The universal disease of all mankind

Ryle

Let us remember, beside this, that every part of the world bears testimony to the fact that sin is the universal disease of all mankind. Search the globe from east to west and from pole to pole,—search every nation of every clime in the four quarters of the earth,—search every rank and class in our own country from the highest to the lowest,—and under every circumstance and condition, the report will be always the same.

The remotest islands in the Pacific Ocean, completely separate from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, beyond the reach alike of Oriental luxury and Western arts and literature,—islands inhabited by people ignorant of books, money, steam, and gunpowder—uncontaminated by the vices of modern civilization,—these very islands have always been found, when first discovered, the abode of the vilest forms of lust, cruelty, deceit, and superstition. If the inhabitants have known nothing else, they have always known how to sin!

Everywhere the human heart is naturally “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jer. 17:9.) For my part, I know no stronger proof of the inspiration of Genesis and the Mosaic account of the origin of man, than the power, extent, and universality of sin.

Grant that mankind have all sprung from one pair, and that this pair fell (as Gen. 3 tells us), and the state of human nature everywhere is easily accounted for. Deny it, as many do, and you are at once involved in inexplicable difficulties. In a word, the uniformity and universality of human corruption supply one of the most unanswerable instances of the enormous “difficulties of infidelity.”

J.C. Ryle, Holiness (4th edition), pp. 6-7

His best things are so interwoven with corruptions

Ryle

I admit fully that man has many grand and noble faculties left about him, and that in arts and sciences and literature he shows immense capacity. But the fact still remains that in spiritual things he is utterly “dead,” and has no natural knowledge, or love, or fear of God. His best things are so interwoven and intermingled with corruption, that the contrast only brings out into sharper relief the truth and extent of the fall. That one and the same creature should be in some things so high and in others so low,—so great and yet so little,—so noble and yet so mean,—so grand in his conception and execution of material things, and yet so grovelling and debased in his affections,—that he should be able to plan and erect buildings like those to Carnac and Luxor in Egypt, and the Parthenon at Athens, and yet worship vile gods and goddesses, and birds, and beasts, and creeping things,—that he should be able to produce tragedies like those of Æschylus and Sophocles, and histories like that of Thucydides, and yet be a slave to abominable vices like those described in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans,—all this is a sore puzzle to those who sneer at “God’s Word written,” and scoff at us as Bibliolaters, But it is a knot that we can untie with the Bible in our hands. We can acknowledge that man has all the marks of a majestic temple about him,—a temple in which God once dwelt, but a temple which is now in utter ruins,—a temple in which a shattered window here, and a doorway there, and a column there, still give some faint idea of the magnificence of the original design, but a temple which from end to end has lost its glory and fallen from its high estate. And we say that nothing solves the complicated problem of man’s condition but the doctrine of original or birth-sin and the crushing effects of the fall.

J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots

It’s not a cold—it’s cancer!

Sin is one of those subjects that is tough to do justice to.

Most of the time, we err on the side of minimizing it. We treat it as little more than a personal dysfunction or a character flaw. Even in our strongest language, we tend to speak of sin in terms of brokenness, of separation, but shy away from the darker picture Scripture paints for us. “Instead of interpreting our present-day sin in the light of a divinely revealed standard,” wrote H.J. Whitney, “we reduce this standard to a pale reflection of our own man-made standards.”1

In effect, we treat sin as if it were a cold instead of a cancer. 

Sin is alien, and intrusive. It is an invader in the created order, attacking, perverting, and twisting what is good into something other than it’s intended effect.

It distorts image bearers of God into rebels lying to the world about their Creator. It perverts notions of biblical submission and service between men and women into strife and servitude. It disrupts and destroys everything it touches.

When we remember to see sin in this way, it also changes how we deal with it. It reminds us that sin isn’t something to be managed, it’s something to be destroyed. It’s not something we can will away by being more awesome, but something we defeat by surrendering to the Holy Spirit who is at work within us.

