Adultery is Near! (2)

In my last article, I warned of the consuming sin of adultery that taints our society and is near to us in our lives. The warning was expressed so that we may take heed to ourselves, or perhaps one close to us, and repent or exhort one another to walk again in a holy life. The last article may have seemed negative having barely mentioned the salvation and grace that is afforded to us on the behalf of our Lord Jesus who offered up Himself on the cross. This article now resumes by way of Scripture to tell of that blessedness of living outside of adultery and sin in general and walking in holiness by way of the Holy Spirit.

First, we observe I Corinthians 6:9-11, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor effeminate…shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” This passage speaks specifically of those who walk in stark contrast to the seventh commandment of God’s law. God despises those sins and will not tolerate them. However, by God’s work of justifying us on the basis of Christ’s work, working true repentance in us, and bringing us to live a new holy life, we can be assured that the guilt of our sins is completely taken away, and that we have been given the ability to live a holy life in the name of Jesus. God has given us this assurance and we must live in it.

Secondly, we consider the message of Revelation 3:1-6 to the church at Sardis. According to the angel’s message this church was about to die. Sardis was not exhibiting works that were pleasing unto God. The church was described as wearing defiled garments, yet they continued to wear these filthy clothes. They did not take off the dirty garments to cleanse them but found it pleasurable and convenient to keep wearing them. The angel urged them to remember their first love. The church was called to remember the zeal they once had for the word that caused them to be consumed in the studying and praising of God. The church was called to cleanse those defiled garments or perhaps get rid of them entirely to prevent any remembrance of them. The blessedness of this passage is revealed in verse four, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” We may at times fall away into these sins, undoubtedly, we all have walked in adultery in some way or another, but as we observed in I Corinthians 6 God smiles upon us when we flee unto Him and resist sin and temptation with our whole heart.

As children of God, we always have hope. We never need to feel overcome and taken over by sins such as adultery. The Bible does not say that Christ came for the perfect. If it were so, then His people would not need Him. Our Lord and Savior came for those whom His Father gave Him, and He loves (Luke 5:32). Our calling as you may remember is to “possess [our] vessel in sanctification and honor” (I Thess. 4:3-5). If we do fail and possess our vessel in dishonor then we must repent and flee unto God our rock.

The blessedness of man according to David is that our iniquity is forgiven, our sins are covered, and the Lord does not attribute sin to us (Rom. 4:6-8). May we joyfully and thankfully live in our calling given in I Peter 1:15, “But as he which hath called you is holy, be ye holy in all manner of [living].”

Luke Christian Potjer

Gladness in every-day life (2)

A couple weeks ago we reflected briefly upon the importance of being joyful in all things and of giving thanks to God for even the mundane aspects of life. Today we will continue the same theme and take a moment to think about the question of happiness and satisfaction in this life. This is, after all, the question that motivates men and women at the most basic level: How can I find satisfaction, how can I achieve happiness in life? American culture is obsessed with happiness. The right to “pursuit of happiness” is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as an “inalienable right.” Regardless of the intentions of the document’s authors, there is no question as to how it is understood and applied in our present day. Just look at the recent court decisions made in this country.

Every person has the unalienable right to actualize his desires. Nothing our politicians and judges declare ought to interfere with every person’s right to liberty and pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. But what is personal fulfillment? Well, that depends on the person seeking it. Perhaps fulfillment for one person is indulgence in licentious sexual behavior. Perhaps for another it is imbibing alcohol every Friday night that constitutes happiness. Perhaps another individual insists he cannot be happy until the local church is compelled to bless his “marriage” to another man. Everyone has the right to pursue happiness, and no one has the right to define what the proper source of fulfillment is or even what happiness itself is. To each his own it is said, every person is a law unto himself.

This is the happiness quest that the world fanatically pursues, and the kind of happiness that the world seeks is earthly happiness. Personal fulfillment and pleasure is the goal of life, the end to which the worldly man applies all his talents and resources. In an affluent society such as our own, the quest for happiness often takes a hedonistic and materialistic turn. “Let us eat and drink;” says the man of the world, “for tomorrow we shall die.” (Isaiah 22:13.) Moreover the abundance of material goods and comforts, which our society enjoys, produces spiritual laziness and lethargy. The modern American is not forced by hardship to turn to the spiritual things. This is reflected most poignantly in the abysmal ecclesiastical landscape. As a nation the United States has become spiritually fat and insensate. It is no coincidence that atheism and agnosticism are most prevalent in affluent societies. Comfort addles the mind and dulls the “sense of the divine” that all men possess. With all their immediate needs met and more besides, it is very easy for man to think he does not need God. Even for us this is a danger, that we allow our own desires and our pursuit of them to consume us. The happiness quest is idolatry.

A pastor once told me about a book he read in which the author encouraged church leaders to recognize that people are on a happiness quest and to tailor their ministry accordingly. People are seeking happiness and that is just the way it is. This minister responded to such compromised advice by emphasizing the truth that Christians are not on a happiness quest but a holiness quest. God’s purpose for us in this life is not to make us happy (in the way the world understands the term) rather God’s purpose is to make us holy by conforming us to the image of His Son. And God’s purpose for us ought to be our purpose for ourselves. Sadly today’s nominal church all too often rejects the holiness quest and joins our society in the veneration of self-gratification. “God wants you to be happy,” it is proclaimed in seeker churches across our land, “God wants to grant you the desires of your heart.” Smiling prosperity gospel preachers, having gained throngs of consumer Christians, declare the pernicious lie that God wants to make you rich and prosperous. Just pray the prayer of Jabez and do this or that good work and God will bless you. God is happy when you are happy. This too is idolatry.

