Household Baptisms

June 21, 2020 in Authority, Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Covenantal Living, Election, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)

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

Later in the service I have the privilege of baptizing ——–. Because it has been a while since I baptized a baby and because we have a slew of them arriving, I thought it would be fitting to meditate on the biblical basis of infant baptism. Why do we baptize babies?

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

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

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

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

So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. They belong, body and soul, to the Lord Jesus, and have been entrusted by Him to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. So you are called, with your parents, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” (Dt 6:5) and you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).

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

God Cannot Be Reconciled to Sin

June 14, 2020 in Atheism, Authority, Bible - OT - Psalms, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification, Worship

Psalm 5:4–6 (NKJV)

4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You. 5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. 6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.  

There is a grain of truth in the maxim, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” The truth is that God has acted in Christ to deliver sinners from their sin and reconcile them to Himself. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life. God sent His Son because He loves fallen men and women and children who are made in His image and precious in His sight.

We must be careful, however, lest we permit this maxim to obscure God’s utter and complete hatred of sin, a hatred so pronounced that He will condemn sinners who refuse to repent of their sin to hell. He will judge both sin and sinner. Matthew Henry writes:

“[God] sees all the sin that is committed in the world, and it is an offence to him, it is odious in his eyes, and those that commit it are thereby made obnoxious to his justice. There is in the nature of God an antipathy [a natural aversion, hatred] to those dispositions and practices that are contrary to his holy law; and, though an expedient is happily found out for his being reconciled to sinners [through Christ], yet he never will, nor can, be reconciled to sin.”

God never will, nor can, be reconciled to sin. While God can be reconciled to sinners through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus, He can never be reconciled to sin.

This is, believe it or not, good news. For if God could be reconciled to sin, then we wouldn’t know that our cries for justice, our cries against evil and wickedness, are meaningful or heard by God. Perhaps, as some eastern religions teach, good and evil are just opposites that must perpetually exist in balance and we just ended up on the wrong side of the yang. Perhaps, as atheistic materialism implies, good and evil are just social constructs that different cultures can design wholly on their own without reference to a transcendent standard and we just didn’t have enough power to force others to comply with our design. If God can be reconciled to sin, then the world is a dark and dreary place.

But thanks be to God, God cannot be reconciled to sin. Evil is always evil and good is always good. God does not take pleasure in wickedness. He abhors the one who does evil, the boastful, the worker of iniquity, the speaker of falsehood, as well as the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. He will not and cannot be reconciled to sin nor to unrepentant sinners.

So what of you? Have you reconciled yourself to your own sin? Are you making excuses for your greed? Excuses for your dishonesty? Excuses for despising the poor? For refusing to hear the cries of those who long for justice? For neglecting your children? Excuses for failing to lead your wife and children? For looking at porn? For indulging your children’s disobedience? Excuses for refusing to submit to your husband? For grumbling against God’s providence? For pitying those executed for murder or kidnapping? Excuses for disobeying your parents? For yelling at your sibling? For neglecting your aged parents? Excuses for nursing your bitterness? For coveting your neighbor’s house? For envying the rich?

Such excuses are simply ways that we attempt to reconcile ourselves to our sin. We call good evil and evil good. We attempt to define good and evil on our own terms, to shake our fist at God and pretend that we are wiser than He. But we are not wiser and the soul that sins shall die. Disaster and judgment come in the wake of excuses for sin. But hear the good news: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Pr 28:13).

So reminded of our propensity to reconcile ourselves to sin, let us not make excuses for our sin but let us confess it to the Lord. 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 bulletin.

Blessed Trinity

June 7, 2020 in Bible - NT - John, Church Calendar, Meditations, Trinity

John 17:1–6 (NKJV)

Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday we explicitly remind one another that the God we worship is Triune – three Persons in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later in worship we will recite the Athanasian Creed, one creedal attempt to articulate our Triune faith.

