The End of Fatherhood

November 22, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Faith, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

For the last couple weeks we have considered the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood here in 1 Thessalonians 2. We have seen that fathers are to cultivate a certain character: we are to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the eyes of their children. We have identified the basic duties of fathers: we are called to exhort, comfort, and bear witness to their families. Today we wrap up our consideration of this text by learning from Paul the end or goal of this conduct. Why ought fathers to be men of character? Why ought fathers to fulfill their duties toward their families well? Paul answers: so that our children may walk worthy of God.

Note that Paul declares that he had been as a faithful father among the Thessalonians “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (12). Paul’s burning passion was to see these men, women, and children in Thessalonica loving and serving God. As the Apostle John wrote in 3 Jn 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Both Paul and John wanted Christ’s disciples to reflect the glory of God in their own character. And praise God that they did for this desire led them to write the books which now form part of our New Testament canon. The apostles’ passion for their children paved the way for generations of believers to grow and profit.

So fathers (& mothers), two thoughts follow from this: first, how passionately are we praying for our children that they would walk worthy of God? Are we reminding them of what is most important in life? Calling them to believe the Lord, to trust Him, to honor Him, to cherish Him and His law? Our greatest privilege and calling as parents is to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in order that they themselves may walk worthy of God.

Second, fathers, let us beware putting any stumbling block before our children. After setting a little child before His disciples, Jesus warned them, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offences! For offences must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Mt 18:6-7) God forbid that any one of us parents be the means that God uses to blind our children to the truth. Instead, let us so live, so speak, so labor that we are the means God uses to call them into His own kingdom and glory.

Alongside these exhortations for fathers (and mothers), let me remind you children of your calling. God has given you the glorious privilege of growing up in a Christian home – a home where you have access to the Word of God, where you are receiving a Christian education, and where your parents are striving to raise you in the fear of the Lord. So treasure that privilege, thank God for it, and grow into it. Your calling is, as Paul admonishes the Thessalonians, to walk worthy of the God who calls you into His kingdom and glory. Learn what that means in order that God may use you to bless future generations even as you have been blessed.

These admonitions remind us of the many ways in which we all fall short of our calling as fathers, mothers, and children. We have sinned and we are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord.

The Duties of Fathers

November 15, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Discipline, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Last week we began looking at this text in Thessalonians and the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood. We learned that our goal as fathers is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the face of our children, our church, and our community. We are to be men “above reproach” as Paul says elsewhere.

But Paul not only tells us about the character of fathers in Israel, he also reveals the duties of fathers. Paul tells us that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of [the Thessalonians]” as a father does his own children. So notice the triad of responsibilities that Paul ascribes to fathers.

First, fathers are to exhort their children. The word is parakaleo – to call alongside. Hence, fathers are not only to model what it means to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly but are to call their children to join them in this type of life. The life lived in the fear of God, lived in obedience to Him, is the truly blessed life. As fathers, we are called to point this out to our children and encourage them to recognize it and love it. Even as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to learn the ways of Christ and honor Christ with their lives, so we fathers are to exhort our children to follow Him.

Second, fathers are to comfort their children. The word is paramutheomai – to cause them to be consoled. Fathers are not to be distant, not to be hard to reach, not to be unkind or uncharitable to their children. Rather we are to comfort them, to come alongside them, to stoop down and lift them up. Our comforting kindness to our children serves, after all, as a picture of the kindness of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103 declares that even as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. Thus even as Paul comforted the Thessalonians in the midst of hardship, fathers are to comfort their children throughout life.

Finally, fathers are “to charge” their children. And many a father out there says, “Yes, I wish I could charge my children but they don’t have any money!” Well it’s not that kind of charge. The word is martureo – to bear witness. It is the word from which we get our word “martyr.” Our calling is to bear witness to our children, to point them to Christ. We are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, pointing them to Christ as the only hope for individuals, families, and societies. In a Christian home, the daily witness of a father (and mother) who loves and serves Jesus is the ordinary means that God uses to bring our children to faith. Even as Paul bore witness to Christ before the eyes of the Thessalonians, calling them to trust in Him and believe in Him, fathers are to do for their children.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you daily with your children encouraging them, comforting them, bearing witness to them so that Christ might be formed in them? Or have you been lazy, assuming that your children will just “get it”? Have you abdicated, relying on your wife to accomplish the task? Have you been distant, failing to engage your kids? Then the Word of the Lord comes to you today – repent and start being a real father.

