Sexual Freedom vs Slavery

August 23, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Confession, Depravity, Homosexuality, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The psalmist teaches us to sing in Psalm 119:45, “And I will walk at liberty, For I seek your precepts.” To walk in the law of the Lord, to obey the Lord, is to walk at liberty, it is to know true freedom. This is why James calls the law, “the perfect law of liberty” (1:25) – because everyone “who commits sin,” as our Lord Jesus reminds us, “is the slave of sin” (Jn 8:34). Sin corrupts and destroys us as human beings. God designed us to live in righteousness; to sin is to rebel against that design; it is to live in a way that we were not meant to live. The man who lives righteously is the most free. Consequently, the Man Jesus was the freest of men.

In our text today, Paul outlines some of the works of the flesh, sins that corrupt and destroy and enslave us as human beings. At the top of this list are sexual sins: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness… So let us relate this to our current cultural moment. Since the 1960s America has listened to prophets who have promised “sexual liberty.” But if the law is liberty, then what is true sexual freedom? Sexual freedom is the gift of God in which a man and woman who are covenanted together in marriage enjoy sexual intimacy. They are free: free to be naked and unashamed; free to learn the unity of body and soul that reflects the glory of their Creator; free to enjoy sex without the debilitating effects of guilt, regret, and sexually transmitted diseases. This is sexual liberty.

So what is sexual slavery? Sexual slavery is adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness. Sexual slavery is to be so driven by one’s sexual passions that one sleeps with a married man or woman, pursues sexual satisfaction outside the marriage bed, indulges varied sexual urges such as are represented by the LGBTQ agenda or the porn industry, or engages in coarse jesting and foul speech. Sexual slavery, in other words, is all the things our prophets have described as sexual freedom.

So why would they sell such slavery to us? Because tyrants love moral corruption and hate virtuous men. Men who are morally corrupt are men who are manipulable. So Balak, the king of Moab, hired Balaam to curse the people of Israel. But Balaam couldn’t curse them for God had blessed them. So what counsel did Balaam give Balak? Entice them with sexual corruption. So the men of Israel were enticed by the daughters of Moab. What Balak could not do with words he did with sexual slavery. Hence, it is no surprise that those who want to take away our political and economic liberties want to enslave us to sexual bondage. Why? Because morally corrupt men are manipulable.

So what of you? Are you sexually free or are you sexually enslaved? If you are enslaved to porn, then you are an advocate for everything the socialists and communists are trying to achieve in our culture no matter what you may say with your lips. So what is the solution? The solution is the forgiving and transforming grace of Jesus Christ. “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn 8:36).

And the Son willingly sets free all those who turn from their sin, turn in faith to Him, and seek His forgiveness. So as we come into the presence of the Lord today, let us confess our sin and the sexual slavery of our broader society, and seek the Lord’s mercy. And 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.

Justification and Sanctification

August 17, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Depravity, Faith, Justification, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification, Ten Commandments

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If you have turned away from your life of sin and rebellion and have sought God’s forgiveness through Christ, then your forgiveness will begin to manifest itself in a life of obedience to God. Justification, in other words, is always accompanied by sanctification. As Paul emphasized in the verses just prior to this catalogue of the works of the flesh, the Christ who forgives us also gives us His Spirit; and the Spirit imparts to us the resurrection life of Jesus, enabling us to uproot the works of the flesh and to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Paul insists on this bond between justification and sanctification in his words today. After cataloguing some of the works of the flesh – works that we shall consider in future weeks – Paul writes, “of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21). The one who lives a life characterized by these evil deeds, whose life is characterized by unrepentant sin, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Such a man or woman will face the wrath and judgment of God.

And note carefully that Paul insists that this has been his consistent message. He had told the Galatians these things in time past and he was now reminding them again beforehand, before they engage in such behavior or listen to the lie of those who say, “Hey! You’ve been forgiven! You can live any way you want!”

Paul will have nothing to do with antinomianism. So what is antinomianism? Antinomianism – literally “against law” – is the idea that those who have been forgiven by Christ are no longer under obligation to observe God’s moral law. But this is folly. Shall we who died to sin, who have been forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus Christ for our rebellion against God, live any longer in it? May it never be! When God saves us from our sin, He not only forgives us the guilt of our sin but empowers us to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.

Thomas Chalmers, the great Scottish preacher of the 18th century, once preached a sermon entitled, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” He insisted that when we see our sin in all its ugliness and then we see the forgiving grace of God in Christ in all its loveliness, God’s grace makes sin lose its lustre and appeal. Christ places in our hearts a new affection. So the believing heart wants more of Christ, more of holiness, more of truth, more of light, more of virtue and honor and humility.

So what of you? What do you love? What excites your soul? Enlivens your heart? Inspires your passions? If it is the secret thrill of adultery, contentions, outbursts of wrath, and the like, then you are still in bondage to your sin no matter what you may say about believing in Jesus. You need the forgiving and transforming grace of God. And how do you get it? By crying out to God for mercy. Consider the true heinousness of your sin and the true beauty of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Reminded that justification and sanctification always go together, let us continue to seek the face of God, confessing our own sin and acknowledging the loveliness of Christ. 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.

