Sunday, October 25, 2015

Great is the Truth and It Shall Prevail!

Psalm 37:1–2, 7-8
1 Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb… 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.

Within our current cultural climate it is easy to grow discouraged and lose perspective. Whether it is the triumph of unprincipled and immoral men and women in politics, or the support of sinful behaviors in business, or the compromise and corruption that have permeated the Church, or the wholesale immorality in the entertainment industry, or the miserable failure of our judicial system to secure justice – we look around us at the growth of such wickedness and can be tempted to anger, anxiety, or envy.

David was no stranger to these temptations and helps us put the triumph of the wicked in perspective. How ought we to respond to the wickedness that surrounds us? Ought we to become angry? Anxious? Envious?

David’s answer to each of these questions is a resounding, “No.” “Cease from anger,” he tells us, “and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only causes harm.” Why is it that we are tempted to anger or anxiety when we see the wicked triumphing? Is it righteous indignation at the defaming of God’s name? Is it fear at what they may do when they gain power? Whatever the reason for our anger or anxiety, David reminds us that such a response forgets God’s sovereignty. He calls us to rest in the knowledge that the very God whose name is defamed is the one who governs all things. He is the righteous Judge and the Loving Father. He shall call the wicked to account and He knows the number of hairs on our head. God sees, brothers and sisters; He hears; He knows – and so, David teaches us to sing, we need not grow angry or anxious, it only causes harm. We are to trust God; believe Him; look to Him. He will vindicate His Name and the names of all those who trust Him.

But sometimes our response to the triumph of the wicked is neither anger nor anxiety but envy. We envy their prosperity or their power or their influence or their licentiousness. But such envy reveals that we really don’t believe that God is the Lord and will render to every man according to his works. After all, David reminds us that the lot of the wicked is not enviable; any triumph they experience is momentary. They shall be cut down like grass; their plans will ultimately fail; and they shall be destroyed. So why envy that?

God has so made the world and so orchestrates history and eternity, that those who honor Him and His law will prosper while those who rebel against Him and spurn Him will perish. Our Lord Jesus Himself promised us, quoting from later in this very psalm, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” Note that the promise is not that the meek shall inherit heaven – as true as that is – the promise is that the meek shall inherit the earth. Any triumph of the wicked is momentary. As John Wycliffe declared, “Great is the truth, and it shall prevail.”


Reminded of our failure to trust less in God’s promises than in our own feeble assessment of our cultural situation, let us seek His face and ask Him to forgive our anger, anxiety, and envy.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Folly of Anti-nomianism

Isaiah 59:21 (NKJV)
21
“As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”

There was once a boy who imagined that when he was 18, he wouldn’t have to do any of the things his parents had taught him when he was young. This boy was particularly irked that his parents made him brush his teeth each evening. Getting the toothbrush out of the drawer, squeezing the tube, brushing for a minute – it was all such a nuisance, so time consuming. And what was the value of it anyhow? He just ate the next day and got his teeth dirty again. What’s the point!

Eagerly the lad awaited his 18th birthday. His 16th came and went; his 17th came and went; and finally, his 18th birthday arrived. He was free. He got a job, moved out of his parents home, and commenced his long coveted practice of not brushing his teeth.

Ah, he thought with pleasure on his first night in his new apartment, this is the life. No one to tell me what to do! No more brushing my teeth! Joy and gladness wrapped their way around his heart. And joy and gladness stayed with him – for a time. But soon he began to experience the consequences of his decision. His teeth took on a decidedly brown appearance; he found it hard to get a date; his teeth began to ache from the cavities that filled them. In the place of joy and gladness came doubt; in the place of doubt, frustration; in the place of frustration, anger; in the place of anger, despair. Until the day he found himself facing the mirror, extracting his long-neglected toothbrush from the drawer, scrounging for that toothpaste tube with the dried paste around the top, squeezing the requisite amount onto his brush and scrubbing with all his might. But try as he might, he couldn’t get those stains off and he couldn’t fill those cavities.

Many suppose that the reason God has poured out His Spirit upon us is to free us from observing God’s moral law. “The Spirit has come, we no longer need the law.” Such people are foolish and na├»ve, totally misrepresenting the relationship between the Spirit and God’s moral law. The Spirit was given not to deliver us from God’s moral law but to deliver us to His law – to give us hearts that want to obey it. God’s law is not the problem; we are the problem. Though God’s law is good and wise, we imagine ourselves wiser than God and reject His precepts. But we merely display our foolishness, showing ourselves no wiser than our non-toothbrushing teen.


