Stirring Up Strife

February 25, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility

Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV)
12 Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.

When we live in community sin and strife are inevitable. Often in our exhortations, therefore, I take the time to warn us from sinning against others and provoking strife. We need to beware lest we be a cause of strife in our relationships.

But today’s Scripture reminds us that we not only need to beware lest we cause strife in our relationships, we also need to beware lest we perpetuate it. It addresses the victim of sin and strife not the perpetrator. What do you do when you are the victim of another’s sin? There you were, living piously, saintly glow radiating about your face, angelic halo dancing above your head, and then, out of the blue, comes a sinner who treads on your toe and picks a fight. Your husband ignores you. Your wife snaps at you. Your friend speaks maliciously to you. Your sibling breaks your toy. How do you respond?

Solomon gives you two options and he paints them in black and white – “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins.” The first option is hatred. You can respond to the sinner in turn. He stepped on your toe? Then step on his and poke him in the eye for good measure. Hatred stirs up strife. Hatred says, “I’ll see your sin and raise you some.” The second option is love. You can respond to the sinner out of turn. He stepped on your toe? Then overlook it and do good to him; or, if you can’t overlook it, then confront it graciously. If he confesses, you have gained your brother. If he persists, then you can choose to overlook it or to bring along others to help you resolve the matter. Love covers all sins.

Solomon’s words remind us that God does not give us a license to sin when someone else has sinned against us. Even when we are the victim of another’s sin, we are to respond to that sin in love. We are to beware lest we stir up strife by our response to the sin. Hatred stirs up strife. You didn’t introduce it, but you increased it. In other words, Solomon tells you, there is no situation so bad that you cannot make it worse by your sin. Our calling as victims, therefore, is to imitate the Lord Jesus Christ, “who, when he was reviled, did not revile in turn; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet 2:23). Jesus’ life reminds me that your sin doesn’t justify mine.

But often when we are the victim of another’s sin, we justify our sinful response and we get angry with those who would correct us. Imagine that a thief stole your money and stabbed you in the arm. You are a victim. You go to the doctor. The doctor expresses sympathy for you, stitches up your arm, and gives you instructions about keeping the wound clean. “Keep it clean and you’ll be fine in a couple months.” But you’re so angry about this situation that you ignore the doctor’s orders. You refuse to change the bandages and the wound gets badly infected. Finally, you return to the doctor and he’s dismayed. “Did you keep it clean? Did you do what I said?” he asks. “No,” you sullenly respond. So he rebukes you and tells you that you may lose your arm; you may even lose your life. But you angrily respond, “How dare you blame me? I was the victim! I didn’t stab myself!” What’s the doctor going to say? Is he going patronize you? To apologize for rebuking you? No! Not if he’s a good doctor. He going to tell you that you are a fool and that you’ve only made a bad situation worse.

So what of you? Are you using another’s sin to justify your own? Are you nursing anger or resentment or bitterness in your heart against another? Are you blaming your wife for your outbursts of wrath? Are you blaming your husband for your nagging spirit? Are you blaming your parents for your sullen attitude or sinful rebellion? Are you blaming your employer for your laziness? Or are you taking responsibility for the way that you are responding to the sin of others?

Reminded that the sin of others does not justify our own sin, let us confess that we often stir up strife through hatred rather than cover it through love. And, as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able do to so. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Glory of Male and Female

