Sunday, July 12, 2015

Malicious Fools in Black Robes

Malicious Fools in Black Robes – Psalm 58/Acts 4:8-31

On Friday, June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, issued its decision that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right of two members of the same sex to be married, and thereby ordered the roughly 30 states which have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman to immediately begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.  The following Sunday, I read the CREC response to the ruling and gave an exhortation in the Call to Worship on the matter.  Since then, there have been some excellent sermons, articles and posts on social media making very important and well-reasoned responses to this travesty.  In previous sermons, we have addressed the sin of homosexuality and the illegitimacy of so-called same-sex marriage.  Finally, in Washington State, this was officially a non-issue as we had already made homosexual unions legal and have already shaken our fist at God, officially calling such unions “marriage.”

So why another voice, why another sermon or statement or response?  Three reasons.  First, I know that many of you have read or heard much regarding this SCOTUS decision; but I also know that some or many of you have not.  And it simply goes without saying, regardless of which side any individual is on this issue, that this decision and its implications for our nation and culture - is huge.  Second, while there are many pastors out there responding, writing, and speaking far more eloquently than I can, we are your elders and as a pastor I have a responsibility to speak to you personally.  With that in mind, please note that I will be taking many quotations and ideas shared by men and women I have found incredibly helpful in putting together my own thoughts and this sermon.  And third, we frankly need more voices, more public voices, public AMENs to what is being said in faithful congregations around the country.  Let God be glorified in the preaching of His truth and mercy, His lovingkindness and His holy wrath.

I have already made clear in other sermons on these topics that what I am about to say should never be construed as hating homosexuals or denying that they do in fact have real feelings, attractions and desires while acting as though heterosexuals do not have any desires that also need to be mortified.  Homosexuals are welcome to come to the kingdom of God, to come to Jesus, in the same way that all fornicators, all liars, all thieves; all drunkards are welcome to come (1 Cor 6:9-11).  This church is not a holy-club filled with people who have never sinned.  The church is filled with people who have fallen in many and varied sins – but who have called out to Jesus in repentance and faith for the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of eternal life.  In addition, in my call to worship a couple of weeks ago I made clear that the fundamental problem with our nation is not in the civil realm; what we are witnessing is the outworking of the corruptions within the church.  We have taught the world how to twist Scripture to make it say whatever we want it to say.  Judgment begins here, in the household of God.

That said, this sermon will more narrowly address a response to the Supreme Court, to the decisions and arguments made, the implications both declared and implied, along with how we in the church should think and what, as the light of the world, we should do.

Wicked Judges Judged (Psalm 58) – God’s hymnbook gives us songs to sing to and about our enemies, something that cannot be found in modern hymnbooks.  These are not easy songs to sing; they are not easy words to say.  But they are the words of God.  Jesus sings these Psalms in the courts of heaven.  This Psalm easily breaks down into three sections.  The ungodly and wicked enemy is indicted (vv1-5).  A just judgment from God is sought (vv6-8).  And by faith, the psalmist sings the inevitable victory of God and he sings it now, as though the victory had already been won (vv9-11).

The violence of these judges in the days of David pales in comparison to the malicious judges of our day when you consider the greater Gospel light which exists in our age.  To whom much is given, much is required.  These judges are fools – and that is not a word being used with hate-filled emotion; this is a scriptural term for those who refuse to follow God’s Word.  To call them fools is not to say that they are not intelligent men and women – of course they are.  To call them fools is to say that they say in their hearts, “there is no God” and interpret words of law and constitution accordingly.

But are these justices malicious?  “…in your heart you work wickedness; You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth” (v2).  “…Their poison is like the poison of a serpent…charming ever so skillfully” (v3) – like a sharp-edged scissor poised to slice the developed spinal cord of a third trimester boy or girl.  In 1973 this court determined that no one inside a womb had a right to life and that the mother could decide (or be coerced) herself as to whether or not her child should live or be murdered.  Those seven justices were filled with malice – and those seven justices have all gone now to meet their Maker, the holy Judge.  Did they hear the King of kings singing these words as they came into eternity – “Do you indeed speak righteousness, you judges?” 

