Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

January 20, 2020 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Exodus, Confession, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Politics, Sexuality

Exodus 21:22–25 (ESV)

22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. For 47 years now our nation has given legal sanction to the murder and dismemberment of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. Our hands are covered with the blood of innocents and God is exacting and will continue to exact vengeance upon us as a people for our bloodshed.

For the last few years on this Sunday, we have contrasted our law which does not recognize the personhood of the unborn child with the case law in Exodus 21 which does. The opening admonition declares: When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.” 

Note, first, that this law recognizes the personhood of the unborn. The ESV accurately captures the Hebrew and identifies the baby or babies in the mother’s womb as her “children” – not her property, nor her bodily tissue, but her children.

Second, note that this legal protection fosters a culture that honors pregnant women and the life they carry. This law specifically addresses incidental or accidental contact. If two men are striving with one another and, in their striving, intentionally or inadvertently hit a pregnant woman so that her children come out, then the men are held guilty for their action. God so honors the life-giving woman that He judges these men culpably irresponsible. And note that this is the case even if no harm happens to the woman or child – if “they strike her so that her children come out but there is no harm, then they shall pay as the husband demands and the court allows. In other words, God demands that people honor a pregnant woman by restraining their rage in her presence.

Finally, note that this law adds additional consequences in cases when harm does occur. Verse 23 declares, “if there is harm, then you shall pay.” If there is harm – harm to whom, we ask? The woman or the child? The answer is either. The ambiguity of the text indicates that both woman and child are protected by the law. And what shall be paid? The lex talionis is applied: “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Biblical law protects the mother and her unborn child.

We see, therefore, how perverse our law has become. And because our law refuses to protect the unborn, our honor for life generally has regressed. As God’s people, our calling is to reverse this trend by loving pregnant women, loving the unborn, loving little ones, and granting them due honor and protection. So thank God for the baby showers, for regular prayers, for the love of life displayed here in this congregation. May such things continue. Men and young men, let us lead the way by honoring the women in our congregation, especially those with child: open doors, yield your place in line, make offers of help. Children, we have many pregnant women in our midst; be careful when you are running around lest you accidentally hit them. Parents, train your children to recognize and honor those who are with child.

Reminded this morning that God honors and protects the women who bear children and the children themselves, let us confess that we have betrayed the unborn and that we are guilty as a people. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Revelation of Christ

January 12, 2020 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Tradition, Word of God

Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)

6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Though Epiphany proper fell earlier this week on January 6th, today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday. As we have emphasized each year, Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the coming of the Magi which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ life. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. While Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought out the new-born Jesus and worshiped Him, acknowledging Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that, through the Magi, God the Father revealed that Jesus is His King, come to rule over all the nations of the earth.

Consider, second, the baptism of Jesus which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry and revealed the purpose of His kingship. He was washed in water to identify with us in our sin and to prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, through Jesus’ baptism, God the Father revealed that Jesus was His Son, come to rescue us from our sin.

Consider, finally, the wedding in Cana of Galilee which occurs as the beginning of Jesus’ miraculous signs. When the wine at the wedding feast ran out, Jesus turned water into wine and, in John’s words, “revealed His glory” (Jn 2:11). He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men through His rule and reign. Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, at the wedding of Cana, Jesus revealed Himself to be God’s Festal King.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God reveals how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us kneel as we are able, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

They are Whisperers

January 5, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Confession, Depravity, Meditations, Sin, Tongue, Truth

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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God in His justice delivers those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the eleventh of these fruits: whisperers. Paul writes that rebellious peoples “are whisperers.”

Most modern translations opt for the word gossipers to convey the sense of the Greek. The word captures the way in which sins of the tongue – gossip or slander – are frequently conveyed from one person to another. The gossiper pulls someone aside and whispers to them. “Have you heard about…?” Groups of people under judgment – whether churches or cities or nations – become full of this type of whispering. With their tongues, they bite and devour one another.

