The weapons of our warfare ...have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Cor. 10:4
"I'm not the greatest; I'm the double greatest. Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick the round."
Thus were the words of famed boxer Muhammad Ali. He may have been a pompous jerk, but there was no doubting the fact that he was a powerful force to be reckoned with in the ring. Once you came face to face with the heavyweight champion, you knew that power first hand.
When it comes to the Bible, we can apply Ali's words more directly. Scripture isn't just the greatest; it is the double greatest. There is not one book that can compare with its power. It has a supernatural force that penetrates deep and powerfully moves upon the souls of men. No book can compare with its ability to convict, convert, and built up.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The Word of God is living and active, able to pierce down to the innermost parts of the soul. Its nature is to revive, delight the heart, enrich, and suppress evil. For those who are not redeemed, it is the fragrance of death. For those who are unregenerate, it acts like chains that restrain the heart from acting out.
Read anything. Read a novel; the best one you can find. Make it a classic; one that has stood the test of time and been commended by the masses of humanity. Then read the Bible. You will find that while the former may be entertaining, persuasive, informative, or enlightening. It may move you to laugh, cry, or leave you wanting more at the end. But it will not have the same effect as the Bible.
The Scriptures, being divine in nature, have spiritual vitality. They exert a power over you that will either anger or agitate you, or comfort and encourage you.
Perhaps you've had just such an experience. You've had different literature that you've read for a certain amount of time. It actually took over for your devotional reading of Scripture. You enjoyed the reading. You were drawn back to it again and again.
But then you took up the Scriptures. As you read it, you could tell that there was something different about it. It had an impact that was much more significant. It "spoke" to you in a deeper fashion than the other book.
Or perhaps it was the other way around. I've found in my passing out of gospel tracts that more people become intently angered over that little slip of paper than anything else in the world. If I had given them a copy of the Book of Mormon or the JW's Watchtower, they'd probably never would have batted an eye. But since it was God's Word on that paper, it spooked them.
That is a testimony of the inherent power of God's Word. It has an efficacy that goes far beyond all human books. It doesn't just tickle the mind; it touches the soul.
Because we can see and feel the Spirit working by it we can understand that it comes from the Spirit.
An exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago displays a particularly radiant set of diamonds known as "colorless diamonds." These diamonds are some of the most precious stones in all the earth. This is because, unlike most diamonds, they lack the slightest tint of yellow or brown.
In a similar way, the purity of the Bible sets it apart from all other writings. Scripture is distinguished as the highest of books because it does not contain even the slightest fleck of immorality or sinful corruption.
Every human composition, no matter how virtuous it may be in its content, bears some fatal flaw. The taint of sin will be found in it to one degree or another. It may say many wonderful things. It may give much wisdom. But somewhere or somehow it will promote sin and show its earthly origin.
The Bible, however, reveals itself to be divine in nature because it reflects the perfect purity of God Himself. This is why the Christian scriptures have become known throughout history as "the Holy Bible." No other book can bear such an epitaph because no other book can be said to be flawless in doctrine and spotless in moral virtue.
This doesn't mean the Bible is without its detractors. Many men seek to assail the purity of the Scriptures. Many scoffers have said that it promotes murder (i.e. the extermination of the Canaanites), diminishes human dignity (slavery), and presents a sadistic God (one who sacrifices His Son).
But such attacks are without grounds and arise only from a spirit of animosity. The holiness of the Bible is easily discovered when one reads through it.
It doesn't take long to see how vigorously it denounces sin and shows how abhorrent it really is. Never once does it condone the slightest evil or allow for its indulgence. Instead, it roots out sin from the most secret recesses of the heart, guards against it, and leads only to a life of holiness.
To be sure, this is why most people will not dare to read the Bible: they fear it will expose their guilt, remind them of God's vengeance, and lead them away from the corruptions they currently enjoy.
But if you ever needed assurance that the Bible is God's word, all you have to do is read it. It validates itself. As you examine it you will find that each page bears the insignia of a holy God. To be sure, "Every word of God is flawless." Prov. 30:5
There are many creative works that men have produced that may be said to be “inspirational.”
