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May 31, 2013 / scottreiber

Dr. R. Scott Clark on “The Israel of God”

Dr. R. Scott Clark on “The Israel of God”

The question of course is shall we read the Scriptures as the Apostles did or some other way? [Be sure to take the time to digest the above link!]  Dr. Clark engages a response to the above important article by pointing out – briefly – that those who have Moses working for Christ have it exactly backwards:

“The point of the essay is to help readers to understand that the NT teaches that Jesus himself is the true Israel and all, both Jew and Gentile, who believe in him are now the Israel of God. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:14, the dividing wall has been torn down. In Christ, now, there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free etc (Gal 3:28).  In short, the purpose of national Israel was to point forward to Christ and the new covenant. Put another way, Moses (national Israel) works for Jesus, not the reverse. Jesus was the real plan all along, going back to Genesis 3:14-16 and behind that to God’s eternal decree (Ephesians 1). God loved his elect in Christ from all eternity and God the Son became incarnate, fulfilled all the types and shadows under Moses, David, and the prophets, and inaugurated the new covenant. What appeared to the OT prophets to be one mountain was, in reality, two. Inauguration and fulfillment. We live in the time in-between the inauguration of the Kingdom and its fulfillment on Christ’s glorious, visible return.  The Scriptures do fit together. They are held together not by a promise of future earthly millennium or a national people or a re-institution of the sacrifices. There is a unifying story in Scripture. They are held together by Christ, who was promised to the patriarchs and prophets, illustrated by the sacrifices and ceremonies, and pointed to by the prophets. It’s not literal v spiritual, it’s the New Testament’s way of reading Scripture vs other, competing ways of reading Scripture.”

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April 24, 2012 / scottreiber

Remembering the Lord’s Strategic Timing in Life

This Lord’s Day, April 29, AD 2012, would have been the 55th birthday of a dear brother in Christ, Robert Friesz.  In the last years of his life the Lord worked a great work of His grace in this man’s life that certainly left its mark not only on him, his family, but also on the congregation at Westminster, and me.Image

As a matter of course I am often reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in I Corinthians 4:1, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”  This is the way the great Apostle wished to be thought of by those to whom he wrote.  Not as the main performer in the church of what’s happening now filled with charisma.  Not the shrewd innovator with the latest blue-print for church growth.  Not the with-it, in tune to the culture, looking, acting the culture, super leader.  Take your pick and any one or combination seems to be the contemporary idealized pastor/church planter.  Instead he is the servant of Christ.  In humility he serves Christ and Christ’s blood bought people.  He is not called to innovation, but to faithfulness as he has been entrusted with the great treasure: The blood bought truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  His great concern was the accurate conveying of that with which he had been entrusted.

Results?  Of course the Apostle was deeply concerned for the individuals, families, and congregations.  II Corinthians 11:28, 29, “Besides the other things, what comes upon me daily; my deep concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I am not weak?  Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?”  But what kept him with this humility of service to Christ and this perspective of stewardship of the Gospel?  What kept him using and trusting in the means which Christ had committed into his hands?  I Corinthians 3:5-7,  “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” There came a time when Robert had been prepared by God’s Spirit and providence to hear the Word of God.  Not that seeds of the Word and good example had not been sown for many years.  It was actually a great number of months before the Lord took him that the two of us had our first serious conversations about the Gospel.  He was in the hospital and the ravages of lung cancer and the attempts at arresting it were at a very serious juncture.  In the many visits that followed both within and outside the hospital we opened the Scriptures together concerning the Person of Christ, the Work of Christ, Christ’s great offices as the Prophet revealing God and His will for our salvation; Christ as Priest who offered Himself as the alone sufficient sacrifice for sin and ever lives to intercede and apply that great work; Christ as King who subdues us to Himself defeating all His and our enemies.  I prayed that my weak setting out of so great a Savior that the Lord would use His truth, and blessed by the power of Christ’s Spirit, He would bring this man, who seemed so in earnest and so close to leaving this life, to genuine faith in Christ.

God was gracious.  Robert was keen to ask lots of direct questions.  For him it was not a matter of packaging (if you know what I mean), but that we should get to the direct facts.  How can we as sinners be right with God?  We spoke of how God justifies the ungodly.  How can God who is the righteous judge declare sinners like us, Not guilty, but righteous in His sight?  Only by our guilt being put to Christ’s account and dealt with there upon the cross and Christ’s perfect righteousness being put to our account and received by faith alone!  It is the Gospel, the power of God to salvation about which we spoke.  It was the grand old Reformation truth of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone.  So many of  the old hymns he had learned from years ago came alive with Gospel light shining upon them.

