Full of Envy

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

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reminded that envy is a grievous sin that destroys ourselves and others, let us confess that we are often envious and are in need of God’s grace to make us a thankful people. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession in your bulletin.

Filled with Wickedness

November 3, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Providence, Responsibility, Sexuality, Trials

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. When peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to utter debasement and societal instability. Their debased minds bear increasingly bitter fruit. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind. Today we consider the third of these: wickedness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… wickedness.”

The Greek word behind the English “wickedness” is pon-e-ria which is also translated as evil, depravity, iniquity, even ugliness. In Mark 7:22 Jesus reminds us that, like other sins, wickedness (pon-e-ria) emerges from the heart. It is the fruit of a heart that neither loves God nor treasures His law. Etymologist Günther Harder writes that in the Bible those who practice wickedness “are those who do not seek Yahweh or His commands, who will not be guided by Him. Who is wicked is thus measured by God, by His commands, and by obedience to them. God determines what is evil, and in this sense evil is to be understood simply as that which is contrary to God” (TDNT). Majority vote doesn’t define evil; social convention doesn’t define evil; gallup polling doesn’t define evil. God define evil. Our task as humans is to conform our understanding to His.

The leader of wickedness is the devil himself. Those who practice wickedness (pon-e-ria) are children of the wicked one (pon-e-ros). So “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn 5:19). To be delivered from wickedness, therefore, is to escape the snare of the devil (2 Tim 2:26). So Jesus instructs us, in the Lord’s Prayer, to pray that God would deliver us from evil (pon-e-rou) inspired as it is by the evil one, whose kingdom we want to see destroyed and uprooted.

So what does wickedness look like? The book of Deuteronomy describes the contours of wickedness with a repeated command: “So you shall put away the wickedness (pon-e-ron) from among you.” This wickedness includes idolatry (Dt 17:7), rebellion against judicial sentences (17:12), bearing false witness (19:19), rebellion against parental authority (21:21), sexual fraud and deceit (22:21), adultery (22:22), and kidnapping (24:7). In times of debasement, when God is handing a society over to judgment, such wickedness increases. For example, at the culmination of the book of Judges, a time of God’s judgment on Israel, the Benjamites commit a great wickedness when they rape and murder the Levite’s concubine (Judg 20:13). In Jeremiah’s day, also a time of God’s judgment, all segments of society – priests, prophets, kings, people – are characterized by wickedness (Jer 23:11; 32:32). And in Jesus’ day, the decisive moment of judgment for the people and city of Jerusalem, the Pharisees clean the outside of the cup but inside they are full of wickedness (Lk 11:39). They had no love for God nor for His law.

All this reminds us that it is God’s grace alone that preserves a society from wickedness. When we fail to honor Him and to listen to His voice, He justly hands us over to increasing wickedness. And, as wickedness increases, we incur even greater wrath for ourselves and disarray for our society. Is there no hope, then? No way of escape? There is only hope in Jesus Christ. We must confess our wickedness, repent of it, and seek the forgiveness of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

So what of you? Have you welcomed the law of God, embraced it, and allowed it to shape your definition of wickedness? Or have you been swayed by the spirit of the age, the wicked one himself, into redefining wickedness by some other standard?

Reminded that societies under judgment are full of wickedness and conscious that we are seeing such wickedness grow in our day, let us confess that we have been listening to the lies of the wicked one, endeavoring to decide for ourselves what constitutes wickedness. 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 your bulletin.

Beware your enemies; Be loyal to your friends.

October 27, 2019 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Confession, Covenantal Living, Human Condition, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification, Satan

1 Kings 2:5-9 (NKJV)
And David charged his son Solomon, saying,
“Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. 6 Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. 7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother. 8 “And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.”

Last week we noted that David urged Solomon to “show himself a man.” This manliness would reveal itself in two ways: robust obedience to God’s law given through Moses and conscious dependence upon God’s promises given to David. Today David gives Solomon two more charges that highlight what it means to be a man. On the one hand, David urges Solomon to beware his enemies. And, on the other hand, he urges Solomon to be loyal to his friends.

