Call to Confession
Reformed theology is unique among the different strands of Christian belief because we have a particularly low view of man and our depravity.
We will often confess that man is morally incapable of doing anything good apart from God’s grace. But that is not all that we will say. Reformed theology goes further to confess that man is wholly dependent upon God to restrain us from perpetrating the full potential of our evil. In other words, we are not as bad as we could be—and that is only because God is actively holding us in check and preventing us from further sin.
This doctrine is found in many places in Scripture. For instance, in Genesis 20 we read about how Abraham gave his wife to Abimelech. And it says that God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah. The idea is that God restrained Abimelech and prevented him from doing what he had every intention of doing with Sarah.
This past week in our Sunday evening study we came across that passage in David’s life where he was snubbed by the wicked man named Nabal. We read how his wife, Abigail, ran out to meet David and attempted to keep him from coming and slaughtering Nabal’s household. And in that passage it says that the Lord prevented David from doing that.
We could cite a number of New Testament passages as well. The foremost among them is Romans 1, where it says that “God gave them over to their sinful desires.” The idea there is that God punishes us by removing his hand and the restraints he places on our evil propensity.
Well, this morning I wish to lead us in a prayer of repentance, and I will be dealing with this theme of God’s gracious restraint. So I’d ask that you bow your heads and agree with me in prayer as we come before the Lord.
Confession of Sin
Apart from you we can do nothing. And before you we are nothing. For we are sinners who are desperately lost and powerless in and of ourselves to rectify our moral condition.
Father, we confess that, were it not for your restraining hand, we would have long ago plunged headlong into every sort of grave and grievous sin. Yea, had you not held our nature in check we would have destroyed ourselves, our neighbors, and every good thing in our path. For we do not just have a vulnerability for being tempted, but we are predisposed by nature to all that is evil and we do earnestly yearn for the vile pits of ruin and misery.
Lord, we thank you that you have not let our depravity follow its natural course nor let it escalate to its full potential.
And this day we do confess our desperate need for your pardon and saving power. Our sins will not be diminished in one least bit if you do not intervene and renew us in righteousness. We can no more change our heart’s disposition than a leopard change his spots. Our only hope of reformation lies in the effectual power of your grace and the inward working of your Holy Spirit.
So we pray that your mercies may fall upon us and quicken us. Put to death what is unrighteous in us and bring to life any and all godly affections. May you, through the shed blood of our Dear Savior, forgive all our thoughts, words, and deeds that have violated your law, and may you crucify them there with Christ once and for all.
God we know that even this prayer does not find its origin in us. That we even look heavenward is owing to your kindness. And we count it but a token of what you may do to revive us in newness of life.
We only ask that you would continue to override our hearts and let the Spirit of grace rule in us.
Assurance of Pardon
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8
If I ever was asked what tips I would give regarding preaching, topping the list would be sex. Sex helps a man in so many ways. In particular, it gives him clarity of mind. Sexual satisfaction provides a man with a much needed release that allows him greater focus. It may sound like some new age cult when I say this, but it puts a man back in "balance."
Over the years, my wife and I have found that, as a result, sex makes preaching and sermon preparation much easier and... (pun not intended)... stimulating. And I would assume that this applies to the productivity of any man in any line of work.
All this is to say that women need to be aware of how much men need regular sexual fulfilment.
I've written before about Keeping the Marriage Bed Hot (not to mention the sermons I've preached on the topic). I've even dedicated a whole church newsletter to the topic.
But recently my wife forwarded me a couple articles she found on her blog reading list which have to do with the wife's duty to her husband sexually. Specifically, they deal with stirring up the desire even though she is fatigued after a day of wifing and mothering. My wife said they should be kept on hand for marriage counseling purposes. But I link them here for your reading (pun intended...) pleasure:
I just had some JW's come to my door. I have to say I enjoy the Mormons much more. The JW ladies lied to me, insulted me, and were not in the least bit interested in a back and forth interaction. They accused me of being "divisive" and unChrist like because I 1) called them out on their deception and 2) took them to Scriptures in their own Bibles that proved what they said was wrong.
If anyone should have thrown insults it should have been me. I pointed out various times how they lied to me and tried to use deceptive language about Christ in order to trick me. For instance, they first said that Jesus was god (making it sound like he is equal to the Father). Then they said that Jesus was just a god. Then they said that Jesus was not god (making it sound like he had no divinity at all). Then they said that Jesus was merely the Son of God.
Well, which is it ladies? I'll tell you which it is: It is all a lie and you are intentionally trying to deceive. People who have truth need no use of cunning schemes and double talk.
The truth is powerful enough and speaks for itself.
I'll be meeting with my local mormon missionaries once again today. I typed up a synopsis of the foolishness of Mormonism that I have found and thought I would share it here (Printable version of the Folly of Mormonism).
Questions regarding epistemology (i.e. the nature of truth & its origin; or how do we know what we know?)
1. According to what you said, the nature of truth is subjective in that it needs to be confirmed by the Holy Spirit. So, we cannot know that 2+2=4 without the Spirit’s confirmation (i.e. burning in the bosom). You then said that 2+2=4 is “man’s truth” rather than God’s truth. My response is twofold: A) Is not all truth God’s truth? B) Is not man’s truth supposed to be opposed to God’s truth? And does that not make it by nature wrong?
2. Your religion is built on a verse of the Bible, James 1:5, which you say could be wrong because the Bible has been corrupted. You refute your own religion with your own Scriptures.
