Walk in the Spirit

August 9, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Justification, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness

Galatians 5:16–18 (NKJV)

16I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

As fallen human beings, our problem is twofold. Our first problem is that we have sinned against God and are guilty in His sight. We are, in Paul’s words, “under the law”, condemned by its precepts to God’s wrath and judgment. We need the forgiving grace of God. And the only way that God can extend that forgiving grace to us and remain just is if a substitute takes our place and bears the guilt of our sin, endures the just judgment that we deserve. Thanks be to God, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. By trusting in Christ we can be forgiven of our sin and cleansed of our guilt and God Himself can remain just.

Our second problem as fallen human beings is that our longings and desires are twisted. The very reason that we have sinned against God is because we are sinners. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. Paul calls this sinful nature “the flesh.” The longing of the flesh is to dishonor the Living God, to question His law, to doubt His goodness, and to flout His justice.

Now, hear the good news, Christ not only died to forgive the guilt of our sin, He also rose from the dead in order that through the power of His resurrected life, we may walk in newness of life. Jesus has risen from the dead and, as the Risen Christ, God’s Anointed Ruler, He has poured out His Spirit upon His people so that we may walk in newness of life. To believe in Christ, therefore, is not only to be forgiven of sin but to be empowered for obedience.

What, then, is our calling? If you have believed in Christ, have sought out the forgiving grace of God in Christ, then your task is to walk by the Spirit. Notice Paul’s summons in our text today:

16I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

The desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are contrary to one another. While the flesh would dishonor God, the Spirit would honor Him; while the flesh would pursue unrighteousness, the Spirit would pursue righteousness. So walk by the Spirit – for it is those who walk by the Spirit who have truly experienced the forgiving grace of God in Christ, who are not “under the law” as a condemnatory voice.

So what of you? The psalmist prays, “Teach me Your way, O Yahweh; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” (Ps 86:11). Is it your prayer to have a united heart? To have a heart that is not one moment going after the desires of the flesh and another after the desires of the Spirit? Then pray as the psalmist prays – that God of His grace and mercy would pour out an even greater measure of His Spirit upon you that you walk in the Spirit and so not fulfill the desires of the flesh.

Reminded that we need both the forgiving and transforming grace of God in our lives, and that this comes only through the death and resurrection of Jesus, let us confess our sin to the Lord and petition Him for grace and mercy through Christ. 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.

By Nature Sinful and Unclean

June 28, 2020 in Bible - NT - Mark, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Liturgy, Meditations, Regeneration, Sexuality, Sin

Mark 7:20–23 (NKJV)

20And [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Those of you who have been at Trinity Church for some time know that we regularly rotate our liturgical greetings, confessions, and creeds in the course of the year. These changes enable us to focus on a variety of Scriptural commands and promises throughout the year. And, occasionally, we will tweak these liturgical elements in order to grow in faithfulness or to emphasize some other Scriptural principle.

One of the things that you may or may not have recognized is that we made a slight change to the confession of sins that we use at this time of year. In just a moment we will confess as follows:

M: Most merciful God,

P: we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…

You may have recognized that that first sentence is new, “we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean.” In the past our confession began with the words, “We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed…” So why the change?

The purpose of this change is to emphasize that we are not only guilty of those actual sins which we commit but also of the corruption of our nature, historically called original sin, with which we are born. Because we rebelled against God in the beginning of human history, we are sinful by nature. We are, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:3, “by nature children of wrath.” By nature we are guilty in the sight of God and justly deserve to be condemned for our sin.

In other words, sin attaches itself not only to our actions but also to our nature. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It is from within, out of the heart of men, that our evil actions proceed. Consequently, we need both to have our sins forgiven and also to have our nature renewed, to be born again by the grace of God.

So why emphasize this? Well, there are many who are attempting to sow confusion in the church regarding same-sex sin. Some of you may be familiar with the Revoice conference last year where various teachers claimed that while same-sex sexual acts are sinful, same-sex desires are not. But this is a gross distortion of Scripture. The Scriptures insist that the desires themselves are twisted and perverse and must be confessed as sin. They are part of that which must be put to death, must be mortified, if we are to serve Christ faithfully.

