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.

Bear with the Word

October 1, 2017 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - NT - Matthew, Heart, Meditations, Preaching, Word of God

Hebrews 13:22
And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in few words.

Whenever the Word of God is preached and applied, we have the opportunity to respond to it rightly or wrongly. If we respond rightly, then we will, in the words of our text, “bear with the word of exhortation.” When the word of exhortation comes our way, we will receive it, consider it, and respond to it in a way that testifies to the world – “This is the word of God. This is the word of my master. He has commanded and I am obeying. Why? Because this is life itself.” As we respond to the word of exhortation in this way we will bear abundant fruit – in the imagery from the parable of the sower, we will bear thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold. The word of God will utterly transform us.

Yet how often do we respond to the word of exhortation wrongly – not with faith but with unbelief? Rather than “bearing with the word of exhortation,” we harden our hearts and refuse to listen. So how can we know we are hardening our hearts? Consider the other soils that Jesus describes in the parable of the sower.

Some soil was so hard that the seed did not even penetrate the ground but was taken away by the birds, Satan snatched the word before it even took root. Does this picture describe you? When you hear God declaring His will for human relationships or challenging your own prejudices, do you close your ears and silence your conscience? “How dare Christ claim to be the only way to God? How dare Paul say that wives must submit to their husbands?” So you reject God’s law in favor of your opinions. Or, perhaps more subtly, do you start critiquing the minister? “I can’t believe he is speaking this way – as though he is immune from sin.” You see, so long as you point the finger away from your own sin and refuse to bear with God’s word to you, you are hardening your heart. And so some, rather than bearing with the word, reject it, maintaining their own opinions and remaining in unbelief.

But some soil is not quite so hardened; some soil is very fruitful, for a time. The plant springs up quickly giving quite a show of health and vibrancy – but when the sun arises it quickly withers and returns to dust, when trials and hardships come, faith dies. Our initial joy and enthusiasm is replaced with disinterest as the novelty of the faith fades. We listen to the evening news and see the Christian faith ridiculed. We mention our opposition to homosexuality and face angry stares. We speak to our neighbor about Christ and receive the cold shoulder. So we begin to wonder if believing the Scriptures is worth it. Its message begins to sound so old-fashioned, so out of step, so boring. And so rather than bear with the word of exhortation, we become ashamed of it.

Still other soil produces fruit and yet as the seed grows it becomes choked and entangled by weeds; the cares and concerns of the world choke it out. This soil recognizes that the Word is important theoretically but it’s just not relevant. It has very little to contribute to the everyday realities of life. So listening to the Word of God becomes tedious and hum-drum; we begin to question why we’re involved in worship anyway. “I’d much rather explore my sexuality; I’d much rather amass as much money as I can; I’d much rather be out on the beach or watching a movie.” And so, rather than bear with the Word of exhortation, we can scarcely even bear it – sitting inattentively, just waiting for the preacher to get done so we can devote ourselves to what’s really important.

The Word of exhortation comes to you this morning: how are you responding? Have you hardened your heart? Do you reject the word? Are you ashamed? Are you inattentive? Then wake up, give heed and confess your sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, kneel with me as we confess our sins together.

Preach the Word: With Teaching

September 24, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Bible - NT - Hebrews, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Preaching, Word of God

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.

Today we close our series of meditations on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” We consider the last of Paul’s admonitions when he writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” What does Paul mean when he urges Timothy to continue in his work “with teaching”?

Paul’s words remind Timothy that when people enter into the Christian faith, they enter as infants in need of teaching and instruction. We do not enter the Christian faith as mature adults; the Spirit does not magically fill our head with doctrinal truth; rather, teaching is necessary; discipleship is the need of the hour, every hour; for this cause, Christ has appointed teachers in the Church to build up the people of God, instruct them in the Scriptures, and protect them from lies that parade as the truth.

Because of this necessity of teaching, the church has historically insisted that ministers of the Gospel be well-trained prior to entering into ministry. Paul writes, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). This was the pattern. Paul taught Timothy; Timothy was to teach other faithful men; those other faithful men were to teach others. In this way, the work of God would be multiplied and the people of God built up in the knowledge of Christ.

