grace notes – pastoral letter 8-8-22

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

I have been praying for you this week, and it is my hope that as you read this you and yours are very well in body and soul.  In particular, it is my prayer that with each passing day that your thoughts, desires, and lives are being increasingly shaped by the Word of our God, which is both glorifying to Him and good for you.  Indeed, in a culture permitted with falsehood, to study, pray through, and speak and live according to the truth of Scripture is our most necessary defense and greatest weapon.  This is something I was personally reminded and convicted of as I pondered our recent sermon on Judges 11:12-28, Conquering Lies with Truth, and again as our Wednesday night group considered the necessity of knowing the Word well if we would please the Lord in everything from our private prayer life to our most public affairs.  When lies flood the land like a torrent, our buoy amidst the floodwaters is the living and abiding Word of God – the Truth, well-known, firmly grasped, continually obeyed, and boldly proclaimed.  It is a fact plainly declared in the Word itself, and constantly evidenced in the ever-shifting culture around us.

The cost of not knowing, standing upon, and declaring the truth is nothing less than horrific.  Without the truth – understood, believed, spoken, and put into practice – a society can do nothing other than to devolve further and further into moral decay.  It was true in the days of the prophet Isaiah as it is today.  Thus, as he described the terrific degradation of life and culture in Israel – marked by pervasive sin, bloodshed, lying, injustice, unrighteousness, and a lack of peace and wisdom – he wrote, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.  Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey (Isa 59:14-15).  Foundational to the reprehensible state of things in Israel was that the foundation upon which all of life was to be built had been lost – namely, the truth, the abiding and upright Word of God.  Without this lamp to light their way, they had stumbled and fallen into darkness.  Without this fence to hem them in and keep them on the right path, they had wandered into thorny thickets and entangled themselves in every sort of evil practice.  It all began with the blurring and blotting out of the truth.  Once that has occurred, while it may not happen all at once, there is no engine to drive a people in the right direction and there are no brakes to keep a people from speeding off of a cliff to its own demise.  And so it was that the land that once shined among the nations during the reign of David and Solomon had come to look just like the wicked nations around it.  Without the truth to direct everything from the lives of individual Israelites to the legislation in the land, falsehood had free reign.  And, where falsehood has free reign, every vile practice will soon not only be tolerated, but promoted.  So it was in Israel, and so it is in our nation today.  There is a famine, not of food or water, but of hearing and living according to the words of the Lord (cf. Amos 8:11).  As a result, things quite recently and rightly thought despicable are lauded as honorable, and those who resist this tide of iniquity, in Isaiah’s words, make themselves a prey – a target for the vitriol of a people who have forsaken the truth.  As we are beginning to see, and are likely to increasingly see, the cost of not knowing, standing upon, and declaring the truth is nothing less than horrific.

And, the only antidote for this malady is a clear, unadorned, faithful, fearless commitment to and declaration of the truth.  It is all at once the simplest, most frightening, and most necessary thing to do at a time such as this.  It is the only thing that can not only resist, but overcome the iron-grip that so many lies have on the minds of many today.  When women are called men, men are called women, violence is justified, words are called violence, truth is called false, falsehood is called true, evil is called good, and good is called evil, the only thing that can unravel the tangled knots into which many have contorted their minds is the penetrating sword of the truth of the Word of God.  What is needed is not first and foremost the ever-more intricate arguments of elite thinkers, trying to wrangle with those who care nothing for logic or reason, but the plain statement of the Word, which the Lord Himself says is like a fire and rock-shattering hammer, by those who are willing both to live and die for standing upon what it says (cf. Jer 23:29).  Against this no deceit can ultimately prevail, as culturally acceptable and attractive lies are exposed by the truth for what they really are – lies.  Thus, throughout the ages, the most powerful and persuasive testimonies to the truth in the face of abundant falsehood and wickedness haven’t generally been the refined writings of upper-echelon academics, but the lives and deaths of those who simply refused to stop speaking and ordering their lives according to the light and life-giving Word of God.  And, one survivor after another of the oppressive brutality of communism has stated that what either allowed such cruelty to thrive, or caused it to wither and die, was the willingness, or lack thereof, of citizens to refuse to bow to the lies being thrust upon them and to keep stating the truth.  As Paul puts it, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).  This is what is most urgently needed in our day – people who will wage the good warfare by increasingly conforming their own thoughts and lives to the Word, and by then going out and tearing down the lies embedded in the world around us by speaking the truth of this Word to others.  Yes, we need people who, like Daniel’s friends, are absolutely and unwaveringly committed to refusing to bow to whatever lie our culture has chosen to erect as its idol, and who, in love but with unrelenting clarity and boldness, chop down deception with ax of the truth, ready to bear any cost for doing so.  Only this – only the Word of our God – can illumine and overthrow so much darkness.  Only the truth, flatly and unashamedly set forth, can burn through the tangled and thorny falsehoods that surround us, making fertile soil of barren land.  It is the only antipode for a people who have embraced a lie and called it true – a clear, unadorned, faithful, fearless commitment to and declaration of the actual truth.

Therefore, when many around us cower for fear of being outed and cancelled, let us take up the Word of our God and be very bold.  Let us speak and live by it without hesitation or fear of man – understanding that we may pay a cost in this life, but gladly doing so because we would rather see the smile of our God than the smiles of a million men.  Like Moses of old, let us count the reproach of Christ greater than all the treasures or approval this world can afford (cf. Heb 11:24-26).  Let us stand up, speak the Word, and be counted among the faithful.  May God grant us the willingness and courage to do so, and may He get the glory as deception is unmasked, darkness is driven away, and the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ begins to flood Winston-Salem and spill over into all the world.

In Christ,

Pastor Eric