First, David urges Solomon to beware his enemies. David had left behind him some unfinished business which could pose potential problems for Solomon’s reign – Joab who was a murderer and Shimei who was a traitor. And so David exhorts Solomon, “Show yourself a man! Take care of these men. Don’t ignore them and pretend that they will go away. Deal with them.” In the ensuing history, Solomon shows himself a man by fulfilling the charges his father had given him – both Joab and Shimei are executed for their crimes.

David’s charge reminds us that a good and righteous man often faces enemies. He cannot be liked by everyone. To be a friend of God is to be at enmity with all those who hate Him. “Your enemies [O Lord] take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? and do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies” (Ps 139:20b-22). The man of God reckons God’s enemies his own. Because of this, he must be prepared to deal with these enemies wisely and justly. The world, the flesh, and the devil are hostile to our cause and, like Joab and Shimei, should be given no quarter. A righteous man considers in himself how to overcome these enemies; he puts on the full armor of God so that he may be able to stand in the evil day. The righteous man stands and fights against the enemies of God.

David not only charges Solomon to beware his enemies, he also reminds him to be loyal to his friends. “Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother.” David’s words remind us that a godly man not only hates, he also loves. He loves God and he loves his friends. Solomon would later write in Proverbs, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend…” (27:10). Do not be like Absalom who betrayed his father for power; do not be like Judas who betrayed our Lord for money; do not be like Samson who betrayed his people Israel for love of a woman. Be like Jesus – ever loyal to His Heavenly Father and willing to endure all things, even death, out of loyalty to His friends, to us.

So what of you? Men, have you identified your enemies and determined to fight against them? Have you identified your friends and remained loyal to them? Women, have you stood by those who are willing to make enemies for the Gospel’s sake? Welcomed the reminders of your husbands to remain loyal to God’s people and not to desert them when hurt or offended? Reminded this morning that true manliness consists in a willingness to make enemies and in a tenacious loyalty to one’s friends, let us kneel and confess that we have often failed in both respects. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Traits of True Masculinity

October 20, 2019 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Children, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Human Condition, Image of God, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility, Temptation

1 Kings 2:1-4 (NKJV)
1
Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

Evangelical Christians are not particularly good at retaining our sons. The number of women in evangelical churches greatly exceeds that of men even though men outnumber women in religions such as Islam and orthodox Judaism. By and large the ladies remain in the churches while the men head to bars and the locker rooms. What has caused this lack of interest on the part of evangelical men? Part of the answer lies in our failure to appreciate that which is distinctly masculine and to cultivate that masculinity in our sons.

This failure is remarkable in light of the Bible’s delight in both masculine and feminine forms of piety. The Scriptures extol each in their place. A man should display his faith like a man and a woman should display her faith like a woman. So what does masculine piety look like and how should it reveal itself in our congregation? What are the traits of the man of God?

When David was on his death bed, passing on to the land of his fathers, he exhorted Solomon, “Show yourself a man” (1 Kgs 2:2). David expected Solomon to live up to the training he had received and to exhibit certain traits that were distinctly masculine. How was Solomon to do this? The portion of David’s charge we have read today identifies two ways.

First, Solomon must obey the voice of the Lord. Solomon was to “keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies. . .” (2:3). Masculinity, David emphasizes, is not found in rebellion against God, as fallen culture erroneously surmises, but in a rigorous, zealous, full-orbed obedience to His law. Want to be a man? Then study to know and obey the Word of God despite the opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Masculinity is willing to say, “No,” to ungodliness and unbelief; willing to say, “No,” to a gang of thieves and stand up against them; willing to say, “Don’t be dumb,” to a friend who talks disrespectfully of his mother. The mark of true masculinity is dutiful service to God even in the face of stiff opposition. A true man says, “I must obey God rather than men when those men tell me to do what is ungodly. I will stand firm.”

