Friday, November 28, 2008

Challenging the Election

In our country, people will occasionally challenge the results of an election that they believe was conducted unfairly. Similarly, many people challenge the biblical doctrine of election because they believe that it makes God unfair or unloving. This Lord's Day we will consider objections to election, and I hope it will unveil for you the awesome love and grace of our Lord.

O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#69)
Crown Him with Many Crowns (#52)
And Can It Be? (#335)
Jesus Loves Me (#719)
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (#249)
A Debtor to Mercy Alone (#614)

Scripture Reading
I Am the Lord - Isaiah 45:1-25

Blessing God for Election: But What About...?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bless His Holy Name

"My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
And let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever!"
Psalm 145:21

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Tenth Commandment (Part 2)

The Command to Love (Part 2)
Deuteronomy 5:21

Covetousness is the American way of life. I don’t think that is an overstatement, especially since WWII. As such, we as American Christians are going to have to work overtime to extricate ourselves from thinking covetously. Today we want to meditate on the positive implications of the 10th commandment. If we are not to desire or crave our neighbor’s persons, property, or possessions, what should be the disposition of our hearts?

There is one virtue which the Spirit of God commends to us as the opposite of covetousness, and it also starts with a “C”. It is contentment. The apostle Paul testified that he had learned this virtue. “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:11-13). Contentment means being satisfied with God’s providence and provision in your life. A greedy man can never be a happy man. Only contentment brings satisfaction.

In fact, the Scripture gives us the material level that we should be satisfied with – food and clothing (1 Tim 6:6-8). That’s it. And if we see things God’s way, then we will realize that having more than that is not necessarily spiritually good. Jesus said, “Only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:23-24). James said, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away” (Jas 1:9-10). Folks, let’s just be honest, do you really feel that way? We rich Americans feel like we are really struggling when we can’t go out to eat as much as we would like to. Prices are up, so we feel like we are having a hard time making ends meet. The stock market is uncertain, so we worry about our lush retirement package. We might actually have to give up going to Starbucks or forego buying that new laptop this year!

So what are some things you can do to encourage contentment in your life?
1. Live within your means. Get out of debt.
2. Give (Eph 4:28).
3. Make godly monetary goals. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Advancing the cause of Christ is a godly monetary goal (missions). Providing for your family is a godly monetary goal. Planning wisely for the future is a godly monetary goal.
This really is an issue of surrender. Is life about me or is life about God?

And that brings me to the next point I want to make in order to penetrate a little bit deeper into this issue of covetousness vs. contentment. Why should we rest satisfied? From the world’s perspective, it certainly doesn’t seem to make sense to be satisfied with almost nothing. Hebrews 13:5-6 gives us the profound answer. We can be content because of our Lord’s covenant presence. He is with us. For God to be with us means that he has entered into a relationship with us, based upon Christ’s atonement, in which he is our God and we are his people. As we respond to his promises in obedient faith, he works in and through us to fulfill his promises in order to accomplish his good purposes. This has huge ramifications for our lives, which I do not have time right now to unpack from the Scriptures. But let me just point out some of the truths about God’s presence.

1. He is present to provide. He is even called “Yhwh-yir'eh,” the Lord who provides. Much covetousness stems from a lack of trust in the Lord’s provision.
2. He is present to protect. He is our refuge, our rock, our fortress. What can man do to us?
3. He is present to bless and to judge. In Ex 34:6-7, when God caused all his goodness to pass before Moses, he said, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
4. He is present to satisfy. The Psalmist called God “my exceeding joy.” The searching heart finds rest in God.
Our desire is fulfilled in God; our delight is found in him; our love is enthralled with him.

