Worldliness…

Our men’s group is reading through Scott Manetsch’s great book on the care of Geneva’s pastors in the 16th century, Calvin’s Company of Pastors. In the fourth chapter on pastors’ households he begins with a poem by Antoine de Chandieu that brought me much conviction this morning. May God grant to us repentance for our envy, love of the world, and living in such a way that we think our portion is in this life…

Never having and always desiring,
Such are the consequences for him who loves the world.
The more he abounds in honor and riches,
The more he is seen aspiring for more.
He does not enjoy what belongs to him:
He wants, he values, he adores what other people have.
When he has everything, it is then that he has nothing.
Because having everything, he desires everything still.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1John 2:15).

Obama’s attack on the Gospel…

At the core of God’s Word is this truth: man is sinful. From Adam—the first man—sin spread to all mankind: “…through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). We are born sinners who sin. Therefore, when the Son of God took on flesh and lived among men there came an announcement appropriate to the context of the sinfulness of mankind: “He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). When Jesus began preaching he contextualized perfectly: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

That the One who came to save His people from their sins was a preacher of repentance should not be lost on us. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4). That Jesus came preaching repentance was God’s tolerance toward you and me. He said what you are is not good, therefore, repent. To the sexual immoral, Jesus says repent. To the thief, Jesus says repent. To the covetous, Jesus says repent. To the drunkard, Jesus says repent. To the fornicator, Jesus says repent. To the idolater, Jesus says repent. To the blasphemer, Jesus says repent. To the self-righteous, Jesus says repent. To me, Jesus says repent. To you, Jesus says repent.

At every point where the unchanging Law of God reveals a knowledge of sin, you and I are called to repent.

Why? Because “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). There is a judgment to come where the repentant will meet their Savior and the unrepentant will meet their uncovenanted Judge.

This is the Christian faith. God’s Word teaches these truths for the good of our own sinful souls, and we announce them for the good of every sinful soul in the world. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Praise God there is that one way…open only to those who repent and believe.

To not announce such glories would be the worst kind of cruelty. To allow someone to persist in his sin until he dies is unkind and merciless. To not call for all men everywhere to repent is to denounce the tolerance of God.

Someone once told me I was a blasphemer and a foul-mouthed jerk…using the words of James 3. I repented by the grace of God. And Scripture has continued the same annihilation of my sinful nature, inherited from Adam. Everywhere proud, everywhere lusting, everywhere envious, everywhere unkind. And I, by the grace of God, hope to continue in repentance until the day I die…and then inherit my reward.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

In hellish contrast, watch this video released by the Obama administration:

Contrast the worldview of this video with what I laid out above from the Scriptures. Repentance—the kindness of God, remember—is the enemy. The gospel of “such were some of you” is intolerable. In its place—all dressed up in the language of affirmation and love—is bondage to sin and the damnable weight of an ever-changing law.

So devastatingly sad. But Christians will continue to preach the gospel of such were some of you until our governing officials make us shut-up. This video makes clear such silence is the desire of our President. In the meantime, we will preach repentance because we love our Savior, the friend of sinners, and because we love sinners.

It is those who reject repentance that hate souls.

The Deceitfulness of Sin…

IndwellingSin[Sin] endeavors to draw the mind away from a due appreciation of its own vileness and the danger that faces it. A right awareness of sin, its nature, its aggravating circumstances, and its tendency, should always be before us, especially as we see these things in the blood and cross of Christ. The heart must constantly consider that sin is an evil and bitter thing—evil in itself, and bitter in its effects—if it is to be kept safe from it. Also, a humble, contrite, self-abasing frame of heart is most acceptable with God. We should be clothed with humility (1 Pet. 5:5). This is most comely for a sinner; no other garment sits so well on him. He that walks humbly, walks safely. And this is obtained and preserved only by a constant, deep awareness of the evil, vileness, and danger of sin. This was true of the publican that was approved by God. His words were, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:13).The sense of sin kept him humble, and humility brought him to the place where it was testified of him that his sins were pardoned. This is the great preservative from sin, as we see with Joseph (Ge. 39:9).A constant, steady sense of the evil of sin so preserved him that he ventured life and liberty in opposing it.

The law of sin therefore uses deceit to draw the mind away from this attitude, which is the strongest defense and security of the soul. It labors to divert the mind from a right sense of the vileness, abomination, and danger of sin. It secretly and stealthily insinuates thoughts which lessen, excuse, and extenuate sin; or it leads it away from pondering over it, from an awareness of it in the thoughts, as much as ought to be the case. When the heart of man has, through the Word, Spirit, and grace of Christ, been made tender, soft, and deeply aware of sin, if it later comes, for any reason or by any means, to have fewer, less weighty, or less heart-rending thoughts about sin, the mind of that man is being drawn away by the deceitfulness of sin.

