Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
No I’m not referring to some sexual sin, or any other matter Christians can sometimes be silent on, but the sin of spiritual laziness or slothfulness, historically known as acedia, a sin which is rampant and largely unaddressed in contemporary Church culture.
In Cover to Cover we’re in the period of the Kings, which is characterized by this roller coaster of spirituality, sometimes a nearness to the Lord and the associated blessings and sometimes a departure from him and the related consequences.
As a pastor, zealous for the honour of the Lord, desirous that His people would glorify and enjoy Him, and that others would be led to do the same, it pains and even deeply grieves my heart when I see the sin of acedia in the world, but especially when it creeps into the visible church.
A past sermon on the ant in Proverbs 6:6–11 (July 27) taught us the vital spiritual lesson of Christian industry. The ant is our teacher on industry, initiative, purpose, and ultimate satisfaction or reward in our work. Like our Creator we were created to create. Like our God who is Spirit, we too are designed to be spiritual. Are we busy about our souls and winning and nurturing the souls of others? Do we have to be told, prompted or reminded to seek the Lord? Is He the sole purpose of our life? Are we storing up treasure in heaven? If we are like the ant—spiritually speaking—we will answer a hearty, “Yes.”
Do we take advantage of the spiritual means of grace that He has provided His people and Church?
Acedia is quite possibly the greatest sin of our age, yet its unspokeness makes it all the more dangerous.
If the seeking or worship of the Lord is our great call then not to be zealous in that pursuit, to not love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is indeed criminal and injurious to our soul.
Oh the joy that Christ has in store for His people if they would but, in faith, be spiritually industrious! Acedia breaks my heart every time I see an instance of it; yet to the contrary, when I see spiritual industry my joy is made complete for the joy the other knows through their obedience to Christ's promises and commands.
If you are zealous for the Lord would you please join me in making the Psalmist’s prayer your prayer:
Will you not revive us again, that your people may delight in you? (Ps 85:6)
 From the Greek, an inert state without pain or care.
 A means of grace is a way that God has appointed through which, when trusted in faith, the believer derives His unmerited favour, or untold spiritual benefits.
One of the undesirable consequences of Covid-19 for many churches and Christians has been the infrequency of which Communion, the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist has been remembered, celebrated, observed or taken.
How regularly should I taken Communion and why?
Some Christians take it weekly, others monthly (like us—the first a.m. service and third p.m. service), some quarterly and some even yearly.
What was the practice of the early Church?
Sadly, both ordinances of Baptism and Communion can be undervalued, however, below are 9 reasons why we ought to observe the Lord’s Supper and do so regularly:
It is hard to believe that August 19th marked one year since we arrived back in Ontario from the UK and August 30 will mark one year as residents of Grey County.
On Thursday I went on a retreat to reflect upon the past year as pastoral-elder of MBC—a great privilege—and also to pray about the way forward as Jennie (our border collie) and I hiked 20 km of the Bruce Trail around the Beaver Valley.
2019–20 represented a positive challenge: reintegrating into Ontario culture, saying farewell to our Chapel family but gaining a new one; preaching (including Cover to Cover); restarting weekly Life Groups, beginning an evening service; and, very importantly, getting to know the congregation through visitation. We also accomplished many property projects, some of which had been in view for a while and some of which were new initiatives.
We also navigated through Covid-19, one of the few churches in our area to livestream and keep the “doors” of the church open.
Added to all this teaching at Toronto Baptist Seminary, renovating an old farm house and raising a little boy, I can positively say this was all only possible with the help that comes from abiding in Christ, and from His people working together.
I pray that as we live out the Great Commandment and seek to fulfil the Great Commission over the next year we will be led mightily by the Holy Spirit, that He would make us know the way we should go, and that we will stand ready to do every good work that He calls us to.
What is forgiveness?
Many people have some very confused views on what forgiveness is and is not. For example, many think it is simply treating something as “water under the bridge” or “letting go.” These, and many other false notions, are not what forgiveness is. What then is forgiveness? Biblically, it must be understood in at least 4 different ways, but first we’ll consider its broad definition:
Forgiveness: If you asked Mr. Oxford it would say: “to stop feeling angry with somebody who has done something to harm, annoy or upset you.” I suppose the reason why so many people struggle to truly forgive someone in the world today is because on what basis can you do that? Forgiveness is very difficult. Older dictionaries have much more robust definitions: to grant, remit, pardon a debt, give up. In fact the old English word for forgive is a compound word that combines “completely” & “give.” As such older dictionaries defined the word as “to give up desire or power to punish.” This definition is at least heading in the right direction (and similar to the Greek- to send away, release, permit to depart, remit, etc), but again, upon what basis?
To build a definition of Biblical forgiveness, one must see the different contexts in which forgiveness is spoken of, along with the acts which it is based upon.
Seeking God’s forgiveness
Because we have offended God, dishonoured Him, profaned His holy Law, each human being stands in need of God’s forgiveness. Indeed, in light of this reality (Ro 3:23) we ought to actively pursue it. 1 Jn 1:9 stands as a faithful promise for all who would repent and seek God’s forgiveness:
If anyone sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:9).
Long before we speak about forgiveness amongst humans we need to recognize the forgiveness we stand in need of before God. This begins with repentance. No repentance no forgiveness.
