Whatever Things are Pure

October 30, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Job, Bible - OT - Psalms, Holy Spirit, Justification, Meditations
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and Paul catalogues some of them in our text. So let us meditate on whatever things are pure. To be pure is to be untainted, free from stain, or blameless. Such definitions invite us to ask, “Tainted by what? Stained by what?” The answers to these questions vary depending on the context – but typically to be pure is to be to be free from sin or compromise or dishonor or blame or corruption.

The word behind “pure” is the Greek word hagnos and is closely related to the Greek hagioswhich means “holy.” As with the other virtues we have considered, the foundation for purity is God Himself. God is pure; He is holy; He is free from stain, free from corruption, free from dishonor.

  • “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness…?” (Exodus 15:11)
  • No one is holy like the LORD….” (1 Samuel 2:2)
  • “Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His footstool— He is holy.”(Psalm 99:5)

Because God is pure, the world as He originally created it was pure. “God made man upright but he has sought out many schemes.” (Eccl. 7:29) God made us upright; He made us pure. We were fashioned to worship Him alone not idols; to speak pure words not lies; to be generous not greedy; to be sexually pure not lustful.

In short, God created us to be pure of heart, to practice purity ourselves and to delight in it when we see it in others. “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.”(Psalm 73:1) “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus says, “For they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8). The pure man or woman is one whose motives, thoughts, and actions are free from the pollution of sin. God made us upright; He made us pure.

But we have sought out many schemes. We have tainted the purity with which we were created. We taint the worship of God; taint the service of God. Our motives are often impure; our thoughts impure; our words impure; our actions impure. “If God puts no trust in His [angels], And the heavens are not pure in His sight, How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, Who drinks iniquity like water!” (Job 15:15–16)

When we meditate on the things that are pure, therefore, we find ourselves like the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah saw the glory of God filling the Temple and heard the cherubim crying out to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is filled with Your glory!” Confronted with the purity and holiness of God, Isaiah was immediately made aware of his own impurity. “Woe is me, for I am undone. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips….” I am an impure man – therefore, I am doomed!

Meditating on purity reminds us that there is only One Man who has been completely pure. God did not God abandon us in our impurity. In His mercy and grace, He sent our Lord Jesus Christ as the Second Adam, who came to rescue us, His people, and to reconcile us to Himself. He came so that we who are impure might be declared pure through faith in Him and be restored to fellowship with God. And all those whom He declares to be pure through faith, He then teaches to be pure by the power of His Spirit. The Apostle John tells us that “everyone who has this hope in [Jesus] purifies himself just as He is pure” (1 Jn 3:3). He is restoring the purity of humanity in us and through us. We are to point our unbelieving neighbors to the beauty of purity.

And so reminded of the purity of our Creator and Redeemer and the call that He has placed on us to be pure in heart, let us come into the presence of the Pure One, requesting that He have mercy on our impurity because of the purity of Jesus. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

God’s Compassion in Sufferings

September 7, 2015 in Bible - NT - James, Bible - OT - Ezekiel, Bible - OT - Jeremiah, Bible - OT - Job, Meditations, Providence, Sanctification, Trials
James 5:10-11 (NKJV)
My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
When you think of the compassion and mercy of our Lord, what comes to mind? Perhaps occasions when Jesus stoops down and heals those in pain and anguish? Perhaps occasions when God, despite Israel’s great sin, sends one deliverer after another to rescue them from the predicament that they have gotten themselves into? When we think of God’s compassion and mercy, these are the types of scenarios that come to mind.
But today, James points us to another evidence of God’s compassion and mercy, an evidence that we would be unlikely to see. What is this evidence? The evidence that James cites is the suffering endured by God’s prophets throughout the OT.
Think, for instance, of Jeremiah who is called the weeping prophet – called to bear witness to a people under judgment, his message rejected and refused, he himself thrown into a pit, left for dead, forced to witness the destruction of Jerusalem and dying in exile in Egypt. Take all of this as evidence, James tells us, of the compassion and mercy of the Lord. Think of Ezekiel, taken into exile into Babylon, told to make a fool of himself before his friends, forced to lie on his side for so many days, to play with tinker toys and army men in the city streets as a grown man, forbidden to weep when his wife died. Take all of this, James tells us, as evidence of the compassion and mercy of the Lord. Think of Job, robbed of his family, robbed of his wealth, robbed of his health, lectured by his friends. Take all of this as evidence, James tells us, of the compassion and mercy of the Lord.
Suffering and hardship as evidence of the compassion and mercy of the Lord? What is this? What is James talking about? Evidence of His power, perhaps. Evidence of His inscrutable wisdom, perhaps. Evidence of His mysteriousness, certainly. But evidence of His compassion and mercy? Yes – but in order to see it, we must also see something else. We must see what it is that God is really about in the course of our lives.
You see, if God is all about making us happy, carefree, and successful then suffering is not a sign of God’s compassion – it is a sign only of His discipline and disfavor. But sometimes, James tells us, suffering is a sign of His compassion. Therefore, God is not all about making us happy, carefree, and successful. Rather, His purpose is to make us men and women and children of faith; men and women and children who trust Him, rely upon Him, cling to Him, and obey Him no matter what the circumstance. This is what God is about. And if this is what He is about and if suffering creates us into this kind of people, then truly suffering is a sign of God’s compassion and mercy, is it not? For by suffering God trains us in patience and endurance – the very things James highlights.
So what of you? Have you considered that the sufferings through which God is making you pass right now, and that the sufferings through which He shall have you pass in the future, may be evidences of His compassion and mercy? Or have you instead looked upon them in unbelief, seeing them as evidence of how screwed up the world really is, or how much God hates you, or how little purpose there is in the world?

