Maleness or Manliness?

June 10, 2018 in Homosexuality, Meditations, Responsibility, Word of God

Psalm 119:9 (NKJV)
9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.

What does it mean to be a young man and not just a young male? We have many young males in the world. Perhaps you have seen them strutting along the streets; speaking disrespectfully to their parents and teachers; scorning authority; using foul language; starting fights; being sexually licentious; causing trouble? But what does it mean to be a man and not just a male. For maleness is a matter of biology – anyone with certain anatomy is a male. But manliness is a matter of moral fiber – it is the grace that unites male anatomy and godly character.

So you young males out there – do you know what it is to be a young man? This is the question David poses today. How can a young man cleanse his way? How can he be a young man after God’s own heart? How can he grow in favor with God and with other men? How can he demonstrate his worth? David’s answer is simple: By taking heed according to God’s Word.

The Apostle John writes in his first epistle, “I have written to you young men because you are strong and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the evil one” (2:14b). In other words, the most important thing you can do to become a young man and not simply to be a young male is to consider, meditate upon, memorize, and practice God’s Word. Ask God what He wants you to love and esteem; what He wants you to cherish; what it means to be a young man after His own heart. It is this type of meditation which leads to John’s conclusion, “and you have overcome the evil one.” The key to manliness is faith in and reliance upon the Living God who has revealed Himself and His will in His Word. The Bible is the pathway to manliness.

So how important is the Word of God to you? Can you find a reference in your Bible? Can you summarize the books of the Bible? Have you memorized portions of the Bible? Do you know the Lord’s Prayer? Do you know the Ten Commandments? Are you letting the Bible shape your thinking and acting more than the latest music video or Marvel film? Are you a man of the Word? In other words, are you not just male but masculine?

Reminded that we often confuse maleness with manliness, let us confess our sin to our Heavenly Father, asking Him to bestow true manliness upon our men – young and old alike – and an esteem for true manliness upon our women – young and old alike. 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.

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 Necessity of Labor

July 30, 2014 in Church History, Politics, Quotations, Responsibility

“…it is a constant law of human nature that the more a man has to indulge in, the less disposed he is to endure the discipline of toil-that is to say, the less willing he is to produce that which is to be consumed. Labor ceases to be functional in life; it becomes something that is grudgingly traded for that competence, or that superfluity, which everyone has a ‘right’ to. A society spoiled in this manner may be compared to a drunkard: the more he imbibes the less he is able to work and acquire the means to indulge his habit. A great material establishment, by its very temptation to luxuriousness, unfits the owner for the labor necessary to maintain it, as has been observed countless times in the histories of individuals and of nations.”

Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences, p. 15.

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).

Baptism Meditation – Why Infant Baptism?

November 25, 2013 in Baptism, Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Children, Covenantal Living, Liturgy, Responsibility

1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Peter reminds us that the Church which God is building throughout human history is not essentially a physical structure but an organic community. The foundation of this Church is not concrete but the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. As members of that Church, those who confess Christ are living stones, living members of the living Temple of God. So it is fitting as we dedicate this physical building to the glory and service of God that we have the privilege of baptizing a stone and bringing him to new life in the Church of God. When John the Baptist preached his baptism of repentance, he declared that God was able to raise up from stones children of Abraham – and so today we have the privilege of baptizing ———, by nature a stone, so that he might become a living stone, united by faith in the working of God to the Church.

By why baptize a baby? Because, as Peter goes on to remind us, we, the Church of Christ, we are the Israel of God, a holy nation, God’s special people, the inheritors of all the promises that God has made throughout His Word. And these promises include not only believers but also our children. Nations include children; peoples include infants. And so God always establishes his covenants with generations. He covenants with Noah and his descendants; with Abraham and his descendants; with the Israelites who stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai and with all their descendants after them; with David and his descendants. And the New Covenant into which we are incorporated is no different. God welcomes believers and their children into this organic community, this Church which He is building, and calls all to love Him, to trust Him, and to serve Him with joy and reverent fear. So we baptize —— because God extends His promise to this child even as He extends His promise to us.

So what is this promise? It is a promise that God will be our God and we His people through faith in Christ. God promises in the waters of baptism that though we have rebelled against Him, though we are by nature stones, He will forgive us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and will make us living stones by pouring out His Spirit on us. The waters of baptism promise these very things – even as water cleanses the body, so the blood of Jesus sprinkled upon us cleanses us from our sin – hence, sometimes baptism is by sprinkling; even as water is the source of life, so the Holy Spirit poured out upon us grants us new life in service of God – hence, sometimes, as today, baptism is by pouring.

Forgiveness and new life are the promises God holds out this day – so as you witness this baptism and renew your own baptismal covenant, let me urge you to believe these promises.

