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)
On a recent visit of our area nursing home a thoughtful resident said to me after the chapel service, “I can tell that your church isn’t a slack church. There are too many slack churches these days!” I perceived this lady had attended a mainline church in her day and witnessed it, and others like it, steadily decline due to slackness. (The tragedy is they had not always been slack). By slackness she meant faithful, true, devoted, committed to the Faith.
Many dying (and dead) churches are:
Healthy churches are:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We can over and under shoot in sports, hunting and when driving. All of these can be detrimental. What is more detrimental is when we over or undershoot in the presentation of the Gospel. What I mean is when we diminish the Gospel by limiting it or when we embellish it by enlarging it; when we bring the question of the extent of the atonement into its proclamation.
When this happens, I confess, my neck twitches, my skin crawls and my head shakes because of the biblical and theological imprecision both over and undershooting the Gospel reveals. (It is also insensitive to those Christians who hold a different view; rather let us be united in the Gospel).
I have met and heard (both historically and present day) of those who only preach the Gospel to God’s elect, or refrain from offering the Gospel or calling sinner’s to repent for fear of preaching to the unelect. (Yet we show we are among the elect by believing the Gospel!).
This paralyzes hearers from believing the Gospel because they are left wondering…
Though the Bible speaks about election, NO WHERE does it tie it to the Gospel in its proclamation.
I have met and heard (both historically and present day) of those who preach the Gospel and insist, even base it solely or rest it heavily upon, the claim that Christ died for everyone (in a specific sense) or that Christ died for you (in a specific sense, and that all you need to do to be saved is to realize this). (Certainly there is universal value in Christ’s death and the Gospel is to be published to everyone).
This immunizes hearers from truly believing the Gospel because they think they’re ok because of Christ’s death or because they passively accept this message.
Though the Bible speaks about the extent of the atonement, NO WHERE does it tie it to the Gospel in its proclamation.
What then is the Gospel? It is a message of repentance and faith rooted in the person and finished work of Jesus that offers forgiveness and eternal life. It, in itself, does not touch on the extent of the atonement. To do so is to overshoot and undershoot the biblical Gospel.
What is the difference between these two sins?
A variety of Greek words are rendered in English translations as gossip or slander. Two examples can both be conveniently found in one location: 2 Cor 12:20:
“For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarrelling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.”
Slander: to speak down to in a hostile way, to speak evil, defaming talk (here); or abusive language, slow in calling good good, litt. blasphemy (here). To make a false or damaging statement about someone. If from the pulpit I spoke militantly and poorly of someone then that is slander.
Gossip: secret whisperings (like a snake charmer) (here); or sometimes foolish talk (literally bubbling talk (here). Sharing casual or unconstrained reports about someone, without their consent, which may or may not be confirmed as true. If in my visitation I shared titbits about someone that was private knowledge that would be gossip.
Both may be true or false, however, slander tends to be more open/public whereas gossip tends to be private/covert. Hence why they are easily confused.
Each sin flows from our heart, or our nature (Mt 15:19); and speech sin is no small matter for through it our world is set ablaze (Ja 3:6).
If we persist in our sinfulness then speech sin is included in the list of sins that will prevent us from entering heaven (1 Cor 6:10, revilers, litt. verbal abusers). This is not because of the sin itself but because persistent sin shows that the Holy Spirit does not indwell us and that means we’ve never repented of our sin and received forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.
Oh may we repent of slander and gossip and so receive forgiveness to walk in freedom and the Spirit to help us to do so.
I recently had a fascinating conversation. It went like this.
I was chatting with some relatives. The subject was about something very old that had been refurbished. I made the remark, “It will last for another X years or until the Lord returns.” “That is a very odd statement,” came the reply, “I’ve never heard anyone say that before. What do you mean by that?” “It is a common Christian saying,” I replied simply. “I’ve never heard anyone say it,” came the reply from the person who has a Catholic background, “What do you mean by that?” Now, knowing the person would at least be familiar with the Apostles Creed, I said/cited, “Well, the Apostles Creed says Jesus will ‘come again, to judge the living and the dead.’” Rather than provoking more conversation this resulted in the person saying, “Ok, Chris, let’s stop being religious.” (Though I know they had been struck even by this truth).
Behind the surface discomfort with “religion” this individual was unnerved by at least 2 things: Jesus’ coming judgement, and [related] their own mortality.
The Bible says, “the wages of sin is death” (both physical and eternal) (Ro 6:23a).