I believe John Calvin was profoundly correct when he wrote this about the 10th commandment: “The purpose of this commandment is: since God wills that our whole soul be possessed with a disposition to love, we must banish from our hearts all desire contrary to love” (Institutes, 2.8). Every time you feel that tension in your soul because of the conflict between your desires and your possessions, use it as an opportunity to turn your heart toward loving God supremely. Ask yourself, Am I truly satisfied with all that Christ has done for me? Do I truly believe in all that he is doing in and through me? Do I truly hope and joy in all that he will do for me for eternity? Then go to the Lord in prayer and say, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” The blazing heat of this kind of love for God will melt away all covetousness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Justin Taylor draws attention to the fact that less than 5 percent of church attenders give 10 percent of their income. The article says that the average giving today is less per churchgoer than it was during the Great Depression.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Biblical Baptism and the Church

I have a little time tonight before I call it a day, so I thought I would post some thoughts regarding baptism. As most of you know, I participate in a monthly pastors book discussion. Yesterday we discussed The Baptist Way: Distinctives of a Baptist Church by R. Stanton Norman. Overall the book was useful. Like any book, it has its strengths and weaknesses, but one of this book's good sections was on baptism. Here are a few quotes.

To identify with Christ is to identify with his people (134).

For Baptists, Christian baptism is regarded as the 'initiatory ordinance.'...Baptism is the divinely instituted point of entry into the covenant community. The baptismal act signifies publicly the transition of the individual from the old life to the new life in Christ; old allegiances are forsaken in order that new allegiances with Christ and his people may be formed. The believer gives testimony to this spiritual transaction in the rite of baptism (134).

The biblical witness is that baptism is the public profession of a person's faith in Christ (135).

A public decision to become a disciple of Christ was incomplete until declared in baptism....The modern practice of separating baptism from the beginning of the Christian life diminishes the significance and meaning of the act (135).

Baptism is the first step of discipleship and is a believer's profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism is thus the symbolic expression of a person's conversion (141).

Permit me to make a few observations about the above statements, all of which are biblically correct. Because these are true, an unbaptized person cannot formally and publicly be considered a Christian. In other words, he cannot be accepted by the church as a fellow follower of Christ until he demonstrates his faith in Christ by identifying with Christ through baptism. Now, I am not saying that a man cannot be regenerate without being baptized. In fact, all Baptists believe that a man ought to be born again before he is baptized. But regeneration itself is something that no man can observe. We don't run people through a "regenerometer" before we accept them as a fellow disciple. Rather, we look for a credible profession of faith. Biblically, that is precisely what baptism is supposed to be. It is a public expression of faith in Christ and commitment to Christ. It is "an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). When a person takes that step, we publicly and formally recognize him as a fellow believer by incorporating him into church membership.

Since this is so, we have a God-given means of assessing the prima facie claims to salvation of people we meet. Is that person a baptized member of a gospel preaching church? If so, and if that church has been fulfilling its responsibility to discipline itself, then that person's claim to be a Christian has real weight and ought to be accepted charitably by all Christians. If, on the other hand, that person is not baptized and is not a member of a gospel preaching church, then his claim to be converted is implausible. Not impossible...but certainly implausible. He should be treated as one who needs to be evangelized.

One more observation. We see again how closely connected the gospel and the church are in God's design. If we are following the Scriptures, we can't have one without the other.

Bringing Our Little Ones to Jesus

Fathers and mothers with young ones, you will find some good encouragement here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanks Be to God

This Lord's Day we will endeavor to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. We invite you to come and see our praise to the Lord, for he alone is worthy!

Bless the Lord! - Psalm 103

All Creatures of Our God and King (#59)
For the Beauty of the Earth

Responsive Scripture Reading - Psalm 100

Psalm 100
Now Thank We All Our God (#5)

The Greatest Thanksgiving Day! - Revelation 5:1-14

Behold the Glories of the Lamb (#653)

Musical Offering - Thanksgiving Hymn

Congregational Prayer of Thanksgiving and Praise

Sermon - Thorough Thanksgiving: Shouting, Singing, and Serving our Thanks to God in Everything
Colossians 3:15-17

Let All Things Now Living

Following our service, please join us for a special dinner and a time of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Tenth Commandment

The Command to Love
Deuteronomy 5:21

If ever there was a righteous man who walked the face of the earth, it was young Saul of Tarsus. In his later years he wrote a letter to the Philippians in which he described himself as a young man before he met Christ. He was circumcised on the eighth day (lit. “an eighth-day one”), a true, pure Hebrew in both his race and his commitments. He belonged to the strict Pharisee party, which kept the law precisely. He zealously defended his faith against all whom he believed corrupted it. He could even say that regarding righteousness based on the law, he was blameless. Everybody would have looked at him and said, “There is a righteous man.”

