With Palm Branches in their Hands

April 14, 2019 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Easter, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Worship

Revelation 7:9–12 (NKJV)

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Today is Palm Sunday, the day on which our Lord Jesus entered into Jerusalem and was acclaimed the long-awaited Messiah by the people of Israel. To celebrate Jesus’ entrance into the city, they gathered the branches of palms, laid some upon the road and waved others in the air, rejoicing in His arrival. In Christian history, we have called this event Jesus’ Triumphal Entry.

In Revelation 7 this vision of praising God with the waving of palm branches is repeated. John beholds an immense multitude standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb of God. They are clothed in white robes which point to the forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of Jesus (cf. 7:14). And in their hands are palm branches. So why palms? Why have we distributed palms in worship today so that your children can disturb you with them during the service?

The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery notes that throughout the Old Testament, “the palm tree was associated with the oasis, a place of fertility in the midst of the wilderness. It provided food in the form of the date, and its sap could be used as a sweetener or for making wine… the palm frequently connoted fertility and blessing” (622). Consequently, the righteous are compared to the palm in Psalm 92:12-13 –

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God.

The palm tree makes its way into the construction of the Temple. Palm trees were carved into the walls and doors of Solomon’s temple according to 1 Kings 6:29, 32, and 36. Later in Ezekiel’s vision of God’s glorious Temple, he describes the palms that decorated each of the gateways and gateposts of the Temple – likening the Temple to a fruitful garden, like the Garden of Eden, a place where God’s blessing dwells.

So when John beholds the righteous, clothed in white robes and carrying branches of palm in their hands, it is this vision of fruitfulness and delight that he wishes to communicate to us. We are palm trees adorning the temple of the Living God. So the righteous cry out, while waving their palms, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And the angels join in the praise, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then the angels explain the significance of the palms with these words, “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters [in other words, He will lead them to oases where palm trees grow]. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:16-17).

So as we enter into worship this Palm Sunday, waving our branches of palm, let us rejoice that our Lord Jesus has given Himself for us, He has shed His blood that we might stand before our God clothed in garments of white and that we might be fruitful palm trees, reflecting the fruitfulness of our God. The only way that we can be here in such joy is by confessing our sin, our need for the cleansing blood of Christ, and our need for His empowering grace. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and rejoice in His goodness. Let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Household Baptisms

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

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come and Worship!

March 24, 2019 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Singing Psalms, Worship

Psalm 95:1–3 (NKJV)

1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 3 For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods.

Each week as we begin the Lord’s Service, I summon us to stand and worship the Lord. This section of our weekly liturgy is called the Call to Worship. Why begin each week this way?

The Call to Worship reminds us of two things. First, it reminds us that we are part of one body. Listen to the words of the psalmist: Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to him with psalms. As one body, we all are joining our voices together. And even as a body has many members and yet is one body – so also is the Church. We are each integral parts of the body, given to one another to join our various voices together as one voice.

So why do we join our voices together? To worship. We are here to praise and honor and exalt God Most High. Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to him with psalms. We are here to sing joyfully, to utter thanks, and to shout joyfully to Him with the psalms. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the Lord was seeking out men and women and children to worship Him. Every week the call to worship summons us to fulfill this calling.

So why are we here to worship? Because God is worthy of our praise. The psalmist reminds us, after calling us to join him in worship, For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods. To worship God is to acribe worth to God – it is not to add something to God that he lacks but to praise Him because He does not lack anything. God is the Lord and greatly to be praised.

So how ought we to worship? Remember the words of the psalmist – we ought to shout joyfully, we ought to enter into his presence with thanksgiving, we ought to shout joyfully with psalms. So where is your heart today? Are you prepared to worship with joy and thanksgiving? Or are you filled to the full with other things, with other worries and concerns? As we enter worship this day, let us put such sins aside, let us confess our sin to the Lord and beseech him to empower us to worship with joy and thanksgiving. As you are able, let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Being Open-Handed and Generous

March 18, 2019 in Bible - OT - Ecclesiastes, Meditations, Thankfulness, Wealth, Work

Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 (NKJV)

1 Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days. 2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.

The Word of God is full of financial counsel and admonitions. Hence, the way we handle our money reveals whether we are men and women of faith or unbelief, whether we are wise or foolish, whether we are righteous or wicked. Because finances are such an integral part of our religious devotion, we include the bringing forward of our tithes and offerings each week in worship. One of the men who leads us in prayer also represents us in bringing forward the fruit of our labor to offer to the Lord. He sets the box of tithes and offerings before the Lord’s Table as a visible symbol of our intention to consecrate all of life, including our finances, to the Lord. We are mere stewards of that which the Lord has entrusted to us.

As we bring the tithes and offerings forward each week, we sing a song about finances. During Advent and Lent, times of preparation for Christmas and Easter respectively, we sing these verses from Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 – Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth. So what do these verses mean and how should they affect our view of our finances?

The author of Ecclesiastes counsels us in these verses to be generous, open-handed men and women. The image of “casting your bread upon the waters” invites us to think of useless waste. After all, what fool casts bread on the water? It just goes to waste! Similarly, the miser insists that giving to others, being open-handed and generous, is a waste. What return is there from giving to the poor and being open-handed with one’s wealth? But our text assures us that there shall be such a reward: Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. So Proverbs 19:17 promises us: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and [the Lord] will pay back what he has given.”

