Walking in Wisdom

January 1, 2023 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Meditations

Colossians 4:5-6 (NKJV)

5Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

In closing his letter to the Colossians, Paul urges a number of common graces upon the believers in Colossae. He knew that they would be tempted in the cosmopolitan and corrupt city of Colossae to retreat into a holy huddle and be cranky and uptight. Hence, he imparts to them, and to us, some closing words of counsel, that guide both our actions and our speech.

Regarding our actions, Paul urges us to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside” and to “redeem the time.” In other words, Paul commands us to follow the exhortations to wisdom found in Proverbs and other books, particularly in light of our calling to be witnesses for Christ and of the brevity of time that the Lord has allotted to each of us on earth. We are to use the gifts and talents that the Lord has given us for the advance of His kingdom and the good of our neighbors.

This other oriented focus continues in Paul’s exhortation regarding our speech. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Elsewhere he urges us to speak in such a way that it “gives grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). Our speech, Paul tells us, is not primarily to serve ourselves but others.

And so, what do these exhortations mean for us? First, they remind us that Paul saw no contrast between the Proverbs of Solomon and the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So let us be diligent to have these Proverbs dwell in our hearts and minds. Let us teach them to our children and grandchildren that they might learn what it means to walk in wisdom toward those who are outside and to redeem the time.

Second, Paul is validating the old-fashioned concept of good manners. Manners are simply patterns of behavior that attempt to put others at ease by considering their interests as more important than our own. Opening the doors for ladies, making eye contact, saying hello and goodbye, saying thank you and you’re welcome – we should view all these things as attempts to apply Paul’s admonition to let our conduct be characterized by wisdom and our speech be seasoned with salt.

So consider some practical implications of Paul’s admonitions. Today we find ourselves in a new facility that, Lord willing, we will be able to enjoy for a couple months. As guests in this facility, we need to demonstrate good manners. And so, children, you shouldn’t be climbing on the furniture, snooping in spaces that are off limits, or running wild around the hallways. Don’t touch things that aren’t yours and be careful to treat everything as though it were quite precious. We are being given the privilege of meeting here and need to exercise good manners in the way we use the facility.

And you, parents, take responsibility for your children. Watch over them with all diligence and teach them the importance of manifesting good manners in their treatment of this place. Fathers, in particular, be engaged with your children. But don’t do this in such a way that you too violate the stricture to have your speech seasoned with grace. Don’t yell and scream at your children because you have failed to train them in good manners. Instilling manners into our children is not done primarily on Sunday morning – it must be happening all week. And so the exhortation to you parents is to impart the grace of good manners to your children – don’t rob them. “He also who is slack in his work,” Solomon writes, “Is brother to him who destroys” (Prov 18:9). So take the time to impart these courtesies to your kids.

Walk in wisdom, redeem the time, speak with grace – these are the reminders that Paul gives to the Colossians and to us. So reminded how we as a people have failed to fulfill these things, let us kneel and confess our sin and weakness to our Father seeking His forgiveness.

You Shall Call His Name JESUS

December 25, 2022 in Bible - NT - Matthew, Christmas, Meditations

Matthew 1:20–21 (NKJV)

20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Today is not just Sunday; it is Christmas Sunday – a glorious high feast day in which we celebrate the incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Only rarely does Christmas fall on a Sunday – so today is doubly blessed. I hope and pray that your day will be filled with celebration.

As we consider the birth of our Christ, it is fitting that we read the angel’s words to Joseph. The angel explains the mystery of Christ’s incarnation – He has been conceived by the Holy Ghost – and instructs Joseph to name this Child “Jesus.” The name “Jesus” means “Savior” and so the angel explains the significance of the name: you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins. He saves us from our stubborn refusal to do what is pleasing to God and to instead follow our own path. The Child born to Mary not only reveals the wonder of infancy and the glory of children – He does of course do those things – but this Child reveals God’s determination to deliver us from our sin. He was born to rescue us for we were lost and estranged from God. And so He came to offer Himself in our place so that we might be forgiven and restored to fellowship with our Creator.

As we enter into the presence of our Lord on this Day, therefore, it is fitting that we bow before Him to confess our sins. So let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness through the death of Christ, rejoicing in God’s salvation. 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.

The Eternal Appetite of Infancy

December 18, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)

30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.”