But there was one law that he simply could not pretend to keep. In Romans 7:7 he singled out the 10th commandment as one which painfully revealed his sinfulness. This is not the only command that Saul, whose name had been changed to Paul, violated. But this law makes clear that God’s commands do not have to do only with outward actions. They deal with the inner man, the attitudes, the heart. And so with this command, the sword of God’s commands drives through the heart up to the hilt. This command proved to Saul that he was not a righteous man. Today, it still proves to each one of us that we are not righteous people in ourselves.

In doing so, the last of the Ten Commandments drives us inescapably to the heart of the matter in religion and in all of life. Let’s take a look at this command to see what it prohibits, what it positively implies, and how we can know God through this revelation from him.

What is prohibited by this command?

In order to get a clear picture of the profound and practical nature of this command, we need to examine this term “covet,” used here along with “desire.” I want you to catch the depth of this terminology. The word “covet” has the general meaning of “desire.” It can be used in a positive or a negative sense. The noun forms of this word can mean “loveliness, beauty;” “desirable, precious things;” and “treasure.” In a good sense, God “desired” or chose Mount Zion as the place he would dwell (Psa 68:16). In Genesis 2:9, God created trees which were “pleasant” to behold and good for food. Psalm 19:10 says that God’s law is more “desirable” or “precious” than gold. As you might guess even from these passages, it can even be used sometimes in the sense of “delight.” In Song of Solomon 2:3 the woman compares her beloved to an apple tree, and she “delights” to sit in his shadow and eat his fruit. In other words, her relationship with her beloved produces a pleasurable state of protection (shade) and provision (fruit). So the term deals with what draws out the approval or desire or delight of our hearts.

“Covet” is not only positive, however. Our hearts can give approval to or delight in or desire what is wrong. Achan desired the forbidden gold and garment in Jericho, so he took it, and it cost him his life. The wise father in Proverbs 6:25 warns his son not to desire the beauty of an evil woman.

The parallel term used in our text can likewise be used of an evil desire. It brings to mind almost a craving. In Numbers 11 we have a powerful illustration of this kind of desire. The Israelites in the wilderness complained about the manna that the Lord was sending them every day. They wanted meat. They even wept and cried, “Oh that we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing….” As an aside, it is interesting how our desires color our memories. The Israelites’ desire was so strong that suddenly they remembered slavery as freedom! But the anger of the Lord burned against them for making their bellies their god. He gave them what they wanted…and used it to destroy them. The Bible says that while the meat was still between their teeth, the Lord struck them down with a plague. The Israelites named that place with a name that should haunt our minds every time we are tempted to violate the 10th commandment – “the graves of craving.”

Now, let’s pause here to consider some obvious and practical ramifications of what this command prohibits. It forbids coveting what belongs to someone else. It forbids that sister sin, envy. Do you ever find yourself earnestly wishing that you had someone else’s life? “They have it so much better than I do,” you think. “Why is it that they get to do all the fun stuff?” you ask. “Why does his business venture always seem to turn out better than mine?” “Why doesn’t my husband treat me like he treats his wife?” “Why can’t I ever get ahead in life like she can?” “Why is my sister so much prettier than I am?” “Why is my brother smarter than I am?” And so it is that envy begins to creep into your heart.

Now, in our text the first area of coveting that is addressed is your neighbor’s wife. How apropos that is in these wicked days. The world learned a long time ago that sex sells, and it constantly tries to tap into that vein of covetousness. But when you let the world do that, you find that it bleeds you to death.

The next area of coveting that the tenth commandment deals with is property and possessions, or to put it more simply, money. The Scripture says that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim 6:9-10). Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24).

There is a real sense in which all the preceding nine commandments can be seen through this one. In fact, the Heidelberg Catechism asks the question, “What is God’s will for you in the tenth commandment?” The answer given is, “That not even the slightest thought or desire contrary to any one of God’s commandments should ever arise in my heart. Rather, with all my heart I should always hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is right.” Look, for example, at the 1st command, the command to love the Lord exclusively. It is covetousness to fail to obey (Col 3:5). When we examine our hearts after any violation of the commandments, we can find covetousness there. Wicked king Ahab provides the perfect illustration with regard to Naboth’s vineyard. In that one episode we find coveting, bearing false witness, murder, and stealing.

