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.

They are Unmerciful

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

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are Unforgiving

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

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discernment and Covid-19

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

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calamity Comes from the Lord

March 29, 2020 in Bible - OT - Amos, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Ecclesiology, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, King Jesus, Lord's Day, Meditations, Politics, Providence, Responsibility, Sin, Sovereignty of God, Trials

Amos 3:1–6 (NKJV)

1Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: 2“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” 3Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? 4Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing? 5Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all? 6If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?

Amos reminds us that when calamity comes, it comes from the loving hand of the Lord for the benefit of His people. God had rescued Israel from Egypt. But rather than fear and serve the Lord, Israel had rebelled against Him, worshiped idols, and committed iniquity. While God had permitted the nations to wander astray and to pursue their own course in the old covenant, He had chosen Israel as His own peculiar people. Consequently, He refused to let them remain in their sin. Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, even as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov 3:12).

Therefore, the Lord acted to chastise Israel for her sin and to bring her back to the Lord. The calamity that was striking Israel in Amos’ day was clearly from the hand of God. Amos uses a series of rhetorical questions, the answers to which are patently obvious, to emphasize this. These questions culminate in the final one, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” Of course! After all, He is the Sovereign Lord and the Ruler of His people Israel.

Given that this calamity was from the Lord, what ought Israel to do? She ought to acknowledge her sin, return to the Lord, and cry out for His forgiveness. It may be that God would relent of His punishment:

14Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the Lord God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken. 15Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:14-15)

Amos insists that if the people of Israel repent and return to the Lord, loving His law and seeking His forgiveness, God may relent of the harm that He has brought. He may bless Israel and restore her.

So what does Amos teach us? Whereas in the old covenant, God dealt almost exclusively with the nation of Israel, in the new covenant God is calling all men everywhere, God is summoning all nations, to turn from their sin and to worship Him through His Son Jesus. Even as the Lord summoned Israel to repent by punishing her for her iniquities, so God is summoning us to repent. The calamity that has come upon us is from the Lord. Will we give heed, turn from our sin, and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, crying out for forgiveness and mercy? Or will we harden ourselves in our unbelief and our iniquity?

As the people of God, let us lead the way in seeking the Lord and His favor for our people. Let us confess our sins and the sins of our people to the Lord and seek His forgiving and empowering grace, praying that He would have mercy upon us as a people and draw us back to Him, back to the truth. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel together as you are able.

They are Inventors of Evil Things

March 1, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Meditations, Responsibility, Sin, Temptation

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.

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom the just God has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are inventors of evil things.”

Louw-Nida’s Greek-English lexicon describes the phrase as follows – an inventor of evil things is “one who thinks up schemes or plans of action—‘contriver, inventor, one who thinks up.’ φευρετς κακν ‘they think up ways of doing evil.” They scheme and plot and determine how to do evil.

Consider the case of Queen Jezebel. Ahab was grieved that Naboth would not sell his vineyard to him. So what did Jezebel do? She plotted to do evil. She called a day for public fasting, sat two disreputable men beside Naboth, and then had them accuse Naboth of blasphemy. An accusation of guilt was the same as proof in Jezebel’s kingdom. Naboth was given a shame trial and then summarily executed. Ahab now had his vineyard. Jezebel was an inventor of evil things.

Likewise, the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees were inventors of evil things. When many believed in Jesus because of the witness of Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead, they “plotted to put Lazarus to death” (Jn 12:10). They also plotted against the Lord Jesus Himself. “When morning came,” Matthew tells us, “all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death” (Mt 27:1). Not content to oppose His teaching, they determined to destroy Him. They were inventors of evil things.

Paul too was no stranger to this sin. Angered by those who professed faith in Christ and who preached the Way, he plotted against them. He traveled from city to city, trapping God’s people in their words and persecuting them from house to house. Paul himself had been an inventor of evil things.

But thanks be to God, Paul was delivered from this sin. And the same is true for all those who turn in faith to Jesus Christ and cease rebelling against their Rightful King. When we are in rebellion against Him, we plot and plan and scheme to do evil. We look for occasions to break God’s law or even injure others, to steal their property, seduce their spouse, or damage their reputation. But when God confronts us in our sin and grants us the grace of repentance, then He turns us from being inventors of evil things and transforms us into inventors of good things. We no longer plot to do evil; we plan to do good.

So Joseph of Arimethea orchestrated with Nicodemus to care for Jesus’ body and lay it in his own tomb. Paul coordinated with Barnabas to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor and bring the Gentiles to the knowledge of Christ. St. Augustine no longer stole pears from his neighbor but fed food to the poor. The grace of God transforms us from inventors of evil into doers of good.

So what of you? Have you been plotting and planning and scheming to do evil? Or have you been meditating and planning to do good? Reminded that God would have us to delight in what is good and to plan to put that good into action, let us confess that we often invent evil things and let us seek His forgiveness through Christ. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Proud

February 16, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Heart, Meditations, Responsibility, 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’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with proud. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are proud.”

