Tag: confession

The apostle John makes an interesting, and optimistic, argument in 1 John 5. He says:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. (1 John 5:3-4)

The second half of verse 4 is the first sentence I remember memorizing in Greek: hay nikay hay nikaysasa ton kosmon, hay pistis haymone. “This is the victory that victories the world, our faith.” Faith is sort of a big deal.

Consider the connections:

  • Love must obey, and is made known as we obey.
  • Love for God comes from those who have been born of God.
  • The born-of-God-ers are world-overcomers.
  • World-overcomers are also believers.
  • So, we are born again by God to believe in God and love God and obey God which is overcoming the world.

Both love and faith come from God who caused us to be born again. We know love as it obeys, and we know faith as it overcomes.

Alternatively, disobedience is a sign of the world’s victory, and disobedience is a sign of faith’s faltering, or perhaps that there is no faith at all.

So, Christian, how are you stimulating your faith? You cannot conquer the worldliness in your own heart, let alone the worldliness of the world, without faith in Jesus, the Son of God.

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In a few weeks I plan to start teaching verse by verse through another book of the Bible: the book of Revelation. There are good reasons to study The Apocalypse on Sundays, and I’ll probably explain some of my intentions in the introductory message. I’m telling you know, ahead of time, not just so that you can make plans or prepare arguments (one way or another), but so that you can be excited.

On a higher level, God also reveals many things He plans to do and often some of His reasons. God does not only tell us what was and what is, but also what will be. When the Lord sent a prophet with a word, and that word came to pass, the Lord demonstrated that His Word is trustworthy. That He knows the end from the beginning distinguishes Him from other gods (Isaiah 46:10). It also shows God’s nature as a God who communicates. So prophecy, including future plans, causes us to worship God. For those who hear and keep His Word, it also causes us to be excited.

Think about Isaiah 53 from the perspective of Isaiah’s original audience. We know who the Suffering Servant is. We know His name: Jesus, the son of Mary, from the city of Nazareth. But what the Israelites knew around 700 B.C is that they were sinners, that they were in a cycle of sin and then in need of sacrifices to cover their sins. Though the promised deliverer in Isaiah 53 did not fit all of their expectations, and even though He didn’t come for about 700 years, they had every reason to be excited for His coming.

We worship the Lord because of who He is, what He has done, and what He has said about tomorrow. Don’t be anxious. A farmer is not pessimistic about all the seed deaths in his field, he knows those deaths will make for an abundant harvest. Listen carefully to the word of the Lord about the future, and believe.

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We live in the Information Age. We have data and statistics and algorithms and pages and podcasts. More information will be posted on the internet today than you could consume the rest of your life; you don’t have the time. We have all of this info, and not a lot of understanding to prove it.

Along with many of you, I’m continuing on the #samepagesummer Bible reading plan, and we’re more than halfway to finished. In studying Psalm 19 for the sermon this morning, I also read through Psalm 119 which is the longest love song of the Word in the Word. There are a lot of good names for Scripture in the long song, and a lot of prayers for God’s help. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).

But one line that turns up four times, the line that I think best embodies the psalmist’s cry, is “give me understanding.”

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law (34)

give me understanding that I may learn your commandments (73)

give me understanding that I may live (144)

give me understanding according to your word! (169)

Pray like David, yes. And beware. Understanding does not mean merely collecting information about God’s Word. Understanding means you will see how you are not keeping His law, how you have not known His commandments, how you have not been living right, and how you have not been actually paying attention to His Word.

True understanding can be painful. It’s humbling. It is why many Christians prefer to read or study their Bible like students rather than as servants. They would prefer to have their eyes opened to it rather than to have their eyes opened by it.

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There are at least four different expectations when it comes to good works.

A man could expect that his good works will please the wrong god. Or, a man could expect that his good works, by themselves, will please the right God. Or, a man could expect that his good works mean nothing to God and that God only cares about faith. Or, a man could expect that His good works will be blessed by God because he has faith that God said so.