We have done this as a society – endeavoring to replace God’s law for sexuality, marriage, and divorce with our own precepts – but more tragically we continue to do this as the people of God – picking and choosing which portions of God’s law to obey. So reminded that we frequently pit God’s Spirit against His law, that we frequently imagine that maturity means freedom from responsibility rather than the love of the same, let us kneel and let us confess our sins to God.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Nations Will Worship God

 1 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
 2 Sing out the honor of His name;
         Make His praise glorious.
 3 Say to God,
         “How awesome are Your works!
         Through the greatness of Your power
         Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
 4 All the earth shall worship You
         And sing praises to You;
         They shall sing praises to Your name.”  Selah  
Psalm 66:1-4

When we look toward the future, what do we expect? For the last 100 years, the predominant Christian view of the future has been unduly pessimistic. It is believed that we are living in the last generation before Christ’s bodily return, that the world is destined to get worse and worse prior to His return, and that there is nothing Christians can, or even should, do to reverse this trend. After all, to reverse the trend would be to postpone the imminent return of our Lord.

So how does this pessimistic view of the future mesh with David’s view in the psalm before us today? It is the exact opposite. Notice that David describes his anticipation for the future like this:
Through the greatness of Your power, [O Lord,]
Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.
All the earth shall worship You
And sing praises to You;
They shall sing praises to Your name.”

In light of the power of God, David sees the future full of the worship of God, full of the knowledge of God, full of the praise of God. All the earth shall worship, all shall sing praises, even God’s enemies shall submit themselves to Him. Why? Because God is Almighty, because He is the Exalted Lord.

So if God is the Exalted Lord and He is going to exalt His Name in all the earth in the course of human history, what is our calling here and now? Well listen again to David’s exhortations.
 Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
 Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!

Because God is going to exalt His Name in all the earth, David summons the nations in the here and now to do just that – exalt God now! Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! David calls upon all nations to worship and serve the Lord; to join him as he praises God’s might and power.

It is this same summons that we issue every Lord’s Day. As we come into God’s presence and sing His praises, we are invoking the nations to come and to join us: smell the fragrant aroma, behold the goodness of God, come see the glory of our King and join us in praising Him. And this praise, which starts here each Lord’s Day, is to makes its way out of here into our homes and communities during the week so that folks can’t help but declare – how good and how pleasant it must be to know the Lord!

This morning, then, as we enter the presence of the Lord let us consider the exhortations that David gives us:
·      We are to sing – not mumble
·      We are to sing joyfully – not morosely
·      We are to sing loudly – not silently
·      We are to sing beautifully – not obnoxiously


And so let us fill this building with the praise of God – but let us begin by seeking His forgiveness for failing to live now in light of the glorious future that He has promised – let us kneel and confess our pessimism and doubt to Him.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Preference versus Principle

James 1:22-25 (NKJV)
22
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

As we have emphasized various times, it is imperative for us as the people of God to distinguish between being men and women of preference and being men and women of principle. James urges us to be doers of the Word and not merely hearers who delude themselves. As doers of the Word our calling is to understand what God says and then practice it. As Luther so robustly emphasized, we are set right with God by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone. True faith manifests itself in good works. So let us recall the difference between a man or woman of preference and a man or woman of principle.

A man or woman of preference is one who would prefer things to be a certain way but who can’t seem, for one reason or another, to accomplish his objective. He would prefer to be sexually pure, but he just can’t seem to resist looking at pornography. She would prefer to be respectful to her husband, but he’s just so unworthy of respect. He would prefer to be honest at work, but the boss simply doesn’t pay him enough. She would prefer to live a life characterized by joy and gladness, but what her parents did to her when she was young is just too much to forgive. He would prefer to have obedient children, but the children God has given him are difficult and his wife just doesn’t do a good job with them. She would prefer to be content, but all her friends have much nicer things than she. He would prefer to make it to church each Lord’s Day, but it’s simply too hard to get the whole family ready ahead of time. She would prefer not to gossip, but she’s just so lonely she needs someone to talk with.

Contrast these scenarios with a man or woman of principle. He knows it is sinful to be sexually impure, and so he does whatever is necessary to shield himself from temptation. She knows that she must respect her husband, and so she begins honoring him with her words and actions, praying that her heart attitude will gradually change. He knows the utter necessity of honesty, and so he takes another job rather than steal from his employer. She knows that God commands her to be joyful, and so she confesses her sin of bitterness and refuses to listen to her own sob story. He knows he is responsible for the disobedience of his children, and so he asks his wife’s forgiveness for failing to train them and then sets about to do so. She knows that contentment is not an option, and so she meditates on the Word of God and rejoices that God is her portion in the land of the living. He knows that his family needs to be in worship every Lord’s Day, and so he organizes everything Saturday evening so they can make it. She knows it is a sin to gossip, and so she confides her loneliness to the Lord and looks for ways to praise others with her words.

What kind of man or woman are you? Are you a man or woman of preference or of principle? If the former heed the warning of James - But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.


Reminded that we often fail to be men and women of principle and that we make excuses for our disobedience, let us kneel and ask our Lord’s forgiveness.