Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gossip and the Church - What is Gossip? - Part I

This past week we started a new Sunday School class at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church. We are discussing the sin of gossip and how it can bring great harm to the church. Our main source is Matthew G. Mitchell’s work Resisting Gossip. In the first and second week we are working to define gossip.

1. The Lure of Gossip 

Gossip is like Doritos. You eat one and suddenly the whole bag is gone. It says in Proverbs 18:8; 26:22, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.” We like it so much, but why? Mitchell explores the seductive nature of gossip by walking by first defining it. 

2. What is Gossip?

Mitchell defines gossip as “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” (23)

First, gossip has to do with words. A gossip can be one who speaks gossip but also one who receives it. Hence, it says in Proverbs 17:4 that “wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip…”

Second, gossip is bad news. Mitchell explains that there are three kinds of bad news.

There is “bad information” or information that is completely false. There is bad news about someone that is true but shameful. Sometimes we call it a “bad report.” Lastly, there is bad news about someone’s future. You predict what is going to happen to someone in a bad way. For instance, “they’re going to lose their job.” “He’s clearly not going to make the team.”

Mitchell notes that words of “bad news” are not always gossip. Sometimes we have to speak bad news and hear bad news. He discusses how we can do this appropriately later in the book.

Third, gossip happens behind someone’s back, when they are not there. Mitchell offers four questions to help diagnose whether what you’re saying is behind someone’s back:
1. Would I say this if he were here?2. Would I receive this bad news about her in the same way if she was present?3. Am I hiding this conversation from someone?4. Would I want someone else to talk this way about me if I was not present?
Lastly, gossip is out of a bad heart. Christ said that “out of the overflow of the mouth, the heart speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) From our heart comes our motives/reasons for our words. This begs the question, why does our hearts enjoy the taste of gossip? 

3. Why do we Gossip?

Everyone loves a good story. God designed us to eat them up. This is one reason the gospel comes to us in four stories. Gossip is a story, but it is a bad story. “Bearing bad news can be antithetical to the gospel itself.” (37) In the garden the serpent slandered/gossiped about God, “Did God really say….” (Genesis 3:1) All gossip is an echo of this first slander against our Lord. Mitchell explains that: 
“Gossip is believing the ancient lie that we can attempt to play God by destroying others with the power of our words. Gossip is not just breaking a rule; it is perversely living out Satan’s lies, which we would rather believe than the truth.” (37)
Using Christ’s words from Matthew 12:34, Mitchell develops “the principle of overflow:” we gossip because bad words overflow from our bad hearts. Gossip is not a minor offense against God or our neighbor. It’s a sign of deep sin in our lives. What we speak is merely the overflow of the wretchedness of our hearts.

So how do you change your heart? We can’t change ourselves. We are helpless. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that any change happens. Paul speaks in Romans 6:22-23 that: 
 “But now that you have been set free from sin” [Christ’s work on the cross to pay for our sins] “…..the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
With this being our key premise, next week we’ll begin to embark on how to discern what kind of gossip are we individually especially attracted to. Then we’ll move into how to combat the sin of gossip with Godly language. Lord willing, not only will be learning how to defeat the sin of gossip but transform how we think about words and their power.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Sabbath Today - Managing your Time Through the Sabbath

For the last couple weeks in Sunday School at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church we have been discussing the role of the Sabbath in the Christian’s life. The first week we looked at the question, “why did God rest?” Then we discussed the place of the Sabbath in the Old Testament. Finally, we discussed the role of the Sabbath in the New Testament. In the last week, we looked at two questions: What is the essence of keeping the Sabbath and how can I keep the Sabbath here at 2nd RP?

A Warning: Two Extremes

In approaching the Sabbath, as any Christian practice, we want to avoid falling into the two extremes of legalism and Antinominalism. There are many ways to define these two terms. How we use these terms here is not intended to be comprehensive. Legalism is binding our hearts to rules outside of scripture. Antinominalism is breaking away our love for God from loving his law. 

We want to avoid binding ourselves to rules outside of scripture when it comes to the Sabbath. For example, it’s appropriate to generally not play sports on the Sabbath. It’s also appropriate for a child with ADD to play sports on the Sabbath. Another example, it’s appropriate to generally not buy things on the Sabbath. It’s also appropriate for you to go buy band aids on the Sabbath if you have a nasty cut. God gives us a clear law, but leaves it to us to have wisdom in how we apply it. We should not then take how we apply God’s law and lift it to being equal with God’s law.

We also want to avoid breaking away our love for God from loving his law. God desires people to keep the Sabbath. He desires people to enjoy this day of rest. Throwing the Sabbath to the side or making light of it is tearing away our love for God for our love of his law. One cannot love God without loving his commands. The two are essential to one another.

