To Live Sensibly in the Present Age

August 19, 2018 in Bible - NT - Titus, Depravity, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Quotations, Sanctification

Titus 2:11–12 (NKJV)

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

 

For the last couple weeks I preached on this text from Titus. Last week we studied Paul’s insistence that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. I emphasized that the term translated “soberly” is better translated “sensibly.” This morning let us expand on what we learned.

Paul utilzes the word sophronos to summon us, as God’s people, to live in accordance with the way God has made the world. To live sensibly is to live in harmony with the moral and social universe that God has created; it is to do that which is fitting / sensible considering one’s calling and station in life. Paul utilizes this term extensively in his letter to Titus though its use is often obscured by translations. Consider the variety of places in the letter that this term is used:

  • 1:8 – Elders are to be “sober-minded” (sensible)
  • 2:2 – Older men are to be “sober” (sensible)
  • 2:4 – Older women are to “admonish” (make sensible) the younger women.
  • 2:5 – Younger women are “to be discreet” (sensible)
  • 2:6 – Young men are to be “sober-minded” (sensible)
  • 2:12 – Grace of God teaches us to live “soberly” (sensibly)

Clearly this is an important virtue that Paul wants Titus to inculcate in the congregation. He wants all – officers and laity, men and women, old and young – to be sophronos.

Paul’s assumption, therefore, is that there is to be a correspondence between the created world and our attitudes and actions. To live sophronos is to be in one’s right mind, it is to act in the way one ought to act; it is to do that which is right and fitting considering one’s calling and station in life. To live sophronos is to embrace the world as God has made it, it is to take responsibility, to avoid drugs and drunkenness, to delight in generosity, to abhor sexual unfaithfulness.

Paul’s words remind us, therefore, that God’s law, His righteous requirements, are not simply dictates from on high that force us to act in a certain way. It is not as though we are square pegs that God is endeavoring to force into the round hole of His law. “You will fit!” No! It is that we are round pegs that were designed to fit perfectly into that round hole. However, because of the machinations of the Evil One and our own sinful rebellion, we are marred pegs and we no longer perfectly fit into the hole. But, glory be to God, the grace of God has been poured out to restore us to our original design. God’s law expresses the pattern according to which we were originally designed and Jesus exemplifies that pattern in His own life.

C.S. Lewis well expresses the idea behind sophronos in his essay, “Men Without Chests.” Sophronos “is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are. Those who know [this] can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within [an objective universe] I recognize this as a defect in myself—just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind.”

What this means, therefore, is that we are called to be students of God’s creative design and to conform ourselves – our attitudes, our actions, our longing, our loves, and our hates – to the objective reality of the created order. Reminded of this, let us confess that we have often been lazy, failing to study as we ought, and that we have not lived sensibly as we ought. We will confess our sins privately and then corporately using the printed confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

What the Lord Hates

June 17, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Sanctification, Tongue

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV)
16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

While many speak of the importance of love, we often fail to realize that he who loves much must also hate much. He who loves his wife must hate him who would steal her away or injure her. He who loves his children must hate him who would lead them astray or hurt them. He who loves the Church must hate him who would disrupt her peace or divide her. As Jesus tells us, “One cannot love God and mammon. He who loves the one must hate the other.” Similarly, the Lord who loves and cherishes righteousness necessarily hates and despises wickedness.

Consequently, in the course of his instruction to his son, Solomon takes a moment to remind him that there are certain things which the Lord despises, which He hates. Solomon arranges these sins in couplets. The first and last go together; the second and second to last, and so on. Let us consider each in turn.

The first and last items have to do with arrogance and pride – a proud look and one who sows discord among brothers. These exhortations describe the one who fancies that his way is always right; the one who cannot appreciate the wisdom and insight of others; the one who is haughty and domineering, crushing others. Haughty people inevitably cause discord because they have to prove that they know best – and the only way they can prove they know best is if they eliminate the competition. So, Solomon warns us, “Beware pride.”

The second couplet addresses lying and deceit. The Lord despises the lying tongue and a false witness who utters lies. He hates the tongue that pours forth honey but under which is found poison; the tongue that plots the destruction of others while securing its own advantage. So, Solomon warns, “Beware lying and deceit.”

The third couplet exhorts those “whose hands shed innocent blood…whose feet are swift to do evil.” The Lord despises murder, violence, evil plotting, and destruction. Our hands have been given to protect the innocent, but the wicked man uses his hands to slay them; our feet have been given to walk in the path of life, but the wicked man walks in the path of death. So, Solomon warns, “Beware violence.”

At the heart of these couplets is the heart. That which the Lord hates is a “heart that devises wicked plans.” Earlier Solomon had warned his son – “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” So here, in his arrangement of sins the Lord despises, he returns to the heart. It is our heart that makes us proud, that treasures lying and deceit, and that leads us to scheme and plot and destroy others. So, Solomon warns us, “Beware an evil heart.”

Reminded that our whole being – our looks, our speech, our actions, and our hearts – are open and laid bare before the face of Him to whom we must give an account, let us confess our sins to Lord. 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.