The Scriptures are full of instruction regarding such abuses of the tongue. Psalm 15, for instance, declares that the type of person who shall be able to dwell in peace with God is, “He who… speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend.” Righteous men take sins of the tongue seriously. They speak truth to one another and defend the reputation of their friends.

Righteous men guard their tongues because God highly values truthfulness and discretion; He despises gossip. The Lord declares, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord” (Lev 19:16). Note that the Lord links the telling of tales, links gossip, with premeditated murder. Gossip destroys relationships as sure as murder destroys lives. It descends into the heart and causes suspicion to grow. “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body” (Prov 18:8). Gossip is like poison. Though we may make light of the tale brought to our ears, it starts poisoning our thoughts, “Suppose it should be true. Perhaps, though it may be exaggerated, there is some truth in what was said.” And this thought breeds suspicion, distrust, coldness and often ends in the separation of the most intimate companions.

What then is the solution? Solomon tells us quite plainly in Proverbs 11:13, “A talebearer reveals secrets,” – that’s what he does. He or she goes about looking for tasty morsels to consume and takes delight in sharing them with his neighbor. Yum. But what’s the alternative? “But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” That’s the alternative. “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Prov 17:9). Don’t go blabbing about your friends’ faults; don’t advertise what your brother said rashly in frustration; conceal, as much as possible, the faults of your spouse. The one who loves covers a transgression; a faithful spirit conceals a matter. So what of you?

Reminded that we are often tempted to whisper and gossip and undermine the reputation of others, let us kneel and let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

Full of Evil-Mindedness

December 29, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Judgment, Meditations, Temptation, 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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just, delivering those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the tenth of these fruits: evil-mindedness. Paul writes that rebellious peoples are “full of evil-mindedness.”

The Greek word is kakŏēthĕia. This is the only occurrence of this word in the NT. It is the combination of two words – kakos – evil – and etheia – manner or custom. It is variously translated as evil-mindedness, maliciousness, malevolence, craftiness, malicious behavior. Paul has already noted that rebellious peoples are filled with maliciousness (kakia); this new word takes that maliciousness further and describes “conscious and intentional wickedness” (TDNT). Evil-mindedness thus has evil in mind and then practices that evil. The term describes premeditated evil.

So consider some examples. A man might be tempted to steal something on impulse, believing perhaps that no one would notice or care. His action, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But canvassing a neighborhood and breaking into certain houses is. A man or woman in the grip of lustful passion might commit adultery. This adultery, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But organizing one’s day in order to have an adulterous laiaison is. An angry man might commit murder in a fit of rage. This murder, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But lying in wait for one’s victim, planning just the right moment to kill him, is. In other words, kakŏēthĕia is premeditated evil. It is to consider the matter ahead of time, make a plan, and then execute it.

Evil-mindedness, therefore, is a state of mind that manifests itself in action. An evil-minded man is looking for trouble; he meditates on evil, turns it over and over in his head. He plots injuries, immoralities, deceits, thefts, and murders. Rather than meditate on what is good, rather than make God his strength, the evil-minded man, like Doeg the Edomite, “strengthens himself in his wickedness” (Ps 52:7c).

So what of you? What fills your meditations? Do you meditate on the good you might do or the evil? Are you evil-minded or good-minded? Are you planning your next opportunity to look at pornography? Plotting what excuse you can give your employer for being late or failing to get your job done? Scheming to injure another’s reputation? Or do you meditate how you might bless your spouse? How you might bring delight to your parents? How you might assist your neighbor or enrich your employer? Do you plot to do good or to do evil? To heal or to destroy? To be a blessing or to be a curse?

Reminded that evil-mindedness plots to do evil and that God wants us instead to plan to do good, let us confess that we often transgress in this way and let us seek God’s forgiveness for our evil plotting. 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.

Full of Deceit

December 22, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Sexuality, Sin

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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just, delivering those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the ninth of these fruits: deceit. Paul writes that rebellious peoples are “full of deceit.”

