The Descent into Utter Debasement

September 22, 2019 in Abortion, Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Children, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Creation, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin, Temptation

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. Paul reminds us that unbelief never remains isolated in the head and the heart; it inevitably bears fruit. Over time, unbelief degenerates into idolatry, immorality, homosexuality, and thence into utter debasement and societal instability; its fruit is barbarism whereas the fruit of faith is civilization.

Today we begin to examine the descent into utter debasement and societal instability. God is just. Therefore, when we refuse to repent in the face of widespread idolatry, immorality, and homosexuality, when, in Paul’s words, we do not like to retain God in [our] knowledge, then God hands us over to our sin. He gives us over, Paul writes, to a debased mind… This debased mind then reveals itself in the practice of those things which are not fitting.

So what does Paul mean by a debased mind? A debased mind is one that is adulterated, corrupted, twisted. It is the type of mind that argues that no-fault divorce is good for society and good for children; it is the type of mind that believes we can increase wealth by confiscating others’ rightful property; it is the type of mind that defends pornography as freedom of expression; it is the type of mind that cannot distinguish a boy from a girl; it is the type of mind that imagines that having drag queens read to little children and groom them for sexual exploitation is praiseworthy; it is the type of mind that thinks coercing people to make cakes for sodomite unions is just; it is the type of mind that thinks it is merciful to permit mentally confused people to change their sex on their birth certificate.

A debased mind, in other words, is a mind that has lost its moral compass. In our case, succumbing to the internal logic of relativism, our debased mind no longer has the ability to distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, or kindness from cruelty. “A righteous man,” Solomon notes in Proverbs 12:10, “has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” Societies that rebel against God eventually lose what used to be called “common sense”; God gives them over to a debased mind.

When God hands a people over to a debased mind, that debased mind begins to manifest itself in action. We do those things that are not fitting, that do not reflect our true glory as men and women made in the image of God. We were created to rule over the world in righteousness, faithfulness, and truth; to erect civilizations to the glory and honor of God. But a debased mind degenerates into barbarism, cruelty, injustice, and dishonor.

In coming weeks, we will explore these actions in more detail. For now, suffice it to say that our dishonorable actions are the outworking of our debased mind. Our debased mind is the root; the dishonorable actions are the fruit. Therefore, what is our calling as the people of God? What is your calling as a follower of Christ? Paul commands in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Your calling is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, to study the Word of God and permit it to shape your mind anew, so that you can begin to practice that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

So what of you? Are you conforming yourself to the world or are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind? If you are not being transformed, if you are not purposely renewing your mind through study of and meditation upon the Word of God, then let me assure you that you are being conformed. Transform or conform – those are the only options.

Reminded that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, let us confess that we are often conformed to the world instead. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Homosexuality

September 15, 2019 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Sexuality, Sin, Sovereignty of God

Romans 1:26–27 (NKJV)

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. We have seen that when peoples rebel against the Living God, that unbelief never remains isolated in the head and the heart. Unbelief inevitably works itself out into idolatry and thence into immorality, then into unnatural homosexual lusts, and, finally, into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, barbarism is the fruit of unbelief while civilization is the fruit of faith.

Today we examine the descent into unnatural homosexual lusts. Paul writes, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions…” In other words, when groups of people fail to repent in the face of widespread sexual immorality and its devastating consequences, then the just God hands them over to even more degrading practices. As we emphasized last week, not all sins are equal. Some sins are more heinous in the sight of God than others. Among these more heinous sins is that of unnatural homosexual lust and behavior. Paul writes clearly, “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful…” Despite attempts to reinterpret Paul, it is clear that he is addressing homosexual longings and acts among both women and men. A woman who pursues another woman sexually or a man who pursues another man sexually is committing a grievous sin.

So why is homosexual desire and behavior so sinful? First, Paul insists that it is against nature. “…women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman…” Both lesbianism and sodomy are affronts to the God who made mankind both male and female, who made men to respond sexually to women and women to respond sexually to men. To indulge in same sex attraction or acts is to rebel against one’s very nature as male or female and, hence, to rebel against the God who created one male or female.

