Household Baptisms

June 21, 2020 in Authority, Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Covenantal Living, Election, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)

31 So [Paul and Silas] said [to the jailer], “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Later in the service I have the privilege of baptizing ——–. Because it has been a while since I baptized a baby and because we have a slew of them arriving, I thought it would be fitting to meditate on the biblical basis of infant baptism. Why do we baptize babies?

As we consider this question, recall that throughout redemptive history God has dealt with His people both as individuals and as families. His covenants, His relationships with His people, are generational. So, in the beginning of creation, God made a covenant with Adam and all those in him (Rom 5:18). At the flood, God covenanted with Noah and his descendants, rescuing his entire household from destruction (Gen 6:18). Similarly, God called Abram and his household out of Ur of the Chaldees and covenanted to bless all the families of the earth through his Seed (Gen 12:3). God made a covenant with David and his descendants, promising that one of David’s sons would always sit upon his throne (2 Sam 7:12). What we see, therefore, is that God characteristically works not just with individuals but with families, with households. And this is why the final promise of the OT is that God will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (Mal 4:6).

It is no surprise, therefore, that generational faithfulness characterizes the new covenant as well. Consider the anticipations of the prophets. Jeremiah prophesied of the day when God would give His people “one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them” (Jer 32:39). Likewise, Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones that come to life closes with the glorious promise, “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes and do them…. and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children forever…” (Ezek 37:24-25a). Similarly, Isaiah promises those who turn in faith to the Messiah: “Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9).

When we turn to the pages of the NT, therefore, we find our Lord Jesus at work not only among adults but among children and infants. He raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead; He cures a father’s son who suffered from epileptic seizures; He listens to the woman of Tyre who pleads on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter; He raises the only son of the widow of Nain; He blesses the little children and even nursing infants who are brought to Him; He welcomes the praise of children in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus ministers to households not just individuals.

Consequently, the Apostles did the same. Notice our text today: Paul and Silas proclaim to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household.” The message they preached to him was the same message that they had preached the day before to Lydia. So, having believed, “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15) just as in our text the jailer “and all his family were baptized.” God deals with households and welcomes us and our children into His church through baptism.

So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. They belong, body and soul, to the Lord Jesus, and have been entrusted by Him to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. So you are called, with your parents, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” (Dt 6:5) and you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).

And so reminded that God deals not just with individuals but also with families, let us confess that we have often neglected our responsibilities as parents and children alike – we parents have neglected to love and train our children as we ought and we children have neglected to love and honor our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Unforgiving

May 10, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Grace, Meditations, Responsibility

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 studying Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are unforgiving.”

It is remarkable, is it not, that Paul puts an unwillingness to forgive in such disreputable company? Paul joins it with these other undesirables: undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. Is being unforgiving really so bad?

Now, of course, we think so when we are on the receiving end of a lack of forgiveness. When we have wronged another, been convicted of our wrong, and then humbled ourselves, apologized, and sought forgiveness, only to be scorned or rejected, we know that being unforgiving is a bad thing. To be unforgiving, we conclude at such moments, is to be proud and disagreeable; it is to fail to see one’s own need for forgiveness from others. Yes, we say to ourselves, being unforgiving should be in that disreputable list.

But when the shoe is on the other foot, we are inclined to delete it from the list, aren’t we? When we are refusing to forgive another, we have a hard time seeing why it is so wrong. We excuse our refusal to forgive. “He wronged me; she mistreated me; she wounded me deeply; he abandoned me; if you only knew how many times he has lied to me; if you only knew how many times she has berated me; if you only knew how often he ignored me; if you only knew…” But Jesus cuts across our excuses, does He not, with the parable of the unforgiving servant?

There was once a servant who owed his king a massive sum, ten thousand talents, a sum that he could never repay. So the king ordered him to be sold with his wife and children and all that he had. But the servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” So the king listened to his plea, had mercy on him, and forgave him all his debt.

But that servant went out and abused one of his fellow servants who likewise was in his debt, though for not nearly as much. His fellow servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” But the servant was not willing; he had him thrown in prison until all was repaid. So his fellow servants reported what he had done to the king and the king was angry. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?” (Mt 18:32-33)

That impulse, that refusal to forgive when others are in our debt, is to forget or to ignore how much we all are in need of forgiveness. So what of you? Are you unforgiving? When folks seek your forgiveness, do you willingly grant it, rejoicing with them in the forgiving grace of God that covers both your sins? Or do you hold on to their sin, nursing it in your heart, letting it fester and grow into bitterness, resentment, anger, and perhaps even revenge?