This emphasis on teaching helps us to put Paul’s warnings about knowledge elsewhere in their proper context. For instance, Paul writes to the Corinthians that “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor 8:1). While some have erroneously inferred from Paul’s words that learning doctrine is dangerous at worst or superfluous at best, it is clear that Paul is warning us of the danger of severing knowledge and humility. A true knowledge of God leads to a profound sense of one’s own insignificance and of the magnitude of God’s grace. Teaching is not the problem; learning is not the problem; pride is.

How do we know? Because Paul insists that teaching is necessary. Ministers of the Gospel are to commit themselves to the task of teaching the people of God.

If ministers of the Gospel are to teach the Word of God, then what are Christians to do? Learn the Word of God. Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God…” (5:12). Paul is disappointed in these folks because they had failed to learn what Paul and their elders had striven to teach them. They did not give heed to the teaching.

So what of you? Are you taking seriously Jesus’ call to discipleship, Jesus’ call to become a learner? Do you know your Bible? Do you know basic Christian doctrine? Can you defend the Trinity? Can you articulate what it means to be reconciled to God? If not, then learn.

Reminded this morning that ministers of the Gospel are called to teach God’s people and that all God’s people are called upon to learn, let us acknowledge that we have often neglected our duty. 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 found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word: With all Longsuffering

September 17, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Church History, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Meditations, Preaching, Truth, Word of God

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.

For the last several weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.” A few weeks ago, we began looking at the series of imperatives that Paul gives to explain his charge. Paul writes, “Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Today we consider Paul’s admonition to continue in this effort “with all longsuffering.”

The Greek word translated “longsuffering” can mean patience, fortitude, or forbearance. Paul wants Timothy to continue preaching without growing weary or being dissuaded. He is to stick to the task, be faithful to his calling, whether folks desire to listen to him or not. Paul warns Timothy in the next couple verses (4:3-4):
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Timothy must persevere, he must be patient, for he will face opposition. People will – in this great phrase – heap up for themselves teachers who tell them what they want to hear, who soothe their consciences and who turn away from the truth to fables. But, ultimately, Paul wants Timothy to remember, the truth will prevail and so Timothy must persist in His calling.

It was this firm confidence that buoyed John Wyclif during the 14th century in England. Facing much opposition and criticism for his critique of the pope, his emphasis on the authority of Scripture, and his proclamation of the grace of God, Wyclif persevered, he taught with much longsuffering. What gave him confidence? “Magna est veritas,” he wrote, “et praevalebit.” Great is the truth and it shall prevail.

The reason Wyclif had such confidence in the power of the truth to overcome all obstacles is because God had promised that His Servant, our Lord Jesus, would not fail, in the prophet Isaiah’s words, to “bring forth justice to the Gentiles” (42:1d). This Servant, continues Isaiah, “will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law” (42:4). Jesus will so labor that the truth become fully manifest. So the Apostle Paul assures us that Jesus “must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:25-26). Great is the truth and it shall prevail – or, perhaps better, He shall prevail.

This same patience demanded of preachers of the Gospel is to be practiced by the hearers of the Gospel as well. Paul reminds us that “faith comes from hearing” (Rom 10:17) and asks, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” But sometimes the preacher is unclear; sometimes we have had a rough evening the night before; sometimes the ambient noise is annoying; sometimes the preacher’s mannerisms are distracting; sometimes his voice is too quiet; sometimes his appearance is off-putting. What is your calling then? It is to listen to the Word preached with all longsuffering – to listen for the voice of Your Master, Jesus, in the voice of the preacher and to apply the truth, as best as you are able, to your own life.

And so reminded that we are to pursue patience and persistence in the preaching and hearing of the truth, must we not acknowledge that we often give up too soon, we often boil over in frustration, we often permit ourselves to grow distracted, we often lack patience? Let us, therefore, confess our impatience to the Lord; and, as we are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Preach the Word!

August 6, 2017 in Bible - NT - 2 Timothy, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Preaching, Word of God

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.