Therefore, second, Paul describes this behavior as shameful: “…men with men committing what is shameful.” While a man who lusts over a woman or a woman over a man is committing a grave sin, their sin, distorted though it is, reflects their underlying nature; it is a sin that can have a lawful outlet in matrimony. And, as Paul reminds us, the marriage bed is undefiled (Heb 13:4), sanctified to the glory and honor of the Creator. The homosexual bed, however, whether united in a faux (fake) marriage or not, is always and in every situation shameful and degrading. There is no lawful outlet for homosexual longings.

Therefore, homosexual longings are, in Paul’s assessment, vile passions. They are passions, that is, desires that dwell in the heart; and it is from these desires in the heart, Jesus tells us, that sins emerge (cf. Mk 7:21). Homosexual acts are but the fruit of homosexual desires – and it is the desires that are, in Paul’s words, vile – the Greek word means infamous, dishonorable, reproachful, disgraceful. They are passions which can never be lawfully fulfilled. And so the passions themselves, as well as the acts which proceed from them, must be confessed as sin and forsaken.

Because these passions are vile, God faithfully reveals their character even to those who practice them. How does He do so? Paul writes that the practitioners receive in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” God visits those who practice these sins with troubled consciences, mental disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases, and, in so doing, calls them to repent, to turn from darkness and return to the light.

But we as a people have not heeded these calls to repentance, have we? Our entertainment industries thrust such perversions upon us; our media outlets increasingly praise perverse sexual behaviors; major businesses tout their allegiance to gay pride; the Supreme Court of the United States has compelled the States to recognize same sex unions in Obergefell; and even our own city forbids business owners and others from “discriminating” against perverse sexual behavior. We are guilty.

As we come into the presence of the Lord, therefore, let us lead our culture in the way of confession. Let us acknowledge our sin and pray that God would have mercy upon us, enabling us to embrace our identity as male or female and escape our coming judgment. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Immorality

September 8, 2019 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Confession, Depravity, Evangelism, Hell, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Providence, Sexuality, Sin, Temptation

Romans 1:24–25 (NKJV)

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

This morning we continue our survey of Romans 1. When peoples reject the Living God, they descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. As we have noted, Paul insists that civilization is the fruit of faith whereas barbarism is the fruit of unbelief.

Today we examine the descent into immorality. Individuals are notoriously and, at times, gloriously inconsistent. We act in ways at odds with what we profess to believe. Consequently, you can have an unbelieving neighbor who is a remarkably kind, gracious, and pleasant fellow and a believing acquaintance who is a narrow, caustic, and unpleasant one. Individuals are frequently inconsistent.

But groups of people, cultures, are always consistent with their most basic presuppositions; they always begin to act in a way consistent with their most fundamental and cherished beliefs. And one of the consistent outworkings of unbelief and idolatry is sexual immorality, sexual rebellion. A survey of the idolatrous cultures of the world illustrates this: among the Canaanites, for example, two of the most prominent deities were Baal and Asherah, fertility gods whose rites included mass orgies. In Rome, one of the most popular cults was that of the phallus, the male reproductive organ. And you are no doubt aware of the many cult prostitutes who served patrons at the various pagan shrines. Idolatry degenerates into immorality: pornography, fornication, adultery, polygamy, concubinage, prostitution, voyerism, sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, ad nauseam.

Why? Well consider America’s descent into public immorality that sprouted in the 1960s and has continued to grow to the present. The form of idolatry in Western Civilization is secularism and its dominant story line is Darwinism or macro-evolution. According to Darwinism, men are but sophisticated animals, in no way unique and in no way accountable to our Creator. Indeed, we are self-created and determine our own purpose. Since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, American society has increasingly absorbed this presupposition, this basic belief.

In Paul’s words, “we exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” You see, if we acknowledge that there is a glorious and incorruptible God who has created us in His image to use our bodies with honor and to respect the sexuality of our neighbors, then we will strive to display the glory of God in our sexual conduct. This was once our most cherished belief as a people. But we rejected this truth; we embraced the lie that we are just animals. And what has happened? God has given us over to our lie: we have begun to act like animals and to follow our baser instincts. We have declared that restrictions on sexual behavior are no more than prudery, hold-overs of an uptight generation. Dishonoring our bodies? That’s silly! Sex is just a natural and necessary function like breathing. Honor is irrelevant.