There was that meeting of the elders in Session to receive Robert upon his profession of faith in Christ into the assembly at Westminster.  He recounted God’s working in his life and his wholehearted trust in Christ.  I do not think there was a dry eye in the room as we thanked the Lord for His grace and the powerful working of His Spirit in this man’s life.

There was the morning worship service in which this brother knelt to receive the great sign and seal of the washing of regeneration and union with Christ.  He and we were concerned that kneeling for baptism, he would not be able to rise again.  However, Robert was determined.  A love of Christ and a keen desire to publicly own Christ and receive this great assuring sign of the covenant all united in tearful joy.

Then too, there was his one and only time coming to the Table of our Lord.  Robert carried his oxygen and was struggling with being able to breath, but the public means of grace in worship were so very precious to him.  Truly the Apostle Peter’s likening the child of God’s hungering and thirsting after the Word to a new born babe and his mother’s milk was seen here.  He would say the devil was trying to keep him away, but he was there both for Adult Sunday School and Public Worship.  In the midst of a great trial, Christ bid this child of His, to the Table.  And there the Spirit of Christ brought strength and fortitude of assurance in Christ.  I say it was Robert’s one and only time coming to the Table because the Lord took him home where signs and seals of Christ are no longer necessary.  His faith has become sight.

I know that all of you in this congregation remember these events.  Let us not forget them.  Is it not sobering and sharpening of our focus in the priorities of our purposes to consider the Lord’s providence in the people He brings across our paths?  Do we not need to think of this in light of eternity into which some may be brought sooner that any of us think?

Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne’s words constantly come home to my conscience:

As I was walking in the fields, the thought came over me with almost overwhelming power, that every one of my flock must soon be in heaven or hell.  O how I wished that I had a tongue like thunder, that I might make all hear; Or that I had a frame like iron, that I might visit every one, and say, ‘Escape for thy life!’  Ah, sinners!  You little know I fear that you will lay the blame of your damnation at my door.

My friends, does not the Lord in His providence bring you across the paths of men and women who are in need of hearing the blessed Good News of Jesus Christ?  Do we shrink back from speaking of Christ because we are not the most outgoing or because we do not fit the contemporary picture of the evangelist?  Do we excuse ourselves? Well, I don’t have that gift?  It is of the Lord’s grace and mercy that we have been brought to know the great Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ in the truth of His Gospel.  We who were dead and starving beggars have been given the bread of life.  Let us point others to where they may be nourished to eternal life – in Jesus Christ the Lord.  To see the Lord’s hand at work in providence and grace is amazing and staggering!  How wonderful is that Spirit and power that graciously calls men and women to Himself!  What great privilege is ours to be stewards of this great Gospel Truth and servants of Christ.

February 23, 2011 / scottreiber

“Verbal Warming” Dr. Peter Jones

Dr. Peter Jones at TruthXChange points us to the results of non-Christian world view assault on Christianity and truth…

“We are not surprised to hear that political freedom in the world has declined for a fifth straight year, especially in the Middle East and in North Africa. But loss of freedom in the West does surprise us. Freedom has shrunk partly because of silencing “hate speech.”

Is the “climate of hate” warming or cooling here at home? The political pundits of the Left predict a violent and fiery future, which fits their present ideological needs. Some even claim that Right Wing violent political speech caused the Tucson massacre. Though recently abandoned by the electorate, the progressive Left still pursues a goal to silence opposing speech and thus to mute the cut and thrust of valid political debate. Read more…

February 23, 2011 / scottreiber

Pastor Dave is Looking for Courageous Calvinism in the PCA

from The Heidelblog

He writes: “I’m not sure that there are many in the PCA with this conviction. We are going with the flow, paddling with the current of broad evangelicalism seeking relevance, influence, and recognition. And sadly, to the extent we pursue those things so do we distance ourselves from our heritage, from the piety that flows from our confessions, and our NAPARC brethren. That was made readily apparent to all as the Strategic Plan was drafted, debated, and eventually adopted last summer.” Read more»

Click on the image to get your copy of the book. See more about the book.

 

October 26, 2010 / scottreiber

I’ve Been Robbed! 4

TEXT:   Exodus 20:15; Lev. 19:11,13,35-36

TITLE:  The 8th Commandment: I’ve Been Robbed!    4

Exposition of Exodus LXXIII

OCCASION: Westminster Presbyterian Church   DATE: March 14, AD 2010

PM

Introduction

If you will turn to New Trinity Hymnal p. 875:

Q73, Which is the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment is, “Thou shalt not steal.”

