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.

The Blessing of Riches

September 10, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Wealth

Proverbs 10:22 (NKJV)

22 The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.

Marcion was an early church heretic who pitted the god of the Old Testament against the god of the New. He claimed that the god of the OT, whom he called the Creator, was evil and dictatorial while the god of the NT, whom he called the Father, was good and merciful. While Marcion’s teaching was condemned as heresy, the temptation to pit the OT against the NT has persisted throughout church history. One of the areas this has been repeatedly done is in the area of wealth.

Many are tempted to say that while the OT presents a positive view of wealth , the NT gives us a negative view of wealth and urges us to forsake our wealth for the kingdom of God. Didn’t Jesus tell the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and to come follow Him? Didn’t Paul say that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil? The answer to those two latter questions is, of course, yes. Jesus did tell the rich young ruler to sell his belongings and Paul did declare that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. But they did so because the OT declared the same things.

Solomon reminds us today that wealth in itself is not a problem. The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He [i.e., the Lord] adds no sorrow to it. Abraham was a wealthy man and a model of faithfulness. David was a wealthy man and a man after God’s own heart. Barzillai the Gileadite was a very wealthy man and provided for David when he was fleeing from Absalom. Joseph of Arimethea was a wealthy man and prepared a tomb for our Lord’s body. Wealth in itself is not a problem; it is a gift from God.

But like all blessings, wealth is susceptible to misuse. Wealth is a tool; a tool that is to be used in the service of our Creator and Redeemer. As a tool, as a gift, it is something for which we are to give thanks to God and use to the glory of His Name. We are to give thanks for it and use it to the glory of His Name. We are to beware lest it ever come between us and Him – as it had with the rich young ruler. We are not to set our heart on our riches. We are to hold our wealth with an open hand – permitting God to give and to take as He sees fit. To have God and wealth is an incredible blessing; to have God and no wealth can be borne with contentment. But to have wealth and no God is hopeless misery.

So consider a couple ways that we can be tempted to sin in regard to wealth. First, we can permit others to make us feel guilty for our wealth. Social justice warriors will happily do so. Many in our political arena will flog you and make you feel guilty and try to use that false guilt to steal your freedom. “You shouldn’t have so much; think of all those poor people with so little; vote for higher taxes, more regulation.” But if wealth is such a bad thing, then why in the world would we want to distribute it to others? They might catch the infection! The reason that we want to share wealth freely through charity not through state enforced redistribution is because we know it is a blessing. It is a gift from God – so the righteous man shares it freely but never feels guilty for having it. So repent of your false guilt.

Second, have you permitted your wealth to intrude between you and your God? The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Augustine spoke about disordered affections. Our affections are disordered when we love God’s gifts more than God Himself. This is idolatry. It is to make God a means to an end rather than treating God as our great end. What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So repent of making wealth more important than God.

Reminded that we often view wealth and use wealth in a sinful manner, let us confess our sins to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. And as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Lips of the Wise

September 2, 2018 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue

Proverbs 10:18–21 (NKJV)

18 Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool. 19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of wisdom.

Throughout Proverbs and the rest of Scripture we are frequently exhorted to keep watch over our tongues. Though the tongue is small, it has immense importance and tremendous impact. So we must learn, as God’s people, to control our tongues.

So take note of the contrasts in our text today. On the one hand we have the tongues of the wicked and the fool. Not all fools are wicked; but all wicked men are fools. We are told two things about the tongue of the wicked. His tongue speaks lies and it speaks lies because what comes out of his mouth emerges from his heart. And, Solomon tells us, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The heart of the wicked is corrupt and so their lips speak corruption. For their part, fools spread this slander. They pick it up from the wicked and then spread it abroad rather than locking it away. Rather than restrain their lips, they repeat whatever they hear. They are fools.

On the other hand, we have the tongue of the wise. The wise man restrains his lips. He exercises self-control over his tongue. He is aware that just because he knows something, or feels something, or thinks something, that doesn’t mean that those things need to be shared. Before speaking, the wise man weighs matters in his heart and so he speaks with discretion. Consequently, his tongue is as choice silver. His words have value because he chooses carefully when and what to speak.

Notice, therefore, that while the tongue of the wise feeds others, the tongue of the foolish can’t even sustain the fool himself. The lips of the righteous feed many – the lips of the righteous bring blessing, encouragement, and edification to those they meet – but fools die for lack of wisdom ­– the lips of fools bring discouragement and destruction, blight and famine in their wake so that fools no longer have relationships, food to sustain themselves.

So what of you? How have you used your tongue this week? Have you wickedly slandered others? Have you foolishly repeated the slanders of the wicked, listened to their lies and shared them with your neighbors? Have you multiplied words without knowledge? Or have you restrained your lips and considered carefully in your heart each time you speak? This is the mandate Paul gives us, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (4:29).