Reminded of our calling to be a forgiving people, who imitate our Heavenly Father in our treatment of one another, let us confess that we are often unforgiving. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel before the Lord as we seek His mercy. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Untrustworthy

April 26, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Covenantal Living, Judgment, Meditations, Sin, Temptation, Tongue

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 studying Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are untrustworthy.”

To be untrustworthy is to be unreliable, unstable, changeable, or fickle; it is to prove oneself unworthy of trust. To be untrustworthy is a serious character flaw. This is the type of person who makes a promise and fails to keep it; who swears an oath and breaks it; who joins a cause and deserts it. So Solomon compares an untrustworthy man to a bad tooth or a sprained ankle: “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble Is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint” (Prov 25:19). There you were chewing that steak when, “Ow!”, your tooth betrayed you. So the chief cupbearer failed to remember Joseph after Joseph had given him comfort in prison; King Saul failed to obey the word of the Lord when Samuel commanded him to wait to sacrifice; the men of Israel in the prophet Malachi’s day covered their garments with blood by divorcing their wives unjustly; Judas betrayed our Lord with a kiss; all these men were, in varying degrees, untrustworthy.

An untrustworthy character is the fruit of worshiping an untrustworthy god – whether that god is other people, oneself, riches, fame, comfort, etc. Those who are untrustworthy stand upon a rickety platform not a solid rock. “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD’” (Jer 17:5). God alone is a sure and certain rock, an immoveable foundation. Jesus died and rose again to reconcile us to that trustworthy God so that we, in turn, might become trustworthy men and women. As we shall sing in Psalm 62 today (62:5-7):

In silence bide I God alone And He shall hear me from His throne; He is my hope and my salvation. He only is my rock and stay, My fortress and my help for aye, And none shall shake my place and station.

The trustworthy man relies upon his trustworthy God and is not moved by the turmoil about him. He is not “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14) but remains fixed on Christ. So the trustworthy man “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Ps 15:4). While a talebearer reveals secrets, a trustworthy man “conceals a matter” (Pr 11:13). A trustworthy man lets his, “Yes,” be, “Yes,” and his, “No,” be, “No.” He doesn’t look for ways to wriggle out of what he has said. He is faithful to his word, faithful to his wife, faithful to his kids, faithful to his employer, faithful to his church, faithful to his neighbor, faithful to his charge. So God instructs us through the prophet Zechariah:

These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the Lord.”” (Zech 8:16–17)

So what of you? Are you trustworthy? If you’ve promised something, do you fulfill it? If you’ve given your word, do you keep it? If you’ve been given a charge, is it safe with you? Are you like the men the high priest Jehoida chose to receive the offerings for the temple, who didn’t even have to be supervised because they were trustworthy (2 Kgs 12:15)? Or are you untrustworthy? Do you give your word and then look for better, more exciting, or more profitable options?

Reminded of our calling to reflect God’s trustworthy character in our own, let us confess that we have often failed to do so; that we have often violated our oaths and pledges, betrayed the trust of others. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your order of service. As you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

They are Disobedient to Parents

March 8, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Children, Confession, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Ten Commandments

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.

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are disobedient to parents.”

While our broader culture has degraded the authority of parents and often treats rebellion to parents as a minor or routine affair, God treats such disobedience seriously. Obedience to parents forms the foundation of social stability and the first pillar of love to neighbor. If the summary of the second half of the law is to love one’s neighbor as oneself, which it is, then the first pillar of love to neighbor is the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12). To dishonor one’s parents, therefore, is to hate one’s neighbor, undermining God ordained authority structures and forcing the care of elderly parents on others. So our Lord Jesus honored Joseph and Mary and obeyed them. He likewise submitted His own will to the will of His Father in heaven. Thus, Paul exhorts the children in Ephesus, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). Obedience to parents is an essential part of reverence for God.

God takes this obedience so seriously that His law classified violence to parents or incorrigible disobedience to parents as capital crimes, crimes deserving the death penalty (Ex 21:15; Dt 21:18-21). Certain forms of disobedience, in other words, are not just sins but crimes. And Jesus appeals to the criminal nature of such rebellion to rebuke those Jewish leaders who were failing to care for their parents behind a façade of piety to God. “If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’ – (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition…” (Mk 7:11-13).