May 21, 2017 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Homosexuality, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Sexuality
Genesis 1:27 (NKJV)
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Some of you may recall studying Plato’s doctrine of the forms when you were a student. For Plato the world we see about us, the world that we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell is a world of shadows that only dimly reflects the real world, the immaterial world of the forms. For example, corresponding to the imperfect circles that we draw in this world is an ideal circle in the world of the forms. The closer our circles get to that form, the nearer perfection they also get.
The ways in which Plato’s idea of the forms impacted Greek civilization are myriad, some good and some bad. In the bad category is the way in which it impacted the Greek perception of humanity. For the Greeks almost uniformly insisted that the ideal human form was male – and, remember, the closer one gets to the form, the closer one gets to perfection.
Consider two implications of this myth for Greek culture. First, the Greeks openly tolerated and even praised the perversions of sodomy, homosexuality, and pederasty. After all, if the perfect form is male then why shouldn’t one male be attracted to the perfect form of another, whether adult or child?
Second, the Greeks degraded women and viewed them as a lesser form of human since they were further from the ideal. Consequently, the more like men women became the more “human” they became. So the legends of the Amazonians were spread by men who wanted women to be more like, you guessed it, men.
Notice the contrast between this ancient Greek fable, with its exaltation of perversion and denigration of women, and the revelation of God in Genesis. Here in Genesis we are told that God made man in His image, according to His likeness. But lest we travel down the Platonic sewer pipe, God informs us that by man He means male and female together. God created man, male and female, in His image after His likeness. It is not the male who is the image of God; nor is it the female who is the image of God; rather it is male and female together – unity and diversity in harmony – who bear the image of God and reveal the character of God.
So what does this mean? First, it means that God created men and women distinct so that they might join together in the covenant of marriage and enjoy sexual satisfaction. Our complementary sexuality was God’s idea – it was not a random mutation, not a fortuitous accident, not a meaningless roll of the dice. God created us male and female; God created our biology; consequently, God delights when a man pursues a woman with honor, commits himself to her alone, and directs his passions to pleasing her and enabling her to have children. God loves that type of romance; do you?
Second, it means that those of the opposite sex whom God has placed in our lives – whether wives or husbands, mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, sisters or brothers, or just friends – have been put there to teach us about Him. They, in company with us, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as women or as men. God created them as women and as men and He intends to teach us about Himself through them. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Reminded that sin has distorted our perception of the opposite sex and that we can tend to despise those who are different from us rather than receiving them in the fear of God, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Homily for Ross and Taylor Morton

April 16, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Church History, Ecclesiology, Marriage, Politics, Satan
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
It is a truism of Christian discipleship that we are engaged in a spiritual battle. As the Scriptures emphasize, we fight against the wiles of the devil, the distorted perceptions of a fallen world, and the twisted longings of our own sinful nature. In our text today, Paul reminds us that the way we fight this battle is not the way battles are typically fought. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” We do not use swords, battle-axes, guns, or tanks. Our weapons are not carnal, but “mighty in God” for destroying the kingdom of darkness and building up the kingdom of God. So what does all this have to do with marriage?
I would like the two of you to conceive of your marriage as one of the weapons that God has given you in this war. Marriage is a powerful weapon, mighty in God, able to accomplish great good and just as able to effect great evil. The gunpowder that delights us in firework displays, that blasts a path through impenetrable rock, is the same gunpowder that slaughters the innocent victims of a suicide bomber or that maims a child who steps on an abandoned land mine. Marriage is a powerful weapon.
Earlier this week I shared the story of the end of monarchy in ancient Rome – and its end centers around a particularly bad marriage. The last king of Rome, a man named Tarquin the Proud, and his wife, Tullia the Younger, so incensed the Roman people that the Romans revolted against them and overthrew the monarchy. The causes of this revolt centered in Tarquin and Tullia’s marriage. Each had been married to the other’s sibling. But, as it turned out, the couples were tragically mismatched. While their siblings were virtuous and worthy Romans, Tarquin and Tullia were proud and conniving.
Soon Tarquin and Tullia discovered their similarity. So they killed their siblings and married one another. As if this weren’t enough, so insatiable was Tullia’s ambition, that she urged her husband to overthrow the current king of Rome – her own father. Eventually won over by her taunts, Tarquin orchestrated a coup. He deposed Tullia’s father and ordered some soldiers to murder him in the streets as he was making his way home from the palace.
Anxiously awaiting news of the coup at home, Tullia finally could bear it no longer. She ordered her carriage and made her way to the palace where she hailed her husband as the new king. But even Tarquin knew this wasn’t the time and ordered her to go back home. It so happened that her coachman followed the same route that her father had taken when he was fleeing the palace. Soon the coachman stopped. “What’s the matter?” Tullia demanded. “Your father’s body lies in the street; I cannot go around.” “Then drive on!” she commanded. And so Tullia drove her carriage over her father’s dead body.
Thus Tarquin the Proud and Tullia the Younger rose to power in Rome. But so disgusted were the Romans by their evil deeds – coupled with those of their son Sextus – that they cast them out of the city, vowing never again to permit kings to rule over them. Thus the Roman Republic was born.
You see, marriage is powerful. It makes and breaks children. It makes and breaks churches. It makes and breaks nations. It makes and breaks empires. Increasingly in our age, therefore, Christian marriage is an act of cultural warfare. What you covenant now, what you consummate tonight, is a powder keg. Will your marriage delight God’s people and destroy the kingdom of darkness, or will it maim the innocent and bring shame to God’s Name? These are the options: life and death, a blessing and a curse. Which shall your marriage be? I know that you both hunger and thirst for the former; long for your marriage to bring glory to God, joy to your friends, and stability to your (Lord willing) children. So to this end, let me leave you with three exhortations:
1.  Remember what you’ve got – this thing is explosive, it is powerful – for good or for evil.
2.  Because of this, exercise great care – don’t just toss it around; don’t neglect it; don’t treat it lightly.
a.  Ross – cherish your wife, love her, esteem her, protect her; handle her like TNT – or you might just find out what happens when a woman explodes!
b.  Taylor – honor your husband, give yourself to him; he wants you body and soul, completely; so rejoice in him and respect him with your words and your actions.
3.  Plant your charges in the right place –
a.  Make a home that is as electric and joyful as a firework display – that brings delight to your children, peace to others.
b.  Make a home that blasts holes in the walls of Satan’s fortress – a home that is a light on a hill; that is salty and shows others the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Having heard these words. . . . Please face one another.