We are on to something very important and very profound here. James brings it out for us when he says that every man is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Right there is the battleground – in your desires. You are going to win or lose the battle against sin in your heart, in what you want. Coveting comes from the heart. Desire is the expression of our innermost self and so it indicates clearly what we love and what we hate. Remember this – what you love and what you hate reveal who you are.

And that is precisely what is so convicting about this command. Our desires betray us. From an external perspective, we might look pretty good, even to ourselves. But the real desires, delights, or appetites of our heart have a way of leaping out of our hearts and leading toward whatever it is that we really want. We might wish that we could pretend that those desires came from somewhere else. But we know where they come from. They are begotten from our own heart, and we cannot deny the family resemblance.

Where do you stand with respect to the 10th commandment? Saul of Tarsus had to admit that even though everyone else in the world thought he was righteous, in his heart he stood condemned. So as you look at the text, ask yourself, “Am I keeping God’s law in my heart?” What is the real condition of your heart?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Overcoming by the Blood of the Lamb

Last week I put up a post about true racial reconciliation. This morning I came across an opinion piece by Alveda King, the neice of Martin Luther King, Jr., which makes an interesting follow-up to that post. Here is what she said:

Now is the time to truly put our idolatry to rest and end greed, racism, murder of the innocents, elitism and oppression in America.

What is idolatry some ask? Idolatry is to sacrifice our babies’ blood in the abortion mills, and then cause their little bodies to pass through the fire of the incinerators that rob them even of a decent burial. Idolatry is to sacrifice the virginity of our sons and daughters on the altars of the lewd music and films and Planned Parenthood’s sexual revolution that entice them into explicit sexual conduct before they reach the marriage bed. Idolatry is to worship the un-mighty and dirty dollar to such a point that we spend everything on ourselves and have nothing left for the least of these. Our powerful elected officials are leading us down a path of destruction. Many of them are lining their pockets while our children are dying.

You can read the whole thing here.

I appreciate her courageous challenge. I would just like to add one crucial point. The things she lists truly are evidences of idolatry. But in order to repent, we cannot turn from these idolatries to other idolatries. We must turn to Jesus Christ as he has been revealed in Scripture. I know this is controversial to say, but I would argue that this is precisely where her uncle failed. His version of liberal Protestantism perceived some sins with burning clarity. Yet he did not put forward the true gospel as the power to overcome these sins, and that is why his program for racial reconciliation did not, and will not, overcome.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chosen Before the Foundation of the World

One of the most contested doctrines of Scripture is the teaching of election, that is, the teaching that God chose certain people to be saved. In fact, the whole Scriptural teaching regarding election is that it is sovereign, unconditional, pre-temporal, personal, redemptive, and comprehensive. It is a teaching that stuns the natural man. To him it is shocking and even hateful. But to the believer it is delightful. To him it means great comfort in the unshakeable love of God. It means great encouragement to serve God, for he knows that God will accomplish his purposes. It means great glory to God alone, which is the believer's greatest joy. I hope that you will see the soul-satisfying glory of God this Lord's Day unveiled in the Scriptural teaching of election!

Come,Ye Thankful People, Come (#708)
We Gather Together (#709)
How Sad Our State (#333)
Chosen of God (#290)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice (#291)

Scripture Reading
Acts 13:13-52

Blessed Be God for Blessing Us In Christ with...Election
Ephesians 1:3-6

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Large Families

Today my wife sent me an email with this jolly information about large families.