Webster defines deceit as, “Literally, a catching or ensnaring. Hence, the misleading of a person; the leading of another person to believe what is false, or not to believe what is true, and thus to ensnare him; fraud; fallacy; cheat; any declaration, artifice or practice, which misleads another, or causes him to believe what is false.” So let us flesh this out.

We learn that to deceive is fundamentally to mislead someone; to turn them away from the truth. And because God is a God of truth, to turn someone away from the truth is to turn them away from God. Jesus Himself declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6). And because God is truth, God’s revelation of Himself and His will in His Word is truth. Again, Jesus declares, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth” (Jn 17:17). Hence to turn someone away from the Word of God as the foundation of knowledge and understanding is to deceive them; it is to turn them from the truth even as Satan did with Eve.

Therefore, rebellious peoples, those who are turning away from God, increasingly turn away from the truth. They begin to believe what is false or not to believe what is true. Built on a foundation of deceit – the great deceit that there is no God who rules over us – rebellious cultures become full of deceit. Paul writes to Timothy, “But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the… Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:13-15). The Scriptures preserve us from being deceived.

Cultures in rebellion do not want the truth. They force people to lie. Consider current real estate law which, with its assault on private property rights and its violation of the 8th commandment, compels landowners to lie. It forbids landlords from discriminating against potential renters for just about anything but pets, smoking or poor credit. Consequently, a property owner who values his property is often compelled to lie to applicants. He says, “I’m not renting to you because of your poor credit history,” when the real reason is that, when you visited my property, you had alcohol on your breath or you had no control over your kids or I didn’t like the look of your friends. But I can’t tell you that; I can’t tell you the truth; the law compels me to lie. That is a culture full of deceit.

The LGBT community is now extending this assault to our language about sexuality. They are endeavoring to enforce the use of “chosen” pronouns. Hence, a refusal to lie to Bruno and call him a her is being punished with social marginalization, fines, or lawsuits. They want to compel us to lie to one another. They want to make us full of deceit.

So what about you? Do you treasure the truth? Have you devoted yourself to God and to His Word? Do you read it and meditate upon it and let it transform you and your life? Do you treasure those who speak the truth? Far more important than how something is said is what is said. So do you treasure truth over its packaging? Do you welcome hard words that are true more than soft words that flatter and deceive?

Reminded that deceit turns us away from the truth and that we are called to love the truth because God is a God of truth, let us confess that we often believe what is false or refuse to believe what is true, and let us seek the forgiveness of the God who is truth for our deceit.  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.

Full of Strife

December 15, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Responsibility, Thankfulness

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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just, delivering those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the eighth of these fruits: strife. Paul writes that rebellious peoples are “full of strife.”

Webster defines strife as, “Exertion or contention for superiority; contest of emulation, either by intellectual or physical efforts.” Louw & Nida’s Greek-English lexicon adds that strife is “conflict resulting from rivalry and discord.” In Scripture, strife often keeps company with envy. Recall that envy is the heart desire that begrudges other people that which God has given them; envy longs to possess or destroy that which belongs to another. Consequently, strife is often the fruit of envy. Paul exhorts the saints in Rome, “Let us walk properly, as in the day,… not in strife and envy” (Rom 13:13).

While strife is characteristic of rebellious cultures, it frequently invades the Church as well. Consider some examples. First, factions within the Church. Often we are tempted to forget our identity as members of Christ and so we begin striving with one another, vying for importance. Thus Paul rebukes the Corinthian church which was riven by strife: “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor 3:13) To degenerate into factions is to be full of strife.

At other times, Christians can even do noble things from strife. Thus Paul writes to the Philippians, “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife…” (Phil 1:15). On this occasion, some envied the influence that Paul had among the Gentile churches. Thus, they took advantage of his imprisonment to try to undermine his influence. While their actions were noble – preaching Christ – their motivations were envy and strife. They too were full of strife.

Elsewhere Paul warns Timothy to beware lest theological debates descend into strife. While such debates can reflect a love for God and His Word, left unmonitored they can destroy a congregation. Paul reminds Timothy that false teachers are “obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions…” (1 Tim 6:4). Some people are so persnickety about using just the right theological jargon that they are willing to destroy God’s church. They are the type of men who strain at gnats and swallow camels.