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas, I doubt that I have to remind you that children love these times of festivity. While we adults often grow tired, kids never tire; they long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open stockings and presents? When is everyone coming over?”

We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. Wisdom was daily God’s delight and rejoiced in His presence, rejoicing in God’s creative genius, and delighting in the sons of men. So who is the blessed one? What does Wisdom speak to you children? “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.” The blessed one is the one who keeps and observes the way of wisdom – and the chief of wisdom’s ways is to delight in God and to rejoice in His works. The blessed man or woman or child is he who looks upon the world with wide-eyed wonder at God’s creativity and genius and generosity; who marvels at the intricacy of the human cell; who laughs at the gangliness of a giraffe; who delights in the companionship of a friend. The cursed man is the one who has grown too dull to perceive the wonder of the world and those who dwell therein.

Just a few weeks ago Pastor Chase quoted G.K. Chesterton who explains all this in his inimitable way in his book Orthodoxy. He writes:

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

So what of you? Have you sinned and grown old? Have you ceased to look in wide-eyed wonder at the world? You teens, have you become too insecure, too self-important, or too distant to rejoice with joy? You young adults, have you become too self-absorbed or too ambitious to slow down and enjoy family and friends? You adults, have you become too tired or too lazy to celebrate with joy? Or perhaps too greedy to enjoy the simple delights of friendship? Or too distracted.

Reminded that we often sin in various ways and that our sin causes us to “grow old”, that we become bored and complacent with God our Creator and Redeemer and with the world in which He has placed us, that we complain and mutter rather than overflow with thanksgiving, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord. 

The Center of the Year

December 11, 2022 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Church Calendar, Meditations

Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)

17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

If you’ve been at Trinity Church long, you’ve no doubt discovered that we utilize the Church calendar to organize our year. Our songs, our Scripture readings, our confessions of sin, our meditations, and even sometimes our sermons are geared to the Church Calendar. Given that following the Church Calendar is not a matter of necessity, that it’s not explicitly commanded in Scripture, why have our elders decided to do so? What’s the point?

As we consider that question, consider what each phase of the church year does: it places Christ’s Person and Work at the center of the year. It orients our calendar around the life of Christ: Advent – awaiting His birth; Christmas – celebrating His birth; Epiphany – celebrating His revelation as Messiah to the Magi and in His baptism; Lent – remembering His suffering on our behalf; Passion week – remembering His final week of challenge, betrayal, death, burial, and resurrection; Ascension – celebrating His enthronement at God’s right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords; Pentecost – celebrating the outpouring of the Spirit by our Risen and Exalted Lord. Between Pentecost and Advent? Celebrating Christ’s work, by the power of His Spirit, throughout church history. The Church Calendar puts the Person and Work of Christ at the center of our lives, year after year.

So why is this valuable? Well note Paul’s command today: So whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Whatever you do – whether eating or drinking or sleeping or waking; whether living in the winter or summer; in the fall or the spring – do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus – to honor Him and to glorify Him. The Church Calendar helps us fulfill this command by putting Jesus exactly where He belongs – at the center of our Church life, at the center of our calendar, at the center of our celebrations and at the center of our worship. And this, of course, reminds each of us to put Jesus at the center of our own life as well.

But often we are consumed with other things. We want to push Jesus to the margins of our lives; oh, we’ll give Him a bit of attention on Sunday but the rest of the week? That’s ours. But Jesus demands all our time – each day, each hour, each minute, each second. He is the Sovereign Lord and all we are and do is to be offered up in praise and thanks to Him.

So what of you? Has Christ been at the center of your life this week or have you put your own self at the center of your calendar? Singles, have you displayed Christ this week, manifesting His character in your life and speaking His praises with your lips, living a life of integrity and honor? Husbands and fathers, have you led your family to Christ this week, worshiping and praying and speaking of Christ’s work in your home? Wives and mothers, have you modeled Christ this week, laying down your own life for the lives of your loved ones? Children, have you followed Christ this week, obeying your parents even as Christ obeyed His?

Reminded this morning that whatever we do, in word or in deed, is to be done in the Name of Christ to the glory and praise of God, let us confess that we often do things and speak things in our own name, for our own glory. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord.

Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs

December 4, 2022 in Advent, Bible - NT - Colossians, Meditations, Singing, Singing Psalms

Colossians 3:16 

16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 

For Advent and Christmastide we are continuing our tradition of preaching through the psalms. So let us review once again why this is a fitting tradition. Why should we devote considerable time and attention to the psalms? In our day, various ideologies have divorced Christians from the OT. Consequently, Psalm singing has fallen on hard times, especially among Protestants. So as we recover this practice, let us consider the foundation Paul lays in our text today.

First, Paul identifies the content of our worship. We are to let the word of Christ, Christ’s own word, dwell in us richly. Jesus speaks to us today; He is calling today. But where? Paul tells us: He speaks in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In the Greek translation of the OT, these labels correspond to the various types of songs found in the book of psalms. Paul’s categories of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are, in other words, different ways of directing us to one book, the book of Psalms. It contains psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which we are to sing. Why? Because they are the Word of Christ – Christ’s own words to us. When we sing the Psalms to one another, we hear Christ speaking to us in and through the voices of our brethren.

Second, Paul identifies the function of our worship. We are to teach one another and admonish one another. First, we teach one another. When we sing the psalms to one another, we expand our knowledge of God and our awareness of His work in the world. We teach one another of His righteousness, His mercy, His wrath, His love, His patience, His judgments, etc. The psalms force us to reckon with ways in which our own thinking differs from God’s thinking. When we sing a psalm and find ourselves disagreeing with its words, the problem is not with the psalm but with us. Consequently, we not only teach one another as we sing, we also admonish one another. We correct erroneous thoughts, summon one another to trust the Lord more fully, rebuke one another’s complacency, immorality, greed, idolatry, and deceitfulness. The psalms teach and admonish us.

Third, Paul identifies the motive of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts. True worship emerges from a heart that has been transformed by the grace of God. By nature, we are all sinners; we have hearts of stone, hearts that love neither God nor neighbor rightly. When God delivers us from our depravity by His grace, He changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh; He makes us true worshipers. By His grace, He transforms our loves and enables us to sing truly. While any sinner can sing the psalms with his lips; only a true worshiper, by grace, can join heart and lips together in song.

Finally, Paul identifies the object of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. The Lord is the object of our worship. He alone is worthy of praise, thanksgiving, and honor. He has created us and not we ourselves; He has redeemed us through the precious blood of His Son Jesus. He has sent His Spirit to empower us to walk in newness of life. So we are to give Him thanks and praise, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Him.

So as we enter into the presence of the Lord this day, as we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, let us teach and admonish one another as we worship the Lord. Unfortunately, much of the church has abandoned the psalms in favor of songs that do not teach and admonish. We speak to one another our own words rather than the words of Christ. But even when we speak the words of Christ to one another, we often fail to learn from our brethren, we often fail to correct ourselves. So reminded of our failures in this regard, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness.

Joseph’s Prudence

November 27, 2022 in Advent, Bible - NT - Matthew, Meditations

Matthew 1:18–21 

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue the world from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who have trusted in Him. Our passage today begins describing the fulfillment of God’s promise to our fathers – the birth of the Christ.

I direct us to this passage to illustrate a principle that we explored a couple weeks ago from Proverbs 12. We read in Proverbs 12:16, “A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame.” We noted that while a fool compounds shame by adding his own shameful anger and frustration to a challenging situation, a prudent man exercises self-control and strives to cover shame in so far as he is able. So notice the way that Joseph, the earthly father of our Lord, embodies this verse.

First, note that Joseph finds himself in an embarrassing and shameful situation. His betrothed is found to be with child and he knows that she is not with child by him. Nevertheless, tongues will wag and he will be accused either of being an immoral man himself or of being cuckoled by some other man. Neither was true, of course, but truth rarely slows the gossip train. Joseph is in a shameful situation.

Second, the text emphasizes Joseph’s prudence. “Joseph, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” Joseph was a righteous man. He knew that great as his embarrassment was, he had no real shame for he had done nothing wrong. But Mary, he assumed, had done something wrong, something shameful. He knew that he had not had sex with her and so he deduced, wrongly, that she was with child by another man. But though Joseph believed that Mary had wronged him, though he believed that she had committed a shameful action, Joseph was determined to cover her shame and to put her away privately.

Third, Joseph did not respond hastily. “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying…” Joseph exercised self-control and was thinking carefully how he ought to respond to this situation. This self-control paved the way for God to intervene, to reveal what had really happened, and to correct Joseph’s misunderstanding of the situation. Joseph’s self-control in turn, therefore, paved the way for the salvation of the nations. No wonder then Proverbs instructs us, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Pr 16:32). 

