They are Unloving

May 3, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Human Condition, Law and Gospel, Love, Meditations, Old Testament, Sanctification, Ten Commandments

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 unloving.”

What is love? Is love a fancy or a feeling? Or is it an ever-fixed mark? Is love an inclination of the heart? Or perhaps a tolerant disposition? Because we are made in the image of God and because we Americans still retain vestiges of our previous Christian culture, most of us know that being unloving is bad. We want to be called loving. Yet, because we are in rebellion against God, we have striven to redefine love; consequently, the most unloving things are cloaked in the language of love. It is now “loving” to refuse to discipline one’s children; “loving” to divorce one’s spouse unjustly; “loving” to pursue illicit sexual relationships; “loving” to shack up before married; “loving” to indulge same-sex attractions; “loving” to use the power of the state to confiscate others’ hard earned property; “loving” to coddle those who are “gender fluid.”

But none of these things are loving though we call them so. You see love requires a standard of assessment. If we say something is “loving” we must have a definition that enables us to put said action in that category. After all, most still recognize that the man who claims to “love” a woman and uses that love as justification to violently abuse her, actually hates her; the mother who claims to “love” her son and indulges his drug habit, actually hates him. Even we progressive Americans don’t permit these unloving actions to be classified as “loving.” Love assumes; no, more: love demands a standard.

So what is that standard? Paul summarizes in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” To love another is to treat them lawfully from the heart; it is to practice toward them willingly the moral law of God. The last six of God’s commandments “are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Rom 13:9). To love my neighbor, in other words, is to honor my parents, to preserve the lives of the innocent, to keep the marriage bed undefiled, to respect others’ property, to speak truth to and about my neighbor, and to do all these things willingly from the heart. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – and though many are trying to classify these things as “unloving,” they are the fulfillment of love.

So reminded that God’s law defines love, that our culture has become increasingly unloving, and that we Christians have too often gone along with our culture’s increasing animosity to God’s law and to love, true love, let us confess that we are becoming an unloving, lawless people. 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 order of service.

Discernment and Covid-19

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

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are Disobedient to Parents

March 8, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Children, Confession, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Ten Commandments

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom 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 disobedient to parents.”

While our broader culture has degraded the authority of parents and often treats rebellion to parents as a minor or routine affair, God treats such disobedience seriously. Obedience to parents forms the foundation of social stability and the first pillar of love to neighbor. If the summary of the second half of the law is to love one’s neighbor as oneself, which it is, then the first pillar of love to neighbor is the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12). To dishonor one’s parents, therefore, is to hate one’s neighbor, undermining God ordained authority structures and forcing the care of elderly parents on others. So our Lord Jesus honored Joseph and Mary and obeyed them. He likewise submitted His own will to the will of His Father in heaven. Thus, Paul exhorts the children in Ephesus, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). Obedience to parents is an essential part of reverence for God.

God takes this obedience so seriously that His law classified violence to parents or incorrigible disobedience to parents as capital crimes, crimes deserving the death penalty (Ex 21:15; Dt 21:18-21). Certain forms of disobedience, in other words, are not just sins but crimes. And Jesus appeals to the criminal nature of such rebellion to rebuke those Jewish leaders who were failing to care for their parents behind a façade of piety to God. “If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’ – (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition…” (Mk 7:11-13).

To serve God faithfully, therefore, is to uphold and revere the authority of parents. Societies that undermine parental authority – whether by treating rebellion as insignificant or by exalting the authority of the state over that of parents or by enabling children to neglect their aging parents – have been handed over to a debased mind and are in danger of yet further judgment.

Let us, therefore, give heed to Martin Luther’s words in his Large Catechism concerning the 5th commandment. He writes:

“You are to esteem and prize [your parents] as the most precious treasure on earth. In your words you are to behave respectfully toward them, and not address them discourteously, critically, and censoriously, but submit to them and hold your tongue, even if they go too far. You are also to honor them by your actions (that is, with your body and possessions), serving them, helping them, and caring for them when they are old, sick, feeble, or poor; all this you should do not only cheerfully, but with humility and reverence, as in God’s sight. He who has the right attitude toward his parents will not allow them to suffer want or hunger, but will place them above himself and at his side and will share with them all he has to the best of his ability.”

So what of you? Children, are you obeying your parents in the fear of the Lord? Adults, are you caring for your aging parents? This is what the Lord would have of us. And so reminded of our call to be obedient to parents and of the disobedience to parents that has come to characterize so much of our society, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Full of Evil-Mindedness

December 29, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Judgment, Meditations, Temptation, Ten Commandments

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just, delivering those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the tenth of these fruits: evil-mindedness. Paul writes that rebellious peoples are “full of evil-mindedness.”

