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I was examining Hebrews 10 this morning and was moved again by vv24-25: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Now, for clarification, the phrase “assembling together” is the word episunagoge, and it simply means “to gather together at one place”….and not as a solitary instance, mind you. Rather, episunagoge refers to the regular and common gathering together of God’s people for corporate worship or related activity.  Further, the writer to the Hebrews makes it a point to call attention to the fact that it had become “…the habit of some” to forsake this gathering.  “Forsaking”, as you might have guessed, means simply to abandon….so that the force of the meaning here is that it had become the habit of some professing believers to abandon, to some degree, the regular gathering together of God’s people for corporate worship and activity.  In doing so, as the writer tells us, such Christians actually abandon their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Even more dreadful, by forsaking the gathering of the brethren, they actually betray their attachment to the Lord Jesus Christ by having avoided their personal responsibility and duty to be continuous, regular, and active influences in the body of Christ. 

In short, the Christian’s neglect to gather consistently with that assembly to which God has entrusted him/her is a shameful departure from the word of God, and a gross demonstration of selfishness.  After all, a selfish heart finds it rather easy to neglect our assembling together because, by definition, a selfish person’s only perceived duty is to that which gratifies himself.   And therein lies the cancer, beloved.  Those who only occasionally or inconsistently assemble with God’s people haven’t an adequate concept of duty to Christ, and therefore, haven’t an adequate concept of commitment to His body, the church.  They’ve lost sight somewhere of the realities of their “…entrance into the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (v19).  That is to say that when a person commonly forsakes the meeting of the saints, it is a sure sign of declining faith; the fruit of which is a decaying love for God’s people.

Now, there are legitimate reasons (though few) that may interrupt one’s participation in the assembling of the saints. “Being tired” for failure to adequately order the previous day’s events is not one of them.  The Lord’s Day may bring may bring 65 degrees under partly cloudy skies…..excellent conditions for a round of golf, to be sure….but a miserable excuse for failing to “…devote yourself to fellowship” (Acts 2).  The committed, invested, dutiful, and godly life requires a great measure of prioritization and discipline.  The Apostle Paul gave a similar exhortation to Timothy, stating “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim 4), which means to say that we are to refuse those things that hinder our effectiveness, and influence for the Lord.  Secondly, it requires that precepts like “…not forsaking our assembling together” become the structure around which we build a disciplined, productive, influential Christian life. 

Listen, godly influence cannot emanate from a low view of Christ. To love Christ is to love His Church.  Therefore to be a consistent participant in our assembling together requires an attitude of committed service and duty born out of a love for both.  Such love, the writer to the Hebrews states, “…consider[s] how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds…..and encouraging one another” (vv24-25).  Love and good deeds are the very fruit that God wants to see manifested in His people.  And note, the context here implies that we influence in this way most effectively when we are….what? In the presence of “one another”.  Paul echoes this same sentiment in Romans 1 where he says “I long to see you, so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, so that you may be established and I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine” (vv11-12).  Paul’s great desire was to be among God’s people.  Why? So that he might be used as an instrument for their continued edification and fruit-bearing.  Rest assured, Paul was selfless, and subsequently would allow very little to hinder his communing with the saints.  Paul was always “considering” the means by which he could contribute to and stimulate the sanctification of his brothers and sisters in Christ.   That is exactly the message to the Hebrews.  Let me tell you – The “Legacians” ought to commit to the same.  That is, we ought to commit ourselves to being expended for God’s people, and to resist anything; any trifle activity that would only serve to disrupt our duty and influence among the people of God.  

Hebrews 10 closes with the exhortation that believers assemble in order to encourage one another “…as you see the day drawing near” (v25).  This is a reference to the return of Christ, and is a clear call that we invest ourselves in assembling with and influencing the people of God, by His Spirit, in light of the fact that Christ’s return is imminent.  Let me ask you:  When you depart this transitory world will you repent of having been TOO devoted to the body of Christ? Do you think you’ll wish you had taken more opportunity to sleep-in, swing a golf club, chase a few deer, or be preoccupied by some other vain amusement for that matter? If not, then on the next trifle occasion that tempts you to “…abandon our forsaking together” ask yourself which activity will yield the greatest benefit to God’s people, and spend it in that way. 