So, again, what of you? As we enter upon this Christmas season, consider that Joseph’s self-control, his determination to cover Mary’s shame, paved the way for the birth of the Christ. And as you meditate on this, consider how you can exercise self-control this holiday season, cover the shame of family and friends, and be a light for Christ in a dark and broken world.

Reminded that we often respond hastily to real or perceived shame, let us confess our sin to the Lord and pray that we, like Joseph, would think carefully before we act. And as we confess our sin, let us kneel together. We will have a time of individual, silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Prudent Man

November 13, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:16 

16A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to shun outbursts of anger and to cover shame.

Life is often hard. We live amongst sinful, selfish, silly people and we ourselves are often sinful, selfish, and silly. Hence, we often rub one another the wrong way; we say things that we shouldn’t say and do things that we shouldn’t do. People are often inconsiderate. Children are often disobedient. Fellow Christians are sometimes uncaring. Unbelievers are sometimes cruel. Others do things that are shameful or that embarrass us. So how do you respond?

On the one hand is the fool: A fool’s wrath is known at once. He responds to such things with wrath. He lacks self-control and is characterized by, in the Apostle Paul’s words, “outbursts of wrath” (Gal 5:20) – visible and vocal expressions of anger, indignation, and frustration. So your toddler throws a fit in the store and you explode at them, making a scene in the cereal aisle. Your child embarrasses you at church and you scold them through clenched teeth. Your wife doesn’t have dinner ready when you get home, and you yell at her in front of the kids. Your friend says something insensitive, and you immediately get mad and tell your other friends all about it. The fool lacks self-control over his emotions; he believes he has a right to just express them and let the chips fall where they may. But, make no mistake, he is a fool.

On the other hand is the prudent man: But a prudent man covers shame. He responds to embarrassing or frustrating things with self-control thinking others more important than himself. So if your toddler throws a fit in the store, you don’t imitate him but you correct him patiently and leave the cart full of groceries in the aisle if necessary to go to the car or even to go home and discipline him. If your child embarrasses you, you receive the embarrassment and govern your emotions and determine if your child’s action is just childishness or if it is disobedience – if it is childishness then you instruct privately covering their shame; if disobedience then you take them somewhere and discipline them privately to lessen their shame. If your spouse disappoints you, you don’t yell at them in front of your children but speak to them discretely to cover their shame. If your friend says something insensitive, then you restrain your hurt and determine if this is a matter that love should cover or if it is one you need to address with them directly. A prudent man possesses self-control and carefully weighs the things that have occurred rather than responding hastily.

So what of you? Are you a fool or are you a prudent man? Are you routinely characterized by outbursts of wrath? Or do you exercise self-control and do all in your power to cover the shame of others? “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Pr 16:32). 

Reminded of our calling to be men and women of self-control who do not let our emotions rule our lives and destroy our relationships, let us confess that we are often foolish, that we often lack self-control and increase shame rather than covering it. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. 

You & Your Household

November 6, 2022 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Meditations

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 the Buck and James children. Their baptisms are reminders that Jesus works not just with individuals but with whole families. When He saves us, His salvation transforms our individual lives and our homes. Jesus’ salvation years ago of Josh and Mindy and of Ben and Stephanie, the parents of all these children, has radically transformed their homes and the lives of their children.

This is no surprise. Malachi promised that one of the chief fruits of the Messiah’s coming would be a renewal of family life, particularly a restoration of fatherhood. “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal 4:6). It is Jesus’ transformative work in families that is on display in the life of the Philippian jailer in our text today. After the jailer heard the Word of the Lord preached by Paul and Silas he believed in the Lord, acknowledged Jesus to be Lord of all, and so was baptized with “all his family.” Jesus began His transformative work in this home.

Because the Gospel is not just for individuals but for families, the Scriptures are filled with promises and commands for both parents and children. The Lord includes both parents and children in His kingdom and is often pleased to use the discipleship of parents to bring children to faith. “Train up a child in the way he should go,” Proverbs 22:6 declares, “And when he is old, he will not depart from it.” 