For instance, Michelangelo's paintings are some of the most brilliant of all time. If you watch the old classic “On the Waterfront” or a modern Spielberg film, you will be mesmerized by the quality of cinematography.
In the literary world, Milton’s Paradise Lost displays the mastery that he had over his pen. The oratory power of the ancient Greeks (people like Cicero, Plato, etc) sets them apart and puts them in the lofty category of “classics” because their rhetorical talent is obvious.
All of these present something of the supreme artistry of mankind. These works have a distinct beauty and demonstrate a higher level of creativity than what you normally find on earth.
But one of the distinct proofs for Scripture being the very word of God is that it has a style that is much more profound than all of these. As you read through the pages of Scripture you cannot help but notice that it exudes a heavenly elegance. Or, as theologians have often said, the Spirit of God verifies the divine origin and unique authority of Scripture in the majestic style that we witness in its pages.
The loftiness of the Bible, it should be noted, is not due to any rhetorical embellishment or sophistication. There is no particular cadence, flashy wording, or theatrical technique employed. If the truth be told, the Bible is unabashedly simple. As a matter of fact, it employs such a plain and ordinary style that small children can read and understand it.
Yet, despite having no excessive color or decoration, it is easy to perceive that “the Holy Scriptures breathe out something divine, and surpass all the gifts and graces of human industry.” (Calvin) Or, in the words of the Apostle Paul, Scripture does not possess “enticing words of man’s wisdom,” but it nevertheless is filled with a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
One pastor set forth a challenge to anyone to try and create a document that would rival the Bible's unique majesty. Could someone create a fifth gospel? Could another psalm be composed which would trick men to thinking it was penned by the Holy Spirit? The answer is no. For no man can imitate the supernal style of the Spirit.
In effect, imitations has already been attempted. Many other books could have been chosen to be a part of the Bible in the early centuries. They, however, eventually fell by the wayside. Even today, many books put themselves forward as sacred script. But none are recognized to possess the same grandeur that is found in the Bible.
It is not without reason that the Bible has been called the “God of books” and looked at as the most wonderful literary creation of all time. It declares its own uniqueness in every line. And if one wants proof that God speaks in and through His Word, all we must do is read and listen to it.
Hopewell will be having a used book & curriculum sale to help raise money for this year's national Bible Bee qualifiers. Anyone who would like to sell their supplies is welcome to purchase vending space.
The sale is scheduled for June 2nd from 10-4. It will be located in our meeting room at Hedstrom Plastics (100 Hedstrom Drive).
See the flyer below for details or send us an email for more information.
Envy has many vile manifestations (complaints, theft, vandalism, and cheating to name a few). But it mainly lurks within and goes unnoticed by the average onlooker.
To be sure, the outward expressions may be likened to the tip of an iceberg sticking out of the water. The greater mass of it lies deep beneath the surface where nobody can see.
Envy is that grief one feels at the fortune of others. One theologian summed it up as an internal "disquietude." That's merely a fancy way of saying that you're irked because someone has something you don't.
The point is that your soul is not displaying the "quiet," peaceful happiness that accompanies contentment. Instead, you're agitated and given to all kinds of unhealthy emotions and imaginations. You brood, murmur, and are angry. You curse under your breath and you devise scenarios in your mind that are not charitable towards others.
Think about how this irritation is displayed in your own life. You may be sad because don't have those granite counter-tops. You mope and are angry because someone else got the promotion. You secretly hope your neighbor hits a speed bump too hard in his new sports car.
Your discontent has not only robbed you of personal peace, happiness, and thankfulness, but it has put you in a frame of mind that is altogether uncharitable.
Since he Lord requires holiness in the inward parts, subduing inward sin is paramount to our sanctification. To this end, be mindful of the following ways to subdue envy:
1. Savor what God has given you and strive to be thankful for it.
2. Strive with diligence to serve God with what you have. If you are faithful in little things, the Lord will likely add more blessings. If you serve him diligently and maintain a sweet comportment are typically God's means to increase.