Jesus’ prayer in John 17 reveals the relationship among the Persons of the Trinity that has existed for all eternity. For all eternity, the Father and Son have loved one another with such a deep bond that that love is Himself a Person, the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. In their bond of love, Father and Son share glory with one another. Jesus prays, And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. Jesus asks the Father – the Father who declared through Isaiah, “My glory I will not give to another…” – Jesus says to this Father, glorify Me together with Yourself… And note that it is a particular type of glory, the glory which I had with You before the world was. Prior to His incarnation, Jesus existed in the form of God and, though His deity was veiled during His time on earth, now that He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, that glory has been restored to Him. Jesus was and is God Himself in human flesh. The Father, Son, and Spirit share glory.

Second, Jesus reveals that in eternity past, before the world was, when the Father and Son shared glory, they communed with one another, they lived in a relationship of love with one another. Jesus alludes to this eternal fellowship a couple times. He says, I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. In eternity past, before the world was, the Father gave Jesus a task to accomplish, a work to perform. Not only did the Father give the Son a task to do, He also gave Him a people to call His own. Jesus prays, I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me So when did the Father give these people to the Son? Before the world was. As Paul writes, the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4).

This interaction between the Persons of the Godhead prior to the foundation of the world is sometimes called the Covenant of Redemption or the pactum salutis. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have dwelt in covenantal life for all eternity. As we consider this Covenant of Redemption, that before the foundation of the world God thought of us, loved us, and gave us to be Christ’s own people – apart from any merit of our own; indeed despite the demerit which He knew we would deserve – ought we not to be humbled and awed that the Creator of all took notice of us? As Paul writes, But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes 2:13-14).

And so reminded of the great love which the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us, and that He loved us before the foundation of the world and loves us despite our unloveliness, let us confess that we are unworthy His love. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Ascension Sunday 2020

May 24, 2020 in Ascension Sunday, Authority, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics

Psalm 110 (NKJV)

A Psalm of David. 1 The LORD said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 2 The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

Today is Ascension Sunday. On this day we celebrate the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, having taught the disciples for 40 days following His resurrection, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Ascension Day was actually last Thursday – 40 days since Easter. However, we haven’t yet reached the point of celebrating Ascension Day during the week and so we celebrate it on the Sunday following – today.

But why celebrate this event at all? What’s so important about Jesus’ Ascension? Oft times in history, especially prior to the advent of mass media, the coronation of kings was followed by a time of travel – the new king would journey throughout his kingdom and show himself to his people. It was an opportunity for the people to see their new king, to pledge allegiance to him, and to celebrate his coronation. But eventually the festivities would come to an end and the king would return to his palace, take his seat on his throne, and begin to rule.

It is this narrative that ties Easter and Ascension together. In the NT, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is understood as coronation day. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, he rose as God’s triumphant King; the ruler over all the kings of the earth. For the next 40 days, He showed himself to his people. Our fathers saw the new King in his glory, pledged their allegiance to him, and reveled in his coronation. But eventually this time had to come to an end. So Jesus ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, and began to rule and reign over His Kingdom. As God the Father declares to Jesus in our Psalm today, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” And it is sitting on the throne of His father David, sitting at the right hand of God Almighty, that our Messiah Jesus continues to rule and reign even now.

So what is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection? Brothers and sisters, Jesus is Lord! Jesus reigns! Let the earth be glad and the righteous rejoice! He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He will cause justice to prevail in the earth.

So what ought we to do? Let us pray that God’s kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for the expansion of Jesus’ rule, the full manifestation of His kingship in human history. Pray for the proclamation of the Gospel and the conversion of friends, family, and neighbors. For, as Jesus’ kingship becomes increasingly acknowledged, light and life will reveal themselves in ever greater fullness.

And because Jesus is Lord, because Jesus is God’s anointed King, the only way that we can come to God is by pledging our loyalty to Jesus. “He who honors the Son, honors the Father; he who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him” (Jn 5:23). This morning we have been summoned into the presence of God Almighty; we may only enter in the Name of His Son. So as you are able, let us kneel together as we enter his presence and pledge our allegiance to him.