*****Q74.  What is required in the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

*****Q75.  What is forbidden in the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbor’s, wealth or outward estate.

The word economics comes from the Greek words oikos meaning house and nomos meaning law.  It should be clear that economics is not a morally neutral endeavor.  Yet there are those who would try to tell us that economics like other sciences is value neutral.  Now it is true that when it comes to description of what is out there, whether that be in biology or chemistry or economics, we want an as objective as possible, that is to say an accurate as possible, a description and analysis of the facts.  However no human endeavor, no science, is value neutral.  Ask the question: Why do science? Knowledge is better than ignorance.  Why is that? Knowledge is useful.  Knowledge works.  Ignorance doesn’t.  It works to what goal or purpose? Toward the well-being and good of man.  What is the good of man?  Why should it be pursued? We could follow a similar line of reasoning when it comes to the value of truth over falsehood.  Secular answers come down ultimately to human preference or the will to power!  I like it.  I want it. And there are those today who are arguing in the name of the equality of all species and the environment that the well-being of man is not the highest good.  Or for that matter a Hindu might say, empty your mind of everything and become absorbed into the universal all which makes knowledge and any distinction between a knower and knowledge impossible!  BUT there is an answer as to why we must value knowledge over ignorance.  Biblical Christianity answers that knowledge is valuable because God the Creator first made us to know Him and knowing His world to rule over it.  Col. 2:3, tells us that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  Christ has come to reverse the Fall and its effects.  Thus Christians are (Co.3:10) to “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created” us.  God is a God who does not lie and commands us not to lie (Ti.1:2).  Lev. 19:11, “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.”  Truth and honesty are working values which God points out are rooted in Himself and the character in which He has redeemed us.  He is Wisdom personified who speaks out in the streets in  Proverbs.

All this is to say that we must apply God’s Word, reading both the Old Testament and New Testament with great weight and seriousness, to every area of life.  That certainly applies to the whole matter of the exchange of goods and labor and money and property.  The Eighth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbor’s, wealth or outward estate. Read more…

October 26, 2010 / scottreiber

The Care and Use of Things 3

TEXT:   Exodus 20:15; Eph. 4:28; Lev. 19:11,13,35-36

TITLE:  The 8th Commandment:  The Care and Use of Things 3

Exposition of Exodus LXXII

OCCASION: Westminster Presbyterian Church    DATE: March 7, AD 2010

PM

Introduction

If you will turn to New Trinity Hymnal p. 875:

Q73, Which is the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment is, “Thou shalt not steal.”

*****Q74.  What is required in the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

*****Q75.  What is forbidden in the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbor’s, wealth or outward estate.

Thus far we have found that the Scriptures sound a lot like our Grandparents and Great-Grandparents.  Like our forefathers before us they teach as we have found, the Sanctity of Private property so key to human liberty.  They also teach that the Creation Ordinance of Work.  We found that while God is the One from Whom all blessings flow, yet having a legitimate and lawful calling (that is, not Gambling or Bank-Robbery) is necessary for exercising dominion over creation both before and after the Fall.  And with the Fall of mankind into sin comes major changes in the whole matter of scarcity and the nature of work.  Instead of prosperity and abundance, it is rather the case that poverty becomes the default condition of mankind: Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.”  Thus while we are to be anxious for nothing, yet we are to give diligent attention (as opposed to idleness) to getting the things necessary to support ourselves and our families.  As Dr. Calvin Beisner writes as he discussed Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations: “…wealth is neither natural nor easily created, that its creation requires diligence of mind and body…”  But now that we have done this, then what use are we to make of these things?

I.  The responsible and careful use of what God has blessed us with through honest labor.

A.  An illustration and application

Both of my parents were raised on farms in Nebraska and went through the Dust-Bowl.  The Dust Bowl is not/was not an obscure pre-Orange Bowl college football game for smaller colleges or universities!  It was a drought in which topsoil blew by the winds of the Great Plains made crops fail and blotted out the sun.  One received their Vitamin D, as my Mom told it, by taking disgusting Cod Liver Oil!  My mother’s mother died of a strep infection shortly after giving birth to her brother leaving my Grandfather a widower with two small children in that trying time.  Trying? You will remember that this was the Great Depression.  On my Dad’s side I have described to you before the home place and pictures which today would be viewed as ‘poverty stricken.’  Interestingly they had food, clothing, and shelter, however think about this in light of today’s definitions, as Michael Bauman wrote in 1994, “Nearly 40% of those the US Government defines as ‘poor’ own their own homes–homes that have more living space than that enjoyed by most middle class Europeans.”

