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.

The Crisis of Unbelief in the Church

September 16, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Judgment, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Sovereignty of God

Proverbs 10:23–25: To do evil is like sport to a fool, But a man of understanding has wisdom. 24 The fear of the wicked will come upon him, And the desire of the righteous will be granted. 25 When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.

It is important to understand that increasingly we live amongst a people who act as though there is no God. We live amongst fools; for it is the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.” He runs up debt with no intention to repay; he makes promises and does not fulfill them; he commits sexual immorality, performs lewd acts, divorces his spouse, violates his oaths. He does not believe there is anyone who will call him to account, “I am my own master.”

Consequently, in Solomon’s words, doing evil is like sport to a fool. Life is just a game where decisions are not a matter of life and death; not a matter of heaven and hell; everything will turn out fine. “It’s all good,” so the saying goes.

A man of understanding, however, has wisdom. He understands that his choices have consequences – not only in the next life but also in this life. God is the Lord, rewarding the just and judging the wicked. The wise man lives his life aware of this fact; lives his life in the fear of the Lord.

Though the fool may claim that there is no God who rules in the affairs of men, the wise man knows better. God does rule; God does see; and He shall reward the righteous and judge the wicked – both in this life and in the next. The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by – when God’s judgment falls – the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation. As Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 11:31,“If the righteous will be recompensed on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner.” God is just and His justice will manifest itself in the course of human history.

Today Christians are facing a crisis of unbelief: it’s not that we don’t believe in God, it is that we do not believe that God’s justice will triumph in human history; we do not believe God executes justice in space and time. As a result of pessimistic end-times teachings about the nature of history, we have become convinced that wickedness is going to triumph in history. “The world is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

It is understandable that unbelievers think this way. The unbelieving worldview is cynical by nature. This week Peter Hitches wrote a review of Game of Thrones, highlighting the way in which it basks in this unbelieving cynicism. He writes:

In [the author’s] imaginary country, virtue and trust are always punished… almost everyone associated with honesty, selfless courage, and justice is doomed…. Bravery and charity toward others are rewarded with death or betrayal. The simple poor are raped, robbed, enslaved, and burned out of their homes. Chivalry… is… a fraud. All kinds of cruelty and greed, typified by the House of Lannister, flourish like the green bay tree. Treachery and the most debauched cynicism are the only salvation, the only route to safety or advantage.

While this debauched cynicism is not surprising in unbelievers, believers should know better. The Scriptures assure us that God’s justice will triumph in history. Though the wicked may temporarily triumph, God shall cause their fears to come upon them.

So what of you? Have you become cynical, believing that God’s justice will sleep forever? Have you become discouraged, longing for God to reveal His justice on your schedule? Do not give way to this unbelief but be a man, a woman of wisdom. Trust in the Lord. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Reminded that the wise man lives His life in the fear of God, knowing that God’s justice will triumph, let us confess that we have often been cynical, often been discouraged. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able.

Blessings on the Righteous

November 26, 2017 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Judgment, Justification, King Jesus, Meditations

Proverbs 10:6–7 (NKJV)
6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked. 7 The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.

The proverbs of Solomon guide and teach us in order that we might be full of wisdom; in order that we might govern our daily affairs in a way that glorifies and honors our Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of hosts. In Proverbs chapter 10, Solomon identifies practical ways that the law of God teaches us wisdom. So today he urges us to be righteous.

The contrast between the righteous and the wicked pervades Proverbs and centers us, as does the entirety of Scripture, on the Person of Jesus. The only truly righteous man is our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can say, “I have walked uprightly! My footsteps have not slipped!” He is the One whose memory is blessed; He is the One on whose head blessings rest. And when He appeared on earth, He was despised and rejected of men, because we are wicked. His friends abandoned Him. His enemies, driven by violence, pursued him to death. Their deeds resound to their shame even now. The name of the wicked has rotted.

But for the wicked, Jesus gave His life over to death and forgives the wickedness of the wicked through the shedding of His blood. Therefore, if we would inherit blessing, if we would be remembered for good, then we must hide ourselves in Him. He alone is the source of life and of blessing for all the world. And so gracious is our Christ, that He not only secures our forgiveness by His death, He also empowers us to be righteous by His resurrection from the dead. Consequently, in Him, we are called to be the righteous upon the earth who oppose the wicked.