This morning witnesses the happy confluence of several different streams. First, as you know I am returning to preaching today following my month out of the pulpit in July – and it is good to be back. Second, as you have no doubt noticed, we are blessed to have a new pulpit up front. This is the fruit of much urging and planning and craftsmanship and we are grateful to dedicate it to the Lord’s service. Finally, today happens to be the 10th anniversary of my full-time preaching at Trinity Church. Ten years ago this Sunday I began preaching in Coeur d’Alene. Today’s sermon is around number 435.

So the elders thought it fitting that the exhortation this morning (1) remind us why we place such emphasis on preaching the Word and (2) summon us to a renewed commitment to the Word. So why do we devote such attention to preaching and learning the Word? Quite simply because Paul commands it. Note his exhortation to Timothy: Preach the Word! The imperative here is not a one-time duty but a perpetual obligation; not the, “Pick up that towel!” of your mom who saw your towel on the bathroom floor, but the, “Stand up straight!” of your dad who saw you slouching. Do it now and keep doing it!

Paul commands Timothy, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season.” Preach the Word in the times of Nehemiah when the people are rejoicing to do the will and work of God – those are the “in season” times. Thankfully, I can report that at Trinity Church we have experienced years of this “in season.” You have joyfully listened to the Word of God and routinely asked for more pointed application of the Word to your specific situations. Praise God!

But Paul called Timothy to preach not only in the times of Nehemiah but in the times of Jeremiah – times when the people are hard-hearted and uninterested in the Word of God. Unfortunately, preaching the Word is “out of season” in our broader culture, even within our broader Christian culture. Rather than receive God’s Word preached in faith, kneeling before Him as our rightful Lord and endeavoring to implement His precepts, we raise our fists and declare that God and His Christ will not reign over us. “You can’t preach that,” we say. So we accumulate to ourselves preachers who tickle our ears rather than challenge our hearts.

And so we pray this morning that this pulpit may ever be used for the faithful preaching of the Word of God. May the Spirit of God so move those who preach behind it with a reverence for God and His Christ, that no syllable be expressed save that which fosters the worship of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May the Word preached from this pulpit soften hardened hearts, comfort afflicted souls, and enlighten darkened minds that the glory of God may be displayed to our entire community. And may this pulpit’s stain fade away, its wood rot, and its seams burst should it become an instrument of advocating falsehood.

Reminded this morning of our calling to preach and to listen to the Word of God with reverence, let us confess that we have often hardened our hearts, closed our ears, and handed our pulpits over to false teachers rather than listen to the voice of the Sovereign Lord. 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.

Why shouldn’t you get rebaptized?

July 31, 2017 in Baptism, Ecclesiology, John Calvin, Quotations, Sacraments, Word of God

There are actually many answers to this question – but consider the following from John Calvin:

“Our opponents ask us what faith we had for many years after our baptism, in order to show that our baptism was in vain, since baptism is not sanctified to us except by the word of promise received in faith. We answer that although we were blind and unbelieving for a long time and did not embrace the promise which had been given us in baptism, yet the promise itself, since it was from God, always remained steady, firm, and true. If all men were false and liars, still God continues to be true; if all men were lost, still Christ remains a Savior. We confess, therefore, that when we totally neglected the promise offered to us in baptism, without which baptism is nothing, we received no benefit at all from baptism… Yet we believe that the promise itself never expired…. By baptism God promises the forgiveness of sins and will certainly fulfill the promise to all believers; that promise was offered to us in baptism; let us, therefore, embrace it by faith.”

In short, Calvin reminds us, baptism is not primarily my word to God, my promise to God, but God’s promise to me. Baptism is a visible word. It invites me, summons me to believe the One who has promised to cleanse my sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. The “solution”, therefore, to someone who has not believed his baptism thus far is not to get baptized but to repent and to believe and receive the promise symbolized in that baptism.

Make your pastor’s labor light!

May 31, 2017 in Ecclesiology, Quotations, Sanctification, Word of God, Worship

“In preaching the word there is some toil, and this Paul declares when he says, ‘Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.’ (1 Tim. v. 17) Yet it is in your power to make this labor light or heavy; for if you reject our words, or if without actually rejecting them you do not show them forth in your works, our toil will be heavy, because we labor uselessly and in vain: while if ye heed them and give proof of it by your works, we shall not even feel the toil, because the fruit produced by our labor will not suffer the greatness of that labor to appear. So that if you would rouse our zeal, and not quench or weaken it, show us, I beseech you, your fruit, that we may behold the fields waving with corn and being supported by hopes of an abundant crop, and reckoning up your riches, may not be slothful in carrying on this good traffic.” 