The results of this background on the way my parents raised me were profound.  My mother kept the home and my father worked hard to provide for us.  We were taught to clean our plate – food was not wasted; Yes this means eating left-overs.  When you leave a room – turn off the lights.  Think about what you need from the refrigerator first, then open the door and quickly get what you need.  Put the pan on the right size burner on the stove and shut if off when not in use.  Shut the door you don’t live in a barn and we are not air-conditioning (when we finally got one) the whole countryside!  When a toy was broken we did not throw it away and buy another – Dad fixed it.  I remember a plastic gun which either me or my brother had managed to land on and broke in half!  It was fixed with that yellow contact cement and braces – only a little of that yellow marring the appearance.  You played with a great deal of imagination anyway!  Dad brought home shipping crates occasionally from work which I was to pull the nails from and stack the wood for later projects.  And all of this came to a tremendous clash when the kids living next door about whom I certainly broke the 10th Commandment.  We had a few water colors which were carefully and sparingly used while she had acrylic paints which were dumped everywhere without a care.  I confess, I even more severely broke the 10th Commandment when they showed up with a mini-bike: First one with a lawnmower engine, then a more sophisticated one with shocks, then a Honda 70.  I would have given a right arm to have one, but the boy next door would take great delight by going fast and then jumping off and watching it crash into the side of the house!  I remember them bringing it over to our house for Dad to try to straiten the forks on his home-made arbor press.

This is not just a tale of my youth and the idiosyncrasies of the Reiber house.  Neither is this simply the hopelessly outmoded mindset of those who lived through the Great Depression.  Rather this is an application of this 8th Commandment: The responsible and careful use of what God has blessed us with through our honest labor.  This is what LC 141, calls frugality. Frugal is not only a word which has virtually disappeared from our vocabulary, but a concept that has about gone as well.  It speaks of the proper, temperate use of things as opposed to wastefulness and foolish expenditure.  That same LC 141, speaks of a provident care…to keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature and suitable to our condition.

B.  Our Lord’s example and Scripture principle.

1.  Frugality and Prudence  You are familiar with John 6, where our Lord performed the miracle of feeding the five thousand.  After He had given thanks, broke them, and they were distributed by the disciples, what then? Verse 12, “So when they were filled, he said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”  Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.”  Gather up says our Savior: Positively take care of and responsibly use what has been given.  So that nothing is lost says our Lord: Negatively speaking, let nothing be wasted and be unproductively thrown away.  Gratitude and proper stewardship of what we receive from God demands responsible and careful use of what God gives to us.

Waste not, want not! is not simply an old saying, but the Biblical wisdom of God.  Prov. 21:20, “There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.”  To place our love in earthly treasure is the way to poverty: Prov. 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man.”  Yet we may wisely and thankfully enjoy the wise gathering the fruit of the Lord’s blessing: Prov. 10:22, “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.”  This is not what Christ forbids in Mt. 6:19, “laying up for ourselves treasures on earth” – a hoarding for selfishness and with distrust of God (Lk. 12:16-22).  This treasure is in the dwelling of the wise., those who fear God.  Prudence is not worldliness: 10:5, “He who gathers in summer is a wise son; He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.”  This is illustrated by Joseph in Gen. 41:48, who gathered during the time of plenty in order to prepare for the time of leanness.  Prudence is another one of those words which has almost passed from our vocabulary.  It however is the wise sister of frugality.  Prov. 22:3, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”  This is not knowledge of God’s secret will yet future, but it is the wise understanding of future troubles that makes for wise preparation today.  The simple are devoid of all sensible looking to the future and as a result are reckless concerning the future consequences of present action or inaction, and so their foolishness is punished.  In economic terms this principle derives from Prov. 6, where the industrious ant’s gathering prepares him for winter’s leanness.  Years ago parents would read the Aesop’s Fable The Grasshopper and the Ant to their children which provided a moral lesson about hard work and preparation of the ant and the demise of the foolish grasshopper.

2.  Honest careful use: Thrifty – Economical.  In Lk. 15, our Lord told the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  It is obviously much more than a lesson about the right use of the things of this life, however this young man’s audacity to demand his inheritance before his father is dead! his refusal of the godly father’s house; and of course his journey to the far country where “he wasted his possessions with prodigal living” – Certainly give a picture of the very opposite of honest and careful use of the wealth which God gives us by our work or inheritance.  Many of the pop icons are simply pictures of this very thing and adored by millions until they end up penniless and addicted, which certainly speaks of the great dangers of the idol of mammon.