Reminded that we are called to exercise self-control over our tongues that we may give life to others, let us acknowledge that we often speak when we should be silent and that, even when we should speak, we often tear down what is good rather than build up others in the truth. We often behave like fools and so sin in the multitude of words. Reminded of this, let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able.

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.

The Calling of Mothers

August 12, 2018 in Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Meditations, Parents

1 Thessalonians 2:7–8: 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

The last couple exhortations have focused on the character and duties of fathers. Fathers are to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before our children as we exhort, comfort, and charge them to serve the Lord with joy and gladness all their days. Today we touch on the responsibilities of mothers.

In our text today, Paul compares his conduct among the Thessalonians to that of a mother. So what does it mean to be a mother? To be a mother is to cultivate the characteristics of gentleness, affection, and loyalty.

First, mothers are to be gentle. Paul writes that we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. We have been privileged in the last year and a half to witness the births of many children; we get to see all you new mothers out there cherishing your babies and we are thankful for you. A woman’s body is made to foster and nurture life. Therefore, a woman who strives to be hard or harsh, who endeavors to suppress her natural gentleness, is a woman at war with what God designed her to be. And this is why shrill women, harsh women, rarely earn respect. Mothers are to be gentle.

Second, mothers are to be affectionate or loving. Paul describes his emotional attachment to the Thessalonians as affectionately longing for you… and then goes on to declare that the Thessalonians had become dear to us. A mother is to be a model of love and devotion. Her heart is to be inclined to her own – her own husband, her own children, her own people. These are mine. Mothers are to be affectionate.

Finally, and closely related to affectionate, mothers are to be loyal. Paul writes, “we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives.” Motherhood is about imparting oneself to one’s children. It is not simply about giving things or relaying information; it is about giving oneself. A mother’s body nourishes life and reveals what motherhood is about. Because a mother loves her child, she gives herself to her child, gives herself for her child. She considers her child’s needs greater than her own, their good greater than her own, their growth greater than her own. Mothers are to be loyal.

Commenting on the nature of love and loyalty, G.K. Chesterton remarks about women in his book Orthodoxy (76):

Some stupid people started the idea that because women obviously back up their own people through everything, therefore women are blind and do not see anything. They can hardly have known any women. The same women who are ready to defend their men through thick and thin are (in their personal intercourse with the man) almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head. A man’s friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always striving to turn him into somebody else…

So, mothers, how are you doing? Are you cultivating the virtues of gentleness, affection, and loyalty? Or are you perhaps permitting bitterness and resentment to harden your heart toward those you love and to drive a wedge between you? Are you subtly poisoning your husband with your bitter words, “I just don’t feel loved. Nobody cares for me. No one reaches out to me.” Are you gossiping to others, undermining their loyalty to their brothers and sisters in Christ? If so, then repent and return to the Lord Jesus. Find your security in Him and, secure in Him, cultivate the virtues of gentleness, affection, and loyalty.

The calling of mothers to be gentle, affectionate, and loyal, reminds us that we all of us, fathers and mothers, have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. 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.

The Duties of Fathers

August 5, 2018 in Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Meditations, Parents

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

When last I preached, we looked at this text in Thessalonians and the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood. We learned that our calling as fathers is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the face of our children, our church, and our community. We are to be men “above reproach” as Paul says elsewhere. This is the type of men fathers are to be, this is to be our character.

But Paul not only describes the character of fathers in Israel, he also outlines the duties of fathers. Paul tells us that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged” every one of the Thessalonians “as a father does his own children.” So notice the triad of responsibilities that Paul ascribes to fathers.

First, fathers are to exhort their children. The word is parakaleo – literally, “to call alongside.” Hence, fathers are not only to model what it means to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly but are to call their children to join them in this type of life. The life lived in the fear of God, lived in obedience to Him, is the truly blessed life, and fathers are responsible to point this out to their children and encourage their children to recognize it and love it. Even as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to learn the ways of Christ and honor Christ with their lives, so fathers are to exhort their children to follow Him.

Second, fathers are to comfort their children. The word is paramutheomai – meaning literally, “to cause them to be consoled.” Fathers, in other words, are not to be distant or hard to reach, they are not to be unkind or uncharitable to their children. Rather, fathers are to comfort them, to come alongside them, to stoop down and lift them up. Our comforting kindness to our children serves, after all, as a picture of the kindness of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103 declares that even as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. Thus even as Paul comforted the Thessalonians in the midst of hardship, fathers are to comfort their children throughout the course of their lives.