John Chrysostom, Sermon on John 2:4.

Venerate the Word of God

February 2, 2017 in Authority, Ecclesiology, John Calvin, Quotations, Word of God

“What has a Christian man to do with that prevaricating obedience, which, while the Word of God is licentiously contemned, yields its homage to human vanity? What has he to do with that contumacious and rude humility, which despising the majesty of God, only looks up with reverence to men? Have done with empty names of virtue, employed merely as cloaks for vice, and let us exhibit the thing itself in its true colors. Ours be the humility which, beginning with the lowest, and paying respect to each in his degree, yields the highest honor and respect to the Church, in subordination, however, to Christ the Church’s head; ours the obedience which, while it disposes us to listen to our elders and superiors, tests all obedience by the Word of God; in fine, ours the Church whose supreme care it is humbly and religiously to venerate the Word of God, and submit to its authority.”

John Calvin, Letter to Sadoleto, p. 75.

The Public Reading of Scripture

January 16, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - OT - Nehemiah, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Tradition, Word of God
Nehemiah 8:5, 8
“Ezra opened the book [of the law] in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. . . . They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.”
Every church has traditions. They are unavoidable. They span from the type of music used in worship, to the clothes the preacher wears, to the time the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. Every church has traditions.
This realization should cause us some concern. For when we read the Gospels we know that Jesus issues some severe admonitions about the dangers of tradition. He warns that our traditions can become subtle or not-so-subtle ways to disobey the commandments of God.
It is refreshing, therefore, when we read the Word of God and behold faithful traditions which have been established by the people of God in the past–traditions which do not violate but rather uphold the commandments of God. Such are the traditions in our text today from Nehemiah. There are three.
First, Ezra read from the book of the law. The law or Word of God, we are told repeatedly, is our wisdom, understanding, and life. It is this Word that conveys to us the truth of God and that is used by the Spirit of God to enliven us spiritually. Therefore, what better way to testify to this life transforming power of God’s Word than to read the Scriptures publicly in our worship?
Second, notice that in reading the Law, Ezra read it is such a way that the word was “translated to give the sense.” Have you ever wondered why we don’t read the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek during our Sunday worship? Have you ever wondered why the Reformers objected to the Roman Church’s practice of reading the word of God exclusively in Latin? Here is your answer. When the law is read aloud, it is to be read in a manner which the people of God can understand. We must not erect traditions of language which preclude the people of God from accessing His Word. And so, our tradition is that we read the Word of God in English translation.
Third, notice that when Ezra opened the book of the law, the people of Israel stood up. Standing communicates respect, attentiveness, eagerness, and determination. It is, after all, at the most intense moments of an athletic competition that the spectators stand on their feet, on their tiptoes, straining to see the action. And when we stand for the reading of the Word we are communicating that here is one of the most central moments of worship. God is speaking to us—not through the frail mouth of the preacher, not through the symbolism of the sacrament, but through the living words of the text directly.
The tradition of reading the Word of God week in and week out, therefore, upholds the centrality of God’s Word in our worship and lives. The Word of God is that which gives us focus, meaning, and direction. Apart from it we are no more than a rudderless ship. So Paul commands Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (ESV, 1 Tim 4:13).
What then is to be our response to the reading? First, we are told in Nehemiah 8:3 that “all the people were attentive to the book of the law.” And this is our first obligation. We should be straining our ears to hear the words of the living God. Our ears should be attentive; all our being should be focused on God’s revelation of Himself.
Second, we should determine to give heed to that which we hear. We are told in the 12th verse of this same chapter that “all the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.” Having read the law’s regulations on the Feast of Booths, the people immediately set out to obey it. The people understood the law and gave heed to it.

This reminds us that we often fail to give heed God’s Word as we ought. Our attention is often distracted when it is read. Our own opinions often intrude. Our heart often refuses to obey when we have heard. So let us draw near to God and ask Him to cleanse us of our faults.