Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Glory of Male and Female

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV)
27
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Some of you may recall studying Plato’s doctrine of the forms when you were a student. For Plato the world we see about us, the world that we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell is a world of shadows that only dimly reflects the real world, the immaterial world of the forms. For example, corresponding to the imperfect circles that we draw in this world is an ideal circle in the world of the forms. The closer our circles get to that form, the nearer perfection they also get.

The ways in which Plato’s idea of the forms impacted Greek civilization are myriad, some good and some bad. In the bad category is the way in which it impacted the Greek perception of humanity. For the Greeks almost uniformly insisted that the ideal human form was male – and, remember, the closer one gets to the form, the closer one gets to perfection.

Consider two implications of this myth for Greek culture. First, the Greeks openly tolerated and even praised the perversions of sodomy, homosexuality, and pederasty. After all, if the perfect form is male then why shouldn’t one male be attracted to the perfect form of another, whether adult or child?

Second, the Greeks degraded women and viewed them as a lesser form of human since they were further from the ideal. Consequently, the more like men women became the more “human” they became. So the legends of the Amazonians were spread by men who wanted women to be more like, you guessed it, men.

Notice the contrast between this ancient Greek fable, with its exaltation of perversion and denigration of women, and the revelation of God in Genesis. Here in Genesis we are told that God made man in His image, according to His likeness. But lest we travel down the Platonic sewer pipe, God informs us that by man He means male and female together. God created man, male and female, in His image after His likeness. It is not the male who is the image of God; nor is it the female who is the image of God; rather it is male and female together – unity and diversity in harmony – who bear the image of God and reveal the character of God.

So what does this mean? First, it means that God created men and women distinct so that they might join together in the covenant of marriage and enjoy sexual satisfaction. Our complementary sexuality was God’s idea – it was not a random mutation, not a fortuitous accident, not a meaningless roll of the dice. God created us male and female; God created our biology; consequently, God delights when a man pursues a woman with honor, commits himself to her alone, and directs his passions to pleasing her and enabling her to have children. God loves that type of romance; do you?

Second, it means that those of the opposite sex whom God has placed in our lives – whether wives or husbands, mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, sisters or brothers, or just friends – have been put there to teach us about Him. They, in company with us, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as women or as men. God created them as women and as men and He intends to teach us about Himself through them. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?


Reminded that sin has distorted our perception of the opposite sex and that we can tend to despise those who are different from us rather than receiving them in the fear of God, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jesus Honored His Mother

John 2:1–5 (NKJV)
1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

In honor of Mothers’ Day, I thought it would be fitting to remember that our Lord Jesus, the very One who existed eternally as the Word of God and who assumed a human nature for us and for our salvation, had a mother and learned to honor his mother throughout His earthly pilgrimage.

One of the greatest tests of Jesus’ honor for his mother is described in our text today. As I have read, when the wine ran out at this wedding, Mary urged Jesus to assist the bridegroom. Unfortunately, her request was entirely inappropriate – so much so, that Jesus felt compelled to correct her. “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” She was not the one to determine when His earthly ministry would begin.

And yet; and yet, Mary is confident that Jesus will honor her request. So she speaks to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Mary knew the character of her Son and knew that He would do this for her. And Jesus doesn’t disappoint. He turns the water into wine and, in so doing, reveals His glory and commences His public ministry.

There is an important lesson here for you children, especially for you sons. Note that even when Jesus’ mother asked something that was inappropriate given the circumstances, Jesus honored her and did what she requested. And if Jesus, the Lord of all, honored His mother’s request even when it was untimely, then how much more ought we children to honor our mothers when they make requests of us? In so far as we are able, let us fulfill the requests of our mothers – for Jesus has gone before us.

Often, however, we are too full of ourselves to sacrifice and die to our own desires on behalf of our mothers. We think of what our mothers are to do for us rather than what we are to do for them. But God calls us to honor our mothers even as our Lord Jesus did. As we see in our text, He commenced His ministry at her request. Further, one of His last actions was to provide for His mother’s welfare even while He was suffering on the cross, entrusting her to the care of the Apostle John (John 19:25-27).

So let me urge you fathers out there – one of your most important callings is to make sure that your children, especially your boys, respect and obey their mom. Your children should know that a non-negotiable in your home is disobeying mom. “You will honor your mother; you will obey your mother; or you will face me.” When mom is forced to say, “Just wait till your dad gets home!”, that should fill your child with a sense of dread. “Oh no! Now I’ve blown it!”


So today let us confess to God that we have neither treasured motherhood nor our own mothers as we ought. And 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.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Church's Task of Discipling the Nations

Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

The passage before us today has appropriately been labeled the Church’s Great Commission. This commission contains both indicatives (statements of fact, of what is the case) and imperatives (commands, moral obligations). Let us consider each in turn. First, the indicatives. Jesus gives two. First, He informs the disciples that He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth – through His conquest of sin, death, and Hades, He is now Lord of all, God’s Messiah come to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Second, He assures the disciples that He will be with them forever – though He would be absent physically, He would remain present with them, by the power of His Spirit, to comfort, encourage, enlighten, and empower them to fulfill the task He has given them.

So what is this task? What are the imperatives, the commands? What is the commission? Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… Notice that the task is quite clear: our task is to disciple the nations. What does this mean? Well, our Lord explains the task by adding two phrases: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. Notice the two components of the discipling process: baptizing and teaching. Baptizing introduces someone into the life of faith; teaching them to observe Jesus’ commandments helps that same person learn to live out the faith. In other words, our task is both to bring the nations into the faith and to bring them up in the faith.

It is not sufficient for someone to be incorporated into the faith if they remain, in their thinking and acting, an outsider. If a mobster gets a job on the police force, we won’t rejoice if he’s simply puts on a uniform; we’ll only rejoice if he actually becomes an officer in heart and mind. So too – those who are brought into the faith through baptism are to be taught to observe the things that Christ has taught through instruction. Discipleship, in other words, involves both conversion and transformation.

Paul writes in Colossians 1:28, “we preach [Jesus], warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man [mature] in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s words reveal that the church is called not simply to get people “saved” or to get them to “make decisions” for Christ, but to grow them up in the faith. We are to disciple the nations not just evangelize them. We are to aim for their growth and maturity. In other words, we are to create civilizations not mere converts.

Today we will see that the task Jesus lays out for the Church in the Great Commission is the same basic task to which Jesus calls parents. We are called to disciple our children. We are to train and instruct them so that they mature in Christ. We are to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Parents are to warn their children and teach their children in all wisdom, that they may present their children mature in Christ Jesus. That is the task.

Parenting involves, in other words, not only having a child but raising that child in the fear of God. Any fool who has passed puberty can sire or conceive a child – can become a parent; however, it takes a man or woman of faith to raise a child in the fear of God – to be a parent.


So reminded that Christ is the exalted Ruler over all, that He remains with His Church to this day, and that He has summoned us to disciple the nations, including our own children, let us confess that we have often distorted or neglected our calling. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.