Walk in the Spirit

August 9, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Justification, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness

Galatians 5:16–18 (NKJV)

16I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

As fallen human beings, our problem is twofold. Our first problem is that we have sinned against God and are guilty in His sight. We are, in Paul’s words, “under the law”, condemned by its precepts to God’s wrath and judgment. We need the forgiving grace of God. And the only way that God can extend that forgiving grace to us and remain just is if a substitute takes our place and bears the guilt of our sin, endures the just judgment that we deserve. Thanks be to God, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. By trusting in Christ we can be forgiven of our sin and cleansed of our guilt and God Himself can remain just.

Our second problem as fallen human beings is that our longings and desires are twisted. The very reason that we have sinned against God is because we are sinners. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. Paul calls this sinful nature “the flesh.” The longing of the flesh is to dishonor the Living God, to question His law, to doubt His goodness, and to flout His justice.

Now, hear the good news, Christ not only died to forgive the guilt of our sin, He also rose from the dead in order that through the power of His resurrected life, we may walk in newness of life. Jesus has risen from the dead and, as the Risen Christ, God’s Anointed Ruler, He has poured out His Spirit upon His people so that we may walk in newness of life. To believe in Christ, therefore, is not only to be forgiven of sin but to be empowered for obedience.

What, then, is our calling? If you have believed in Christ, have sought out the forgiving grace of God in Christ, then your task is to walk by the Spirit. Notice Paul’s summons in our text today:

16I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

The desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are contrary to one another. While the flesh would dishonor God, the Spirit would honor Him; while the flesh would pursue unrighteousness, the Spirit would pursue righteousness. So walk by the Spirit – for it is those who walk by the Spirit who have truly experienced the forgiving grace of God in Christ, who are not “under the law” as a condemnatory voice.

So what of you? The psalmist prays, “Teach me Your way, O Yahweh; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” (Ps 86:11). Is it your prayer to have a united heart? To have a heart that is not one moment going after the desires of the flesh and another after the desires of the Spirit? Then pray as the psalmist prays – that God of His grace and mercy would pour out an even greater measure of His Spirit upon you that you walk in the Spirit and so not fulfill the desires of the flesh.

Reminded that we need both the forgiving and transforming grace of God in our lives, and that this comes only through the death and resurrection of Jesus, let us confess our sin to the Lord and petition Him for grace and mercy through Christ. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

By Nature Sinful and Unclean

June 28, 2020 in Bible - NT - Mark, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Liturgy, Meditations, Regeneration, Sexuality, Sin

Mark 7:20–23 (NKJV)

20And [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Those of you who have been at Trinity Church for some time know that we regularly rotate our liturgical greetings, confessions, and creeds in the course of the year. These changes enable us to focus on a variety of Scriptural commands and promises throughout the year. And, occasionally, we will tweak these liturgical elements in order to grow in faithfulness or to emphasize some other Scriptural principle.

One of the things that you may or may not have recognized is that we made a slight change to the confession of sins that we use at this time of year. In just a moment we will confess as follows:

M: Most merciful God,

P: we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…

You may have recognized that that first sentence is new, “we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.” In the past our confession began with the words, “We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed…” So why the change?

The purpose of this change is to emphasize that we are not only guilty of those actual sins which we commit but also of the corruption of our nature, historically called original sin, with which we are born. Because we rebelled against God in the beginning of human history, we are sinful by nature. We are, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:3, “by nature children of wrath.” By nature we are guilty in the sight of God and justly deserve to be condemned for our sin.

In other words, sin attaches itself not only to our actions but also to our nature. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It is from within, out of the heart of men, that our evil actions proceed. Consequently, we need both to have our sins forgiven and also to have our nature renewed, to be born again by the grace of God.

So why emphasize this? Well, there are many who are attempting to sow confusion in the church regarding same-sex sin. Some of you may be familiar with the Revoice conference last year where various teachers claimed that while same-sex sexual acts are sinful, same-sex desires are not. But this is a gross distortion of Scripture. The Scriptures insist that the desires themselves are twisted and perverse and must be confessed as sin. They are part of that which must be put to death, must be mortified, if we are to serve Christ faithfully.

So what does this mean for us? It means that our sinful actions are the fruit of our sinful nature – and I am responsible both both and I must confess both. Further, my sinful nature distorts not only what I do but fundamentally what I desire, what I love. A man who commits adultery is a man who has long indulged adulterous desires in his heart; a woman who slanders another is a woman who has long indulged bitterness and resentment in her heart. If we would grow in grace, therefore, we must not simply modify our sinful behavior but mortify our sinful desires. The mere fact that I possess a certain inclination or desire is no proof that that desire is upright or pleasing to God. God’s law is the standard by which my desires must be measured. We must pray that God renew our nature and rid us of covetousness, destroy our sexual lust, uproot our bitterness, humble our pride – for it is not only our actions which are sinful but the nature from which those actions proceed.

And so, as we enter into the presence of the Lord today, let us confess both our sinful nature and our sinful actions – for He is the only one who can forgive us for both and who can renew us in His own image. 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.

Household Baptisms

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

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Cannot Be Reconciled to Sin

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

Psalm 5:4–6 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So reminded of our propensity to reconcile ourselves to sin, let us not make excuses for our sin but let us confess it to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in bulletin.

Blessed Trinity

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

John 17:1–6 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ascension Sunday 2020

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

Psalm 110 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are Unmerciful

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

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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