  • Accept donations of Restaurant size cookware!!!
  • are CHAOTIC and NOISY and FUN
  • have no Matching socks...but 58 white non- mates
  • always have someone to play with... never bored or lonely
  • lots of babysitters, readers, and rockers
  • never have a dull meal
  • are never picky eaters! there's someone to eat it!!!
  • have ever ready sports team
  • never have moldy leftovers in the fridge
  • and yes the parents DO know what causes them...
  • and no, moms are not supermoms or super organized
  • do not have overabundance of patience, just lots of opportunities to cultivate patience

The Ninth Commandment (Part 2)

The Command to Love the Truth and Your Neighbor’s Good Name (Part 2)
Deuteronomy 5:20; Colossians 3:1-17

Proverbs 22:1says “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” We all intuitively understand this. The child’s ditty, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is simply not true. False words can hurt immensely. I’m not talking about hurting your feelings. False words can hurt your reputation and destroy your good name. False words can go so far as to make life worse than death. This is exactly what the ninth commandment guards against. The eighth commandment protects our neighbor’s property; the ninth protects our neighbor’s personal reputation.

Last week we considered some of the various ways we can violate this commandment, and now I want us to turn our attention to how we can keep the positive implications of this command. In order to do this, consider Colossians 3.

Colossians 3 tells us how we are to live in Christ (vv. 1-4). It tells us to put to death the old, sinful ways of living because as Christians we have put off the old man and have put on the new man. That corresponds well with what we have seen from the Ten Commandments – the negative and the positive, what is prohibited and what is positively implied. Look first at the negative (vv. 5-11). Notice that this is a whole way of life that is characterized by sinful attitudes and actions, including slander and lying.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all(ESV).

Now consider the positive (vv. 12-17).
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (ESV).

These are the attitudes and actions that those who are raised with Christ should demonstrate. Notice how much they deal with our neighbor. The new life in Christ is a whole way of life that is characterized by love for our neighbor, concern for our neighbor, patience with our neighbor, and humility toward our neighbor.

It is in this light that we should see the positive implications of the ninth commandment. How often do we demonstrate a lack of care for our neighbor by what we communicate! Our basic rule should be never to unjustly think or speak evil of another. This means speaking with the intent to defame him in some way. (It does not mean legitimate rebuke for sin and such matters.) We should want to protect our neighbor’s good name. In fact, if we love our neighbor, we will always want to think the best of them.

Let me mention some particular relationships in life in which we should take care to communicate in such a way as to protect and build up our neighbor.
(1) Family. Husbands and wives must always take care for their spouse’s good name. Parents should be careful about the way they talk about their children, and children should especially be careful to honor their parents. Siblings can work hard to protect each other and help each other in what they say. Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel by slighting his father, and it led to much bloodshed and death.

(2) Church. More churches have been ruined by failure to obey the 9th commandment than we could ever count. All it takes is one discontent person to start saying things that are misleading, half-truths (which are really lies). All of us must set our hearts like flint to watch out for each other’s reputation. Don’t allow any gossip to go on. Nothing will put out the Spirit’s fire faster than wagging tongues.

(3) Public square. Ezra 4 tells how Rehum and Shimshai and the people of the land started a smear campaign in order to get Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the Israelites to stop building the temple in Jerusalem. They even wrote a letter to Artaxerxes the king of Persia. That was over 2400 years ago, and things haven’t changed much. Make sure that when you are at work, or on the phone, or in political debates, or in park and rec leagues, or in Family Readiness Groups that you are a person who is truthful and who cares about your neighbor’s good name.

Can you imagine living in a community of people where you never had to worry about slander, false accusations, or lies? A place where everyone worked to protect and help his neighbor’s reputation and well-being? Would that not be a place of rest, a place where you could be truly at home? Then let’s live like that as those who have put off the old man and are now in Christ. Our homes ought to be that way. Our church needs to be that way. Let’s be people who love the truth and our neighbor’s good name. Let’s give one another the gift that is greater than gold. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Family Integrated Church

We are a "family-integrated" church. But I have found that simply saying those words causes a fair amount of confusion, not to mention consternation, among believers. Today, is offering a free message by Scott Brown which explains well what a family-integrated church actually is.

