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The Eagle Cries the Thrice-Told Woe: Judgment Comes on the United States

I grew up in a time where preachers preached about the judgment of our nation on a weekly basis. After a while, that type of preaching turned into white noise, and was replaced by how loving God is and has a great plan for your life. Do we have to discard the former while affirming the latter?

Last night, I taught from Revelation 8:6-13. Verse 13 was especially troubling:

“Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!'”

This takes place in the portion of the revealing on the seven trumpet judgments unleashed from heaven on the earth toward those who stood against God, His Word, and His people. He promised in Revelation 7 that He would seal His people from being swept away by His wrath as He unleashed the judgments on the earth. Good thing!

In Revelation 8:6-12, we see that the judgments unleashed would affect land, sea, rivers, springs, and the heavens (the light that emanates from the sun, moon, and stars). They would lose their sustenance–and that’s only the beginning!

But Revelation 8:13! When something is spoken three times in succession, this means the ultimate superlative of what’s spoken. “Holy, holy, holy” means “holiest, none holier.” So, this eagle swoops down crying out, “Woe, woe, woe!” This deals with judgment, damnation, and devastation–in this case, toward those who, again, stand against God, His Word, and His people.

I now understand those old-timey preachers! Given all that Romans 1:18-32 says about judgment comes, and will be revealed as unhinged sexual promiscuity, a confusion of gender roles, and overall rebellion to the fullest measure–and approval of those who practice such things, it’s becoming more and more clear that God’s judgment is upon us.

Yes, it’s here. And those who stand against this new cultural orthodoxy will stand against the majority in our culture who will work to silence us in every way–even as they know what Scripture says regarding such matters that our culture champions. Even those who occupy seats in the highest positions in our country are clearly and confidently shaking their fist at what God has said in Scripture, and sought to redefine all aspects of sex, marriage, and family.

The eagle is flying and crying the thrice-told woe. We either stand on the conviction of Scripture, or compromise to the culture.

In the meantime, watch this video of a John MacArthur sermon entitled, “We Will Not Bow Down.” Much needed tonic for discouraged Christians longing to stay true to the Word.

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“You Asked For It Sermon Series” Is Complete–What Did We Learn?

And so yesterday completed the sermon series at ARBC called “You Asked For It” (previously named Summer Playlist).  I can see this being a summer staple in the years to come.  Here are the sermons (complete with links):

  1. What is the Unforgivable Sin?
  2. Why Do We Need Church Plants–Don’t We Have Enough Churches? (Kevin Hasenack of Calvary Church-Littleton preached this)
  3. How Should a Christian Think About War?
  4. How Should Christians Respond to Religious Liberty Attacks?
  5. I Don’t Reconcile Friends:  Predestination and Free Will
  6. What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?
  7. What Does the Bible Say About Speaking in Tongues?
  8. What is God’s Will for My Life?

As I’ve said before, these stand as some industrial strength questions that all of you asked.  What did I/we learn from this?

  1. Many of you have multi-faceted questions about the gospel and about life.
  2. You have a desire to see what the Scriptures say, increasing your assurance in the Bible’s sufficiency.
  3. Of all the sermons, the sermon on cremation generated the most interested.
  4. This gave me a chance to address issues that were/are churning in your hearts.

What were some things you learned from this series?  I’d be very interested to know!

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What Does Freedom Even Mean for the Christian?

(From the July 2015 Challenger article for Arapahoe Road Baptist Church)

Freedom. My goodness, what does this word mean? It depends on your perspective. John Green in his book The Fault in our Stars, gives an interesting insight into how folks see freedom. “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” So, for some, freedom is the right to pursue whatever desires you have, whether it’s education, jobs, hobbies, or other practices that the Bible calls ‘sin.’ Think about it: many folks want their ‘rights’ in this land of freedom, but what they really want is affirmation in what the culture has previously determined as sin. Now those barriers and boundaries are falling. Freedom now means that anything goes.

As far as freedom is concerned in previous decades in America, it meant freedom from foreign coercion (we’re looking at you, King George II of Britain, Mr. Taxation-Without-Representation). In the 19th century leading up to our Civil War, the North and the South defined freedom very differently—at least the white people defined freedom in various ways, for the slaves saw freedom entirely differently. Even some of my ancestors wanted the freedom to keep others in slavery.

In January 6, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in reflecting on the escalating Second World War taking place in Europe, outlined four freedoms: the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.

In the Scriptures, only one type of freedom exists, and that’s freedom in Christ. It’s a freedom that far surpasses any other freedom this world provides. The Bible does not give us freedom to do whatever we want, and still call ourselves believers. No, the freedom we have in Christ is a freedom from sin and a freedom from self-direction and self-preservation. What does this mean?

In Romans 6, Paul tells us that we are “free from sin,” (v. 6) no longer under its dominion (v. 9). But in our freedom, we are still “slaves of righteousness” (v 18). Scripture makes it clear that we stay enslaved to something, whether it’s to sin or to slavery.

I’m reminded of two books written about 200 years apart. One book, written by Martin Luther (1483-1546) is entitled The Bondage of the Will. In Colonial America, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) wrote The Freedom of the Will. Well, which is it? The bondage of the will or the freedom of the will. Yes! When Christ saves us, our will comes in bondage to Christ’s will. At the same time, when Christ saves us, our will is free to obey Christ and His will. In essence, these books deal with the exact same topic, even though their titles on the surface look diametrically opposed to one another.

With the words freedom and liberty so prevalent in our founding documents (The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights), we as Americans see these words in the Scriptures and automatically works to find parallels. Granted, they exist—but only on the smallest of scales. While cultures may provide freedoms in all their varying perspectives and definitions, no culture, no man-made law, no king’s (with a small k) edict, no unspoken rules or traditions provide one molecule of freedom in the heart of any person on the planet.

You see, that freedom from sin was so elusive to human beings that the Father had to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to purchase our freedom on our behalf. Christ came as Holy God to fulfill the law that we disobeyed (which reflected the inclinations of our heart), but He also came as a human being to stand as a substitute for our atonement and redemption for our sin. No other act of love in the history of anything comes as close to this act of love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and redemption. And again, no political freedom provided can free our hearts from that sin which enslaves us.

Independence Day? My goodness, dear Christian, every day in Christ is independence day, free in Christ under His Lordship! No other type of independence comes close!

Blessings,

Pastor Matt

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Clarity of Convictions Over Complacency and Compromise

The apostles (specifically, Peter) told the officials, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)! There’s no language here of, “We’ll consider obeying God rather than men.” Or, “We’ll obey God rather than men if it’s the safer of the two options—otherwise, whatever way that’s safest is bestest.” We’ve read this passage that the apostles were already arrested due to the jealousy of the leaders. The disciples preached the gospel, with the Spirit empowering them to do signs and wonders that served as a conduit of the wonder of the saving grace of the gospel.

“We must obey God rather than men.” The apostles and the early church did not received favored status. They were not tax-exempt. They were jailed and lost their lives for the faith, as many around world do now! Pastor Saeed this past week just spent his 1,000th day in jail in Iran due to proclaiming his faith. ISIS beheads Christians monthly, if not weekly. We can say, “Well, that’s over there in the Middle East—this is the United States.” Yet, if our culture keeps drifting, and Christians rest on their laurels, then we will see the drift continue. The answer is not changing the political landscape. The spiritual process is far more effective than the political one.

They had two charges, but from two different authorities. In verse 28, the leaders told the apostles, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But what did God charge them to do? “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Their response? V. 21: “And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.” To whom did the disciples listen? “We must obey God rather than men.”

Many have the temptation of going along to get along. Like Demas, they will feel the pull of the world that takes them away from the providence of Christ. But as Kevin DeYoung said, “The Bible says that disciples of Jesus will be hated as Jesus was hated (John 15:18-25; 2 Tim. 3:12). If the world loves us, it is not a sign of our brilliance, but that we belong to the world.”

