God’s Grace through Parents

October 4, 2020 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Bible - OT - Malachi, Children, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Marriage, Meditations, Parents, Ten Commandments

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)

31 So [Paul and Silas] said [to the jailer], “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Later in the service I have the privilege of baptizing ——–. Their baptisms are reminders that Jesus works not just with individuals but with whole families. When He saves us, His salvation transforms our individual lives and our homes. Jesus’ salvation years ago of ——-, their parents, has radically transformed their home and the lives of their children.

This is no surprise. Malachi promised that one of the chief fruits of the Messiah’s coming would be a renewal of family life, particularly a restoration of fatherhood. “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal 4:6). It is Jesus’ transformative work in families that is on display in the life of the Philippian jailer in our text today. After the jailer heard the Word of the Lord preached by Paul and Silas he believed in the Lord, acknowledged Jesus to be Lord of all, and so was baptized with “all his family.” Jesus began His transformative work in this home.

Because the Gospel is not just for individuals but for families, the Scriptures are filled with promises and commands for both parents and children. The Lord includes both parents and children in His kingdom and is often pleased to use the discipleship of parents to bring children to faith. “Train up a child in the way he should go,” Proverbs 22:6 declares, “And when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the famous Stoic emperor of Rome, a famous Christian teacher named Justin was arrested along with a number of his students. They were interrogated for their faith and told that they must renounce Christ if they were to preserve their lives. Justin and his companions refused – and so Justin the Philosopher is more commonly known as Justin Martyr. The account of their martyrdom testifies of the power of parental discipleship:

The Roman prefect Rusticus said, “To come to the point then, are you a Christian?” Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.” The prefect said to Chariton, “Are you also a Christian?” Chariton replied, “I am a Christian by God’s command.” The prefect then asked another, “What do you say, Charito?” Charito said, “I am a Christian by God’s gift.” “And what are you, Eulpistus?” Eulpistus, a slave of Caesar, answered, “I also am a Christian, freed by Christ, and share by the grace of Christ in the same hope.” The prefect said to Hierax, “Are you also a Christian?” Hierax said, “Yes, I am a Christian, for I worship and adore the same God.” The prefect Rusticus asked them all, “Did Justin make you Christians?” Hierax replied, “I was, and shall ever be, a Christian.” A man called Paeon stood up and said, “I also am a Christian.” The prefect said, “Who taught you?” Paeon replied, “I received from my parents this good confession.” Eulpistus agreed, “I listened indeed gladly to the teaching of Justin, but I too received Christianity from my parents.”

——— stand in this good company – the company of those children whose lives have been transformed by the grace of God through the witness of their parents.

So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. They belong, body and soul, to the Lord Jesus, and have been entrusted by Him to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. So you are called, with your parents, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” (Dt 6:5) and you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).

And so reminded this morning that God deals not just with individuals but also with families, let us confess that we have often neglected our responsibilities as parents and children alike – we parents have neglected to love and train our children as we ought and we children have neglected to love and honor our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Our Hearts as Idol Factories

September 6, 2020 in Bible - NT - Galatians, Church History, Depravity, Greek Gods, Image of God, Meditations, Sin, Ten Commandments, Trinity, Worship

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.

Human beings are intrinsically religious creatures. We all have a sensus divinitatis, a sense of the divine, which God Himself has planted within us. However, because of our rebellion against God, we all likewise have a bent away from the Living God. We are inclined toward idolatry; our hearts are, in the words of John Calvin, an idol factory. And it is this work of the flesh that we focus upon in Paul’s list today. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… idolatry.”

Idolatry is the worship of false gods or the worship of the true god through physical images. Idolatry has a bewitching power, enslaving nations and regularly tempting the people of God. So the people of Israel constructed the golden calf in the wilderness. Gideon had to cut down the altar of Baal which Israel had erected in his hometown. Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel and filled Israel with the worship of the Baals and Ashtoreths such that Elijah believed he alone remained faithful. Our fathers regularly turned to idols and so brought on themselves the wrath and judgment of God.