Reminded of our failure to look upon suffering in faith and even, at times, as a sign of God’s compassion and mercy, let us kneel and confess our sin to Him.

Shall We Not Accept Adversity?

August 17, 2014 in Bible - OT - Job, King Jesus, Meditations, Sovereignty of God, Trials
Job 2:9–10 (NKJV)
9 Then [Job’s] wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Our sermon today considers God’s words to Adam and Eve following our rebellion against God. We will find that the various troubles that exist in the world have their origin in our rebellion. Toil, severe pain, animal suffering, weeds, strife, death – all these things entered the world as a consequence of our rebellion.
But it is important for us to understand, simultaneously, that none of these things took God by surprise or happened apart from His Sovereign control. God is the Lord. He rules over men and nations. Nothing happens apart from His decree, including the Fall.
Consequently, when we face the consequences of living in a fallen world – when, like Job, we begin to suffer: we lose our wealth; our health is compromised; our loved ones die – when these things happen, as Christians we know that they come from the hand of God. As Job reminds his wife, Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? God sends the one as well as the other; the heart of wisdom takes them from His hand and trusts Him in the midst of them.
If you are suffering, be assured that God is still in control, still ordaining and overseeing and governing all things. The question is not, “Has God sent this adversity?” – for we know most certainly that he has. No one can say to Him, what have you done?! The question rather is, “Why has God sent this thing?” Has he sent it because He hates you or because He loves you?
Hear the good news: if you have turned from your sins and sought forgiveness in Christ’s Name; if you serve God through Jesus, then God loves you. He has sent this suffering because He delights in you and delights to show through you the wonder of His power. So trust Him, rely upon Him, and know that not a hair falls from your head without your Father’s say.

Reminded that our God reigns and that he sends even adversity for the good of His chosen people, let us confess that we are often tempted to respond to adversity like Job’s wife; we’re often tempted to curse God. So let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

Pleading the Blood of Christ

December 27, 2010 in Atonement, Bible - OT - Job, Children, Meditations

Job 1:4-5 (NKJV)
4 And his sons would go and feast in their houses, each on his appointed day, and would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.

Several weeks ago we spoke about various things that separate the men from the boys – and one of the things we mentioned is that men take responsibility. They do not point the fingers at others. They do not make excuses. They avoid undue explanations. They take responsibility.

In our text today we observe Job doing this very thing. His children loved one another and so frequently enjoyed a good time feasting and drinking together, celebrating the goodness of God and His kindness in providing them with such largesse. But Job was fully aware that whenever one attempts to honor God in feasting, there are always pitfalls: tempers can flare, indiscretions can be committed, drunkenness can rear its ugly head, relationships can be strained. And so at the conclusion of the feast Job took responsibility for their condition, reminding them of their sacred obligations to serve the Lord and to honor Him, and pleading the blood of Christ on their behalf in the presence of God.

Pleading the blood of Christ? How did he do that? Well note that after the party Job not only sanctified his children – reminded them of their sacred duties and prayed for them – but he also offered burnt offerings “according to the number of them all.” He didn’t leave out any of his children but made a sacrifice for each of them.

So what did these sacrifices mean? In themselves, these sacrifices were worthless and empty. After all, how could the blood of an animal take away the sins of a man? The animal didn’t sin. Man did. We rebelled against God; we transgressed His law; we spurned His authority. The blood of bulls and goats could never truly take away sin and this is why, Hebrews tells us, these sacrifices were repeated again and again and again. Every sacrifice pointed beyond itself, declared the need for the true Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, pointed to our Lord Jesus Christ, the man who would offer Himself in our place.

Every time Job offered up an animal as a burnt offering for his children, this is what he was saying: “God, have mercy on my son ___________ and forgive his sin for I know that Your mercies are everlasting and that one day Your are going to send a Lamb who will truly take away all our sins. So have mercy on my son and forgive him.” This is what he said every time he offered up an animal; he plead the blood of Christ for his children.

So, husbands and fathers, have you plead the blood of Christ on behalf of your families? Plead with God to have mercy upon their sins even as He has had mercy on yours? This is part of what it means to take responsibility for them.

And children, I want you to notice this day the seriousness with which God takes sin. Sin is no light matter. The psalmist reminds us, “But there is forgiveness with You, O Lord, that you may be feared.” Forgiveness of our sin comes at a terrible price – a price that none of us, not one parent, not one child, not one friend, not a collection of them all – forgiveness comes at a price none of us could ever pay. But Jesus paid it. So children, how seriously are you taking your sin? Do you daily plead the blood of Christ for your own sin knowing that all our sin deserves the wrath of God? Do not treat sin lightly – it sent Jesus to the cross.

All these things remind us of our need to confess the seriousness of our sins and to plead the blood of Christ on our behalf. So let us kneel and confess to the Lord.