The Mystery of a Man with a Maid

February 14, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

Proverbs 30:18-19
18 There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Yes, four which I do not understand: 19 The way of an eagle in the air, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the midst of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid.

The world that God has made is full of wonders – wonders in the air, wonders on land, wonders in the sea, and wonders among men. Since today is Valentine’s Day, the day our culture has historically celebrated the wonder of romantic love, I thought I would meditate upon, as Solomon calls it, the way of a man with a maid..

There are few things more evident about young men than that they begin to develop a rather keen interest in young women. Proverbs 30 reminds us that this interest is good. After all, it was God who designed man and woman to be together. He said that it was not good when the man was alone; He put the man to sleep and extracted a rib from his side; He crafted and shaped the woman; He presented her to the man. God designed the affection that men and women have one for another.

So perfect was the design, that when God presented Eve to Adam, he spoke his first words. And these weren’t just run of the mill words. No, they were astonished words, glorious words, affectionate words – words of wonder, words of poetry:

This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh,
She shall be called woman Because she was taken out of man.

The first couple was designed by God and celebrated by man. And every couple since has been His handiwork as well. Wedded love is a gift from God, one of the best gifts from God to man.

Evolutionary culture would have us believe that the attraction of a man and woman for one another is a mere matter of biology. We are mere animals and the sight of certain things arouses us. But as Solomon meditates upon God’s gift of love, and the gift of lovers, he confesses that it is all mystery – not biology.

18 There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Yes, four which I do not understand: 19 The way of an eagle in the air, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the midst of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid.

How is it that a man otherwise taciturn and sullen, suddenly awakens and becomes sociable and amiable? How is it that a man directionless and purposeless, suddenly develops a clear and distinct vision? How is it that a man intent and disciplined, suddenly forgets himself, finds it difficult to focus, and is distracted from his work? And how is it that any man convinces a maid to love him and covenant with him?

All these things, Solomon confesses, are a mystery – but not because they are petty and foolish, rather because they are glorious and wonderful. We often marvel at the fool who wastes his life with drugs, drink, or gaming. Sin is a mystery. But this is not the type of mystery that confronts us when considering the way of a man with a maid – no this is a mystery of God’s making. It is a marvel like eagles in the air, serpents on a rock, and ships in the sea.

So, young men, God himself gave you the desire to be with a woman. Desiring to earn the hand of a woman is a good and noble thing. But a woman whose hand is worth having is a woman who makes you earn it – so be purposeful, be intent, be honorable – and treat all the women in your life with respect until God in His grace and kindness gives you one specific woman upon whom to shower your affections.

And older men, let us not forget the ardor with which we pursued the woman by our side. Let us remember that she is a gift of God – and let us continue to pursue her to the glory of God and the beautification of our bride.

Reminded that we often despise the gifts of God, that we often seek His gifts in unlawful ways, that we often fail to thank Him for the gifts that He has given, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to Him. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Blessed and Cursed Marriages

January 24, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Trials

Proverbs 31:10, 23

10Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies… 23Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.

As we begin this new year, I want to deliver a couple exhortations regarding family life, first marriage and then children. The book of Proverbs regularly extols the blessedness of marriage. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:14). When God created Adam in the Garden, it was God Himself who declared that the man alone was not good. Consequently, God put the man to sleep, crafted Eve from one of his ribs, and presented her to the man. God created marriage and blessed it – for the mutual advantage of both husband and wife. A man who finds a virtuous wife finds a treasure more valuable than rubies; and a woman who finds a righteous man derives great honor from her marriage to him.

While the Scriptures extol the blessing of marriage, they regularly extol its dangers as well. Marriage in itself is a blessing for the world, a good gift from a generous God. However, an unhappy marriage is a curse. Hence, when I have done pre-marital counseling, I regularly tell couples, “The only thing worse than being single and unhappy is being married and unhappy.” So Solomon warns us, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones” (Prov 12:4). And even as a wife who causes shame is a misery to her husband, so a husband who causes shame is a misery to his wife. When David was determined to destroy Nabal’s entire household because of Nabal’s folly, Nabal’s wife Abigail pleaded with David, “Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he; Nabal [Fool] is his name, and folly is with him!” (1 Sam 25:25) Better not to marry at all than to marry a foolish man or woman.

As we commence a new year, therefore, give heed to a few exhortations. First, single, marriageable men and women – so develop your character that should God see fit to bless you with a spouse, you prove a blessing to your spouse and not a curse. Rarely does marriage radically transform the character of a man or woman; more commonly, marriage reveals your character. Marriage takes the musical chords you have been playing while single and plugs them into an amplifier. Hence, if you are indulging selfishness or impatience or lust or greed or anger now, that spirit will plague your marriage. Consecrate your life to the service of Christ and cultivate a godly character that you may prove a blessing and not a curse to your future spouse.

Second, married men – so develop your character that your wife be proud to be married to you. Your wife is called to respect you. So be respectable. Cultivate such wisdom and godly character that others want your counsel, solicit your direction, and imitate your character. A wife doesn’t want a husband who follows in her wake but a husband who loves her by leading her, providing for her and protecting her. Earn her respect by stepping up to the plate and doing so. Push yourself and stretch yourself to be a better man.