Remember that every gathering that passes is one less for you to influence, and one more to account for.  Do you believe Christ is present with His assembled disciples? Thus believing, is it your position that you may neglect to be present with them? Do we not assemble for worship, and for prayer, for hearing of the Word, and to commemorate the dying love of Christ at His table? Which of these deserve to be neglected?  And yet, all are by those who would forsake assembling with God’s people.

Grace to you,

Jeremy

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Loving Confrontation

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” (Matt 18:15a).

I’ve become convinced over time, and after observation, that this edict given by the Lord Jesus may be the most important in all the pages of Scripture for the promotion and restoration of peace and harmony among the people of God.  In fact, I will state rather dogmatically that were this protocol regarded as it ought to be, the sparks of contention and strife among believers would be hastily extinguished and diffused in almost all cases.  Conversely, abstinence from this simple principle can and does subvert peace, corrode a church, and invalidate her witness like no other influence.  “If your brother sins against you, let him know…and do it in private.”  That’s the force of the meaning here. 

Simple, isn’t it?  Yet, remarkably, rather than abiding by this clarion (and imperative) protocol, the vast majority of those professing Christ live and behave among God’s people as though no such protocol existed.  And rather than discussing an injury directly and in private (“alone” – NAS), in the Spirit of Christ, with an offending brother or sister, some will broadcast the injury widely for it to become infested with a thousand exaggerations as it is advanced from willing ear to willing ear.  As if that weren’t bad enough, evil reports concerning the person who gave the offense begin to circulate, and the injured believer drinks each one in like water; giddy with whatever reports might further indict the offender, and all-too-diligent to further spread those too.  In doing so he or she becomes a thousand times more guilty than the person who gave the original offense. 

This is ludicrous.  The offended becomes guilty of rebelling against Christ in that they’ve not confronted the offender alone over the offense.  In fact, they’ve told everyone except the offender, thus robbing him or her of any opportunity for repentance; robbing one another of restoration, and congruently trampling underfoot the word of God.   Interestingly, this same practitioner of strife would shudder at the expression of something like blatant thievery or sexual immorality…..and yet is no less a rebel against Christ for disobedience to this simple command:  “If your brother sins against you, let him know…and do it in private” (I’m repeating this a lot intentionally).   Clearly, for such a person, scandal is more palatable than loving confrontation.  They haven’t the stomach to reveal a fault because they haven’t the love of Christ, nor a love for their brother or sister abiding in them.  And the sins they begin to amass are among the most hellish in the human heart: Malice, bitterness…even hate.  Far worse conditions, likely, than whatever offense beget them.

Now, if this characterizes you as a common course of practice among the people of God;  If it is standard fare for you to ignore Christ’s commandment here, then I would closely encourage you to no longer mock Him with your flippant use of the title “Lord”, while you systematically seek to disarray His people with your tale-bearing.   If this describes you in a circumstance as of late, resolve in your heart right now to take every thought captive to obedience to Christ.  Flee to Him for forgiveness…..and run to your brother for restoration.  Let all evil speaking be put away from you…..seek peace and pursue it.

Grace to you,

Jeremy

God’s Gifts

“First Corinthians 12 is but one of several passages that tell us God has given at least one spiritual gift to every single person whom He calls, which gift is to be used to build up the body of Christ. Whether the gift is encouragement, teaching, hospitality, discernment, or any of the host of other talents granted to the Lord’s people, there is no such thing as a believer who has no spiritual gift. This means that we are in sin if we do not use our gifts, for loving one another involves using our gifts to benefit others (I John 3:16-18). Pastor Jeremy encouraged each person at Legacy to look at their giftedness and where it may apply to build up the body of Christ. Let’s consider what each of us can do to carry out the great commission. May God bless us with His grace and mercy as we strive to fulfill this command.

The Bible is a treasure of inestimable worth, preserved through the ages so that it might be the steady and cherished companion of God’s people.  To that end, the believer is commanded to search the Scriptures, to feed upon the truths therein, and to saturate his/her mind with their unfailing instructions.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3) said the apostle to the church at Colossae.

