True Religion

This will be the final post in this series. In the last post, we briefly examined the destruction that the tongue is capable of. While James does not limit destructive speech solely to that which is spoken in unrighteous anger, we must see that all that is said in unrighteous anger is destructive. Our words have power to build up the church or to lay waste to it. We shall either love our brethren, or we shall tear them to pieces and consume them. For those within the church – we have no excuse to remain indignant toward one another, nor to exhibit a lack of self control. Remember, our actions and words will build the testimony of our faith. Can we say, “Come follow me as I follow Jesus?”

Even if the angry man can recite sound doctrine, he still lacks the necessary self-control to protect the church, his family, and his own soul. As James puts it, he lacks “true religion”. As Proverbs 25:28 shows, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” The sheer lack of protection from invading forces leaves all those within his wake to be devoured, not only by the angry man – but Satan, as he is a lion constantly seeking whom he may devour. The wise man continually builds up those around him, hedging protection through the proclamation of the Word of God – yet also abiding in the Fruit of the Spirit in order to evidence “true religion”.

While it is natural for the carnal man to abide in sin, it is not natural for the one following Christ. He is no longer dead in his sins due to the redemption found in Christ. Not only this, but through the power of the Spirit, we are able to put sin to death in our lives. For the sake of unity within the body of Christ, we ought to pursue peace. This is not some psycho-therapeutic ritual in which we count to ten, go for a walk, or perform any other outlet in order to calm down. No. We strive to walk in the Spirit because the law of the flesh no longer binds us.

Quite simply, it is a matter of obedience to do what we are called to do.

Obedience may not always be easy, for we know that it does not come naturally. We are sown in sin and inclined to perform sinful deeds. However, we are new creations in Christ if we have called upon Him for salvation and submitted to His Lordship. We know that He is faithful. We know that He alone gives power where we are weak. We know that it is His will that we repent from our sins and turn to Him each day for fresh mercies.

If you are an angry person, you cannot do it alone. This is specifically why we gather with the elect: that we might know our sin and come to repentance, having faced rebuke and correction. Where there is a broken and contrite heart; where there is remorse and godly sorrow, there is pleasure in Him to forgive us in Christ.

Lay aside all pride and come to the One who can make the crooked straight. Lay aside all pride and receive the correction of the saints who desire earnestly for your repentance and continued faith, hating even the garments tainted with sin.

 

Closing Prayer: Father, forgive us this day for our sins. We thank You that You were so utterly pleased to crush your Son for us – that as a church we may stand before You, pure and blameless through Christ alone. Father, our hearts know greed, envy, strife, maliciousness, backbiting, slander, and lust. Father, our hearts know hatred, deception, lies, murder, and covetousness – for we once practiced these things. Your word says that those who make a practice of such things cannot inherit the kingdom of God; that we cannot obtain the crown of righteousness.

Remind us of the sacrifice that Christ has made, that we not act as the Pharisees who sat and boasted of their cleanness, but may we beat our breasts as sinners. Cause us to draw near through Your Son, by Your Spirit, that we might be sanctified in truth and know graciousness, patience, kindness, forbearance, and longsuffering – for against such things there is no law. Fulfill in us Your promises in Christ that we might walk in an upright manner representing the gospel and the fullness of the deity of Christ – that He has come and conquered sin; that He has come to set the captive free. Cause us to rejoice in the cross of Christ and the everlasting hope we have in His resurrection, and by this, put the sin of anger to death. It is in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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Disciplining My Father

I drove to my parent’s house asking only one thing: that I would be blameless and approach my father in humility. I was recalling the advice of my pastor whom I had met with just two days previously. After reading emails and listening to my explanation, he advised that I firmly and swiftly deal with it, reminding me to approach my dad in respect, love, and even temperament, yet unflinchingly in dealing with his sin.

I pulled into the driveway and what ensued was an hour and a half of angry and accusative speech at me; he didn’t have any problems with sin and how dare I judge. I came home in a blur and vomited as soon as I walked in the door.

Over the next several weeks, I would talk with him briefly. Each time I did not let the issue of his sin die. He would not repent; therefore, I would not relent.

That’s when he had a heart attack.

I vividly remember seeing my father lying in the ICU; my mother and sister in tears assuring him things would be ok. He looked at me but couldn’t speak, though his look almost assured me that he didn’t want me there.

My mom pulled me aside and begged me to let things be. “Time will heal all wounds,” was the conventional wisdom given. She told me that life is too short. My grandparents called and also begged that I would let things go. “We are to love one another,” was the wisdom given by them.

What both my mother and grandparents never realized was that time does not heal anything. Time only allows the heart to grow hardened and for sin to go unchecked. Secondly, better is open rebuke than hidden love (Pro. 27:5); at some point you have to stick the knife in (Pro. 27:6) and exercise discipline to those in the faith (Matt. 18:15-20). It is never easy nor joyful, but utterly necessary.

I spoke to my father again a few times after his hospitalization. He understood that there was still a rift in our relationship because I did not bring my children or wife to see him. Within the week of his hospitalization, I called to wish him a happy birthday.

We spoke for about 2 minutes before the conversation went back to the issue of sin. He had asked that we come to visit, and I told him still that we needed to reconcile and he needed to repent before that could happen. He yelled at me again, called me a fool once more, and told me, “I hope you have a nice life. I wouldn’t even expect Christmas cards in the mail for you or the kids.”

Two days went by and I didn’t hear from either of my parents. On the 17th of December, I worked as usual and received a phone call from my mom. I ignored it, thinking that it was just too much for me to handle while working. Immediately, I got another call that I answered hesitantly.

My dad had died from a massive heart attack.

I remember my anger bubbling when looking at my father’s corpse on the floor. I wasn’t mad at God, I was mad at him. Here was a dead man that I couldn’t reconcile with. Here was my father who willingly went to the grave clutching tightly to his sin.

Yet what I remember more was the great love poured out from all the members of my church. I remember being gently rebuked by my pastor as I confided in him, thinking wrongly that there was no redemptive moment in everything that happened. He and the elders affirmed what I had done, as I made nothing secret through the process. I remember the sovereignty of God in the midst of my heartbreak; He was not surprised by me not finding reconciliation with the man whose affections I so desperately wanted restored.

Few things in my life have been as hard as the day I went to confront my father. The details of his sin are not necessary, nor all the interactions we had during the confrontation, but the story itself is vital. It was vital in seeing church discipline worked out personally; it would work wondrous things within my own heart to conform me into greater likeness to Christ.

It would confirm in me the immediate demand for repentance when being confronted. It would draw the dividing line of the gospel and confirm how I view God and His church. It would be one of the most agonizing things to have transpire in my life – yet it would also truly exhibit how great our sovereign Lord is.

It was the day that I stepped out in faith to obey God’s Word and I did not find the blessings of reconciliation I expected and coveted. What I found was a blessing all the more wonderful.

What I found was the supreme love of Christ displayed in the hope of the gospel in a hopeless and utterly devastated world. What I found was the supreme love of Jesus Christ in His church as they ministered to me through sharing in my sufferings. The foremost of those in His church, which blessed me beyond measure, was my wife who lived up to the meaning of her name, “faithful.”