Again:  Prov. 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man.”  This is not to say that we are to have no enjoyment, no pleasure in a truck or car or house or lawnmower or a cook-out!  Jeremiah, alluding to the promises of God’s law in Lev. 26 & Dt. 28, says in 31:10-14, “….they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, streaming to the goodness of the Lord–wheat and new wine and oil, for the young of the flock and the heard…I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.”  The 4th and 8th chapters of I Ks. where in 8:66, “On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the good the Lord has done for His servant David, and for Israel His people.”  So too Ps. 104:15, “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the hearth, and wine that made glad the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.”  Eccl. 2:24, “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor.  This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.”  The Apostle writes I Tim. 4:4, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  So we receive all things with thankfulness to God and sue them under His eye and according to His Word. I Cor. 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

So therefore we are not to simply waste our time and money to no good purpose, but rather on that which is of solid use. Isa. 55:2, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?”  We live in a day of a great deal of wastefulness.  Being lavish in expenditures is often celebrated even when it violates the biblical principle of personal and family responsibility.

3.  Care arising from conscience before God.  We must look to our hearts and our motives concerning these things.  Why must we have this carefulness, this frugal prudence?  Negatively it must not simply be that we are self-centered and stingy!  This must not be founded on our love of this world, but rather be acted out of conscience before God.  Those who our Lord condemned as setting aside the law of God by their traditions those who used the religious dedication of things to God as a covert way of keeping from providing for their own parents.  They were miserly and stingy because they wanted it themselves and thus abused God’s blessings upon them.

Wastefulness is sinful because of just what the Apostle teaches about the relationship between Master and Servant and Servant and Master in his epistles.  This is of great, great importance and applies to a variety of areas which we will see later.  The Apostle speaks of the servant, the laborer working as to the Lord and not to men whether bond or free.  The Apostle tells the master that his treatment and rendering what is due (salary) is that for which he too must answer to God.  This also applies in our reception and use of all things:  We live to God.  This is just to say, that in all our getting and using of the things of this world we are trustees, we have a temporary stewardship from God and to Him we must give an account.  This must be a self-conscious and controlling factor in our use of things.

4.  Thus we are enabled to make godly use of money and look to the poor.  Godly use includes not only our provision for ourselves and our family.  Being frugal, saving, and careful will make us ready to give to God for the support of the proclamation of the Gospel.  Eph. 4:28, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”  It makes us ready and able to wisely – not impoverish ourselves for that is nowhere required – but to have a care for widows, orphans, and the poor – that is, those lacking, food, clothing, and shelter (I Tim. 5:3ff). Prov. 11:24, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more…”

C.  Carefulness to avoid what may destroy our wealth.

There are at least a million get rich quick schemes.  From the billboards on the way to Vicksburg I understand that you can go down to the river and you will end up on a bed in a luxurious motel room swimming in cash!  Gambling belongs perhaps in the area of sins forbidden by this commandment.  Certainly we are not to jump in to such schemes.  How many have ruined not only themselves, but their families sinning against their family and against God.  If you are a Baseball fan you know of Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson being banned.  We all have read of Bernard Madoff.  Many other tales of family ruin could be found.  As Christians we must avoid these.

We must all be careful not to involve ourselves in unnecessary law-suits: In I Cor. 6:1ff, the Apostle Paul deals with the I will sue at the drop of the hat mentality.  This should not be viewed as a complete prohibition against using the law.  If that were the case then the Christian who is run into at a stop light should simply go pay for the damage themselves.  You will find the Apostle Paul using the lawful rights of his Roman citizenship, appealing to Caesar, and using Roman protection, the legal protection of the state, against a murder plot by the Jews.  But what the Apostle does tell us in I Cor. 6, is that we are not to use the law and courts simply to aggrandize and pad our pockets.  I actually knew of a guy, who while graduating from law school, had never passed the bar.  Nevertheless when he was accidentally bumped from the rear he got one of those neck braces to wear to court! Why?  Not an injured neck, but at the time he told me that it virtually guaranteed him $5,000!  Prov. 11:5, “The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.”  Of this kind of thing is the over reaching into what is beyond all right to properly manage and do.  Of course the huge and unmistakable example which I cannot but think of is, the granting of sub-prime loans which are loans extended to high risk categories dealing with the size of the loan, the structure, the credit rating of the borrower, the ratio of debt to income/assets, ratio of loan to collateral, the lack of supporting documentation.

