We Are Not Pretending

When kids pretend they talk and behave like something is real when it isn’t. Kids aren’t the only ones who pretend, but they are usually more willing to admit it. Adults are often just as active in imagining, and their imagination engines have more horsepower, but they also tend to pretend (a.k.a., lie) that they aren’t pretending, which gets more complicated.

Living by faith is not the same as living by pretend, by fantasy. The similarity between the two is that the subject can’t physically see the object. Faith is “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), but fantasy is “an idea with no basis in reality” (New Oxford American Dictionary). In both cases there is concentration on something invisible, but faith is the non-fiction form.

In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Paul allows an imaginative effort for sake of wondering what it would be like if Christ has not been raised. If that is true, then preaching is pretend, and faith is pretend, and forgiveness is pretend, and the hope of eternal life is pretend. And if all we have is pretend, then we are in realty the most pitiable people on the planet.

But in order for the conclusion of his argument to be true, his premises need to be true. In other words, it’s logical that our faith is pretend only if Christ being raised from the dead is pretend. But what Paul “pretends” is that Christ isn’t raised. What Paul preaches is that Christ has been raised, and so your faith and hope and life are not empty.

Take up real bread and drink real wine; our communion with God and one another in Christ is not pretend.

More Than You Know

This will be the final lesson in Confession 201. First we learned that we should confess before being confronted. Second we learned that we should not just regret our sin, but repent from it. Don’t keep sitting in the puddle feeling bad.

For the third lesson we look to Luke 7. A Pharisee named Simon asked Jesus to eat with him, and while Jesus was at Simon’s house a prostitute came and wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. The Pharisee was not impressed.

Then Jesus told Simon a short parable:

A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more? (Luke 7:41)

The answers was obvious. Simon said the one who loved more would be the one who had the larger debt cancelled. Jesus agreed, and applied the comparison to the Pharisee and the woman. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (verse 47).

Why did Jesus tell this to Simon? What lesson did he want Simon to learn? The point was not to help Simon see that Jesus forgives big sinners, though that is true. The point was to help Simon see that he was also a big sinner. Jesus wasn’t saying that it was okay for Simon to love little because he only had a little debt of sin. Jesus was saying that Simon needed to see how large his debt was.

So when you confess you sin, go into it knowing that you probably need more forgiveness than you know.

The Witness Proclamation Program

Numerous times during Jesus’ earthly ministry He did something miraculous for someone and then told them not to say anything about it. One leper in particular directly disobeyed.

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:40–45)

Later in the gospel of Mark He healed a deaf man with a speech impediment.

Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. (Mark 7:36)

I’ve always wondered, what kind of disobedience was this? Did Jesus die on the cross for the sin of their (untimely) praise of Him?

We do know that He died on the cross for the sin of not praising Him. And every week He gives us opportunity to proclaim our faith and proclaim His death as the good news for all who believe (1 Corinthians 11:26). Let us be “guilty” of not hiding in the witness protection program, but eating and drinking with thanks in His name.

Get Out of the Puddle

Last week I gave lesson one in Confession 201. It’s the next level up of confession, though you can get into this class without prerequisites. Some may be more ready to receive these lessons even if they couldn’t explain some of the basics.

Lesson one was: don’t wait for someone else to confront you before you confess. Be glad if a true brother does, but don’t depend on needing to be told. Your sin is yours to confess whether or not you’re confronted, and sin is not measured by someone else’s response.

Here is lesson two: don’t spend time regretting your sin, repent from it right away. There is follow up.

Jesus said, “blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4), and this sorrow is over sin. There is a type of good conviction, a “godly grief” that is appropriate. But grief feelings are not the goal.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief….For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

In the previous exhortation I referred to a preacher—one that I appreciate in many ways—who said that if he were approached by someone regarding his failure to apply his sermon text, he would “regretfully agree that he probably had.” Not only is this wishy-washy, it’s also not confession. It is also not gospel. This is like hanging your head and waiting for someone to hang a millstone around your neck.

Regret and sorrow and humiliation isn’t where we’re trying to get to. We hope to get out of all that by confessing our sin, and then we must immediately turn away from it. Don’t just say that you regret something, resolve to stop doing it. You regret to be sitting in the mud puddle. No, brothers, get out of the puddle, or your britches will still be sopping and soiled. You who believe are forgiven because Jesus died, and you can obey because Jesus lives.

Desire for Communion as Disciples

It is exciting to welcome five new communicants to the Lord’s Table this morning. These young men were baptized based on their profession of faith last Sunday evening, and we are eager to welcome them as much as they’ve looked forward to participating.

When I asked each one why he wanted to be baptized, one answer was shared more than others. They all wanted to be baptized in obedience to Christ. They all wanted the whole church to know that they were believers in Christ. But the most common answer was that they wanted to participate with all of us in communion.

I’ve said it before that this desire, this wanting in, is a blessing more than a liability. Of course it could be abused by kids, or adults, who want a teeny snack. It’s not really that great of a snack, though. Maybe someday we’ll have fist-size chunks of bread and king-size chalices of wine, but not today.

Still, if you are suspicious of our celebration of communion in such a way that increases the desire of others to join us, then I’d push back that the biggest problem we face is that there are so many who don’t want communion enough. There is a discouraging list of a number of sheep, sheep who previously and regularly communed with us, who aren’t gathering to worship, not just with us, but with any body. The pastors don’t have names to announce for sake of discipline at this point, and we pray it won’t come to that.

So this is the thing: wanting to be part and participating in the communion of the body in worship is good, and may all of our desires for it excel still more and more.