Homily for Tal and Cristina Williams

March 15, 2015 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Election, Holy Spirit, Love, Marriage, Sanctification
Colossians 3:12–14 (NKJV)
Therefore, as theelect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
Tal and Cristina, it is a joy to be with you here today and to celebrate the pledging of your marriage vows. I debated preaching an extensive sermon today but knowing how sensitive Tal is to time I decided I’d keep it fairly brief. Paul’s words in Colossians 3 remind us that all of life, including our married life, is to be lived in the knowledge of who we are and what God has done for us; in the knowledge of who we are and what God has done for us.
First, our life is to be lived in the knowledge of who we are. Today is a day of momentous changes for you both. Tal, your identity is changing. You will no longer be just a private man but a public. You are assuming the role and responsibility of husband, the one who will answer to God for the condition of your home. Your identity is changing: Cristina is choosing you as her husband; you are now the elect of Cristina.
Cristina, your identity is changing. You are leaving your father’s house to join your life with the life of your husband. You are getting a new name: no longer a Plaza but a Williams; no longer a princess but a queen. Your identity is changing: Tal is choosing you as his wife; you are now the elect of Tal.
But Paul reminds you that though your identities are changing today in certain respects, your fundamental identities remain the same. Long before you chose one another, God chose you as objects of His love and recipients of His forgiveness in Christ. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved… live a life pleasing to God. Tal, before you became the elect of Cristina, Cristina’s chosen husband, you were the elect of God, God’s chosen son. Cristina, before you became the elect of Tal, Tal’s chosen wife, you were the elect of God, God’s chosen daughter. And your identities as God’s elect, God’s chosen ones, do not change today.
As Ben read this afternoon, recall that marriage is a mirror of Christ’s relationship with His Church. Paul uses two words in our text that help capture this. He writes that you are the elect of God, holy and beloved. First, you are holy – set apart for God’s own purposes in the world; set apart from those who are worshiping and serving other gods; set apart to be exclusively loyal to God. That’s who you are. So who are you becoming? Today, Tal, you are becoming Cristina’s elect one, her chosen one, and therefore her holy one – set apart as the one man in all the world to be her very own. Today, Cristina, you are becoming Tal’s elect one, his chosen one, and therefore his holy one – set apart as the one woman in all the world to be his very own. And your “holiness” to one another is a mirror of the exclusive loyalty that Christ gives to and expects of His bride, the Church. You are holy.
But not only are you holy, you are also beloved. God didn’t choose us, didn’t set us apart as holy, as His very own, in order that we might be His slaves and minions but in order that we might be His beloved. Paul writes to usas the elect of God, holy and beloved… Again, your marriage mirrors Christ’s relationship with His Church. Just as you have chosen one another to be the exclusive object of your love, Christ has chosen His bride, the Church, as the alone object of His love. You are beloved.
So, Tal, Cristina, who are you? You are the elect of God, holy and beloved; and today you become the elect of one another, holy and beloved. This is who you are. And what has God done for you? Paul writes that He has forgiven you in Christ, cleansed you of your sin, and welcomed you into His presence. That’s who you are and what God has done for you. Therefore, what manner of spouses ought you to be? Tal, what kind of husband ought you to be? Cristina, what kind of wife ought you to be? You ought to be spouses who put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…even as God in Christ has forgiven you. And put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
So you see our responsibility as spouses emerges from who we are and what God has done for us. You are the elect of God, holy and beloved, and God has forgiven you through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. So God’s vision for your marriage is that your relationship with one another reflect the exclusive love that Christ has for His bride, the Church, and the exclusive love that the Church is to have for her husband, Christ. This is the vision, this is the forest; don’t forget it as you begin looking at the trees.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Your Fallen Spouse

