The Origins of War

February 27, 2022 in Bible - NT - James, Meditations, Sin

James 4:1-3 (NKJV)

1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

This week many of us have watched with dismay as Russian President Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine. Many of our contemporaries believed that we were beyond such barbaric times; that our new global economy would prevent a full-scale national war. But such a belief reveals that many of us have not reckoned with the depth of human corruption. 

What is the basic problem in the world? Is it poverty, ignorance, religion, economic inequality? Where do wars and fights come from? The question James poses is a question that the modern world continues to ask. Unfortunately, the answers given are rarely helpful, usually only partial truths. Consequently, our solutions are impotent. We put a band-aid on the visible wound but fail to stop the bleeding within.

So where do wars and fights come from? James tells us plainly: they come from covetousness, envy, desiring the good things that God has given to others. “Wrath is cruel,” Solomon informs us, “and anger is a torrent, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Pr 27:4) How does James describe this for us?

First, he says, “we lust and do not have.” We look around at all the good things God has given our neighbor and, rather than rejoice for them, we lust for ourselves. Whether what we desire is their Tonka truck, their mp3 player, their nicely proportioned body, their spouse, their car, or their mansion on the lake– we hunger for what they’ve got. And this hunger, this lustful desire, is the source of wars and conflicts – on a personal level and on a national level.

How so? James tells us. “You murder and covet and cannot obtain.” In other words, having eyed your neighbor’s car, his intelligence, or his new sneakers and having desired them for yourself, you proceed to wish ill for your neighbor. “Oh, if only he would die and leave his money to me.” “If only his wife would die, and I’d come comfort him and he’d marry me.” 

And then, having wished this evil upon our neighbor, it is simply a small leap to perpetrating the evil. Imagine you’re envious of a new game that your sibling received but won’t play with you. “Oh, I’m sorry brother, I didn’t realize that was your game I was stepping on.” Imagine you want that promotion at work but Jenkins stands in your way. Why not just lie to remove him? “Boss, I thought I should let you know, that I’ve observed Jenkins playing games on his computer during work hours.” Imagine you’re Putin longing for the glory days of the Soviet Empire; why not just lie to justify your ambition? “The Ukrainian people are mistreating the Russian speakers within their borders, and so now I am justified in invading their country like I have wanted to do all along.”

What is the solution to this type of lustful desire? It is to turn one’s eyes to God and trust Him to supply all one needs. “You do not have,” James declares, “because you do not ask.” But beware. Why are you asking? Are you asking for the glory of God and the good of His Kingdom, or are you asking simply to satisfy your lusts? Because if the latter James declares, “You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Reminded that covetousness is a sin and that it is the source of quarrels and conflicts in marriage, in the home, in the workplace, in the church, and in the world, let us kneel and confess that we have coveted our neighbors’ goods. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

God Never Will Be Reconciled to Sin

June 6, 2021 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Confession, Depravity, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Responsibility, Sin

Psalm 5:4–6 (NKJV)

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

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

We must be careful, however, lest we permit this maxim to obscure God’s utter and complete hatred of sin, a hatred so holy that He had to send His Son to the Cross to turn it away; a hatred so pronounced that He will condemn sinners who refuse to repent of their sin to hell. On the Last Day, God judges both sin and sinner not just sin. Matthew Henry writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rapunzel and the Sanctity of Life

January 17, 2021 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Ezekiel, Children, Depravity, Judgment, King Jesus, Meditations, Parents, Politics, Responsibility, Satan, Sexuality, Sin

Ezekiel 16:20-21 (NKJV)

Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to [your gods] by causing them to pass through the fire?

Once upon a time there was a man and wife who longed to have a child. But for some years the wife could not conceive. Finally, to their great delight, she found herself with child and both husband and wife eagerly awaited the birth of their first child

It just so happened that the couple’s home overlooked a walled garden that was owned by a terrible witch. As the wife’s pregnancy progressed, she developed an intense craving for the nut lettuce or rapunzel that she saw growing there. She begged and pleaded with her husband to get her some of the Rapunzel. Initially, he refused. He knew it was wrong to steal; besides, he was afraid of the witch. However, his wife persisted and eventually refused to eat anything else. So he relented, broke into the garden, and stole some rapunzel.

His wife was delighted. She made herself a great salad and devoured the rapunzel. But her desire for the rapunzel only increased. The next day she demanded more – and then the next day again. But just as the husband was making away with the lettuce, he was discovered by the witch. Great was her wrath as she loomed above him.

“How dare you steal from my garden?” demanded the witch. “You must die!”

“Please,” begged the husband, “have mercy! I would not have dared to steal from your garden, but my wife is pregnant with our first child and declared that she would die without this rapunzel.”

At these words the witch’s demeanor softened though her lips curled in derision and her eyes bore a hungry look. “Very well, you may take the rapunzel. But this is the price you must pay – when your wife has borne this child, you must give it to me.”

The man agreed. What else could he do? He had stolen from her garden and would surely die if he refused. Besides, perhaps the witch would forget? So he departed with the rapunzel. Soon his wife gave birth to their child, a lovely daughter. Immediately the witch appeared to claim her prize. The parents watched helpless and brokenhearted as she took the child away.

The story of Rapunzel reminds us that when we serve other gods, they sometimes give us gifts – even as the witch gave her rapunzel – but the gifts always come at a cost. And that cost is frequently our children. It was for this abomination of handing their children over to other gods, that God denounced our fathers:

Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to [your gods] by causing them to pass through the fire?

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Since the diabolical Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, we have slaughtered over 61 million children. The gods that we have been worshiping – consumerism, greed, immorality, power, influence, convenience, beauty – have been claiming our children. Like the Israelites, we have taken the children we have borne to God and we have caused them to pass through the fire.

Is there hope? Only in our Prince, the Lord Jesus Christ. He can rescue us and our children from these false gods, deliver us from the madness that has overtaken us, and grant us joy in His own kingdom. For though He too demands our children, He demands them that they may live not that they may die. So let us listen to Him, hear His voice, and turn from the false gods we have worshiped.

Reminded that we Americans have been worshiping other gods and sacrificing our children to them, let us confess our sins to the Lord. 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.

Sinful Hatred

September 20, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Depravity, Human Condition, Meditations, Sin

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

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

One of my friends is fond of remarking that sins are like grapes – they grow in bunches. So we have seen that Paul groups together various sexual sins – adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness – and then sins of worship – idolatry, sorcery/superstition – and now he addresses interpersonal sins. The first of these interpersonal sins is hatred: “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… hatred.”

The Greek word is ekthra. Foundationally, this hatred refers to a hatred of God. The unbelieving heart from which works of the flesh proceed hates God: “the carnal mind is enmity [hatred] against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom 8:7). The carnal mind is set against against God – it hates God and hates God’s law. And the world – not the planet but the collection of those driven by their sinful nature – also hates God. Consequently, friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4) and the one who wants to be the friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

This hatred of God, this vertical hatred, manifests itself in other types of hatred, horizontal hatred, hatred of others. Cain hated Abel and killed him in cold blood. Esau hated Jacob and plotted to kill him. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. After he had raped her, Amnon hated Tamar and brought shame and misery upon her. Absalom hated Amnon and orchestrated his murder some two years later.

Such hatred ensnares not only individuals but groups – families, factions, tribes, nations, ethnicities. Thus the Edomites hated Israel despite their common heritage as descendants of Abraham: “…you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword…” (Ezek 35:5) King Saul hated the Gibeonites and endeavored to destroy them with a form of ethnic cleansing (2 Sam 21). And in our day, unscrupulous politicians regularly inflame such hatred, pitting rich against poor, black against white, male against female. No wonder Paul describes our fallen state as “hateful and hating one another” (Tit 3:3).

Such ethnic hatred was in part reinforced by the ceremonial law of the old covenant which distinguished Jew and Gentile. Jews were circumcised; most Gentiles were not. Jews refused pork; most Gentiles did not. Jewish men could not shave certain portions of their beard; many Gentiles did. In Christ, these types of distinctions and the enmity they aroused have been broken down (Eph 2:14–16):

14For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

In Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; neither pork eaters nor non-pork eaters are anything; neither beard growers nor beard shavers are anything – what matters is keeping God’s moral law. Now that the Gospel is not limited to Israel but is being preached to all nations, such matters are adiaphora, things indifferent, areas where Christians are to extend grace to those who differ.

