GRACE NOTES – PASTORAL LETTER 9.25.23

Monthly memory verse: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:15-17).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

It was a blessing to spend the day worshipping our God and Savior together this past Lord’s Day.  I have been praying for you ever since, asking the Lord to bless you and your households.  Indeed, the Lord’s establishment of such natural institutions as the household has been the focus of much of my thinking and praying lately, especially given the terrific assault being leveled against such things in our culture, and even within the church.

Of course, it is no surprise, though it is saddening, to see the ungodly taking aim at the foundations of a healthy society that have been provided by our gracious God.  It is awful to see, and endlessly exasperating to have to live through, the attempted destruction of natural bonds to the point that the idea that children do best in a home with a mom and a dad is now considered outdated and bigoted.  But still, given our culture’s wholesale rejection of the Lord and His statutes, it can hardly be called shocking.  What is far more discouraging, however, is to see many within the church embracing this sort of wicked ideology, though often under the guise of living out the faith.  So, for example, I was fascinated and frustrated recently to see some within the broadly reformed world claiming that, as believers, we have been made part of a new family in Christ, and therefore no longer owe any greater allegiance to our blood relatives than we do to the children of strangers living halfway around the world.  Such thinking can be made to sound pious, claiming a superior spirituality that leads us to view all people everywhere in precisely the same light – loving all equally and having equal responsibility to all.  However, on closer inspection, this sort of ideology is not only obviously destructive to the family and society at large, but plainly unbiblical.

It is, of course, true that when we are called to Christ we are made children of God and members of His household, with a new, spiritual family that spans not only the globe but also every generation (cf. Mk 3:35; Rom 8:16-17; 1 Jn 3:1; etc).  It is also true that our allegiance to Christ may sometimes create division between us and those we know and love, and that, in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to choose faithfulness to Him over allegiance to those who are closest to us (cf. Lk 12:53; 14:26; etc).  However, to have to break ties with close family and the like is neither desirable nor by any means always necessary, and to do so needlessly is so far from being a mark of spirituality that it is precisely the opposite.  Indeed, written right into the Lord’s abiding moral law is the requirement to honor father and mother, which of course also includes within it the necessity that parents love, instruct, nurture, and discipline their children (cf. Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16).  These are natural requirements placed upon all people everywhere by virtue of being men and women made in God’s image.  Far from being annulled by our coming to Christ, these duties are all the more strengthened, as we are now those who have a particular interest in the Lord and a heightened obligation to render Him obedience from thankful hearts.  So, without feeling the need to explain that such familial bonds and related commands remain in place for the Christian, the apostle Paul tells believers and their children to honor the fifth commandant (cf. Eph 6:1-4).  And, he elsewhere insists that, “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8).

What this means, in short, and as you heard this past Sunday morning, is that grace does not destroy nature.  That is to say, being born of God into the household of God does add new privileges and responsibilities, but it in no way nullifies the privileges and responsibilities of being part of a natural family.  Being a Christian means you have new fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers in the faith.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean you no longer have an earthly grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on.  Nor does being a Christian mean you no longer have a special duty toward those who are closest to you by way of relation.  Nor does being a Christian mean you are no longer to hold a special affection for those most closely related to you.  Indeed, as above, to deny this is to deny the faith – attempting to use the glorious saving grace of God in Christ as an excuse to destroy the beauty and goodness of His natural created order, when in fact the two are meant to sweetly harmonize, the former building upon the latter.

So then, far from meaning you should no longer favor your children over other people’s children, or your family over another person’s family, or your community over another community, or your nation over another nation, becoming a Christian means you should love those involved in these particular relations the more, being the best family member, community member, and earthly citizen you can be, so that God might be glorified in you, and in these institutions, established by Him for the display of His wisdom in the human flourishing they produce.  We should strive to see our families established as orderly, warm, affectionate Christian families to the glory of God.  We should strive to see our communities thriving as Christian communities, through strong relationships built in accordance with Scripture for the glory of God.  We should strive to see our nation fashioned into a Christian nation, built upon the only objective and unchanging standard of the just law of our God, for the praise of His glory.  And, given our special interest in each of these, we should love and prefer them over all others, seeking their best with our might, even as we hope and pray for other families, communities, and nations to do the same in their respective realms.

The opposite of all of this – broken families, communities made up of isolated and untrusting individuals, and nations with no borders or justice – represents a striking at the foundation of God’s natural order that is sinful and antagonistic to human flourishing, and is therefore to be both abhorred and powerfully resisted.  On the other hand, embracing God’s good, natural order is a prerequisite for home life, community life, and national life that are peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified, and well pleasing in the sight of God our Savior (cf. 1 Tim 2:1).

Therefore, let us not buy into the fashionable lie that it is somehow unchristian to hold greater affection for our own parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, and the like, than others.  Let us resist the push to tear down local communities with their unique traditions and temperaments.  Let us despise the drive toward a global hegemony, leaving no room for firm borders, distinct national interests, or varied cultural expressions.  Let us rather be grateful to the Lord for placing us where He has placed us, among the people among whom He has placed us – holding a special allegiance to, and affection for, them, even as we desire, hope, and pray the best for all.  And, in the varied expressions of love and orderliness that result, may our God be glorified both now, and on that day when a multitude of beautifully diverse peoples gather around His throne to magnify His name!

In Christ,

Pastor Eric

P.S.

Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall – dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30.  Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.

Please mark your calendars!  If you ever need to double-check dates, events are usually kept up to date on the church’s website calendar:  https://covenantofgracews.org/event-calendar/· Daily devotions
o I continue to encourage you to daily read Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening as we seek to maintain a spirit of unity.  It is widely available – here is one link:
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