And so, five judges, malicious fools in black robes, declared that the entire nation and culture must recognize that triangles can have four sides, that 2 + 2 can equal 5, and that two keys can be joined together in the same way a key and a lock can – there is no difference.  The malice in this declaration is and will be shown forth in the public hatred that will be manifest to anyone who publicly refuses to acknowledge, accept and celebrate such a decision.  It is clear that the godless homosexual agenda is not tolerance; it is acceptance and approval.  The tolerance crowd will not tolerate the Bible’s view on marriage even though it has been the accepted definition since Adam and Eve, long before the invention of a nut and bolt.

Pastor Jeff Meyers wrote, “Look, this decision is huge.  Massive.  Unless something unforeseen happens, our future as a country has been decided.  And for thoughtful Christians contemplating the implications of this, it doesn’t look good.”

Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Seminary wrote, “The threat to religious liberty represented by this decision is clear, present, and inevitable.  Assurances to the contrary, the majority in this decision has placed every religious institution in legal jeopardy if that institution intends to uphold its theological convictions limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman.  This threat is extended to every religious citizen or congregation that would uphold the convictions held by believers for millennia.”

Are these men exaggerating the case?  Well, listen to the majority opinion speak for itself in the voice of Justice Kennedy – “The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change…History and tradition guide and discipline the inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.  When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed…The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest…The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.  The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

The arrogance should take your breath away.  If you have sung Psalm 2 enough, you should hear the words of the God-scoffers, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us” (Psalm 2:3).  “Give us our liberty – we will define reality!”  And if you have sung Psalm 2 enough – you know where this song is going…it ain’t pretty.

Pastor Toby Sumpter wrote, “What thoughtful Christians need to read and hear in the reasoning of this decision is the fact that nothing can now be prohibited by the laws of our land.  Nothing.  Anything can eventually come to be understood as liberty.  Within hours of this ruling, articles were circulating pointing out that the same reasoning could defend polygamy, incest and pedophilia.  If the standard is the deepest desires of an individual, how can you tell an individual that he may not marry his mom or his own daughter?”  (I would add, or who can withhold the right for a man to marry his rifle or his truck – for I have seen many a man caress his gun or vehicle with far more passion than he might his wife – but I digress).

Where will such incoherence and arbitrariness end if the only standard is whatever the courts declare to be “reasoned judgment?”  In fact, again as Pastor Sumpter writes, “What this decision guarantees is that there will be no guarantees.  And follow this carefully:  This means that justice will be decided by whoever is shouting the loudest, has the biggest caliber rifle, or the deepest pockets.  When nations are not ruled by law, they are necessarily ruled by mobs and thugs.  And anyone without a voice, anyone without recourse to some form of material power will be left undefended, unprotected, and crushed in the mad rush to get whatever their ‘intimate choices’ demand now.  And since liberty is an evolving concept, you never know what fundamental right might dream up next.”

“But the point is simply this:  without a fixed standard, arbitrary justice will crush the defenseless, the poor, the orphans, the widows, the disabled.  And we know this because we are already a nation that executes the unborn by the millions in the name of ‘intimate choices’.”

And so, the first thing we do as God’s people is – we sing.  That is why we have been given such psalms as Psalm 58.  We are to sing to God, asking Him to break the very teeth of the rulers who speak with such poison, whose teeth are filled with that venom (v7).  Let the actions of their lives result in nothing more than if they themselves had been aborted; let them be as impotent as the trail of slime behind a snail (v9).  This is to be sung and declared by God’s people in the public worship of God with every intention that Jesus Himself would join us in the heavenlies, singing and answering such prayers.  And this is just what the Gospel declares has and will happen.

Malicious In-Justice Turned on its Head (Acts 4:8-31) – This is just where Peter and John and the first post-Pentecost church found itself as recorded in Acts 4.  Peter and John were preaching the resurrected Christ and the very men who had seen fit to murder Jesus Christ, based on false charges and lies, arrested these two disciples.  So-called “justice” had already been decreed:  Jesus Christ was a criminal and his story was not to be told.  How did Peter and John respond?  “…let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.  This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vv10-12).  They knew their call; they knew their priorities – and they weren’t backing down no matter the cost.

This is what God does with malicious acts of injustice.  He is never mocked.  But you must see beyond the confidence of the apostles as to why they had this confidence.  They had just a few weeks before been in hiding because their leader had been killed.  The decision of the courts had been made and Jesus was murdered – publicly in the most humiliating of ways.  And then, on the third day, He rose from the dead.  The very act of malice brought forth the blood of a perfect sacrifice that would provide forgiveness for the whole world.  God was right.  God was vindicated.  And God would work through any short-lived victory by His enemies to bring forth His purposes – and His ultimate purpose – which is to save His enemies by making them His reconciled friends.

