and cross every “t” and those who cross their “t” at a slant are suspect theologically. These folks become so zealous in their pursuit of the “truth” that no church is good enough, no teacher faithful enough – except for that internet teacher across the country with whom it is not necessary to engage personally.
On the other hand are those Christians zealous for love: we must be tolerant and accept one another no matter what. Are you teaching that Jesus’ resurrection is simply a myth and fable that celebrates the enduring power of the human spirit? That’s okay – we both believe in the resurrection, don’t we? Are you counseling married couples that it’s okay to divorce in order to achieve their personal happiness? That’s alright – we both believe in marriage, don’t we? Let’s all just love one another and accept one another and get along because, after all, “God” is love, isn’t he or she or it?
But John treasures both truth and love. He writes to the elect lady whom he loves in truth. He does this in company with all others who have known the truth, because of the truth which abides in us. And so he pronounces God’s blessing upon the elect lady and her children in truth and love. For John truth and love are not competitors but companions.
The relationship between truth and love – a passion for what God has revealed in His Word and for God’s people – is like that between our bones and our flesh. Truth is the skeletal structure; love is our flesh. Truth by itself is cold, hard, lifeless and as scary as a skeleton. Love by itself is a formless blob, unable to hug, unable to proect, unable to move. Our flesh and bones working together enable us to do all that which we want to do. And, spiritually, truth and love perform the same function. Each alone is lifeless and useless but together they enable us to glorify God and love our neighbor.
So John reminds us today not to pit truth and love against one another. We are to embrace with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength what God has revelaed in His Word – and we are to use what we’ve learned to love and cherish those whom God puts in our path.

Reminded of our tendency to pit truth and love against one another and to neglect one for the other, let us seek the Lord’s forgiveness and His grace to treasure them both. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess to the Lord.

Homily for Tal and Cristina Williams

March 15, 2015 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Election, Holy Spirit, Love, Marriage, Sanctification
Colossians 3:12–14 (NKJV)
Therefore, as theelect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Tal and Cristina, it is a joy to be with you here today and to celebrate the pledging of your marriage vows. I debated preaching an extensive sermon today but knowing how sensitive Tal is to time I decided I’d keep it fairly brief. Paul’s words in Colossians 3 remind us that all of life, including our married life, is to be lived in the knowledge of who we are and what God has done for us; in the knowledge of who we are and what God has done for us.
First, our life is to be lived in the knowledge of who we are. Today is a day of momentous changes for you both. Tal, your identity is changing. You will no longer be just a private man but a public. You are assuming the role and responsibility of husband, the one who will answer to God for the condition of your home. Your identity is changing: Cristina is choosing you as her husband; you are now the elect of Cristina.
Cristina, your identity is changing. You are leaving your father’s house to join your life with the life of your husband. You are getting a new name: no longer a Plaza but a Williams; no longer a princess but a queen. Your identity is changing: Tal is choosing you as his wife; you are now the elect of Tal.
But Paul reminds you that though your identities are changing today in certain respects, your fundamental identities remain the same. Long before you chose one another, God chose you as objects of His love and recipients of His forgiveness in Christ. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved… live a life pleasing to God. Tal, before you became the elect of Cristina, Cristina’s chosen husband, you were the elect of God, God’s chosen son. Cristina, before you became the elect of Tal, Tal’s chosen wife, you were the elect of God, God’s chosen daughter. And your identities as God’s elect, God’s chosen ones, do not change today.
As Ben read this afternoon, recall that marriage is a mirror of Christ’s relationship with His Church. Paul uses two words in our text that help capture this. He writes that you are the elect of God, holy and beloved. First, you are holy – set apart for God’s own purposes in the world; set apart from those who are worshiping and serving other gods; set apart to be exclusively loyal to God. That’s who you are. So who are you becoming? Today, Tal, you are becoming Cristina’s elect one, her chosen one, and therefore her holy one – set apart as the one man in all the world to be her very own. Today, Cristina, you are becoming Tal’s elect one, his chosen one, and therefore his holy one – set apart as the one woman in all the world to be his very own. And your “holiness” to one another is a mirror of the exclusive loyalty that Christ gives to and expects of His bride, the Church. You are holy.
But not only are you holy, you are also beloved. God didn’t choose us, didn’t set us apart as holy, as His very own, in order that we might be His slaves and minions but in order that we might be His beloved. Paul writes to usas the elect of God, holy and beloved… Again, your marriage mirrors Christ’s relationship with His Church. Just as you have chosen one another to be the exclusive object of your love, Christ has chosen His bride, the Church, as the alone object of His love. You are beloved.
So, Tal, Cristina, who are you? You are the elect of God, holy and beloved; and today you become the elect of one another, holy and beloved. This is who you are. And what has God done for you? Paul writes that He has forgiven you in Christ, cleansed you of your sin, and welcomed you into His presence. That’s who you are and what God has done for you. Therefore, what manner of spouses ought you to be? Tal, what kind of husband ought you to be? Cristina, what kind of wife ought you to be? You ought to be spouses who put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…even as God in Christ has forgiven you. And put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
So you see our responsibility as spouses emerges from who we are and what God has done for us. You are the elect of God, holy and beloved, and God has forgiven you through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. So God’s vision for your marriage is that your relationship with one another reflect the exclusive love that Christ has for His bride, the Church, and the exclusive love that the Church is to have for her husband, Christ. This is the vision, this is the forest; don’t forget it as you begin looking at the trees.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