The calling of fathers to encourage, comfort, and bear witness to their children, reminds all of us that we have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

The Character of Fathers

November 8, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

In our text today Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his conduct among them – and he uses the metaphor of a father. In so doing, Paul gives us a vision of fatherhood that we will consider for the next couple weeks. Today I would like us to observe that Paul helps us understand the character that fathers are to possess: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe…” What sort of character are fathers to cultivate? Our character is to be devout, just, and blameless. This is our calling. As fathers in Israel we are to set a standard that all others can witness and imitate. And so, though I speak primarily to fathers this morning, these words apply to all – for fathers are to set the tenor and tone for all who believe.

First, we are to live devoutly. We are to model love for God, love for His law, and love for His people. We are to be the ones encouraging our wives and children to grow in their love for the things of God – for His law and for His people. And the principal way in which we encourage this is by modeling it – loving the Lord, loving to read His Word and to pray, loving the singing of the psalms, loving fellowship. We are to live devoutly.

Second, we are to live justly. We are to be models of justice and fair-mindedness, listening carefully to complaints and judging justly based on the principles found in God’s word. This is to be especially true when it is necessary to discipline or exhort our children. We are not to discipline in anger or rage for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. We are to beware being blinded by our own prejudices or simply delighting in our own opinions. We are to be steadfastly loyal to the principles of God’s Word and to apply them faithfully in our homes. We are to live justly.

Finally, we are to live blamelessly. We are to listen to the Word of God and implement it in our lives. We are to live above reproach. Our standard is not that we be cool or hip or that we be fashionable or well liked or that we be conservative or liberal. Our standard is that we be blameless – scrupulously obeying the Word of God while trusting in the forgiving grace of Christ. We are to live blamelessly.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you leading your homes? Are you setting the standard for devotion to God in your home or are you lagging behind? Are you a minister of justice in your home or are you a minister of disruption or disinterestedness? Are you striving to live a blameless life, growing in holiness, or are you stagnant? The goal of fatherhood is to live devoutly and justly and blamelessly among those who believe. How can we possibly live this way? Only by the grace of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. He is the One who must work in and through us to glorify His Name. In ourselves we are not capable to live this way – but by the grace of God we can.

So reminded of our calling to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before the Lord and His people, reminded of our need for God’s grace to empower us to obey, let us confess that we often fail in our calling and cry out for His grace. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

Justification and Sanctification

August 17, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Depravity, Faith, Justification, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification, Ten Commandments

Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If you have turned away from your life of sin and rebellion and have sought God’s forgiveness through Christ, then your forgiveness will begin to manifest itself in a life of obedience to God. Justification, in other words, is always accompanied by sanctification. As Paul emphasized in the verses just prior to this catalogue of the works of the flesh, the Christ who forgives us also gives us His Spirit; and the Spirit imparts to us the resurrection life of Jesus, enabling us to uproot the works of the flesh and to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Paul insists on this bond between justification and sanctification in his words today. After cataloguing some of the works of the flesh – works that we shall consider in future weeks – Paul writes, “of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21). The one who lives a life characterized by these evil deeds, whose life is characterized by unrepentant sin, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Such a man or woman will face the wrath and judgment of God.

And note carefully that Paul insists that this has been his consistent message. He had told the Galatians these things in time past and he was now reminding them again beforehand, before they engage in such behavior or listen to the lie of those who say, “Hey! You’ve been forgiven! You can live any way you want!”

Paul will have nothing to do with antinomianism. So what is antinomianism? Antinomianism – literally “against law” – is the idea that those who have been forgiven by Christ are no longer under obligation to observe God’s moral law. But this is folly. Shall we who died to sin, who have been forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus Christ for our rebellion against God, live any longer in it? May it never be! When God saves us from our sin, He not only forgives us the guilt of our sin but empowers us to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit.