…like a roaring lion…

Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Many of us erroneously assumed that when we came to faith, our trials would immediately cease. What we may not have understood is this: before we came to faith, the enemy of our souls, Satan, was perfectly content with us. He was our master and we were loyal subjects. When we came to faith, we got traded to a new team, so to speak, and became loyal to our Creator. Now the enemy of our souls, Satan, had to start training his guns on us. His rage, rather than his quiet rule, is now what we receive. Remember, Scripture says, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We are also exhorted, as Christians, to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). You see, the devil is a schemer and his rage is particularly directed against those who know Jesus, his enemy.

Now, think a bit about the context of Luke 4… Continue reading

A sinner…

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:37-39).

This Pharisee was much more civilized than his fellow Pharisees, many of whom wanted to kill Jesus. This Pharisee, at the very least, wanted to have Jesus over to his home for dinner. He was civilized, inquisitive, intellectually curious, hospitable—but, also, a run of the mill self-righteous man.

Jesus, the Pharisee, and honored guests reclined at table. A woman—a notorious woman—heard that Jesus was just up the road dining at the Pharisee’s house. Knowing Jesus is near, she made a plan and her love for Jesus kept her from second-guessing herself.

All we know about this woman is what this passage tells us—she was a sinner. The Holy Spirit inspires a one word bio for our dear sister: sinner… Continue reading

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another…"

085490400132983363688A sermon on James 5:16-18…

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).

We come to a passage that causes us a great deal of discomfort, even pain. Just the thought of confessing our sins makes us squirm. To do that means admitting we are sinners—even that we are sinners who sin, if you get my drift. Our pride doesn’t like to admit such things. And, yet, we know that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (as James wrote earlier in his letter). So, it is our obligation, with the help of the Holy Spirit whose work it is to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (as it says in John 16:8), to constantly fight our pride. One of the most useful and devastating weapons to use in that battle against our pride is the confession of our sins.

On this topic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who I have quoted before, wrote the following in his great book Life Together:

The root of all sin is pride… I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death. The mind and flesh of man are set on fire by pride; for it is precisely in his wickedness that man wants to be as God … In the confession of concrete sins the old man dies a painful, shameful death…

That putting to death of sins is what Scripture calls the mortification (putting to death) of the flesh. Bonhoeffer, drawing our attention to the process, the fight, of Christians actively participating in the Spirit’s work of making us more and more holy, is echoing the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13), and His letter to the Ephesians: “…in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:22-24).

This mortification of the flesh, this pursuit of holiness is the entire life of the Christian… Continue reading

Chrysostom's "Letters to the Fallen Theodore"

53854.pI was digging through some old files and came across this paper written on Chrysostom and his letters to a young man struggling with sin. It’s a long read as far as blog posts go but perhaps someone will find it interesting…and make it to the end.

Biography

In the fourth-century, the great city of Antioch, located in the southern region of modern Turkey, was positioned on an important commercial highway, possessed an intense intellectual tradition, was home to an important Roman military headquarters (serving as a base of operations against the Persians), and was populated by mostly Christian citizens, although paganism (especially in the intellectual circles) and Judaism were tenaciously practiced by many.1 Because of the good climate and amenities of Antioch (and its aforementioned military importance) Emperors frequently visited, including the following during the fourth-century: Constantius II, Gallus, Julian, Jovian, and Valens. No doubt the “amenities” which attracted many to Antioch included various worldly pursuits: baths, gaming, and the theatre. Perhaps in reaction to such worldliness, an extreme asceticism developed in the area with its adherents withdrawing from the city to set up communities in the surrounding countryside. Kelly describes the bifurcated cultural climate in this way:

The citizens of Antioch had a reputation for pleasure-seeking, worldliness, fickleness and cynicism; among other diversions they had a passion for horse-racing and the theatre, and in spring and summer they streamed out to Daphne for relaxation or amusement. By contrast the desert regions near the city, the higher slopes and peaks of Mount Silpios and the other mountains on its outskirts, were becoming populated by hermits and monks who, in obedience to what they conceived to be the call of Christ, had turned their backs on civilization and the vanities of the world.

Additionally, the results of the Council of Nicea (325) were still being worked out in the cities of the world, including Antioch. For many years, bishops sympathetic to Arianism controlled Antioch. But a small faction, lead by Diodore and Flavian, were promoting the Nicene doctrines. In other words, Antioch, like many cities of this time, was deeply divided between proponents and opponents of Nicene orthodoxy.

It was into this cultural climate that John Chrysostom was born—somewhere around 3492—to Secundus, a civil servant to the military governor of Syria, and Anthousa, a Christian woman… Continue reading

Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones on sin, man, and tolerance…

Here’s an example of boldness and faith in Jesus Christ. Pay particular attention to what Lloyd-Jones says about tolerance. Lloyd-Jones’ comments are particularly poignant as the Roman Catholic Church discusses whether or not to come out of the closet (though I don’t trust CNN and many other news sources to be reporting what’s happening in the Vatican with any understanding). (HT: Gary Knapp)