Paul’s words remind us that ideas have consequences. Groups of people always act consistently with their most cherished beliefs; God is not mocked. What a man sows, what a culture sows, that will he also reap. And when we begin to reap the terrible harvest – the immorality itself, the battered women, the abused children, the aborted babies, the STDs, the mental illnesses – that harvest is God’s wake up call, God’s summons to repent and return to Him.

But we have not done so, have we? We have doubled down on the lie. So this morning, as we enter into the presence of the Lord of glory, let us lead our culture in the way of confession. Let us acknowledge our sin and pray that God would have mercy upon us, enabling us to treat one another with honor and integrity again. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Descent into Idolatry

September 1, 2019 in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Greek Gods, Human Condition, Judgment, Meditations, Politics, Sovereignty of God, Truth

Romans 1:18–23 (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

Several weeks ago we began a study of Romans 1. Paul declares that when peoples reject the Living God, they descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, the fruit of unbelief is barbarism whereas the fruit of faith is civilization.

Having discussed unbelief itself, we proceed to idolatry. Paul writes that our unbelief degenerates into idolatry – unbelieving men “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In other words, Paul insists that idolatry is an affliction of our minds and of our hearts. First, he says that men became futile in their thoughts. Idolatry is a problem of the mind. The idolater exchanges “the glory of the incorruptible God” for “an image made like corruptible man”; he exchanges the solid foundation of rationality for no foundation at all. You see, if there is an incorruptible God, a God who exists over and above all things, who has created all and who is Himself the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, then the world as we know it and experience it makes sense. It makes sense that there are mathematical formulas, moral laws, and intricate designs. The world and all things in it reflect the grandeur of God.

But if there is no such God, if the idolaters are right and the gods are just part of the world or if the gods don’t really exist at all and we’re just alone in the world, then there is no foundation for reason and rationality. For example, materialists declare that only physical properties are real, that there are no spiritual entities, no universal truths; but then they set out to justify their contentions using mathematical formulas and principles. Really, where is the material of which mathematics is made? Darwinists claim that humans are just sophisticated animals and yet insist that we have a moral obligation to care for the planet. Really, where did morals come from? Relativists claim that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and yet turn away in revulsion from rotting flesh. Really, why isn’t rotting flesh lovely? Idolatry is a problem is the mind; it cannot provide a foundation for truth, goodness, and beauty.

But idolatry is also a problem of the heart. Paul writes that “their foolish hearts were darkened.” Our loves and desires are corrupted such that we call truth, error, we call good, evil, and we call beauty, ugliness. So John Calvin was right to remark that the human heart is an idol factory. We erect false gods so that we can cling to our unbelief, because to acknowledge the true God would be to confront the truth about ourselves and our need for a Savior, a Savior who can renew our hearts and teach us to love what is true, good, and beautiful again.

Idolatry, therefore, is a problem of the mind and a problem of the heart. But hear the Word of God: there is a source of truth, goodness, and beauty. That Source is the Eternal Word of God who took on human flesh and dwelt among us. Why is the world rational, why does it reflect eternal mathematical principles, why do we find the Fibonacci Sequence again and again and again? Because all things were made by the Eternal Logos and reflect His genius. Why do men long for justice, complain about unfairness, and condemn the dictator who butchers his people? Because in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. Why do we delight to catch a glimpse of the Western Tanager, to sit and watch a sunset, and to stair into the starry heavens? Because He is glorious and full of grace and truth.

So what of you? Are you still clinging to your irrational and dark idolatry? Then hear the voice of Christ. Turn from your sin and turn in faith to the Living God. Reminded that as humans, we are so prone to turn from God to idols, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins to Him. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

No Creed but Christ?