So what of you? Paul reminds the Galatians that while the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control”, one of the deeds of the flesh is strife (Gal 5:20). While standing for truth will often result in conflict, we must always stand for truth in such a way that we not forget our call to peace with all those who also know and love the truth. Thus Jesus declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9). So do you love the truth as a peacemaker? Or are you driven by envy and strife?

Reminded that strife is one of the deeds of the flesh and often infiltrates the Church of God, let us confess the strife that has torn the modern church asunder and petition God to forgive us and restore us to unity one with another. 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.

Full of Murder

December 8, 2019 in Abortion, Bible - NT - Romans, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Hell, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, 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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just, delivering those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the seventh of these fruits: murder. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “full of murder.”

Webster defines murder as, “The act of unlawfully killing a human being with premeditated malice, by a person of sound mind.” To murder, therefore, is not simply to kill; to murder is to kill unlawfully; it is to shed innocent blood. Because murder assaults those made in God’s image, God commands that murderers be executed for their crime. “Whoever shed’s man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Gen 9:6). Just societies utilize the death penalty to punish those guilty of murder. Thus God warned, “Your eye shall not pity [a murderer], but you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with you” (Dt 19:13). Societies that descend into injustice and show pity to murderers defile the land. “…you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death… for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it” (Num 35:31, 33).

Over the course of her history, Israel did defile the land with blood. “They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood” (Ps 106:37-38). Hence, God judged the people of Israel and cast them out of their land, granting the land rest from their wickedness.

Our land likewise has become defiled with blood. Our eyes have pitied murderers. We have failed to utilize the death penalty, sustaining murderers for life rather than showing our honor for the image of God in their victims. Further, we have legalized abortion, the murder of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society. We too have sacrificed our sons and daughters to demons. God has handed us over to a debased mind; we are full of murder.

Murder, like other sins, emerges from the heart. “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed… murders” (Mk 7:21). Actual murder is but the fruit of murderous intentions – and both the intention and the action make us guilty in God’s sight. Thus Jesus reminds us:  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Mt 5:21). God’s law addresses our heart. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov 4:23).

Thus we must not only confess the widespread murder in our culture but the murderous intentions that dwell in our own hearts. We need God’s grace to transform and renew us that we be a people who love and protect life, uphold justice, and show pity to the victims of murderers. And so reminded that God treasures those who are made in His image and that we have failed to honor God’s image by failing to execute those convicted of murder, let us confess our sin to the Lord and pray that He would free us from our murderous thoughts and actions. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Full of Envy

December 1, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Responsibility, Temptation, Thankfulness

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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just. Therefore, when peoples spurn Him and reject His moral law, He eventually hands them over to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the sixth of these twenty three fruits: envy. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “full of envy.”

So what is envy? Let us begin by distinguishing envy from jealousy. While they are commonly confused, Scripturally they are quite distinct. Jealousy is the emotion aroused by the fear of losing something that is one’s own. So an unfaithful husband or wife will arouse the jealousy of their spouse. Their spouse fears to lose that which is lawfully theirs. While sinful men can be aroused to jealousy unjustly or use their jealousy to justify wickedness, jealousy itself is not condemned in Scripture. After all, God Himself is jealous of the affections of His people. Moses instructs the people of Israel, “you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex 34:14). God protects that which is rightfully His own.

While jealousy is not inherently sinful, envy is. Jealousy desires to protect what is one’s own; envy longs to possess or destroy what is another’s. Envy begrudges other people that which is lawfully theirs; resents the fact that God gives gifts to others without regard to our sense of “fairness.” And envy takes all shapes and sizes. We can envy someone’s parentage, their hair color, their beauty, their voice, their musical skill, their muscles, their intellectual prowess, their marriage, their influence, their friendships, their socks. Any time we observe another and see them blessed by God in some way and then wish them ill or hope for them to lose that which they have, envy is at work.