Thus, the Gospel teaches us to put away perverse hatred and to love our neighbor as ourselves – to treat our neighbor lawfully from the heart. To love one’s neighbor is to honor one’s own parents and to protect another’s life, marriage, property, and reputation knowing that this is the fear of the Lord. For though hatred often conceals and disguises itself, God will always bring it to judgment:

24He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself; 25When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart; 26Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly. (Prov 26:24–26)

And so reminded that we are to put away hatred and to love our neighbor as ourselves, let us confess that we often are tempted to plot evil against our neighbor instead. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Sorcery and Superstition

September 13, 2020 in Atheism, Bible - NT - Galatians, Bible - OT - Deuteronomy, Depravity, Human Condition, Meditations, Sin, Truth, Worship

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

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

Whenever we as human beings throw off the worship of the Living God, we do not cease to worship, we do not cease religious practices. Rather, we replace the worship of the true God with idolatry, and we replace the practice of true religion with superstitions such as sorcery or witchcraft, the work of the flesh that we focus upon today. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… sorcery.”

The Greek word is pharmakia – from whence we get our English words “pharmacy” and “pharmacist” – one who dispenses drugs. While we often associate “sorcery” with the casting of spells, more frequently sorcery was connected with the use of hallucinogenic drugs, alcohol, and poisons, along with an invocation of demonic forces, to do either harm or good. Sorcerers use their skills to frighten, enslave, and accumulate wealth. They make lavish promises of victory over foes, increased fertility, inevitable prosperity. Because sorcery uses drugs and appeals to dark forces, it is always accompanied by other types of wickedness and incurs the wrath and judgment of God. Thus Moses warned Israel:

“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives [the nations] out from before you” (Dt 18:10–12).

Despite this warning, sorcery has reared its ugly head again and again whenever a people turn away from God toward idols. So King Saul, in his apostasy, consulted the witch of Endor (1 Sam 28); the wicked king Manasseh “caused his sons to pass through the fire… [and] practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists” (2 Chr 33:6). And in our day, too, the practice of witchraft and sorcery is becoming increasingly common. Thus we find Malachi and many other prophets warning that God would come in judgment on those who practiced sorcery (Mal 3:5). And John writes that “sorcerers… shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone…” (Rev 21:8).

When the Gospel arrives, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection and His conquest of the powers of darkness, it drives out sorcery. Even as light drives out darkness, so the true worship of God drives out superstition. God had promised through the prophet Micah, “I will cut off sorceries from your hand, And you shall have no soothsayers” (Mic 5:12). So, after Paul had preached the Gospel in the city of Ephesus, “many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all” (Acts 19:19). The Gospel frees us from lies and superstitions.

So what of you? Have you been freed from superstition? The promise of such superstition is that one can control the future or protect oneself from harm. But the one who has come to love God no longer needs to manipulate the world but can rest in the good providence of God, trusting Him to protect and to prosper those who love Him and keep His commandments. So do you trust Him? Or are you trying to manipulate the world in some superstitious way? 

Reminded that sorcery incurs the wrath and judgment of God and that it is the fruit of rebelling against God, let us acknowledge that it has become increasingly common in our society and that we too, as the people of God, are sometimes lured by its promises of control and prosperity. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Our Hearts as Idol Factories

September 6, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Depravity, Greek Gods, Image of God, Meditations, Sin, Ten Commandments, Trinity, Worship

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

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

Human beings are intrinsically religious creatures. We all have a sensus divinitatis, a sense of the divine, which God Himself has planted within us. However, because of our rebellion against God, we all likewise have a bent away from the Living God. We are inclined toward idolatry; our hearts are, in the words of John Calvin, an idol factory. And it is this work of the flesh that we focus upon in Paul’s list today. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… idolatry.”

Idolatry is the worship of false gods or the worship of the true god through physical images. Idolatry has a bewitching power, enslaving nations and regularly tempting the people of God. So the people of Israel constructed the golden calf in the wilderness. Gideon had to cut down the altar of Baal which Israel had erected in his hometown. Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel and filled Israel with the worship of the Baals and Ashtoreths such that Elijah believed he alone remained faithful. Our fathers regularly turned to idols and so brought on themselves the wrath and judgment of God.

This tendency toward idolatry did not cease with Christ’s incarnation. Christians have regularly turned away from the Triune God to some lesser deity. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Ebionites taught that the Eternal Son of God was just a man while the Docetists taught that He was not man at all. In the great Trinitarian controversies of the 3rd and 4th centuries that resulted in the crafting of the Nicene Creed, the Arians taught that Jesus was not divine but some lesser being. In the 18th and 19th centuries, such idolatries multiplied. The Unitarians insisted that the Eternal Son was just a great moral teacher and example; the Jehovah’s Witnesses rescucitated the idolatry of Arius; the Mormons taught that the Eternal Son of God was some perverse offspring of a carnal union between deity and humanity.