But there is a second lesson about masculinity that David teaches Solomon: a true man is also humble. Solomon was to recall what God had promised his father and to live in light of this promise. This implies that masculine virtue is not afraid to confess its dependence upon others. Real men are willing to learn from their elders; to stand on the shoulders of their forebears; to glean all that can be gleaned from their teachers; to rejoice in the heritage which their parents have already passed and are continuing to pass down to them. As Coleridge once remarked, “A dwarf sees farther than the giant when he has the giant’s shoulder to mount on.” Young men, you are dwarfs, but if you are willing to mount upon our shoulders as we are trying to mount on the shoulders of our fathers, imagine how far you will be able to see.

So give heed to the words of David today – Show yourself a man! Obey the Lord regardless the opposition and treasure the inheritance of your fathers. This is a taste of biblical masculinity. Reminded that we often fail to practice biblical masculinity as men and often discourage its practice as women, let us kneel, as you are able, and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Filled with All Unrighteousness

September 29, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - Romans, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Human Condition, Meditations, Responsibility

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just. When peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to utter debasement and societal instability. Their debased minds bear increasingly bitter fruit. In our text, Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind, fruits which characterize a society’s descent into barbarism. Today we consider the first of these character traits: all unrighteousness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with all unrighteousness.”

In the universe that God has made, there is a fixed standard for moral and immoral behavior. That standard is God’s moral law. To practice righteousness is to live according to the standard; to practice unrighteousness is to ignore or violate it. To be filled with all unrighteousness, therefore, is to be filled with a hatred for God’s law, it is to be lawless and a lawbreaker. When we repudiate the knowledge of God, we eventually repudiate the knowledge of righteousness. “Righteousness, what’s that?”

Because the unrighteous man hates God’s fixed moral standard, hates the truth, the Scriptures frequently contrast unrighteousness and truth. For instance, Paul writes that those who are perishing do“not believe the truth but [take] pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes 2:12). Unrighteousness versus truth. Similarly, earlier in Romans 1, Paul insists that God’s wrath is directed against all “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). And he concludes in Romans 2:8 that because unbelievers “do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,” therefore they will endure God’s “indignation and wrath.” Unrighteousness hates the truth.

With no fixed standard for moral and immoral behavior, those who are filled with all unrighteousness not only hate the truth, they also cannot define real love. Paul writes that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10b) and that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). God’s law is the truth and to speak truth, to uphold truth, to treasure truth is to love my neighbor. God’s law empowers us to define love accurately. But when we cast off God’s law, when we cast off the truth, then we no longer know what love is; our conception of “love” careens about like a drunken man.

Notice, therefore, that our calling as the people of God is to treasure God’s moral law. His law is the truth; His law defines true love; His law is light and life. So Paul outlines our responsibility as the people of God in Romans 6:13, “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” We are to treasure God’s law and practice it in our lives. We are to be filled with all righteousness.

So what of you? Do you treasure God’s law and permit it to define true love? Are you loyal to the truth and determined to help others by upholding it and refusing to lie? Or have you compromised the truth, pretended that the truth is malleable, and so failed to love your neighbor?

Reminded that we are to be filled with all righteousness, that we are to love and treasure God’s moral law, let us confess that we often follow the temptations of the evil, of our sinful nature, and of the world in the practice of unrighteousness. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Utter Debasement

September 22, 2019 in Abortion, Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Children, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Creation, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Sanctification, Sexuality, 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.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. Paul reminds us that unbelief never remains isolated in the head and the heart; it inevitably bears fruit. Over time, unbelief degenerates into idolatry, immorality, homosexuality, and thence into utter debasement and societal instability; its fruit is barbarism whereas the fruit of faith is civilization.

Today we begin to examine the descent into utter debasement and societal instability. God is just. Therefore, when we refuse to repent in the face of widespread idolatry, immorality, and homosexuality, when, in Paul’s words, we do not like to retain God in [our] knowledge, then God hands us over to our sin. He gives us over, Paul writes, to a debased mind… This debased mind then reveals itself in the practice of those things which are not fitting.

