The Fear of Persecution

October 10, 2021 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Fear, Meditations

Philippians 1:27–28 

27Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 

Jesus warns in Revelation 20 that “the cowardly” will not inherit the kingdom of God but will instead be cast into the lake that burns with fire. As we meditated on His warning, we said that cowardice is shown whenever we turn away from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear. And we have begun to explore the different types of fear that make us cowardly. Today let us consider the fear of persecution.

The Philippian church was facing opposition and threats from adversaries. The word that Paul uses to describe these people is the same word that Peter uses elsewhere to describe Satan himself: “Be sober, be vigilant;” Peter writes, “because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). So these folks who raged against the church in Philippi were acting like Satan himself, seeking to devour and destroy God’s lambs.

But though these adversaries endeavored to intimidate and threaten the Christians in Philippi, Paul commands them to be “not in any way terrified.” First, they are not to be terrified. The word means “to be fearful as the result of being intimidated—‘to be afraid, to be scared, to be intimidated’ (Louw-Nida, 1:316). Our natural response to intimidation, especially to intimidation by those who have power or influence, is fear. But Paul instructs them not to be terrified. Rather, they are to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” They were to serve the Lord together with unity of heart and mind and action; to stand strong and not cower in the face of this intimidation. 

Second, they are not to be terrified in any way. In nothing, not in anything. Nullo. Don’t be terrified when they drag your name through the mud. Don’t be terrified when they threaten your family. Don’t be terrified when they burn your home. Don’t be terrified when they arrest you. Don’t be terrified when they sentence you to death. Don’t be terrified in any way. 

So why shouldn’t we be terrified in any way by our adversaries? Paul writes, “which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” When we refuse to be intimidated by opposition, when we refuse to be terrified in any way by our adversaries, we testify that our adversaries are doomed to be judged by God and that we shall be saved by Him. We notify the world, “God is on our side so we are not afraid.”

So Peter wrote to other Christians who were suffering persecution:

13And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 

We are not to be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. God promises to bless all those who suffer for righteousness’ sake. Hence, it is far better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

So what of you? Are you afraid of your adversaries? Or you afraid of those who rage against God and against His Christ? Is your fear causing you to distance yourself from Jesus and from His people? To be ashamed of the Gospel? To be silent when you need to speak? To speak when you need to be silent? Mine often is. And so reminded that we are not to be terrified in any way by Christ’s adversaries, let us confess that we are often terrified in many ways. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our fear to the Lord.  

The Fear of Man

October 3, 2021 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Fear, Meditations

Isaiah 51:12–13 

12“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? 13And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? 

Jesus warns in Revelation 20 that “the cowardly” will not inherit the kingdom of God but will instead be cast into the lake that burns with fire. As we meditated on His warning, we said that cowardice is shown whenever we turn away from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear. And we have begun to explore the different types of fear that make us cowardly. Last week we examined the fear of death; this week, the fear of man. 

In Isaiah’s day there was much to fear. All Judah had been overrun by the Assyrians and the city of Jerusalem had only been delivered when God sent an angel and slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. While the Assyrians had now departed, the country was still suffering. Judah was weak, exposed to the competing influences of Egypt in the south and Babylon to the north. There was much to fear.

In our day there is much to fear as well. Eroding trust. Government overreach. New variants of Covid. Loss of employment. Inflation. Political turmoil. The rise of China. The corruption of the Church. The criticism of friends and family. The advancement of the LGBTQ agenda. The erosion of our historic liberties. The breakdown of the family. There is much to fear.

But in our text today, God reminded our fathers and reminds us that when there is much to fear from men we are to saturate ourselves with the fear of God. We are to meditate on the goodness and greatness of God. First, we are to meditate on His goodness. The Lord says through Isaiah, “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” The Lord is our Comforter and our Redeemer. In Christ, He has delivered us from our sin, reconciled us to Himself, and granted us access into His very presence through the blood of Jesus. At any and all times we have access to Him who loved us and gave His Son to die for us and who will, with Jesus, freely give us all things. So why are we afraid of a man who will die, and a son of men who will wither like grass?