We know that idolatry is wrong; offering costly sacrifices in a ritual context don’t matter if those sacrifices are to a false god; prepaying for $80 worth of gas doesn’t matter if you pump the gas into the trash can. We also know that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and that the best a man can do on his own is nothing noteworthy to God (Isaiah 64:6). We are not saved by works (Titus 3:5).

But, how often do sola fide kind of people not actually have fide that God blesses obedience? We believe that God wants us to believe, but we don’t believe that God uses believing obedience as a means to His ends of giving us good.

Wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8 about the life and honor and value and enduring wealth and fruit that comes from finding wisdom.

And now, O sons, listen to me:
blessed are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors. (Proverbs 8:32-34)

The place of blessed, happy good is obedience by faith. Do you believe God about that? And then to you commit to keep His ways? What do you expect?

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Because men sin, men hide. We are bent to find hiding places because being exposed often hurts. We prefer not to remember, and prefer others not to see. The first thing Adam did after his disobedience was hide. Men hide behind isolation, they hide behind lies. They can even hide behind liturgy, and they can hide behind, rather than in, the gospel.

Consider this observation about Christian hiding that hits close to home.

“The Christians have never practiced the actions Jesus prescribed them; and the impudent garrulous talk about the ‘justification by faith’ and its supreme and sole significance is only the consequence of the Church’s lack of courage and will to profess the works Jesus demanded.”

Ouch. We hide our failure as disciples to observe “all that I have commanded you” behind the doctrine of sola fide. It is wanting deliverance but not wanting to be delivered, or being willing to acknowledge what we needed to be delivered from. It is wanting forgiveness, but not wanting faithfulness that comes from faith.

The above quote was written by Friedrich Nietzsche, no sympathizer to the religious, let alone to Christians. But he could see our Christian hiding better than a lot of Christians. We justify our disobedience rather than dealing with what it means to be justified by God though we were disobedient.

It’s another reason why worship shapes us. We do need to hide in the gospel of Jesus, by faith, from the legal, righteous requirements of God’s law, because Christ fulfilled the law. We do need to hide in Jesus, by grace, from the accusations of satan and the guilt of our flesh. This is not a game of words, it is a life of confession, faith, and reverent, obedient worship of our God who is a consuming fire.

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We take worship in song seriously. Singing is not the only act of worship, but the bones of praise move best with the muscles of melody held in by the skin of songs.

What happens when we learn and sing good songs of worship? The body is encouraged, yes. But the body is also made more accountable.

In Deuteronomy 31 the Lord told Moses that his days of leading Israel were almost finished. The remaining task the Lord gave to Moses was to “write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths….” The “Song of Moses” takes up 43 verses in chapter 32 and is harmonized in Revelation 15:3 with “the song of the Lamb”: “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!”

But as it provided an outlet for expressing thanks and adoration, the song also provided accountability. “Put [this song] in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel” (verse 19). The Lord knew that after the many blessings He would give that they would have “eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me” (verse 20).

when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). (verse 21)

Much is required of those to whom much is given. We have been given the privilege of many psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and they call us to account for whether we are fearing the Lord and glorifying His name.

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It’s been three weeks of the #samepagesummer so far, but whether you’re following that Bible reading plan or not, we won’t receive the food of His holy Word if we are full of sin. We must acknowledge and abandon sin before we’re free to feed on Scripture, and feeding on Scripture is necessary if we hope to grow in salvation.

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation– (1 Peter 1:1-2, NAS)

Numerous translations (such as the ESV, NIV, NRSV) read as if there were two commands but, really, Peter provides one prerequisite and then one command. We could play up the grammatical structure: “having put aside sin…long for Scripture,” or “Crave the pure after getting rid of the putrid.”

Peter mentions five sins and, though not an exhaustive list, these five are sufficient to inhibit spiritual growth. “Malice” or viciousness exalts oneself as judge over others and rather than positioning oneself under the judgment of the Word. “Guile” or deceit honors false words rather than the Word of truth. “Hypocrisy” allows division of soul rather than bring one wholeheartedly before the Word. “Envy” promotes pursuit of competing satisfactions rather than promoting the Word that is more to be desired than gold. “Slander” likewise ruins a tongue’s taste for true goodness.