Know this, if we are clear that God has called for marriage to stay between a man and a woman not just because Genesis 1 says so, but that Jesus said so in Matthew 19:4-6:

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

How counter-cultural is this?  Even Chief Justice John Roberts understood this in his dissent from Friday:

The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses. Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples… Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.[1]

So, having this mindset that any type of conjugal intimacy takes place within the confines of a man-woman marriage before God, and anything outside of that is sin—be prepared for persecution and mocking. Compromise will make you friends. Complacency will make people leave you alone. Clarity and conviction in what Christ tells you will make you obedient to God. And the only reason you’ll care about what others may say is when you feel sadness when folks reject the clear teaching of what God has said in Scripture. And you will care. You must care.

————

[1]Trevin Wax, Top 10 Quotes from the Dissenting Justices on Same-Sex Marriage. The Gospel Coalition. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2015/06/26/top-10-quotes-from-the-dissenting-justices-on-same-sex-marriage/

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Articles Sorting Through the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

As promised, I’ve put up some articles that will help our believers at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church sort through what’s next regarding this ruling.  We are Christians committed to what God has said as faithfully recorded in Scripture.  More and more, those on the other side of the issue will grow more vocal in looking at us as intolerant or bigoted or hateful, and any dissent from this new orthodoxy of legalizing so-called ‘same-sex’ marriage.  May this galvanize our prayer life, our Scripture reading, our own marriage and families, and our thirst for Christ and His unvarnished gospel.

But What Does the Bible Say?  (Kevin DeYoung): 

Now that the Supreme Court has issued its sweeping ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, we can expect an avalanche of commentary, analysis, and punditry. I’m not a law professor, a politician, a talk show host, or a public intellectual (whatever that is). I’m a pastor. I study and teach the Bible for a living. Which means, among all the things I may not be an expert on, I may be able to say something meaningful from the Scriptures. So as we pour over legal opinions and internet commentary, let us not forget what the Bible says.

Same-Sex Marriage Is Now the Law of the (U.S.) Land: What Now for Christians? (Ed Stetzer)

In the last six months,LifeWay Research has conducted ongoing research around the topic of same-sex marriage and homosexuality, and I imagine some of these studies will become much more important in the days to come.

Why the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage represents a new era for evangelicals (Collin Hansen, Op-Ed in the Washington Post)

Expect in this scenario to hear many calls for a national spiritual revival that will unexpectedly halt the progress of the sexual revolution. Expect disagreement over what the compassion of Jesus Christ demands of believers in this brave new world. Many of the loudest voices will say evangelicals must re-interpret the Scriptures as we hear how traditional views have harmed LGBTQ friends. Few will notice the faithful pastors and confidants poised to offer good news, a helping hand, and a warm shoulder to the victims and perpetrators of our age’s most dramatic cultural transformation.

Why the Church Should Neither Cave Nor Panic on the SCOTUS Decision on Gay Marriage (Russell Moore)

First of all, the church should not panic. The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is still calling the universe toward his kingdom. Moreover, while this decision will, I believe, ultimately hurt many people and families and civilization itself, the gospel doesn’t need “family values” to flourish. In fact, the church often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it.

So-Called Same-Sex Marriage—Lamenting the New Calamity (John Piper)

My sense is that we do not realize what a calamity is happening around us.  My reason for writing is to help the church feel the sorrow of these days. And the magnitude of the assault on God and his image in man.

Naïve evangelicals trying to avoid the reproaches of Christ (Denny Burk)

Here’s the bottom line. No amount of niceness, of social justice advocating, of human-trafficking opposition, of listening to the right bands, of wearing the right clothes, of poverty relief, of reading N. T. Wright—or whatever cool Christian stuff you can align with—will remove the reproach of Christ from you if you choose to follow his teaching on sexuality. You are on a fool’s errand if you are trying. If you are trying to save your life, you will lose it. But if you will lose your life for his sake, you will find it (Matthew 16:25).

The Only Decision That Matters (Hershael York)

Two exhilarating possibilities emerge: revival among believers and a greater gospel impact beyond our walls. Think about it like this: has the church in the United States ever had a more advantageous time to stand in stark contrast to the world, to distinguish itself from the prevailing understanding of morality, to present a true counter-culture, to model the gospel? When we had greater numbers and political influence the world thought our great concern was with numbers and political influence. If we profess Christ and stand on the Word when it costs us dearly, however, then even our detractors and persecutors will see that it’s not about us, but about our Savior.