The word of God is, of course, the reflection of the pristine mind of God, and therefore ought to arrest our devout attention. It ought to be desired as the source of our nourishment and growth in Christ.  “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1 Ptr. 2) To be sure, those pilgrims who have shone with the brightest luster for Christ, those who radiate joy inexpressible are those who have loved and esteemed most the word of God.  And why would we not cherish this inexhaustible treasure??  It is the message from God Himself pertaining to the gravest of issues.  It expounds an imminent judgment, thus soberly and authoritatively revealing Jehovah as an infinitely holy, deathless, sovereign, omnipotent Spirit to whom all must appear and give an account in order to be actualized into an eternal state that can never, ever be altered.  So too the word of God discloses the adorable Christ, reveals a second life, uncovers an eternal world, and depicts a colony of redeemed humanity triumphing in the fullness of joy in the glory of the presence of their Savior for all eternity.  What sort of treasure is this book compassionately preserved for our discovery!

To that end, the Lord Jesus said “It is these [the Scriptures] that bear witness of me”.  (Jn. 5:39) Oh, how important is such a statement by our Lord!  The word of God guides a man  to eternal life, diffusing life-giving light when made effectual by the Spirit of God, to reveal Jesus Christ as He alone who provides the righteousness that God demands.  Rest assured, then, we cannot prize the word of God sufficiently.  It was David who said, “Thy testimonies are wonderful!” and “My eyes fail with longing for Thy word.” (Ps 119)…..and rightly so, Christian!   The Scriptures lead our thoughts beyond the temporal; beyond the concerns of a few vain mortal years; beyond the circumstances and issues of this life to those awful and glorious scenes that await a man after the advent of his certain death. 

How foolish then is preoccupation with the wisdom of this world and with its “books”?  Be warned, the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.  The conclusion when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment; everything which is hidden, whether good or evil.” (Ecc. 12) Vain is that transient knowledge that can catalogue all of the world’s discoveries, and yet has rendered itself ignorant and barren to the precepts of the infinitely wise and immortal God. 

Scripture exceeds all that could ever be commended by human wisdom in this fleeting world.  How foolish it is then, particularly for that man or woman who, having tasted God’s redemptive grace, shuns the very written expression of His grace, preferring instead to relegate it to a mere fancied, half-hearted reading….and even that on rare occasions.  Let the word of God be your continual delight, Christian! Let it receive your continual reverence.  “Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool; but to this man I will look, to Him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at MY word.” (Is. 66)

Grace to you, today.

On the Lord’s Supper

The Lord Jesus has left us 2 ordinances…namely, the ordinance of baptism, and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper; both of which picture our identification and union with Christ (a topic we have invested significant time in as of late).  Baptism, of course, accents of our salvific initiation into the body of Christ.   The Lord’s Supper, on the other hand, accents the sharing/participation of our life in the body and life of Christ.

At Legacy Baptist Church we observe the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of every month.  It ought to be more frequent than that, I think, but in any case it is fitting and proper that we observe this great memorial regularly and frequently, as was urged by the Lord and the apostles.  On this coming Lord’s Day, when we gather to commemorate Christ’s dying love by way of this sacred ordinance, I want to remind us that it is the disposition of our hearts that requires more needful examination than the issue of frequency.   “Do this in remembrance of Me” is the plain, reasonable, and solemn command of the Lord (1 Cor. 11). To that end, it is a cold heart -or a cold church – that does not soberly, thoughtfully reflect upon His table.   

To aid us in that regard, perhaps we do well to closely consider the setting in which our Lord instituted this ordinance.  Citing 1 Corinthians 11 again, Scripture reveals plainly that this observance was inaugurated “…in the night in which He was to be betrayed”.  Now that, for me, begins a string of sobering thoughts.  Here stands the Son of God before His disciples and on the eve of Calvary….. Judas has departed to invoke his betrayal.  Soon Christ will see the sufferings of Gethsemane and the scandalous indictments of a mock Jewish trial.  Thereafter, awaits the relentless torturings of blasphemous Roman soldiers and finally the horrors of the cross… all of this looming quite vividly before Him as He institutes this ordinance.  Here stands the innocent, immaculate Savior about to bear the incalculable load of the sins of millions; about to interject Himself between God’s elect and God’s offended justice; about to come under the awful “rod of Jehovah” (as the old Hymn says)…and all of this, mind you, is to be precipitated before the setting of the next sun.  Yet, here stands the adorable Christ, fully aware of every detail but choosing instead to lay aside the awful contemplation in order to… what? To minister to His flock.  He graciously breaks the bread and pours the wine, and thus institutes the emblems of our irrevocable union and identification with Him… while He Himself stands at the very precipice of the crushing reality of the cross.   Cold indeed is the heart that comes ill-prepared and thus irreverently to this table.