D.  Moderation

Recognizing our own temptations to cling to the things of this world and to prize God’s gifts too highly for their own sake and virtually idolizing them, we must carefully moderate our heart attachment to them. Phil. 4:5, “Let your gentleness [epieikhß] be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.”  Mildness, reasonableness or moderation.  Calvin notes, “We may understand him as exhorting them to endure all things with equanimity.  This later meaning I rather prefer; for to epieikeß is a term that is made use of by the Greeks themselves to denote moderation of spirit–when we are not easily moved by injuries, when we are not easily annoyed by adversity, but retain equanimity of temper….Such equanimity–which is the mother of patience–he requires here on the part of the Philippians, and, indeed, such as will manifest itself to all, according as occasion will require, by producing its proper effects.”  We must learn to control ourselves.  So how does this apply?

A moderate valuing of things our desires. I Ti. 6:17, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”  So we do not simply dismiss God’s blessings and not use them, not improve them, not be grateful and thankful for them; We do not become so so-called spiritual that we cease to work for them and use them;  But neither do we idolize them and so loose ourselves in their pursuit that we forget the Giver and forget their proper use.

We must so moderate our wills and exercise discipline over ourselves that we do not fall into: I Ti.6:9, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”  There is an attraction there which pull men and women over the cliff.

We must moderate our affections and love for things.  I Ti. 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed form the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”   The heart which becomes consumed with the inordinate love of things of this world will know no moderation in the pursuit of them.

We must moderate our care about getting, holding, using them resting in God’s promise to take care of us, depending on His providence to support us – Mt. 6:25, Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”

We must moderate our desires and find contentment in the position into which God has placed us. Heb. 13:5, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

As Christians living in a watching world we very much need to demonstrate these things.  The old lessons of hard work, good work, working to the Lord, of thriftiness, saving, careful prudence, living frugally/economically are the reflections of the Gospel taken to heart and lived.  Let us bring glory to our Lord and Savior. AMEN.

 

Larger Catechism 141,  The duties required in the 8th commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to every one his  due; restitution of good unlawfuly detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose of these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary law-suits, and suretiship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

 

 

October 26, 2010 / scottreiber

The Sanctity of Private Property – The Ordinance of Work 2

TEXT:   Exodus 20:15; Eph. 4:28; Lev. 19:11,13,35-36

TITLE:  The 8th Commandment:  God’s Ordinance of Work 2

Exposition of Exodus LXXI

OCCASION: Westminster Presbyterian ChurchDATE: February 21,AD 2009

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Introduction

If you will turn to New Trinity Hymnal p. 875:

Q73, Which is the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment is, “Thou shalt not steal.”

*****Q74.  What is required in the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

*****Q75.  What is forbidden in the Eighth Commandment?  The Eighth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbor’s, wealth or outward estate.

Last Lord’s Day evening we found that lying at the foundation of the 8th Commandment is the very important biblical teaching of the Sanctity of Private Property.  The whole matter of private property and morality of it is under great attack in our day.  Unfortunately it is nothing new.  Even though often discounted we looked at the OT, but then focused the majority of our time in the NT and particularly in Acts.  Far from either enforced or voluntary communal living, or any prohibition or immorality associated with the owning of property, we found Christians to have property and to be exhorted to the responsible in the use of it. So now having established the sanctity of private property from the Scriptures let us then look into what the Eighth Commandment directs concerning the….

Lawful and right ways of obtaining property.

Since God is the One who grants the right to property, then He is the One who can legislate as to what are the lawful means to obtain and preserve our property.

I.  God is the One who blesses with material blessing.

Dt. 8:18, “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…”  So the prophet Hosea chides the northern kingdom, 2:8, “For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold–which they prepared for Baal.”  It is this perspective that our Lord teaches us when He directs us to pray to Our Father in heaven to give us this day our daily bread.  Ja. 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  We are taught not to presume upon our own abilities, training, shrewdness, but to look to God: Ja. 4:13, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that,” But now you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”

We are going to look into the God-required lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.  But I point this out because hard work, wise work, thriftiness, saving, the Protestant or Puritan Work Ethic are all wonderfully true and biblically taught practical matters; But without God’s blessing all our efforts will not succeed: Ps. 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;  Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchmen stays awake in vain.  It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives to His beloved even in their sleep.”  Certainly David is not teaching idleness for in Ps. 128:2, “You shall eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you” which is a function of fearing the Lord.  The point being that we and all creatures are dependent upon God who (Acts 17:25f) “gives to all life, breath, and all things.” Acts 14:17, “…He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

II.  The gaining of wealth by work.

From the very beginning it is God who produces by work.  Gen. 2:2, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”  This becomes the pattern for man enshrined in God’s law in the 4th Commandment: Ex. 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.  In it you shall do not work….For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day…”  The cycle of labor and rest is founded here.

