Filled with Covetousness

November 17, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Temptation, Ten Commandments, Wealth

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 rules among the sons of men. Therefore, when peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind. Today we consider the fourth of these: covetousness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… covetousness.”

So what is covetousness? Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines covetousness as “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining and possessing some supposed good; usually in a bad sense, and applied to an inordinate desire of wealth or avarice.” Covetousness, therefore, is an ungodly desire that proceeds from the heart (cf. Mk 7:22) – a heart that is not content with what God has given and that lusts for more.

You no doubt recall that the tenth of the Ten Commandments forbids covetousness. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex 20:17). God insists that it is not enough to avoid actual murder, adultery, theft, and false witness. After all, these external actions are but symptoms of an internal cancer, a cancer of the heart, the cancer of covetousness. And God’s law does not merely address the symptoms but also the cause, our corrupt hearts.

This is why, in Jesus’ own exposition of the law in the Sermon on the Mount, He insists that to hate one’s brother in one’s heart, to call him “Raca! You fool!”, is to murder him in the heart and be in danger of hell-fire. Likewise, to look upon another to lust with them in the heart is to commit adultery. God’s law does not merely address the outward behavior but the heart desires that lead to those behaviors, the covetousness that poisons relationships.

The covetous man believes the lie that one’s life is defined by one’s possessions. On one occasion someone cried out to Jesus from the crowd, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Life’s not fair; I should have been given more. Jesus refused this request and warned the crowd, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses” (Lk 12:15). Like a leech, covetousness sucks the life from those who indulge it, gradually destroying thankfulness and joy and replacing it with bitterness and resentment.

In a debased culture, covetousness takes root and goes to seed. We witness this in our own day. We have abandoned God and declared that this life is all that matters. Consequently, we have believed the lie that one’s life does consist in the abundance of things he possesses. Because of our covetousness, national and personal debt have skyrocketed. Our political leaders use covetousness to pit the poor against the rich. State Lotteries and the gambling industry appeal to our covetousness to induce us to give them our hard earned money. God is handing us over to covetousness.

So what of you? Are you consumed by what you do not have? Have you coveted your neighbor’s husband or wife? Have you coveted their children? Their achievements? Their wealth? Their business? Their job? Or are you filled with thankfulness? Content with what God has given you? Prioritizing persons over possessions?

Reminded that covetousness is a sin that destroys others and ourselves, and that God calls us to be filled with thankfulness and content with what we have, let us confess that we are often filled with covetousness. And as you are able, let us kneel 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.

Filled with Wickedness

November 3, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Providence, Responsibility, Sexuality, 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 reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just. When peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to utter debasement and societal instability. Their debased minds bear increasingly bitter fruit. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind. Today we consider the third of these: wickedness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… wickedness.”

The Greek word behind the English “wickedness” is pon-e-ria which is also translated as evil, depravity, iniquity, even ugliness. In Mark 7:22 Jesus reminds us that, like other sins, wickedness (pon-e-ria) emerges from the heart. It is the fruit of a heart that neither loves God nor treasures His law. Etymologist Günther Harder writes that in the Bible those who practice wickedness “are those who do not seek Yahweh or His commands, who will not be guided by Him. Who is wicked is thus measured by God, by His commands, and by obedience to them. God determines what is evil, and in this sense evil is to be understood simply as that which is contrary to God” (TDNT). Majority vote doesn’t define evil; social convention doesn’t define evil; gallup polling doesn’t define evil. God define evil. Our task as humans is to conform our understanding to His.

The leader of wickedness is the devil himself. Those who practice wickedness (pon-e-ria) are children of the wicked one (pon-e-ros). So “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn 5:19). To be delivered from wickedness, therefore, is to escape the snare of the devil (2 Tim 2:26). So Jesus instructs us, in the Lord’s Prayer, to pray that God would deliver us from evil (pon-e-rou) inspired as it is by the evil one, whose kingdom we want to see destroyed and uprooted.