If we do so, if we like our Christ pursue righteousness, holiness, and peace, then blessing will rest upon our heads. Our memory shall be blessed in the earth. When Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, we will stand with Him in bright array and receive the kingdom promised from the Father.

If, however, we are wicked; if we practice violence, then our name shall rot. If we practice violence, if we break apart our family by dishonoring our father and mother, if we bite and devour others with our tongues and so destroy their lives, if we break asunder marriage covenants through adultery and divorce, if we steal from others to satisfy our own lusts, if we slander and gossip and destroy the reputation of our neighbor, then our name shall rot – we will face the scorn of other men and the judgment of God.

So reminded that God contrasts the righteous and the wicked and that He summons us, in Christ, to live lives of righteousness, let us confess that we have not sought out Christ and that we have often practiced wickedness. 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 in your bulletin.

Preaching Coram Deo

August 13, 2017 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Judgment, Lord's Day, Meditations, Preaching

2 Timothy 4:1–2 (NKJV)
1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Last week we considered Paul’s charge to Timothy, Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. For the next few weeks I would like us to consider other portions of Paul’s exhortation that we grow in our love for the Word and become ever more humble before our God.

So this morning let us consider why Paul charges Timothy to preach the word. The answer? Timothy will answer to God. Paul writes, I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom… Why must Timothy be careful to preach the word in season and out of season? Because God is going to demand an accounting from Timothy for how he executed his responsibility. Did he preach the word faithfully? Did he encourage the fainthearted, rebuke the hardened, convince the doubtful, exhort the sinful?

Paul’s words remind us that we all live Coram Deo – we all live before the face of God. Consequently, we shall give an answer for every rash word that we have spoken, for every wicked action we have committed, and for every sinful thought we have entertained. It is appointed unto men to die once and after this to face the judgment. We shall answer for the foul words we spoke to that other driver; we shall answer for our cowardice in the face of opposition; we shall answer for our use of porn, our indifference to our spouse, our waste of our employer’s time. While such judgment will not result in the condemnation of those who are in Christ, neither will such judgment be a warm and fuzzy encounter with our best bud; it will rather be a sober evaluation before our Lord and Master.

Consequently, Paul charges Timothy to remember that this evaluation is coming and not to take it lightly. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). This reminder was to fill Timothy and us with a due sense of reverence and diligence.

I want to take a moment to thank you all for your continued prayers for me and for my family as we await the results of the biopsy taken on one of the enlarged lymph nodes in my neck. Lord willing, we will receive the results the middle of this next week. The mere possibility that this may be some form of terminal cancer has reminded me vividly of the shortness of life, of how dependent we all are, each and every moment, on the sustaining hand of our Creator and Preserver, and of how critical it is that we be prepared to stand before Him cleansed by the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, robed in His righteousness, and adorned with good works by the power of His Spirit.

So reminded this morning that we shall all appear before our God and His Christ, let us remember that on this Lord’s Day we also appear before Him to hear His voice. And having heard His voice rebuking our complacency and our sinfulness, let us confess our sin in Christ’s name, beseeching His forgiveness. And as we confess, let us kneel together as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Just Judge

February 2, 2017 in Judgment, Justice, Quotations

“As a judge [God] renders unto every man according to his works. He neither condemns the innocent, nor clears the guilty; neither does He ever punish with undue severity. Hence the justice of God is distinguished as rectoral, or that which is concerned in the imposition of righteous laws and in their impartial execution; and distributive, or that which is manifested in the righteous distribution of rewards and punishments.”

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 416.