Second, when we are tempted to fear man, we are to mediate on the greatness of God. “Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die…? 13And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth?” The power of man is as nothing compared with the power of God. God is the Creator and Sustainer of all. And since we are in the hands of Almighty God, need we be afraid of a man who will die? Does He fear the plots and schemes and actions of the wicked? No! Therefore, we need not fear. 

The way to fight the fear of man, therefore, is by feeding our souls on the greatness and the goodness of God. God is great – His power is beyond anything that any man can do to us. And God is good – He promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Hence, we need not fear man. Jesus reminded the disciples:

28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

So what of you? Have you feared man? Have you neglected to meditate on the greatness and goodness of God? I have. So reminded of the greatness and the goodness of our God and of our calling to shun the fear of man, let us confess our fear to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Fear of Death

September 26, 2021 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Fear, Meditations

Hebrews 2:14–15 

14Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 

Last week we saw that Jesus warned “the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars” that they would be cast into the lake that burns with fire. It is that first category that we studied last week – the cowardly. We said that cowardice is shown whenever we turn away from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear. 

So today I want to explore one of the types of fear that drives us to be cowardly – the fear of death. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the garden, death has been a part of human existence. While there have been a couple who have escaped its sting – Enoch and Elijah – most have faced the horrors of death. David cried out:

3The pains of death surrounded me, And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. 4Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” (Ps 116:3-4)

Likewise, our Lord Jesus faced death. In the words of our text today, He partook of flesh and blood, He became incarnate, and then gave Himself over to death in order that He might conquer death. He sacrificed His life “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Death had been the devil’s tool to keep the nations in darkness and ignorance. So Jesus broke the power of death in order that He might release mankind from the fear of death. Jesus died and rose again so that we might live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Jesus died and rose again so that we might proclaim, “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor 15:55). Jesus died and rose again so that we might not be afraid of death.

Brothers and sisters, this is a message our culture desperately needs to hear, is it not? Family, friends, and neighbors are living in fear of death. The Covid pandemic has exposed this fear. Many have no hope beyond this life; others have vague notions of life after death; many Christians have lost sight of the Christian hope of the resurrection. The fear of death has prompted some to use the power of the state to curtail our liberties; it has prompted others to surrender these liberties. Jesus has come to free us from such bondage by freeing us from the fear of death. Death has no hold on us for our Lord Jesus has gone before us and broken death’s jaws. He has risen triumphant from the dead as the first fruits of the resurrection, the guarantee that we too shall rise.

So what of you? Have you meditated deeply on the sure and certain hope of the resurrection? Remember that death is still an enemy. Death would try to frighten and debilitate us. But, brothers and sisters, death is a defeated foe. Christ is Risen! (He is Risen, indeed!) So let us remind one another of this hope, let us speak of it to our children, our friends and our family. Let us share with others the reason for the hope that is in us. Or have you been afraid? Afraid of their censure? Afraid of criticism? Afraid of shame? For the fear of death is not the only type of fear.

Reminded that Jesus has died and risen again in order to destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and to deliver us who through fear of death were all our lifetimes subject to bondage, let us confess that we often permit such fear to dominate our lives and govern our actions. Let us pray that He would make us a fearless people. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Sin of Cowardice

September 19, 2021 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Fear, Meditations

Revelation 21:6–8 

6Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” 

In our passage today, the Lord Jesus holds out eternal life for those who worship and serve Him despite the opposition of the world and eternal death for those who worship other gods or live unrighteously. The list that our Lord gives of those excluded from life include “the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars.” It is that first category that I want to draw to our attention today – the cowardly.

Webster defines “the cowardly” as those “wanting courage to face danger; timid; timorous; fearful; pusillanimous.” While we typically associate cowardice with the battlefield, cowardice is shown whenever we turn away from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear. 