What is the Essence of Keeping the Sabbath?

The essence of the Sabbath is Jesus Christ. When we lose our focus on him then we lose the Sabbath. What this means is that the Christian’s approach to the Sabbath is to have a heart/yearning for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We desire to rest because Christ gives us a spiritual rest. We desire to go to worship because of Christ is worthy of worship. We desire to not labor because it reminds us that we do not work for salvation.

How can I keep the Sabbath here at 2nd RP?

Members in Christ’s body will answer this questions differently. For the last half of class, we discussed how we individually and corporately can keep the Sabbath. People gave different answers to this question. The question is for you the reader as well. How do you keep the Sabbath where you are? Feel free to comment below.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Sabbath in the New Testament - Managing your Time through the Sabbath

In Sunday School at 2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church this past week we continued our class on the Sabbath and our time. Last week we looked at the purpose for the Sabbath in the Old Testament. This week we examined the purpose of the Sabbath in the New Testament.

1.     Christ’s View of the Sabbath

Many of Christ’s miracles were performed on the Jewish Sabbath and was criticized by the Pharisees for not keeping the Sabbath. In Mark 7:1-13, Christ and the Pharisees debate the role of rituals and customs in society. The Pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples don’t wash their hands. His response is to call them hypocrites because they are concerned with rituals while forgetting the essence of the law. They did not focus on the inclination of a person’s heart. Rather than wanting to keep God’s law, they made it lawful to break God’s law.

Another time, the Pharisees catch Jesus’ disciples picking up grain to eat on the Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-14. They challenge Jesus’ about his disciples behavior. Jesus’ response is to say that works of mercy and works of necessity are allowable on the Sabbath. One should do good on the Sabbath. Helping others have a day of rest is a fitting use of the Sabbath.

In some sense, Christ’s interpretation of the fourth commandments broadens it from how the Pharisees were interpreting it. Rather than limit what one can do on the Sabbath, Christ broadens the fourth commandment to encourage fellow believers to do good to others, especially on the Sabbath.

2.     Paul’s warning about the Sabbath

In Colossians 2, Paul warns the church in Colossea to not allow anyone to pass judgment regarding “questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” The reason is that these things are “shadows” of the “substance” which is Christ. Ultimately, these practices have no eternal value for the believer. Rather our substance is found in Christ.

Likewise, the Sabbath’s focus is on Christ. It is a day for Christians to remember what God has done to bring them to Himself. It’s a joyous celebration. The particular practices or “human precepts and teachings” that come out of keeping the Sabbath (like no bicycling on the Sabbath) are not what is fundamental to the Sabbath.

Paul warns the young pastor Timothy to beware of people who have the appearance of godliness, the form, but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). People who merely keep the appearance of godliness, following right practices, are still in their hearts set against God. This is how Paul describes them:
“lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
One can keep the Sabbath, keep the structure and follow the rules, but if one’s heart is not set on Christ and love for Him then one is merely following the appearance of godliness.

3.     The Church’s Response to the Old Law

In Acts 15, the church had to decide whether the Gentiles were to keep the old law or ceremonial law. In the midst of the debate, Peter argues that the Gentiles do not have to keep the old law. His reason is put in the form of a question. “Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Peter is saying that the church should not put the burden of the law on the gentile believers because it is by grace that believers are saved. The Gentiles won’t be saved by keeping the law. Keeping the Sabbath is not a burden of the ceremonial law. As it says in Isaiah 58, keeping the Sabbath is a “delight.” Sometimes though, believers practice of the Sabbath can be like keeping the ceremonial law. Rather than keeping the focus on Christ, the focus is on the rules and regulations of a particular place and time.

4.     The Focus of the Sabbath 

In Hebrews 4:1-13, the writer tells the church that one day there will be rest for God’s people in God’s presence. The writer points to the Sabbath as a sampling of what we’re looking forward to. But even more so, the Christian ceasing from work on the Sabbath is a deep and comforting reminder that because of Christ’s work on the cross, Christians do not need to work for their salvation. Pulling back from work on the Sabbath and saying no to what we do during the week gives us a taste of what is to come but also reminds us that our salvation comes from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Joseph A Pipa says in his book, The Lord’s Day, “The Sabbath ‘deals the death-blow to our becoming workaholics or to our being obsessed with our favorite recreation or activity.’ - there is the practical side effect of the Sabbath that here is a direct contradiction between what God wants us to do and what we want to do.” (66)

In conclusion, the focus of the Sabbath is on Christ. We use the Sabbath appropriately when we set aside the daily affairs of life to focus on Christ. It is a day of rest in what Christ has done for us.