Whatever Things are Just

October 23, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Deuteronomy, Bible - OT - Psalms, Judgment, Justification, Meditations
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 just. The word in Greek is dikaios – righteous, upright, equitable. God is Himself the foundation of justice. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He” (Dt 32:4). “The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works” (Ps 145:17).
Because God is just, all that He does reflects His justice. He cannot be anything but just. So Paul calls us to meditate on God’s just dealings. Meditate on the worldwide flood, on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and on the gruesome death of Herod Agrippa who was eaten by worms. Meditate on the deliverance of Joseph, on the vindication of Joshua and Caleb, and on the exaltation of David. Meditate on the peg in Sisera’s head, on Samson’s blindness, and on Jezebel’s defenestration. Meditate on whatever things are just.
Of course the preeminent display of God’s justice is in Jesus Christ. Justice demands that our rebellion against God and His law be punished. Jesus took on human flesh that He might bear the guilt of our sin, that He might endure God’s just wrath. He did this because God so loved us that He would show His mercy toward us – but His mercy could not and cannot be unjust. Paul tells us in Romans 3:25-26 that Christ sacrificed Himself for us to demonstrate at the present time [God’s justice], that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. The Second Person of the Godhead took on human flesh and sacrificed His life in order that God might remain just and yet extend mercy and forgiveness to the one who has faith in Jesus. Such is God’s love of and commitment to justice even while showing mercy.
Because we worship the God of justice, we are also to delight in and practice justice ourselves. God’s mercy does not eradicate a concern for justice; it strengthens it. The just God delights in just weights and measures, rejoices in just judgments, and revels in just words – and we are to do likewise. “It is a joy for the just to do justice, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity” (Prov 21:15). It is a joy for the just to execute a murderer, to demand that a thief make restitution, and to uncover and punish a false witness. It is a joy for parents to spank a disobedient toddler, for elders to excommunicate an unrepentant church member, and for employers to fire an unfaithful worker. Meditate on whatever things are just.
So what of you? Do you delight in justice? Are you aware that there are times it is sinful to show pity? God warned Israel:
“If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Dt 19:16–21)

God delights in justice and so judges, priests, and people are to imitate Him. So reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are just, let us confess that we often gravitate toward that which is unjust 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.

Meditating on 9/11

September 12, 2016 in Bible - OT - Amos, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Providence
Amos 3:6 (NKJV)
6 If 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 today that as certainly as a trumpet gains the attention of those who hear it, so calamity that strikes a people comes from the hand of Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord. Providentially we find ourselves worshiping today on September 11th – the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. It is appropriate, therefore, to remember that events such as these are not random or haphazard. They don’t come because of chance or random mutation.
Calamities such as this are the result of two quite different wills – the will of sinful man and the will of Almighty God. On the one hand, the attack on the World Trade Centers was the result of cowardly and sinful Islamic terrorists whose conception of justice and service for Allah is perverse and damnable. Their willingness to strike civilian targets highlights their barbaric cruelty, a cruelty which mimics that of Simeon and Levi against the inhabitants of Shechem, a cruelty which will end in judgment and destruction.
Alongside this sinful and criminal will of the terrorists is the holy and righteous will of God. God struck America. God used the wicked and inexcusable actions of sinful men to accomplish His holy and righteous purposes. Even as God long ago used the nation of Assyria to strike His people Israel for their wickedness (cf. Is 10:5ff), so He has used these terrorists to strike us. So why has He done so? What are His purposes? Calamities of this sort are sent by God to remind us of our collective sin, to warn us of the inevitability of judgment when we turn away from Him, and to call us to repentance and the practice of righteousness.
So in the last fifteen years have we given heed to God’s warning, to God’s call? Not at all. We have continued in our headstrong way, despising God, despising His law, sanctioning wickedness. In the last fifteen years we have continued to worship other gods; we have continued to practice no-fault divorce; we have continued to slaughter our unborn; we have continued to permit and even celebrate sexual perversity. We slander our neighbors, give heed to the proud and the haugty, and have candidates for the highest office in the land who are both known for their deceitfulness. Rather than destroying all the wicked of the land, we have begun officially leading boys and girls astray by saying that male and female are malleable. Many of our states and even our own city have extended public protections to perverse behaviors and our federal government has imposed same sex unions upon us. In the last fifteen years, we have doubled down in rebellion against God, calling good evil and evil good.

So what ought we to do as the people of God? We ought to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” We ought to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, confess our own sins and the sins of our people, plead with Him to forgive our sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and petition Him to deliver us from our rebellion by the power of His Spirit. As we come into the presence of God this morning, therefore, let us begin by kneeling and confessing our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Lying Words that cannot Profit