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic Philosopher and Roman Emperor who is cast in the opening scenes of the movie Gladiator, a famous Christian philsopher named Justin was arrested along with several of his students. They were interrogated for their faith and told that they must renounce Christ or die. Justin and his companions remained steadfast – and so Justin the Philosopher is more commonly known as Justin Martyr. The account of their martyrdom testifies to the power of parental discipleship:

The Roman prefect Rusticus said, “To come to the point then, are you a Christian?” Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.” The prefect said to Chariton, “Are you also a Christian?” Chariton replied, “I am a Christian by God’s command.” The prefect then asked another, “What do you say, Charito?” Charito said, “I am a Christian by God’s gift.” “And what are you, Eulpistus?” Eulpistus, a slave of Caesar, answered, “I also am a Christian, freed by Christ, and share by the grace of Christ in the same hope.” The prefect said to Hierax, “Are you also a Christian?” Hierax said, “Yes, I am a Christian, for I worship and adore the same God.” The prefect Rusticus asked them all, “Did Justin make you Christians?” Hierax replied, “I was, and shall ever be, a Christian.” A man called Paeon stood up and said, “I also am a Christian.” The prefect said, “Who taught you?” Paeon replied, “I received from my parents this good confession.” Eulpistus agreed, “I listened indeed gladly to the teaching of Justin, but I too received Christianity from my parents.”

The Buck and James children stand in this good company – the company of those children whose lives have been transformed by the grace of God through the witness of their parents. 

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 this morning 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.

The Discipline of the Church

October 30, 2022 in Bible - NT - 2 Thessalonians, Discipline, Meditations, Uncategorized

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 (NKJV)

13But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Later in the service, we will have the immense privilege of welcoming several folks into membership by transfer, profession of faith, and baptism. These folks have taken our recent membership information class in which we explain the biblical basis for church membership and the obligations that such membership entails. One of those obligations is a willingness to submit to the discipline of the church. As sinners, we need the loving accountability of our brethren to direct us in righteousness and remind us of our obligation to serve the Lord throughout our lives. We need this particularly when we are being tempted to wander astray.

In our text today, Paul commands the Thessalonian church to implement the first stage of that public discipline, a stage we commonly refer to as Suspension from the Lord’s Supper. Paul begins with an exhortation, “brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” In a fallen world, it is possible to grow weary. The temptations of the Evil One, combined with the allurements of the world and the sinful desires of our own hearts, often make the task of doing good challenging. So Paul warns us lest we grow weary in doing so. Persevere. Be faithful.

Paul then commands us to practice a particular good – to take seriously disobedience to God within the congregation. Paul knows that if we permit blatant sin to go unchecked, then that sin will spread. As Paul says elsewhere, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (1 Cor 5:6). So Paul writes, “if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Paul’s command involves two parts – first, we are to note – that is, mark, point out, or publicly identify – that person. Second, we are to refuse to keep company with him – that is, we are to suspend normal fellowship with that person, including sharing in the Lord’s Supper. Why? Note Paul’s words: “that he may be ashamed.” In other words, the purpose of the discipline is to awaken the sinner to the seriousness of his sin. As Solomon writes in Proverbs 20:30, “Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.”

It is in keeping with Paul’s words here and elsewhere (cf. 1 Cor 5:4) that the elders announce the Suspension of ———— from fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. Almost two years ago —— separated from her husband. During that time the elders have striven to be patient, understanding that marital problems are complicated and that they are chiefly the responsibility of the husband to repair. During that time, her elders have repeatedly pleaded with her to submit to joint marital counseling with her husband. She has persistently refused to do so. She has hardened her heart in opposition to her husband and filed for a divorce from her husband, something that God hates (Mal 2:16). Because she has failed to give heed to our private exhortations, we are now announcing this to the church, praying that God will use this to convict and restore her to her husband and to the church.

In so announcing, we would remind you of Paul’s exhortation, “do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” Your duty is to pray for and, as occasion permits, admonish —— as a professing Christian to repent of her sinful conduct, to submit to the counsel of her elders, and to strive for reconciliation with her husband. Pray that she would desire to honor the vows that she swore to her husband “for better, for worse… till death do us part.” Her husband is still willing to fulfill those vows; pray that —— would be willing to do so as well.

Such sober moments remind all of us of our susceptibility to sin and our need for God’s grace and mercy in our individual lives and in our marriages; they remind us of our need to humble our hearts regularly and to confess our sins to the Lord, submitting to the authorities in our lives lest we bring upon ourselves God’s chastisement. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so.