Seeing the Blessing of Being Shown Our Sin
Good Morning from Atlanta!
I’m on my second (and last) big trip of the Fall. In some ways this giant megalopolis is as different from Clover as Namibia was, to be honest. This week I’ll be part of the delegation representing the ARP at the annual meeting of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council. Each member of NAPARC takes turns hosting and for 2022 that means it is the Presbyterian Church in America’s place in the rotation, which is why it is in the capital of Coca-Cola. There are so many advantages to the ARP being involved in an organization made up of fraternal brothers committed to the Reformed faith and proclaiming the Biblical gospel. It is a week of encouraging one another, hearing how the Spirit is at work in Canada and the United States, and praying with fellow Christian leaders as reports are made about the struggles native to the work of the Church. Fellowship is the secret ingredient which makes the faith of believer grow in strength and purpose. We forsake it at our own detriment. We need it for life.
Yet there is something even more important about these kinds of meetings and it is the way that honest brotherhood establishes the ability for iron to sharpen iron. We all got problems, things we need to work on, and places where we can each be sanctified to be more like our savior. One of the things I liked about ICRC, and is also true about NAPARC, is the way no one is here putting on airs. Regardless of how “big” our churches are the reason for their existence is the same, whether they have four thousand ministers or six: To preach Christ and Him Crucified. Any way that we can help one another do better at that must be seen as a net positive. For our prayer and worship help today we are going to think a little bit about why it is vital that we never forget the importance of ensuring that we as the universal church are never too high and mighty to not be able/willing to receive correction where it is warranted. None of us are without the need of being lovingly shown our sin and brought into greater conformity to the word of God.
Our Lord Jesus in the beginning of Matthew 16 has just completed feeding the four thousand and then we see Him immediately confronted by the Pharisees and Sadducees as they seek to frustrate Christ’s mission. Intermixed in these interruptions is a warning and a rebuke to the disciples to beware of the “leaven” of these false teachers. Now what is “leaven”? Leaven is an outside substance that is placed in dough that causes it to rise. Why would Jesus use this particular illustration to help the disciples understand the problems that are caused by the Pharisees and Sadducees? The primary difficulty that these men pose to the disciples is that they have introduced things not commanded by God into the worship and life of the people of God. They have, by their introduction of these “outside” substances, added “leaven” to what the word of God teaches. The Sadducees and Pharisees had both violated the prescription of Deuteronomy 12:32, that they were neither to take away (as the Sadducees had done in denying the resurrection) nor add to (as the Pharisees had done with their unbiblical traditions) the Bible. Jesus is warning the disciples to stay away from those who either dismiss aspects of the Bible that they do not like or those who, by their own idea of wisdom, add to what God has declared in His Word. We must be very careful to check everything that we hear by the testimony of the Word of God and by the confessions that we as a Presbyterian Church have agreed to in order to ensure that we are protected from the leaven of unrighteous teaching.
Now, remember what I said before about humbly being willing to be corrected where needed? How did the Pharisees and Sadducees react when Jesus brought their sinfulness to their personal notice? They got angry, defensive, and eventually sought to shut the mouth of the man who was sticking His nose where they felt like it didn’t belong. Let’s step back for a second. Why was our Lord prophesying against their sin? Why does Jesus do anything? Because He loved them. He desired their best and sought through the application of God’s Bible to their lives that these men who sought holiness through false means would see their folly, repent, and get back on the straight and narrow path. Thankfully not everyone whom Christ called out acted in the way that the members of the Sanhedrin did. The Apostle Paul, Zaccheus, the woman caught in adultery, etc… all in their own way listened and turned away from those things, whether they be as serious as Paul’s murdering the very sheep of Jesus or just Zaccheus’s old-fashioned tax scheming. The Holy Spirit working through the preaching of the word laid conviction on the heart, and then using that heartfelt knowledge of sin, showed them their redeemer’s shed blood, and they responded with grace and love of their own. Zaccheus returned four-fold that which he stole, Paul spent the rest of his life telling everyone he could about what Jesus had done for Him. There was no resentment, no anger, no vitriol directed towards the man from Nazareth, unlike what He heard from those who were unwilling to part with their transgressions and came up with all kinds of excuses as to why they couldn’t go all the way with what Christ had blessedly brought to their attention.
So what is a believer to do in light of all of these things?
Simply, they must forsake themselves and follow their Lord in His Scriptures. They must be willing to examined closely by the Spirit and His Word, applied by His ministers. If we come to church, or even to fellowship believing ourselves beyond reproach then we are of all people most to be pitied, for we are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. We have much need to cleansed from our own iniquity and live more and more as our Redeemer. At the end of the prayer and worship help today I hope we’ve considered these teachings, and come to grips with the reality of the situation. Do not be afraid to repent. For it is the fruit of love and humility found in the home grace of life in Christ.
Here’s another word:
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church