First, we are cowardly when we turn away from a good purpose. It is not cowardice to face opposition for doing something evil and then to turn back – that is repentance. No, cowardice is the turning away from a good purpose – it is to fail to ask forgiveness from your spouse because you’re afraid of shame; to fail to confess your secret porn habit to your parents because you’re afraid to get in trouble; to fail to defend your wife from harm because you’re afraid to get hurt; to fail to confront your friend because you’re afraid you might lose her friendship; to agree to speak lies because you’re afraid you might lose your job; to watch a movie you shouldn’t because you’re afraid your friends might not think you’re cool. The cowardly turn away from a good purpose.

Second, cowardice reveals itself in the face of opposition. Anyone can be brave when there are no threats. It is when threats arise, when opposition is present, that our true character is revealed. We set ourselves to a good purpose but then face criticism or persecution or threats or a mob or financial duress. At that moment, at the moment of opposition, we discover who whether we are courageous or cowardly – for the cowardly retreat in the face of opposition.

Finally, the cowardly turn away from a good purpose because of fear. Fear of man; fear of shame; fear of death; fear of failure; fear of loneliness; fear of fame. The specific type of fear varies; but it is fear that motivates and drives the cowardly man.

C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters has the demon Screwtape explaining to his nephew why God likely created “a dangerous world – a world in which moral issues really come to the point. [God] sees,” Screwtape writes, “as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky” (148-149). Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

Hence, our Lord pronounces His woe upon the cowardly – those who turn back in the face of risk; who turn away from the faith, turn away from virtue, turn away from honesty when the cost of such things is too high. So what of you? Are you cowardly? Have you turned back from a good purpose in the face of opposition because of fear? I have. So ought we not to seek the face of God and to confess our sin, asking Him to pour out His Spirit upon us that we live without fear? “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). So let us confess our cowardice to the Lord this morning – and, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Reading the Word of God

September 5, 2021 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Lord's Day, Meditations, Word of God, Worship

Revelation 1:1–3 

1The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. 3Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. 

It is always dangerous to introduce things into the worship of the Triune God that have no grounding in Sacred Scripture. The reason is that we human beings are corrupt and prone to idolatry. We drink iniquity like water. We find ways to subvert the worship of the true and living God and to replace pure worship with the traditions of men.

And so it is always good to ask questions of our service of worship. Are the things we are doing reflective of the patterns and principles laid out in the Word of God? Have we introduced certain practices simply because we think they are good ideas or because they faithfully reflect biblical principles?

The text in Revelation today addresses one of these practices. It helps us understand why the Church has historically included the reading of Scripture in the service of worship. For if we look carefully at the words in verse 3 we find this practice mentioned:

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”

John pronounces his blessing both on the reader of the biblical text and on the hearers. In other words, the Apostle John expected that the Word of God would be read in the public assembly of God’s people. 

Knowing that our practice of reading the Word of God aloud each Lord’s Day is biblical requires us to ask another set of questions. For it is not enough to read the Word of God aloud and to hear its vibrational tones in our ear drums. We must read in a particular way and we must hear in a particular way.

First, how ought we to read the Word of God? The answer, quite simply, is that the Word of God should be read as though it were the Word of God – divinely powerful and authoritative, living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing as far as the joints and marrow, separating light from darkness, and wisdom from folly. The Word of God should be read as though we believe it.

Second, how ought we to listen to the Word of God? We ought to listen so as to be transformed by it. Notice that the blessing in the passage is pronounced not on the one who notices the general hum of the passage in his otherwise preoccupied mind, but on the one who hears and keeps the things revealed in it. We should listen to the Word of God in order to be transformed by it.

So what of you? Those who read for us, are you considering the passage carefully as you prepare, paying attention to meaning and tone? You who hear, are you using each Lord’s Day as an opportunity to train your ears to listen attentively to the Word of God? Are you training your ears, and the ears of your children, to listen with care – allowing our Lord to speak and transform us for His glory? Are you listening carefully, that God may break up your fallow ground and teach you to live in fear of Him all your days? Or are you treating the reading of the Word as simply one more activity to check off in worship so that you can get to the donuts? 