The next verse reminds us to be generous and open-handed in this way because of the uncertainty of life. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth. Unlike the unrighteous man who reasons from the uncertainty of life that he must hoard all that he has, the righteous man reasons from this same uncertainty that he must be generous and open-handed, giving a portion to seven, even to eight, so that if he is ever in like circumstances, the Lord will pity him. “Blessed is he who considers the poor;” Psalm 41:1-2 reminds us, “The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, And he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.”

So what of you? Are you open-handed and generous? Are you striving to be a faithful steward of that which God has entrusted to you? Or have you instead hardened your heart to the poor? Moses writes in Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10 – “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs… You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.”

So reminded of our calling to be open-handed and generous with that which the Lord has entrusted to us, let us confess that we have often been selfish instead. We have often hardened our heart and shut our hand from those who are truly in need of assistance. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

When Pride Comes Then Comes Shame

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

Proverbs 11:2 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honesty in our Business Dealings

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

Proverbs 11:1 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reminded of our obligation to love others in the way we transact business, let us acknowledge that our culture is awash with injustice and that we ourselves often treat others unjustly – we do those things which the Lord hates. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Restoration to Fellowship

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

2 Corinthians 2:5–11 (NKJV)

5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. 6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

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

Paul provides us guidance for this action in our text today. Paul had written to the Corinthians commanding them to censure a man in their congregation who was committing sexual sin. The Corinthians acted on Paul’s command and inflicted a fitting punishment upon him – they suspended him from the Supper. It appears that after they disciplined him the man was moved to repentance. Consequently, in our text today, Paul urges them to forgive the man and to restore him to fellowship in the body. Paul writes, “you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”

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

Form for Readmission to Fellowship:

Public Confession

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

Congregation: You are forgiven! Alleluia!

Officer Prayer

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

Restoring a Brother in Sin

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

Galatians 6:1 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put Away All Bitterness

February 3, 2019 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Confession, Grace, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness

Ephesians 4:31–32 (NKJV)

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

In our sermon today, we begin a study of Matthew 18. Jesus answers the question, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” As part of His answer, Jesus insists that the greatest in His kingdom is the one who deals with his own sins relentlessly and who deals with the sins of others compassionately. The truly great disciple is the one who realizes how much he has been forgiven by God and who therefore extends to his brethren the same grace that God has extended to him. As Paul commands the Ephesians in our text, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. God’s treatment of us is the foundation for our treatment of one another.

Consequently, Paul commands us to put away from ourselves all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice. Our attitude toward one another, our treatment of one another, is to be governed by the grace that God has extended to us. We are to deal with the sin of others compassionately. But we cannot do that if we are harboring bitterness and its evil sisters in our hearts. So what is bitterness and why is it imperative for us to rid ourselves of it?

Bitterness is hard to identify because of an optical illusion. Let us say that I explode at my spouse and then I feel sorry. Is that bitterness? No. That is guilt. Guilt is what I experience when I sin, when I wrong someone else. So what is bitterness? Bitterness is what I experience when others offend me. So my spouse explodes at me. Am I guilty? No. But let’s say I get upset and I begin to stew on their outburst, going over and over the details in my mind. What’s happening? I’m becoming bitter. But notice the optical illusion. When I’m guilty, what is it that I’m thinking about? My own sin. I yelled at my spouse; I shouldn’t have done that. But when I’m bitter, what am I thinking about? I’m thinking about your sin: you yelled at me; you shouldn’t have done that. And the more bitter I become, the more I stew over the matter, the more I am focused upon what? You and your sin. I am not focusing upon myself; I am not focusing upon my bitterness; I can’t even see it. That is why bitterness creates an optical illusion.

But make no mistake: bitterness is a sin and bitterness is my sin. The occasion of bitterness is the action of another; but the bitterness itself is my sin. It is my sinful response to someone else’s sin – or at least to a perceived wrong that I have suffered from them. And Paul commands me, he orders me, to put away all bitterness. In Hebrews Paul identifies bitterness as a root – it is an internal motivation that begins tainting all my actions. Therefore, I must repent. I must look squarely at my bitterness, cease making excuses for it, and confess it to the Lord. I must put away all bitterness; I must cease excusing it.

You see, if I do not deal with bitterness, my bitterness will deal with me. The bitter man treats his brother’s sin relentlessly. The bitter man declares, “How dare he do that to me? I will not forgive.” Consequently, the bitter man is not in a position to forgive his brother as he has been forgiven by God. His bitterness is killing his soul. Someone once quipped that a bitter person is like a man who consumes a box of rat poison and waits for the rat to die – he consumes the poison and thinks that that will harm the rat. But it won’t. Bitterness destroys the one who is bitter; like acid it corrodes the container it’s carried it.

So what of you? Are you bitter? What wrong, real or perceived, have you suffered and do you now find yourself stewing upon? What is it that is consuming your heart? Remember the optical illusion. If you are stewing upon something, take your eyes off their sin and turn them to your own, turn them to your bitterness and repent.

Reminded that we are to put away from ourselves all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice, and that we often harbor these things in our hearts instead, let us confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord.