grace notes-pastoral letter 10.19.22

Monthly memory verse: Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Ps 135:6).”

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

From the Joshua’s Men study to the workday to the Lord’s Day, it was a delight to get to spend time with you this past weekend.  With its cooler weather, colorful leaves, and abundant apple cider, fall is my favorite season of the year, and it is better when spending some of it together with God’s people.  I have been praying for you this week, asking the Lord to work that which is pleasing in you, and to work out in each of our lives that which is well-pleasing in His sight, even as we each seek to submit to His will in all things.  The importance of that last point – the believer submitting to the Lord’s will in all of life – was pressed home afresh as I read verse 6 of Proverbs 20 during family worship this past week.

As Proverbs reminds us, even in a day when cultural Christianity is waning, many are willing to declare themselves to be committed believers in Jesus Christ.  As the wise man puts it, “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love” (Prov 20:6).  This could be applied in all kinds of areas of one’s life, from friendships to marriage relationships, etc.  But, the word for steadfast love is the word consistently used to describe the Lord’s covenant faithfulness and love to His people, and his people’s covenant faithfulness and love to Him, so it is fitting to understand the central and highest application of this verse as addressing the way people relate to the Lord.  And, what it says is that many are willing, for various reasons, to announce that they are among the faithful, covenant people of God.  Some of these professions are of course genuine, as believers happily declare their allegiance and desire to be faithful to the One who has shown Himself supremely faithful to them at the cross of Christ.  This is, after all, an important part of following Christ – to confess aloud one’s faith in Him.  So, the apostle Paul tells us that, “with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom 10:10).  A sincere profession of faith is something found among all who truly have been born of the Spirit.  But others may have a different end in view.  Perhaps it is the desire to feel accepted among a group of believers.  Perhaps it is the desire to advance within the ranks of the church, enjoying the compliments people give to those who put themselves forward as stand-out followers of Christ.  Perhaps it is the fear of being ostracized if they were to acknowledge what is really hidden away in their hearts.  Whatever the motive, the point remains that many are willing to declare themselves to be committed believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet, as we’ve already begun to intimate, and as Proverbs also teaches, it isn’t uncommon for people to declare themselves to be committed believers in Jesus Christ without actually being devoted to Him at all.  So, the wise saying goes on to ask the question, “but a faithful man who can find?” (Prov 20:6).  Yes, many are willing to say they’re prepared to serve and follow Christ in all of life and even unto death, but not all who are willing to say this are actually willing to follow through and do it.  Not all are as faithful as they might claim to be while they’re among the godly, say, while being interviewed for membership by a Session or standing and answering membership questions before a local congregation.  It is relatively easy, after all, to affirm one’s faith in such circumstances.  Indeed, given the context, it might seem a more frightening proposition to not affirm one’s faith.  But, to go out from among the saints and actually live for the Lord in the privacy of one’s home, at school or in the workplace, online, or in the public square, well this is something else altogether.  And, in order that we might learn to examine ourselves, making our calling and election sure, the Word of God here warns us that it isn’t unusual for one’s life at large to be out of sync with one’s confession at church.  Indeed, at a time when social pressure to abandon the true faith and the healthy doctrine of Scripture is growing rapidly, the temptation to fall into this sort of dualism is getting stronger.  So, to guard us against falling into this trap, the Lord reminds us that it is one thing to proclaim our steadfast love for Him when it is comfortable to do so, but it is quite another thing to show ourselves faithful when the Sunday services have ended.  And, it isn’t just the former but also the latter to which the disciple of Christ is called – not merely tongue-religion, but heart and life-religion that seeks to magnify the Lord wherever we may go, and among whatever company we may find ourselves.  Yet sadly, it isn’t at all uncommon for people to declare themselves to be committed believers in Jesus Christ while not actually being devoted to Him at all.

So, let us heed this warning, lay our hearts and lives before the Lord in prayer, confess and repent of any dualism we may find, and ask for His help while determining before Him to have hearts and lives united in serving and proclaiming Him at all times.  Let us not deceive ourselves by being hearers only, in James’ words, or professors only, in Solomon’s terms, but doers of the Word – faithful, by God’s grace, to stand firm in the faith – faithful to live, suffer to as called, and even to die for Him who gave Himself up for us (cf. Prov 20:6; Jas 1:22).  May God grant us that faithfulness He alone can supply, and may we be found standing firm both in the evil day and in the great and awesome day of the Lord.

In Christ,

Pastor Eric