And then there was Love

November 2, 2014 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Peter, Homosexuality, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Sanctification, Sexuality
2 Peter 1:5–9 (NKJV)
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
As we have made our way through Peter’s exhortation here in his second epistle, we have learned of the necessity of personal virtue and the way in which that virtue is to manifest itself in our treatment of others. Last week we considered Peter’s words to add to godliness brotherly kindness. Today we consider his command to add to brotherly kindness love.
Love is the culmination of Christian virtue. Unfortunately, as a result of Romanticism, it is often misunderstood. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, for example, defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.” But biblically love is not at bottom a feeling – that is not its proper genus. While love often shapes, governs, and informs our feelings, it is not itself a feeling. Far better the simple declaration of Hartley Coleridge, Is love a fancy or a feeling? No. No, love is not a fancy or a feeling; for feelings come and go but love remains constant, like immaculate Truth. It is a fixed reality, a covenant oath. As Shakespeare would have it, love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken…
Paul gives the most compelling description of love in the thirteenth chapter of his letter to the Corinthians:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Love, in other words, is not self-centered but other-centered, not primarily a feeling but a heart-centered commitment, longing to give joy and delight to another. Paul goes on:
[Love] does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…
Away with the absurd notion that love is merely a feeling. Today we are told to countenance all kinds of wickedness in the name of Merriam-Webster’s definition of love: we should embrace homosexual unions because they “love” one another; we should turn a blind eye to fornication because they “love” one another; we should sanction no-fault divorce because they just don’t “love” one another any more. But Merriam-Webster is wrong: love is not a fancy or a feeling.
So what of you: how have you been defining love? Do you truly love the brethren? Are you truly loving your spouse? Have you loved your children? For we are to add to brotherly kindness love.

Reminded of our calling to practice true love, to be committed to the true good of others and to labor unceasingly for that good, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.

Joe Biden and Civilized Nations

June 29, 2014 in Bible - NT - Acts, Bible - NT - Matthew, Church History, Homosexuality, Love, Meditations, Politics, Trials
Matthew 5:11–12 (NKJV)
11 “Blessed are you when [men] revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Vice President Joe Biden declared this last Tuesday that “protecting gay rights is a defining mark of a civilized nation and must trump national cultures and social traditions.” He warned other nations that there is a price to pay for failing to do so.
We shouldn’t misunderstand what this means. In one fell swoop, Biden has identified all traditional Christians – as well as Jews and Muslims for that matter – as enemies of civilization. Of course, Biden is using this rhetoric to justify intervention and regime change in Africa, the Middle East, and Russia. But such a statement must necessarily relegate us to barbaric status as well. Should this policy prevail, we will find ourselves the object of discrimination and persecution, labeled as “those who turn the world upside down.”
It is fitting for us to remember, therefore, how we are to respond to such persecution. It is ever easy to take opposition personally and forget that in defending the cause of Christ we’re not defending ourselves but the truth. And because we’re defending the truth, we can rest in the knowledge that God is His own best Defender. He will vindicate His Name and demonstrate to all nations that He is Yahweh.
In the meantime, our calling as individuals is to imitate His grace and mercy by showing kindness to those who persecute us or say all kinds of evil against us. While standing courageously for the truth and speaking it frankly, we are to look for ways to bless and extend grace to our persecutors. Why? Because this is the way God acts toward his enemies day by day. And if God extends grace, ought not we?
We must always beware the lure of moralism and defensiveness; we must ever remember the grace and mercy that God has extended to us and so extend it to others. As we do so, we can rest in God’s promise that no gracious word, no good deed, no turning of the other cheek will go unnoticed. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
And this type of faith manifesting itself in love is precisely what the Apostles modeled for us when they were persecuted by the Jerusalem authorities for preaching Christ – they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ’s name(Acts 5:41b).

But often we respond to the criticisms and slanders of others not by giving a blessing but by giving an insult instead. Rather than returning good for evil, we return evil for evil. But this is not the way of our Lord Christ, nor is it the way that God will work to bring the nations to bow before Christ and acknowledge Him to be Lord of all. So let us confess our sin to the Lord and pray that He would enable us to give a blessing instead.

Love and Law

August 11, 2013 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Law and Gospel, Love, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Ten Commandments
2 John 4–6 (NKJV)
4 I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. 5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
Last week we observed from John’s second epistle that while we often pit love and truth against one another, they are actually fast friends. Love and truth are like flesh and bones.
Today we observe John uniting again two things which in our day and age are often divorced from one another: love and law, love and the commandments of God. John writes that he wants us to love one another. And what is love? This is love, that we walk according to [God’s] commandments.
In the Word of God, love is tangible and concrete – it manifests itself in a wholehearted embracing and implementing of God’s righteous law. What does it mean to love God? It means to be loyal to Him, to not make any idol, to reverence His Name, and to observe the Lord’s Day faithfully. What does it mean to love others? It means to honor those in positions of authority, to preserve the lives, vows, property, and reputation of all men, to speak the truth, and to rejoice in the good gifts that God has given them. Love rejoices in God’s commandments and puts them to practice in the nitty-gritty of life.
John learned this lesson from our Lord Jesus. This is My Father’s commandment, Jesus declared, that you love one another as I have loved you. greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
Many of our countrymen, many of our fellow Christians want to pit love and law against one another. But the end result of this is cruelty and oppression. Love for God that has no bounds is not love – it is idolatry, blasphemy, and profane living. Love for others that has no bounds is not love – it is disrespect, murder, adultery, theft, slander, and covetousness.
So, brothers and sisters, our caling is to love one another and to love all men by keeping the commandments of God – even as our Lord Jesus did. I have not come to do My own will, Jesus said, but the will of the One who sent Me.

Often, however, we do not want to love others as God tells us to love, we want to love according to our terms. And so we have need of God’s forgiveness and grace. So let us kneel and confess our sins to God in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.