So what does Paul mean by a debased mind? A debased mind is one that is adulterated, corrupted, twisted. It is the type of mind that argues that no-fault divorce is good for society and good for children; it is the type of mind that believes we can increase wealth by confiscating others’ rightful property; it is the type of mind that defends pornography as freedom of expression; it is the type of mind that cannot distinguish a boy from a girl; it is the type of mind that imagines that having drag queens read to little children and groom them for sexual exploitation is praiseworthy; it is the type of mind that thinks coercing people to make cakes for sodomite unions is just; it is the type of mind that thinks it is merciful to permit mentally confused people to change their sex on their birth certificate.

A debased mind, in other words, is a mind that has lost its moral compass. In our case, succumbing to the internal logic of relativism, our debased mind no longer has the ability to distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, or kindness from cruelty. “A righteous man,” Solomon notes in Proverbs 12:10, “has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” Societies that rebel against God eventually lose what used to be called “common sense”; God gives them over to a debased mind.

When God hands a people over to a debased mind, that debased mind begins to manifest itself in action. We do those things that are not fitting, that do not reflect our true glory as men and women made in the image of God. We were created to rule over the world in righteousness, faithfulness, and truth; to erect civilizations to the glory and honor of God. But a debased mind degenerates into barbarism, cruelty, injustice, and dishonor.

In coming weeks, we will explore these actions in more detail. For now, suffice it to say that our dishonorable actions are the outworking of our debased mind. Our debased mind is the root; the dishonorable actions are the fruit. Therefore, what is our calling as the people of God? What is your calling as a follower of Christ? Paul commands in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Your calling is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, to study the Word of God and permit it to shape your mind anew, so that you can begin to practice that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

So what of you? Are you conforming yourself to the world or are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind? If you are not being transformed, if you are not purposely renewing your mind through study of and meditation upon the Word of God, then let me assure you that you are being conformed. Transform or conform – those are the only options.

Reminded that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, let us confess that we are often conformed to the world instead. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Homosexuality

September 15, 2019 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Sexuality, Sin, Sovereignty of God

Romans 1:26–27 (NKJV)

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. We have seen that when peoples rebel against the Living God, that unbelief never remains isolated in the head and the heart. Unbelief inevitably works itself out into idolatry and thence into immorality, then into unnatural homosexual lusts, and, finally, into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, barbarism is the fruit of unbelief while civilization is the fruit of faith.

Today we examine the descent into unnatural homosexual lusts. Paul writes, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions…” In other words, when groups of people fail to repent in the face of widespread sexual immorality and its devastating consequences, then the just God hands them over to even more degrading practices. As we emphasized last week, not all sins are equal. Some sins are more heinous in the sight of God than others. Among these more heinous sins is that of unnatural homosexual lust and behavior. Paul writes clearly, “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful…” Despite attempts to reinterpret Paul, it is clear that he is addressing homosexual longings and acts among both women and men. A woman who pursues another woman sexually or a man who pursues another man sexually is committing a grievous sin.

So why is homosexual desire and behavior so sinful? First, Paul insists that it is against nature. “…women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman…” Both lesbianism and sodomy are affronts to the God who made mankind both male and female, who made men to respond sexually to women and women to respond sexually to men. To indulge in same sex attraction or acts is to rebel against one’s very nature as male or female and, hence, to rebel against the God who created one male or female.

Therefore, second, Paul describes this behavior as shameful: “…men with men committing what is shameful.” While a man who lusts over a woman or a woman over a man is committing a grave sin, their sin, distorted though it is, reflects their underlying nature; it is a sin that can have a lawful outlet in matrimony. And, as Paul reminds us, the marriage bed is undefiled (Heb 13:4), sanctified to the glory and honor of the Creator. The homosexual bed, however, whether united in a faux (fake) marriage or not, is always and in every situation shameful and degrading. There is no lawful outlet for homosexual longings.