Envy taints our fallen human hearts and destroys ourselves and others. Paul writes that “we ourselves were also once… living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Tit 3:3). So envy moved Rachel to cry out to Jacob, “Give me children or else I die!” (Gen 30:1). Envy motivated Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery (Gen 37:11). Envy inspired Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to conspire against Moses and Aaron (Ps 106:16). Envy led the Edomites to make war on Israel and Judah and attempt to steal their land (Ezek 35:11). Envy moved the chief priests to plot Jesus’ crucifixion (Mt 27:18). Envy is a destroyer.

I remember years ago, when Paige and I were young marrieds and poor, some friends of ours bought a used car. When they drove up outside our house, I was envious. The inner thought of my heart was, “Why don’t I have that car? I hope it’s a clunker!” It was only a couple weeks later that that same car died and our friends, who were also poor, struggled to find another. And I remember thinking, “Ah, Lord! Forgive me my envy!”

So what of you? Are you filled with envy? Envy is associated with the color green, even as sickness is, because the one who is envious frequently becomes sick at heart, full of bitterness and resentment. Solomon reminds us, “A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones” (Prov 14:30). Envy is a destroyer; its only antitode is a “sound heart”, a heart of thankfulness. So when envy rears its ugly head and you find yourself resenting the glory that God has given another, kill envy by giving thanks. Thank God for blessing that other person; thank God for preserving you from the trials associated with the gift He has given that other person; and pray God that He would yet further bless that other person. Give heed: Be killing your envy or be assured that your envy is killing you.

Reminded that envy is a grievous sin that destroys ourselves and others, let us confess that we are often envious and are in need of God’s grace to make us a thankful people. 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 in your bulletin.

Filled with Maliciousness

November 24, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, Meditations

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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just. Therefore, when peoples spurn Him and reject His moral law, He eventually hands them over to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three such fruits. Today we consider the fifth of these: maliciousness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… maliciousness.”

So what is maliciousness? The Greek word is kakia and is translated as wickedness or maliciousness or just malice. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it as “extreme enmity of heart, or malevolence; a disposition to injure others without cause, from mere personal gratification or from a spirit of revenge; unprovoked malignity or spite.” Maliciousness, therefore, is an attitude of the heart – enmity, malevolence, malignity, spite – that then reveals itself in actions – injuring others, taking revenge.

Maliciousness is endemic to unconverted peoples. Paul writes to Titus, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice [kakia] and envy, hateful and hating one another” (3:3). A people who lack peace with God, who are at enmity with God, are inevitably at enmity with one another. Flouting the just God who rules in the affairs of men, they think it permissible to treat others maliciously, especially when others have mistreated them but often even absent such mistreatment.

Tragically, such maliciousness also invades the church. After Simon Magus was baptized, he endeavored to buy the Holy Spirit, thinking thereby to garner for himself great power and influence. But Peter rebuked him, “Repent therefore of this your maliciousness [kakia], and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). How dare Simon imagine that the gift of the Spirit was a pathway to exalt himself over the Church of God? To imagine that God’s people were mere stepping stones for his ambition?

Because maliciousness is so destructive, the Scriptures repeatedly command us to put it away by the grace of God. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice(Eph 4:31). “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Col 3:8). Malice has no place among the people of God. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor, including our enemy, as ourselves. “Therefore, laying aside all malice… as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet 2:1-3).

So what of you? Have you harbored malice in your heart against your brethren? Have you endeavored to exalt yourself at others’ expense? Have you reckoned someone guilty of wrongdoing just because you don’t like them? Have you gossiped about someone in order to tarnish their reputation or ruin their friendships? Children, have you mistreated your brother or sister? Or sought revenge against your brother or sister when they mistreated you? This is the type of maliciousness that the Scriptures summon us to put away.

Reminded that maliciousness is a grievous sin and that God calls us to put it away from ourselves, let us confess that we are often filled with malice. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.