Beware your enemies; Be loyal to your friends.

October 27, 2019 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Confession, Covenantal Living, Human Condition, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification, Satan

1 Kings 2:5-9 (NKJV)
And David charged his son Solomon, saying,
“Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. 6 Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. 7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother. 8 “And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.”

Last week we noted that David urged Solomon to “show himself a man.” This manliness would reveal itself in two ways: robust obedience to God’s law given through Moses and conscious dependence upon God’s promises given to David. Today David gives Solomon two more charges that highlight what it means to be a man. On the one hand, David urges Solomon to beware his enemies. And, on the other hand, he urges Solomon to be loyal to his friends.

First, David urges Solomon to beware his enemies. David had left behind him some unfinished business which could pose potential problems for Solomon’s reign – Joab who was a murderer and Shimei who was a traitor. And so David exhorts Solomon, “Show yourself a man! Take care of these men. Don’t ignore them and pretend that they will go away. Deal with them.” In the ensuing history, Solomon shows himself a man by fulfilling the charges his father had given him – both Joab and Shimei are executed for their crimes.

David’s charge reminds us that a good and righteous man often faces enemies. He cannot be liked by everyone. To be a friend of God is to be at enmity with all those who hate Him. “Your enemies [O Lord] take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? and do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies” (Ps 139:20b-22). The man of God reckons God’s enemies his own. Because of this, he must be prepared to deal with these enemies wisely and justly. The world, the flesh, and the devil are hostile to our cause and, like Joab and Shimei, should be given no quarter. A righteous man considers in himself how to overcome these enemies; he puts on the full armor of God so that he may be able to stand in the evil day. The righteous man stands and fights against the enemies of God.

David not only charges Solomon to beware his enemies, he also reminds him to be loyal to his friends. “Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother.” David’s words remind us that a godly man not only hates, he also loves. He loves God and he loves his friends. Solomon would later write in Proverbs, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend…” (27:10). Do not be like Absalom who betrayed his father for power; do not be like Judas who betrayed our Lord for money; do not be like Samson who betrayed his people Israel for love of a woman. Be like Jesus – ever loyal to His Heavenly Father and willing to endure all things, even death, out of loyalty to His friends, to us.

So what of you? Men, have you identified your enemies and determined to fight against them? Have you identified your friends and remained loyal to them? Women, have you stood by those who are willing to make enemies for the Gospel’s sake? Welcomed the reminders of your husbands to remain loyal to God’s people and not to desert them when hurt or offended? Reminded this morning that true manliness consists in a willingness to make enemies and in a tenacious loyalty to one’s friends, let us kneel and confess that we have often failed in both respects. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Utter Debasement

September 22, 2019 in Abortion, Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Children, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Creation, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin, Temptation

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. Paul reminds us that unbelief never remains isolated in the head and the heart; it inevitably bears fruit. Over time, unbelief degenerates into idolatry, immorality, homosexuality, and thence into utter debasement and societal instability; its fruit is barbarism whereas the fruit of faith is civilization.

Today we begin to examine the descent into utter debasement and societal instability. God is just. Therefore, when we refuse to repent in the face of widespread idolatry, immorality, and homosexuality, when, in Paul’s words, we do not like to retain God in [our] knowledge, then God hands us over to our sin. He gives us over, Paul writes, to a debased mind… This debased mind then reveals itself in the practice of those things which are not fitting.

So what does Paul mean by a debased mind? A debased mind is one that is adulterated, corrupted, twisted. It is the type of mind that argues that no-fault divorce is good for society and good for children; it is the type of mind that believes we can increase wealth by confiscating others’ rightful property; it is the type of mind that defends pornography as freedom of expression; it is the type of mind that cannot distinguish a boy from a girl; it is the type of mind that imagines that having drag queens read to little children and groom them for sexual exploitation is praiseworthy; it is the type of mind that thinks coercing people to make cakes for sodomite unions is just; it is the type of mind that thinks it is merciful to permit mentally confused people to change their sex on their birth certificate.