So what is it to be proud? Webster defines proud as, “Having inordinate self-esteem; possessing a high or unreasonable conceit of one’s own excellence, either of body or mind… Arrogant; haughty.” Paul includes the term “proud” not only here in Romans 1 but also in 2 Timothy 3:2 where he writes that in latter times,“men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud…” And Jesus tells us that such pride emerges from a heart that is estranged from God: “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed [among other things] … pride… All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk 7:20, 22).

Pride has reference, first and foremost, to our relationship with God. The sin of our first parents was motivated by pride, believing that they could be God’s equals, determining good and evil. Ever since the Fall, that impulse to be a law unto ourselves has characterized unbelieving man. We are proud.

However, we often strive to conceal our pride. So in our broader, unbelieving culture, we say that the “humble” man is the one who embraces relativism; who refuses to be dogmatic; who keeps a perpetually open mind on moral issues. Christians, therefore, are frequently accused of “pride” for maintaining a fixed moral standard. But the Scriptures maintain that this so-called “humility” is a sham. To stand before Almighty God and to hear His voice speaking truth in the Scriptures and then to say to Him, “Perhaps but perhaps not…” is the essence of pride. It is to repeat the sin of the devil, “Has God indeed said…” The truly humble man is he who hears the Word of God, who believes it in his heart, who obeys it in his life, and who articulates it with his lips. The humble man is willing to stand against a multitude in order to be on the side of God.

But pride not only twists our relationship with God, it also twists our relationships with one another. For instance, the proud man endeavors to avoid submitting to men, refusing to give honor to the lawful authorities God has put in his life. Peter writes, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet 5:5-6). The humble man willingly submits to his parents, his elders, his governors; he welcomes their rule, acknowledging them as God’s instrument in his own life.

Because the proud man stands against God and His word and often rebels against God’s lawful authorities, he incurs the wrath of God. So Mary sings in her Magnificat that God “has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts” (Lk 1:51). They imagine themselves to be God’s equals, capable of determining good and evil for themselves. But God shall scatter them because, as James reminds us, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6).

So what of you? Have you humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God? Determined that His Word shall be the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path? Submitted to His lawful authorities in your life? Or are you kicking against Him? Pushing against His law and repudiating the authorities that He has put over you?

Reminded that God summons us to be clothed with humility, let us acknowledge that we often resist His law and indulge in pride. And, as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of private confession, followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

They are Haters of God

February 2, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Heart, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Responsibility, 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’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with haters of God. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are haters of God.”

This is the only occurrence of this word, thĕŏstugēs, in the Greek New Testament. But though this is the only occurrence of this specific word, it is not the only occurrence of this thought. By nature, we are all estranged from God and at enmity with God, hating Him and hating His law. Paul writes later in Romans that the carnal mind, the mind guided not by the glory of God but by selfish desires, “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (8:7).

So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words in Romans 8. First, Paul insists that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” The carnal mind is the mind that has not yet been renewed by God’s grace. This is the unbelieving man or woman who puts the longings and desires of self or the longings and desires of some other god ahead of God Himself. For this person something holds preeminence in his life other than God. Consequently, the carnal mind hates God because God demands absolute and complete loyalty and obedience; He must be first in our minds and first in our hearts; He will brook no competitors nor opposition. The carnal mind despises such loyalty and views it not as the pathway to life, as it in fact is, but as an infringement on its freedom.

The carnal mind hates God, Paul writes second, because “it is not subject to the law of God.” Paul makes a simple statement of fact. God’s law is an expression of His will, His desires. This law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, requires us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The carnal mind is not subject to God’s law. Oh, it might pick and choose among them. But the carnal mind does so not because it recognizes God as its Lord and Ruler and wants to honor Him but because it claims to be its own lord and ruler and decides that such laws are helpful or advantageous. The carnal mind is not subject to God’s law.

Paul then makes a startling comment: “nor indeed can be.” Here Paul proceeds from the actions of the carnal mind to its abilities. The man or woman with a carnal mind is not able to obey the law of God. So perverse is the human heart that we none of us, by nature, can choose to love God or to obey His law. We are not able. As Paul says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot [are not able to] please God.” Apart from Christ, we are all enslaved to our sin, possessed of a carnal mind, and haters of God.

Our only hope, therefore, is if the Spirit of God transforms our heart desires and frees us from our blindness and stubborn hatred of God. He must convict us of our sin and guilt; He must enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Christ; He must renew our wills so that we become able and willing to love God and to rejoice in His law. We all of us are completely dependent upon the grace of God for salvation.

If we would see a revival in our nation, therefore; that our neighbors turn from their hatred of God and begin to love Him, then we must seek it first and foremost from the Lord of Glory Himself. We must pray for God to have mercy upon us and rescue us from our stubborn rebellion and hatred of Him. He alone can deliver us.

And so reminded of our need for the grace of God, and that apart from the work of His Spirit we are not only unwilling to subject ourselves to the law of God but unable to do so, let us confess that we hate God by nature and seek His forgiving grace. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord.

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.