He gives 14 marks of a family-integrated church.
1. An FIC is an orthodox church that is faithful to biblical theology and practices.
2. Families worship together.
3. Singles are incorporated into the full spectrum of church life.
4. Fathers are equipped to be spiritual leaders of their homes.
5. Biblical roles and jurisdictions are in order.
6. Children are not isolated but incorporated as full participants in the life of the church.
7. Biblical youth ministry is implemented.
8. Wives are functioning according to their biblical complementarian roles as helpers to their husbands and nurturers of children in the home.
9. Biblical offices and biblical requirements for church leaders are prescribed.
10. Family integration as a principle guides programs for equipping and evangelism.
11. The household and hospitality are the centerpiece of community ministry.
12. The ministry is not primarily programmatic, but relational.
13. The fatherless are brought into the mainstream of church and family life.
14. Multigenerational faithfulness is promoted.

I appreciate Pastor Brown's foundational concern for the sufficiency of Scripture upheld in the exposition of Scripture. He correctly emphasizes that family integration is only a piece of the puzzle in the church, not the whole thing. The gospel is central, he wisely and biblically asserts. Now, I also believe that there are certain marks he lists that could be debated and improved. Nevertheless, the "family integrated" approach to church is raising crucial issues for Christians today, and I hope that as a church we will work to be relentlessly biblical in these issues.

(One inconsequential historical correction: Pastor Brown incorrectly states that Jonathan and Sarah Edwards had 16 children. They actually had only 11!)

Chosen of God

I have spiritually enjoyed this hymn so much today that I just had to share it with you. I'm looking forward to singing it with you all next Lord's Day.

Chosen of God
by Septimus Sears

O people, selected by sovereign love,
Thro' free grace elected to glory above;
What cause for uniting your voices to sing;
What cause for delighting in Jesus your King.

What people so blessed, so honored of God,
Redeemed from transgression by Calvary's blood,
Your enemies vanquished, your wants all supplied,
By Him who has promised, "The Lord will provide."

For He who has loved you, and bought you with blood,
Will surely bestow every covenant good;
He'll ever be near you, to save to the end,
Then trust him, and praise him, your Savior and friend.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Death by Stuffocation

Nothing biblical, per se, about this...but Mark Steyn nails it.

True Racial Reconciliation

I've noticed quite a few Christian bloggers rejoicing in the election of Barack Obama to the presidency as a major triumph in race relations. I wish I could share their joy. However, Obama's election signals the institutionalization of racism. One African-American pastor whose opinion I highly respect, Voddie Baucham, hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

If you think this means that the “America is a racist society” crowd will have to shut up, you’ve got another thing coming. In fact, watch the press closely in the coming days. There will be a concerted effort to press the opposite point. Jesse Jackson ..., Al Sharpton, and their ilk will argue that this is merely proof that policies like Affirmative Action work, and that such efforts need to be redoubled; not abandoned. They believe we need to continue telling young black boys and girls that they are not smart enough, good enough, industrious enough, capable enough, and America is not ‘fair’ enough for them to succeed without special help that their white (or Asian) counterparts don’t need.

Baucham continued:
We must also be ready for the backlash. Anyone who is not happy about an Obama presidency (or the leftist policies he, Pelosi, and Reid will attempt to cram down our throats) will be labeled racist. Conservative evangelicals, who have opposed President-elect Obama and his policies from the beginning, will be met with cries of, “You’re just mad that a black man won.” “Yes,” you say, “but I am not concerned with his ethnicity; I love all people... I don’t even see color.” Who cares? If I’ve learned anything during the last several months it is that people do not pay attention to, or bother to interact with the written (or spoken) word. It is much more convenient to erect strawmen and rely on ad hominem attacks.

The president-elect's economic agenda will not help poor African-Americans either, as Thomas Sowell made clear long before Obama ran for president. (See this video clip for Sowell's more recent views.)

The truth is that when we embrace a false racial reconciliation, we are only strapping on another IED to carry into the racial marketplace. Sooner or later it will detonate, leaving a bloody mess, not to mention more bitterness to perpetuate the cycle of antagonism.

There is only one way to achieve true racial reconciliation (as well as every other kind of reconciliation). The ultimate ground of disharmony in this world is sin, and sin can only be dealt with by Christ. In fact, Christ already has dealt with sin through his triumphant work on the cross, and so if we want to see reconciliation, we need to be ambassadors for Christ crying, "Be reconciled to God." Only the gospel can provide the true basis for harmony. If Christians want to see racial reconciliation, they must not look for it in all the wrong places.