A debased mind, in other words, is a mind that has lost its moral compass. In our case, succumbing to the internal logic of relativism, our debased mind no longer has the ability to distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, or kindness from cruelty. “A righteous man,” Solomon notes in Proverbs 12:10, “has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” Societies that rebel against God eventually lose what used to be called “common sense”; God gives them over to a debased mind.

When God hands a people over to a debased mind, that debased mind begins to manifest itself in action. We do those things that are not fitting, that do not reflect our true glory as men and women made in the image of God. We were created to rule over the world in righteousness, faithfulness, and truth; to erect civilizations to the glory and honor of God. But a debased mind degenerates into barbarism, cruelty, injustice, and dishonor.

In coming weeks, we will explore these actions in more detail. For now, suffice it to say that our dishonorable actions are the outworking of our debased mind. Our debased mind is the root; the dishonorable actions are the fruit. Therefore, what is our calling as the people of God? What is your calling as a follower of Christ? Paul commands in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Your calling is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, to study the Word of God and permit it to shape your mind anew, so that you can begin to practice that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

So what of you? Are you conforming yourself to the world or are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind? If you are not being transformed, if you are not purposely renewing your mind through study of and meditation upon the Word of God, then let me assure you that you are being conformed. Transform or conform – those are the only options.

Reminded that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, let us confess that we are often conformed to the world instead. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Homosexuality

September 15, 2019 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Sexuality, Sin, Sovereignty of God

Romans 1:26–27 (NKJV)

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. We have seen that when peoples rebel against the Living God, that unbelief never remains isolated in the head and the heart. Unbelief inevitably works itself out into idolatry and thence into immorality, then into unnatural homosexual lusts, and, finally, into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, barbarism is the fruit of unbelief while civilization is the fruit of faith.

Today we examine the descent into unnatural homosexual lusts. Paul writes, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions…” In other words, when groups of people fail to repent in the face of widespread sexual immorality and its devastating consequences, then the just God hands them over to even more degrading practices. As we emphasized last week, not all sins are equal. Some sins are more heinous in the sight of God than others. Among these more heinous sins is that of unnatural homosexual lust and behavior. Paul writes clearly, “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful…” Despite attempts to reinterpret Paul, it is clear that he is addressing homosexual longings and acts among both women and men. A woman who pursues another woman sexually or a man who pursues another man sexually is committing a grievous sin.

So why is homosexual desire and behavior so sinful? First, Paul insists that it is against nature. “…women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman…” Both lesbianism and sodomy are affronts to the God who made mankind both male and female, who made men to respond sexually to women and women to respond sexually to men. To indulge in same sex attraction or acts is to rebel against one’s very nature as male or female and, hence, to rebel against the God who created one male or female.

Therefore, second, Paul describes this behavior as shameful: “…men with men committing what is shameful.” While a man who lusts over a woman or a woman over a man is committing a grave sin, their sin, distorted though it is, reflects their underlying nature; it is a sin that can have a lawful outlet in matrimony. And, as Paul reminds us, the marriage bed is undefiled (Heb 13:4), sanctified to the glory and honor of the Creator. The homosexual bed, however, whether united in a faux (fake) marriage or not, is always and in every situation shameful and degrading. There is no lawful outlet for homosexual longings.

Therefore, homosexual longings are, in Paul’s assessment, vile passions. They are passions, that is, desires that dwell in the heart; and it is from these desires in the heart, Jesus tells us, that sins emerge (cf. Mk 7:21). Homosexual acts are but the fruit of homosexual desires – and it is the desires that are, in Paul’s words, vile – the Greek word means infamous, dishonorable, reproachful, disgraceful. They are passions which can never be lawfully fulfilled. And so the passions themselves, as well as the acts which proceed from them, must be confessed as sin and forsaken.

Because these passions are vile, God faithfully reveals their character even to those who practice them. How does He do so? Paul writes that the practitioners receive in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” God visits those who practice these sins with troubled consciences, mental disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases, and, in so doing, calls them to repent, to turn from darkness and return to the light.