Seeking other’s forgiveness
Scripture also makes clear our obligation to seek the forgiveness of others. Mt 5:23–24 says:
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Jesus never clarifies whether the brother has a right to be angry or not (i.e. whether you have done something wrong or not, however it is a reasonable conclusion. Reconciliation involves forgiveness, both the seeking and extending. We’re a hypocrite if we think we’re ok with God but aren’t ok with our neighbour John tells us, 1 Jn 4:20 (so far as it depends on us, Ro 12:18). If we know we’ve sinned we’re called to own up to it both to God and to others. In fact, in Mt 6:14–15 Jesus goes so far as to say not doing this will become an impediment to God forgiving us:
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
If we have been forgiven of our sins by God we will naturally forgive others, much.
(Still on what basis can we or God forgive?)
God’s forgiveness of sinners
Here we finally answer the question on what basis God can forgive a sinner. Eph 1:7 says:
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
God cannot wishfully pretend our sins away. Sin is real. For justice to be done sin must be atoned for. So for God to let go of the believer’s sins someone had to pay the price and that someone was Jesus (atonement means an act that enables us to become at one with God). Jesus needed to die the perfect death, His righteous blood needed to be shed so we might know life instead of death. He did this all out of sheer unmerited favour. Our need of forgiveness is so great no human work can suffice, only a work of God is capable of removing the sin of the penitent believer (and indeed in bringing us to that place).
Our forgiveness of others
This final exploration is perhaps most interesting. Upon what basis must I, as a believer, forgive someone else? After all we’re commanded to forgive others on the basis of the forgiveness we've received. (Mt 18:21-35; Eph 4:32).
Yet if our forgiveness cannot absolve them of their sin, what good is it and upon what basis is it offered? Here Romans 12:14–21 is most helpful. It reads:
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Our call to forgive and love our enemies and those who have done us harm (even forgiving those who do not ask for forgiveness) is not based upon our ability to forgive but in trust and obedience to Christ’s command and that He alone is judge and will execute justice upon the guilty. It is a call to stop playing Judge. Therefore, by entrusting the situation to Him—itself a work of the Spirit— we are enabled to have peace from anger, being liberated to live our lives and love others. It is in letting justice for the situation go to God, a giving of it away to His justice, that we see a glimpse of some of the older definitions of what forgiveness means and the benefit it brings to the one forgiving.
Through our withholding of forgiveness we often think we can inflict deserved harm upon those who’ve harmed us, yet ironically, it is only by forgiving that we can “heap burning coals upon their head.” Our higher road of faith in the Lord is the very thing that sinners will detest most, and we pray will be the thing that brings them to the repentance they so desperately need. All the while it liberates us from the weight of grudgery, which itself arises when our role as Judge is frustrated.
The radical nature of this forgiveness is vividly portrayed in the film The End of the Spear, which recounts the wives of slain missionaries continuing in their mission to reach the very tribe who murdered their husbands.
May the Lord help us seek His forgiveness, that of others, and also to extend forgiveness too.
This past Lord's Day I shared about troubling developments in another Baptist organization in Ontario, the CBOQ (Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec or Convention Baptists). This is the family of churches I grew up in yet, their doctrinal drift has troubled many evangelicals.
Paul Carter offers a helpful summary of what is going on within the denomination: https://ca.thegospelcoalition.org/columns/ad-fontes/what-in-the-world-is-going-on-with-the-cboq/
Last week I was blessed to have some time to work on house renos. Purchasing a fixer-upper of an old farm house has meant some very interesting renovation finds. This trend continued as I began renovating the old summer kitchen off of the back of the main house. While the main house was structurally sound and true (meaning level or straight), the old summer kitchen was another matter. A combination of a poor foundation, improper work on load bearing walls (all now fixed btw), etc, the centre of the summer kitchen bowed considerably meaning new level windows looked as if they were out (an optical allusion). To give you an idea of just how crooked the old summer kitchen was, its walls were 1” out of level on the vertical over 4 feet and the centre of the wall sagged 3–4” from the ends.
Every time I went to fix something I kept saying, “It shouldn’t be this way!”
The Bible says much about crookedness. It speaks of crooked speech, poverty as better than being crooked yet with great riches and of a crooked generation (Dt 32:5; Acts 2:40, 13:10; Phil 2:15). However, talk of “crookedness” usually refers to something or someone being out of plumb with God’s Law or intended design. It is twisted, perverted, crooked. This imagery is frequently employed in Wisdom literature. Three examples will suffice:
And like my summer kitchen, we look around at the world and see it too is crooked. It is not as it should be. Unlike my renovations which seek to mend or fix up an old structure, that is not the promise of the Gospel. In the Gospel, Jesus promises by His Spirit to make us new, to transform us—language far more powerful than a mere makeover or renovation. We need forgiveness for our crookedness and His Spirit’s renewing power, otherwise when the chief building inspector comes on that Great Day, with the measuring tape of His Law, who will be able to stand when His just judgement falls? Certainly not the crooked, they will collapse under the weight of His wrath. However, the righteous, the straight, the believer in Jesus, he will stand on that great day, Christ bearing Him up and being the righteousness he could never be.
May we look to Christ with the promise of being made straight and true in accordance with His truth.
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