Reminded of our calling to read and listen to the Word of God in faith, let us acknowledge that we often fail to read His Word and to give heed to it as we ought. We are often distracted and inattentive. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. 

The Head of the Home

August 22, 2021 in Authority, Bible - OT - Joshua, Meditations, Responsibility

Joshua 24:14–15 

14“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

What does it mean to be a man? That is the question that we began to address last week. Joshua models for us the central idea in our text today. To be a man is to be the head of the home, the one responsible to God for the condition of the home. This is our identity as men. So let us flesh this out. Joshua calls us as the heads of our households to lead our households (1) to fear the Lord, (2) to serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and (3) to put away idols.

First, a man’s calling is to lead his household to fear of the Lord. A man knows that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despises wisdom and instruction” (Pr 1:7). Further, he knows that the pathway of the fear of the Lord is the Word of the Lord. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Ps 111:10). Hence, a true man reverences God, worships Him, refuses to take His Name in vain, and hallows the Lord’s Day, regularly leading His family to worship and praise the Lord – both at home and in the company of God’s people. Why? Because he knows that in God’s presence is true safety. “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Pr 29:25). In short, a man is to serve as the spiritual leader of his household.

Second, a man’s calling is to lead his household to serve God in sincerity and truth. A godly man walks in integrity and abhors all hypocrisy and duplicity. He does not put on a show. His devotion to the Lord is not a front or a façade. In particular, a man views his work as a calling from God not a matter of mere necessity. Hence, he does his work, “not with eyeservice, as a men-pleaser, but as a bondservant of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6). He serves God in his work. While doing this work to provide for his household, a man remembers to lay up treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy; for he knows that “better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice” (Pr 16:8). In short, a man is to serve as the provider of his household.

Finally, a man’s calling is to lead his household to put away idols. A man recognizes that there are those who hate God, hate His commandments, and who would like nothing less than the destruction of his home – physically and spiritually. He stands between his family and danger. Hence, he warns his household of the threat of idolatry, urging them that they “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2). A man realizes that the chief threat to his home is internal, not external. For the human heart is, as John Calvin once remarked, an idol-factory. Hence, the godly man keeps watch over his own heart and urges his household to watch over their hearts, for “from the heart spring the issues of life” (Pr 4:23). In short, a man is to serve as the protector of his household.

What does it mean to be a man? To be a man is to lead our household to fear the Lord, to serve Him in sincerity and truth, and to avoid idols – it is to be the spiritual leader, provider, and protector of our homes. The more faithfully we fulfill this calling, the more we reflect the character of the greater Joshua, our Lord Jesus Christ. For like the lesser Joshua, our greater Joshua stands before His Father and speaks for His people, represents His people. He says to the Father, “What they have done wrong, blame me. What I have done right, bless them.” He did not live for Himself, He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life on behalf of His people. And so this is our calling as well. This is what it is to be a man.

So what of you men? How are you doing? Are you leading your households well? Are you modeling the fear of the Lord? Are you working to serve the Lord, not laboring as a men-pleaser, but as a bondservant of Christ? Are you protecting yourself and your family from idols and enemies? This is your calling.

So reminded this morning of the high and holy calling that God has given to us as men, of our calling to lead our families in the fear of the Lord, let us confess that we are often conformed to the world rather than transformed by the renewing of our minds. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. 

The Key to Long Life and Fruitfulness

August 8, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wisdom

Proverbs 10:27–30 

27The fear of the Lord prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened. 28The hope of the righteous will be gladness, But the expectation of the wicked will perish. 29The way of the Lord is strength for the upright, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity. 30The righteous will never be removed, But the wicked will not inhabit the earth. 