Jesus' return, which is a glorious prospect to the believer, is a terror to the unbeliever, because they are ill prepared to meet the Judge.
Death is likewise a haunt because it foils our pride that believes we are immortal and ushers in Judgement.
People fear death and judgement. (And they mock us for reminding them of their deepest fear. However, when they do their conscience has been pricked and we need to pray for them).
The good news is this person, and the many unbelievers who live under this tumultuous burden, may have peace if they believe in the Gospel. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (Those who have become recipients of the love of God through faith in Jesus).
May they stop putting off the thought, seeking to suppress the reality, and repent and trust in Jesus today.
There is a big difference between falling into a puddle of sin and swimming in a pool of sewage.
This is the difference John draws as he speaks of perseverance: the possibility of believers to temporarily/occasionally fall into sin; and the persistent unrepentant sin unbelievers/false professors are pleased to remain in.
Speaking of puddles John acknowledges the reality for saints, that as sinners, we may still sin. This is why he speaks not only of once for all legal forgiveness (1:9) but also ongoing relational forgiveness (2:1).
Speaking of pools of sewage John says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practise the truth” (1 Jn 1:6) and “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 Jn 3:6).
If you are swimming in sewage, repent!
If you’ve fallen in a puddle, repent!
1 John is full of 30+ tests of assurance to see whether we are in Christ (that you may know, 1 Jn 5:13).
To read more on perseverance see here.
‘Salvation is of the Lord’ is a common phrase found throughout the Bible to express that God is the author and primary agent in rescuing lost sinners (e.g. Jon 2:9; Ps 3:8, 62:1). Phil 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” Because salvation is of the Lord we can have confidence in faith and assurance in life. He planned it, provided His Son and applies this work by His Spirit who then keeps us and sanctifies us until the end. While God is the primary agent in salvation that does not negate that our faith (itself a gift, 2 Pet 1:1; Phil 1:29; Acts 3:16) is a real and meaningful choice or active trust in the finished work of God (otherwise faith is a work and adds to salvation).
In light of that consider how Paul saw his conversion:
“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me” (Gal 1:15–16)
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Phil 3:2)
Compare this “the Lord saved me” lingo with how conversion is often described today:
I got/was saved; I accepted Christ; I made a personal decision for Jesus; I gave my life to the Lord; I welcomed Jesus into my heart…
Again, this is not entirely untrue but do you see where the emphasis is=ME.
If salvation is ‘of the Lord’ let us honour Him in our gratitude by giving credit where credit is due.
[This talk was not recorded due to its discursive nature. It was also timely given the juncture we are at as a congregation.]
Q- Who or what do you think of when you hear the word “leadership”?
But I’m not a leader! (We may not all be called to lead in a formal sense but we are all called to leadership [just as those without the gift of hospitality or evangelism can still show hospitality or share the Gospel]. We often demonstrate leadership without knowing it; a child leading the others by suggesting they should clean up; a man noticing something should be done and then volunteering to lead others to do it; moral example, etc).
Definition (among many): [Spiritual] leadership is moving people unto God’s agenda [or will]—Blackaby.
Men have an innate call to display leadership.
Q- How did Adam exercise leadership? (Eve his helper, naming the animals, fulfilling Creation commands)
Q- What happens when men don’t lead? (women do; nothing gets done; families don’t thrive, etc).
Q-Why don’t men lead? (women do, no incentive or challenge, laziness, discouraged)
A biblical call to spiritual leadership: Ezk 22:30, “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” Ezekiel was among the first wave of exiles from Judah to Babylon. Missing his call as a priest he was called as a prophet. As God showed him visions of the spiritual corruption back in Jerusalem the LORD called him to prophesy against the city. In a courtroom scene in ch. 22 he said from among the priests and princes, etc, no spiritual leader, no man, could be found to fill the moral void in the spiritual wall around Jerusalem and thereby avert his wrath. The city was godless.
God wants men to take spiritual leadership in their homes, churches, communities, etc, for the benefit of others.
What typifies leadership in the Bible: F.A.I.T.H.
Acknowledgement (or responsibility)
Humility (before God and others)
Let us be men who rise to stand in the gap!
As March dawns I admit that I am itching to get back out into the garden. Flowers are such a delightful pleasure of God’s creation, a true gift of colour and joy. During the winter we can enjoy cut flowers, however, their beauty is temporary and fleeting. They only last so long. By contrast real flowers continue long in bloom and perennials return every year afresh to bless us once more.