3. Consider that God may take away what you do have if you make no contentment in it. "Even what he has will be taken away." Those where the words that haunted the unfaithful steward in the Parable of the Talents.
4. Remember that you are rich. You own more than you had when you first entered life. You possess more than all those who have died. Even what you have should not be in your possession due to having sinned against God and forfeited the right to these blessings.
5. Remember that getting what you want may not be good. Rachel's desire for a child was blown way out of proportion. In the end, God gave her a child, and she ended up dying as she gave birth to him.
This teaching was included in the Hopewell Weekly, Hopewell's weekly newsletter. If you would like to subscribe and stay connected on all the events, teachings, and prayer requests, you can sign up here.
This past Lord's Day we were blessed to have two young people make their professions of faith and to receive some new brothers into communing fellowship. We pray that the Lord will establish and prosper them in every way!
What a blessed time remembering the Lord's promises to cleanse and receive sinners. May this memorial live on and continually stir us up to faith and obedience.
I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give up,' and to the south, 'Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth.'
God is infinite in his being and the only supreme good. We were made for Him and were designed to find our delight in Him.
Put these two facts together and you understand: No other thing in this world can bring us true happiness or satisfy the longings of our soul. Nothing in creation can compare with Him or measure up to Him.
Enjoying God does not come easy. But we can be more apt to relish Him when we understand the depth and degree to which the Lord enjoys us.
The best job I've ever had was being an elementary school gym teacher. If the pay had been worth while, I may never have left it. The reason was simple: I had the admiration of every kid in that building.
I didn't know anything about teaching. I had no snazzy methods or dazzling teaching techniques. I was just in charge of play. My day consisted of kickball, dodgeball, tag, basketball, and what amounts to infinite fun.
And the kids loved it; they loved ME. I could do no wrong in their eyes. They looked forward to my class. They shouted at me in the hallways, "HI COACH!" The level of enthusiasm of these wee tots was cranked to extreme every day.
But I've also taught high school sophomores.
Not long after starting that job did I learn the etymology of the term. It may go without saying that these were dark days in my life. If purgatory were a real, I would certainly say that it consists of two consecutive periods of being an instructor at this level.
It is obvious which group of kids I enjoyed most and who's company I preferred. I delighted in the wee tots because they so much delighted in me.
This provides us with one of the keys to enjoying God. We will be more inclined to enjoy God when we understand just how enamored He is with us.
Sometimes we do not fully enjoy God because we do not fully realize the extent to which the Lord delights in us. Often our view of God is distorted: we see him as an angry tyrant, an ogre, an unpalatable judge. As a result, we live in fear of Him and serve from a distance.
But we must remember that this is a false image. The Lord always sees us in Christ. Thus, we may hear the echos of "This is my son, in whom I am well pleased."
God's Word emphasizes this repeatedly when it tells us that He rejoices over us with singing; He works all things for our good, and He loves us with an everlasting love.
Psalm 147 & 149 state it in the clearest language when they say, "The Lord takes pleasure in his people."
God takes pleasure in us! It is no wonder why these two Psalms are so jubilant and full of praise. The Psalmist is only reciprocating the personal exuberance that God himself shows to us.
Read more in this week's Hopewell Weekly...
Hopewell was blessed to participate in Mansfield's annual pro-life walk/rally again this year. The Richland Source provided coverage of the event and highlighted some of Hopewell's involvement.
We might note that the RS article does need some modification. Those who participated numbered well over 100 people.
In 2 Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul reminds us that jealousy can be a good thing--a very good thing. When false teachers woo the hearts of God's people away to another gospel and another Christ, God is provoked to anger.
Join us as we study this godly jealousy and the exclusive rights of God to our affections.
As we look back over 2017, we can definitely see the good hand of Providence among us. The year has been full of gospel opportunities, fellowship, and growth in grace. So much has been His blessing that we can say with the Psalmist, "The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad." Psalm 126:3
Some of these great things can be witnessed in our HOPEWELL 2017 YEAR IN REVIEW (pdf). Feel free to check it out and see what God has done among us!
If you believe that God is almighty, why do you fear devils and enemies and not confidently trust in God.
If you believe Him to be sovereign, why do you not call upon Him and crave His help in all your troubles and dangers?
If you believe God to be infinite,
how dare you provoke Him to anger?
If you believe that God is simple, how can you play the hypocrite and maintain double motives?
If you believe that God is good, why is your heart not more settled upon Him?
If you believe Him to be a just Judge, how dare you live so securely in sin without repentance?
If you truly believe that God is most wise, why do you not patiently bear and appreciate the crosses of life? Is He not able to turn all things to the best for those who love Him?
If you are persuaded that God is true, why do you doubt His promises?
If you believe that God is beauty and perfection itself, why do you not make Him alone your chief end and primary pursuit?
If you believe God is generous, why do you not pray to Him? Will He not open wide the storehouse of heaven and pour forth with great liberality wisdom, love, earthly goods, faith, and friendship?
Check out all the latest in this week's Hopewell Weekly.
At Christmas time we remember the good news of the Savior's birth. He entered the world to bring salvation to men.
But our appreciation of Christ will be more fully attuned when we remember that His incarnation was anything but glorious.
The Son of God's entrance into the world was part of his humiliation and thus very "inglorious." We can only appreciate the work of the Savior when we see his incarnation in this light.
Consider the depths to which he did descend to bring you salvation:
1. He left his Father - Prior to the incarnation the Son dwelt in the bosom of the Father, wherein he enjoyed perfect love, joy, and blessing. His leaving this sweet realm marks his first step into hell (for hell is separation from God). What pain it is for us to leave home and part with human parents! How infinitely greater was the pain of Christ in relinquishing the enchanting place of the Father's presence!
2. He was born - He who was very God of very God took upon himself the very flesh He did create. He created man in His own image, but then took the image of man himself. And while this cannot expressly be said to be part of his 'humiliation" (for he retains his human nature now in his exaltation), it is a superb act of condescension on his part.
3. He was born into severe conditions - Christ was not only born into abject poverty, but his birth suffered from the further indignities of obscurity and insult. Bethlehem was little known town, the stable was an undignified place, the manger was, to say the least, crude. Added is the insult of relatives in Bethlehem who did not show compassion on the poor travelers and expecting mother.
4. He was utterly dependent - The sovereign Creator, upon whom all creation depends, was himself made dependent upon Mary & Joseph. He who was used to the service of angels was at the mercy of new parents.
5. He suffered the extremities of infancy - Catholic dogma says that Christ retained the reason of a grown man from infancy. But this is not true. He grew in wisdom & stature. More than that, He suffered from the first hour the new experiences of humanity: hunger, neglect, fatigue, grief, etc.
6. His infancy was filled with accentuated agonies - The conditions surrounding his birth were filled with adversity, adding to his difficulties. He felt the pricks of hay for bedding, endured the pains of an unhospitable manger, and was threatened with death by Herod.
7. He subjected himself to the law - He who was the very Lawgiver, Lord, and Judge put himself under the law. It was not just to live by it as a rule--for he already did this by nature. Rather, he came under the curse of it. He came into this world to fulfill its stipulations for others. In sum, He was born to die.
This week the Supreme Court began hearings on the case of Christian baker Jack Philips. Since it is back in the public eye we are are once again being inundated with arguments to support same sex marriage.
Let's examine their rationale and see how none of the reasons should be influential for us as Christians.
1. It's LOVE! The world today has a radical misconception of what love is and what kinds of things you can love. Love is not to be defined as a feeling, romantic desire, erotic impulse, or even zealous, long lasting commitment to another.
Love is only to be defined by God and His law. The Lord alone, who himself is the embodiment of Love, tells us what we are to love and how that love is to manifests itself. In the case of homosexual marriage, it is a misplaced 'affection' and a perversion of how love is to be expressed.
2. They are consenting adults! Mutual agreement can be a good thing, but we need to recognize that consent of involved parties does not make an action right or wrong.
We must keep in mind that God's approval is what matters most. If God is against it, it doesn't matter how many people may concur with a decision. Even if the Supreme Court ends up offering up its unanimous consent, it is still wrong.
3. It's a committed / monogamous relationship - In a day where most change lovers as often as they change their clothes, it is almost refreshing to hear people talk about monogamy. But we shouldn't be fooled - homosexuals rarely are monogamous. We know that one perversion usually is followed by another, and studies have shown this to be true in the case of homosexuality.
But even in the rare instance where monogamy may be practiced, it still doesn't constitute a lawful marriage. God not only requires singular devotion, He also requires two people of the opposite sex: a male & female.
4. It doesn't hurt anyone - This tag is bandied about regularly and loosely. And, as you may have guessed by now, harm (or lack of it) does not constitute lawfulness in and of itself. God's Word is to be the final authority in all matters of life and faith.
But Christians shouldn't be fooled by this innocent sounding declaration. We know that the wages of sin is death. Sin always has consequences. And those who embrace sinful lifestyles not only harm themselves, but they also inflict harm on those around them.
The effects of homosexuality are rabid, starting with the decreased life span and increased sickliness of those who practice such things. It also has ramifications for children of such couples and has destructive social implications too (including financial burdens, political fallout, etc).
5. You can't legislate morality - Well, what else is there to legislate then? Such a declaration is a complete misnomer because morality is exactly what is under the government's particular scrutiny. The civil magistrate was instituted by God for the expressed purpose of maintaining a just and orderly society. It is God's expressed agent in punishing the evildoer and exacting His vengeance in cases of criminal offense. (Rom. 13)
Moreover, if morality can't be legislated, why was Jack Philips (and others like him) were taken to court in the first place?
If the present SCOTUS case tells us anything, it isn't that we cannot legislate morality. The real issue is, "Which morality do we legislate?"
This case is a simple reminder that all nations are inherently religious and their laws reflect the god of the land. Since this is so, let us pray that God might be honored and our land might be granted true revival.
This article appeared in the Hopewell Weekly, the weekly e-newsletter. Subscribe to get each week's teaching, announcements, & prayer requests sent to your inbox.
The sordid details of yet another sexual scandal has lit up the news media. Unfortunately, such stories are becoming a daily occurrence.
Since these exploits reveal the prevalence of sexual sin in our day, it is a good time to review some Biblical truths regarding the subject of purity.
1. The innocent will not be put to shame (Ps 25:3). Those who live clean lives will not be disgraced. Chastity has the simple reward of being free from public embarrassment and the shame of guilt.
On the contrary, dishonorable people will eventually be dishonored. If the latest news spin tells us anything, it is this: What is said (or done) in secret will be proclaimed on housetops.
2. God avenges the powerless. Closely related is the fact that God acts to assist those who are weak and defenseless. To be sure, sexual harassment is a form of oppression. Crude talk and lewd advances are at their core power plays (perpetrated by both men and women). Respectful attitudes and actions towards the opposite sex is further reinforced when we remember that the Lord "executes justice for the oppressed." (Psalm 146:7).
3. Keeping Good Company is Wisdom - Who is laughing at Mike Pence now? His policy of never dining with a woman who is not his wife (sometimes called the Billy Graham Rule) has become the gold standard for purity and non-accusation.
Proverbs 2 reminds us that wisdom is the greatest friend a person can have because it connects with people of integrity and provides unassailable alibis.
4. Biblical sexuality is the most fulfilling - Marital fidelity not only offers a life of no regret, but it provides the avenue for the greatest joy and fulfillment. God designed marriage for the express purpose of sexual gratification. Scripture repeatedly associates the deeper concepts fulfillment (unity, intimacy, and happiness) with fidelity, while associating death, despair, and difficulty with fornication.
5. Decency = contentment - Much of the unfaithfulness that occurs in the world has to do with one simple thing: discontent. It is because people are not content with God and His plan that they seek exploits and eroticism. What Paul says about those who are not content with material things is also true for those who are not content with their wife (or lack thereof)--they "fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."
One of the most perplexing parts of the Bible involves the Old Testament food laws. Indeed, many unbelievers will go so far as to use these laws to mock the Christian religion.
While these laws are no longer binding on Christians today, understanding their place and role helps us know more about God's will for our lives now. Here are five lessons that we can glean from them.
1. God is watching out for us - The Jews were some of the healthiest people on the planet. The reason was much because of their diet. Most of the animals that God forbid were, to some degree or other, toxic for consumption. Jews didn't have to worry about scurvy and trichinosis b/c God was watching out for them. Other animals had unsanitary eating habits...and who wants to eat toilet bowl cleaner?
We must remember that obedience is good for us. God's law is meant to facilitate life. If we obey God's law we will likely see good health and much happiness.
2. God loves us immensely - God had given the food laws so that the people of Israel would be distinguished from all the other people's of the earth. They were to stand out as a holy nation, a peculiar people, etc. Their diet only served to reinforce the notion that they belonged specifically to the Lord.
The food laws may not make for devotional reading, but each line should remind us that God has a special love for us. We are His unique people and He has chosen us out of all the people of the earth.
3. Unity - Food is the great unifier, is it not? Our carry-in meals create greater bonds of fellowship among us. We gain encouragement and strength as we sit and eat with each other. So too with the Jews! The food laws of the OT helped the Israelites bond as a people. It reinforced their identity and faith in God.
As the wise have said: "Intimate friendships are formed at table."
4. Bad company corrupts good character - It's not too hard to figure out who doesn't come to a vegan party, does it? Just as food unites, it also separates. It can keep people apart.
The finicky diet of the Jews kept them from having unholy companionship. Since they couldn't fellowship with pagans very well due to the different menues, they were often kept from relationships that would lead to idolatry and sin.
From this we may be reminded that we ought not to be unequally yoked and develop deep relationships with people of different faiths.
5. Redemptive reminder - One of the prime food laws regarded the eating/drinking of blood. Not only was this a practice that was unhealthy and typically associated with idolatrous rites, but it was a reminder of the realities of life and death. Blood (which is a symbol of life) must be shed due to sin. To profane blood is to profane life. Moreover, it reflects poorly upon the blood sacrifice of Christ, whose aim is to restore life.
Read more in our latest newsletter...
We are ever so glad once again to have had another blessed family fellowship day. A special thanks must be given to the ladies who planned the outing, our dear sister, Kim, for putting together such fun entertainments, and (of course) the Lillo's for hosting the entire gang all day.
In the 16th century the church elites were telling people that they must offer prayers, payments, and pilgrimages in order to get right with God. At the time people thought that you needed to beef up your faith with a few added works in order to enter heaven.
To be sure, having faith in Christ was considered a good thing. It just wasn't enough. You had to be just in order to be justified. So that means you had to do, do, do as much good as possible in order to become as good as possible.
This teaching though, was contrary to Scripture. Scripture declared that one was right with God not on the basis of what he does (or how good he is), but solely on the basis of Christ's perfect work. And this was merely to be recieved by faith.
The Reformers began to protest the standard teaching of the time because they read passages of Scripture like Phil. 3:9, which says...
"That I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.
The Reformers understood that sinners cannot do enough or become good enough for God. They needed what they called an "alien righteousness." It is the "righteousness which comes from God" that Paul talks about.
That is why their mantra became "Faith ALONE." The sinner was to put his faith, not in himself or in what he could do, but rather in Christ and what He had done for them.
The Reformers understood that Christ's righteousness had to be imputed (given over) to us, not gained (infused) or improved by us. This is why faith may be said to be the "passive" instrument of salvation. It is not actively working to do something, but merely receiving and resting in the Savior.
And thus, it still stands that no amount of prayers, tears, payments, or pilgrimages can make God more inclined towards us. We must rely solely on the payment that Christ himself made on our behalf.
Find more in our latest issue of the Hopewell Weekly.
The Las Vegas shooting is quickly fading from the media's headlines, and becoming "yesterday's news."
But before moving on, let's pause and think about what lessons we can learn from the tragic event.
1. Man is depraved beyond measure: President Trump called the shooting "an act of pure evil." This is perhaps more true than our president realizes. What would cause a man who had nothing more than a speeding ticket in his life to become a mass murderer? It is simple: He was a sinner. His heart was filled with the corruption of Adam.
While our president condemned the shooting with theologically precise language, we must remind ourselves that any heart not subdued by grace is filled with the same vileness.
2. God restrains evil to a significant degree: While man’s depravity is fundamental to his nature, we acknowledge that men are not as bad as they can be. The hearts of men are kept in check. Moreover, humanity does do some outward good (as is evidenced in those who went into the line of fire to help those who had been shot). This, we understand, is due to the benevolent work of God in the world.
3. Life is Tenuous: Those at that concert didn't know they were going to die that night. It came upon them like a bandit out of no where. In like manner, death looms over us all and may come quicker than we expect.
We ever need the reminder that our days on earth are numbered and death may pounce upon us at any moment. Thus, we should look heartily unto Christ and serve him like it is our last day on earth.
4. Life is precious: Monday morning hearts hung heavy with grief. Anger, sorrow, and disgust were in the emotional mix as well. But these emotions seethed only because man has inherent worth as an image bearer of God. The repulsion that many feel is a reminder that life is sacred and it should not be violated without just cause.
5. Evil is a Thing: Tragedies do not comport with our culture’s relativism. Postmodern America would like to say that there is no absolute truth and that right and wrong are phantoms of a bygone era. But when grotesque evils like this rear their ugly heads even the most radical relativist tips his hat to the fact that there is a God in the heavens who has set sure and defined boundaries for morality.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to confess our sins to one another and mend our broken relationships. It is our duty to seek pardon from those we've offended and make things right.
Our last post began to look at Ken Sande's 7 A's of confession. We noted that we must...
1. Address everyone involved.
2. Avoid word that excuse or qualify (but, perhaps, however, etc)
3. Admit specific sins (both attitudes and actions).
Here are four more helps to healthy confession:
4. Acknowledge the hurt.
We've all seen kids apologize when a parent makes them say they are sorry. Their attitude usually lacks sympathy. We instinctively know that this icy act isn't true repentance.
When we confess our sin, we should acknowledge the depth of our offense. We might express that we are truly sorry by saying somthing like, "I understand that my words angered you" or "I let you down by not keeping that promise. You depended upon me and have a right to be frustrated."
5. Accept the consequences.
The Bible requires restitution where appropriate. That may mean financial reimbursement, but it may also take some other form (such as vindicating a ruined reputation).
The point is that we ought not to try to wiggle out of the consequences of our actions. We should admit, "I deserve to be fired (or grounded, etc)" and own up to the fallout as well as the error.
6. Alter your behavior.
Repentance means going in a new direction. It is an about face in life actions. If you can articulate this in your confession, it shows you've already started down the right direction. A husband may say, "Next time I will be more sensitive to how your day has gone before I..."
7. Ask for forgiveness (and allow for time).
"Will you please forgive me." These words might be implied if all the pervious steps have been taken and they might not need to be expressly stated. However, clarity is key. Forgiveness is the pathway to reconciliation. We do not want a grudge to be held or any lingering animosity to get in the way.
Understandably, we may need to allow a person some time to work through their emotions. So we should not force their forgiveness. But we should seek it in so far as we can.
Sin happens. It is a fact of life. At some point you are going to offend someone.
Then again, you might already have. There's a breech between you and Person X because you were terse, unfaithful, or deceptive.
Proverbs 28:13 says that the one who conceals his sin will not prosper, but the one who confesses and forsakes it will find mercy.