Cough medicine doesn’t kill sin. We need chemo.

Killing sin is hard work. It causes a lot of pain. And sometimes, it seems like it’s going to kill us in the end. But, fighting sin is a life-or-death situation. “Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work,” wrote John Owen, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

My favorite articles to write in 2013

keyboard

Yes gang, one more list! This week I’ve shared my top reads of 2013, as well as my favorite books to review. This list is a little different, and is likely the last one I’ll be sharing about the year that is nearly done.

Any good writer will tell you that it takes a lot of effort to write—not to simply to write well, but to write at all. It’s actually a lot easier to not. And very often, we writer types tend to be our own worst critics (y’know, when we’re not inflating our own egos by watching how many Facebook likes we’ve received.). But no matter how much we tell ourselves we should quit, there’s always something we’ve written we genuinely like.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s post—my favorite articles of 2013.

These are articles representing some of the work I’m most happy with from the past year, although not necessarily the most read (though some of them are). I hope you’ll give them a read if you haven’t already:

Hope for timid evangelists

You wouldn’t think this is a terribly hard thing to do, but it seems to be. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt a sense of hesitation set in before doing something even as simple as sending an email asking a pretty open-ended question. When I see that people are ready and willing to answer these questions (some as pointed as “where do you believe you’ll spend eternity and why?”), I feel a little silly.

But here’s the good news—God’s Word offers much hope for timid evangelists like me, especially in the gospel of Luke. Here are five truths we can embrace.

Why I won’t read your book on visiting Heaven

Not too long ago, I received a copy of one of the many books on someone’s alleged trip to heaven and back. I couldn’t bring myself to read more than a few pages before putting it down.… I chose to not read the book about visiting heaven I received—and will continue to do the same for one reason: They’re almost certainly not true.

Does the Bible permit polygamy?

One doesn’t have to look hard to see that many of the “heroes” of the faith were polygamists—Abraham had multiple wives and concubines; Jacob had multiple wives and concubines as well. Even the greatest kings of Israel, David and Solomon, had multiple wives.

So… does that mean it gets a green light—or at the very least, a proceed with caution? Nope.

What does the Bible say about worship?

This is the important thing to understand, then, about worship. It’s not merely about singing, it’s about reverence—it’s about having a biblical fear of the Lord. At its most basic level, then, you could define worship as the humbling of yourself before the One who is your better. This, naturally, has serious implications.

3 reasons why some churches don’t grow (that you don’t usually hear)

There seems to be a lot of pressure for pastors to have “successful” ministries—and by successful, what’s really meant is to have big numbers. While numbers are not wrong (they can be very good, in fact), we’ve got to be careful about how we think about church growth, and what it means to be successful as a church.

Consider preschool before the pulpit

Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes—and often one of the hardest things for a novice preacher to do is find opportunities to practice their skills. One place they may want to consider: Children’s ministry.

God’s gag reflex

God—the One who made the world and everything in it, the One who holds all things together with but a word—has declared what is right and what is wrong. Our opinions on the issue don’t matter one bit. Jesus hates sin. He hates it so much that He became it so those who would believe should not have to suffer its consequences.

“Is he humble?”

A few years ago, a friend gave me an unexpected, but much needed corrective. He told me that, despite my many good qualities, I tended to have the appearance of arrogance about me. It hurt to hear that, but in a good way. It made me realize how much my character makes a difference in how people perceive what I do and say. I’m certainly not perfect (as my wife and my coworkers would attest), but Lord willing, I think I’ve made some progress as a man pursuing humility.

The real secret of keeping millennials in the church

But the real reason millennials are abandoning the church isn’t because they’re dissatisfied with the answers to any of these questions. And it’s not because they can’t find Jesus in the typical evangelical church. The reason many leave is they don’t know Jesus. 