This tendency toward idolatry did not cease with Christ’s incarnation. Christians have regularly turned away from the Triune God to some lesser deity. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Ebionites taught that the Eternal Son of God was just a man while the Docetists taught that He was not man at all. In the great Trinitarian controversies of the 3rd and 4th centuries that resulted in the crafting of the Nicene Creed, the Arians taught that Jesus was not divine but some lesser being. In the 18th and 19th centuries, such idolatries multiplied. The Unitarians insisted that the Eternal Son was just a great moral teacher and example; the Jehovah’s Witnesses rescucitated the idolatry of Arius; the Mormons taught that the Eternal Son of God was some perverse offspring of a carnal union between deity and humanity.

Church history, in other words, illustrates that Paul’s warning against idolatry is necessary. The human heart bends toward idolatry. And so Paul warned the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14). We must remain ever faithful to the Triune God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

One of the chief traps that has ensnared God’s people in idolatry has been intermarriage with idolaters. God warned the people of Israel:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you… You shall make no covenant with them nor… shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods…” (Dt 7:1-4)

Despite this warning, the Israelites regularly intermarried with their pagan neighbors and fell into idolatry. Nehemiah reminded our fathers, “You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God… Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin” (Neh 13:25-26).

So if you are single and would like to be married – listen to the voice of the Lord – you may not marry a non-Christian! To do so is to court temptation and put yourself in danger of God’s wrath and judgment. As Paul reminded the Corinthians:

14Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God… (2 Cor 6:14–16) 

Reminded that God is jealous the affections of His people and would have us to avoid the worship of other gods, let us acknowledge that we and our father have often turned away from God to idols. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

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.

They are Unloving

May 3, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Human Condition, Law and Gospel, Love, Meditations, Old Testament, Sanctification, Ten Commandments

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

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 unloving.”

What is love? Is love a fancy or a feeling? Or is it an ever-fixed mark? Is love an inclination of the heart? Or perhaps a tolerant disposition? Because we are made in the image of God and because we Americans still retain vestiges of our previous Christian culture, most of us know that being unloving is bad. We want to be called loving. Yet, because we are in rebellion against God, we have striven to redefine love; consequently, the most unloving things are cloaked in the language of love. It is now “loving” to refuse to discipline one’s children; “loving” to divorce one’s spouse unjustly; “loving” to pursue illicit sexual relationships; “loving” to shack up before married; “loving” to indulge same-sex attractions; “loving” to use the power of the state to confiscate others’ hard earned property; “loving” to coddle those who are “gender fluid.”

But none of these things are loving though we call them so. You see love requires a standard of assessment. If we say something is “loving” we must have a definition that enables us to put said action in that category. After all, most still recognize that the man who claims to “love” a woman and uses that love as justification to violently abuse her, actually hates her; the mother who claims to “love” her son and indulges his drug habit, actually hates him. Even we progressive Americans don’t permit these unloving actions to be classified as “loving.” Love assumes; no, more: love demands a standard.

So what is that standard? Paul summarizes in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” To love another is to treat them lawfully from the heart; it is to practice toward them willingly the moral law of God. The last six of God’s commandments “are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Rom 13:9). To love my neighbor, in other words, is to honor my parents, to preserve the lives of the innocent, to keep the marriage bed undefiled, to respect others’ property, to speak truth to and about my neighbor, and to do all these things willingly from the heart. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – and though many are trying to classify these things as “unloving,” they are the fulfillment of love.

So reminded that God’s law defines love, that our culture has become increasingly unloving, and that we Christians have too often gone along with our culture’s increasing animosity to God’s law and to love, true love, let us confess that we are becoming an unloving, lawless people. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your order of service.

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.

They are Disobedient to Parents

March 8, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - Romans, Children, Confession, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Ten Commandments

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

For some months now we have been making our way through Paul’s catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by those of debased mind, those whom 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 disobedient to parents.”