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A Great Example of Faith in Action

I originally posted this on Facebook, but thought I’d get it out on this blog for everyone else.

A neat story: my family and I went to Chick-Fil-A last night, and it started pouring down rain as we pulled in. When I got out of the car, I thought I heard something fall, but with the rain, I couldn’t see what it was. We were in CFA for about 30 minutes. We made it to our van, and as I was buckling in, a lady who I’d say was in her late 50’s tapped on my window. She asked me if I dropped my phone. Feeling my pockets, then checking my console, I realized that what I dropped was my phone. And there it lay. In the rain. For who knows how long.  Not a good mixture, ladies and gentlemen.  

Here’s the neat part: She and her grandson took my phone to the Verizon store and waited there with my phone, watching for me to get in my van. She could have taken it, or just dropped it off at the Verizon store–I’d have been none the wiser. I thanked her, and she said, “Well, it’s all a part of God’s plan.” She had to go, so I couldn’t inquire further. But whatever her faith, it’s a lesson for us not to just talk about it, but to go the extra mile and put it into action.

My phone, even after the rice treatment, is not behaving well at all. But I sure am grateful to the woman who looked after it and us, even without knowing us. Our faith in action, friends. People need to see the Light of Christ.

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Getting to Know Baptists Better

I’m a Baptist.  And I’m a Southern Baptist.  And I live in Colorado.  Some have preconceived notions as to what Baptists are.  Below are some of the convictions we have as Baptists.  I’m grateful to a deacon named Henry with whom I served in Breckinridge County, KY in 2002-2003 where I pastored a small church.  What exactly are Baptists?  This acronym will help you understand the basics:

Biblical authority:

“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man.  It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction.  It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.  Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.  It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.  All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation” (BF&M 2000, Article I: Scriptures).

Autonomy of the local church:

“Autonomy means that each Baptist church, among other things, selects its pastoral leadership, determines its worship form, decides financial matters and directs other church-related affairs without outside control or supervision. Baptist denominational organizations such as associations of churches and state and national conventions have no authority over a Baptist church” (Baptists Believe in Church Autonomy, http://www.baptistdistinctives.org/resources/articles/church-autonomy/).

Priesthood of believers:

A priest serves as a mediator in interceding between God and His people, and representing God to His people and the world.  Christians may come to God on their own, with Christ as their mediator.  We do this individually, but also corporately in connection with a body of believers.  We need none other to approach God on our behalf besides Jesus.   “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Two ordinances:  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Baptism (from the Greek baptizo) means to immerse upon one’s profession of faith and repentance in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:9-11; Acts 8:26-40; Romans 6:1-4).

Lord’s Supper contains the bread and juice which are symbols of the reality of the crucified Christ who broke His body and shed His blood for the forgiveness of sin (1 Corinthians 11:23-34).

Intentional in evangelism and missions

Baptists take the Great Commission seriously (Matthew 28:18-20).  The new birth in the Spirit births a new love for others (John 3:1-8; 13:34-35).  We seek to win the lost by verbal witness along with a Christian lifestyle, and other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.  Our giving of our finances, time, and spiritual gifts is for the purpose of advancing the gospel from our community to the corners of creation, for His glory and our good (Colossians 3:23; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

In order to be a member of a Baptist church, you must be regenerate (a.k.a., born again) by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) in Christ alone (John 14:6).  We are called by the Spirit (Romans 8:26-30), justified from the penalty of sin (Romans 3:21-26), set apart from the power of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:3), glorified in heaven from the presence of sin (Revelation 21:1-4).  There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Two offices in the church:  pastor and deacon (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Acts 6:1-4).

Pastors (also called in the New Testament elders, bishops, and overseers) oversee the spiritual needs of the church, primarily prayer and ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4, 1 Peter 5:1-5).  Deacons oversee the physical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-7).  The qualifications for each are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.  Each Baptist church is led by the Holy Spirit to select their own pastors and deacons (see Autonomy of the Church).