Pentecost came and with it the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the disciples of Jesus might be empowered witnesses to the resurrection and the teachings of Jesus Christ to all nations – to all heathen – to all who refused to bow the knee to God – repent and believe – believe and be saved – be saved and be a part of the new creation, the new world, the new and only way to God.  This is why they said to their enemies, the enemies who had the power to put them to death as well – “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (vv 19-20).

Where did this boldness come from?  The disciples knew the psalms.  Peter and John are let go, they rejoin their companions and they raised their voice with one accord – most likely in singing – and sang Psalm 2 because they had just seen Psalm 2 happen in their own lifetime – The kings of the earth and rulers had taken their stand against Jesus – and God had laughed and mocked them to scorn.  His derision was testified to them in the resurrection of His Son and the giving to Him of all nations – all the nations these kings and rulers had represented.

Boldness – And yet, they prayed for more boldness:  “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word….” (v29).  And God granted it to them:  “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (v31).  They prayed for boldness.  They prayed for courage.  They prayed for strength – to do what?  To disobey their rulers.  Again, Pastor Sumpter:  “The time has long since come for us to pray for the same courage and boldness.  Christians are men and women under orders; we are under the orders of the Lord Jesus Christ who is seated at God’s right hand and rules over the kingdoms of men.  Our American rulers have ordered us to disobey the Lord Jesus, and we may not and we must not for a moment flinch or back down.  The states and their citizens who have defined marriage as a man and a woman must refuse to acknowledge the Supreme Court’s right to make this decision.  And we must be ready to face whatever consequences come.”  I must add to that:  for those states like the state of Washington, its citizens must repent of the rulings we already had in place to establish so-called same-sex marriage and we must reverse those laws in the name of Jesus Christ.  To our shame, it appears in the weeks since the Obergefell decision that most, if not all, states have caved to five unelected, black-robed enemies of the King of kings.

Brothers and sisters, as Christians we are committed to the Word of God as revealed in the Scriptures.  We have been told plainly on these matters what is right and what is wrong.  And these are rights and wrongs that are not just for the ‘religious,’ they are for all men created in the image of God, “male and female He created them.”  God established marriage in the Garden with one man and one woman and called that consummated union under His covenant a marriage.  That is what a marriage is.  Jesus referred to the same decree when He was teaching on marriage.  He didn’t treat Adam and Eve as a mythical story deep in the shadows of some evolutionary past.  He said that what God declared for that actual man and woman He did so to declare what a marriage would be – always and for everyone. 

And this is a gospel-issue.  It is central to the very gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul makes this clear when He tells us, in instructing husbands and wives with regard to their God-given roles:  “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32).  To mess with the definition of marriage is to mess with the gospel of Jesus Christ, pure and simple.  In addition, the Word makes clear that homosexual sex is sinful, a violation of God’s commandments.  It is a perversion of God’s intention for human sexuality; it is a terrible distortion of what we were made for.  To proclaim the truth of God’s law is not hate speech; these are words of life and liberty.  Jesus says that His commandments are not burdensome.  He says they are life-giving.  Living in rebellion against God’s law does not bring happiness, freedom, or human flourishing.  Quite the opposite.

The SCOTUS decision has not made homosexual behavior come into existence in our land.  Homosexual sin, along with many sexual perversions, has been around as long as the fall itself.  What SCOTUS has done is require the normalization and institutionalization of this particular sin.  John Piper wrote, “What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin.  Homosexual behavior has been exploited, and reveled in, and celebrated in art, for millennia.  What’s new is normalization and institutionalization.  This is the new calamity. – It’s not the only sin mentioned (in the list of sins in Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6), but it is different from all the rest, at least right now.  At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement.  It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.”  The church must be given the courage, the boldness, to stand and speak and sing against this and the other horrible sins, most notably the carnage of abortion, to the world.  Here is a threefold call to boldness for us all:

Boldness to Worship God Rightly – Throughout the Bible we are taught and shown that worship in the heavenlies changes things on earth.  That is why we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  The book of Revelation is a display of the worship of the saints in God’s court and the effect that then takes place on the earth.  But this means that we must let the Word govern our worship; our worship services must not be governed by our own individual preferences.  We are not here to occupy a couple hours of our Sunday mornings according to our own whims.  God calls us to renew our covenant with Him, to confess our sins, to hear His words of forgiveness, to sing His praise, offer our petitions, be re-formed by His Word, arranged more into the image of His Son, fed at His Table of Peace, and then sent out into the world as His ambassadors.  All of this is to be done by faith in the One we are worshipping and all with an eye to world-transformation, beginning with ourselves.  We come here to offer up ourselves as living sacrifices.  We come here to die to ourselves and to be raised up new and refreshed in Jesus – and we come here to do so in community – all brothers and sisters in Christ.  As Psalm 2 commands, we are to Kiss the Son, we are to come and worship Him with fear, rejoicing with trembling.  This is a holy place – not the geographical location, but the covenant gathering.  And in this holy place, wonderful and terrible things take place.  People are brought to life and people are disciplined for their hypocrisies if they will not let them go.  This is the glorious and powerful and terrifying work of the Holy Spirit as God’s Word is unleashed in our midst.  Prepare yourselves for worship.  Prepare your family.  Prepare and come with expectation to see your life and the life of the world changed.  That is what God is in the business of doing.  He is changing the world.

Boldness to Sacrificially Build Godly Marriages and Families – Many writers have emphasized this point in many ways.  The best defense of marriage will always be marriage itself.  If you are a Christian, this is the time to reaffirm your commitment to sexual purity whatever your station in life, married or unmarried.  If you are married, this is the time to reaffirm your vows of faithfulness and proper role-keeping in God’s ordained covenant of marriage.  Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church – and do so in a way that she and everyone around you could not bring charges against you that you do anything other than that.  So much of our society’s rejection of traditional marriage is actually a rejection of abdicating, angry, selfish, neglectful, impatient and absent husbands and fathers who claim to be followers of Jesus and His ways.  Wives, respect your husbands and submit to them as the church does Christ – and do so in a way that everyone around you would find delightful and honoring of both roles in marriage.  Wives are the crown of their husbands; she is his glory.  Husbands and wives, live in such a way that glory is bestowed, received, and rebounded back and forth in the true definition of love, the love of Christ.

Boldness to Speak the Truth in Love – Of course, it is going to happen that there will be many more opportunities to speak to this issue and bring the gospel to bear – and that is a great opportunity.  The fact of the matter is that homosexuals are just like any other sinner.  They know God exists and they are at the core of their being miserable in their sins.  They have been deceived or deceive themselves into thinking that they can take care of their broken relationship with God and their sin-problem with this or that vice, with this or that precious.  We must pray for the opportunity to speak and we must speak boldly, unvarnished truth and in the love of God the Father for sinners – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever (and He means whoever, it doesn’t matter the sin, it doesn’t matter how long the sinner has been in that condition, it doesn’t matter how shameful, it doesn’t matter – whoever) believes on Him should not perish but would have everlasting life.

But to preach that Good News we must not back down on the bad.  Everyone comes to God the Father with their sins.  Everyone.  They either come to Him with their sins in Christ or they come to Him with their sins not in Christ.  Everyone comes under the judgment of the law.  And everyone is either judged in Christ Jesus and given His righteousness or they are judged outside of Christ and find they are lost forever.  But Jesus Christ came to save sinners and He has come that the world might be saved and not lost in that judgment.  Christian, as you look at this darkening culture around us do not lose heart in the saving work of the Gospel; do not lose heart in the predetermined plans and power of God.  The Lord is able to change hearts and minds – in fact He is the only one who can change hearts and minds.  And He has declared that the earth will be as full of changed hearts and minds, of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

To the five justices filled with malice and pride masquerading in black robes of justice, “personal intimacy choices,” “reasoned judgment,” and the faux inability to know the difference between a boy and a girl, or the difference between a baby and a kidney – to those five and to the rulers of this nation and its sovereign states, and to every ear who will hear, we declare – God saves individuals by taking away their sin.  He does not save individuals by changing His created order or His law.  He does so by changing sinners.  He saves individuals by taking away their sin, their shame, and their guilt because Jesus took it for them.  Our sin was condemned in His body on the cross.  Our guilt was satisfied by His suffering in our place.  And by the cross, He frees us from the power of sin and Satan and death so that we are able to be unafraid of anything and anyone.  All powers, all authorities, all principalities, every king, every husband, every minister, every human being must submit to the ultimate authority of God – and when they do – they will find that authority is an authority of mercy, forgiveness, grace and love.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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