August 18, 2019 in Bible - NT - Matthew, Church Calendar, Church History, Creeds, King Jesus, Meditations, Temptation, Tradition, Uncategorized

Matthew 16:13–17 (NKJV)

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

Our culture has institutionalized the tradition of anti-traditionalism. It is not that “rebellion” is acceptable within our cultural milieu; “rebellion” has become our cultural milieu. From “Not your father’s Buick” to “Not your father’s Root Beer,” to “Just be yourself,” our culture expects each new generation to be different, unique, revolutionary. “Out with the old, in with the new,” we are told. “This is the evolutionary process.”

Unfortunately, we evangelicals have imbibed much of this cultural food, routinely wolfing down the latest fad. However, because we have a residual loyalty to the Bible, we often try to cloak our anti-traditionalism in pious language. Consider, for example, the sentiment, “No creed but Christ.” “All we want to do is focus on Jesus. Away with these other teachings and traditions! Away with the creeds!”

Such a sentiment is nothing more than the anti-traditionalism of our culture cloaked in pious language. A moment’s thought reveals its utter inadequacy: No creed but Christ? What Christ do you mean? Who is this “Christ”? Is he…

  • The literal offspring of God the Father & Mary as Mormons teach?
  • The greatest of angelic beings as JWs & Arians teach?
  • Simply a great moral teacher as liberalism teaches?
  • A spirit being who only appeared to be human as Docetism taught?

To say, “No creed but Christ,” in other words, is vacuous. We must specify which Christ we mean. And this is the dynamic we see at work in our text today. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They respond, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  But then Jesus presses, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter confesses, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus declares, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” In other words, Peter got the answer correct.

Jesus’ interaction with the disciples reminds us that creeds, doctrinal summaries of the faith, are inescapable. It is not whether but which; not whether we have and embrace a creed but which creed we embrace – the true one or the false one? It was this insight that led our fathers to compose creeds in the history of the Church – summaries of biblical teaching that answer the question, “Who is this God we worship?” They composed creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon, and then handled them down to us as a sacred trust. These creeds were attempts to distinguish truth from error, to combat various false teachings that tried to infiltrate the Church – Gnosticism, Arianism, Sabellianism, Docetism, and others.

So how ought we to receive these creeds? As we shall learn in our sermon today, we ought to receive them in thankfulness and then hand them on to the next generation. Rather than scorn the creeds with our arrogant mantra, “No creed but Christ,” we ought to thank God that He poured out His Spirit upon His Church and enabled our fathers to summarize faithfully the teachings of Scripture.

So what of you? Have you given thanks to God for these creedal summaries, treasured them as gifts from God, and considered how you might hand these on to the next generation? Or have you taken them for granted, mumbling through them each Sunday and largely ignoring the blood, sweat, and tears that went into their composition and transmission?

Reminded that God has been good and kind to His Church throughout history and has given us the creeds to lead and guide us in the proper understanding of His Word, let us confess that we have often taken these creeds for granted. As we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Heart of Unbelief

August 11, 2019 in Apologetics, Atheism, Bible - NT - Romans, Church History, Confession, Eschatology, Human Condition, Meditations, Politics

Romans 1:18–23 (NKJV)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

When nations apostatize and reject the Living God, they imagine that they can do so with impunity. They say, “The Lord does not see, nor does the God of Jacob understand” (Ps 94:7). But this is a delusion. God sees and understands – and, as the Righteous Judge, He deals with these peoples in a predictable manner, a manner that Paul outlines in Romans 1. Peoples who reject the Living God descend from unbelief into idolatry into immorality into unnatural homosexual lusts and thence into utter debasement and societal instability. In other words, civilization is the fruit of faith whereas barbarism is the fruit of unbelief.

Paul begins his discussion of God’s dealings with unbelieving man at the fountainhead: unbelief itself. God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men because all men know God and yet they suppress that knowledge in unrighteousness. This is why, Scripturally speaking, the dilemma of the ignorant native who has never heard the Gospel and who is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus is fictitious. The native isn’t guilty for refusing to believe in Jesus – he is guilty because he refuses to listen to his own conscience and to worship the God he knows created him. Our basic problem as human beings is not that we have failed to trust in Jesus for salvation. Jesus is the solution to our problem. Our problem is our sin. We have rebelled against God and we know it.

