The Church is Culpable

November 7, 2018 in Church History, Confession, Depravity, Ecclesiology, Image of God, Judgment, King Jesus, Providence, Quotations, Sin

The English poet William Cowper (1731-1800) reflected on the condition of England in his day in his poem, “Expostulation.” His words condemning the compromise of the Church and her ministers are as true of the American Church in our day as of the English Church in his. The first two lines are golden: “When nations are to perish in their sins, ‘Tis in the church the leprosy begins.” Cowper informs us that the future does not look good for America primarily because things do not look good in the Church. So if we want to see reformation and revival in America, then it must begin with the Church and her ministers returning to God’s Word.

When nations are to perish in their sins,
‘Tis in the church the leprosy begins;
The priest, whose office is with zeal sincere
To watch the fountain, and preserve it clear,
Carelessly nods and sleeps upon the brink,
While others poison what the flock must drink;
Or, waking at the call of lust alone,
Infuses lies and errors of his own:
His unsuspecting sheep believe it pure;
And, tainted by the very means of cure,
Catch from each other a contagious spot,
The foul fore-runner of a general rot.
Then Truth is hushed, that Heresy may preach:
And all is trash, that Reason cannot reach:
Then God’s own image on the soul impressed,
Becomes a mockery, and a standing jest;
And faith, the root whence only can arise
The graces of a life that wins the skies,
Loses at once all value and esteem,
Pronounced by gray-beards a pernicious dream;
Then Ceremony leads her bigots forth,
Prepared to fight for shadows of no worth;
While truths, on which eternal things depend,
Find not, or hardly find, a single friend;
As soldiers watch the signal of command,
They learn to bow, to kneel, to sit, to stand;
Happy to fill Religion’s vacant place
With hollow form, and gesture, and grimace.

Common Sense Has Become Less Common

August 26, 2018 in Bible - NT - Titus, Depravity, Homosexuality, Meditations, Worship

Titus 2:11–12 (NKJV)

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

 

For the last few weeks I have been meditating on Paul’s insistence in this text that we should live soberly…in the present age. The term translated “soberly” is better translated “sensibly.” It is the Greek word sophronos. The term summons us, as God’s people, to live in accordance with the way God has made the world. To live sensibly is to live in harmony with the moral and social universe that God has created; it is to do that which is fitting / sensible considering one’s calling and station in life. I noted last week for the folks in CdA that Paul utilizes this term extensively in his letter to Titus though its use is often obscured by translations. By way of review, consider the variety of places in the letter that this term is used:

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

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

Paul’s assumption, therefore, is that there is to be a correspondence between the created world and our attitudes and actions. To live sophronos is to embrace the world as God has made it and ourselves as God has made us.

Notice, therefore, that within a Christian worldview there is such a thing as “common sense.” Because God fashioned the world and because Paul commands us to live sensibly, to live in harmony with our creatureliness, common sense exists. Common sense reflects those created realities that we deny to our folly and peril. Within American culture, common sense used to be a much praised virtue. Unfortunately, we thought that we could keep common sense and abandon the God who made the world sensible. “Everybody has common sense regardless whether they believe in God.”

Recent decades have revealed, however, that when we deny God, when we apostatize or worship idols, then common sense is not so common. Everyone knows that you can’t spend more than you make and prosper, right? Everyone knows that boys are boys and girls are girls, right? Well, we used to. Just this week one of my children attended a choir class at the University of Idaho. On the first day of class they were handed 3×5 cards and instructed to write their name on one side and their preferred pronoun on the other. “Never mind how God made you; you can establish your own identity.”

Of course, there’s just one small problem. You can’t. God is the Creator; you are the creature. We must conform ourselves to the world He has made; we cannot remake the world as we desire.

So here’s the rub. We must repent the notion that common sense exists separate from the God who made the world. We believe in common sense; but we believe it because God has created us to live sensibly. So reminded that as sinners we often try to keep God’s virtues while rejecting God Himself, let us confess our sin and beseech Him to bless us with common sense. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

To Live Sensibly in the Present Age

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

Titus 2:11–12 (NKJV)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…'”

Unite My Heart to Fear Your Name

August 31, 2014 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Confession, Cross of Christ, Depravity, Heart, Meditations, Sanctification
Psalm 86:11–13 (NKJV)
11 Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. 12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And I will glorify Your name forevermore. 13 For great is Your mercy toward me, And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
As a result of our rebellion against God in the garden we are all by nature, at birth, estranged from God. We are alienated from God in the womb. As we will read in our sermon text this morning, our rebellion against God resulted in our expulsion from the garden, from God’s presence.
By the grace of God this estrangement from Him, this alienation, is recoverable. We who were once alienated from God, strangers to the covenants of promise, have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, our sins which separated us from God, have been covered. Therefore, for all those who turn from their sin and approach God through Christ there is forgiveness, reconciliation and peace with God.
But even if you are at peace with God, you sense the remnants of the sinful nature. In this life we groan – we groan under the consequences of living in a sinful world and we groan under the folly of our own sin. It is this latter groaning which prompts the psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 86. The psalmist prays, Unite my heart to fear Your name. In other words, he asks God to give him singleness of heart. Why? Because as believers in Christ we still face a divided heart – sometimes we find ourselves longing for the glory of God and the praise of His Name; other times we long for our own glory and sin against God and others. We need God to give us a united heart.

So this morning as we enter into God’s presence to worship – let us approach Him only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ; and let us beseech him to root out of our lives the sinful desires which divide our hearts from him and from one another. Let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

Mistakes are Seeds

May 9, 2014 in Bible - NT - 2 Peter, Book Reviews, Depravity, Quotations, Responsibility, Resurrection, Sanctification
My children and I are reading Nate Wilson’s new book The Boys of Blur – which has a fabulous cover, by the way! The main character is a kid named Charlie whose biological dad abused the family and whose step-dad Mack is a good guy, a retired pro football guy. At one point they have a conversation about Charlie’s bio dad and Mack had some good things to say.
“Your father made mistakes. We all do. But instead of working to set things right, he chose to protect those mistakes – he let them be. He even fed them, which made them so much worse. Mistakes don’t just hang on the wall like ugly pictures. Mistakes are seeds.” He thumped his chest. “In here. They grow. They take over. You make a mistake, you gotta make it right. Dig that seed out. Old Wiz [Mack’s former coach] used to say, ‘Fruit rots, wood rots, but lazy-ass boys rot the fastest.'”

Beautiful and brilliant imagery. Mistakes are seeds; dig them out or soon there will be a harvest of unrighteousness in our lives. May God grant us grace to keep our eyes fixed on Christ and be diligent to continue rooting out the seeds of our mistakes lest they grow and we rot. For young men in particular, beware pride; beware lust; beware laziness; beware morbid introspection and down-in-the-dumpsness. His divine power has given us all things necessary for life and godliness (2 Pet 1).