I invite you to look at--

My Website where you will find: ordering information and chapter summaries for The Beauty of God for a Broken World; audio sermons; a few poems and hymns; and some other essays.

My Videos where you will find a few two-minute videos on various subjects related to The Beauty of God for a Broken World.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

When Not to Forgive

After last week’s sermon on Psalm 109 (Vengeance Belongs to the Lord), I received this question via e-mail. 

Hi Pastor,
In yesterday's sermon you said that we didn't have to forgive others unless they were repentant. I was wondering where in the Bible that comes from. I know of many verses that tell us to forgive, but don't know of any that say we shouldn't.

Here was my response.

Good question. I didn’t have time to fill out all the details in yesterday’s message.

Of course, we are always supposed to forgive in the sense of not holding a grudge, wishing someone ill, or trying to get even. We are to let it go so that we are not churning inside because of an offense. We trust God to take care of things. However, Luke 17:3-4 tells us to forgive our brother if he comes to us and says “I repent.” The implication is that until he repents it is premature to extend full forgiveness. God does not forgive the unrepentant, and we cannot be fully reconciled to people who refuse to repent. We can be kind to them. We can love and pray for them, but if we prematurely say to them, I forgive you, then they assume everything is OK without having to face up to their sin. This is ultimately harmful to them. The same thing is implied in the process for church discipline in Matthew 18:15-18. If the offender does not listen, he is not forgiven, but taken to task by the church.

These situations obviously envision a very serious offense, not the ordinary kinds of things that we ought in charity simply to overlook.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Rest and Worship

(This is the tail end of a sermon on Psalm 95 that I preached on July 10, 2011. It is available in MP3 format on my website.) 

Psalm 95 connects two ideas that might not seem to fit together, worship and rest. How do they fit together? In the first place, only those who worship the Lord will enter into His rest. That is the primary thrust of Psalm 95. In the second place, our worship is not supposed to be a chore. It is part of our rest. The popular understanding of corporate, public worship has changed greatly in the past few decades. 
1. It used to be common to regard the sermon as the chief act of worship. Everything else was just the preliminaries that warmed people up spiritually and prepared them to listen to the sermon. So worship was something for us; worship was to instruct us and help us in our daily living. 

2. Then we went through a phase that regarded worship as a performance on our part for God. We were giving God pleasure by our worship. Worship was our work, our effort, our performance, and God was the audience.

3. Now, I suspect that many people regard worship as a feeling produced in themselves, primarily by the music. For that reason, the musical portion of the service has increased dramatically in most churches because music stimulates feelings, and worship is all about feelings. First, we worship; then we listen to the sermon. The musical act of worship elevates our feelings. The sermon gives us practical advice. So the whole service is about us. That is the modern idea; even when people
 say it is not about us, it really is. 

Psalm 95 tells us something about worship that we need to hear. We only truly worship when we are resting in finished work of Christ and in the power of the Spirit of Christ. So worship is not a work we do for God; it is a rest. And resting in Christ is worship because when we rest in Him, we are magnifying His all-sufficiency. 

Worship is not just a feeling or simply a time of instruction. Worship is a kind of dialog or conversation in which we hear the word of God, and we respond to God with repentance, trust, praise and the offering of ourselves and our substance. If we are resting in Christ, the conversation is not a stressful, draining labor, but a renewing of the soul in the presence of Him who is our life.