They are Unmerciful

May 17, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Exodus, Depravity, Human Condition, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we conclude Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. For several months we have marched steadily through this list. Today, we conclude with Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are unmerciful.”

Mercy is “the emotion roused by contact with an affliction which comes undeservedly on someone else” (TDNT). We know that God Himself is full of mercy. He announces His Name to Moses, “Yahweh, Yahweh God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Ex 34:6-7). The Lord is a merciful God – He takes special care for those who are weak and vulnerable, for those who are suffering unjustly.

Because He is merciful, He expects us as His image bearers to be merciful as well. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother’” (Zech 7:8-10). Pay special attention, God commands, to those who are suffering unjustly. Be a merciful people.

One of the things that distinguishes the righteous and the wicked, therefore, is mercy. “The wicked borrows and does not repay, But the righteous shows mercy and gives” (Ps 37:21). The wicked man is grasping and takes from others unjustly while the righteous man is openhanded and generous. Consequently, the Lord will “cut off the memory of [the wicked] from the earth; Because he did not remember to show mercy, But persecuted the poor and needy man, That he might even slay the broken in heart” (Ps 109:15,16). The wicked man is unmerciful.

But mercy is not sentimentality; mercy is not a bleeding heart that neglects justice. God’s mercy is directed to those who are suffering unjustly; but the same God who keeps mercy also by no means clears the guilty. Those who are suffering justly, who have cruelly persecuted the helpless and been merciless to the righteous and whose wicked deeds are now coming back upon them, God treats justly. “With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful… [But] with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd” (Ps 18:25-26). So the psalmist teaches us to pray against the wicked, “Let there be none to extend mercy to him, Nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children” (Ps 109:12). And God forbids showing mercy to those who have committed certain crimes, “Your eye shall not pity…” (Dt 19:13, 21). Mercy and justice are friends.

So what of you? First, do you distinguish between those who are suffering justly and unjustly? With those suffering justly, do you pray that God would enable you to be shrewd in how you deal with them, not interrupting the Lord’s work of correction in their lives, nor overthrowing justice, but, at all times, showing grace? Second, do you delight to show mercy to those who are suffering unjustly? Do you feel compassion for them and long to alleviate their pain, praying for them, financially assisting them, and speaking up for them?

Reminded of our calling to be a merciful people even as the Lord our God is merciful, let us acknowledge that we have often closed our hearts to those in need of mercy and have often extended mercy to those who should receive justice instead. And as we confess, let us kneel. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Unforgiving

May 10, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Grace, Meditations, Responsibility

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we continue studying Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are unforgiving.”

It is remarkable, is it not, that Paul puts an unwillingness to forgive in such disreputable company? Paul joins it with these other undesirables: undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. Is being unforgiving really so bad?

Now, of course, we think so when we are on the receiving end of a lack of forgiveness. When we have wronged another, been convicted of our wrong, and then humbled ourselves, apologized, and sought forgiveness, only to be scorned or rejected, we know that being unforgiving is a bad thing. To be unforgiving, we conclude at such moments, is to be proud and disagreeable; it is to fail to see one’s own need for forgiveness from others. Yes, we say to ourselves, being unforgiving should be in that disreputable list.

But when the shoe is on the other foot, we are inclined to delete it from the list, aren’t we? When we are refusing to forgive another, we have a hard time seeing why it is so wrong. We excuse our refusal to forgive. “He wronged me; she mistreated me; she wounded me deeply; he abandoned me; if you only knew how many times he has lied to me; if you only knew how many times she has berated me; if you only knew how often he ignored me; if you only knew…” But Jesus cuts across our excuses, does He not, with the parable of the unforgiving servant?

There was once a servant who owed his king a massive sum, ten thousand talents, a sum that he could never repay. So the king ordered him to be sold with his wife and children and all that he had. But the servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” So the king listened to his plea, had mercy on him, and forgave him all his debt.