Therefore, homosexual longings are, in Paul’s assessment, vile passions. They are passions, that is, desires that dwell in the heart; and it is from these desires in the heart, Jesus tells us, that sins emerge (cf. Mk 7:21). Homosexual acts are but the fruit of homosexual desires – and it is the desires that are, in Paul’s words, vile – the Greek word means infamous, dishonorable, reproachful, disgraceful. They are passions which can never be lawfully fulfilled. And so the passions themselves, as well as the acts which proceed from them, must be confessed as sin and forsaken.

Because these passions are vile, God faithfully reveals their character even to those who practice them. How does He do so? Paul writes that the practitioners receive in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” God visits those who practice these sins with troubled consciences, mental disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases, and, in so doing, calls them to repent, to turn from darkness and return to the light.

But we as a people have not heeded these calls to repentance, have we? Our entertainment industries thrust such perversions upon us; our media outlets increasingly praise perverse sexual behaviors; major businesses tout their allegiance to gay pride; the Supreme Court of the United States has compelled the States to recognize same sex unions in Obergefell; and even our own city forbids business owners and others from “discriminating” against perverse sexual behavior. We are guilty.

As we come into the presence of the Lord, therefore, let us lead our culture in the way of confession. Let us acknowledge our sin and pray that God would have mercy upon us, enabling us to embrace our identity as male or female and escape our coming judgment. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Discipline is a Gift

June 30, 2019 in Authority, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Discipline, Love, Parents, Responsibility

Proverbs 3:11-12 (NKJV)
11
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

The Word of God assures us that God is absolutely sovereign, absolutely in control of each and every event, good or bad, which befalls us. Hence, even when we are experiencing a severe trial, we can be assured that it comes from the hand of God. As Job reminds us, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away…” So why do such trials come? Do they come because God hates us? If you are in Christ, the answer to that question is, “Absolutely not!” If you are in Christ, then Solomon assures you that the Lord sends trials your way to correct you and He does that because He loves you. My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” God corrects us because He is a good Father who loves us.

So notice what this means for earthly fathers. Solomon writes: “For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” A righteous father, one who loves and cherishes his children, is concerned for his child’s spiritual and personal growth and maturity. Consequently, a righteous father corrects his son. He knows that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of his child” (Prov 22:15) and so he uses “the rod of discipline” to “drive” this foolishness far away from him. He wants his child to receive the blessing of God, a blessing that can only come through the pursuit of wisdom.

So fathers, how are you doing? Are you engaged with the discipline of your children? Are you concerned for them even as your Heavenly Father is for you? A loving father disciplines his children. “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Pr 13:24). And loving discipline, discipline that glorifies our Father in heaven, that imitates His character toward His children, must always be for the good of our children. Our discipline must be designed to bless them and strengthen them and make them ever more faithful servants of Christ Jesus. Discipline is supposed to be a gift.

So what are ways we can be tempted to distort this as fathers and as mothers? Our chief temptation is to discipline our children not for their good but for our good. So we discipline them to get them out of our hair – to prevent them from disturbing our tranquility or our enjoyment of some other activity. Or we discipline them because we are frustrated with ourselves or with our day at work – we take out our frustration on them. Or we discipline them because we are concerned what others might think of us, perhaps because we are embarrassed by our child’s behavior. In all these cases, the discipline is for us rather than for them.

Note carefully, however, that this is not how our Heavenly Father treats us. Therefore, if we discpline our children in this self-centered fashion, we are teaching a false Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so concerned about Himself that He lashes out at those who irritate Him.” Let us rather teach a true Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so satisfied in Himself and filled with love for His sons that He disciplines them for their good.”