To serve God faithfully, therefore, is to uphold and revere the authority of parents. Societies that undermine parental authority – whether by treating rebellion as insignificant or by exalting the authority of the state over that of parents or by enabling children to neglect their aging parents – have been handed over to a debased mind and are in danger of yet further judgment.

Let us, therefore, give heed to Martin Luther’s words in his Large Catechism concerning the 5th commandment. He writes:

“You are to esteem and prize [your parents] as the most precious treasure on earth. In your words you are to behave respectfully toward them, and not address them discourteously, critically, and censoriously, but submit to them and hold your tongue, even if they go too far. You are also to honor them by your actions (that is, with your body and possessions), serving them, helping them, and caring for them when they are old, sick, feeble, or poor; all this you should do not only cheerfully, but with humility and reverence, as in God’s sight. He who has the right attitude toward his parents will not allow them to suffer want or hunger, but will place them above himself and at his side and will share with them all he has to the best of his ability.”

So what of you? Children, are you obeying your parents in the fear of the Lord? Adults, are you caring for your aging parents? This is what the Lord would have of us. And so reminded of our call to be obedient to parents and of the disobedience to parents that has come to characterize so much of our society, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Inventors of Evil Things

March 1, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Meditations, Responsibility, 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.

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom the just God has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are inventors of evil things.”

Louw-Nida’s Greek-English lexicon describes the phrase as follows – an inventor of evil things is “one who thinks up schemes or plans of action—‘contriver, inventor, one who thinks up.’ φευρετς κακν ‘they think up ways of doing evil.” They scheme and plot and determine how to do evil.

Consider the case of Queen Jezebel. Ahab was grieved that Naboth would not sell his vineyard to him. So what did Jezebel do? She plotted to do evil. She called a day for public fasting, sat two disreputable men beside Naboth, and then had them accuse Naboth of blasphemy. An accusation of guilt was the same as proof in Jezebel’s kingdom. Naboth was given a shame trial and then summarily executed. Ahab now had his vineyard. Jezebel was an inventor of evil things.

Likewise, the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees were inventors of evil things. When many believed in Jesus because of the witness of Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead, they “plotted to put Lazarus to death” (Jn 12:10). They also plotted against the Lord Jesus Himself. “When morning came,” Matthew tells us, “all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death” (Mt 27:1). Not content to oppose His teaching, they determined to destroy Him. They were inventors of evil things.

Paul too was no stranger to this sin. Angered by those who professed faith in Christ and who preached the Way, he plotted against them. He traveled from city to city, trapping God’s people in their words and persecuting them from house to house. Paul himself had been an inventor of evil things.

But thanks be to God, Paul was delivered from this sin. And the same is true for all those who turn in faith to Jesus Christ and cease rebelling against their Rightful King. When we are in rebellion against Him, we plot and plan and scheme to do evil. We look for occasions to break God’s law or even injure others, to steal their property, seduce their spouse, or damage their reputation. But when God confronts us in our sin and grants us the grace of repentance, then He turns us from being inventors of evil things and transforms us into inventors of good things. We no longer plot to do evil; we plan to do good.

So Joseph of Arimethea orchestrated with Nicodemus to care for Jesus’ body and lay it in his own tomb. Paul coordinated with Barnabas to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor and bring the Gentiles to the knowledge of Christ. St. Augustine no longer stole pears from his neighbor but fed food to the poor. The grace of God transforms us from inventors of evil into doers of good.

So what of you? Have you been plotting and planning and scheming to do evil? Or have you been meditating and planning to do good? Reminded that God would have us to delight in what is good and to plan to put that good into action, let us confess that we often invent evil things and let us seek His forgiveness through Christ. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Proud

February 16, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Heart, Meditations, Responsibility, Sin

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.

Paul’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with proud. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are proud.”

So what is it to be proud? Webster defines proud as, “Having inordinate self-esteem; possessing a high or unreasonable conceit of one’s own excellence, either of body or mind… Arrogant; haughty.” Paul includes the term “proud” not only here in Romans 1 but also in 2 Timothy 3:2 where he writes that in latter times,“men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud…” And Jesus tells us that such pride emerges from a heart that is estranged from God: “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed [among other things] … pride… All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk 7:20, 22).

Pride has reference, first and foremost, to our relationship with God. The sin of our first parents was motivated by pride, believing that they could be God’s equals, determining good and evil. Ever since the Fall, that impulse to be a law unto ourselves has characterized unbelieving man. We are proud.

