Whatever Things are Noble

October 17, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Depravity, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin
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.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and, in our text, Paul catalogues some of them. He calls us to meditate on these things – to give them our attention, mull them over, and let them shape our attitude and actions.
So let us meditate on whatever things are noble. This word noble is “used in classical Greek in the sense of ‘venerable, inviting reverence, worthy of reverence.’ The word exhorts here to a due appreciation of such things as produce a noble seriousness.” (Wuest) Other translations endeavor to capture the meaning with the English word “honorable.”
P.T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, once remarked, “No man ever went broke underestimating the public taste.” His remark reflects a sober truth: our sinful nature lends itself to that which is base. Taking advantage of this sinful corruption, much of the entertainment industry has become horribly degenerate, appealing to our baser instincts.
Yet even though our sinful nature gravitates toward that which is base and corrupt, we still possess a longing for nobility, a longing for that which is honorable and upright. Because we have been created in the image of God, we still retain a sense of the divine and, at times, long for those things which reflect His glory, long for nobility. This longing is cleverly expressed in an old poem of unknown authorship:

  I have three tame ducks in my back yard,
  Who wallow in the mud, and try real hard
  To get their share and even more
  of the overflowing backyard store.
  They’re fairly content with the task they’re at
  Of eating and sleeping and getting fat.
  But when the wild ducks fly by
  In a streaming line across the sky,
  They cast a wishful and quizzical eye
  And flap their wings and attempt to fly.
  I think my soul is a tame old duck
  Wallowing around in the barnyard muck,
  It’s fat and lazy with useless wings
  But, once in awhile when the north wind sings
  And the wild ducks hurtle overhead
  It remembers something lost and almost dead,
  And it casts a wistful eye
  And flaps its wings and tries to fly.
  It’s fairly content with the state that it’s in

  But it isn’t the duck that it might have been![1]

Paul calls us, in our passage, to follow those wild ducks; to meditate on what we were created to be; to delight in that which is noble, honorable, and glorious. He calls us to delight in the boy who opens the door for his sister; to rejoice in the wife who honors her husband and shields his faults; to esteem the man who keeps himself free from pornography; to admire the businessman who pays his employees well; to honor the soldier who lays down his life for his friends; to worship the Lord Christ who sacrificed Himself for us all. “That’s what I want to be like,” we should say, “that’s who I want to be.”
So reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are noble, let us confess that we often gravitate toward that which is base instead. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.



[1] http://www.christians.org/grow/grow13.html

Who is your God?

June 12, 2016 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Sin, Worship
Psalm 4:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD.
The call of God upon us as His people is very simple and straightforward – He wants us to serve Him, not man; to trust in Him, not in created things; to love and cling to Him, not to the idols which we create with our own hands.
Each of us faces the choice of whom we shall serve: will we serve God or will we serve some idol? And note that this is not a choice that admits of middle paths – there is no third option; no opportunity to plead that we have been placed in a false dilemma. The dilemma is real; the antithesis stares us in the face; you must choose whom you shall serve. Who will be your God? Who is your God?
Have you given yourself to the gods of this age? To glamour, wealth, power, sex, academic prestige, simplicity, health? Do you sit and worship at their feet?
Or have you given yourself to the Triune God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the fountain of true glamour, of lasting wealth, of real power, of meaningful sex, of profound wisdom, of unpretentious simplicity, of blessed health? Do you sit and worship at His feet?
It was here that David sat and he knew as one who sat at God’s feet what the Lord required and summarized it quite well –
         Be angry – Fear God, and in fearing him despise wickedness and those who practice wickedness; be indignant for God’s Name.
         Do not sin – Remember in all your indignation, that to love God is to hate evil and the ways of wickedness; and that it is not first and foremost to hate the evil out there but the evil in here, in your own heart; so in loving and fearing God, turn away from sin.
         Meditate in your heart upon your bed – When you are laying down to rest and your mind begins to go over the day, to consider where you’ve been and where you’re going, do not let your thoughts wander wildly but instead bring them into subjection to the Word of God. For it is by meditating upon God’s law, His promises and assurances of love toward us that we will be able to…
         Be still – If we meditate on the Word, if we let our thoughts race not on our own anxieties but on the Word of God then we shall be equipped to be still – God will care for me; God will bless me; God will remember me. And so it is in this knowledge of God’s care for me that I…
         Offer sacrifices of righteousness – I come before the Lord faithfully every Lord’s Day in company with His people, I serve the Lord with gladness of heart every day; I rejoice in his precepts; delight in His law; pray; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
         Trust in the Lord – Don’t succumb to the allurement of the idols – many of them are carved quite cunningly, beautiful with their gold and silver accents – but remember that despite all their cunning beauty they cannot do anything for you.
So what is God’s call upon us as His people? David tells us: Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD.

As we come into the presence of our Lord to worship, reminded that our calling is to trust wholly in Him and no doubt convicted that we have failed to do so, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Flesh conquered by Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

March 6, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 John, Church Calendar, Easter, Good Friday, Meditations, Sin
1 John 3:4–6 (NKJV)
4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
For the first three Sundays in Lent, we addressed our three chief enemies as Christians: the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we are outside of Christ, these forces dominate our lives and compel us to sin; they drive us away from our Creator. So having identified each of these enemies, let us, in the next couple weeks, highlight the way that Jesus, through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave, has conquered each of these enemies. Lent, recall, is a time of preparation – a time to prepare for Good Friday and Easter, to remind ourselves anew of the glorious Good News that Christ has died and risen again to free us from our slavery to sin, to the devil, and to the world.
So notice that our text today emphasizes one reason Jesus was manifested. John writes, “And you know that He was manifested” – He was revealed, He took on human flesh – “to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” Jesus appeared to take away our sins. How did He do this?
First, Jesus died on the cross to take away the guilt of sin. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And even as the lambs under the old covenant had to be perfect, without blemish, so Jesus was without blemish, “in Him,” John writes, “there is no sin.” So as the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus offered Himself as our substitute. He died in our place. We are sinners, enslaved to the world, the flesh, and the devil; we deserve God’s wrath and curse. But Jesus, the one who was free of the world, free of the flesh (the sinful nature), and free of the devil, offered His own life in place of ours. Consequently, through Jesus’ death on the cross we can be forgiven – glory be to God! Jesus appeared to “take away our sins.” No matter how heinous your sin, Christ died to take it away, died that you might stand before God holy and blameless – not because of Your goodness but because of His. By His death Jesus frees us from the guilt of sin.
But not only did Jesus “take away our sins” by dying on the cross, He also “takes away our sins” by His resurrection from the dead. Jesus rose from the dead that we sinful and rebellious human beings might have new life; that the resurrection power of Jesus might transform our fallen nature that we might live lives that honor and please our Creator. So, John tells us, “Whoever abides in him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” Jesus did not come simply to forgive you; He came to transform you. All those whom He forgives through the cross He transforms through His resurrection from the dead. By His Spirit, He dwells in us and we dwell in Him and He frees us from the power of sin.
Good Friday and Easter, therefore, are the foundation of our deliverance from sin – our deliverance from the flesh, from our sinful nature. Jesus frees us from the guilt and power of sin. And, praise be to God, one day Jesus shall return in glory to free us and all creation from the presence of sin. Truly He was manifested to take away our sins.
So have you praised God for the blessing of forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice? Have you praised God for the blessing of new life through Jesus’ resurrection? Or have you been making light of your sin instead? Perhaps claiming that you don’t need to be forgiven? Or claiming that you’re really a pretty good person on your own?

If so, the Word of God comes to you today, reminding you of your sin and the impossibility of taking away your sin by yourself. There is only one who can take away your sin – Jesus Christ. So reminded that it is Jesus’ death and resurrection that frees us from sin, let us confess our sin and praise the Lord for providing for our forgiveness and new life.

The Seriousness of Sin

February 14, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Numbers, Church Calendar, Meditations, Sin
1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 (NKJV)
6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as [our fathers] also lusted… 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. As I mentioned in my newsletter this week, Lent is a period of preparation like the season of Advent. It is time to anticipate the arrival of Easter and the glorious good news of new life as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection. As the historic acclamation declares, Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ shall come again.
So let us consider in the next few weeks what focusing on Christ’s death and resurrection teaches us. First, Lent serves as a reminder of the true severity of our sin and the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross. While we often treat our sin with a breezy familiarity, Jesus’ death on the cross forces us to reckon with its true gravity and pervasiveness. We simply cannot save ourselves but stand ever in need of Christ – in need of His substitutionary death on the cross for forgiveness and in need of His resurrection power for obedience.
This week for my OT Bible reading I was in the book of Numbers. Because of their sin and unbelief, our fathers were doomed to wander 40 years in the wilderness. While wandering, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram compounded this sin by organizing a mass demonstration against Moses and Aaron. They complained that Moses wasn’t being sufficiently democratic; that they should be able to perform the same duties as the priests. “You take too much upon yourselves,” they complained, “for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” Haven’t you ever heard of the priesthood of all believers, Moses? God didn’t look kindly on their protest and judged their rebellion, commanding the earth to swallow some of them alive and consuming others with fire.
One would think that our fathers’ response to God’s visible and powerful judgment would be contrition and repentance. But not so. “On the next day,” Moses writes, “all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the Lord.’” Rather than acknowledging the real cause of the calamity that had struck them – their persistent and ingrained sin and rebellion against God – our fathers chose to blame Moses and Aaron. “The calamity that struck Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was your fault, Moses and Aaron! You are to blame!” Because of this renewed sin, God acted in judgment once again – plague began to make its way through the camp. So Moses urged Aaron as the high priest to enter into the camp and to burn incense, intervening between God and the sinful people. Aaron listened to Moses, God listened to Aaron, and the plague was stopped.
This story reminds us of two things – two things that Lent was crafted to highlight. First, it reminds us of the ingrained and serious nature of sin. As Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). And this sin deserves the wrath and judgment of God for it is an attack on His Lordship and an affront to His holiness. Second, the story reminds us of the mercy which God has displayed in raising up a Great High Priest to stand between Him and His sinful people. Just as Aaron stood between God and Israel, interceding on Israel’s behalf, so Jesus stands between God and us, interceding on our behalf. Jesus stands between God and us, covering the guilt of our sin by His sacrifice and assuring us of God’s blessing rather than His curse. As we sing in the communion hymn:
“You who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great here [in the death of Christ] may view its nature rightly here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load, tis the Son the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.”

And so reminded of the seriousness of our sin but also of the greatness of God’s mercy in Christ, let us confess our sins to the Lord – our sins and the sins of our people – and seek the Lord’s forgiveness.

Original and Actual Sin

February 5, 2015 in Baptism, Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Matthew, Bible - OT - Genesis, Newsletter, Regeneration, Sin

This week one of the questions we recite from the Westminster Shorter Catechism concerns our sinfulness:

Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.


The catechism reminds us that our fundamental problem as human beings is not what we do (actual sins) but what we are (original sin). Our problem is that our nature is corrupt. And it is from this corruption of nature, a corruption which all human beings share, that our actual transgressions proceed.

And this, I believe, is one of the reasons that God has always dealt not just with believers but with their children – commanding our fathers to circumcise male infants and (I would argue as a good Presbyterian) commanding us to baptize our male and female infants. Even those precious, cuddly, warm and snuggly infants have a corrupt nature. Hence, apart from the grace of God, they too will perish in their sins. But thanks be to God! He shows mercy to our children and our children’s children to a thousand generations.

This also reminds us why we are wholly dependent upon God for our salvation from first to last. Paul reminds us that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” It is not simply that we “do not” please God but that we “cannot please God” – we lack the ability and the desire. Left to ourselves we will consistently choose to worship idols, to abandon the Living God, and to spurn His good law. So we depend on God to draw us to Himself (Jn 6:44), to enlighten our minds (Mt 11:25ff), and to free us from the shackles of our sin (Jn 8:34-36). When He does so, our only fitting response is one of praise and thanksgiving!