Blessing Strangers

February 24, 2013 in Bible - OT - Exodus, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Responsibility

Exodus 23:9 (NKJV)
9 “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
One of the most challenging things that many of us face in our daily lives is that of identifying honest and reputable businessmen. Our car breaks down; our sewer backs up; our computer crashes; our reputation or livelihood is threated by a lawsuit. We find ourselves strangers in a strange land – having to deal with problems we’ve never faced before. What we need is someone honest and skilled to assist us: to tell us exactly what’s wrong and then fix it for a fair price.  But what we often find instead are charlatans who expand the list of things wrong and charge far more than is fair to do the work.
Last week we observed in our text from Exodus that God expects us to be gracious and loving toward strangers which implies that we are to be actively welcoming visitors into our congregation. Today I’d like us to consider a second implication of the text: namely, we are to treat others justly. When others are dependent upon our expertise or knowledge in a certain area, we are called to use our knowledge to bless them rather than to take advantage of them. As strangers in a strange land they are entrusting themselves to us. So we are commanded to treat them justly and fairly. Moses reminds us:
Deuteronomy 10:17–19 (NKJV)
17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
God commands us to love strangers, to care for and protect them. He does this for two reasons. First, this is what God Himself does. He loves them and so we must. Second, we ourselves know what it is like to be strangers in a strange land. Therefore, we are to love them.
The principle embedded in this text is none other than that articulated by our Lord Jesus in the Golden Rule. “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:12). When relying upon others’ expertise we would have folks treat us fairly and justly and graciously – assisting us in our need and not exploiting us in our ignorance.
So we too are to practice the same – especially in the realm of business. As a businessman I must beware lest I take advantage of another’s ignorance and so exploit them. My work should be done honestly and well – giving them an accurate assessment of their problem and charging them fairly for the work I perform.
Reminded of our obligation to be just and fair to others, let us kneel and confess that we have often used our knowledge to exploit others rather than to bless them.

Taking Responsibility

November 25, 2010 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Responsibility

1 Corinthians 4:14-16 (NKJV)
14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

For the last several weeks we have insisted that one of the lessons which the men in the congregation have been given to teach the Church is stability. As the fathers of Israel, they are to be a source of consistency from one generation to the next, not blown about emotionally or doctrinally but holding fast to the traditions just as they have been taught in the Word of God.

Today Paul identifies another dimension of fatherhood – he was the father of the Corinthian congregation, the one who had started this congregation in Gentile territory. Consequently, he had a unique relationship with them. Because he was their father, not merely their teacher, he takes responsibility for them in a particular way. Consequently, we have two letters – both of considerable length – which Paul sent to this congregation, endeavoring to help them to grow in Christ.

So what principle of manhood is revealed here? What do fathers do? Quite simply, they take responsibility for those under their charge. While boys make excuses, men take responsibility. And this is precisely what Paul does for the Corinthians. He writes these extensive letters to them to warn them, to instruct them, to correct them because he bore responsibility for them.

So, men, how are we doing taking responsibility for those under our charge? Have we taken responsibility for the problems in our marriage? While not all the sins in the marriage may be ours, the responsibility for the state of the marriage is – and so we need to take responsibility and, like Paul, move our marriage toward greater Christ likeness. Have we taken responsibility for the problems in our children? While their sins are not our own, their growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ is our responsibility – we are to be shepherding them, directing them, correcting them, warning them, counseling them – the very thing that Paul is doing in our text, “as my beloved children, I warn you.”

And what of you others? Have you considered the weight that is upon the shoulders of your husband or your parents? And have you made that weight a joy or a burden? Wives, are you a crown of glory or a ball and chain?
• Better to dwell in the wilderness, Than with a contentious and angry woman. (Pr 21:19)
• Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. (Pr 31:10-11)

Children, are you a joy and delight, or are you a heartbreak and sorrow?
• He who begets a scoffer does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy. (Pr 17:21)
• The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who begets a wise child will delight in him. (Pr 23:24)

Reminded of the call that is upon us as men to take responsibility and as wives and children to make that responsibility a delight, let us kneel and confess that we have failed in our callings.

Hezekiah’s Folly

May 5, 2009 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Responsibility

“So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!’ For he said, ‘Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?’” Isaiah 39:8

Hezekiah is appropriately remembered as one of the great heroes of the Old Testament era. Last week we mentioned that Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, surrounded Jerusalem with his armies and attempted to destroy the city. In this emergency, Hezekiah entrusted himself to the Lord and the Lord delivered Jerusalem in his mercy. But like all biblical heroes other than our Lord Jesus Christ, Hezekiah had his noticeable faults; and these faults became more pronounced with age.