When God first created Adam and Eve in His own image we are informed by Gen. 1:26, that God told them to have dominion over all creation.  Adam and Eve exercised dominion over creation through work.  Adam was first placed in the Garden to tend and keep it.  He exercises dominion over all the creatures as he performs the work of naming them.  So we may say that man, made in the image of God, is given this dominion mandate to work that by his labor creation may bring forth to the glory of God and the good of man.  With Adam and Eve there is not only a differentiation in gender, but a division of labor. This is the Creation Ordinance of Godly Dominion by Work. Creation brought forth abundantly and man thought God’s thoughts after him in the abundance of Eden.

However with the Fall, human sin, scarcity, and the drudgery or laboriousness of work comes into the world. Instead of exercising dominion by work and by godly obedience, Adam and Eve place themselves in the place of God.  That self-idolatry as a path to power is still the pattern of sinful men today.  Among other things it was the expression of envy: You shall be as God…. This is of course, simply the path to slavery.  God speaks to Adam in Gen. 3:17, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field…”  Now, instead of prosperity and abundance, it is rather the case that poverty becomes the natural or should we say un-natural condition of man.  Instead of freedom to serve God, man falls into slavery to sin and satan.  The hardship associated with work is found in the language of Gen. 5:29, where Noah is named meaning Rest, “And he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.”  Gen. 3:17, “…In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground…”  Yet there shall be labor and an appropriate reward, Adam and his sons and daughters will eat though through laborious work.  We find the ordinance of work and the notion of a particular calling, that is gifts, skills, an occupation in Gen. 4:2, where Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain a tiller of the ground.  As man develops so does his skill.  Noah has the aptitude to build the ark and after the flood (Gen. 9:20) he farms and plants a vineyard.

When we come to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we read of the wealth of Abraham, the work of Jacob despite his sin – yet God blessing it, and the wealth of Esau.  The point is obvious, that here is no cloud of dishonor put over the honest reception of the fruit of this work. This is clearly seen in Isaac’s blessing on Jacob: Gen. 27:28, “…may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.”  Likewise Esau: 27:39, “Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth…”  Gaining wealth by work is good and biblical.

III.  Work as a calling of God.

As you have seen all through those opening chapters of Genesis then, everyone must have a lawful calling or employment and give themselves diligently to it.  Calvin, Institutes 3.10.6. “…the Lord enjoins every one of us, in all the actions of life, to have respect to our own calling.  He knows the boiling restlessness of the human mind, the fickleness with which it is borne hither and thither, its eagerness to hold opposites at one time in its grasp, its ambition.  Therefore, lest all things should be thrown into confusion by our folly and rashness, He has assigned distinct duties to each in the different modes of life.  And that no one may presume to overstep his proper limits, He has distinguished the different modes of life by the name of callings.  Every man’s mode of life, therefore, is a kind of station assigned him by the Lord, that he may not be always driven about at random…..It is enough to know that in everything the call of the Lord is the foundation and beginning of right action.  He who does not act with reference to it will never, in the discharge of duty, keep the right path.  He will sometimes be able, perhaps, to give the semblance of something laudable, but whatever it may be in the sight of man, it will be rejected before the throne of God; and besides, there will be no harmony in the different parts of his life.  Hence, he only who directs his life to this end will have it properly framed; because, free from the impulse of rashness, he will not attempt more than his calling justifies, knowing that it is unlawful to overleap the prescribed bounds.  He who is obscure will not decline to cultivate a private life, that he may not desert the post at which God has placed him.  Again, in all our cares, toils, annoyances, and other burdens, it will be no small alleviation to know that all these are under the superintendence of God.  The magistrate will more willingly perform his office, and the father of the family confine himself to his proper sphere.  Every one in his particular mode of life will, without repining, suffer its inconveniences, cares, uneasiness, and anxiety, persuaded that God has laid on the burden.  This, too, will afford admirable consolation, that in following your proper calling, no work will be so mean and sordid as not to have a slendour and value in the eye of God.”