Finally, fathers are “to charge” their children. And many a father out there says, “Yes, I wish I could charge my children but they don’t have any money!” Well it’s not that kind of charge. The word is martureo“to bear witness.” It is the word from which we get our word “martyr.” Our calling is to bear witness to our children, to point them to Christ. We are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, pointing to Christ as the only hope for individuals, families, and societies. In a Christian home, the daily witness of a father (and mother) who loves and serves Jesus is the ordinary means that God uses to bring our children to faith. Even as Paul bore witness to Christ among the Thessalonians, calling them to trust in Him and believe in Him, so fathers are to bear witness to Jesus among their families.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you daily, with each of your children, encouraging them, comforting them, and bearing witness to them so that Christ might be formed in them? Or have you been lazy, assuming that your children will just “get it”? Have you been pro-active and purposeful or have you abdicated, relying on your wife to accomplish the task? Have you been distant, failing to engage your kids? Then the Word of the Lord comes to you today – repent and start being a real father.

The calling of fathers to encourage, comfort, and bear witness to their children, reminds us that we all of us, father and mothers, have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. 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.

The Calling of Fathers

July 1, 2018 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Meditations, Parents

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

In our text today Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his conduct among them – and he uses the metaphor of a father. He had treated them, he writes, as a father does his own children. Paul’s description, therefore, gives us a vision of fatherhood. Today I would like us to observe that Paul helps us understand the calling of fatherhood: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe…” What is the calling of fathers? It is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly among our families. This is our calling. As fathers in Israel, we are to set a standard that our wives, our children, and all others can witness and follow.

First, we are to live devoutly. We are to live our lives in the fear of God. We are to be models of love for God, love for His law, and love for His people. We are to be the ones encouraging our wives and children to grow in their love for the things of God. And the principal way in which we encourage this is by modeling it – loving the Lord, loving to read His Word and to pray, loving the singing of the psalms, loving fellowship. We are to live devoutly.

Second, we are to live justly. In our personal conduct and in our administration of discipline in the home, we are to be models of justice and fair-mindedness. We are to listen carefully to complaints and judge justly based on the principles found in God’s word. We are not to be blinded by our own prejudices; we are not to delight in airing our own opinions. No. We are to be steadfastly loyal to justice, righteousness, and truth. We are to live justly.

Third, we are to live blamelessly. We are to listen to the Word of God and implement it in our lives. We are to live above reproach. Our standard is not that we be cool or that we be hip or that we be fashionable or that we be politically correct or that we be conservative or that we be liberal. Our standard is that we be blameless – clinging tenaciously to God’s Word and seeking His approval. We are to live blamelessly.

This, then, is the calling of fatherhood: to live devoutly and justly and blamelessly among our families. How can we possibly live this way? Only by the grace of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. He is the One who must work in and through us to glorify His Name. In ourselves we are not capable to live this way – but by the grace of God we can.

Reminded, therefore, of our calling to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before the Lord and before His people, let us confess our failure to do so to the Lord. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Save a Soul from Death

June 24, 2018 in Bible - NT - James, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Sacraments

James 5:19–20 (NKJV)
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

One of our duties as a congregation is to come alongside one another and assist one another to walk faithfully with the Lord. Our enemies – the world, the flesh, and the devil – are relentless in their attacks upon our faith and faithfulness to the Lord. Consequently, the Lord has given us brothers and sisters to assist us in the fight. It is this dynamic that James addresses in our text. Let us note a few things.

First, notice that James views it as possible that those who profess faith in Christ be tempted to apostatize. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth – each of us has names that we can attach to James’ warning. If we have walked long in the faith, we have known those who wander from the truth and fall into error and sin.

Second, James views it as possible that those who are so tempted can be reclaimed. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back… It is possible, by the grace of God, to be God’s means of bringing an erring brother back to the truth. It is possible, in James’ words, to turn a sinner from the error of his ways.

Finally, James encourages us to reclaim those who have wandered for, in doing so, we save the erring brother from certain destruction. Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. This is the great privilege of helping those who are wandering astray.

Today the elders perform the sober duty of announcing to you that our beloved sister and daughter, —-, is wandering from the truth…. Consequently, we are publicly suspending her from fellowship in the Supper and calling upon you, her brothers and sisters in the Lord, to come alongside her and attempt to rescue her from the error of her ways. She knows the right thing to do and often desires to do it but has thus far lacked the strength of purpose to carry out what is good and right. So what can you do?

First, regardless of whether you personally know —-, please pray for her and for those who do know her, especially her family, that —- would be disposed to listen to them, to do what is right, and to return to the truth with a whole heart. Pray that she wouldn’t flee from the truth but embrace it with a whole heart.

Second, if you know —-, please endeavor to reach out to her. Consider writing her a letter. Remind her of your love for her, of the Lord’s love for her, and urge her to return to the truth. The Lord is gracious and longsuffering and does not desire the death of a sinner but that one repent and return to Him. So this is what we desire for —-. Don’t treat her self-righteously; don’t lecture her in haughtiness or pride; appeal to her as a beloved sister.

And so, having been notified of —- sin, we are reminded of how susceptible we all are to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. So let us confess our own need of God’s forgiving grace and His merciful intervention to keep us in the truth. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.