The Greek word is kakŏēthĕia. This is the only occurrence of this word in the NT. It is the combination of two words – kakos – evil – and etheia – manner or custom. It is variously translated as evil-mindedness, maliciousness, malevolence, craftiness, malicious behavior. Paul has already noted that rebellious peoples are filled with maliciousness (kakia); this new word takes that maliciousness further and describes “conscious and intentional wickedness” (TDNT). Evil-mindedness thus has evil in mind and then practices that evil. The term describes premeditated evil.

So consider some examples. A man might be tempted to steal something on impulse, believing perhaps that no one would notice or care. His action, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But canvassing a neighborhood and breaking into certain houses is. A man or woman in the grip of lustful passion might commit adultery. This adultery, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But organizing one’s day in order to have an adulterous laiaison is. An angry man might commit murder in a fit of rage. This murder, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But lying in wait for one’s victim, planning just the right moment to kill him, is. In other words, kakŏēthĕia is premeditated evil. It is to consider the matter ahead of time, make a plan, and then execute it.

Evil-mindedness, therefore, is a state of mind that manifests itself in action. An evil-minded man is looking for trouble; he meditates on evil, turns it over and over in his head. He plots injuries, immoralities, deceits, thefts, and murders. Rather than meditate on what is good, rather than make God his strength, the evil-minded man, like Doeg the Edomite, “strengthens himself in his wickedness” (Ps 52:7c).

So what of you? What fills your meditations? Do you meditate on the good you might do or the evil? Are you evil-minded or good-minded? Are you planning your next opportunity to look at pornography? Plotting what excuse you can give your employer for being late or failing to get your job done? Scheming to injure another’s reputation? Or do you meditate how you might bless your spouse? How you might bring delight to your parents? How you might assist your neighbor or enrich your employer? Do you plot to do good or to do evil? To heal or to destroy? To be a blessing or to be a curse?

Reminded that evil-mindedness plots to do evil and that God wants us instead to plan to do good, let us confess that we often transgress in this way and let us seek God’s forgiveness for our evil plotting. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Filled with Covetousness

November 17, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Temptation, Ten Commandments, Wealth

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 rules among the sons of men. Therefore, when peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind. Today we consider the fourth of these: covetousness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… covetousness.”

So what is covetousness? Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines covetousness as “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining and possessing some supposed good; usually in a bad sense, and applied to an inordinate desire of wealth or avarice.” Covetousness, therefore, is an ungodly desire that proceeds from the heart (cf. Mk 7:22) – a heart that is not content with what God has given and that lusts for more.

You no doubt recall that the tenth of the Ten Commandments forbids covetousness. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex 20:17). God insists that it is not enough to avoid actual murder, adultery, theft, and false witness. After all, these external actions are but symptoms of an internal cancer, a cancer of the heart, the cancer of covetousness. And God’s law does not merely address the symptoms but also the cause, our corrupt hearts.

This is why, in Jesus’ own exposition of the law in the Sermon on the Mount, He insists that to hate one’s brother in one’s heart, to call him “Raca! You fool!”, is to murder him in the heart and be in danger of hell-fire. Likewise, to look upon another to lust with them in the heart is to commit adultery. God’s law does not merely address the outward behavior but the heart desires that lead to those behaviors, the covetousness that poisons relationships.

The covetous man believes the lie that one’s life is defined by one’s possessions. On one occasion someone cried out to Jesus from the crowd, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Life’s not fair; I should have been given more. Jesus refused this request and warned the crowd, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses” (Lk 12:15). Like a leech, covetousness sucks the life from those who indulge it, gradually destroying thankfulness and joy and replacing it with bitterness and resentment.

In a debased culture, covetousness takes root and goes to seed. We witness this in our own day. We have abandoned God and declared that this life is all that matters. Consequently, we have believed the lie that one’s life does consist in the abundance of things he possesses. Because of our covetousness, national and personal debt have skyrocketed. Our political leaders use covetousness to pit the poor against the rich. State Lotteries and the gambling industry appeal to our covetousness to induce us to give them our hard earned money. God is handing us over to covetousness.

So what of you? Are you consumed by what you do not have? Have you coveted your neighbor’s husband or wife? Have you coveted their children? Their achievements? Their wealth? Their business? Their job? Or are you filled with thankfulness? Content with what God has given you? Prioritizing persons over possessions?

Reminded that covetousness is a sin that destroys others and ourselves, and that God calls us to be filled with thankfulness and content with what we have, let us confess that we are often filled with covetousness. 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.

Filled with Sexual Immorality

October 13, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin, Ten Commandments

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 second of these: sexual immorality. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… sexual immorality.”

