Sunday, June 30, 2019


“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” 
(Romans 6:17-18 ESV)

As we approach the 4th of July, our thoughts revolve around the concept of freedom. This, after all, is what America stands for. And this, of course, is something we all long for. We want to be free to live our own life, without the authorities that be telling us what to do. We want to be free to make our own decisions, without the powers that be making them for us.

This is true also when it comes to our relationship with God. We tend to think of ourselves as free. And we tend to think that God has given us free will.

He has given us free will, in a sense. He doesn’t tell us if we should marry nor whom we should marry. He doesn’t tell us what to eat or what to wear (other than the fact that it should be modest). He doesn’t tell us whether we should own a dog, a cat, or no pet at all. Decisions like these are left to us.

However, in a very real sense, we are not free in the least. Before coming to faith in Christ, we are slaves to sin. Sin is our master. The only thing we can do is sin. No matter how hard we try, we cannot live for the Lord and we cannot obey him.

After coming to faith in Christ, we are free from sin. I don’t mean by this that we’re perfect or that we no longer struggle with sin. However, because of Jesus, it doesn’t have the hold on us that it once did.

But this doesn’t mean we’re free. We still aren’t free to live life as we choose. We still aren’t free to make any and every decision for ourselves. We aren’t free because, after coming to faith, we are slaves of righteousness.

After coming to faith in Christ, righteousness is our master. After coming to faith in Christ, it’s righteousness that controls us. After coming to faith in Christ, we desire to live for the Lord and we strive to do so in all things.

This is what Paul is revealing to us in the above passage. And even though we tend to think of slavery in a negative way, even though the very term puts us off, in this sense it is good. It’s good because, as slaves of righteousness, we receive the benefits of righteousness.

As he goes on to say, in verses 20-22: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Not to Be Taken Lightly

“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. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!”

(James 3:1-5 ESV)

Most of you remember the old nursery rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” This phrase is used, encouraging our children so that they won’t take to heart all that is said to them. It’s used to discourage them from crying about every mean thing that is said to them.

However, according to James in the above passage, words are very powerful. The tongue is very powerful. Many problems are caused by this seemingly insignificant part of the body.

And we all struggle with our use of the tongue. We all have a tendency to say things that ought not be said. James says that if someone is able to control his tongue, he’s a perfect man. If someone can control his tongue, he’ll have no problem controlling his whole body.

It’s for this reason that James discourages us from becoming teachers. He’s not saying that teaching is an immoral vocation. And he’s certainly not discounting the importance of Biblical teachers. But, because we struggle with the sins of the tongue, it’s something that should be taken very seriously.

He tells us that those who teach will be judged more strictly. As the King James Version says, those who teach will receive the greater condemnation. And there’s a couple of reasons for this, I believe.

This is true, first of all, because those who teach speak with a level of authority. As we teach, people are listening to us. As we teach, people are taking to heart what we say. And there is ample opportunity for us to lead people down the wrong path, whether it be intentional or unintentional.

Those who teach are held to a higher standard because, having this position, the temptation is there to use this authority for our own, selfish benefit. It’s important to recognize that we all have an axe to grind. And we often use our position that others will agree with us, that they’ll side with us. We use our position that our personal agenda might be pushed.

Finally, those who teach are held to a higher standard because we ought to know better. Those who teach have to prepare before they do so. They have to dive into the subject they’re teaching that they might understand it and properly convey it to their students. And with understanding comes responsibility. With it comes a higher level of accountability.

May we who teach take this office very seriously. May those who are considering the vocation of teaching give this serious consideration. It is not an office that should be taken lightly.

Sunday, June 02, 2019


But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." 
(Acts 1:8 ESV)

As believers in Jesus, as the people of the Church, most of us realize that we’ve been called to serve.  And when I say this, I’m not referring to the pleas of Christian Ed, who need volunteers for VBS or teachers for Sunday School. I’m not referring to the pleas of the Trustees for help with various work projects around the church. And I’m not referring to the pleas of the nominating committee as they seek candidates for the various offices of the church.

I’m referring to the call of God. I’m referring to his call to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. I’m referring to his call to make disciples of all nations. I’m referring to his call to use the gifts, entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit, to build up the body of Christ.

However, when it comes to this call, many of us are hesitant. And the reason we’re hesitant is because we question our own abilities. We question our ability to do what God has called us to do.

To be quite frank, we don’t feel qualified for such a task. We don’t feel that we know enough about God’s Word. We don’t feel competent enough to step up to the plate. And we feel too sinful to be of any real use to the Lord or to the church.

I’m sure the disciples felt the same way when Jesus placed this calling upon them. The task assigned to them seems much too big for such a small group of men. It seems much too big considering their background and education.

However, as we look at the above passage, we see how they would be able to carry it out. Jesus told them that, when they Holy Spirit came upon them, they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. The Spirit of God, then, would empower them to do what God had asked of them.

The same thing is true of us. We can question ourselves all day long, and our assessment of our abilities may be quite accurate. Left to ourselves, we are unqualified. Left to ourselves, we do lack the necessary knowledge. Left to ourselves, we don’t have the required skill to carry out this work.

We must realize, however, that God has not left us to ourselves. Our ability to carry out this calling isn’t dependent upon our wisdom or abilities. It’s dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

Instead of holding back because we question ourselves, we must step out in faith. We must step out in faith, trusting the Spirit of God to work in us and through us. We must trust that he can and will work through us, despite our sin and our shortcomings.