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What is the Unforgivable Sin?

This summer at my church, we are going through a sermon series called Summer Playlist where our folks submitted questions they have regarding biblical or cultural issues, and we’ll sort through them from Scripture.

The first question?  What is the Unforgivable Sin?  This issue is raised in Matthew 12:31-32:

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

First, every other sin and blasphemy will be forgiven.  Did you see that?  Every other sin.  No matter what you’ve done to others, or yourself, you can receive forgiveness on one condition:  if you confess and turn from your sin and surrender to Christ and Christ alone, you can receive forgiveness.  First John 1:9 says, “If you confess you sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

Let’s address the first one:  what is sin?  Sin is any violation or transgression of the law of God.   Romans 3:23 sums it up nicely:  “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  So, any shortcoming of God’s glory is sin.  When R.C. Sproul attended school in the Netherlands, he noted that Dutch society “was governed by a vast number of laws that defined every aspect of life.”  He recalled a frequent expression:  “You have overstepped the law.”  It’s a sin of commission:  doing something you’re not supposed to do; and omission: not doing something you’re supposed to do.  

What about blasphemy?  Blasphemy comes from Gk.  Blasphemia.  Blas means sluggish/slow, while pheme means reputation/fame.  It’s a slowness to call something good or to identify what is truly bad.  This perfectly describes what the Pharisees were doing—being slow to call something good.  If you read the context, a man was freed from demon possession by Jesus, but the Pharisees were sluggish to attribute the power to God (why?) because then they would have to admit that Jesus came from the Father.  And they weren’t about to do that in a million years.  

Forgiveness is not the same as, “Ah, don’t worry about it!”  Forgiveness means that that sin was paid for through a death—and the subsequent shedding of blood, without which there is no forgiveness of sin.  The Pharisees oversaw sacrifices of lambs and bulls and goats for the forgiveness and atonement of sins.  They knew that a death needed to happen to those animals for life to be possible for God’s imagebearers.  A high, high price was paid for our forgiveness.  In fact, soon after this encounter, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, would go to the cross and shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins. 

So why this sin?  Does not the blood of the Lamb and Christ’s forgiveness cover all sin?  Why does it not cover this sin?  Why is this particular sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit not covered?  Let’s take a look.

At first glance, it seems that the Holy Spirit is, yes, equal amongst the members of the Trinity, but he’s more equal than Jesus.  But first glances aren’t the best way to approach anything.  Deep study is what’s needed here. 

First, in this instance, this is referring to Jesus while he’s here on earth, for while on earth, Jesus looked like an ordinary Jewish man who worked in a carpenter shop with his adopted dad for most of his life.  Isaiah 53:2-3 gives an idea:

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Philippians 2:7 said that, though he was holy God, came in the form of a servant and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  He was considered not just an ordinary human, but was treated like a common criminal.  

So, it would be forgiven them should they simply see Jesus as a common, ordinary man.  

Secondly, it’s about the Holy Spirit’s revelation of God’s power, most represented in Christ (John 16:12-15).  This is where it’s important to understand the Holy Spirit’s role more than we do.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

There will come a time when the Spirit of truth will come to (1) guide you into all truth, (2) speaking on the authority of the Father, (3) he will let you know what’s to come, (4) will glorify Christ and declare all that He is to you.

Let’s go back to the beginning: the Pharisees attributed Jesus’ miracle of freeing a demon-possessed man to the fact that empowering Jesus to free him was the power of Satan, not God—so they rejected and blasphemed the Spirit that brought the power of God.

So Jesus tells his disciples that one day, he would leave them, but the Spirit would come.  But if you reject the Spirit, slander the Spirit, it’s unforgivable because you are slandering and denying the one that guides you into all truth, speaks on the Father’s authority, and most importantly reveals and glorifies Christ as the way, the truth and the life and brings our awareness of our sin and an applying of our salvation that Jesus accomplished.  In other words, if you deny the Spirit’s word about Christ’s saving work for you, that is unforgivable. You are denying and rejecting the very Person who accomplished the very act that can forgive you and redeem you and atone for your sins in the first place.

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Can Anything Good Come from Sin? Yes!