But we as a people have not heeded these calls to repentance, have we? Our entertainment industries thrust such perversions upon us; our media outlets increasingly praise perverse sexual behaviors; major businesses tout their allegiance to gay pride; the Supreme Court of the United States has compelled the States to recognize same sex unions in Obergefell; and even our own city forbids business owners and others from “discriminating” against perverse sexual behavior. We are guilty.

As we come into the presence of the Lord, therefore, let us lead our culture in the way of confession. Let us acknowledge our sin and pray that God would have mercy upon us, enabling us to embrace our identity as male or female and escape our coming judgment. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Immorality

September 8, 2019 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Confession, Depravity, Evangelism, Hell, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Providence, Sexuality, Sin, Temptation

Romans 1:24–25 (NKJV)

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. When peoples reject the Living God, they descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. As we have noted, Paul insists that civilization is the fruit of faith whereas barbarism is the fruit of unbelief.

Today we examine the descent into immorality. Individuals are notoriously and, at times, gloriously inconsistent. We act in ways at odds with what we profess to believe. Consequently, you can have an unbelieving neighbor who is a remarkably kind, gracious, and pleasant fellow and a believing acquaintance who is a narrow, caustic, and unpleasant one. Individuals are frequently inconsistent.

But groups of people, cultures, are always consistent with their most basic presuppositions; they always begin to act in a way consistent with their most fundamental and cherished beliefs. And one of the consistent outworkings of unbelief and idolatry is sexual immorality, sexual rebellion. A survey of the idolatrous cultures of the world illustrates this: among the Canaanites, for example, two of the most prominent deities were Baal and Asherah, fertility gods whose rites included mass orgies. In Rome, one of the most popular cults was that of the phallus, the male reproductive organ. And you are no doubt aware of the many cult prostitutes who served patrons at the various pagan shrines. Idolatry degenerates into immorality: pornography, fornication, adultery, polygamy, concubinage, prostitution, voyerism, sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, ad nauseam.

Why? Well consider America’s descent into public immorality that sprouted in the 1960s and has continued to grow to the present. The form of idolatry in Western Civilization is secularism and its dominant story line is Darwinism or macro-evolution. According to Darwinism, men are but sophisticated animals, in no way unique and in no way accountable to our Creator. Indeed, we are self-created and determine our own purpose. Since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, American society has increasingly absorbed this presupposition, this basic belief.

In Paul’s words, “we exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” You see, if we acknowledge that there is a glorious and incorruptible God who has created us in His image to use our bodies with honor and to respect the sexuality of our neighbors, then we will strive to display the glory of God in our sexual conduct. This was once our most cherished belief as a people. But we rejected this truth; we embraced the lie that we are just animals. And what has happened? God has given us over to our lie: we have begun to act like animals and to follow our baser instincts. We have declared that restrictions on sexual behavior are no more than prudery, hold-overs of an uptight generation. Dishonoring our bodies? That’s silly! Sex is just a natural and necessary function like breathing. Honor is irrelevant.

Paul’s words remind us that ideas have consequences. Groups of people always act consistently with their most cherished beliefs; God is not mocked. What a man sows, what a culture sows, that will he also reap. And when we begin to reap the terrible harvest – the immorality itself, the battered women, the abused children, the aborted babies, the STDs, the mental illnesses – that harvest is God’s wake up call, God’s summons to repent and return to Him.

But we have not done so, have we? We have doubled down on the lie. So this morning, as we enter into the presence of the Lord of glory, let us lead our culture in the way of confession. Let us acknowledge our sin and pray that God would have mercy upon us, enabling us to treat one another with honor and integrity again. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Heart of Unbelief

August 11, 2019 in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Confession, Eschatology, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics

Romans 1:18–23 (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

When nations apostatize and reject the Living God, they imagine that they can do so with impunity. They say, “The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand” (Ps 94:7). But this is a delusion. God sees and understands – and, as the Righteous Judge, He deals with these peoples in a predictable manner, a manner that Paul outlines in Romans 1. Peoples who reject the Living God descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, civilization is the fruit of faith whereas barbarism is the fruit of unbelief.