The kingdom of God is not a democracy, and those who are citizens of the Kingdom ought to behave accordingly. It is God who determines what we may do and what we may desire to do. Personal autonomy is a myth, and the sacred maxim of our nation that everyone has the right to unrestrained pursuit of happiness is a man-glorifying fiction. As the previously mentioned minister said, our goal in this life is submission to Christ and pursuit of holiness. The beautiful truth of the gospel is that in this process of becoming holy through God’s work of sanctification, we find the fulfillment that the world, although seeking it, never finds. We are not on the happiness quest, yet true happiness inevitably comes to us in the way of living in conformity with the will of God and in the knowledge of the salvation we have in Christ. This holiness quest, which is the Christian life of faithful obedience to Christ, furnishes us with the only immutable ground for joy and happiness in this life. It is only by partaking of the living water and the bread of life that we are satisfied with that which is imperishable. As redeemed Christian people we are the happiest people on earth. We ought to exude this cheerfulness, for consider what our Lord has done for us! The Lord Jesus Christ is our good shepherd; He has laid down His life for us His sheep. What more shall we want? He makes us to lie down in green pastures and refreshes us by streams of still water, in this way He satisfies us with every good thing necessary for salvation. He has restored our souls and guides us along the path of righteousness for his own name’s sake and for His own glory. And although this path leads through the valley of the shadow of death we fear no evil, for his rod and staff guard and protect us from evil. We have the comfort of the sure promise that goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives and that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Herein resides the source of true joy and satisfaction.

JS

A condescending holiness

One of the biggest dangers, I believe, that we have as believers in the Church is to think that we are above those around us. It is easy to have a certain ‘holy pride,’ knowing that we have been chosen to be numbered among God’s elect, and also that we are striving to live a godly life. We may become, in our minds and in our speech with fellow Christians, condescending towards those we know who are not of the Church, or who are walking a life of sin.

There is a certain pride that is acceptable and even good in the life of the Christian. It is referenced in Professor Engelsma’s pamphlet on the importance of good Christian self-esteem, where he points out that we have been chosen by (and are therefore precious to) God from eternity, and have been redeemed with the blood of our Lord, regenerated by the Holy Spirit. We have a pride, in our good and all-powerful Lord, who has worked salvation in us. It is a self-less and God-oriented pride, for absolutely none of this is our own doing. As we read in Psalm 103, we are as dust (vs.14-16). That same chapter reminds us that we have anything that we have only because of God’s everlasting mercy.  Therefore, we know that a condescending pride is what ill-suits a Christian.

Yet, still, it is easy to judge our neighbors. This could be anyone from the worker at the local gas station, to a professor in college, even to a classmate who is a fellow church member. Those around us do, after all, often appall us in their blatantly antichristian lives. We cannot deny that there are many around us who are living their lives in wretched sin. Or at least, even if their lifestyles aren’t so blatant, we can see that they have no heart for their Lord, or that they have a shaky faith.

Other times, too, we label sinners because of something they may represent, or because they apply to a point we are trying to make. For example, we may speak strongly and bitterly against certain heretics prevalent around us, because of their wrongs. Their names may become household talk. If it is done in any way that is not with a spirit love for that person, this is wrong.

We might see the sins of others, but we never know whom God has determined to save. Even the most horrible sinners, even the greatest opponents may be those who are numbered amongst God’s elect. We remember the apostle Paul; he was one of the greatest persecutors of the Church. One never would have guessed him to be of the body of Christ. But yet, it was in God’s plan to convert him. And even the thief on the cross, unbelieving his whole life, was told by Christ at the time of his death, “today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

It is God’s place to judge others (Matt. 7:1). Only he alone knows who he has chosen to save, regardless of the evidence their lives may give us. It is our duty as unknowing pilgrims here on this earth to follow the example of the Good Samaritan and love our neighbors (Luke 10:27).

But now, lest this sound like a proclamation of tolerance to sin, the flipside must be remembered. We are called to love the sinner, but to hate the sin. We ought not speak ill or hatred of our neighbor, for we do not know their eternal end, but we are called to speak against sin, for in loving God we hate what displeases him, and in loving our neighbor we seek their spiritual good. We don’t know God’s plan for each other, but we do know the corruption and vileness of sin–even those “small” and “acceptable” ones–and must eschew it. We hate the sin, because we love God and our neighbor, and sin is both detrimental to the neighbor (and ourselves!) and displeasing to our Lord. Any actions that we take then, or words that we speak, are to be at their heart released out of love for God and love for our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39).

Readers, let us love one another! Let us seek good for each other and those around us! Let us not let God’s name be defiled, or his commands trodden by those around us–let us defend the Word, but let our steps be directed to the glory of our God. And what an amazing God we have, that he has in his grace chosen to save even us!

ADV