However, we often strive to conceal our pride. So in our broader, unbelieving culture, we say that the “humble” man is the one who embraces relativism; who refuses to be dogmatic; who keeps a perpetually open mind on moral issues. Christians, therefore, are frequently accused of “pride” for maintaining a fixed moral standard. But the Scriptures maintain that this so-called “humility” is a sham. To stand before Almighty God and to hear His voice speaking truth in the Scriptures and then to say to Him, “Perhaps but perhaps not…” is the essence of pride. It is to repeat the sin of the devil, “Has God indeed said…” The truly humble man is he who hears the Word of God, who believes it in his heart, who obeys it in his life, and who articulates it with his lips. The humble man is willing to stand against a multitude in order to be on the side of God.

But pride not only twists our relationship with God, it also twists our relationships with one another. For instance, the proud man endeavors to avoid submitting to men, refusing to give honor to the lawful authorities God has put in his life. Peter writes, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet 5:5-6). The humble man willingly submits to his parents, his elders, his governors; he welcomes their rule, acknowledging them as God’s instrument in his own life.

Because the proud man stands against God and His word and often rebels against God’s lawful authorities, he incurs the wrath of God. So Mary sings in her Magnificat that God “has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts” (Lk 1:51). They imagine themselves to be God’s equals, capable of determining good and evil for themselves. But God shall scatter them because, as James reminds us, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6).

So what of you? Have you humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God? Determined that His Word shall be the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path? Submitted to His lawful authorities in your life? Or are you kicking against Him? Pushing against His law and repudiating the authorities that He has put over you?

Reminded that God summons us to be clothed with humility, let us acknowledge that we often resist His law and indulge in pride. And, as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of private confession, followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

They are Violent (Insolent)

February 9, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics, Sin, Trials

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.

Paul’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with violent. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are violent.”

The Greek is hubristeis from which we get our English word hubris or pride. Yet the lexicons tells us that hubristeis means “more than merely an attitude of pride, for βρίζω implies an attitude of superiority which results in mistreatment of and violent acts against others” (Louw-Nida). Most translations opt for the word “insolent” which Webster defines as “proud and haughty, with contempt of others; overbearing; domineering in power.” In the only other use of this exact term, Paul describes his manner of life prior to his conversion, “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1 Ti 1:13). His insolence, his proud and haughty countenance combined with violence, led him to persecute innocent men like Stephen and to supervise their imprisonment or murder.

The same root word appears in other places and reveals that a people given over to insolence increasingly persecute those who love God and who treasure His law. So the unbelieving Jews of the Old Testament “treated [the prophets] [insolently], and killed them” (Mt 22:6). Jesus Himself was “mocked and [treated insolently] and spit upon” (Lk 18:32). In Acts 14:5, “a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews [at Iconium], with their rulers, to [treat insolently] and [to] stone [Paul and Barnabas].” Paul recounts that he and Silas “were [insolently] treated at Philippi” (1 Thes 2:2).

It is no surprise, therefore, that as our culture has drifted away from God and embraced various forms of unbelief, God’s people have become objects of inceasing persecution. You may have read how Swiss Air recently terminated its contract with the chocolate maker Läderach after the sexual revolutionaries protested because the owner of Läderach leads a pro-life, pro-family Christian group. Läderach is not alone. Others have faced lawsuits, political pressure, financial punishment, ostracism – in a word, insolence.

But though the insolent persecute the just and may momentarily triumph, it is always better to serve the Lord and to be numbered among His people. “Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the [insolent]” (Pr 16:19). Why? Because God is against the insolent and will destroy them: “The LORD will destroy the house of the [insolent], But He will establish the boundary of the widow” (Pr 15:25). God urges Job to conduct himself even as God does, “Disperse the rage of your wrath; Look on everyone who is [insolent], and humble him. Look on everyone who is [insolent], and bring him low; Tread down the wicked in their place” (Job 40:11-12). And Isaiah reminds us, “For the day of the LORD of hosts Shall come upon everything [insolent] and lofty, Upon everything lifted up— And it shall be brought low—” (Is 2:12).

And so the Lord summons you today to flee from insolence, from the violent pride that opposes His work in the world and joyfully to number yourself among His people. Reminded that the Lord will judge the insolent, let us confess the sin of our people in opposing the Lord and His Christ, and let us pray that He would have mercy upon us and turn our hearts back to Him lest we continue to experience His judgment. And, as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of private confession, followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

They are Backbiters

January 26, 2020 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Meditations, Tongue

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 return to Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind. Today we consider the twelfth of these fruits: backbiters. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are backbiters.”