Integrity vs. Duplicity

January 28, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Sanctification

Proverbs 10:9 (NKJV)
9 He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known.

Hypocrisy is a deep and troubling sin. It is a type of lying or duplicity – saying one thing with one’s mouth but living in a completely different fashion. It is this sin of hypocrisy or duplicity that Solomon confronts in Proverbs 10:9 – He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known.

On the positive side is the man or woman who walks with integrity. This describes the one who walks uprightly and who behaves in private in the same way he speaks publicly – that person walks securely. The one who walks with integrity doesn’t have to worry about what happens when his parents look at his internet history; he doesn’t have to worry when his wife looks at his phone records; he doesn’t have to worry when his accounts are audited. Why not? Because he has nothing to hide. What he is publicly, that he is privately – and the public image is one God approves.

On the negative side is the man or woman who perverts his ways. This is the one who speaks peace with his lips but has war in his heart; the one who hides his desires and schemes behind a smiling face. That person, Solomon tells us, will become known. Though he deletes his internet history; though he is careful to make sure no one is at home to catch him; though he soothes his conscience, saying, “No one will know,” God knows and God will expose him in the end. As Jesus warns us, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Lk 8:17). The truth will out.

The prophet Isaiah gives us a colorful description of the man of integrity whose way is secure. He writes, “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppressions, Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil: He will dwell on high; His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; Bread will be given him, His water will be sure” (33:15-16).

So what of you? Are you walking in integrity? Are you carefully observing what God desires and commands? Are you willing to let those you respect look at your play list, your movie choices, and your internet history? Or are you perverting your way? Are you hiding? Are you dissembling? Be sure that God will find you out – so before that happens, confess your sin and make things right. Give up your hypocrisy and deceit.

Reminded of our calling to confess our sins to the Lord and to forsake them in fear of Him, reminded that we need His forgiving grace to restore us to fellowship with Him and His empowering grace to free us from our own perversity, let us confess our sins to the Lord and seek His favor. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so.

The New Has Come!

December 31, 2017 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Church Calendar, Faith, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification

Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This morning we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year. The old has passed away, behold the new has come! As we prepare to enter into this new year, I want to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians. New years provide opportunities for renewed resolutions, hopes, and dreams. Paul’s words in Ephesians 3 contain profound wisdom for us as we consider these things.

So let us note that in our text Paul is giving glory to God in the process of which he gives instruction to us. So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words. First, Paul gives glory to God: to [God] be glory. So who is this God to whom Paul is giving glory? He is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever dreams or hopes you have for this upcoming year, Paul tells us, they are not too difficult for God to accomplish. God is able to do far more than we can articulate with our mouths or that we can even imagine with our heads. God’s power is infinite. He is Almighty God. Dream big.

Second, Paul tells us that this God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is the very God whose power works in us. Did you catch that? If you are in Christ, then the omnipotent God, who rules and reigns among the affairs of men, is at work with His power in your life. As we will see in Psalm 37 today, God’s favor is toward His own and the meek shall inherit the earth.

You see, Paul wants the Ephesians to grow in wisdom and maturity and the way we grow is through a deep and personal knowledge of all that God has done and is doing and promises yet to do for us in Christ. So note that Paul gives glory to God in the Church by Christ Jesus. Note that the glory to God is by Christ Jesus – Jesus is the center of our faith. It is through His death and resurrection that we have forgiveness and newness of life; through His death and resurrection that the power of God is at work in us. Glory to God by Christ Jesus.

But note that this glory that is by Christ Jesus is in the Church. In other words, Paul wants glory to abound to God’s Name in and through you and me. God’s power is on display in His people – He has forgiven us and empowers us that we might display the wonder of His work in a dark and hopeless world, that we might display the impotency of Satan and his minions when confronted with the power of our Christ. In ourselves we are weak and powerless; but in our God we can run against a troop. God wants to display the wonder and the power of His grace in your life. Are you looking for a proof that God exists? Look for it as you grow in faith and godly character.

So what this means is that those excuses you’ve been making for not addressing that sin pattern in your life are groundless; those despairing voices that have been telling you that there’s no hope for change are lying; those urges to complacency that have said it’s okay that you’re just coasting along spiritually, that you’re not really growing or being intentional about serving Christ, those urges are from the devil. God gives His omnipotent strength to His people because He loves us and longs for us to “comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18b-19).

So as we enter into the presence of our Lord on the cusp of a New Year, let us confess that we have often failed to believe Him, failed to trust Him, and let us seek His forgiveness through Jesus Christ that He might empower us as His humble people to bring glory and honor to His Name. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Make your pastor’s labor light!

May 31, 2017 in Ecclesiology, Quotations, Sanctification, Word of God, Worship

“In preaching the word there is some toil, and this Paul declares when he says, ‘Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.’ (1 Tim. v. 17) Yet it is in your power to make this labor light or heavy; for if you reject our words, or if without actually rejecting them you do not show them forth in your works, our toil will be heavy, because we labor uselessly and in vain: while if ye heed them and give proof of it by your works, we shall not even feel the toil, because the fruit produced by our labor will not suffer the greatness of that labor to appear. So that if you would rouse our zeal, and not quench or weaken it, show us, I beseech you, your fruit, that we may behold the fields waving with corn and being supported by hopes of an abundant crop, and reckoning up your riches, may not be slothful in carrying on this good traffic.” 