And for you children out there, remember that this passage teaches you an important lesson – if your parents love you, they will discipline you. It is the permissive parent, the parent who says, “Oh do what you like I don’t really care” who truly doesn’t care. So when your parents limit your screen time, when they rebuke your attitude, when they discipline you and give you consequences for your behavior, be sure to thank them for loving you and caring for you. Discipline is a gift – and we all know to say thank you when we’re given a gift.

Reminded that we engage with those we truly love, let us confess that we have failed to love our children as we ought, failed to respect our parents as we ought. 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.

Like a Tax Collector and a Sinner

April 7, 2019 in Authority, Bible - NT - Matthew, Communion, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Responsibility, Sacraments, Sanctification, Satan, Sin

Matthew 18:15-18

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 

The Scriptures make plain that our love for God is directly connected to and demonstrated by the fruit in our lives (Luke 6:43-49). As we have seen in the Gospel of John, love for God is not defined by our feelings but by God’s law-word: Jesus says that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (Jn. 14:15; 15:10-17). Because our love for God is revealed in such visible fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26), Jesus instructs us in our text today how we are to respond when a brother fails to bear such fruit and sins against us.

Recently, we went through this passage in detail. We saw that following private attempts to confirm that our brother really has sinned and that he refuses to repent, the church is to come alongside this brother publicly and correct him. When the church acts in this way, then the brother is summoned “to hear the church” – to take ownership for his sin, make concrete changes in his attitude and actions, and submit to his brethren in the Lord. This is the Lord’s calling upon us as His people.

However, if he refuses “even to hear the church”, then Jesus instructs us, “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Mt 18:17). Jesus insists that we are no longer to treat him as an erring brother in need of correction but as an unbeliever in need of the saving grace of God in Christ. This action is a mercy to him for it endeavors to speak God’s own word to the man, warning him that a refusal to humble himself now will only incur God’s judgment later. After all, Jesus’ command is accompanied by the sober promise that heaven itself will concur in the sentence of excommunication: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven” (Mt 18:18).

As elders it is our duty to apply Jesus’ words to a member of our church. A little over a year ago, we told the church that —— was refusing to repent of his contribution to persistent strife and discord in his marriage and home despite receiving over a year of marital counseling with three different pastors in our community. At the time, we asked you to come alongside him in prayer and, as your relationship permitted, accountability. Rather than respond to this attempt at increased accountability with humility, however, he has steadfastly refused “to hear the church.” He has absented himself from worship and from meaningful accountability. He has refused the elders’ offers to meet with him and help him grow. Most recently, he has asked that we remove him from membership at Trinity.

Since he has refused “to hear the church”, our obligation is to put him out of the church. Therefore, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we, the elders of Trinity Church, hereby excommunicate ——- from the church of Jesus Christ and hand him over to Satan, praying that God may yet have mercy on him and restore him to the true faith, that his soul may be saved in the Last Day (1 Cor 5:4-5).

As we do so, we would deliver to you two exhortations. First, remember prayer. As you think of —-, please pray that the Lord would humble him, expose his sin, and bring him to a true faith in Christ. As you think of his family who remains in the church, please pray that God would empower them, by His grace, to continue to serve the Lord in humility, to honor —— as a husband and father, and to be faithful witnesses to —— in his unbelief that they might be a means of touching his heart with the Gospel. Remember prayer.

Second, remember humility. Apart from the grace of God, we none of us would humble ourselves before Him. Our hearts are deceitful, our thoughts are vain, and our consciences are darkened. We all of us stand in constant need of God’s grace and mercy. So if you meet or interact with —–, be gracious, be kind, be loving, express your desire for his salvation, and your commitment to the well-being of both him and his family. Remember that Jesus regularly ministered to tax collectors and sinners, bringing them the truth of the Gospel in the hope that they would repent and turn in faith to Him. —– needs the Gospel. But hear the Word of the Lord: so do you. So beware the lies of the devil, the lusts of your own heart, and the snares of the world. Remember humility.

And so reminded this morning of our call to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, let us kneel and acknowledge our sin to Him, praying for His mercy and grace. 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.