So what does this mean for us? It means that our sinful actions are the fruit of our sinful nature – and I am responsible both both and I must confess both. Further, my sinful nature distorts not only what I do but fundamentally what I desire, what I love. A man who commits adultery is a man who has long indulged adulterous desires in his heart; a woman who slanders another is a woman who has long indulged bitterness and resentment in her heart. If we would grow in grace, therefore, we must not simply modify our sinful behavior but mortify our sinful desires. The mere fact that I possess a certain inclination or desire is no proof that that desire is upright or pleasing to God. God’s law is the standard by which my desires must be measured. We must pray that God renew our nature and rid us of covetousness, destroy our sexual lust, uproot our bitterness, humble our pride – for it is not only our actions which are sinful but the nature from which those actions proceed.

And so, as we enter into the presence of the Lord today, let us confess both our sinful nature and our sinful actions – for He is the only one who can forgive us for both and who can renew us in His own image. 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 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 Haters of God

February 2, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Heart, Holy Spirit, 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 haters of God. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are haters of God.”

This is the only occurrence of this word, thĕŏstugēs, in the Greek New Testament. But though this is the only occurrence of this specific word, it is not the only occurrence of this thought. By nature, we are all estranged from God and at enmity with God, hating Him and hating His law. Paul writes later in Romans that the carnal mind, the mind guided not by the glory of God but by selfish desires, “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (8:7).

So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words in Romans 8. First, Paul insists that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” The carnal mind is the mind that has not yet been renewed by God’s grace. This is the unbelieving man or woman who puts the longings and desires of self or the longings and desires of some other god ahead of God Himself. For this person something holds preeminence in his life other than God. Consequently, the carnal mind hates God because God demands absolute and complete loyalty and obedience; He must be first in our minds and first in our hearts; He will brook no competitors nor opposition. The carnal mind despises such loyalty and views it not as the pathway to life, as it in fact is, but as an infringement on its freedom.

The carnal mind hates God, Paul writes second, because “it is not subject to the law of God.” Paul makes a simple statement of fact. God’s law is an expression of His will, His desires. This law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, requires us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The carnal mind is not subject to God’s law. Oh, it might pick and choose among them. But the carnal mind does so not because it recognizes God as its Lord and Ruler and wants to honor Him but because it claims to be its own lord and ruler and decides that such laws are helpful or advantageous. The carnal mind is not subject to God’s law.

Paul then makes a startling comment: “nor indeed can be.” Here Paul proceeds from the actions of the carnal mind to its abilities. The man or woman with a carnal mind is not able to obey the law of God. So perverse is the human heart that we none of us, by nature, can choose to love God or to obey His law. We are not able. As Paul says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot [are not able to] please God.” Apart from Christ, we are all enslaved to our sin, possessed of a carnal mind, and haters of God.

Our only hope, therefore, is if the Spirit of God transforms our heart desires and frees us from our blindness and stubborn hatred of God. He must convict us of our sin and guilt; He must enlighten our minds in the knowledge of Christ; He must renew our wills so that we become able and willing to love God and to rejoice in His law. We all of us are completely dependent upon the grace of God for salvation.

If we would see a revival in our nation, therefore; that our neighbors turn from their hatred of God and begin to love Him, then we must seek it first and foremost from the Lord of Glory Himself. We must pray for God to have mercy upon us and rescue us from our stubborn rebellion and hatred of Him. He alone can deliver us.

And so reminded of our need for the grace of God, and that apart from the work of His Spirit we are not only unwilling to subject ourselves to the law of God but unable to do so, let us confess that we hate God by nature and seek His forgiving grace. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord.

Full of Evil-Mindedness

December 29, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Judgment, Meditations, Temptation, 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, delivering those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the tenth of these fruits: evil-mindedness. Paul writes that rebellious peoples are “full of evil-mindedness.”

The Greek word is kakŏēthĕia. This is the only occurrence of this word in the NT. It is the combination of two words – kakos – evil – and etheia – manner or custom. It is variously translated as evil-mindedness, maliciousness, malevolence, craftiness, malicious behavior. Paul has already noted that rebellious peoples are filled with maliciousness (kakia); this new word takes that maliciousness further and describes “conscious and intentional wickedness” (TDNT). Evil-mindedness thus has evil in mind and then practices that evil. The term describes premeditated evil.