What is the key to long life and fruitfulness? This is a pressing question that our generation continues to ask. However, because we have turned away from the Living God, our answers are many and vacuous. We suggest that the key is public education, or sexual liberation, or social justice, or state funded health care, or confiscatory taxation, or particular diets, or essential oils, or violating our marriage oaths. In our polytheistic culture, everyone seems to have their own answer.

But Solomon tells us that the correct answer is the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord prolongs days. It is the one who hopes in the Lord that will experience gladness; the one who walks in the Lord’s ways, observing His moral law, that will be strong; the one who listens to the Word of God and implements it, that will never be moved. As David teaches us to sing in Psalm 1 – Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord…he shall be like a tree planted by streams of living water, which yields its fruit in its season and does not wither. The key to long life and fruitfulness is the fear of the Lord for the righteous has an everlasting foundation. When the winds blow and the rains fall, it is the one who builds his house on the rock, who hears the words of Christ and does them, who will stand. Indeed, even if he perishes in this life, he knows that when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, he will be raised eternal and will serve the Lord in gladness forever. The fear of the Lord prolongs days.

So what is it that will bring death and desolation? Is it climate change, overpopulation, intolerance and discrimination, sexual repression, an unhappy marriage, poverty, capitalism, processed foods, vaccinations? Solomon tells us that the correct answer is wickedness: the years of the wicked will be shortened, his expectation will perish. The one who works iniquity, who violates God’s moral law, will be destroyed and will not inherit the earth. As David teaches us to sing in Psalm 1 – The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. Though the wicked may prosper for a time, God will bring their plans and expectations to naught. He will destroy them and the earth will vomit them out. They are like a foolish man who builds his house upon sand – when the rains and floods come, his house will be destroyed. And this destruction will reach its culmination when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. The wicked will be judged according to the things written in the books and they will perish eternally. The years of the wicked will be shortened. 

So where have you placed your hope for long life? What do your habits and passions reveal about your beliefs? Have you been distracted by the cacophany of voices surrounding us? Or have you remained centered on the answer that Solomon gives? Is the majority of your time devoted to knowing and serving God, to understanding His moral law and obeying His precepts, or have you become distracted by other things? Where have you placed your hope? 

Reminded that righteousness is the key to long life and fruitfulness, and that wickedness brings destruction, let us confess that as Americans we have abandoned the living God and embraced wickedness, and let us confess that we, the Church in America, have become confused by the foolish answers given by our neighbors. 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.

The Folly of a Rushed Conclusion

June 27, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Satan, Wisdom

Proverbs 18:13, 17

13He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him… 17The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him. 

Frank and Deuce were neighbors and as they were both fairly young men just setting out in life neither had a family. But being ranchers, they worked hard – sunup to sundown on their ranches. And they often helped one another – sometimes one pair of hands just wasn’t enough.

One day another neighbor, Dolosus by name, who owned a large spread immediately south of Frank and Deuce paid Frank a visit.

“Howdy, Frank,” Dolosus greeted and then asked with a hint of concern in his voice, “Is everything okay down here on your ranch?”

“Why yes, thank you, everything seems to be just fine. Why do you ask?” Frank replied.

“Oh, it’s probably nothing,” Dolosus assured him good-naturedly.

“What’s probably nothing?” asked Frank, getting a bit concerned.

“Well,” Dolosus confided, “Deuce mentioned to me today at the store that he was tired of sharing the creek with you and was planning to stop it up with a dam and make a pond.”

“What?!” Frank demanded. “He’d never do such a thing!”

“Well,” said Dolosus with a sympathetic look, “I’m sorry to say that I saw him purchasing the supplies today – posts, supports, … Go see for yourself – I think you’ll see him putting the posts in now.”

And sure enough, when Frank climbed the bank to where he could see Deuce’s ranch there was Deuce putting posts in the ground right near the creek. Frank got so mad, steaming and stewing on Deuce’s audacity, that he grabbed his shotgun out of the house and set out across the field, making a beeline for Deuce. 

