From the Sunday August 9, 2020 liturgy
The Psalm writer wrote: Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. As we come before a Holy God and hear his word, may we have eyes open to the wonderful and fearful things from his law. May it move us to repent and seek forgiveness, fear disobedience, and live in light of the grace we have received. This is the word of God. It is eternally true and applicable for all of life.
Proverbs 20:21-30 An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning Will not be blessed in the end. Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you. Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, And a false scale is not good. Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, How then can man understand his way? It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry. A wise king winnows the wicked, And drives the threshing wheel over them. The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness. The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair. Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts.
There were never stripes so cleansing as those which slammed into the body of our Lord Jesus Christ as He was scourged in preparation for His crucifixion. Never were there strokes so penetrating as those which were delivered to the frame of our Lord. Isaiah prophesied that by His stripes, we are healed. By the beatings, the wounds, the nails, and ultimately the Father's wrath poured out upon Him, Jesus endured the cross that only He could bear, to take the punishment that His people, you and I, deserved.
Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts.
The Lord disciplines the son whom he loves, and if there is no discipline, the one who claims God as Father is an illegitimate son. Fiery trials, Godly sorrow, tribulations, and the conviction of sin wrought by the preaching of God's Word through the power of the Holy Ghost, are all ways in which our Heavenly Father disciplines His children.
Generally, we do not like discipline. It is painful and humbling. Godly discipline alters the trajectory of our lives, disrupts our worldview, and inserts conflict into our peaceful existence. His Word corrects our course from the broad path of destruction, where feelings, lusts, passions, and opinions govern us, to a path which runs through the straight gate, a narrow path governed by God's Law, where all our thoughts, words, and deeds are brought into subjection to Him.
Godly discipline, which frequently produces godly sorrow, is meant not to harm, not to deprive, not to limit, but to lead to repentance and a right relationship with God. Only when we are in a right relationship with Him, can we claim to be free. Only in a right relationship with Him can we truly lay hold of the abundant life spoken of by Jesus.
Godly discipline applied to the child of God has a sanctifying effect, stripping away our pride, helping us to recognize our utter dependence upon Jesus for everything: the breath in our lungs, our food, shelter, and other provisions, our health, our freedom, our country, our families, and ultimately, our salvation. It has been granted to us not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for His namesake. This suffering is discipline, whether disease, pandemic, persecution, want, or godly sorrow weighing upon your conscience as His Word convicts you of sin, and is meant to conform us to his image as we persevere in faith, overcoming by the blood of the lamb.
There is a warning in scripture which speaks directly to us who have received a knowledge of the truth, those who are being disciplined by God: do not harden your hearts. Do not harden your hearts. Hearts which are unresponsive to God's Word and discipline, hearts which are numb and indifferent to God's commands, apathetic hearts, and hearts which believe that the warnings from God's word are meant only for those people "out there", be warned: many a hardened heart have been smashed upon the anvil of God's Word.
Proverbs 19:20 tells us to discipline our sons while there is hope. The implication is, there comes a time in the life of men, women, boys, and girls in which attempts to discipline and correct may be past the point of hope. There comes a time in the life of many when seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years of idolatry, and repeated rejection of God's Word, ends with the rebel being given over to a depraved mind to do things they know they ought not do, things worthy of death.
Where might you be hardened against God's discipline?
Do you pick and choose which parts of God's word you will obey, the parts that go down smooth and easy, and neglect the costly commands. Perhaps you distort God's Word, taking a command such as "do unto others", and use it to compromise on sin, vowing to never make someone feel bad about their sin, or shame them, because you don't like it when people make you feel bad. So, instead of shining the light of Christ, you lovingly leave people trapped in their sin with no hope.
As is the case of many, maybe you have crafted an image of Christ which is false. Your Jesus miraculously permits you to live however your heart desires. This Jesus of your imagination winds up being subservient to you, conformed to your image, rather than you being made a new creation, reflecting Him. Bending His Word to your will, you avoid any painful discipline, chalking up things like shame and guilt to the "mean old God of the Old Testament". Without realizing it your rejection of God's discipline has made you a hypocrite.
Abortion is wicked, yet you emotionally abandon your children.
You declare homosexuality to be evil, which it is, all the while swimming in a sea of sexual immorality.
You spend countless hours rummaging through social media, blog posts,news outlets, and the dark underbelly of the internet, hiding the conspiracy theory word in your heart that you might not sin against the alt-right gods, as you scheme and plot in the dark recesses of your heart where only God can see, about how you might indulge in sin without anyone else knowing.
Have any of these rebukes found their mark? Let me offer you some encouragement from God's Word before we pray.
“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves. So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal."
Brothers and sisters, let us repent where we have rejected and despised the discipline of the LORD.
If you are able, please kneel as we confess our sins to Almighty God Who is Holy, Holy, Holy.
O GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT,
Thou who dost proceed from the Father
and the Son,
have mercy on me.
When thou didst first hover over chaos,
order came to birth,
beauty robed the world, fruitfulness sprang forth.
Move, I pray thee, upon my disordered heart;
Take away the infirmities of unruly desires
and hateful lusts;
Lift the mists and darkness of unbelief;
Brighten my soul with the pure light of truth;
Make it fragrant as the garden of paradise,
rich with every goodly fruit,
beautiful with heavenly grace,
radiant with rays of divine light.
Fulfil in me the glory of thy divine offices;
Be my comforter, light, guide, sanctifier;
Take of the things of Christ and show them
to my soul;
Through thee may I daily learn more of his love,
grace, compassion, faithfulness, beauty;
Lead me to the cross and show me his wounds,
the hateful nature of evil, the power of Satan;
May I there see my sins as
the nails that transfixed him,
the cords that bound him,
the thorns that tore him,
the sword that pierced him.
Help me to find in his death the reality
and immensity of his love.
Open for me the wondrous volumes of truth
in his, ‘It is finished’.
Increase my faith in the clear knowledge of
atonement achieved, expiation completed,
satisfaction made, guilt done away,
my debt paid, my sins forgiven,
my person redeemed, my soul saved,
hell vanquished, heaven opened,
eternity made mine.
O Holy Spirit, deepen in me these saving lessons.
Write them upon my heart, that my walk be
sin-loathing, sin-fleeing, Christ-loving;
And suffer no devil’s device to beguile
or deceive me.
(From the Valley of Vision, titled "The Spirit's work")
Please stand and listen to the comforting assurance of the grace of God, promised in the gospel to all that believe:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10
To all those who thus repent and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lift up your hearts!