The Greek word behind the English “sexual immorality” is porneia. Porneia refers to sexual sin generally. It encompasses all types of sexual sin: lusts, the indulgence of illicit sexual thoughts or actions; fornication, sexual relations between a man and a woman neither of whom is married; adultery, sexual relations between a man and woman at least one of whom is married; perversion, sexual acts between those of the same sex or with other creatures. A society that is under judgment, a debased society, is one in which such sexual immorality expands and grows – and, tragically, we witness this in our own day.

Jesus reminds us that sexual immorality emerges from the heart (Mt 15:19). It is borne of a heart that rejects God and repudiates His revealed will, His Word. It sees God’s law as a restriction on its freedoms rather than as the path of freedom itself. So the unbelieving heart concludes that the good life is to be found in the path of sexual licentiousness – speaking of women as objects of sexual gratification, scrawling obscenities on bathroom walls, dressing immodestly by making sure others notice the size of one’s breasts or the length of one’s skirt, viewing pornography, engaging in fornications, adulteries, perversions, etc. This, the unbelieving heart concludes, is the path of true liberty. But far from being the path of liberty, sexual immorality is the path of slavery, destruction, guilt, and mental disorder.

The believing heart, on the other hand, trusts that God has designed us to live in accord with His revealed law. The believing heart concludes that the good life is to be found in the path of sexual purity – as a single man or woman, keeping myself sexually celibate, avoiding lusts, immodesties, pornography, fornications, adulteries, and perversions; as a married man or woman, rejoicing in my sexual relationship with my spouse, being sexually faithful, shunning behavior that would make my spouse jealous or arouse the sexual desires of another. This, the beleiving heart concludes rightly, is the path of true liberty.

You see, the Scriptures insist that the problem with sexual immorality is not the sex – the problem is the immorality. God created us sexual creatures. He commanded the first man and the first woman to be fruitful and multiply, a command which necessarily entailed sexual intimacy, an intimacy that preceded the fall and was part of the very good creation. As Paul reminds us in Hebrews 13:4, sexual intimacy within the context of marriage is honorable and undefiled. Immorality distorts that good gift. Like a vandal spray painting the Mona Lisa, the sexually immoral man or woman vandalizes the beauty of sex.

So what of you? Single men, are you guarding your heart, your mouth, your eyes, and yourself from lust, lewd speech, pornography, and sexual immorality? Single women, are you guarding your heart from sexual vanity, your body from sexually provocative clothing, and your garden from those who would break in and trample it? Married men, are you guarding your heart and your eyes, delighting yourself in your wife, and letting her breasts satisfy you at all times? Married women, are you giving yourself to your husband and guarding yourself from flirting with or longing for other men?

Reminded that our sexuality is a gift and that the path of sexual purity is the path of life, let us confess that we have distorted God’s good gift and engaged in sexual immorality. 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.

Prayer for the Church Family in America

May 2, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Ecclesiology, Holy Spirit, King Jesus, Law and Gospel, Mosaic Law, Politics, Sacraments, Ten Commandments, Wisdom, Word of God

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Our local Pastors’ Association coordinates an event in our city at which various pastors briefly pray for our families, our churches, and our communities and leaders (local, state, federal). I was tasked to pray for the Church Family in America and given the following Scripture as my theme:

Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

Almighty and Everlasting Father,

You are good, You do good, and You are worthy of praise. You have not abandoned us Your people but have revealed Yourself in Your most holy word. Your law is holy, righteous, and pure, beloved of all those who put their hope in You. Our Lord Jesus knew that Your law is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path; so He Himself delighted in Your law, rejoiced in Your precepts, and meditated upon Your commandments day and night. He was filled with the Spirit of wisdom and of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. Likewise, He summoned us, as His people, to walk in the light of Your Word. “If you keep My commandments,” He said to our fathers on the night He was betrayed, “you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (Jn 15:10).

But, Father, we Your people have not feared You as we ought; we have despised Your commandments; we have substituted our own opinions of what is good and right for Your most holy Word; we have preached cheap grace, “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ;” we have preached “forgiveness without repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession of sins.” Holy Father, have mercy upon Your Church and grant us repentance; unite us together in a most holy love for You, for Your Son Jesus, for Your Word, and for one another, that together as one body we might praise Your Name forever and ever,

Amen.

*The words in quotations are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The Abomination of Abortion

January 20, 2019 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Exodus, Children, Confession, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility, Ten Commandments

Exodus 21:22–25 (ESV)

22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. For 45 years now our nation has given legal sanction to the murder and dismemberment of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. Our hands are covered with the blood of innocents and God is exacting and will continue to exact vengeance upon us as a people for our bloodshed.