Church history, in other words, illustrates that Paul’s warning against idolatry is necessary. The human heart bends toward idolatry. And so Paul warned the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14). We must remain ever faithful to the Triune God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

One of the chief traps that has ensnared God’s people in idolatry has been intermarriage with idolaters. God warned the people of Israel:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you… You shall make no covenant with them nor… shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods…” (Dt 7:1-4)

Despite this warning, the Israelites regularly intermarried with their pagan neighbors and fell into idolatry. Nehemiah reminded our fathers, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God… Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin” (Neh 13:25-26).

So if you are single and would like to be married – listen to the voice of the Lord – you may not marry a non-Christian! To do so is to court temptation and put yourself in danger of God’s wrath and judgment. As Paul reminded the Corinthians:

14Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God… (2 Cor 6:14–16) 

Reminded that God is jealous the affections of His people and would have us to avoid the worship of other gods, let us acknowledge that we and our father have often turned away from God to idols. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

By Nature Sinful and Unclean

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

Mark 7:20–23 (NKJV)

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

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

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

M: Most merciful God,

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so, as we enter into the presence of the Lord today, let us confess both our sinful nature and our sinful actions – for He is the only one who can forgive us for both and who can renew us in His own image. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Untrustworthy

April 26, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Covenantal Living, Judgment, Meditations, Sin, Temptation, Tongue

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 untrustworthy.”

To be untrustworthy is to be unreliable, unstable, changeable, or fickle; it is to prove oneself unworthy of trust. To be untrustworthy is a serious character flaw. This is the type of person who makes a promise and fails to keep it; who swears an oath and breaks it; who joins a cause and deserts it. So Solomon compares an untrustworthy man to a bad tooth or a sprained ankle: “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble Is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint” (Prov 25:19). There you were chewing that steak when, “Ow!”, your tooth betrayed you. So the chief cupbearer failed to remember Joseph after Joseph had given him comfort in prison; King Saul failed to obey the word of the Lord when Samuel commanded him to wait to sacrifice; the men of Israel in the prophet Malachi’s day covered their garments with blood by divorcing their wives unjustly; Judas betrayed our Lord with a kiss; all these men were, in varying degrees, untrustworthy.

An untrustworthy character is the fruit of worshiping an untrustworthy god – whether that god is other people, oneself, riches, fame, comfort, etc. Those who are untrustworthy stand upon a rickety platform not a solid rock. “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD’” (Jer 17:5). God alone is a sure and certain rock, an immoveable foundation. Jesus died and rose again to reconcile us to that trustworthy God so that we, in turn, might become trustworthy men and women. As we shall sing in Psalm 62 today (62:5-7):

In silence bide I God alone And He shall hear me from His throne; He is my hope and my salvation. He only is my rock and stay, My fortress and my help for aye, And none shall shake my place and station.

The trustworthy man relies upon his trustworthy God and is not moved by the turmoil about him. He is not “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14) but remains fixed on Christ. So the trustworthy man “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Ps 15:4). While a talebearer reveals secrets, a trustworthy man “conceals a matter” (Pr 11:13). A trustworthy man lets his, “Yes,” be, “Yes,” and his, “No,” be, “No.” He doesn’t look for ways to wriggle out of what he has said. He is faithful to his word, faithful to his wife, faithful to his kids, faithful to his employer, faithful to his church, faithful to his neighbor, faithful to his charge. So God instructs us through the prophet Zechariah:

These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the Lord.”” (Zech 8:16–17)

So what of you? Are you trustworthy? If you’ve promised something, do you fulfill it? If you’ve given your word, do you keep it? If you’ve been given a charge, is it safe with you? Are you like the men the high priest Jehoida chose to receive the offerings for the temple, who didn’t even have to be supervised because they were trustworthy (2 Kgs 12:15)? Or are you untrustworthy? Do you give your word and then look for better, more exciting, or more profitable options?

Reminded of our calling to reflect God’s trustworthy character in our own, let us confess that we have often failed to do so; that we have often violated our oaths and pledges, betrayed the trust of others. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your order of service. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

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.