Deuce was so busy working on the fence that he never noticed Frank’s approach. He jumped when Frank yelled at him from just a few feet away, “You lousy neighbor!” Deuce had just enough time to turn around and see the shotgun aimed his way before Frank pulled the trigger and shot him dead. 

With grim satisfaction Frank looked at Deuce’s dead body sprawled on the ground. And it was then that he noticed the barbed wire that lay beside Deuce’s corpse – and then that he became aware of the awful truth: Deuce hadn’t been making a dam. He had been building the barbed wire fence the two of them had discussed only last week.

At that moment the Sheriff happened to arrive – it seems Dolosus had notified him there might be some trouble. The Sheriff clapped Frank in irons and led him off to be hanged. Dolosus smiled grimly as Frank passed by. He couldn’t wait for the auctioneer to put the two men’s farms up for sale. He had always thought they’d make a nice addition to his own spread.

Solomon tells us that he who listens to only one side of the story rarely gets the whole story. And the problem arises when we make conclusions based on only one side of the story. Like Dolosus, Satan delights to stir up trouble – for his own advantage, of course. And one of the ways he succeeds is by convincing us to act on inadequate information. So, this morning, let us confess that we have often proven as foolish as Frank. 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.

Salvation is of the Lord

June 20, 2021 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Meditations

Philippians 4:4–7 

4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

One of our distinctives as a congregation is what we sometimes call Sunny Calvinism. What do we mean by this label? Just this – Calvinism, rightly understood, is nothing but the declaration, as Charles Spurgeon once said, that salvation is of the Lord. And that is supremely good news – news that should make us joyful not grumpy.

Salvation – the glorious glad tidings that though we rebelled against our Creator and brought upon ourselves and all creation ruin and destruction, God acted to deliver us from our folly and rescue all creation from the darkness of death. He sent His Son to bear the punishment for our sin; He raised up His Son victorious over the grave; He gave His Son, as the Exalted Ruler over all creation, the right to pour out the Spirit and renew the face of the earth. What we could not do, weak as we were, God did. Salvation is of the Lord.

But there’s more. After all, for Christ’s work of redemption to apply to us individually more must happen. Each of us by nature is a child of wrath, devoted to the service of other gods, selfish, self-centered, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. We are, as Paul announces, dead in our trespasses and sins – unable to rescue ourselves from our folly, unwilling to turn from our sin and embrace Christ. Christ’s death on the cross, His resurrection to the right hand of God – neither would benefit us if not for the work of the Spirit. God doesn’t just set up some mechanism of salvation and then say to us, “OK, put the coin in the slot and pull the lever and make it work.” No! Salvation is of the Lord. The Spirit must make us willing to turn from our sin and turn to Jesus. So if you are in Jesus, if you believe in Him and rest on Him for forgiveness and newness of life, then the Spirit of God has done this for you. Though you were stubbornly set against God by nature, by grace He has given you new life. Salvation is of the Lord.

And not only this – not only has God rescued and redeemed us – we know also that our Sovereign Lord governs all things and holds us and all things in His hands. Whatever the Lord pleases He does – in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all deeps. He is sovereign. Not one hair falls from our head apart from our Father’s will. No enemy of ours shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. No plot of the wicked shall upset the righteous reign of our Christ or thwart His determination to establish justice in the earth. Salvation is of the Lord – the Ruler of all and whose purposes none can frustrate. 

So what ought to be our response? Joy! Rejoicing! Delight! Sunny Calvinism. In the words of Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” The Lord – He who rules over all things and reigns supreme for the benefit of all those who are in Christ – is at hand. Hence, the fruit of the Spirit is joy. God has rescued us; God has done that which we were not able to do for ourselves; so how can we be anything but joyful? Salvation is of the Lord.

But often rather than reflecting such joy – joy that we have been redeemed, joy that God has us right where He has us for some good purpose – we grumble, complain, grow sour, live anxiously. So today as we enter into God’s presence, let us confess that we have failed to rejoice always; and, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.