Paul writes that “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…” Even in our unbelief, we all know God and we do two things: first, we refuse to glorify God as God and, second, we refuse to give thanks to Him. So let’s consider these two things.

First, we refuse to glorify God as God. Unbelief fails to worship the God who is worthy of all praise. We will offer praise to sticks and stones; we will bow down before idols of our own devising; we will pray to our ancestors; we will deify the state and look to government to save us; we will act as a law unto ourselves; anything to avoid praising the Living God who has created heaven and earth and who speaks to us in our conscience. In our unbelief, we refuse to glorify God as God.

Second, we refuse to give thanks to God. At its heart, unbelief is ungrateful. We will pretend that all we have and all we are is the gift of some other god, or the fruit of our own labor, or the gift of the fatherland, or an inheritance from family, or a random happen-chance; anything to avoid giving thanks to the Living God who has given us life, breath, and all things. In our unbelief, we refuse to give thanks to God.

So if the heart of unbelief is a refusal to worship God as God and a refusal to give Him thanks, then what ought to characterize those who claim to believe? The heart of belief is a willingness to glorify God as God – to worship Him faithfully – and to give thanks to Him for all His many gifts. And this is why we have gathered here this day. We have gathered to glorify God as God and to give Him thanks.

So as we gather in His presence, if you have lived thus far in unbelief, refusing to glorify God as God and refusing to give Him thanks, then let me urge you to repent, to confess your sin in Jesus’ Name, and to seek God’s forgiveness – Jesus is the solution to your problem. If, on the other hand, you have already believed, then let us too bow before our God in humility, acknowledging that we often fail to glorify Him as is His due and to give Him thanks as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins to Him. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Truth and Love

June 23, 2019 in Bible - NT - 2 John, Creeds, Love, Meditations, Truth

2 John 1–3 (NKJV)

1 The Elder, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

The Apostle John wrote his second epistle to a Christian congregation whom he poetically calls “the elect lady.” In these first few verses John highlights his two primary concerns for this congregation – truth and love.

He loves this congregation “in truth” together with all those who have known “the truth” – because “the truth” abides in us and will be with us forever. Doctrine, John insists, accurate teaching about the Person and Work of Christ, is essential to the Christian faith.

But so too is love. John “loves” the elect lady and her children and prays that God would pour out “grace, mercy, and peace” upon them in truth and love. Love too is essential to the Christian faith.

Unfortunately many have attempted to pit these two virtues against one another. On the one hand we have churches that are so committed to “truth” that they treat others mercilessly and harshly, failing to love them as they have been loved. On the other hand, we have churches that are so committed to “love” that they refuse to stand for the truth, refuse to stand for what is good and right.

But truth and love are not competitors – together the two shape and mould biblical wisdom as we see them displayed in our Lord Jesus. Truth and love are like the twin components of bones and flesh. Truth by itself is like a skeleton without flesh – stark, frightening, lifeless. Love by itself is like flesh without a skeleton – a big blob of goo with no structure. But together the two unite to form the living body of Christ.

So this is the challenge for us as a body of believers – to so unite truth and love in our lives that we be a light to the world and embody in our congregation the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. First, we need to embrace the truth – to meditate deeply on the Word of God, to cling to it regardless the opposition, and to articulate it clearly as life and light for the world. Second, we need to practice love in our families, in our congregational life, and in our broader community – to treasure our spouses, to disciple our children, to honor our parents, to encourage the fainthearted, to lift up those who have stumbled, and to show redemptive compassion to those who are suffering.

God calls us to so knit truth and love together that Christ be exalted in us and through us. But often we too pit one against the other – and so let us confess our sin and pray that God would enable us to experience His grace, mercy, and peace in truth and in love. 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.

Trinity Sunday 2019

June 16, 2019 in Bible - NT - John, Creeds, Image of God, Liturgy, Meditations, Trinity

John 17:1–6 (NKJV)

Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday we explicitly remind one another that the God we worship is Triune – three Persons in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later in worship we will recite the Athanasian Creed, one creedal attempt to articulate our Triune faith.