Can anything good come out of sin?  Can anything good come out of walking through the valley of the shadow of death?  Let me tell you something that has subtly crept into the church.  Are you ready?  We believe that church is just for us.  We look at things in the church through the wrong lenses–and we know how that goes, when you grab the wrong glasses.  So when something comes along, new or otherwise, we need to change our attitudes. But look at Psalm 51:13-15:

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.

Take, oh, our sin.  We come along and praise God for forgiving us of our sin, then we stop.  “Forgiven!  Clean!  That’s all the matters!”  But look at what David said should God forgive him:  “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”  In other words, when God takes us through that valley of the shadow of death and our sin, He brings us out so we can teach others about the justice, holiness, righteousness, love, and deliverance of our mighty God!  How?

Singing aloud of your righteousness. Did you realize that singing songs of forgiveness is a teaching tool?  Granted, some songs say little, so the worship leadership needs to pick songs of salvific substance. Sing about the cross (1 Corinthians 2:2), the empty tomb (Philippians 2:8-11), the blood (Ephesians 1:7) and our sin (Psalm 51). Sing of His worth (Revelation 5:9-11). Thank him (Ephesians 5:18-19) and encourage in His Word through song (Colossians 3:15-16).  Sing it loud!

Speak aloud of His praise!  When God loosens the tongue, like Zechariah, we will sing praises to him (Luke 1:67-79). God intends for us to use our words to exalt him and to edify others around us in the gospel!  Paul urges the Colossians, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).  Salt is used as a preservative, to preserve the things of Christ and the gospel in a lost and dying world.  So may our speech in a world with a propensity to sin preserve the truth of the gospel, even if others do not wish to hear it.

Some lessons we only learn in the valley.  But God will be with us in Christ, to help others who travel in that valley as well.  Even God can bring good out of something so bad.

What a mighty God we serve!

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Do You Find Joy in God’s Justice Over Your Sin?

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart (Psalm 51:3-6).

Knowledge of our sin, if God is at work, will bring guilt of our sin.  And I submit to you that having guilt over your sin is a gift.  Think about it: how many psychology books are out, how many talk shows are on the air, how many water cooler conversations take place that try to get you to get over your guilt?  Some find distractions to take their minds of unconfessed sin.  Many have taken to the bottle or to other substances to try to escape that guilt.  Some even go the route of suicide.

Rather than running from guilt, we need to own it for what it is.  David knew his sin—he couldn’t hide from it.  And even though Nathan brought it out to the light of day, that did not mean that God wasn’t bringing it out of the privacy of his heart and soul.  I think of Psalm 32, where David wrote: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).  It’s the old adage, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  Another one is there, “Wherever you go, you can’t get away from you.”

Why?  You say, “My sin is a personal thing—it doesn’t affect anyone else.”  I direct you, then to verse 4: “Against you and you alone have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”   How does this happen?  David sinned against his country, his army, against Bathsheba, against Uriah—a lot of people.  But David didn’t just add God to the list, but said, “Against you and you only.”  How is this?

I’ve heard folks over and over talking about revival (I don’t know if they mean revival meetings or if they are talking about revivals as movements of God—and I would suggest that the latter is the only true definition of revival).  When talking on revival, Stephen Olford once said, “Revival is an invasion from heaven that brings a conscious awareness of God.”  We realize that anytime we sin against one of His imagebearers (another human), we’ve sinned against God.  This conscious awareness of God is also a conscious awareness of our sin and a conscious awareness of those around us whom he has created.

This comes to such a crucial point.  In the backhalf of verse 4, David finds himself rejoicing greatly that God was true to His Word.  God, you are just!  You are right!  I have sinned!  Thank you for staying consistent in your judgment and not letting my sin go by the wayside. 

So what is the manner?  “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:5).  Is this an indictment of his mother?  No, this is an indictment on all of humanity.  In our day, the conscious awareness of God and the conscious awareness of sin are not married. Yet, Scripturally and for the majority of church history, theologians recognized that the more you are consciously aware of the holiness of God, the more consciously aware of your lack of holiness—that is, your sinfulness—before God.

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