Beloved…what thankful remembrance our Lord deserves.  Christ has opened heaven for you…having purchased peace for you…having bore upon Himself incomprehensible agonies for you.  He was made the curse, He is your propitiation, He is your righteousness, He is your hope, in Him you are made complete.  Every mercy flows through the adorable Christ and the blood of His cross.  And will you not come before the table this Lord’s day with ears and hearts echoing His words “Do this in remembrance of Me.”?  Friends, may our very hearts forget to beat, may our very life leave us before we ever forget Him who yielded up His life for the eternal salvation of your once destitute soul.  What a privilege is ours to have been invited to His table.  Consider very closely what you are doing this Lord’s Day, if you have been called a guest there.

Grace to you, today,

On Trials:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the circumstances that confront us; of the state we find ourselves in from time-to-time, and of those seasons in life when the issues of life seem to overwhelm and dishearten us. I suppose the frequent prayer requests as of late have served to renew my appreciation for all of this.  I have been reminded that, of those insulated from affliction, the children of God are not numbered among them.  Common and diverse are the trials that we encounter.  Whether a suffering child or an estranged family hostile to the gospel… adversity and affliction seem to abound.  And while the issues of life may not belong exclusively to the children of God, their divine and joyful purposes most certainly do. 

“But if you are without chastisement, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” says the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews.  Shortly thereafter, Hebrews records that God chastens “…for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.” (Heb 12:10).  The annals of Christianity reveal that the greatest models of the faith; those who shone brightest for Christ, were intimately acquainted with trials and suffering.  Take a moment to catalogue them if you like: Job, Joseph, Elijah, the prophets, Paul and the entire company of Christ’s apostles. Each one groomed for eternity in the great furnace of adversity.  Job himself, in the midst of incomprehensible affliction said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. “ (Job 23)  Again, God may intend any number of outcomes for the trials that confront us.  As mentioned above, they may be directed in order to purify us.  At other times they may be intended to develop perseverance/strength, as James affirms for us: “…knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1).  Still, at other times, the Lord may see fit to leverage adversity in order to develop within us the spiritual discipline of resignation, submission and contentment.  Of this lesson, even the great apostle Paul learned, uttering “I am well content with weaknesses…distresses… difficulties (2 Cor 12). 

While the Lord may have many reasons for our adversity, for each one the child of God has as many reasons to rejoice.  Each one is sent compassionately. Each one accompanied by His limitless grace. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”.  Further, each one will end ultimately in….what? Good (Rom 8).  What wonder!  Listen, would our Father in heaven ordain that which does not benefit His blood-bought child? Scripture clearly tell us that if God has given the Lord Jesus for us….His own Son….He will not refuse us any real good (Rom 8:32).  Is a loved-one sick?  Can’t God heal the sick? Surely then if He has not brought health, then He must see it best to appoint sickness.  Apply this perspective to every one of your circumstances.  If it is a season of great pain that you endure, then it is a season appointed by the Lord….and it must be a good one that He appoints because “Every good thing bestowed, and every perfect gift is from…..where? Above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1).

There is a story of a little girl standing at a street corner, seeking tentatively to cross the street.  Looking at the path before her, and realizing the danger, she trembled.  A kind policeman happening by and seeing the fear on her face, casually approached her and took her hand into his….and together they began to cross the divide.  Occasionally, a honking horn or passing car would cause her to flinch a bit and hesitate, but each time the policeman would strengthen his grip on her hand to reassure her, until finally they reached the other side, together.  