But that servant went out and abused one of his fellow servants who likewise was in his debt, though for not nearly as much. His fellow servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” But the servant was not willing; he had him thrown in prison until all was repaid. So his fellow servants reported what he had done to the king and the king was angry. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?” (Mt 18:32-33)

That impulse, that refusal to forgive when others are in our debt, is to forget or to ignore how much we all are in need of forgiveness. So what of you? Are you unforgiving? When folks seek your forgiveness, do you willingly grant it, rejoicing with them in the forgiving grace of God that covers both your sins? Or do you hold on to their sin, nursing it in your heart, letting it fester and grow into bitterness, resentment, anger, and perhaps even revenge?

Reminded of our calling to be a forgiving people, who imitate our Heavenly Father in our treatment of one another, let us confess that we are often unforgiving. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel before the Lord as we seek His mercy. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Unloving

May 3, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Human Condition, Law and Gospel, Love, Meditations, Old Testament, Sanctification, Ten Commandments

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we continue studying Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are unloving.”

What is love? Is love a fancy or a feeling? Or is it an ever-fixed mark? Is love an inclination of the heart? Or perhaps a tolerant disposition? Because we are made in the image of God and because we Americans still retain vestiges of our previous Christian culture, most of us know that being unloving is bad. We want to be called loving. Yet, because we are in rebellion against God, we have striven to redefine love; consequently, the most unloving things are cloaked in the language of love. It is now “loving” to refuse to discipline one’s children; “loving” to divorce one’s spouse unjustly; “loving” to pursue illicit sexual relationships; “loving” to shack up before married; “loving” to indulge same-sex attractions; “loving” to use the power of the state to confiscate others’ hard earned property; “loving” to coddle those who are “gender fluid.”

But none of these things are loving though we call them so. You see love requires a standard of assessment. If we say something is “loving” we must have a definition that enables us to put said action in that category. After all, most still recognize that the man who claims to “love” a woman and uses that love as justification to violently abuse her, actually hates her; the mother who claims to “love” her son and indulges his drug habit, actually hates him. Even we progressive Americans don’t permit these unloving actions to be classified as “loving.” Love assumes; no, more: love demands a standard.

So what is that standard? Paul summarizes in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” To love another is to treat them lawfully from the heart; it is to practice toward them willingly the moral law of God. The last six of God’s commandments “are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Rom 13:9). To love my neighbor, in other words, is to honor my parents, to preserve the lives of the innocent, to keep the marriage bed undefiled, to respect others’ property, to speak truth to and about my neighbor, and to do all these things willingly from the heart. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – and though many are trying to classify these things as “unloving,” they are the fulfillment of love.

So reminded that God’s law defines love, that our culture has become increasingly unloving, and that we Christians have too often gone along with our culture’s increasing animosity to God’s law and to love, true love, let us confess that we are becoming an unloving, lawless people. 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 order of service.

They are Untrustworthy

April 26, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Covenantal Living, Judgment, Meditations, Sin, Temptation, Tongue

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we continue studying Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are untrustworthy.”

To be untrustworthy is to be unreliable, unstable, changeable, or fickle; it is to prove oneself unworthy of trust. To be untrustworthy is a serious character flaw. This is the type of person who makes a promise and fails to keep it; who swears an oath and breaks it; who joins a cause and deserts it. So Solomon compares an untrustworthy man to a bad tooth or a sprained ankle: “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble Is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint” (Prov 25:19). There you were chewing that steak when, “Ow!”, your tooth betrayed you. So the chief cupbearer failed to remember Joseph after Joseph had given him comfort in prison; King Saul failed to obey the word of the Lord when Samuel commanded him to wait to sacrifice; the men of Israel in the prophet Malachi’s day covered their garments with blood by divorcing their wives unjustly; Judas betrayed our Lord with a kiss; all these men were, in varying degrees, untrustworthy.

An untrustworthy character is the fruit of worshiping an untrustworthy god – whether that god is other people, oneself, riches, fame, comfort, etc. Those who are untrustworthy stand upon a rickety platform not a solid rock. “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD’” (Jer 17:5). God alone is a sure and certain rock, an immoveable foundation. Jesus died and rose again to reconcile us to that trustworthy God so that we, in turn, might become trustworthy men and women. As we shall sing in Psalm 62 today (62:5-7):

In silence bide I God alone And He shall hear me from His throne; He is my hope and my salvation. He only is my rock and stay, My fortress and my help for aye, And none shall shake my place and station.