Paul begins his discussion of God’s dealings with unbelieving man at the fountainhead: unbelief itself. God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men because all men know God and yet they suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness. This is why, Scripturally speaking, the dilemma of the ignorant native who has never heard the Gospel and who is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus is fictitious. The native isn’t guilty for refusing to believe in Jesus – he is guilty because he refuses to listen to his own conscience and to worship the God he knows created him. Our basic problem as human beings is not that we have failed to trust in Jesus for salvation. Jesus is the solution to our problem. Our problem is our sin. We have rebelled against God and we know it.

Paul writes that “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” Even in our unbelief, we all know God and we do two things: first, we refuse to glorify God as God and, second, we refuse to give thanks to Him. So let’s consider these two things.

First, we refuse to glorify God as God. Unbelief fails to worship the God who is worthy of all praise. We will offer praise to sticks and stones; we will bow down before idols of our own devising; we will pray to our ancestors; we will deify the state and look to government to save us; we will act as a law unto ourselves; anything to avoid praising the Living God who has created heaven and earth and who speaks to us in our conscience. In our unbelief, we refuse to glorify God as God.

Second, we refuse to give thanks to God. At its heart, unbelief is ungrateful. We will pretend that all we have and all we are is the gift of some other god, or the fruit of our own labor, or the gift of the fatherland, or an inheritance from family, or a random happen-chance; anything to avoid giving thanks to the Living God who has given us life, breath, and all things. In our unbelief, we refuse to give thanks to God.

So if the heart of unbelief is a refusal to worship God as God and a refusal to give Him thanks, then what ought to characterize those who claim to believe? The heart of belief is a willingness to glorify God as God – to worship Him faithfully – and to give thanks to Him for all His many gifts. And this is why we have gathered here this day. We have gathered to glorify God as God and to give Him thanks.

So as we gather in His presence, if you have lived thus far in unbelief, refusing to glorify God as God and refusing to give Him thanks, then let me urge you to repent, to confess your sin in Jesus’ Name, and to seek God’s forgiveness – Jesus is the solution to your problem. If, on the other hand, you have already believed, then let us too bow before our God in humility, acknowledging that we often fail to glorify Him as is His due and to give Him thanks as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins to Him. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Prayer for the Church Family in America

May 2, 2019 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Ecclesiology, Holy Spirit, King Jesus, Law and Gospel, Mosaic Law, Politics, Sacraments, Ten Commandments, Wisdom, Word of God

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Our local Pastors’ Association coordinates an event in our city at which various pastors briefly pray for our families, our churches, and our communities and leaders (local, state, federal). I was tasked to pray for the Church Family in America and given the following Scripture as my theme:

Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

Almighty and Everlasting Father,

You are good, You do good, and You are worthy of praise. You have not abandoned us Your people but have revealed Yourself in Your most holy word. Your law is holy, righteous, and pure, beloved of all those who put their hope in You. Our Lord Jesus knew that Your law is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path; so He Himself delighted in Your law, rejoiced in Your precepts, and meditated upon Your commandments day and night. He was filled with the Spirit of wisdom and of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. Likewise, He summoned us, as His people, to walk in the light of Your Word. “If you keep My commandments,” He said to our fathers on the night He was betrayed, “you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (Jn 15:10).

But, Father, we Your people have not feared You as we ought; we have despised Your commandments; we have substituted our own opinions of what is good and right for Your most holy Word; we have preached cheap grace, “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ;” we have preached “forgiveness without repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession of sins.” Holy Father, have mercy upon Your Church and grant us repentance; unite us together in a most holy love for You, for Your Son Jesus, for Your Word, and for one another, that together as one body we might praise Your Name forever and ever,

Amen.

*The words in quotations are from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Restoration to Fellowship

February 17, 2019 in Authority, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Confession, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Responsibility, Sin

2 Corinthians 2:5–11 (NKJV)

5 But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. 6 This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

For the last couple weeks we have been studying Matthew 18, in part to prepare for today. We have seen that Jesus teaches us to deal with our brother’s sin compassionately and to rejoice over the one lost sheep who is restored to the fold. Today the elders have the privilege of restoring a lost sheep to worship and to the Lord’s Supper. We are pleased to report that after —- sin was exposed, he responded by confessing his sin and professing repentance. For the last few months he has been walking out this repentance and has humbly submitted to the discipline of the church. He has sought the forgiveness of those he has wronged, has developed a plan for accountability and growth, and has striven to reconcile with his wife. Therefore, based on his profession of repentance and the fruit that has accompanied that profession, the elders rejoice to restore him.