Thomas Chalmers, the great Scottish preacher of the 18th century, once preached a sermon entitled, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” He insisted that when we see our sin in all its ugliness and then we see the forgiving grace of God in Christ in all its loveliness, God’s grace makes sin lose its lustre and appeal. Christ places in our hearts a new affection. So the believing heart wants more of Christ, more of holiness, more of truth, more of light, more of virtue and honor and humility.

So what of you? What do you love? What excites your soul? Enlivens your heart? Inspires your passions? If it is the secret thrill of adultery, contentions, outbursts of wrath, and the like, then you are still in bondage to your sin no matter what you may say about believing in Jesus. You need the forgiving and transforming grace of God. And how do you get it? By crying out to God for mercy. Consider the true heinousness of your sin and the true beauty of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Reminded that justification and sanctification always go together, let us continue to seek the face of God, confessing our own sin and acknowledging the loveliness of Christ. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Household Baptisms

June 21, 2020 in Authority, Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Covenantal Living, Election, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

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 ——–. Because it has been a while since I baptized a baby and because we have a slew of them arriving, I thought it would be fitting to meditate on the biblical basis of infant baptism. Why do we baptize babies?

As we consider this question, recall that throughout redemptive history God has dealt with His people both as individuals and as families. His covenants, His relationships with His people, are generational. So, in the beginning of creation, God made a covenant with Adam and all those in him (Rom 5:18). At the flood, God covenanted with Noah and his descendants, rescuing his entire household from destruction (Gen 6:18). Similarly, God called Abram and his household out of Ur of the Chaldees and covenanted to bless all the families of the earth through his Seed (Gen 12:3). God made a covenant with David and his descendants, promising that one of David’s sons would always sit upon his throne (2 Sam 7:12). What we see, therefore, is that God characteristically works not just with individuals but with families, with households. And this is why the final promise of the OT is that God will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (Mal 4:6).

It is no surprise, therefore, that generational faithfulness characterizes the new covenant as well. Consider the anticipations of the prophets. Jeremiah prophesied of the day when God would give His people “one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them” (Jer 32:39). Likewise, Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones that come to life closes with the glorious promise, “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes and do them…. and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children forever…” (Ezek 37:24-25a). Similarly, Isaiah promises those who turn in faith to the Messiah: “Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9).

When we turn to the pages of the NT, therefore, we find our Lord Jesus at work not only among adults but among children and infants. He raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead; He cures a father’s son who suffered from epileptic seizures; He listens to the woman of Tyre who pleads on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter; He raises the only son of the widow of Nain; He blesses the little children and even nursing infants who are brought to Him; He welcomes the praise of children in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus ministers to households not just individuals.

Consequently, the Apostles did the same. Notice our text today: Paul and Silas proclaim to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household.” The message they preached to him was the same message that they had preached the day before to Lydia. So, having believed, “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15) just as in our text the jailer “and all his family were baptized.” God deals with households and welcomes us and our children into His church through baptism.

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 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.

They are Unmerciful

May 17, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Exodus, Depravity, Human Condition, Meditations, Responsibility, Sanctification

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 conclude Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. For several months we have marched steadily through this list. Today, we conclude with Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are unmerciful.”

Mercy is “the emotion roused by contact with an affliction which comes undeservedly on someone else” (TDNT). We know that God Himself is full of mercy. He announces His Name to Moses, “Yahweh, Yahweh God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Ex 34:6-7). The Lord is a merciful God – He takes special care for those who are weak and vulnerable, for those who are suffering unjustly.

Because He is merciful, He expects us as His image bearers to be merciful as well. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother’” (Zech 7:8-10). Pay special attention, God commands, to those who are suffering unjustly. Be a merciful people.

One of the things that distinguishes the righteous and the wicked, therefore, is mercy. “The wicked borrows and does not repay, But the righteous shows mercy and gives” (Ps 37:21). The wicked man is grasping and takes from others unjustly while the righteous man is openhanded and generous. Consequently, the Lord will “cut off the memory of [the wicked] from the earth; Because he did not remember to show mercy, But persecuted the poor and needy man, That he might even slay the broken in heart” (Ps 109:15,16). The wicked man is unmerciful.