There are many in our contemporary Canadian culture (itself being refashioned as we speak) who believe that our Christian past is a total blight and embarrassment to our national identity. It is a something to be reinvented and forgot rather than cherished and preserved. Recent studies show an increasing majority of Canadians see religion as a negative force, with only some 34% seeing Christianity as a positive element of society. There are some who even champion the idea that we must finally cut ourselves off from our Christian past to secure the bright dawn of a progressive future.
C.S. Lewis suggested that when one had gone down the wrong path the most progressive thing to do was to reverse and then progress down the true path (c.f. Jer 6:16–17). As Canada has become, and continues to become, more post-Christian, some non-Christian leaders have urged restraint in jettisoning our heritage because they recognize the immense value it has and that our country couldn’t existentially be what it is without it.
This is wise wisdom because Christianity gave us the very essence of what has made Canada such a glorious land. As we’ve slipped and then rushed away from this heritage we risk, well, everything. We are, you might say, living on borrowed time. To put it another way, the present generation is very much living off the merits of past generations. We still have some semblance of life but we are losing our bloom as we die a slow death. We are a cut flower society. We are cut off from the very roots that gave us life.
Consider what Christianity gave us and what it might look like without these values:
May society repent and see the worth of Christian values and the Lord who stands behind them ready to forgive and renew (Acts 3:19).
May the faithful remnant of Canadian Christians have a preserving and savoury effect as the salt of this land (Mt 5:13).
In recent decades our country has done a 180 in what it values and believes. Usually this has been for ill. When we exchange God for self “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” (Judges). Truly as a result we now often “call good evil and evil good.” (Isa 5:20).
If you don’t think we’ve done a 180 consider some of the following changes:
To our culture the Lord says, repent and return to me, to know times of refreshing (c.f. Acts 3:19).
To Christians He bids us to stand on His Word and not become “like the nations around us” (c.f. 1 Sam 8:20), all the while loving the lost and hopefully sharing the Gospel. It is the Gospel alone that can reverse our course so we call good ‘good’ and evil ‘evil’ once again.
Over the weekend I was afforded an opportunity to be in a number of different church settings across southern Ontario as I taught and preached. Ranging from Toronto to Windsor, urban and rural, worship and classroom, I was blessed to experience something of what God is doing in Ontario.
Though class sizes at some seminaries remains low because of post-Covid dynamics and demographic trends in education, there are still those who are preparing for ministry via seminary. In Toronto this has a very international feel. One student, from Malaysia, is planning on returning there to minister amongst the predominantly Muslim population. The church is Ontario is connected with the uttermost parts of the earth, both in receiving and sending. God is globalizing His Church.
On the Lord’s Day I was able to preach at a church I had previously pastored in rural Ontario. When I transitioned to a new ministry the church was struggling to deal with carnal individuals who had too long persisted in the congregation (c.f. Eph 4). Since those individuals have ceased to be part of that congregation my friend, who now pastors there, has seen what liberty follows such a happy change. I preached beside the church in a large tent to 200+ people as the church building cannot contain the number of people who have come to Christ (largely from a nominally Christian population group in the community). God is building His Church.
That evening I was speaking at an induction service in Windsor. It was a medium sized urban congregation that, following a wider trend, is moving away from being seeker sensitive and more liberal, to one that is much more robust, healthy and evangelical—this led primarily by the younger generations. It was a joy to be a part of that by offering a biblically grounded charge to the new pastor, congregation and lost amongst them. God is renewing His Church.
On Monday I was back in Toronto speaking to a group of pastors on the “unknown Baptist minister,” Robert Hall Sr. of Arnsby (1728–1791). There was much in his story that was a challenge and encouragement to the brothers (and sisters) gathered there. One of these was to a missionary couple to Asia from Mexico who were visiting Toronto who will now take the lessons from Hall Sr. back to their villages. In spite of the encouragement from the workers from Mexico, one prayer request from the pastors present, i.e. not something unique to our church, is the need for workers. The harvest is plentiful but the labourers in Ontario are few (c.f. Mt 9:37). Not only do we need more young people prepared for ministry in seminary, etc, there is a direct need in the number of older Gospel workers approaching retirement. This is a real and present need; yet God is preparing His Church.
There are many things the church faces in Ontario but there are many things that make this an exciting time in which to serve the Lord. Let us go forward into the unknown in a spirit of faith and boldness and Word-centredness as the early Church did (Acts 4:31).
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