So what does wickedness look like? The book of Deuteronomy describes the contours of wickedness with a repeated command: “So you shall put away the wickedness (pon-e-ron) from among you.” This wickedness includes idolatry (Dt 17:7), rebellion against judicial sentences (17:12), bearing false witness (19:19), rebellion against parental authority (21:21), sexual fraud and deceit (22:21), adultery (22:22), and kidnapping (24:7). In times of debasement, when God is handing a society over to judgment, such wickedness increases. For example, at the culmination of the book of Judges, a time of God’s judgment on Israel, the Benjamites commit a great wickedness when they rape and murder the Levite’s concubine (Judg 20:13). In Jeremiah’s day, also a time of God’s judgment, all segments of society – priests, prophets, kings, people – are characterized by wickedness (Jer 23:11; 32:32). And in Jesus’ day, the decisive moment of judgment for the people and city of Jerusalem, the Pharisees clean the outside of the cup but inside they are full of wickedness (Lk 11:39). They had no love for God nor for His law.

All this reminds us that it is God’s grace alone that preserves a society from wickedness. When we fail to honor Him and to listen to His voice, He justly hands us over to increasing wickedness. And, as wickedness increases, we incur even greater wrath for ourselves and disarray for our society. Is there no hope, then? No way of escape? There is only hope in Jesus Christ. We must confess our wickedness, repent of it, and seek the forgiveness of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

So what of you? Have you welcomed the law of God, embraced it, and allowed it to shape your definition of wickedness? Or have you been swayed by the spirit of the age, the wicked one himself, into redefining wickedness by some other standard?

Reminded that societies under judgment are full of wickedness and conscious that we are seeing such wickedness grow in our day, let us confess that we have been listening to the lies of the wicked one, endeavoring to decide for ourselves what constitutes wickedness. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Traits of True Masculinity

October 20, 2019 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Children, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Human Condition, Image of God, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility, Temptation

1 Kings 2:1-4 (NKJV)
1
Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

Evangelical Christians are not particularly good at retaining our sons. The number of women in evangelical churches greatly exceeds that of men even though men outnumber women in religions such as Islam and orthodox Judaism. By and large the ladies remain in the churches while the men head to bars and the locker rooms. What has caused this lack of interest on the part of evangelical men? Part of the answer lies in our failure to appreciate that which is distinctly masculine and to cultivate that masculinity in our sons.

This failure is remarkable in light of the Bible’s delight in both masculine and feminine forms of piety. The Scriptures extol each in their place. A man should display his faith like a man and a woman should display her faith like a woman. So what does masculine piety look like and how should it reveal itself in our congregation? What are the traits of the man of God?

When David was on his death bed, passing on to the land of his fathers, he exhorted Solomon, “Show yourself a man” (1 Kgs 2:2). David expected Solomon to live up to the training he had received and to exhibit certain traits that were distinctly masculine. How was Solomon to do this? The portion of David’s charge we have read today identifies two ways.

First, Solomon must obey the voice of the Lord. Solomon was to “keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies. . .” (2:3). Masculinity, David emphasizes, is not found in rebellion against God, as fallen culture erroneously surmises, but in a rigorous, zealous, full-orbed obedience to His law. Want to be a man? Then study to know and obey the Word of God despite the opposition of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Masculinity is willing to say, “No,” to ungodliness and unbelief; willing to say, “No,” to a gang of thieves and stand up against them; willing to say, “Don’t be dumb,” to a friend who talks disrespectfully of his mother. The mark of true masculinity is dutiful service to God even in the face of stiff opposition. A true man says, “I must obey God rather than men when those men tell me to do what is ungodly. I will stand firm.”

But there is a second lesson about masculinity that David teaches Solomon: a true man is also humble. Solomon was to recall what God had promised his father and to live in light of this promise. This implies that masculine virtue is not afraid to confess its dependence upon others. Real men are willing to learn from their elders; to stand on the shoulders of their forebears; to glean all that can be gleaned from their teachers; to rejoice in the heritage which their parents have already passed and are continuing to pass down to them. As Coleridge once remarked, “A dwarf sees farther than the giant when he has the giant’s shoulder to mount on.” Young men, you are dwarfs, but if you are willing to mount upon our shoulders as we are trying to mount on the shoulders of our fathers, imagine how far you will be able to see.

So give heed to the words of David today – Show yourself a man! Obey the Lord regardless the opposition and treasure the inheritance of your fathers. This is a taste of biblical masculinity. Reminded that we often fail to practice biblical masculinity as men and often discourage its practice as women, let us kneel, as you are able, and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Filled with Sexual Immorality

October 13, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin, 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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just. When peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to utter debasement and societal instability. Their debased minds bear increasingly bitter fruit. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind. Today we consider the second of these: sexual immorality. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… sexual immorality.”

The Greek word behind the English “sexual immorality” is porneia. Porneia refers to sexual sin generally. It encompasses all types of sexual sin: lusts, the indulgence of illicit sexual thoughts or actions; fornication, sexual relations between a man and a woman neither of whom is married; adultery, sexual relations between a man and woman at least one of whom is married; perversion, sexual acts between those of the same sex or with other creatures. A society that is under judgment, a debased society, is one in which such sexual immorality expands and grows – and, tragically, we witness this in our own day.

Jesus reminds us that sexual immorality emerges from the heart (Mt 15:19). It is borne of a heart that rejects God and repudiates His revealed will, His Word. It sees God’s law as a restriction on its freedoms rather than as the path of freedom itself. So the unbelieving heart concludes that the good life is to be found in the path of sexual licentiousness – speaking of women as objects of sexual gratification, scrawling obscenities on bathroom walls, dressing immodestly by making sure others notice the size of one’s breasts or the length of one’s skirt, viewing pornography, engaging in fornications, adulteries, perversions, etc. This, the unbelieving heart concludes, is the path of true liberty. But far from being the path of liberty, sexual immorality is the path of slavery, destruction, guilt, and mental disorder.

The believing heart, on the other hand, trusts that God has designed us to live in accord with His revealed law. The believing heart concludes that the good life is to be found in the path of sexual purity – as a single man or woman, keeping myself sexually celibate, avoiding lusts, immodesties, pornography, fornications, adulteries, and perversions; as a married man or woman, rejoicing in my sexual relationship with my spouse, being sexually faithful, shunning behavior that would make my spouse jealous or arouse the sexual desires of another. This, the beleiving heart concludes rightly, is the path of true liberty.

You see, the Scriptures insist that the problem with sexual immorality is not the sex – the problem is the immorality. God created us sexual creatures. He commanded the first man and the first woman to be fruitful and multiply, a command which necessarily entailed sexual intimacy, an intimacy that preceded the fall and was part of the very good creation. As Paul reminds us in Hebrews 13:4, sexual intimacy within the context of marriage is honorable and undefiled. Immorality distorts that good gift. Like a vandal spray painting the Mona Lisa, the sexually immoral man or woman vandalizes the beauty of sex.

So what of you? Single men, are you guarding your heart, your mouth, your eyes, and yourself from lust, lewd speech, pornography, and sexual immorality? Single women, are you guarding your heart from sexual vanity, your body from sexually provocative clothing, and your garden from those who would break in and trample it? Married men, are you guarding your heart and your eyes, delighting yourself in your wife, and letting her breasts satisfy you at all times? Married women, are you giving yourself to your husband and guarding yourself from flirting with or longing for other men?

Reminded that our sexuality is a gift and that the path of sexual purity is the path of life, let us confess that we have distorted God’s good gift and engaged in sexual immorality. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Filled with All Unrighteousness

September 29, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Bible - NT - Romans, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Human Condition, 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.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just. When peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to utter debasement and societal instability. Their debased minds bear increasingly bitter fruit. In our text, Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind, fruits which characterize a society’s descent into barbarism. Today we consider the first of these character traits: all unrighteousness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with all unrighteousness.”

In the universe that God has made, there is a fixed standard for moral and immoral behavior. That standard is God’s moral law. To practice righteousness is to live according to the standard; to practice unrighteousness is to ignore or violate it. To be filled with all unrighteousness, therefore, is to be filled with a hatred for God’s law, it is to be lawless and a lawbreaker. When we repudiate the knowledge of God, we eventually repudiate the knowledge of righteousness. “Righteousness, what’s that?”

Because the unrighteous man hates God’s fixed moral standard, hates the truth, the Scriptures frequently contrast unrighteousness and truth. For instance, Paul writes that those who are perishing do“not believe the truth but [take] pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes 2:12). Unrighteousness versus truth. Similarly, earlier in Romans 1, Paul insists that God’s wrath is directed against all “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). And he concludes in Romans 2:8 that because unbelievers “do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,” therefore they will endure God’s “indignation and wrath.” Unrighteousness hates the truth.

With no fixed standard for moral and immoral behavior, those who are filled with all unrighteousness not only hate the truth, they also cannot define real love. Paul writes that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10b) and that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). God’s law is the truth and to speak truth, to uphold truth, to treasure truth is to love my neighbor. God’s law empowers us to define love accurately. But when we cast off God’s law, when we cast off the truth, then we no longer know what love is; our conception of “love” careens about like a drunken man.

Notice, therefore, that our calling as the people of God is to treasure God’s moral law. His law is the truth; His law defines true love; His law is light and life. So Paul outlines our responsibility as the people of God in Romans 6:13, “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” We are to treasure God’s law and practice it in our lives. We are to be filled with all righteousness.

So what of you? Do you treasure God’s law and permit it to define true love? Are you loyal to the truth and determined to help others by upholding it and refusing to lie? Or have you compromised the truth, pretended that the truth is malleable, and so failed to love your neighbor?

Reminded that we are to be filled with all righteousness, that we are to love and treasure God’s moral law, let us confess that we often follow the temptations of the evil, of our sinful nature, and of the world in the practice of unrighteousness. 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 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.

Like a Tax Collector and a Sinner

April 7, 2019 in Authority, Bible - NT - Matthew, Communion, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Evangelism, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Responsibility, Sacraments, Sanctification, Satan, Sin

Matthew 18:15-18

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 

The Scriptures make plain that our love for God is directly connected to and demonstrated by the fruit in our lives (Luke 6:43-49). As we have seen in the Gospel of John, love for God is not defined by our feelings but by God’s law-word: Jesus says that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (Jn. 14:15; 15:10-17). Because our love for God is revealed in such visible fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26), Jesus instructs us in our text today how we are to respond when a brother fails to bear such fruit and sins against us.

Recently, we went through this passage in detail. We saw that following private attempts to confirm that our brother really has sinned and that he refuses to repent, the church is to come alongside this brother publicly and correct him. When the church acts in this way, then the brother is summoned “to hear the church” – to take ownership for his sin, make concrete changes in his attitude and actions, and submit to his brethren in the Lord. This is the Lord’s calling upon us as His people.

However, if he refuses “even to hear the church”, then Jesus instructs us, “let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Mt 18:17). Jesus insists that we are no longer to treat him as an erring brother in need of correction but as an unbeliever in need of the saving grace of God in Christ. This action is a mercy to him for it endeavors to speak God’s own word to the man, warning him that a refusal to humble himself now will only incur God’s judgment later. After all, Jesus’ command is accompanied by the sober promise that heaven itself will concur in the sentence of excommunication: “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven” (Mt 18:18).

As elders it is our duty to apply Jesus’ words to a member of our church. A little over a year ago, we told the church that —— was refusing to repent of his contribution to persistent strife and discord in his marriage and home despite receiving over a year of marital counseling with three different pastors in our community. At the time, we asked you to come alongside him in prayer and, as your relationship permitted, accountability. Rather than respond to this attempt at increased accountability with humility, however, he has steadfastly refused “to hear the church.” He has absented himself from worship and from meaningful accountability. He has refused the elders’ offers to meet with him and help him grow. Most recently, he has asked that we remove him from membership at Trinity.

Since he has refused “to hear the church”, our obligation is to put him out of the church. Therefore, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we, the elders of Trinity Church, hereby excommunicate ——- from the church of Jesus Christ and hand him over to Satan, praying that God may yet have mercy on him and restore him to the true faith, that his soul may be saved in the Last Day (1 Cor 5:4-5).

As we do so, we would deliver to you two exhortations. First, remember prayer. As you think of —-, please pray that the Lord would humble him, expose his sin, and bring him to a true faith in Christ. As you think of his family who remains in the church, please pray that God would empower them, by His grace, to continue to serve the Lord in humility, to honor —— as a husband and father, and to be faithful witnesses to —— in his unbelief that they might be a means of touching his heart with the Gospel. Remember prayer.

Second, remember humility. Apart from the grace of God, we none of us would humble ourselves before Him. Our hearts are deceitful, our thoughts are vain, and our consciences are darkened. We all of us stand in constant need of God’s grace and mercy. So if you meet or interact with —–, be gracious, be kind, be loving, express your desire for his salvation, and your commitment to the well-being of both him and his family. Remember that Jesus regularly ministered to tax collectors and sinners, bringing them the truth of the Gospel in the hope that they would repent and turn in faith to Him. —– needs the Gospel. But hear the Word of the Lord: so do you. So beware the lies of the devil, the lusts of your own heart, and the snares of the world. Remember humility.

And so reminded this morning of our call to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, let us kneel and acknowledge our sin to Him, praying for His mercy and grace. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.