The man who tells that story, makes this point: “It’s not our grasp of the Lord that matters, it’s His grasp of us.  Let me draw my comfort no more from my frail grasp of Thee.  Let me henceforth rejoice with awe in Thy strong grasp of me.” 

Beloved, no matter what your trial today, the grip of Christ is ever strengthening around your hand to assure you of His presence….and He will not let go.  “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.  The times and seasons of life are fleeting, friend.  Adversity only hastens our eternity.  And once steeping across into our eternal rest, your faith and mine will only give way to sight; today’s affliction will give way to peace, and this dark day will be resigned to a bright eternity in the resplendent presence of Our great Comforter and Friend…..where sorrow and pain and suffering all must say their farewell. Even so, come Lord Jesus…

Grace to you, today,

On Covetousness:

Allow me to begin with a definition.  Insidious: “Stealthily treacherous or deceitful: an insidious enemy.”

Covetousness is “insidious”.  That is, it is a stealthy, treacherous, and deceitful enemy.  Covetousness, of course, speaks of greed; of that lustful desire to have what you don’t have….or to have more of what you have already.  The Apostle Paul warns of this insidious sin, saying: “…do not let greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph 5). Paul goes one step further in Colossians 3:5, where he states: “Consider your earthly bodies as dead to….evil desire and greed which leads to idolatry.”  In other words, covetousness is the greedy, discontented longing of the creature which forsakes God in order to fill itself with the lower objects of the world.   In a word, it is idolatry characterized by lustful self-gratification, and Scripture records that it is a feature that should never characterize the child of God.  As Paul stated, the absence of covetousness “…is proper among the saints.  Self-gratification is diametrically opposed to sacrificial-love.

Having established what covetousness IS, notice now how it operates.  As mentioned above, covetousness operates insidiously; deceitfully.  How so? Because the covetous person hardly realizes his covetous character.  A back-biter sees clearly she is a backbiter; an adulterer sees plainly he is adulterous.  But a person that indulges in covetousness has hardly any suspicion of guilt.  The crime tends to be more transient, more subtle, more subdued. Subsequently such a person is subtly carried off right through life and into death, having never emerged from this delusion.  Paul states: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many a pang.” (1 Tim 6:10). This doesn’t happen overnight, mind you….but systematically, transiently, over time.  “Wandered” here has the idea of being deceitfully enticed and led astray.   It would be irresponsible of me to omit the preceding verse from the 1 Timothy text: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (v9). What delusion! Watch yourselves against this insidious enemy.

For clarification, a man reveals his covetousness not by the riches that he has. After all, such riches can be righteously dispensed for promoting God’s glory.   Rather, covetousness is demonstrated by the unrighteous and discontented “longing” for, or selfish intent to collect and employ wealth/resources in a self-gratifying manner and for self gratifying purposes.  A man of this character is a man marked by covetous-delusion…and God pronounces him a fool.  Why? Because his self-gratifying agenda will subtly, systematically, ultimately “…plunge him into destruction”.  Further still, enslavement to covetousness is a clarion characterization of the unbelieving and unregenerate community.   This too is the apostle’s very confident assertion in his letter to the Ephesians: “For this you know with certainty…..no covetous man who is an idolater has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph 5:5).

Conversely, Scripture consistently represents the children of God as those who have little interest with world, and whose chief concern are to glorify God.  Jesus Himself said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” This world was no object of His affection…it held no charming value to Him….it could not allure or entice Him.  Therefore, in truth, the world is to be no more the object of your affection, Christian, than it was of His.  As Paul states: “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6).  Far from identification with self-gratification, the Christian has been completely identified with Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection to new life.

Only God’s regenerative grace can breach the stone that encases the idolatrous, covetous heart. Only the new creature in Christ has the capacity to arrest the self-gratifying flesh.   Thereafter, Scripture remedies the remains of tempt-able flesh in this regard, saying: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on earth, for you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3).  If you are “in Christ” indeed, fix your heart upon the irrevocable blessings of eternity.  Covetousness, that insidious enemy, is impotent to him who, when confronted with its allurements and deceit, hears the voice of his Redeemer bidding him to look ever higher, saying: “What is it to thee.  Follow thou Me.”  

Grace to you, today.