Paul provides us guidance for this action in our text today. Paul had written to the Corinthians commanding them to censure a man in their congregation who was committing sexual sin. The Corinthians acted on Paul’s command and inflicted a fitting punishment upon him – they suspended him from the Supper. It appears that after they disciplined him the man was moved to repentance. Consequently, in our text today, Paul urges them to forgive the man and to restore him to fellowship in the body. Paul writes, “you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”

Jay Adams notes that the “word reaffirm is a specialized term… meaning to officially reinstate.” As part of the restoration process, therefore, the elders want to give you opportunity to reaffirm your love for —— and to assure him that he is forgiven and welcomed back into the congregation. Hence, we have asked him to come up front, to confess his sin to you here in the assembly, and to seek your forgiveness. At the conclusion of his letter, I will invite you to reaffirm your love for him; to declare loudly and thankfully, “You are forgiven. Alleluia!”

Form for Readmission to Fellowship:

Public Confession

Pastor: Brothers and sisters, this sheep that was lost has been found and restored to the fold. So let us reaffirm our love for him.

Congregation: You are forgiven! Alleluia!

Officer Prayer

Family of God, moments such as this remind us how great the Father’s love is for His flock. He forgives us and removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west, He remembers our sins no more. Though our sins be like scarlet, yet, through the shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ, He makes them white as snow, white as wool. He grants us forgiveness freely and fully so that we can, in turn, forgive one another. And so, reminded of the greatness of His love and the freeness of His forgiveness, let us all together confess our sins to the Lord and seek His face. 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.

Restoring a Brother in Sin

February 10, 2019 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Children, Confession, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Meditations, Parents, Sanctification, Sin

Galatians 6:1 (NKJV)

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

In our sermon today, we continue our study of Matthew 18. Last week we saw that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is he who deals with his own sin relentlessly and who deals with his brother’s sin compassionately. The truly great disciple is the one who realizes how much he has been forgiven by God and who therefore extends to his brethren the same grace that God has extended to him. As Jesus teaches in Matthew 7, he removes the plank from his own eye before attempting to remove the speck from his brother’s.

So notice that in our text today Paul insists on this same thing: it is he who is spiritual who is in a position to help a sinning brother. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness… The spiritual man who has removed the plank from his own eye, who has dealt with his own sin relentlessly, is in a position to remove the speck from his brother’s eye, is able to deal with his brother’s sin compassionately.

So what does it mean to deal with our brother’s sin compassionately? We will explore that in more detail in our sermon. However, Paul gives us the basic outline. We are to restore our brother when he is ensnared in sin. We are to pursue him even as the shepherd pursues the one lost sheep. And how are we to pursue him? Paul tells us that we are to do so in a spirit of gentleness. Webster defines gentleness as “mildness of temper; sweetness of disposition; meekness; kindness; benevolence.” Knowing how much the Lord has forgiven us, knowing the way in which God in Christ has pursued us as lost sheep ourselves, we are to pursue our brother in kind.

We must be careful, however, that we not mistake a spirit of gentleness for a spirit of indifference or foolishness. After all, Paul tells us that while restoring our brother, we are to consider ourselves “lest you also be tempted.” Satan would like nothing more than to tempt us into sin so that rather than help our brother who is overtaken in a trespass we join him there.

So, parents, consider your calling to restore your disobedient children. When your child disobeys you, your calling is to restore him to fellowship with God and with you in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. But here’s the dilemma we often face: when we are qualified to restore our child we are often disposed to overlook his disobedience but when we are zealous to discipline him it is often because we are not qualified. What do I mean by this?