This week we study the Call of Abram – God in His grace and mercy reached out to Abram when he was in Ur of the Chaldees and called him to faith. This was wholly of grace – even as our call to faith is wholly of grace. So let us join our voices with Abram’s in giving thanks to God.

Sins of Omission and Commission

January 22, 2015 in Bible - NT - James, Church Calendar, Confession, Newsletter, Sin

This coming Sunday we recite question numbers 14-15 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Question number 14 directs us to the topic of sin:

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

The Westminster divines remind us that sin entails both acts of omission and acts of commission. Acts of omission are covered in the first clause – “Sin is any want of conformity unto…the law of God.” When we fail to do that which we know we ought to do, that which God has commanded us to do, then we have sinned. As James reminds us, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). So be sure to listen to your conscience and to implement the good things you think of doing – don’t just think about them.

The catechism also addresses sins of commission: “Sin is any…transgression of, the law of God.” To rebel against God, to hear what God says and then to do the opposite, is also sin. Hence, the Apostle John reminds us that “sin is lawlessness.” Sin is an attempt to act as god; to pretend that we are the lawgiver and the judge; who will rule over me?

During Ordinary Time we confess our sins with the following words: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” Sins of omission and sins of commission.

Thank God that in His grace and mercy He has not abandoned us to our sins of omission and commission but has rescued and delivered us through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord! He has rescued us and given us His Spirit that we might, by the power of the Spirit, do those things which honor and please Him. So don’t be discouraged: confess your sins of omission and commission and then rise up and hear God’s word of pardon and forgiveness, giving thanks to His Name.

Only the Humble

November 27, 2014 in Holy Spirit, Quotations, Sanctification, Sin

“The person who understands the evil in his own heart is the only person who is useful, fruitful, and solid in his beliefs and obedience. Others only delude themselves and thus upset families, churches, and all other relationships. In their self-pride and judgment of others, they show great inconsistency.”

John Owen in Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, p. 64.

Depraved Creatures

October 15, 2014 in Depravity, Holy Spirit, John Calvin, Quotations, Sanctification, Sin

“Let men therefore acknowledge, that inasmuch as they are born of Adam, they are depraved creatures, and therefore can conceive only sinful thoughts, until they become the new workmanship of Christ, and are formed by his Spirit to a new life… Nor is it any proof to the contrary, that carnal and profane men often excel in generosity of disposition, undertake designs apparently honourable, and put forth certain evidences of virtue. For since their mind is corrupted with contempt of God, with pride, with self-love, ambition, hypocrisy, and fraud; it cannot be but that all their thoughts are contaminated with the same vices… We must, therefore, acquiesce in the judgment of God, which pronounces man to be so enslaved by sin that he can bring forth nothing sound and sincere. Yet, at the same time, we must remember, that no blame is to be cast upon God for that which has its origin in the defection of the first man, whereby the order of the creation was subverted. And further, it must be noted, that men are not exempted from guilt and condemnation, by the pretext of this bondage: because, although all rush to evil, yet they are not impelled by any extrinsic force, but by the direct inclination of their own hearts; and, lastly, they sin not otherwise than voluntarily.”

John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis 8:21.

“Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…'”

Sin in our Context

June 26, 2014 in King Jesus, Quotations, Sin, Sovereignty of God, Word of God

“Only 17 percent of Americans define sin in relation to God, so for the overwhelming majority sin has become a trivial matter, no more serious than having violated some church rule about something quite inconsequential… [But] Sin is all about taking issue with God, defying him, refusing to submit to him, and displacing him from the center of our existence… We imagine that within ourselves we have power enough, wisdom enough, and strength enough to live in security, in the fullness of happiness, as we want to live, amidst all the conflicts and opportunities of life… But all expressions of sin break apart what God has put together. Sin began by breaking apart our relation to God, and from this followed every other breach that has left life in pain, confusion, and disarray.”

David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, pp. 102-104.