While our broader culture has degraded the authority of parents and often treats rebellion to parents as a minor or routine affair, God treats such disobedience seriously. Obedience to parents forms the foundation of social stability and the first pillar of love to neighbor. If the summary of the second half of the law is to love one’s neighbor as oneself, which it is, then the first pillar of love to neighbor is the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12). To dishonor one’s parents, therefore, is to hate one’s neighbor, undermining God ordained authority structures and forcing the care of elderly parents on others. So our Lord Jesus honored Joseph and Mary and obeyed them. He likewise submitted His own will to the will of His Father in heaven. Thus, Paul exhorts the children in Ephesus, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Eph 6:1). Obedience to parents is an essential part of reverence for God.

God takes this obedience so seriously that His law classified violence to parents or incorrigible disobedience to parents as capital crimes, crimes deserving the death penalty (Ex 21:15; Dt 21:18-21). Certain forms of disobedience, in other words, are not just sins but crimes. And Jesus appeals to the criminal nature of such rebellion to rebuke those Jewish leaders who were failing to care for their parents behind a façade of piety to God. “If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’ – (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition…” (Mk 7:11-13).

To serve God faithfully, therefore, is to uphold and revere the authority of parents. Societies that undermine parental authority – whether by treating rebellion as insignificant or by exalting the authority of the state over that of parents or by enabling children to neglect their aging parents – have been handed over to a debased mind and are in danger of yet further judgment.

Let us, therefore, give heed to Martin Luther’s words in his Large Catechism concerning the 5th commandment. He writes:

“You are to esteem and prize [your parents] as the most precious treasure on earth. In your words you are to behave respectfully toward them, and not address them discourteously, critically, and censoriously, but submit to them and hold your tongue, even if they go too far. You are also to honor them by your actions (that is, with your body and possessions), serving them, helping them, and caring for them when they are old, sick, feeble, or poor; all this you should do not only cheerfully, but with humility and reverence, as in God’s sight. He who has the right attitude toward his parents will not allow them to suffer want or hunger, but will place them above himself and at his side and will share with them all he has to the best of his ability.”

So what of you? Children, are you obeying your parents in the fear of the Lord? Adults, are you caring for your aging parents? This is what the Lord would have of us. And so reminded of our call to be obedient to parents and of the disobedience to parents that has come to characterize so much of our society, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Full of Evil-Mindedness

December 29, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Heart, Human Condition, Judgment, Meditations, Temptation, Ten Commandments

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just, delivering those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the tenth of these fruits: evil-mindedness. Paul writes that rebellious peoples are “full of evil-mindedness.”

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

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

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

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

Reminded that evil-mindedness plots to do evil and that God wants us instead to plan to do good, let us confess that we often transgress in this way and let us seek God’s forgiveness for our evil plotting. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Filled with Covetousness

November 17, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Confession, Depravity, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Temptation, Ten Commandments, Wealth

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God rules among the sons of men. Therefore, when peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind. Today we consider the fourth of these: covetousness. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… covetousness.”

So what is covetousness? Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines covetousness as “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining and possessing some supposed good; usually in a bad sense, and applied to an inordinate desire of wealth or avarice.” Covetousness, therefore, is an ungodly desire that proceeds from the heart (cf. Mk 7:22) – a heart that is not content with what God has given and that lusts for more.

You no doubt recall that the tenth of the Ten Commandments forbids covetousness. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex 20:17). God insists that it is not enough to avoid actual murder, adultery, theft, and false witness. After all, these external actions are but symptoms of an internal cancer, a cancer of the heart, the cancer of covetousness. And God’s law does not merely address the symptoms but also the cause, our corrupt hearts.

This is why, in Jesus’ own exposition of the law in the Sermon on the Mount, He insists that to hate one’s brother in one’s heart, to call him “Raca! You fool!”, is to murder him in the heart and be in danger of hell-fire. Likewise, to look upon another to lust with them in the heart is to commit adultery. God’s law does not merely address the outward behavior but the heart desires that lead to those behaviors, the covetousness that poisons relationships.

The covetous man believes the lie that one’s life is defined by one’s possessions. On one occasion someone cried out to Jesus from the crowd, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Life’s not fair; I should have been given more. Jesus refused this request and warned the crowd, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses” (Lk 12:15). Like a leech, covetousness sucks the life from those who indulge it, gradually destroying thankfulness and joy and replacing it with bitterness and resentment.