Illust. I remember a very real and pointed exhortation which Bebo Elkin gave us at the University of Southern Mississippi.  He reminded us all that our calling at present was to be a student.  We were there to study, to learn and therefore we should give ourselves diligently to that calling.  When you are conscious of your work as a calling, as Calvin noted, it makes you have a sense of personal responsibility.   It is this sense of calling, this working not under the eye of men, but under the eye of God and for God’s glory that keeps work from simply being a drudgery, from simply being done to get the pay check – which I would suggest is what our culture is awash in.  We are to work as to the Lord: Eph. 6:6, “Not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”  No doubt there were objectionable things that first century slaves were told to do.  So too, we may be doing a job which is unpleasant.  We do not think that those over us appreciate what we are doing.  We are tempted to individual or organized revolt/revolution!  We are tempted to return careless work – sabotage- to that overbearing boss!  Col. 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.  But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.”

IV.  Work not idleness.

In Lk. 13, our Lord gives the parable of the barren fig tree: “Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?”  We are not to be like rats simply living off the labor of others.  Prov. 6:6f, “Go to the ant, you sluggard!  Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.  How long will you slumber, O sluggard?  When will you rise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep–So shall your poverty come on your like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.”

Look at II Thess. 3:6, “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” The first thing that probably comes to mind is,  the Apostle must be referring false doctrine.  (Perhaps something like II Jn. 10, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”)  Maybe you thought it was some matter of notorious sin as in Paul: I Cor. 5:11, “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person.”  But it certainly jarred me to realize that the Apostle Paul in II Thess. 3, is talking about a particular kind of disorderliness – idleness with its first cousin to being a busybody in other people’s business: v.11, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.”  Why Paul you are just not being loving enough!  You are not being merciful enough! Because what does he say? 10, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  This sounds rashly medieval to our modern culture: I Tim. 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”  It is a mark of faith in Jesus Christ, of the new nature worked by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, a sign of the reality of the Spirit’s presence that we earn our own way by work and that we ourselves provide for our own who are related to us in our families and dependent upon us.  The ethic of work of the New Testament and taking care of yourself and your family is the command of Jesus Christ: II Thess. 3:12, “Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.”

As I pointed out last Lord’s day, we live in a day when under the guise of religion, even Christianity, what we have studied from God’s Word is set aside.  Yet our Lord gave a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees and scribes: Mk. 7:9, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”-’ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down…”  The way of godliness supported by the Apostle Paul is complete keeping with what Christ taught and the Old Testament: I Tim. 5:4, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.”

God’s command to work strikes at idleness, laziness, and the passing of unproductive time which we are all guilty of.  Illust. In the Lee County Council of Governments office where I had my first job.  We once had to fill out a time sheet which showed what we were doing every 15 minute block of an hour all day!  How sadly revealing!  What our culture drives at is not the maximum in work and productivity, but the minimum.  I remember one of my summer jobs where the other guys said, Slow down!  You are making us look bad! How far have we fallen from the Biblical pattern?  How little can one get by with and still look busy and keep the job!  That is not what Christ enjoins upon us as Christians.  [John Murray] “How may we expect the social and economic structure to be permeated with the conception of the obligation, the dignity, and the pleasure of honest and conscientious labor if the church itself shows so little of blood, sweat, and tears in fulfilling its vocation?”

Proverbs is filled with these kinds of exhortations: Prov. 10:2-4, “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death.  The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to famish, but He casts away the desire of the wicked.  He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”

Prov. 12:11,24, “He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding….The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.”

Prov. 13:4,11, “The soul of the lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”

My friends we live in a culture awash in trying to find some kind of trick to get what someone else has.  We are taught that anyone who has something more than us obviously got it in a wrong way and that we simply by existing deserve it!  Our sons and daughters are loosing the Protestant/Puritan Work Ethic.  They are loosing the idea that the way to, as folks put it “Get Ahead,” is by honest, diligent, labor.  I would rather put it that the way to dominion, to power, as we saw in Genesis, to resonsiblility and taking care of our family, is through diligent work.  Who will be the greatest among you?  He who is the servant of all.  Scripture never calls upon us to demand our fair share.  It calls upon us to industriously work. It is the industrious meek who will inherit the earth.  Many of you are very concerned.  Just this last week CNN POLL: “Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.”   I would point to all of Ps. 37, but let this sample suffice: v.12ff, “The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth.  The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming.  The wicked have drawn the sword and have ben their bow…to slay those who are of upright conduct…..their bows shall be broken.  A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.  For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.”  v.3, “Trust in the Lord, and do good….Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”  AMEN.