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

“You will never find a spouse who is not affected in some way by the reality of the Fall. If you can’t respect this spouse because he/she is prone to certain weaknesses, you will never be able to respect any spouse.”

Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, p. 69.

Looking for Evidences of Grace

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

“If my wife is more aware of where she falls short in my eyes than she is of how I am witnessing evidences of God’s grace in her journey of progressive sanctification, then I am a legalistic husband, akin to a Pharisee. Giving respect is an obligation, not a favor; it is an act of maturity, birthed in a profound understanding of God’s grace.”

Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More than to Make us Happy?, p. 57.

The Purpose of Marriage

November 4, 2014 in Adoption, Children, Marriage, Quotations, Reformation, Sanctification

“The ultimate purpose [of marriage] is to obey God, to find aid and counsel against sin; to call upon God; to seek, love, and educate children for the glory of God; to live with one’s wife in the fear of God and to bear the cross; but if there are no children, nevertheless to live with one’s wife in contentment; and to avoid all lewdness with others.”

Martin Luther

And then there was Love

November 2, 2014 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Peter, Homosexuality, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Sanctification, Sexuality
2 Peter 1:5–9 (NKJV)
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
As we have made our way through Peter’s exhortation here in his second epistle, we have learned of the necessity of personal virtue and the way in which that virtue is to manifest itself in our treatment of others. Last week we considered Peter’s words to add to godliness brotherly kindness. Today we consider his command to add to brotherly kindness love.
Love is the culmination of Christian virtue. Unfortunately, as a result of Romanticism, it is often misunderstood. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, for example, defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.” But biblically love is not at bottom a feeling – that is not its proper genus. While love often shapes, governs, and informs our feelings, it is not itself a feeling. Far better the simple declaration of Hartley Coleridge, Is love a fancy or a feeling? No. No, love is not a fancy or a feeling; for feelings come and go but love remains constant, like immaculate Truth. It is a fixed reality, a covenant oath. As Shakespeare would have it, love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken…
Paul gives the most compelling description of love in the thirteenth chapter of his letter to the Corinthians:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Love, in other words, is not self-centered but other-centered, not primarily a feeling but a heart-centered commitment, longing to give joy and delight to another. Paul goes on:
[Love] does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…
Away with the absurd notion that love is merely a feeling. Today we are told to countenance all kinds of wickedness in the name of Merriam-Webster’s definition of love: we should embrace homosexual unions because they “love” one another; we should turn a blind eye to fornication because they “love” one another; we should sanction no-fault divorce because they just don’t “love” one another any more. But Merriam-Webster is wrong: love is not a fancy or a feeling.
So what of you: how have you been defining love? Do you truly love the brethren? Are you truly loving your spouse? Have you loved your children? For we are to add to brotherly kindness love.

Reminded of our calling to practice true love, to be committed to the true good of others and to labor unceasingly for that good, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.