Sin makes smart people stupid

Honestly, it’s easy to mock something like this, and sorely tempting. But for Christians, who have, by God’s grace, been given the Holy Spirit, who have the written Word of God at our fingertips, this is a reminder—and maybe a warning for us.

 

How To Kill Sin

 

From John Piper’s recent sermon, I Act the Miracle:

. . . The ground for my trembing here is not threat, but gift. Tremble! God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, your Father, your Redeemer, your Sustainer is in you willing and working. Tremble! Your acting is his acting. That’s what I meant by “I don’t wait for a miracle, I act the miracle.”

My attack on my sin in reliance upon the Holy Spirit rooted in the gospel is God’s act, not mine.

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure”—Phil. 2:12-13

When Grace No Longer Amazes

Cross in Winter

The false conflict between the two testaments may be seen in the most brutal act of divine vengeance ever recorded in Scripture. It is not found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament. The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross. If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be directed at Golgotha.

The Cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God’s wrath.

It was the most just and the most gracious act in history.

God would have been more than unjust, He would have been diabolical to punish Jesus if Jesus had not first willingly taken on Himself the sins of the world.

Once Christ had done that, once He volunteered to be the Lamb of God, laden with our sin, then He became the most grotesque and vile thing on this planet. With the concentrated load of sin He carried, He became utterly repugnant to the Father. God poured out His wrath on this obscene thing. God made Christ accursed for the sin He bore. Herein was God’s holy justice perfectly manifest. Yet it was done for us. He took what justice demanded from us.

This “for us” aspect of the Cross is what displays the majesty of its grace. At the same time justice and grace, wrath and mercy.

It is too astonishing to fathom.

We cringe at God’s justice because its expression is so unusual… God’s usual course of action is one of grace.

Grace no longer amazes us.

We have grown used to it; we take it for granted.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, pp. 121-122 (line breaks & emphasis added)

One of the Greatest Gifts a Man Can Give His Family…

…is modelling repentance.

A few weeks back, Mark Driscoll preached through Luke 11:5-13 and spoke well to this as he examined verse 13:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Here’s the transcript for the video:

Gentlemen, one of the most powerful things you can do is acknowledge your own evil to your wife and children. This is telling your wife and your children when you’ve sinned and it’s owning it and naming it. All right, Jesus says that earthly fathers are evil. So when we do or say or fail to do good and we act in a way that is evil, it is very helpful for our families to see us repent of sin. Some of you have never heard your dad say things like, “It’s my fault. I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” You’ve never heard that. Because even when your dad was wrong, he didn’t acknowledge it. He didn’t confess it. He didn’t agree with Jesus, “Yeah, that was evil.”

And so fathers, if you want to create a loving, nurturing, godly home, you model repentance by acknowledging your own evil. If you want to raise really stubborn, obstinate, rebellious, religious kids, tell them to repent of their sin but never repent of your sin. Tell them when they say or do evil, but do not acknowledge your own. You will then create a very religious culture with very discouraged children who will realize that they live under a father who is aware of their sin but ignorant of his own and that he is a cruel taskmaster and overbearing hypocrite.

So it’s important for us fathers to tell our children, “I want to be the best father I can be. God the Father is the perfect Father. You need him. I need him, too, because we’re both sinners that he’s working on and he’s dealing with our evil.”

Modelling repentance is not easy. Abigail looks at me like I’ve got two heads sometimes (she’s still in that age-range where Daddy apparently can do no wrong), but it’s slowly) helping her to understand that it’s okay to admit our sins and ask for forgiveness from those we’ve wronged.

I’m not sure if it will ever get easier, but I’m looking forward to seeing the fruit in her life.

Sermon Audio: True and False Worship

On Sunday, July 11th, I once again had the opportunity to preach at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. The message is from Romans 1:18-25, True and False Worship.

The abbreviated transcript follows for those who need/prefer:

The last time I was here, I spoke on obedience and how obedience—to God’s Word, for His Glory—is the evidence of the Christian life. That message has weighed heavily on me since I was last here and as I’ve examined my own life in light of it, I’ve been left with a question: If obedience is the evidence of what we worship, who or what am I worshipping? Is it God or something else?

What we’re going to discover together is this:

Because God is the only One worthy of our praise, we must examine our lives and discover who or what we truly worship.

Turn with me to Romans chapter 1; this is where we’re going to be spending the bulk of our time today.

Starting in verse eighteen:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

[Opening Prayer]

We are all Worshippers

At the end of June, I went to Honduras with Compassion Canada. We saw the projects at work, visited homes, played with kids, and it was amazing. While we were there, we also had the opportunity to visit the Copan Ruins and the remnants of the Mayan temples.

Our tour guide took us through the ruins, teaching us about the culture of the Mayans as we went. There were idols everywhere.

Images of iguanas symbolizing fertility; macaw birds representing their sun god… It was everywhere. But the thing that stood out to me the most was listening to him describe the after parties from a sports event.

Basically what would happen is that athletes would compete against each other, passing the ball around with the goal of hitting one of the six stone macaw heads on the sidelines of the court. And you had to do it without using your hands.

These games were a big deal—the religious leaders, the chieftains and all the people would fill the stadium. Now, after the game was won and a winner was proclaimed, there’d be a celebration in his honor.

Can you guess the prize for the winner? Sacrificed to the gods.

Doesn’t really make you want to win the game, does it?

Human sacrifice was all too common in this area of Honduras. People would throw themselves off the cliffs into the temple courts as a sacrifice, hoping to appease the gods.

As I learned about the culture, as impressive as the architecture is and as breathtaking as the ruins are, I was disgusted by the idolatry.

I started thinking about our own culture… is it really that different?

Sure, we don’t (normally) worship birds or practice human sacrifice as a reward for a game well-played; but as I’ve been looking around since I came home, one inescapable truth has become more apparent than ever:

We are all worshippers.

This is the way God has made us.

He’s not made us to worship, or to be worshippers; He’s made us worshipping.

Harold Best in his book Unceasing Worship describes it this way:

We were created continuously outpouring. Note that I did not say we were created to be continuous outpourers. Nor can I dare imply that we were created to worship. This would suggest that God is an incomplete person whose need for something outside himself (worship) completes his sense of himself. It might not even be safe to say that we were created for worship, because the inference can be drawn that worship is a capacity that can be separated out and eventually relegated to one of several categories of being. I believe it is strategically important, therefore, to say that we were created continuously outpouring—we were created in that condition, at that instant, imago Dei.

What Best is telling us is that our identity as worshippers is tied to God’s nature and our being created in His image.

Back in Genesis 1, we’re told that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of God hovered over the depths.

So in the beginning, there was God.

And that’s it.

Some will speculate that God created the world and humanity because He was lonely. He needed something to pour out His love upon. But that’s not what Scripture says. The Bible says that God lacks nothing. If he lacked, then He would cease to be God.

This is where the doctrine of the Trinity is so important. Because God is one God in three persons—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit—He lives in perfect, eternal, joyful, community, unceasingly outpouring His love on Himself.

And we were created out of an overflow of this, not of need, but out of joy to share His glory with others. And because we were created in His image, we do likewise—unceasingly worshipping, intended to reflect His glory in all creation.

Paul understands this. That’s why he doesn’t say, “In the past, some of you didn’t worship anything at all.” He says, “All of you have worshipped created things instead of the Creator.”

We are all always worshipping something. And more often than not, it’s not our Creator.

Our Lives Show Us Who We Worship

We’re continuously worshipping, but there’s something else we need to understand:

Our lives show us who we worship.

The hard thing for all of us is discovering what it is we worship—why? Because we’re blind to it. We’re blind to it because we have, as Paul wrote, exchanged the truth about God for a lie.

We’ve made created things—sometimes good things—our god, worshipping them instead of our Creator.

Let me give you a couple of practical examples:

Every day, men and women across the country congregate in one of the dozens of temples that are on nearly every street corner in Canada to worship as we roll up a rim.

This past winter, we had the Olympics; do you remember the fervor that surrounded Men’s Hockey?

How about the last few weeks with the World Cup going on?

And what about all the silliness with Lebron James and Chris Bosch joining the Miami Heat?

I know a few people who were cussing out Bosch, but James… They were burning his jersey in Cleveland this week!

Why?

Because the god they worshipped had let them down.

He left to play for a different team.

And the idol was crushed.

We are all worshippers; we’re always worshipping something—and our lives will reveal who or what we worship.

Maybe there’s something coming to your mind right now—your job, your spouse, your kids, your car, your computer, candy…

We think that these things will make us happy. That they’ll satisfy and save us. But anything but God will always fail.

But we don’t believe it. We don’t believe it because we’ve exchanged the truth for a lie.

False Worship Suppresses the Truth

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” writes Paul in verse 18.

When we sin, when we behave in a manner contrary to God’s commands and His character, we “suppress the truth” about God.

False worship suppresses the truth.

When we put anything in place of God in our lives, we suppress the truth.

This is a damning indictment!

To suppress the truth about God—to deny His authority, His majesty, His power—is to commit an act of cosmic treason.

Why? Here’s what Paul says on this. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Do you realize that every day, the evidence of God’s existence and His power are manifest? What can be known about God is plain to us because God has shown it to us.

Where does He show it?

In all of creation.

This is what the theologians call general revelation. That is, that we can know that there is a God and we can know something of who He is through natural means.

Speaking to this point, Acts 14:17 says,

 

[H]e [God] did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

What we see here is that God gives us rain and allows our crops to grow, and our livestock to thrive, in a display of His power and character. He “satisfies our hearts with food and gladness.”

In short, a great steak can bear witness to God’s existence.

And in Acts 17:24-27 we read,

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him…”

Practically, this means for us that everything—science, art, music, nature… everything reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature to the degree that we cannot with integrity deny God’s existence.

We are, Paul says, without excuse in acknowledging Him.

But consistently we fail to do exactly that. Instead, we suppress the truth about God in our unrighteousness.

False worship makes us fools

Verse 21:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

What Paul says here is that we have failed to honor God, to acknowledge and worship Him. In our sin, we have suppressed the truth about God.

And because we’ve suppressed the truth, we have come futile in our thinking. “[Our] foolish hearts [are] darkened.”

This is idolatry’s second effect:

When we fail to honor God, we become fools bent on stealing His glory.

When we refuse to honor God or give thanks to Him, we become fools, says Paul. In other words: Idolatry is stupid.

The prophet Isaiah communicated this well when he wrote,

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

So basically, a man cuts down a tree—and one half he uses for firewood. The other he worships. We rob God of His glory… and give it to a piece of kindling.

Does that even make sense?

In our foolishness we start to think that God doesn’t really see what we’re doing. That because our false god doesn’t speak or think or see or hear, we’re in the clear.

But, Isaiah 47:10 says, God always knows:

You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.”

Paul writes that as those who suppressed the truth claimed to be wise, “they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Again, it comes back to the truth that we are without excuse for acknowledging our Creator.

It’s why the “new atheism” movement is so bizarre. The whole point of books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and several others is basically to say this:

There is no God… And I hate Him.

It’s intellectually dishonest. How can you hate someone you don’t believe exists?

If God doesn’t exist, shouldn’t you not care?

Instead, what do we see?

Dozens of books, documentaries and magazine articles attempting to debunk the idea of God… and in particular the God of the Bible.

Why? Why is so much energy spent debunking Christianity?

Why do we see more books trying to do this entering the bestseller lists every year?

Why is there such a need to find the gospel—that God the Son, Jesus Christ, became a man, lived the perfect life, died in our place for our sins and rose again to give us new life and reconcile us to God the Father—to be a sham?

Because deep down, we all know it’s true. We all know He’s real.

And it terrifies us.

Because we stand naked before Him—and without His intervention, we—have—no—hope.

Here’s the thing: Every other religion, every other belief system, in the end, revolves around the same thing—You.

It’s all about what you do, about how you must earn your way into God’s favor, how you must become one with the divine or with the universe. All is one. God is a part of the system or God doesn’t exist.

But if all is one, God is none.

It’s the lie that we’ve exchanged the truth for. It’s a foolish act meant to rob God of His glory.

It’s the serpent’s lie from Genesis three: “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Understand—Buddha, Krishna, Allah… There is no hope. There is no life. They have no power.

But Jesus Christ does.

That’s why the gospel is so offensive—it’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus HAS already done!

He saved us when we could not save ourselves! He took the punishment that we so richly deserved.

And we show ourselves to be fools when we deny His power, authority and majesty—when we rob Him of His glory and deny Him the worship that is His due.

And it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

False Worship Reveals of the Wrath of God

Going back to verse eighteen, we read, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”

All of what we’ve just talked about—that we continually worshipping, that in our rebellion against God we’ve suppressed the truth and exchanged His glory for created things—Because of all these things, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.

When we talk about wrath, we have to understand that there are two basic kinds that we’re talking about.

The first is God’s active wrath.

Active wrath is a tangible demonstration of God’s judgment over sinners.

When we read of the conquest of the Promised Land and the command to kill ALL the Canaanites—that was the active wrath of God.

When Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead because they lied about how much they were giving in Acts 5—THAT was the active wrath of God.

When we look toward the Day of the Lord when He will execute final judgment on all of creation—THAT is the active wrath of God…

God’s active wrath is offensive to so many people; it’s the cause of ideas about there being two different kinds of God depicted in the Bible—the hot-tempered God of the Old Testament and gentle Jesus, meek and mild. The reason for this is that we have difficulty understanding God’s perfect justice and holiness.

But there’s something even more terrifying than God’s active wrath, as we’re about to see. Listen to what Paul says in verse 24:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

What Paul describes here is the passive wrath of God.

What this means is that we’re so bent on our sin—we’re consumed with doing what we want, rather than obeying Him—God says, “Okay, go get’em tiger.”

He gives us over to a “debased” or depraved mind says in verse 28. Second Thessalonians 2:11 says that, “God sends a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”

And truth be told, there’s little more terrifying to me than this.

If God’s passive wrath is upon me, it means He’s letting me do what I want. It means my conscience has become so hard that I don’t want to respond.

Because I love my sin.

I want my idols.

And God says, “Have at it.”

Before God sent the flood in one of the most magnificent displays of His active wrath, He looked down at all of creation and “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Man was given over to a depraved mind. The passive wrath of God was upon Him.

And the active wrath was coming.

We Must Recover True Worship

Verse 25 says that we’ve exchanged the truth about God for a lie, worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator.

In order for us to be saved we must recover true worship.

Left to our own devices, we’re utterly incapable of doing this.

Fortunately, God has made a way for us.

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

That, friends, is the secret. That is how we are able to recover true worship:

We must apply the gospel to our worship.

Because of Christ’s death on the cross, our sins are paid for when we put our faith in Him. Elsewhere, Scripture says that we are made new creations in Christ—and because it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us, we are given new desires to serve Him and worship Him as He deserves.

We must apply the gospel to our worship. And that begins with repentance.

Why is repentance important?

Repentance is the heart of the Christian life. The first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which ultimately resulted in the explosion of the Protestant Reformation, says, “All of life is one of repentance.” Repentance is not a one and done action—it’s a lifestyle.

A Christian cannot live an unrepentant life. Dr. J.I. Packer, one of the most brilliant theologians of the last 100 years has been quoted as saying, “All you need to do to become a heretic is to stop repenting or fail to call others to repentance.” It’s become contentious to call anyone to repentance in our day, even on issues where Scripture is clear—be it sexuality, gossip, gluttony, slander, malice… but here’s the thing: whenever we come up against one of these issues, we have to remember what the real question is—it’s not, “can one be a homosexual, an adulterer, a liar, a gossip, and be a Christian?” The question is—Can one be unrepentant and be a Christian?

Repentance is a process. Repentance isn’t being sorry that we got caught, or feeling bad or even acknowledging our sins. It’s much deeper.

  • Repentance begins with conviction from the Holy Spirit. Our sin is revealed to us through prayer, through our conscience, through Scripture or through the preaching of God’s Word.
  • Conviction leads to confession—we name our sin and agree with God, acknowledging our idol.
  • Confession leads to true repentance—it demands the death of our idols, which comes as we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • This leads to restitution—we seek to make right whatever we’ve done wrong in our pursuit of our idols. So if we’ve cheated on our taxes, we put it right. If we’ve stolen from work, we return it. If we’ve broken something, we replace it
  • The final step is reconciliation. Repentance—true repentance—restores relationships with God first and foremost and other people as we are able.

Repentance allows us to worship in freedom. Through repentance, we are no longer slaves to our idols, but free to worship God as He would have us—to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice,” as Paul wrote in Romans 12:1. As we trust God, study His Word, obey Him and worship Him, we are “no longer conformed to this patterns of this world, but transformed by the renewal of our minds.” Our desires change. Our attitudes change. Our habits change. All to the glory of God.

A few questions and we’ll close:

  1. What idols exist in my life?
  2. What created thing is robbing God of His glory?
  3. If that thing is revealed to me, will I repent?
  4. Will I take that first step today?

[Closing Prayer]

Truth and Lies: Dr. Peter Jones – Sexuality in a One-ist World

Dr. Peter Jones’ final session at The Exchange delved into the contentious subject of sexuality—and specifically the redefinition of what is considered normal sexual behavior. “This subject is, I believe, the tip of the spear of a societal transformation going on. And it’s unstoppable,” says Jones. “If there’s any way to stop it, it’ll be that the Christian church will have a discourse where we can describe what ‘normal’ is.”

A New Civilization

Jones believes we’ve come to a significant moment in American history. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” law is about to be repealed; the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and new “anti-bullying” laws are ready to be enacted. We’re likely to see the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as a new push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States.

“The goal is for a new civilization. It’s not just a question of civil rights,” says Jones. Yesterday (June 23, 2010), CNN reported that Hilary Clinton—speaking of the need to end discrimination in the U.S. and around the world—said, “These dangers are not gay issues. This is a human rights issue…human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”

This, in Jones’ words is “breathtakingly ambitious.”

“This is not the normal progress of civic theory and civil rights,” says Jones.  The speed of change is unprecedented, particularly since the influx of religious and spiritual options that have become available to Americans since the 1960s. [Read more...]

Battling Sin is Hard, Let's Play a Game Instead

We’re working our way through The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard in my Friday morning men’s group. The book is inspired by and takes its cues from two of Puritan Bible teacher John Owen’s works on the mortification of sin. The book itself is incredibly challenging… and more than a little bit convicting.

Here’s a passage from chapter four, which we’re studying this week:

Which is easier: to sit with a bucket of butter-soaked popcorn and watch Tom Cruise on the big screen for two hours, or to kneel and pray for five minutes? Tom Cruise wins hands down, because there is literally no competition. What the flesh hates is God, so it resists anything that smacks of God—especially communion with him. the flesh can curl up by your side and watch mindless movies all night long. But let even the barest thought of meditations flutter into your mind, and the flesh goes to Red Alert. Before you get past “Our Father,” your eyes, which were glued to the screen, now sag in sleepiness, and your attention, which was so fixed on the plot, now zips around the universe faster than the Starship Enterprise. [p. 46]

This happens to me far more often than I’d like to admit. Whether I’m trying to pray, read my Bible, write a blog post or an article, work on my Systematic Theology certificate… I get incredibly distracted. Even now, as I’ve been typing this I’ve started yawning and getting drowsy.