Union With Christ

In our recent series of sermons, we have been attempting to scan the panorama of God's great plan of salvation. Up until now, we have surveyed the work especially as it relates to the awe-inspiring and faith-eliciting action of the Triune God. But now we will move to feast our eyes upon the orderly outworking of God's gracious action in relationship to us.

The first thing we notice as our eyes examine the whole work is how all of it is applied to us in relation to Christ. Everything about our redemption, beginning with God's election in eternity past and going all the way through our glorification in eternity future, comes about in connection with Christ. He is the vine; we are the branches. He is the cornerstone; we are the building. He is the representative; we are his people. He is the head; we are the body. God is the source of our life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Come draw your life from him with us!

Now Thank We All Our God (#5)
Great Is Thy Faithfulness (#22)
Our Great Savior (#434)
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (#435)
Jesus, I Am Resting (#447)
Be Thou My Vision (#462)

Scripture Reading
John 14:15-31

"You In Me, and I In You": Union with Christ as the Fountain of All Salvation
John 17:20-23; Ephesians 1:3-14

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Ninth Commandment

I apologize for the gap in the series on the Ten Commandments. We will now resume regular programming....

The Command to Love the Truth and Your Neighbor’s Good Name
Deuteronomy 5:20

Proverbs 12:22 says that “lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.” The church had a dramatic reminder of this just as she was basking in the first outpourings of the Holy Spirit. A man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. They piously pretended to give the entire amount to the church for the needs of the poor, but they withheld part of it for themselves. Peter called Ananias out on the spot: “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?... You have not lied to men but to God.”

Here we have just one of many instances in which we see that the God of all truth loves truth and hates falsehood. He gave the 9th commandment to direct us to do the same. “You shall not bear false witness.” “Do not answer against your neighbor falsely,” or “Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.” Considering that God takes this command so seriously, we would do well to consider seriously what he is commanding.

Let’s first of all consider in what ways we may violate this commandment. What does this command prohibit?

First, and most precisely, the commandment forbids giving a false testimony in a court of law. God expands on this in Deuteronomy 19:15-21. One who testified falsely in court would have done to him whatever he had intended to do to the accused, even up to the death penalty. The book of Proverbs has a great deal to say about this. “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit” (12:17). “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies” (14:5). “A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful” (14:25). “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape” (19:5, cf. 9). “A worthless witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity”(19:28). “A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure” (21:28).

Why is God so insistent on this, and why does he single out false testimony in court? I believe it is because the court is the place of highest consequence for God’s justice in society and for the good of all people in society. In any human society, courts have the power to determine and shape what is considered right and wrong in that whole society. They are to be God’s representatives to uphold justice (Rom 13). He is a God of truth, and therefore in order to represent him rightly, all court proceedings must be based upon absolute truth. Courts are then to punish evil doers and protect all others. This, too, requires absolute truth telling. In our country, courts reflect this ideal by calling upon all witnesses to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Without this, society devolves into chaos and anarchy. “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow” (Prov 25:18). There is a powerful comparison here between testifying falsely and war. To tell falsehoods in court against someone is to assault him, to attack him, to use the power of the state as your weapon to destroy him. It is one of the most hateful things a man can do to another. And so, God strictly forbids testifying falsely against your neighbor. It does violence to God’s honor and it does violence to your neighbor.

But is that all that God intends here? Is falsehood allowed outside of the courtroom? NO. Ephesians 4:25 says "Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." Colossians 3:9 adds, "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with its practices." These NT commands correctly understand that, while the 9th commandment strictly forbids false testimony in court, it encompasses all lesser interactions in society as well. Here is where we get down to the nitty-gritty of life and find out how deceitful we really are. You see, the Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9), and “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt 15:19). This is one of the greatest evidences of our depravity. Psalm 58:3 says that “the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” You don’t have to teach children to lie. We are all born liars. This truth becomes painfully obvious as we consider ways in which we violate the 9th commandment.