Any and all of these sins will cripple our spiritual growth. But which sin in this passage is the worst? The greatest sin here is not longing for the Word. The other sins ruin our appetite for that which will nourish our souls. Sin burns our tongues, it leaves a bitter taste. All sins must be confessed and put away so that we will hunger for the good Word and grow.

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Fathers have an exhaustive, and exhausting, set of responsibilities. The Dad hat is just one of a godly man’s hats, but it is a hat he never really hangs up on a hook. Here are a sampling of specific tasks that belong to fatherhood.

Dad should be the one who sets priorities for the family. He should be the first one one who seeks out sinners, who disciplines, and who brings the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation to bear. He should teach and train his household in the ways of being a disciple of Christ. He should provide food for them—even if he isn’t the one who prepares it—in a way that creates a table for the family to eat around. And dad should be giving tools and encouragement and assignments, even more as the kids get older, for their various jobs day by day.

A dad must do all of these things while doing his other jobs. He must be a faithful father while being a faithful husband, not one or the other. He must steward his money and his minutes as a neighbor and citizen. And he must worship God with the rest of his church.

Worship is where his responsibilities begin, and it is the result of fulfilling them. Worship brings us to our heavenly Father, and worship shows us what we are to be. God the Father gives us identity as His people. God the Father forgives us. God the Father equips us by His Word. God the Father communes with us at the Table. And God the Father blesses us to go work.

Fathers, you do not have a tougher job than our Father. He also is a father to many sinners, to many needy children, and He gives His favor to those who imitate Him.

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Growing in grace leads to unexpected challenges. As disciples we want to grow more and more into the image of Christ. As a church we want the whole body to be built up and knit together. Stagnant spirituality stinks, so how could spiritual progress not be necessarily refreshing? Growth is positive, yes, and sometimes painful.

Growing in grace can be painful when others see our growth and say something encouraging. A friend says, “You don’t fly off the handle nearly as often as you used to.” He’s thankful for the grace he sees in your life at work. You’re reminded how frequently you got up on the angry side of the bed. Your wife says, “I’m so thankful for how sweet and compassionate you’ve become.” You hear her talking about a husband formerly known as a selfish fathead. We wanted to be more patient and joyful. We prayed that God would make us more kind and loving. But now that other people notice, it hurts.

If they would just forget what we were like then maybe we could too. Of course, if they (and we) forget, the testimony of God’s grace is forgotten, too. Be careful when you grow in grace, other people may notice.

Be careful also when you want others to grow in grace. It can be painful, not only for them to see us grow, but for us to see them grow. When others grow it may make us fearful that our own weaknesses and immaturity will be seen, like when a new flowerbed starts to flourish and then highlights how ugly the house paint looks, or it make may us jealous that they’re receiving growth blessings that we want. If they would just stay where they were then we could too, but that’s not how God’s grace gets such a great name.

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One of the reasons that we include confession of sin in our weekly liturgy is not just that we recognize that we are sinful, but we receive God’s revelation that He is perfectly righteous. God not only acts in accord with moral law, what we refer to as moral law comes from His character. His nature is right. He always does what is justifiable.

We don’t, of course. This is why we love the Son who gave Himself for us that we could be justified, declared righteous by God. This is very good news for the list of the unrighteous in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 whose unrighteousness would keep them out of God’s kingdom.

But God’s righteous character applies in more than one argument. I’ve been trying different ways of saying it over the last few months, but here it is from the author of Hebrews.

For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in the serving of the saints, as you still do. (Hebrews 6:10)

Note that this means that God sees your work; His seeing is part of His righteousness. This means that God would be unrighteous to ignore the love that you demonstrate to others. This doesn’t mean that we are working our way to salvation, but that these works are “things that belong to salvation” (Hebrews 6:9).

You will reap what you sow because God is not crooked. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain because God is just (1 Corinthians 15:58). So don’t be sluggish (Hebrews 6:12). Devote yourselves to the service of the saints (1 Corinthians 16:15), not just because it is right, but because God will justifiably bless you.

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