June 27, 2016 in Bible - OT - Jeremiah, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Homosexuality, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Sexuality
Jeremiah 7:8–11 (NKJV)
8 “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10 and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the LORD.
Last week we remarked that the only two options before us as individuals are to repent or perish. Because we have all sinned and are therefore guilty in God’s sight, deserving of judgment, there are only two options: repent or perish. Repent: turn from your sin, confess your need of Jesus to cover your guilt, and ask God’s forgiveness; or perish: cling to your sin, ignore your guilt, and face God’s judgment. These are our only options.
As sinners, however, we don’t like it that there are only two options. We would much rather hold on to our sin and avoid judgment. We want to have our cake and eat it too. So we tell ourselves lies – and these lies come in two forms.
First, we lie about the nature of our behavior. We begin to call good evil and evil good. We redefine justice in accordance with our own thoughts and desires rather than defining it according to God’s moral law. We say to ourselves, “This is the way we are supposed to act!” Or, in the words of our text, “We are delivered to do all these abominations!”
So, locally, some of our city officials, in the wake of the Orlando shooting, held a vigil. This vigil didn’t bow before God and confess that we are sinners deserving of judgment and in need of mercy. This vigil didn’t acknowledge the many ways that we as a people have violated the law of God – stealing, murdering, committing adultery, swearing falsely, worshiping false gods – and become justly subject to His wrath; instead this vigil stood in defense of our perverse sexuality and censured any condemnation of the behavior. We are lying about the nature of our behavior.
But not only do we lie about the nature of our behavior, we also begin to lie about the character of God. “God is soft and cuddly; God doesn’t care; God takes no notice; God just wants me to be happy; God believes in me; or, perhaps, God doesn’t even exist.” But it is these gods that do not exist – they are figments of our own imagination, not the God of creation and revelation. They are, in Jeremiah’s words, gods that we do not know – gods that we use to placate our conscience rather than the God who speaks in our conscience.
Repent or perish is not only a summons for us as individuals; it is also a summons for us as communities. When we lie about the nature of our behavior or lie about the character of God or both, these lies do not profit us. In the end, we shall come up against the solid wall of God’s reality. Gravity eventually catches up with us. For God declares, “Behold I, even I have seen it.”

Jeremiah’s words remind us that we have much to confess – individually and corporately. Let us cry out to God on behalf of our city, that God would have mercy upon us for our rebellion, that He would open our eyes to see the evil of our ways, and that we would together cry out to Him for mercy. And as we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel in His presence.

Repent or Perish

June 19, 2016 in Bible - NT - Luke, Hell, Homosexuality, Judgment, Justification, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Politics
Luke 13:1–5 (NKJV)
1 There were present at that season some who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Last Sunday morning a deeply disturbed Islamic man attacked a gay and lesbian night club in Orlando, killing 49 people and wounding 53 more. Many have wondered how to respond to this tragedy. Does this indicate that those who were slain were worse sinners than others?
Jesus answers this question in our text today in the negative. No – they were not worse sinners. Their sin deserved the wrath and judgment of God and our sin deserves the wrath and judgment of God. Tragic events of this sort are intended by God as a shot across our bow, a warning of the judgment to come on all who spurn His lawful authority and pretend as though there is no higher law over them. The warning from our Lord Jesus Christ is simple, “Repent or perish.”
The reason that these are the only two options is that God is just. He has faithfully revealed His moral law in the human conscience and in His Word. When we violate His law – in minor or major ways – He cannot just wink at our sin and pretend it’s no big deal. Sin is an attack on His honor and an attack on the very foundations of the world. The one who sins becomes objectively guilty in the sight of God. And we have all sinned – we are all guilty.
And because God is just, there are only two ways to deal with our guilt – repent or perish. The first way is to repent: turn from your sin, acknowledge your guilt, and seek the forgiveness of God through the shed blood of His Son Jesus. Jesus is the only fully righteous Man who has ever lived. And He lived and then died and rose again from the dead in order that He might bear the guilt of our sin, that He might take away our guilt. For those who repent and trust in Christ, God’s justice is satisfied, judgment has fallen on Christ, and we can rejoice even in death knowing that God is on our side. Repent.
The second way to deal with guilt is to perish. Stand in the presence of God day by day declaring that the sacrifice of His Son is unnecessary. Tell Him hour by hour that you don’t need the blood of Christ to cover Your guilt. Announce minute by minute that your hands are clean; wash them with water like Pilate and say, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood.” And day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute fill up the full measure of your sin knowing that God will judge you and you will perish. Repent or perish – those are your options.
Do you suppose that those men and women in Orlando were worse sinners than you? I tell you, no, but unless you repent you shall all likewise perish – without hope, without God, and without Christ.

And so reminded of Jesus’ call to repent, to turn from our sin and acknowledge our need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, let us confess our sin to the Lord and cry out for His mercy. And as we confess, let us kneel.