Well imagine that you come home from a great day at work or you wake up from a particularly great night’s sleep. You’re walking faithfully with the Lord and well with your spouse. Everything is right with the world. Then junior decides to disobey you – defying a clear command that you have given. You are qualified to discipline. What’s your temptation? Your temptation is to let the disobedience pass. But what should happen? You should thank God for the opportunity to discipline your child and you should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

But now imagine a different day – it was a stressful day at work, you had a terrible night’s sleep, you and your spouse just had an argument and you haven’t read your Bible in a couple days. You are on edge and junior decides to disobey you. You are not qualified to discipline. But what’s your temptation? Your temptation is to bear down on him with both barrells blazing. But what should happen? You should repent of your disqualification and then discipline your child in a spirit of gentleness. After all, your calling is to restore him not traumatize him.

And so reminded that we are to restore a brother who is overtaken in a trespass in a spirit of gentleness, that we are to deal with their sin compassionately, let us confess to the Lord that we often show indifference to those in sin or that we treat them harshly. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

Put Away All Bitterness

February 3, 2019 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Confession, Grace, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness

Ephesians 4:31–32 (NKJV)

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

In our sermon today, we begin a study of Matthew 18. Jesus answers the question, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” As part of His answer, Jesus insists that the greatest in His kingdom is the one who deals with his own sins relentlessly and who deals with the sins of others compassionately. The truly great disciple is the one who realizes how much he has been forgiven by God and who therefore extends to his brethren the same grace that God has extended to him. As Paul commands the Ephesians in our text, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. God’s treatment of us is the foundation for our treatment of one another.

Consequently, Paul commands us to put away from ourselves all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice. Our attitude toward one another, our treatment of one another, is to be governed by the grace that God has extended to us. We are to deal with the sin of others compassionately. But we cannot do that if we are harboring bitterness and its evil sisters in our hearts. So what is bitterness and why is it imperative for us to rid ourselves of it?

Bitterness is hard to identify because of an optical illusion. Let us say that I explode at my spouse and then I feel sorry. Is that bitterness? No. That is guilt. Guilt is what I experience when I sin, when I wrong someone else. So what is bitterness? Bitterness is what I experience when others offend me. So my spouse explodes at me. Am I guilty? No. But let’s say I get upset and I begin to stew on their outburst, going over and over the details in my mind. What’s happening? I’m becoming bitter. But notice the optical illusion. When I’m guilty, what is it that I’m thinking about? My own sin. I yelled at my spouse; I shouldn’t have done that. But when I’m bitter, what am I thinking about? I’m thinking about your sin: you yelled at me; you shouldn’t have done that. And the more bitter I become, the more I stew over the matter, the more I am focused upon what? You and your sin. I am not focusing upon myself; I am not focusing upon my bitterness; I can’t even see it. That is why bitterness creates an optical illusion.

But make no mistake: bitterness is a sin and bitterness is my sin. The occasion of bitterness is the action of another; but the bitterness itself is my sin. It is my sinful response to someone else’s sin – or at least to a perceived wrong that I have suffered from them. And Paul commands me, he orders me, to put away all bitterness. In Hebrews Paul identifies bitterness as a root – it is an internal motivation that begins tainting all my actions. Therefore, I must repent. I must look squarely at my bitterness, cease making excuses for it, and confess it to the Lord. I must put away all bitterness; I must cease excusing it.

You see, if I do not deal with bitterness, my bitterness will deal with me. The bitter man treats his brother’s sin relentlessly. The bitter man declares, “How dare he do that to me? I will not forgive.” Consequently, the bitter man is not in a position to forgive his brother as he has been forgiven by God. His bitterness is killing his soul. Someone once quipped that a bitter person is like a man who consumes a box of rat poison and waits for the rat to die – he consumes the poison and thinks that that will harm the rat. But it won’t. Bitterness destroys the one who is bitter; like acid it corrodes the container it’s carried it.

So what of you? Are you bitter? What wrong, real or perceived, have you suffered and do you now find yourself stewing upon? What is it that is consuming your heart? Remember the optical illusion. If you are stewing upon something, take your eyes off their sin and turn them to your own, turn them to your bitterness and repent.

Reminded that we are to put away from ourselves all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice, and that we often harbor these things in our hearts instead, let us confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord.