God’s Grace through Parents

October 4, 2020 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Bible - OT - Malachi, Children, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Marriage, Meditations, Parents, Ten Commandments

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 ——–. Their baptisms are reminders that Jesus works not just with individuals but with whole families. When He saves us, His salvation transforms our individual lives and our homes. Jesus’ salvation years ago of ——-, their parents, has radically transformed their home and the lives of their children.

This is no surprise. Malachi promised that one of the chief fruits of the Messiah’s coming would be a renewal of family life, particularly a restoration of fatherhood. “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal 4:6). It is Jesus’ transformative work in families that is on display in the life of the Philippian jailer in our text today. After the jailer heard the Word of the Lord preached by Paul and Silas he believed in the Lord, acknowledged Jesus to be Lord of all, and so was baptized with “all his family.” Jesus began His transformative work in this home.

Because the Gospel is not just for individuals but for families, the Scriptures are filled with promises and commands for both parents and children. The Lord includes both parents and children in His kingdom and is often pleased to use the discipleship of parents to bring children to faith. “Train up a child in the way he should go,” Proverbs 22:6 declares, “And when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the famous Stoic emperor of Rome, a famous Christian teacher named Justin was arrested along with a number of his students. They were interrogated for their faith and told that they must renounce Christ if they were to preserve their lives. Justin and his companions refused – and so Justin the Philosopher is more commonly known as Justin Martyr. The account of their martyrdom testifies of the power of parental discipleship:

The Roman prefect Rusticus said, “To come to the point then, are you a Christian?” Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.” The prefect said to Chariton, “Are you also a Christian?” Chariton replied, “I am a Christian by God’s command.” The prefect then asked another, “What do you say, Charito?” Charito said, “I am a Christian by God’s gift.” “And what are you, Eulpistus?” Eulpistus, a slave of Caesar, answered, “I also am a Christian, freed by Christ, and share by the grace of Christ in the same hope.” The prefect said to Hierax, “Are you also a Christian?” Hierax said, “Yes, I am a Christian, for I worship and adore the same God.” The prefect Rusticus asked them all, “Did Justin make you Christians?” Hierax replied, “I was, and shall ever be, a Christian.” A man called Paeon stood up and said, “I also am a Christian.” The prefect said, “Who taught you?” Paeon replied, “I received from my parents this good confession.” Eulpistus agreed, “I listened indeed gladly to the teaching of Justin, but I too received Christianity from my parents.”

——— stand in this good company – the company of those children whose lives have been transformed by the grace of God through the witness of their parents.

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 this morning 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.

My God, in Him Will I Trust

March 22, 2020 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Discipline, Faith, Judgment, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Providence, Sacraments, Sovereignty of God, Worship

Psalm 91:1–8 (NKJV)

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.

Well it’s been an interesting week! We thank you for your prayers that we and the Schumanns were able to return home from Guatemala. We witnessed many evidences of the Lord’s lovingkindness and care for us while we were away – we managed to arrive in Guatemala just before they began quarantining visitors from America; while at the airport in Guatemala City waiting to have our temperatures taken, we stood in line immediately behind a fellow believer who “just happened” to take his family to Antigua for the weekend and “just happened” to stay in the rooms right next to ours and who provided us with timely counsel and help as we were trying to decide whether to leave Guatemala or not; while we were unable to contact the airlines from our hotel in Antigua, Andy Schumann worked tirelessly back home and secured us tickets on one of the last flights out of Guatemala; and in the midst of all the turmoil, we experienced remarkable peace and enjoyed a relaxing, fulfilling few days in a beautiful hotel with friendly people and sweet fellowship. Praise God.

Now we’ve returned home and we have this appalling circumstance in which I am speaking to a mostly empty sanctuary rather than gathering face to face with the flock. I should be seeing your faces, shaking your hands, hearing your voices, rejoicing in God’s mercy and deliverance together. Instead, we are broadcasting a service of prayer and preaching. I trust that you recognize that this is not normal, nor is it an acceptable substitute for our assembling together – livestreaming is not assembling. We must view this as a chastisement from the Lord on our nation for our many sins and transgressions. God is isolating us from one another as a small taste of the isolation that shall face us for all eternity if we do not turn from our sin and seek the forgiving grace of God in Christ.

God has placed us in the wilderness. So what ought we to do? We ought to acknowledge our sin, acknowledge the justness of the Lord’s rod of correction, and entrust ourselves to God Himself and to every word that proceeds from His mouth. We have yet to see what the final outcome of the current crisis will be. Yet we know that our Sovereign Lord is in control, that He governs in the affairs of men, and that He is at work. For all those who acknowledge their sin and trust in His forgiving grace, He promises to grant us long life, eternal life, through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son to deliver us from the fear of death and to grant us the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead – is that not good news?

And so reminded that we are to turn to the Lord in times of disaster, let us do so together. Let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiving and empowering grace, praying that He would have mercy upon us as a people. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel together as you are able.

Discipline is a Gift

June 30, 2019 in Authority, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Discipline, Love, Parents, Responsibility

Proverbs 3:11-12 (NKJV)
11
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

The Word of God assures us that God is absolutely sovereign, absolutely in control of each and every event, good or bad, which befalls us. Hence, even when we are experiencing a severe trial, we can be assured that it comes from the hand of God. As Job reminds us, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away…” So why do such trials come? Do they come because God hates us? If you are in Christ, the answer to that question is, “Absolutely not!” If you are in Christ, then Solomon assures you that the Lord sends trials your way to correct you and He does that because He loves you. My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” God corrects us because He is a good Father who loves us.

So notice what this means for earthly fathers. Solomon writes: “For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” A righteous father, one who loves and cherishes his children, is concerned for his child’s spiritual and personal growth and maturity. Consequently, a righteous father corrects his son. He knows that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of his child” (Prov 22:15) and so he uses “the rod of discipline” to “drive” this foolishness far away from him. He wants his child to receive the blessing of God, a blessing that can only come through the pursuit of wisdom.

So fathers, how are you doing? Are you engaged with the discipline of your children? Are you concerned for them even as your Heavenly Father is for you? A loving father disciplines his children. “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Pr 13:24). And loving discipline, discipline that glorifies our Father in heaven, that imitates His character toward His children, must always be for the good of our children. Our discipline must be designed to bless them and strengthen them and make them ever more faithful servants of Christ Jesus. Discipline is supposed to be a gift.

So what are ways we can be tempted to distort this as fathers and as mothers? Our chief temptation is to discipline our children not for their good but for our good. So we discipline them to get them out of our hair – to prevent them from disturbing our tranquility or our enjoyment of some other activity. Or we discipline them because we are frustrated with ourselves or with our day at work – we take out our frustration on them. Or we discipline them because we are concerned what others might think of us, perhaps because we are embarrassed by our child’s behavior. In all these cases, the discipline is for us rather than for them.

Note carefully, however, that this is not how our Heavenly Father treats us. Therefore, if we discpline our children in this self-centered fashion, we are teaching a false Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so concerned about Himself that He lashes out at those who irritate Him.” Let us rather teach a true Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so satisfied in Himself and filled with love for His sons that He disciplines them for their good.”

And for you children out there, remember that this passage teaches you an important lesson – if your parents love you, they will discipline you. It is the permissive parent, the parent who says, “Oh do what you like I don’t really care” who truly doesn’t care. So when your parents limit your screen time, when they rebuke your attitude, when they discipline you and give you consequences for your behavior, be sure to thank them for loving you and caring for you. Discipline is a gift – and we all know to say thank you when we’re given a gift.

Reminded that we engage with those we truly love, let us confess that we have failed to love our children as we ought, failed to respect our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. 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.

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.

Children are a Gift

December 30, 2018 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Children, Christmas, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

Psalm 127:3–5 (NKJV)

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

This morning we meditate on Psalm 45 – a song of love, a song that celebrates the wedding day of the King of Israel. We will meditate on the King and Queen in their glory and rejoice in the ideal of wedded love that is presented to us. Psalm 45, as we will see, closes with this promise to the King and his Queen: “Instead of your fathers shall be your sons, whom you shall make princes in all the earth” (45:16). The psalm, in other words, anticipates the fruitfulness of the King and Queen. God would bless them with children.

It the blessing of children that Psalm 127 sings. Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is his reward. Children are a heritage from the Lord – children are God’s reminder to us that he intends to bless us and to cause His people to inherit the earth. The fruit of the womb is his reward – a treasure far greater than second homes, new cars, expensive toys, or undistracted minds. But children are not an automatic blessing – the blessing of children is contigent upon parents raising their children in the nurture of the Lord so that those children fight alongside them against God’s enemies. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. Does it cost to have children? Absolutely. Is it at times a struggle to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Absolutely. But the psalms orient us to the blessing.

Increasingly, however, our broader society tempts us to view children as a burden rather than a blessing. Our culture of death has not only aborted over 60 million children, but is now making the morning after pill increasingly available to stave off the supposed curse of fertility. Rather than extolling the glory of sexual self-control and celebrating the wonder of children conceived in wedlock, we have endeavored to divorce the sexual act from fertility by murdering the unwanted by-products of our sinful self-indulgence. Tired of confining the fire of our passion to the fireplace, we have lighted it in the middle of the house – and now the house is burning down around us. Rampant divorce, skyrocketing rates of mental illness, the #metoo movement, homosexuality, transgenderism – all are the fruit of our hatred of God and our hatred of the fruit of the womb.

So what of you? Have you given thanks for the blessing of children? Parents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to teach and train your children, to disciple them daily, to show them the paths of the Lord, and to invest in them? Grandparents, are you giving thanks for the opportunity to invest in the lives of your grandchildren and point them to the greatness of the Lord? Congregation, when the cries of children are reverberating in our sanctuary and you’re having a hard time following the sermon, are you grateful for the blessing of children?

Brothers and sisters, let us remember on this First Sunday of Christmas that Mary responded in faith to the news that she would bear a child. She rejoiced despite the challenges she would face. So let us imitate her by giving thanks for the children that God has given us and anticipating with joy the arrival of others. And let us confess that as a society we have despised the little ones – as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Expose the Unfruitful Deeds of Darkness

November 25, 2018 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Communion, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Heart, King Jesus, Marriage, Meditations, Responsibility, Sexuality

Ephesians 5:8–12 (NKJV)

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

Paul reminds us in our text that when the Lord saves us, He delivers us from darkness and brings us into the light. Whereas we once walked in darkness, subject to the prince of darkness and in bondage to our own sinful nature, God in Christ has brought us out of Satan’s kingdom and made us part of His own. He forgives our sins and renews us in the inner man, giving us a new heart by the power of His Spirit. He makes us to be children of light.

As those adopted into His family and made citizens of His kingdom, He now summons us to walk as children of light. The Lord of Light pours out the Spirit of Light upon children of light. And the Spirit so works in the hearts of those who have truly believed that they practice, in Paul’s words, goodness, righteousness, and truth. The Spirit bears rich and abundant fruit in the lives of His own. He causes us to walk in God’s commandments.

Consequently, those who have been saved want to have open lives. They want to dwell in the light and to have the vestiges of darkness removed from their lives. In Paul’s words, they have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. They don’t hide their emails or their phone conversations. They don’t engage in filthy speech or coarse jesting. They don’t look at pornographic pictures or develop intimate relationships with persons other than their spouse. They cultivate a love for goodness, righteousness, and truth.

While the calling to expose the unfruitful works of darkness is often uncomfortable and unpleasant, it is our duty to do so. We have just welcomed the —- household into membership. I now have the sober duty to announce that the elders are publicly suspending —- from the Lord’s Supper for the sins of adultery and deceit. For several years, —- has been living in sin, preying on several different women, some of whom have attended our congregation. He has been deceiving his wife and others and has been repeatedly unfaithful to her. Thankfully, —- is professing repentance. However, given the length of time he has lived a life of deceit regarding the nature of their relationship and his own walk with the Lord, the elders have determined to suspend him from the Supper until he manifests fruits in keeping with repentance.

We know that this will come as a shock to you even as it has come as a shock to his family and to the elders. We had believed that —- was walking faithfully with the Lord and that he was faithfully loving his wife. The truth, however, is that he has been deceiving us all. He has been having fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness rather than exposing them. Thankfully the truth emerged this last weekend and there is now opportunity for genuine repentance and change.

So please pray for the —-. Pray for —- – that he would truly repent and repudiate the unfruitful deeds of darkness that have bound him for the last several years; that he would seek out help and, by the power of God’s Spirit, break with the sin that has enslaved him. Pray for —- – that she would continue to lean on the Lord, entrust herself to His loving care, and treasure her daughters. Pray for their children – that they would know the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ, experience the comforting presence of their Heavenly Father, and love and obey their mom in these trying times.

Moments like this should cause each of us to reflect on the treacherous nature of our own hearts and the deceitfulness of sin. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (17:9) That judgment pertains to your heart and to mine. It was to forgive the guilt of our sin and to transform our hearts that Jesus gave His life on the cross and then rose again from the dead. So if you are in sin, ensnared by the darkness, come to the light before it is too late. Confess your sin in Jesus’ name and seek the forgiveness of the Lord.

Sobered by the pervasiveness of sin, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Restoration to the Lord’s Table

November 11, 2018 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Sacraments, Thankfulness

2 Corinthians 2:5-8, 10-11 (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… 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.

Despite numerous problems in the church at Corinth, they responded to Paul’s exhortations in First Corinthians in faith and obedience. Paul had commanded them to publicly censure one of their members who was living in sin (1 Cor 5) and the Corinthians responded in faith, doing that very thing. In our text today, Paul counsels them what to do now since the man they had censured had repented and sought forgiveness from the Lord and from the church.

The Corinthians thought that perhaps they needed Paul’s approval before welcoming the man back into their fellowship. But Paul insists that they didn’t need his approval – after all, he wasn’t the one who had been wronged. He writes, But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe.” Paul wasn’t the one grieved but them; so it wasn’t Paul who needed to restore the man but them. They had disciplined him originally and, now that he was repentant and desirous of reconciliation, they were entirely capable of restoring him to fellowship on their own. “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority,” he writes, “is sufficient for such a man, 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. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.” They had disciplined him in love; now they ought much more to receive him back in love.

In accordance with Paul’s words here to the Corinthians, the elders have the joyful privilege of restoring — to fellowship in this congregation. — has taken concrete steps of repentance and has expressed to the elders her grief over her sin and her desire to be reconciled to the Lord and the church. —, her new husband, has done likewise. While we plan to read their letters at our next Head of Household Meeting, we wanted to take this opportunity to restore them to the Table and reaffirm our love for them.

As we do so, Paul reminds us not to let Satan take advantage of us. In times like this, Satan plots against us and seeks to undermine the work that God is doing. So how might Satan scheme to turn this happy moment sorrowful? First, he might tempt you to respond to their restoration like the elder brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. The elder brother resented his father’s open-hearted and festal acceptance of his brother back into the home. And so what of you? Are you prepared to rejoice in God’s munificent grace to — and to pray that He would pour out yet more grace upon them?

Second, Satan might tempt you to look down on them, imagining yourself superior. But Paul asked the Corinthians, when they were boasting over one another, “What do you have that you have not received? And if you have received it, then why do you boast as though it is something of your own?” Paul urges us to remember that it is the grace of God that enables us to walk uprightly. Consequently, when one of our own stumbles into sin, it is not an occasion for pride but humility, recognizing our own propensity to stray from the Lord. And when one of our own repents and returns to the Lord, it is an occasion for joy and thanksgiving to God for His outpouring of grace. As the Scriptures declare, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Reminded of God’s forgiving grace and that He extends this grace freely to all who call upon Him in truth, let us confess that we often respond to His grace to others with resentment or a sense of superiority. And as we are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.