So consider some examples. A man might be tempted to steal something on impulse, believing perhaps that no one would notice or care. His action, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But canvassing a neighborhood and breaking into certain houses is. A man or woman in the grip of lustful passion might commit adultery. This adultery, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But organizing one’s day in order to have an adulterous laiaison is. An angry man might commit murder in a fit of rage. This murder, while evil, is not kakŏēthĕia. But lying in wait for one’s victim, planning just the right moment to kill him, is. In other words, kakŏēthĕia is premeditated evil. It is to consider the matter ahead of time, make a plan, and then execute it.

Evil-mindedness, therefore, is a state of mind that manifests itself in action. An evil-minded man is looking for trouble; he meditates on evil, turns it over and over in his head. He plots injuries, immoralities, deceits, thefts, and murders. Rather than meditate on what is good, rather than make God his strength, the evil-minded man, like Doeg the Edomite, “strengthens himself in his wickedness” (Ps 52:7c).

So what of you? What fills your meditations? Do you meditate on the good you might do or the evil? Are you evil-minded or good-minded? Are you planning your next opportunity to look at pornography? Plotting what excuse you can give your employer for being late or failing to get your job done? Scheming to injure another’s reputation? Or do you meditate how you might bless your spouse? How you might bring delight to your parents? How you might assist your neighbor or enrich your employer? Do you plot to do good or to do evil? To heal or to destroy? To be a blessing or to be a curse?

Reminded that evil-mindedness plots to do evil and that God wants us instead to plan to do good, let us confess that we often transgress in this way and let us seek God’s forgiveness for our evil plotting. 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.

Full of Envy

December 1, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Responsibility, Temptation, 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. Therefore, when peoples spurn Him and reject His moral law, He eventually hands them over to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the sixth of these twenty three fruits: envy. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “full of envy.”

So what is envy? Let us begin by distinguishing envy from jealousy. While they are commonly confused, Scripturally they are quite distinct. Jealousy is the emotion aroused by the fear of losing something that is one’s own. So an unfaithful husband or wife will arouse the jealousy of their spouse. Their spouse fears to lose that which is lawfully theirs. While sinful men can be aroused to jealousy unjustly or use their jealousy to justify wickedness, jealousy itself is not condemned in Scripture. After all, God Himself is jealous of the affections of His people. Moses instructs the people of Israel, “you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex 34:14). God protects that which is rightfully His own.

While jealousy is not inherently sinful, envy is. Jealousy desires to protect what is one’s own; envy longs to possess or destroy what is another’s. Envy begrudges other people that which is lawfully theirs; resents the fact that God gives gifts to others without regard to our sense of “fairness.” And envy takes all shapes and sizes. We can envy someone’s parentage, their hair color, their beauty, their voice, their musical skill, their muscles, their intellectual prowess, their marriage, their influence, their friendships, their socks. Any time we observe another and see them blessed by God in some way and then wish them ill or hope for them to lose that which they have, envy is at work.

Envy taints our fallen human hearts and destroys ourselves and others. Paul writes that “we ourselves were also once… living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Tit 3:3). So envy moved Rachel to cry out to Jacob, “Give me children or else I die!” (Gen 30:1). Envy motivated Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery (Gen 37:11). Envy inspired Korah, Dathan, and Abiram to conspire against Moses and Aaron (Ps 106:16). Envy led the Edomites to make war on Israel and Judah and attempt to steal their land (Ezek 35:11). Envy moved the chief priests to plot Jesus’ crucifixion (Mt 27:18). Envy is a destroyer.

I remember years ago, when Paige and I were young marrieds and poor, some friends of ours bought a used car. When they drove up outside our house, I was envious. The inner thought of my heart was, “Why don’t I have that car? I hope it’s a clunker!” It was only a couple weeks later that that same car died and our friends, who were also poor, struggled to find another. And I remember thinking, “Ah, Lord! Forgive me my envy!”

So what of you? Are you filled with envy? Envy is associated with the color green, even as sickness is, because the one who is envious frequently becomes sick at heart, full of bitterness and resentment. Solomon reminds us, “A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones” (Prov 14:30). Envy is a destroyer; its only antitode is a “sound heart”, a heart of thankfulness. So when envy rears its ugly head and you find yourself resenting the glory that God has given another, kill envy by giving thanks. Thank God for blessing that other person; thank God for preserving you from the trials associated with the gift He has given that other person; and pray God that He would yet further bless that other person. Give heed: Be killing your envy or be assured that your envy is killing you.

Reminded that envy is a grievous sin that destroys ourselves and others, let us confess that we are often envious and are in need of God’s grace to make us a thankful people. 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 in your bulletin.