But I guarantee that if I stop and check my Twitter feed or play a game on my iPhone, I’ll be just fine.

Because the flesh loves those things.

But it hates anything that makes me think about God.

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do,” wrote Paul (Gal. 5:17). If this is true, then we must oppose the desires of the flesh and pursue godliness.

Because our natural selves want nothing more than to see each of us enslaved to sin.

Got any practical tips on how you’ve been doing this lately?

Around the Interweb (05/09)

Albert Mohler on Franklin Graham being Disinvited from the Pentagon

May 6th marked the United States’ National Day of Prayer—with Franklin Graham leading prayer at the Pentagon.

Outside, after being disinvited two weeks previously due to his commitment to biblical Christianity.

Albert Mohler provided some thoughtful commentary regarding the situation on his website:

Evangelical Christians in the United States had better see a big challenge staring us in the face. Franklin Graham was disinvited by the Pentagon for making statements that are required by faithfulness to the gospel of Christ. As reports make clear, it is not just his statements about Islam being prone to violence that cause offense, it is his statements that Islam is wicked because it does not lead to salvation in Christ that cause the greatest offense.

The Pentagon failed its test, but many more tests will follow. Faithful witness to Christ requires an honest statement about what any false system of belief represents — a form of idolatry and false teaching that leads to eternal damnation. There may be more and less offensive ways of saying that, but there is no way to remove the basic offense to the current cultural mind.

In reality, every evangelical preacher and every individual Christian will face this question — and probably sooner rather than later.

Read the rest.

HT: Z

In Other News

Mohler & Dever: How Expositional Preaching Protects Pastors

Justin Taylor interviews Mark Driscoll about his new book, Doctrine

BloodMoney – the provocative trailer for a new documentary on abortion:

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Pete Wilson’s new book, Plan B

Fear, complacency and the evangelical middle road

Is it really authentic to publicly confess sins you didn’t commit to people who were not sinned against?

When “finishing well” isn’t finished well

J.I. Packer: “What makes a man of God is first and foremost his vision of God. . . . So what did Nehemiah believe about the one whom ten times over, six times in transcribed prayers, he calls ‘my God’?”

"I’m a Christian and I want to apologize…"

microphone

A young man walked onto the stage at the front of the crowded room. All eyes were fixed on him. He smiled awkwardly and wondered, can I really do this? What will people think?

Heart racing and palms sweating, he gathered up his courage and began to speak softly into the microphone.

“I’m a Christian,” he said, “and I have a confession to make.

“I apologize for the Crusades and political action being confused with Christian faith. I apologize for hate crimes being perpetrated in the name of Christ and for slavery. I’m sorry for everything that we’ve ever done that has made life difficult for anyone.

“But I want you to know something. We’re really not all that bad. I hope you’ll forgive us.”

As he exited the stage, people came up to him, congratulating him on his effort. “I don’t know if I would have had the courage to say that,” they said. “That was so humble of you.”

The young man blushed and thanked them for their kind words. “I just want to be real. Authenticity is important to me.”

You’ve probably seen, heard or read something similar to this before. The Christian confessional.

This idea was most recently popularized by Donald Miller in his too-young-to-write-a-memoir memoir, Blue Like Jazz. Miller describes setting up a confession booth on a college campus where he and others would confess the sins of Christendom and ask for forgiveness.

Since the book’s release a number of similar things come out of the woodwork, whether it’s a video of a guy confessing the institutional sins of Christendom on youtube or a pastor publishing letters he wrote to people he’s sinned against in a book.

While I don’t want to judge the motivations of people who have done things like this, I have to ask the question:

Is it really authentic to publicly confess sins you didn’t commit to people who were not sinned against? [Read more...]