John Chrysostom, Sermon on John 2:4.

The Church’s Task of Discipling the Nations

May 8, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Matthew, Discipline, Evangelism, King Jesus, Politics, Sanctification
Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
The passage before us today has appropriately been labeled the Church’s Great Commission. This commission contains both indicatives (statements of fact, of what is the case) and imperatives (commands, moral obligations). Let us consider each in turn. First, the indicatives. Jesus gives two. First, He informs the disciples that He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth – through His conquest of sin, death, and Hades, He is now Lord of all, God’s Messiah come to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Second, He assures the disciples that He will be with them forever – though He would be absent physically, He would remain present with them, by the power of His Spirit, to comfort, encourage, enlighten, and empower them to fulfill the task He has given them.
So what is this task? What are the imperatives, the commands? What is the commission? Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… Notice that the task is quite clear: our task is to disciple the nations. What does this mean? Well, our Lord explains the task by adding two phrases: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. Notice the two components of the discipling process: baptizing and teaching. Baptizing introduces someone into the life of faith; teaching them to observe Jesus’ commandments helps that same person learn to live out the faith. In other words, our task is both to bring the nations into the faith and to bring them up in the faith.
It is not sufficient for someone to be incorporated into the faith if they remain, in their thinking and acting, an outsider. If a mobster gets a job on the police force, we won’t rejoice if he’s simply puts on a uniform; we’ll only rejoice if he actually becomes an officer in heart and mind. So too – those who are brought into the faith through baptism are to be taught to observe the things that Christ has taught through instruction. Discipleship, in other words, involves both conversion and transformation.
Paul writes in Colossians 1:28, “we preach [Jesus], warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man [mature] in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s words reveal that the church is called not simply to get people “saved” or to get them to “make decisions” for Christ, but to grow them up in the faith. We are to disciple the nations not just evangelize them. We are to aim for their growth and maturity. In other words, we are to create civilizations not mere converts.
Today we will see that the task Jesus lays out for the Church in the Great Commission is the same basic task to which Jesus calls parents. We are called to disciple our children. We are to train and instruct them so that they mature in Christ. We are to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Parents are to warn their children and teach their children in all wisdom, that they may present their children mature in Christ Jesus. That is the task.
Parenting involves, in other words, not only having a child but raising that child in the fear of God. Any fool who has passed puberty can sire or conceive a child – can becomea parent; however, it takes a man or woman of faith to raise a child in the fear of God – to be a parent.

So reminded that Christ is the exalted Ruler over all, that He remains with His Church to this day, and that He has summoned us to disciple the nations, including our own children, let us confess that we have often distorted or neglected our calling. 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.

If there is any virtue…

November 21, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Today we bring our series of exhortations on Philippians 4:8 to a close. Paul has catalogued numerous “excellent things” for us that we might meditate upon them and so be transformed by the Holy Spirit’s working in us. We have considered Paul’s call to meditate on whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report or praiseworthy. Today we close by meditating on that quality which unites all these others together, virtue.
In his 1828 dictionary Webster defines virtue in this way:
Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion.
Virtue, therefore, is the pursuit of moral excellence and the avoidance of vice. It is the love and practice of whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Furthermore, in the Scriptures, virtue is the pursuit of moral excellence out of a sincere love for God and for neighbor. God’s mandate is not merely that we do “virtuous things” but that we become“virtuous people.” He crafted us to be men and women who long to do what is right in any given situation – to love truth, honor, integrity, purity, justice, chastity, temperance, mercy, etc. and to practice the same willingly and joyfully no matter the cost.
The English word “virtue” derives from the Latin virtus, virtutis which means “manliness or courage.” You may think it strange that a word which originally referrred to courage came to be used to describe moral excellence. However, the pathway from its use to refer to strength or courage and only later to moral excellence is helpfully explained by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. He writes,
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
So what of you? Does your virtue have conditions? Or are you truly virtuous, willing to stand out, willing to ruffle feathers, willing to suffer ridicule, willing to be ostracized, willing to be scorned out of love for God and love for others? We must become courageous men and women precisely because God wants us to be virtuous men and women. “I, even I, am He who comforts you,” [says the Lord,] “Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” (Is 51:12) Solomon warns us, “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”(Prov 29:25)

Reminded of our calling to be virtuous, to choose to do and say the right thing regardless the consequences out of love for God and our neighbor, let us confess that our virtue often has conditions and that we are often ensnared by the fear of man. And, as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

We are far too easily pleased

November 2, 2016 in Glorification, Human Condition, Quotations, Sanctification, Sin

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”


          C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

There are no ‘ordinary’ people

November 2, 2016 in Human Condition, Quotations, Sanctification

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”


          C.S. Lewis