Questions of a theological nature
3. In the “great apostasy” the word of your god supposedly became corrupted and thus needed to be corrected when J. Smith came along. This shows that your god was not able to preserve as perfect his own word (i.e. the Bible), and denies the fact that his word is supposed to “endure forever” (1 Peter 2:25) and be “perfect” (Psalm 19:7). This shows too that the “gates of hell did prevail” which Christ promised would not happen.
Moreover, it reflects badly on your god, in that he allows man to make a mockery of his word (and what is supposed to be a perfect reflection of his character).
4. Where is your god? So far, you have not been able to give me a definite answer on this. The only semi-positive answer I’ve got is that he has a body and is somewhere. This, however, means he cannot fulfill the promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
5. Your religion cannot explain Col. 1:17, where “In him [i.e. Jesus] all things hold together.” Being that Jesus is limited to a body he cannot hold all things together (as a jar holds water together).
Questions regarding metaphysics (i.e. the nature of the universe; what is the nature of reality?)
6. You cannot explain the philosophical dilemma known as “The one and the many.” How can we have two entirely different chairs (such as a desk chair and a lazy boy recliner) and still know that, despite their differences, they are both chairs. Christianity explains this easily with the fact that God himself is oneness and plurality.
Questions regarding the Book of Mormon
Regarding “the Testimony of Three” and “the Testimony of Eight.”
Why do we need these testimonies? Why can’t all testify by going and reading the plates? Doesn't it seem shady that they were taken away?
More than that, why must we trust a few sinful men who say they translated it? Why is your god so secretive about these things? If they are so important, should he not allow them to be accessible to all?
The Christian Bible has thousands of copies of the original Greek and Hebrew. Comparing them reveals very few differences (all of which can be easily reconciled), and not one difference in the copies affects any one particular doctrine of the faith. Moreover, anyone can access it and understand them by normal processes (that is to say, they don’t need special glasses, all they have to do is learn the original languages).
From Ian Murry's biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
One day some of Lloyd-Jones' congregation members were talking about the message they heard him preach the Sunday before in a local pub. An eavesdropper overheard their conversation and soonafter was converted himself.
The Word of God may have been heard second hand, but it was still the unbound word.
Someone asked me the 10 books that have most influenced me the most in life. Besides the Bible, that list would include...
1. Hank Handegraph's Counterfeit Revival
2. Jonathan Edward's Religious Affections (I had a little Pentecostal bent in my early years)
3. The Biographies of George Whitfield by Dallimore & Ryle
4. RJ Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law
5. The Westminster Confession and the Larger & Shorter Catechisms (with Vos',Ridgely's Williamson's commentaries).
6. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sydney Greidanus
7. Christ Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapel
8. What is Reformed Theology? by RC Sproul
9. The Trinity Hymnal
10. The PCA book of Church Order. (Yes. It was that life changing.)
Other important books include...
The biography of John Knox entitled Trumpeter of God.
Berkhof's Systematic Theology
Matthew Henry's Commentary
Charles Bridge's Commentary on the Book of Proverbs
Joel Osteen's Your Best Life Now (just kidding. Wanted to see if you were paying attention)
The sermons of Alistair Begg, George Robertson, and Adrian Rogers (not a book, but very much formative)
James 3:2 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways.”
It is that last part that I would like you to take note of. “We all stumble in many ways.” James employs a metaphor here to describe our sinfulness. When he says we "stumble in many ways" he is likening our lives to someone who is perpetually tripping over things and falling down.
Understanding what is said here is good because t helps us to understand how much sin is a part of our lives.
When it comes to the law of God, we are all clumsy fools. We are constantly blundering about and lacking any sort of spiritual agility or elegance.
In all reality, our lives might be compared to an episode of the Three Stooges or some other slapstick comedy. If it were not so terribly sad, it might be funny because of how klutzy we are spiritually. James says we stumble in many ways, and the idea is that you have a guy who is so clumsy that he trips over one thing, and—as soon as he regains his composure—he tumbles over something else. It’s just this constant roll of bloopers.
Perhaps you can even see this in your own life. Even on a good day you’ll see how there was a long list of sins (pride, coveting, your spiteful or mean spirited). Or, you might have caught yourself doing something right after you got done repenting of it!
It is true that every intention of our hearts is only evil continually. And for this reason we must come before the Lord and seek his grace. Let us pray.
Father in Heaven,
We confess that we do not deserve the least good thing, but indeed we have forfeited all rights to your benefits by virtue of our sins and shortcomings. We recognize that hell ought to receive us and the pains of eternal damnation should fall upon us because of the guilt we have incurred through our having violated your law.
We confess that we are sinners before you and we acknowledge the depth of the corruption. Our iniquity is both frequent and willful. It has been conceived within the dark chambers of our hearts. It has festered in the foul halls of our minds. And like vomit it has cascaded forth to our public deeds.
To be sure, there has been a perpetual flow to our offenses and we continue to heap hot coals upon our heads by the works of our flesh.
And it is because we have no merit of our own of which to speak that we come to you. We cast ourselves upon your mercies and rest ourselves solely in the promise of your Son, who was crucified for sinners and condemned in his flesh.
Father we plead the blood of Calvary, and cling to the offer of salvation that is in him. And we ask that you would by no means cast us out. But let instead our guilt be taken away and may you cause our sin to fall from us like dead branches lopped off, for we do sorrow and mourn our ungodly waywardness and the evil that we do.
Hear us as we pray, not for our sake, but only for the sake of Christ and the glory he receives through it. Amen
Kindled Fire is dedicated
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.