In sum, you are called to get right with that person. That means confessing your sin and clearing the breech that exists.
How exactly does that happen? Peacemaker Ministries lays down seven guidelines for mending relationships. Here are the first three...
1. Address everyone involved.
Dealing with sin means dealing with everyone who was affected by it. So don't cut any corners or try to save face by limiting the range of your repentance. If you yelled at your wife, apologize to her and the kids. They heard it and need to hear you own up to it. If your sin against a co-worker affected the rest of the company, you better make amends with your boss too.
2. Avoid qualifiers and excuses.
We like to shroud our confession with words like "if, but, and maybe." Such terms help to shift the blame and make us sound more innocent than we are.
Listen to the difference: "If I've don't anything wrong, please forgive me." (Well, did you or didn't you do something wrong?) "I'm sorry, but you did do ___ to me." (Was that an apology or a backdoor attack?).
Any verbiage that hints at a reluctance to confess usually indicates that there really hasn't been true confession. So nix words like however, perhaps, possibly, & I guess and be genuine about your guilt in the matter.
3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
"I'm sorry that I hurt you. I know I'm not the best friend." That's nice, but its drowning in a hazy fog of vague ambiguity. Confessing sin means owning up to exactly what you did wrong. We "clear the air" in our relationships by being clear about sin(s) we've committed.
It certainly is harder, but much more honest to say, "I am sorry for being so critical of you. I was jealous that you got that promotion.
Next week we'll consider the final "A's" of confession. But this week you can be intentional in making amends by putting these steps into practice. Who have you offended? How can you implement this advice?
It is no longer "in the closet." Our culture has given the green light to those who have gender confusion issues, and they are free to do as they see fit.
Since we are likely to meet people who identify as LGBTQ, we need to consider what the Bible requires of us. How do we as Christians relate to a person who has this kind of lifestyle?
Here are a few principles that can serve to guide us in this regard.
1. Take a holistic approach – We should never reduce a person to their sexuality alone. Neither should we limit our interactions with them merely on the basis of this one dimension of their life. We must treat them as people, recognizing that he or she still bears the image of God. We should be willing to get to know them and engage in meaningful friendships with them. Jesus certainly did the same as the one who was “the friend of tax collectors and prostitutes.”
2. Don’t reject them or disavow any type of relationship – In 1 Corinthians 5:9 Paul says that is permissible to associate with people outside the church who are immoral (at least so long as we are not corrupted by their lifestyle). If we weren’t permitted such liberty, Paul says we’d have to leave this world! To be sure, people outside the church should be expected to live ungodly lives. Our job is to reach out to them and be genuinely interested in them.
3. Never compromise – We may love someone who identifies as LGBTQ and we can seek to be a good friend, but we do not accept or tolerate patterns of sin in their life. If a friend would use crude language, we wouldn’t ignore it or act like it doesn’t matter. We’d politely request that they not speak in such a manner. We should do the same with a LGBTQ friend whenever issues of their sexuality come up. We can express in the kindest of terms that such urges, interests, and acts are not in accord with God’s will. All in all, being a friend doesn’t mean wholesale acceptance of their lifestyle.
4. Listen and talk candidly when the opportunity affords – Some LGBTQ people like to let their sexuality be known and are very direct about their sexual deviance. Others may be more “in the closet” and wish to have someone to confide in about their struggles in this area. If that should be the case, welcome the opportunity to chat. Take time to listen to what they have to say and demonstrate interest in them as a person. If they are open to it, share with them what the Scripture teaches and be just as candid about God’s design for human sexuality. Whatever you do, don’t merely react or lash out at them in anger.
5. Take the long view -- Caring patience is key. Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian activist, said that a person who is a homosexual probably didn’t get there overnight. It likely came after a long time of real thought. The best thing you can do is to be part of the long thought process that leads them back, should God grant it. This is where those who lash out in anger or press for a quick “decision for the Lord” get it wrong. We must have a mind to take the long road of discipleship