But mercy is not sentimentality; mercy is not a bleeding heart that neglects justice. God’s mercy is directed to those who are suffering unjustly; but the same God who keeps mercy also by no means clears the guilty. Those who are suffering justly, who have cruelly persecuted the helpless and been merciless to the righteous and whose wicked deeds are now coming back upon them, God treats justly. “With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful… [But] with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd” (Ps 18:25-26). So the psalmist teaches us to pray against the wicked, “Let there be none to extend mercy to him, Nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children” (Ps 109:12). And God forbids showing mercy to those who have committed certain crimes, “Your eye shall not pity…” (Dt 19:13, 21). Mercy and justice are friends.

So what of you? First, do you distinguish between those who are suffering justly and unjustly? With those suffering justly, do you pray that God would enable you to be shrewd in how you deal with them, not interrupting the Lord’s work of correction in their lives, nor overthrowing justice, but, at all times, showing grace? Second, do you delight to show mercy to those who are suffering unjustly? Do you feel compassion for them and long to alleviate their pain, praying for them, financially assisting them, and speaking up for them?

Reminded of our calling to be a merciful people even as the Lord our God is merciful, let us acknowledge that we have often closed our hearts to those in need of mercy and have often extended mercy to those who should receive justice instead. And as we confess, let us kneel. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Unforgiving

May 10, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Covenantal Living, Grace, Meditations, Responsibility

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 studying Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are unforgiving.”

It is remarkable, is it not, that Paul puts an unwillingness to forgive in such disreputable company? Paul joins it with these other undesirables: undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. Is being unforgiving really so bad?

Now, of course, we think so when we are on the receiving end of a lack of forgiveness. When we have wronged another, been convicted of our wrong, and then humbled ourselves, apologized, and sought forgiveness, only to be scorned or rejected, we know that being unforgiving is a bad thing. To be unforgiving, we conclude at such moments, is to be proud and disagreeable; it is to fail to see one’s own need for forgiveness from others. Yes, we say to ourselves, being unforgiving should be in that disreputable list.

But when the shoe is on the other foot, we are inclined to delete it from the list, aren’t we? When we are refusing to forgive another, we have a hard time seeing why it is so wrong. We excuse our refusal to forgive. “He wronged me; she mistreated me; she wounded me deeply; he abandoned me; if you only knew how many times he has lied to me; if you only knew how many times she has berated me; if you only knew how often he ignored me; if you only knew…” But Jesus cuts across our excuses, does He not, with the parable of the unforgiving servant?

There was once a servant who owed his king a massive sum, ten thousand talents, a sum that he could never repay. So the king ordered him to be sold with his wife and children and all that he had. But the servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” So the king listened to his plea, had mercy on him, and forgave him all his debt.

But that servant went out and abused one of his fellow servants who likewise was in his debt, though for not nearly as much. His fellow servant begged for mercy. “Please have patience with me and I will repay all.” But the servant was not willing; he had him thrown in prison until all was repaid. So his fellow servants reported what he had done to the king and the king was angry. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had on you?” (Mt 18:32-33)

That impulse, that refusal to forgive when others are in our debt, is to forget or to ignore how much we all are in need of forgiveness. So what of you? Are you unforgiving? When folks seek your forgiveness, do you willingly grant it, rejoicing with them in the forgiving grace of God that covers both your sins? Or do you hold on to their sin, nursing it in your heart, letting it fester and grow into bitterness, resentment, anger, and perhaps even revenge?

Reminded of our calling to be a forgiving people, who imitate our Heavenly Father in our treatment of one another, let us confess that we are often unforgiving. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel before the Lord as we seek His mercy. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Discernment and Covid-19

April 19, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Depravity, Judgment, Justice, Meditations, Politics, Responsibility, Ten Commandments, Wisdom, Word of God

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 return to Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom God in His justice has handed over to their sin for their rebellion. Today, we consider Paul’s assertion that people of debased mind “are undiscerning.”

The ability to “discern” is the ability to distinguish what is good from what is evil; what is most important from what is least important; what is major from what is minor. Repeatedly Jesus rebukes the leaders of Israel for their inability to discern. They strained out gnats and swallowed camels; they washed their hands but inside were full of dead men’s bones; they tithed mint and dill and cumin but neglected the weightier matters of the law. They were undiscerning.