Finally, married women – so develop your character that you make it easy for your husband to love and lead you. Ground yourself in Christ and imitate Lady Wisdom in Proverbs. Routinely take the log out of your own eye before attempting to take the speck out of your husband’s. Beware being a dripping faucet. Beware being cold sexually. Beware exposing your husband’s faults to others. Make his home a haven to which he may return regularly with joy and not resignation. Enable your husband to put his full trust in you.

Reminded that marriage to an honorable man or virtuous woman is God’s good gift to us, let us confess that we often fail to cultivate the character necessary to be a blessing to our spouse; and, as we confess our sin, let us kneel as we are able before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Today the Bridegroom Claims His Bride

January 10, 2021 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, Church History, Faith, Glorification, King Jesus, Marriage, Meditations, Quotations

Isaiah 49:6 (NKJV)

6 Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Though Epiphany proper fell earlier this week on January 6th, today we celebrate Epiphany Sunday. As we have emphasized each year, Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the coming of the Magi which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ life. The Magi were a powerful ruling class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. While Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Magi, Gentile rulers, sought out the new-born Jesus and worshiped Him, acknowledging Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles. So Epiphany celebrates that, through the Magi, God the Father revealed that Jesus is His King, come to rule over all the nations of the earth.

Consider, second, the baptism of Jesus which occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry and revealed the purpose of His kingship. He was washed in water to identify with us in our sin and to prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, through Jesus’ baptism, God the Father revealed that His Son Jesus is His Redemptive King, come to rescue us from our chief enemy – our own sinful corruption and guilt.

Consider, finally, the wedding in Cana of Galilee which occurs as the beginning of Jesus’ miraculous signs. When the wine at the wedding feast ran out, Jesus turned water into wine and, in John’s words, “revealed His glory” (Jn 2:11). He revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation, that He might make glad the hearts of men through His rule and reign. Epiphany, therefore, celebrates that, at the wedding of Cana, Jesus revealed Himself to be God’s Festal King, come to rule us in joy.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God reveals how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and rebelling against His lawful and joyful rule. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world, to proclaim the glories of our King that all nations and their kings bow before Him and worship Him.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us kneel as we are able, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

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.

Why Marry in Tumultuous Times?

September 5, 2020 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Eschatology, Glorification, Judgment, King Jesus, Marriage, Politics, Postmillennialism, Sovereignty of God

Isaiah 62:4–5 (NKJV)

4You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah [My Delight is in her], and your land Beulah [Married]; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

This is a splendid evening for a glorious occasion. For years now I have known both of you and have appreciated your strong convictions, your willingness to work hard, and your love for Christ and His people. It brings me great joy to unite you in the covenant of marriage today confident that, by the grace of God, your home will be a beacon of Christ’s presence in the world.

You are getting married at a tumultuous time in our republic’s history. There is increased polarization and racial tension in our country. Protests and riots have gripped many of our major cities. Many of our citizens are looking skeptically at those in law enforcement and the military. And so some may wonder if it is worth getting married at such a time. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until things calm down? Or perhaps not to get married at all? After all, with marriage often come children and who wants to bring children into such a fractured, unstable world?

But Isaiah teaches us never to underestimate the power of a good marriage to display the light of Christ in a broken world. Israel was in crisis in Isaiah’s day. The Assyrians were ransacking the country. Jerusalem was besieged. It appeared that perhaps God had abandoned Israel. In the midst of this turmoil, Isaiah turned to a man and woman getting married and held out their love, their union, as a message of hope for all Israel. Even as that man longed for that woman and gave himself to her, so, Isaiah tells us, the Lord longs for His people and will give Himself for her. Isaiah insisted that the future was hopeful not bleak; light not darkness; for God is Lord of the future and God loves His people and loves His creation.

A good marriage points to the central message of the Gospel – a message of hope, of peace, of harmony, of love, of commitment, a message that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to rescue the world, to marry His bride. Even as Justus delights in you, Stacey, rejoicing over you and longing to marry you, so God rejoices over His people and over His entire creation, and He shall deliver us from all turmoil, causing the glory of His Son to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. America – like other republics and nations – shall be a glorious place, full of the knowledge of the Lord, singing the glories of the Lord, prospering under the hand of the Lord. Want proof? Just look in Justus’ eyes.

So let me urge you both to remember that you do not marry just for yourselves this day. Obviously, we know that you marry for yourselves – your smiles and joy and delight tell us; the longing that each of you has had to find a spouse and the pleas that you have each raised to the Lord in that regard tell us that you marry for yourselves. We know that. But you do not marry just for yourselves; you also marry for all those assembled here: you remind us of the Lord’s love for His people and His determination to save and bless His own. You give us hope. You marry for all those you shall meet in the course of your married life: to draw them into the circle of love in your home and so to point them to the source of that love, God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the first and foundational community of love. You marry for the life of the world: to display God’s glory from generation to generation on those who love Him and keep His commandments and to remind everyone that the future is hopeful. Today you say to us all:

4You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah [My Delight is in her], and your land Beulah [Married]; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

But this hope isn’t automatic. Justus, if there were not in Stacey’s eyes also the light of love, a longing to know you and be known by you, then today would not be a joyful day, would it? So Stacey’s longing for you summons us to turn from other loves and to give our hearts wholly and completely to God Himself, our Creator and Redeemer.

So Justus and Stacey, may your home, both now and in years to come, be a beacon of light to point friends and foes to the One who is the Light of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. For He alone is the foundation of life, of peace, of joy, and of hope. Amen.

 

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.

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.

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.