Confession 201

Almost six years ago I did a series of exhortations called Confession 101. There are multiple basic truths about confession that most Christians aren’t trained in. Confession and repentance are a crucial part of the believers’ life, not just at the beginning when one becomes a believer.

This exhortation is a 200 level lesson, and I’ve got another one for next week. These aren’t graduate level, but they do seem to require a little more maturity.

Here goes: don’t depend on someone else to tell you that you’ve sinned.

I was recently listening to a pastor, the sort of pastor who loves the Bible and the truth and the gospel, introduce his sermon text as one that he realized might be used against him. He admitted that the passage made him feel uncomfortable and acknowledged that his listeners might wonder about his application of it. That admission seemed to open the door of humility.

But the closest he got to saying he had disobeyed the passage was in his comment about being uncomfortable. He followed that with a comment similar to this: “If you were to approach me and point out my past failings I would regretfully have to agree with you.” I didn’t take him as saying that he would regret his agreement more than regretting his sin, but I did wonder, why make someone else ask at all?

Accountability is a good thing. Spiritual friends and fellow members of the body, mothers and fathers and siblings, should not fear asking you or confronting you about sin. There are times when we don’t see our sin; we can have blind spots. But there are plenty of other times when we know we were sinning before we see how the other person responds, even if they don’t respond negatively (because they aren’t sinning).

Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16), and when possible, do it before you need to be confronted.

Comfort from the Dead-raiser

We’re going to be talking about resurrection in church for the next couple months leading up to Resurrection Sunday, and, for that matter, we’re going to be talking about it forever in the resurrection. In the meantime, prior to our resurrection, God’s Word reminds us that when we think about God we should think about His resurrection power.

In 2 Corinthians 1 Paul wrote about his afflictions and then about the comfort God gave him in his afflictions. His afflictions were actually pretty bad.

“We do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. (2 Corinthians 1:8)

He had just told them that he was comforted, and that his affliction was for their comfort and salvation (verse 6). But the heaviness and pain and sufferings were real. He thought he might die any moment, and it was bad enough he might have preferred death. Believing the gospel doesn’t make life more easy but it does tell us that there is more after this life.

We endure as we hope in God, and God wants us to remember who He is.

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

God is the Dead-raiser. Jesus called Himself “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:24). He is the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and His ability to comfort us is tied to His ability to raise the dead. Therefore, “Let us hold fast the confession our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

How Easily We Forget

It can be discouraging to realize that most new content is only old content. Very rarely does someone have a brand new idea, a completely new story idea, or a never-before-found life hack. Solomon wrote a long time ago that there is nothing new under the sun, things are just repackaged. Whether it’s investment strategies, or weight loss/exercise plans, or, even as Christians, how to live godly lives in the present age, most of the time what we get are reminders. There’s no new shortcut, there’s no hidden mystery, there is a lot of what we already knew.

I think one of the reason’s that’s discouraging is because that means I’m the one not doing what I already know. Most of the time I can’t blame how hard it is or how badly I failed on lack of information.

Yet what is maybe more discouraging is how easily I forget. That’s another way of saying that reading the same five principles or steps or encouragements is often good for me. I might have been looking for something other than reminders but what I actually needed was the reminders.

Peter wrote, “I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it is right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:12-13).

He was reminding them about pursuing growth in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. We also need to be reminded about these qualities, reminded to confess our sin rather than blame our ignorance, and reminded that Christ died and rose again for our salvation. That’s old news, and very good news.

When Receivers Are Received

Call it “internal grammar.” Describe it as consistent, or use an expression such as turn about is fair play, or what goes around comes around.

Paul told the Corinthians that if they didn’t accept his instructions as coming from the Lord then the Lord would not accept them when they came before Him. “If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Corinthians 14:38, ESV) “If anyone ignores this, they themselves will be ignored” (NIV). If you won’t know, then you won’t be known.

The argument is logically equivalent when both sides of the statement are turned to affirmations. If a man receives the things of the Lord, then the Lord receives the man. And by application, if we receive the bread and the cup at His Table the way He instructs us to, then He will receive us at His table the way the bread and the cup invite us to realize.

This will be true for us at the Supper of the Lamb. We come to commune with Christ week by week. We receive His Word and His salvation by faith, so we eat and drink in remembrance of Him. And at that great Table, He will say, “I know you. Haven’t you been here before? Welcome, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

They Don’t Need a Sticker

Many men are decent at fixing things around the house [full disclosure: I am not one of them]. Some, of course, are not only inclined to building and repairing and maintaining stuff, they thrive at it. They are good with their hands, have a mechanical mind. They don’t need a sticker on the windshield to tell them that the 3,000 mile oil change is coming up, they smell it in the exhaust.

In many cases what we don’t know how to fix, whether it’s a problem with the truck or with the electricity, we can Google and YouTube and choose from a dozen different how-to articles or videos. Gone are the days when you needed the Chilton manual for your specific make and model. No longer is the paperwork that came with your appliance the best source for anything other than government warnings.

But men are often less responsive, less knowledgable, and less proactive in nourishing and cherishing their wife. In 1 Corinthians 14:35 women are told to hold their tongue in church and ask their husbands at home if they want to learn. This is an Ephesians 5 opportunity to be like Christ, our example who uses the Word to help His Bride, the Church, be sanctified and in splendor.

A Christian husband, with application for a Christian dad too, gets to be the one who cares for his wife’s Christian life, including her learning. This means he should know some answers, which may mean he needs to pay attention in church. Even if he doesn’t do that there’s plenty of good help that’s accessible and few good excuses.

Learn to edify your wife as an heir with you of the grace of life.