This inability to discern was not unique to the leaders of Israel. Paul exhorted those Jewish Christians who were entertaining abandoning Christ and returning to unbelieving Judaism:

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Paul’s words reveal that the ability to discern good from evil is a gift from God given to those who meditate regularly on His Word. After all, discernment requires a standard of assessment; that standard is God’s moral law. By meditating on His law, we have our senses trained to discern good and evil and are capable of consuming solid food.

Our current Covid-19 crisis has revealed that many of our leaders are undiscerning, incapable of identifying what is most important and ignorant of God and His moral law. Most Governors that have issued stay at home orders have distinguished between “essential” and “non-essential” services – yet the application of this distinction has uncovered many perverse priorities. Elective surgeries canceled but abortions continued; family diners closed but marijuana shops opened; churches shuttered but liquor stores accessible. These inconsistencies highlight our inability to discern what is most important and necessary for a healthy society.

The tragic consequences of this inability to discern are increasingly manifesting themselves. Quarantining the sick and urging the vulnerable to isolate themselves is wise and prudent; destroying our people and their livelihoods through statewide quarantines is not. The true heroes and sacrificial victims of our current crisis are the owners and employees of so-called “non-essential” services or businesses whose livelihoods have been destroyed and savings depleted by the actions of our governing authorities. Until our governors voluntarily suspend their salaries and cut pay for all “non-essential” government services, then they are, like the Pharisees before them, loading burdens on the backs of their people that they themselves are unwilling to bear. Let us not, in the comfort of our homes, enjoying extended time with family, continuing to receive a paycheck, forget those who are being sacrificed for the safety of a small percentage of our society, including myself, who are especially vulnerable to the Covid virus. This entire debacle weighs heavy on my heart and I find myself resorting again and again to the cry in our confession of sins, “Lord, have mercy!”

So reminded of our need to meditate deeply on the Word of God in order that we be equipped to discern good from evil; wisdom from folly; freedom from servitude; let us acknowledge that we have failed to do so and that we are reaping the consequences of our lack of knowledge. So 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 order of service.

Calamity Comes from the Lord

March 29, 2020 in Bible - OT - Amos, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Confession, Ecclesiology, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Judgment, Justice, King Jesus, Lord's Day, Meditations, Politics, Providence, Responsibility, Sin, Sovereignty of God, Trials

Amos 3:1–6 (NKJV)

1Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: 2“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” 3Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? 4Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing? 5Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all? 6If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?

Amos reminds us that when calamity comes, it comes from the loving hand of the Lord for the benefit of His people. God had rescued Israel from Egypt. But rather than fear and serve the Lord, Israel had rebelled against Him, worshiped idols, and committed iniquity. While God had permitted the nations to wander astray and to pursue their own course in the old covenant, He had chosen Israel as His own peculiar people. Consequently, He refused to let them remain in their sin. Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, even as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov 3:12).

Therefore, the Lord acted to chastise Israel for her sin and to bring her back to the Lord. The calamity that was striking Israel in Amos’ day was clearly from the hand of God. Amos uses a series of rhetorical questions, the answers to which are patently obvious, to emphasize this. These questions culminate in the final one, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” Of course! After all, He is the Sovereign Lord and the Ruler of His people Israel.

Given that this calamity was from the Lord, what ought Israel to do? She ought to acknowledge her sin, return to the Lord, and cry out for His forgiveness. It may be that God would relent of His punishment:

14Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the Lord God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken. 15Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:14-15)

Amos insists that if the people of Israel repent and return to the Lord, loving His law and seeking His forgiveness, God may relent of the harm that He has brought. He may bless Israel and restore her.

So what does Amos teach us? Whereas in the old covenant, God dealt almost exclusively with the nation of Israel, in the new covenant God is calling all men everywhere, God is summoning all nations, to turn from their sin and to worship Him through His Son Jesus. Even as the Lord summoned Israel to repent by punishing her for her iniquities, so God is summoning us to repent. The calamity that has come upon us is from the Lord. Will we give heed, turn from our sin, and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, crying out for forgiveness and mercy? Or will we harden ourselves in our unbelief and our iniquity?

As the people of God, let us lead the way in seeking the Lord and His favor for our people. Let us confess our sins and the sins of our people to the Lord and seek His forgiving and empowering grace, praying that He would have mercy upon us as a people and draw us back to Him, back to the truth. 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.