As we saw in our study of John 17 last month, Jesus’ prayer reveals the relationship that has existed for all eternity among the Persons of the Trinity. For all eternity, the Father and Son have loved one another with such a deep bond that that love is Himself a Person, the third Person of the Trinity, the Spirit. In their bond of love, the Father and Son share glory with one another. Jesus prays, And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. Jesus asks the Father – the Father who declared through Isaiah, “My glory I will not give to another…” – Jesus says to this Father, glorify Me together with Yourself… And note that it is a particular type of glory, the glory which I had with You before the world was. Prior to His incarnation, Jesus existed in the form of God and, though His deity was veiled during His time on earth, now that He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, that glory has been restored to Him. Jesus was and is God Himself in human flesh. The Father, Son, and Spirit share glory.

Second, Jesus reveals that in eternity past, before the world was, when the Father and Son shared glory, they communed with one another, they lived in a relationship of love with one another. Jesus alludes to this eternal fellowship a couple times. He says, I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. In eternity past, before the world was, the Father gave Jesus a task to accomplish, a work to perform. Not only did the Father give the Son a task to do, He also gave Him a people to call His own. Jesus prays, I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me So when did the Father give these people to the Son? Before the world was. As Paul writes in Ephesians, the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

This interaction between the Persons of the Godhead prior to the foundation of the world is sometimes called the Covenant of Redemption or the pactum salutis. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have dwelt in covenantal life for all eternity. As we consider this Covenant of Redemption, that before the foundation of the world God thought of us, loved us, and gave us to be Christ’s own people – apart from any merit of our own; indeed despite the demerit which He knew we would deserve – ought we not to be humbled and awed that the Creator of all took notice of us? As our opening Scripture from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians records, But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes 2:13-14).

And so reminded of the great love which the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us, and that He loved us before the foundation of the world and loves us despite our unloveliness, let us confess that we are unworthy His love. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Our Ascended Lord

June 2, 2019 in Ascension Sunday, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Church Calendar, Church History, King Jesus, Meditations

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-13
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But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” …11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Today is Ascension Sunday. Ascension Sunday celebrates – along with Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost – one of the most pivotal events in the life of Christ and, hence, in the history of the world. On this day, Jesus ascended into heaven and took His seat of authority at the right hand of God Almighty, ruling there as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And from this position of authority, He sent forth His Spirit upon His disciples – an event we shall celebrate next week in Pentecost.

In our text today, Paul indicates one of the implications of the Ascension for the people of God. When Christ ascended on high, when He was enthroned in power, sitting at the right hand of God Almighty, He did so as the victorious Conqueror, in a position to distribute spoil among his followers. “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

And what is the nature of the gifts He bestows upon His people? Ah they are numerous and glorious – for His gifts are not merely objects but persons. He has given apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – from other places we learn that He has given helps, works of mercy, humility, joy, contentment, peace, self-control, wisdom, virtue. Glorious gifts all!

So why has He given these things to His people? Paul writes that Jesus has given them “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Christ has given gifts to each of us that we might bless and build up our fellow believers in the faith. He has given to us that we might give to others.

So what does Ascension Sunday mean for us? First, Ascension Sunday means that Jesus is exalted as the Great King, the Ruler over all the kings of the earth and that all are called, both the small and the great, to worship Him as such. Second, Ascension Sunday reminds us that our King has given gifts to all His people; He does not leave anyone out. If you have been baptized into Christ, then Christ has poured out gifts upon you. Third, Ascension Sunday summons us to use those gifts to bless others, to be a generous people who imitate our great King. Finally, Ascension Sunday calls us to be an incredibly thankful people, thankful for the gifts which He has given each of us personally and for the gifts He has given us through others. “Our Lord Jesus, thank you for calling the Twelve and giving them to the Church; thank you for Paul, for Athanasius, for Clement, for Gottschalk, for Helena and Clotilda, for Luther, Zwingli, and Bucer. Closer to home, thank you for George and Freddy and Sally and for the gifts You have given Your Church through them.”

But frequently our attitude and actions are far from this. Frequently, we complain that we have not been given the gifts that others have received, and we endeavor to horde our gifts, increasing our own cache rather than blessing others. So reminded of this, let us confess our sins to Him and let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.