In contrast with our law which does not recognize the personhood of the unborn child, the case law in Exodus 21 clearly identifies the unborn child as a person and affords that child legal protection. The opening admonition declares: When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.

Note, first, that this law recognizes the personhood of the unborn. The ESV accurately captures the Hebrew and identifies the baby or babies in the mother’s womb as her “children” – not her property, nor her bodily tissue, but her children.

Second, note that this legal protection fosters a culture that honors pregnant women and the life they carry. This law specifically addresses incidental or accidental contact. If two men are striving with one another and, in their striving, intentionally or inadvertently hit a pregnant woman so that her children come out, then the men are held guilty for their action. God so honors the life-giving woman that He judges these men culpably irresponsibile. And note that this is the case even if no harm happens to the woman or child – if they strike her so that her children come out but there is no harm, then they shall pay as the husband demands and the court allows. In other words, God demands that people honor a pregnant woman by restraining their rage in her presence.

Finally, note that this law adds additional consequences in cases when harm does occur. Verse 23 declares, if there is harm, then you shall pay. If there is harm – harm to whom, we ask? The woman or the child? The answer is either. The ambiguity of the text indicates that both woman and child are protected by the law. And what shall be paid? The lex talionis is applied: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Biblical law protects the mother and her unborn child.

We see, therefore, how perverse our law has become. And because our law refuses to protect the unborn, our honor for life generally has regressed. As God’s people, our calling is to reverse this trend by loving pregnant women, loving the unborn, loving little ones, and granting them due honor. So thank God for the baby showers, for regular prayers, for the love of life displayed here in this congregation. May such things continue. Children, we have many pregnant women in our midst; be careful when you are running around lest you accidentally hit them. Parents, train your children to recognize and honor those who are with child.

Reminded this morning that God honors and protects the women who bear children and the children themselves, let us confess that we have betrayed the unborn and that we are guilty as a people. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

What does it mean to abide in Jesus’ love?

October 22, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Ten Commandments

John 15:9–10 (NKJV)
9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

It has been a persistent temptation throughout history to separate the love of God from the law of God. In the passage before us today, however, Jesus teaches us to unite them. First, Jesus instructs us to love God. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” The Father has loved the Son for all eternity, delighting in Him and in the honor that He receives. Likewise, the Son delights in His people, loving and cherishing them. So, Jesus commands, “abide in My love” – remain in the love with which I have loved you.

It is at this point that much ancient and modern mysticism wanders astray. One of my professors used to define mysticism as that religious philosphy which begins in “myst”, centers in “I”, and ends in “schism.” Mysticism makes abiding in Jesus consist in certain feelings of dependency, or in a certain emotional state, or even in some sort of mystical enlightenment. Mysticism often sounds very spiritual. It urges us to listen to the promptings of the Spirit who, we are told, will guide and direct us through the course of our lives as to whom to marry, where to go to school, what car to purchase, or which job to take. It is important to experience God, to discern what His intentions are in each and every situation and then to follow them. This is to abide in Him.

But note that Jesus does not define abiding in Him in this way. To abide in Him is not to have an ongoing mystical experience but to devote yourself to His commandments. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. The one who abides in Jesus is the one who loves His commandments and keeps them; it is the one who meditates on the law of God and finds his delight in it; it is the one who hides God’s word in his heart that he might not sin against God. Abiding in Jesus is not mysticism but obedience.

So note that obeying Him means giving attention to His commandments, to His revealed will, to His written Word. We are not called to tune our spiritual antennae to the secret voice of Jesus but to tune our ears to the written word of God. So, for example, Jesus does not call upon us to have a mystical enlightenment which tells us which apple to buy at the store. “Oh, I think it’s that one there on the bottom of the bin.” No! He calls upon us to use our God given discernment and common sense to choose a decent apple and then to abide in Him by purchasing the apple rather than stealing it from the store. The abiding happens not in choosing the apple but in purchasing it. Why? Because God’s law has not commanded me which apple to buy; but His law has commanded me, “You shall not steal.” I’m free to choose any apple I want – green or red, ripe or rotten, small or large, fuji or macintosh – so long as I pay for it.

The same principle applies in many other realms. Whom shall I marry? Whomever you want, only in the Lord. Which home shall I purchase? Whichever you want, provided you can afford it. Which job shall I take? Whichever you prefer, provided that it is a lawful calling. Behold the liberty of abiding in Christ’s love! Behold the liberty of living by the commandments of God!

Reminded this morning that abiding in the love of Christ means keeping the commandments of God, let us confess that we have often disobeyed His commandments, that our sin has often separated us from our God. And reminded of our sin, let us kneel and confess it 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.