The text before us today illustrates one of these faults. Hezekiah had just committed a severe sin by kowtowing to the envoys who arrived in Jerusalem from Babylon. Rather than once again placing his trust in the Lord and treating the envoys with appropriate discretion, Hezekiah placed his trust in his riches and gave the envoys a royal tour of the entire palace – including the treasury. For his folly, God announced through Isaiah the prophet, the same Isaiah who wrote the book by that name, that due to his folly the kingdom of Judah would fall into the hands of Babylon.

“Hear the word of the Lord,” Isaiah declared, “‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”

What type of response should we expect from a godly man who received such a pronouncement of doom from the voice of the Lord? Would we not expect contrition, repentance, sorrow, confession of guilt? Even unrighteous Ahab, the husband of Jezebel, knew the importance of contrition when hearing a rebuke from the Lord. When told that he would witness the destruction of his own family, Ahab humbled himself and went about in mourning. As a result, God mitigated the punishment, delaying it until after the close of Ahab’s life.

But how does Hezekiah respond? “Hey – that’s good news. Your words, Isaiah, imply that these things are not going to happen while I’m alive, so what does it matter?” Hezekiah response indicates how self-centered his attitude was. Rather than repenting in sackcloth and ashes, and perhaps averting the judgment of God on his posterity, Hezekiah rejoices that he doesn’t have to worry about it personally.

How often our culture thinks and acts and we ourselves think and act in this same self-centered fashion. The current national debt is approximately nine trillion dollars – and yet our representatives are passing additional “stimulus” packages to tax us into prosperity, money going through their hands faster than water. In addition to the skyrocketing national debt, average household debt has reached unprecedented proportions. But our self-centeredness is reflected in more than our pocket books. It is reflected in our attitudes as well. How often do we consider the way in which our actions today will impact the next generation – especially the next generation of our own family? Adultery and covenantal unfaithfulness are rampant, the educational failure is acute, understanding of God’s covenant blessings and curses is all but lost. And yet we comfort ourselves, reasoning, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in our days?”

As we come into the presence of our Lord today, let us not act like Hezekiah. Let us bow before him and confess that we have often failed to consider the way in which our actions will have ramifications for the next generation. Let us kneel together and ask him to forgive our transgression and grant us godly repentance.

No Man Can Tame the Tongue

June 25, 2008 in Bible - NT - James, Meditations, Responsibility, Tongue

James 3:7-8 (NKJV)7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

The last number of weeks we have considered various sins of the tongue – ways in which we can abuse the gift of the tongue and so cause not only others to stumble but ourselves to falter in our pursuit of righteousness as well. The tongue, James tells us, is world of iniquity, and our brief survey of gossip, slander, lying, flattery, and complaining has only scratched the suburbs of one of the smaller cities. Beware the tongue, control the tongue.

But today we move on a bit in James’ text only to be confronted with a quandary. For James has been warning us about the dangers of the tongue presumably so that we will alter our behavior, control our tongue and so bring glory and honor to our Savior. But his declaration in our text today seems to undermine this whole objective. Note what James says.

7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. 8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

If we read this passage carefully we should find ourselves asking, “No man can tame the tongue? Well if no man can tame the tongue what are we doing having this discussion? Why the exhortations, James? If I’m not able to tame my tongue then I’m not responsible to do so, right?” Wrong.

Here we find the biblical authors cutting across the grain of our expectations. The Scriptures simply do not equate ability and responsibility. James holds his readers fully responsible for the use of their tongue – but here we see that he doesn’t assume they have the ability to do what he’s calling them to do.

Well how can that be? How can James hold us accountable for something we can’t even do? The answer is that God created us with the ability to do these things but we rebelled against Him and lost the ability we once possessed. But this does not make us any less responsible.

Imagine, if you will, a father who gives his son a command to mow the yard. But this yard has a special feature. In the midst of the yard is a large pit that, once one falls into, he cannot get out. The father shows his son the yard and exactly how he wants it mowed. He also points to the pit and warns his son to stay away from it. Then the father leaves and the son immediately leaps into the pit prior to mowing the lawn. Is the son still responsible to mow the lawn? Yes. Is he able? No. Is that the father’s fault? No – the son jumped into the pit of his own accord.

This, brothers and sisters, is our state. In our father Adam, we spurned the command of our Lord and ate of the forbidden fruit. Consequently we were plunged into sin and lost the ability we once possessed while still being responsible.

What then is the solution? Is there hope? The only hope is that the Lord himself return, lift us from the pit, forgive us our sin, and restore us to the liberty we lost. Praise be to God that this is the very thing He does when he touches our hearts and calls us to Himself through Christ our Lord.

And so reminded that by nature we have forfeited the ability to do that which God commands and yet remain completely responsible let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord seeking His forgiveness through Christ.