The preciousness of homosexual sin…

620x400_HomosexualityThe PCA is increasingly concerned about being a denomination that speaks the truth in love to those who love the sin of sodomy. ByFaith says that we must “stand firm on biblical teachings about homosexuality without alienating people who desperately need Jesus.” They ask, “How can the PCA uphold biblical teachings without excluding so many who need the good news of Jesus Christ?” In my mind, this kind of hand-wringing and question-asking is code-language for how do we hide what God has openly said about homosexuality in His Word from those who love sodomy. God has spoken clearly (does He speak any other way?) and without mincing words, calling sodomy an “abomination” (Lev. 18:22) and “impurity” (Rom. 1:24) and “unnatural” (Rom. 1:26) and “indecent” (Rom. 1:27). He warns that those who don’t repent of the sin of effeminacy and homosexuality will earn for themselves condemnation (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Now, please don’t try to convince me that the Holy Spirit somehow spoke truth without love in those passages of His inerrant Word…

Because of a prevailing view in our culture regarding homosexuality, we are repeatedly warned by confused church leaders that those committing this sin need to be handled with special care, at a slowed pace, with different love, with peculiar wisdom and tenderness. Of course we are to love sinners, that is a no-brainer. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. To not love sinners is not to love. But why this hand-wringing over homosexuality? Could it be that the hand-wringing arises not because of the complicated nature of the sin of homosexuality but because of embarrassment over God’s handling of this sensitive matter?

To demonstrate the strange absurdity of this singling out of one sin, let me grab another sin which if not repented of will earn a man condemnation. This one’s listed right next to effeminacy and homosexuality in 1 Cor. 6: idolatry. Now, let me take that particular sin and put it in place of some words about homosexuality in a few paragraphs from the ByFaith article…

As idolatrous lifestyles and idolatry march relentlessly toward social acceptance, PCA leaders and congregations face a quandary: how to stand firm on biblical teachings about idolatry without alienating people who desperately need Jesus. Many in the PCA insist that the question can no longer be ignored.

Freeman has been attending the PCA General Assembly for more than 25 years. During that time, he says, scores of elders have come to him—heads hung low—hoping to talk privately about their own struggles, including attraction to idols. “Typically I’m the first person they’ve confided in,” he says. “They often confess…in tears.”

For Wheeler, the challenge is finding the balance between standing for what God says and at the same time treating idolaters like everyone else—human beings worthy of love and respect and created in God’s image. “They are sinners, just like all of us,” Wheeler says.

In his book, “The Briarpatch Gospel,” Wheeler offers poignant stories about his interactions with idolaters and those attracted to idols during his years at All Souls. During one conversation he told an idolatrous attendee at his church, “Your being an idolater doesn’t put you into some special category of sinner. It just mean you struggle to follow Jesus, just like I do. You and I are both called to conform our lives to the righteousness of Christ, and you and I are both going to fail miserably at times. But I am willing to walk that road with you for as long as it takes.”

“We start with the Gospel and explain God’s design for worship, and then we explain—compassionately and kindly—that every expression of worship outside of His plan misses the mark.” We want to let people know that God is pro-worship, Freeman says. Otherwise, we’ll become known as the ‘that’s bad, that’s sin, you shouldn’t do that’ denomination.

Now, I hope you see the strangeness, if not absurdity, of such a program. Would we approach a man who bowed down eight times a day to a 24-foot tall wooden statue he erected in his backyard with such nuance and ambiguity? I hope not. We would lovingly plead (that’s redundant) with an idolater that they give up their idolatry and turn to the living God. In fact, we’d go find an ax, some gasoline, and a lighter and roast hotdogs over the flames while reading the story of Gideon. That is where we would start the process…because we know what God has promised for idolaters. We know that we are not to crave evil things (1 Cor. 10:6-7). We would pray that God would work in that man just as he did in the Christians of Thessalonica, who “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9). We would love him enough to risk being labeled a ‘that’s bad, that’s sin, you shouldn’t do that’ Christian. And should he prove his repentance and faith in Christ, he would be welcomed to the Table of the Lord—around which are seated the Fellows of the Such-Were-Some-Of-You, all those who gave up fornication, idolatry, adultery, stealing, coveting, drinking, swearing, and homosexuality for love to Jesus.

One of the claims of the ByFaith article is that sinners who sin homosexually are like any other type of sinner. I agree with that but the author of the article and many of those quoted in it betray their thoughts to the contrary. Effeminacy and homosexuality do indeed fall between adultery and thievery in Paul’s list in 1 Cor. 6. But the confusion of many today is demonstrated in that they desperately seeking a way to treat homosexuality as a different kind of sin, the kind of sin that requires support groups on Christian campuses, the kind of sin that particularly needs truth spoken in love.

It is almost as if those who make such arguments have never seen anyone turn away from the sin of homosexuality, transformed by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit. Without such faith in the power of the Spirit, they endeavor to keep in dialogue for as long a possible those they know are engaged in the sin. At least that way we can talk to our pastor buddies about how we’ve been engaged in open, loving, respectful, and pleasant dialogue with some homosexual brothers who are open to the gospel. As long as they remain open to the gospel, they aren’t rejecting it…and that leaves more time to nuance God’s Word. As if repentance is due to our kindness, rather than the kindness of God…