The trustworthy man relies upon his trustworthy God and is not moved by the turmoil about him. He is not “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14) but remains fixed on Christ. So the trustworthy man “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Ps 15:4). While a talebearer reveals secrets, a trustworthy man “conceals a matter” (Pr 11:13). A trustworthy man lets his, “Yes,” be, “Yes,” and his, “No,” be, “No.” He doesn’t look for ways to wriggle out of what he has said. He is faithful to his word, faithful to his wife, faithful to his kids, faithful to his employer, faithful to his church, faithful to his neighbor, faithful to his charge. So God instructs us through the prophet Zechariah:

These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the Lord.”” (Zech 8:16–17)

So what of you? Are you trustworthy? If you’ve promised something, do you fulfill it? If you’ve given your word, do you keep it? If you’ve been given a charge, is it safe with you? Are you like the men the high priest Jehoida chose to receive the offerings for the temple, who didn’t even have to be supervised because they were trustworthy (2 Kgs 12:15)? Or are you untrustworthy? Do you give your word and then look for better, more exciting, or more profitable options?

Reminded of our calling to reflect God’s trustworthy character in our own, let us confess that we have often failed to do so; that we have often violated our oaths and pledges, betrayed the trust of others. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your order of service. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

Discernment and Covid-19

April 19, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Depravity, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Ten Commandments, Wisdom, Word of God

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we return to Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are undiscerning.”

The ability to “discern” is the ability to distinguish what is good from what is evil; what is most important from what is least important; what is major from what is minor. Repeatedly Jesus rebukes the leaders of Israel for their inability to discern. They strained out gnats and swallowed camels; they washed their hands but inside were full of dead men’s bones; they tithed mint and dill and cumin but neglected the weightier matters of the law. They were undiscerning.

This inability to discern was not unique to the leaders of Israel. Paul exhorted those Jewish Christians who were entertaining abandoning Christ and returning to unbelieving Judaism:

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Paul’s words reveal that the ability to discern good from evil is a gift from God given to those who meditate regularly on His Word. After all, discernment requires a standard of assessment; that standard is God’s moral law. By meditating on His law, we have our senses trained to discern good and evil and are capable of consuming solid food.

Our current Covid-19 crisis has revealed that many of our leaders are undiscerning, incapable of identifying what is most important and ignorant of God and His moral law. Most Governors that have issued stay at home orders have distinguished between “essential” and “non-essential” services – yet the application of this distinction has uncovered many perverse priorities. Elective surgeries canceled but abortions continued; family diners closed but marijuana shops opened; churches shuttered but liquor stores accessible. These inconsistencies highlight our inability to discern what is most important and necessary for a healthy society.

The tragic consequences of this inability to discern are increasingly manifesting themselves. Quarantining the sick and urging the vulnerable to isolate themselves is wise and prudent; destroying our people and their livelihoods through statewide quarantines is not. The true heroes and sacrificial victims of our current crisis are the owners and employees of so-called “non-essential” services or businesses whose livelihoods have been destroyed and savings depleted by the actions of our governing authorities. Until our governors voluntarily suspend their salaries and cut pay for all “non-essential” government services, then they are, like the Pharisees before them, loading burdens on the backs of their people that they themselves are unwilling to bear. Let us not, in the comfort of our homes, enjoying extended time with family, continuing to receive a paycheck, forget those who are being sacrificed for the safety of a small percentage of our society, including myself, who are especially vulnerable to the Covid virus. This entire debacle weighs heavy on my heart and I find myself resorting again and again to the cry in our confession of sins, “Lord, have mercy!”

So reminded of our need to meditate deeply on the Word of God in order that we be equipped to discern good from evil; wisdom from folly; freedom from servitude; let us acknowledge that we have failed to do so and that we are reaping the consequences of our lack of knowledge. So let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins to Him. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your order of service.