In a debased culture, covetousness takes root and goes to seed. We witness this in our own day. We have abandoned God and declared that this life is all that matters. Consequently, we have believed the lie that one’s life does consist in the abundance of things he possesses. Because of our covetousness, national and personal debt have skyrocketed. Our political leaders use covetousness to pit the poor against the rich. State Lotteries and the gambling industry appeal to our covetousness to induce us to give them our hard earned money. God is handing us over to covetousness.

So what of you? Are you consumed by what you do not have? Have you coveted your neighbor’s husband or wife? Have you coveted their children? Their achievements? Their wealth? Their business? Their job? Or are you filled with thankfulness? Content with what God has given you? Prioritizing persons over possessions?

Reminded that covetousness is a sin that destroys others and ourselves, and that God calls us to be filled with thankfulness and content with what we have, let us confess that we are often filled with covetousness. And as you are able, let us kneel 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.

Filled with Sexual Immorality

October 13, 2019 in Bible - NT - Romans, Depravity, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin, Ten Commandments

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

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

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God is just. When peoples spurn Him, He eventually hands them over to utter debasement and societal instability. Their debased minds bear increasingly bitter fruit. Paul lists no fewer than twenty three fruits of a debased mind. Today we consider the second of these: sexual immorality. Paul writes that unbelieving societies are “filled with… sexual immorality.”

The Greek word behind the English “sexual immorality” is porneia. Porneia refers to sexual sin generally. It encompasses all types of sexual sin: lusts, the indulgence of illicit sexual thoughts or actions; fornication, sexual relations between a man and a woman neither of whom is married; adultery, sexual relations between a man and woman at least one of whom is married; perversion, sexual acts between those of the same sex or with other creatures. A society that is under judgment, a debased society, is one in which such sexual immorality expands and grows – and, tragically, we witness this in our own day.

Jesus reminds us that sexual immorality emerges from the heart (Mt 15:19). It is borne of a heart that rejects God and repudiates His revealed will, His Word. It sees God’s law as a restriction on its freedoms rather than as the path of freedom itself. So the unbelieving heart concludes that the good life is to be found in the path of sexual licentiousness – speaking of women as objects of sexual gratification, scrawling obscenities on bathroom walls, dressing immodestly by making sure others notice the size of one’s breasts or the length of one’s skirt, viewing pornography, engaging in fornications, adulteries, perversions, etc. This, the unbelieving heart concludes, is the path of true liberty. But far from being the path of liberty, sexual immorality is the path of slavery, destruction, guilt, and mental disorder.

The believing heart, on the other hand, trusts that God has designed us to live in accord with His revealed law. The believing heart concludes that the good life is to be found in the path of sexual purity – as a single man or woman, keeping myself sexually celibate, avoiding lusts, immodesties, pornography, fornications, adulteries, and perversions; as a married man or woman, rejoicing in my sexual relationship with my spouse, being sexually faithful, shunning behavior that would make my spouse jealous or arouse the sexual desires of another. This, the beleiving heart concludes rightly, is the path of true liberty.

You see, the Scriptures insist that the problem with sexual immorality is not the sex – the problem is the immorality. God created us sexual creatures. He commanded the first man and the first woman to be fruitful and multiply, a command which necessarily entailed sexual intimacy, an intimacy that preceded the fall and was part of the very good creation. As Paul reminds us in Hebrews 13:4, sexual intimacy within the context of marriage is honorable and undefiled. Immorality distorts that good gift. Like a vandal spray painting the Mona Lisa, the sexually immoral man or woman vandalizes the beauty of sex.

So what of you? Single men, are you guarding your heart, your mouth, your eyes, and yourself from lust, lewd speech, pornography, and sexual immorality? Single women, are you guarding your heart from sexual vanity, your body from sexually provocative clothing, and your garden from those who would break in and trample it? Married men, are you guarding your heart and your eyes, delighting yourself in your wife, and letting her breasts satisfy you at all times? Married women, are you giving yourself to your husband and guarding yourself from flirting with or longing for other men?

Reminded that our sexuality is a gift and that the path of sexual purity is the path of life, let us confess that we have distorted God’s good gift and engaged in sexual immorality. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.