The most obvious way, of course, is simple lying. This involves communicating something to someone with the intent to deceive them, not in a court, but in everyday life. You want someone to think something other than what is actually the case. And believe me, you will be tempted to tell lies. Whenever we feel that it is not in our best interest to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, we have this powerful urge to deceive. Sometimes we become so used to doing it that we don’t even recognize that we are doing it. In order to deceive others, we deceive ourselves to convince ourselves that we are not really deceiving anybody. It starts when we are young:
Mother: Did you pick up your room like I told you to?
Child: I picked up my socks.
Mother (who is wise and experienced): No, did you pick up everything in your room?
You see, it does not take us long to figure out how to give a technically true statement while communicating a lie. Unfortunately, it keeps going as we get older. We seem to think like one man who said, “A lie is an abomination to the Lord…and a very present help in trouble.”

Now, as we get older, we usually get more sophisticated in our lying. It can be done through exaggeration, embellishment, or innuendo. We can deceive through gestures and actions and facial expressions. One of the more pernicious ways we lie is through slander. The flip side of slander is flattery. It has been said that a slanderer is one who says behind your back what he would never say to your face, while a flatterer says to your face what he would never say behind your back. Tale-bearing or gossip is closely related.

Intentionally misrepresenting someone is a very common form of breaking the 9th commandment, especially in times of conflict or argument. We need to make every effort to understand others clearly before we speak, especially if we have a disagreement. We can misrepresent people by selectively using their words to make them say what we want them to say. In this way the 9th commandment is violated nearly every day in the media and on the campaign trail. Politicians tend to craft intentionally ambiguous ways of saying things. Sometimes that is because they are not honest, and sometimes it is because they know they are dealing with dishonest people who will twist their words. It takes an extremely principled man to speak honestly in the halls of power.

One last way that we can break the 9th commandment is by remaining silent when we ought to speak. In situations where we know the truth but refuse to speak it, and by so doing we lead people to think something that is incorrect, we are violating the intent of the commandment.

Sir Walter Scott was so right when he said, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” If you find yourself tangled in the web of sin this morning, I want to urge you to turn to Christ. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and he is the only way you can be right with God.

If you are a believer in Christ, then are you known as a person of truth? Psalm 15 says that the man who dwells with God does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor. If you want to enjoy the presence and pleasure of the God of truth in your life, then you need to be a man or woman of truth.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Resource on Modesty

Today only, is offering the message "Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America" by Jeff Pollard free. I recommend it.

See also "The Rebellion of Nudity and the Meaning of Clothing" by John Piper.

Random Responses to the Election Results

If you are staggered in your spirit, read and pray the Psalms. This may do more than anything else to put your heart and mind in the way of the Lord. Start with a lament. Over 1/3 of the psalms are of this kind. Here is godly mourning in all of its pain, sharing a complaint with the Lord. Yet nearly all of the lament psalms struggle their way to an expression of trust in the Lord, and often close with a vow to praise God. See Psalms 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 28, 31, 35, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 69, 70, 71, 77, 86, 88, 109, 120, 130, 140, 141, 142, or 143 (take your pick).

After you have done that, meditate on a song of trust, such as Psalms 11, 16, 23, 27, 62, 63, 91, 121, 125, or 131. Next, in order to learn from this circumstance, consider a wisdom Psalm. These psalms intend to teach us, and they emphasize the Law as the way to live and receive God’s blessing. They often contrast the life of the righteous with the wicked. Choose from Psalms 1, 15, 36, 37, 49, 73, 112, 119, 127, 128, or 133.

By this point you should be being strengthened according to the Lord's word, so you can express that in a praise hymn or thanksgiving psalm. God's greatness and goodness are always the joy and rejoicing of our hearts. Psalms 8, 19, 33, 103, 104, 113, 117, 145-148, 150 are good examples of praise.

To top it all off, remember that the Lord is King, as expressed in Psalms 24, 29, 47, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98, and 99, among others. The divine kingship is the glory of our lives.

Then when you have finished all this, pray with all your heart, "Your kingdom come!"

I have noticed many good Christian leaders saying many good things in response to this election, such as praying earnestly for our leaders, trusting in God, focusing on the gospel, etc. I heartily concur in these statements.

One word does seem curiously absent from the discussion - repentance.

Here is my sister-in-law's response to the election.