Most modern translations opt for the word slanderers to convey the sense of the Greek. The word frequently occurs in company with the previous vice, “whisperers” or “gossipers.” For instance, Paul warns the Corinthians “lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, [and] tumults” among them (2 Cor 12:20). Backbiting and whispering, slander and gossip form a deadly duo.

So what is it to backbite or slander? Webster writes that it is “to defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report respecting one; to tarnish or impair the reputation of one by false tales, maliciously told or propagated.” To backbite, therefore, is to discredit another person unjustly; it is to speak of their character that which is not true. So the people of Israel slandered God in the wilderness, accusing Him of plotting their destruction: “And the people [slandered] God …: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?’ (Num 21:5) Such slander, either against God or against one’s neighbor, is abhorrent to God.

James writes in his epistle, “Do not [slander] one another, brethren. He who [slanders] a brother and judges his brother, [slanders] the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge” (4:11). He reminds us that to slander another is to cast God’s word aside, to act as though we are the arbiters of right and wrong. And to do that is to invite God’s judgment on ourselves. “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor,” God declares in Psalm 101:5a, “Him I will destroy…”

If we would be a people after God’s own heart, therefore, we must put away backbiting or slander. We must delight in God’s law, God’s word; and to delight in God’s law is to delight in the truth. “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all [slander], as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet 2:1-2). The one who has come to know and serve the God of truth delights in the truth.

Because slander is so pervasive among rebellious peoples, the Apostle Peter reminds us to live in a way that convicts unbelievers of their slander. He writes, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they [slander] you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet 2:11–12). Later in the same epistle, he urges us to be men and women of truth so that “when they [slander] you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (3:16). The proper way to expose slander is to live in such a way that there is no ground for accusation.

The Scriptures would remind us, therefore, to be men and women of the truth. “Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Pr 23:23). Never slander another; never speak of them things which are not true; to do so is to expose their reputation to ruin and to rebel against God and His law.

So what of you? Are you faithful to speak the truth always? Or are you a backbiter? Reminded that God summons us to speak the truth about Himself and others, let us confess that we and the American Church are full of backbiters, that we have oft spoken lies against God and others. And as we confess our sin, 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.

Full of Strife

December 15, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Responsibility, Thankfulness

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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just, delivering those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the eighth of these fruits: strife. Paul writes that rebellious peoples are “full of strife.”

Webster defines strife as, “Exertion or contention for superiority; contest of emulation, either by intellectual or physical efforts.” Louw & Nida’s Greek-English lexicon adds that strife is “conflict resulting from rivalry and discord.” In Scripture, strife often keeps company with envy. Recall that envy is the heart desire that begrudges other people that which God has given them; envy longs to possess or destroy that which belongs to another. Consequently, strife is often the fruit of envy. Paul exhorts the saints in Rome, “Let us walk properly, as in the day,… not in strife and envy” (Rom 13:13).

While strife is characteristic of rebellious cultures, it frequently invades the Church as well. Consider some examples. First, factions within the Church. Often we are tempted to forget our identity as members of Christ and so we begin striving with one another, vying for importance. Thus Paul rebukes the Corinthian church which was riven by strife: “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor 3:13) To degenerate into factions is to be full of strife.

At other times, Christians can even do noble things from strife. Thus Paul writes to the Philippians, “Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife…” (Phil 1:15). On this occasion, some envied the influence that Paul had among the Gentile churches. Thus, they took advantage of his imprisonment to try to undermine his influence. While their actions were noble – preaching Christ – their motivations were envy and strife. They too were full of strife.

Elsewhere Paul warns Timothy to beware lest theological debates descend into strife. While such debates can reflect a love for God and His Word, left unmonitored they can destroy a congregation. Paul reminds Timothy that false teachers are “obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions…” (1 Tim 6:4). Some people are so persnickety about using just the right theological jargon that they are willing to destroy God’s church. They are the type of men who strain at gnats and swallow camels.

So what of you? Paul reminds the Galatians that while the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control”, one of the deeds of the flesh is strife (Gal 5:20). While standing for truth will often result in conflict, we must always stand for truth in such a way that we not forget our call to peace with all those who also know and love the truth. Thus Jesus declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9). So do you love the truth as a peacemaker? Or are you driven by envy and strife?

Reminded that strife is one of the deeds of the flesh and often infiltrates the Church of God, let us confess the strife that has torn the modern church asunder and petition God to forgive us and restore us to unity one with another. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.