Foolish Generosity – Sermon Manuscript

-Micah did a great job over the past couple weeks with some very difficult topics

-As both he and I mentioned last week, the issues that he brought up cover a HUGE area, of which he covered a tiny little portion, which means there are things that were left out, intentionally. In Sermon Scraps he listed a few resources that were helpful for him if you want to study transgenderism further.

-I had a couple people grab me last week and call me a coward, so I thought we should deal with that issue head on this week! Micah volunteered to preach both of these messages, and if you couldn’t tell, mental health and gender issues are both topics he’s very passionate about and much more studied than I am. I consider it a privilege to have him on staff to help me think through these topics in a healthy and helpful way, and I hope you think similarly!

-But just to prove that I don’t give Micah all the difficult topics, I started thinking through what other issues are we facing today that are tricky to navigate or talk about. Since Micah talked about gender/sexuality, that leaves either money or politics as the things we’re not supposed to talk about. I’ll save politics for next year, so today we’re going to talk about money.

-As I was thinking about money this week, it struck me that from my perspective, money has become the issue we’re not supposed to talk about, at least in the church. When I was growing up, we weren’t supposed to talk about sex, but now it seems that money is the taboo topic in the church, and because it’s the taboo topic, many of us don’t have a good idea of how to engage or talk about it.

-I was thinking about some of this as we were preparing this sermon series, many of these topics are things we don’t hear about in church, but there the issues we most need to hear! If we don’t talk about it in the church then all we’ll have is ungodly and unbiblical answers to the questions we, or our friends and neighbors, are asking.

-As I read through the Gospels, it strikes me that nothing is too sacred or taboo for Jesus to talk about. Similarly, I think we far too often segment our lives in such a way that Jesus doesn’t transform everything, instead He’s relegated to a little “Sunday morning box” that only comes out to play Sunday, then we stick Him back in the box and live however we want the rest of the week. Unfortunately, that’s not what Jesus calls us to – He calls us to die, and that call is required for every little tiny part of our life, not just what we think of as the big stuff.

-I hadn’t made this connection until this week, but throughout the Gospels, Jesus connects sanctification (growth in holiness/godliness) to the way someone spends their money. Think of Matt. 6:21 “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Or one of my kid’s favorite stories Zacchaeus in Luke 19. What is the mark that salvation has come to Zacchaeus? Is it because he prayed the sinner’s prayer, or walked down the front to an altar call? No! He gives half of his goods to the poor, and restores everyone he’s defrauded 4-fold. He moves his treasure from earth to heaven!

-As we walk through this, I was highly influenced by a little book called The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. (in the library)

-Let’s read together first, pray, and then dig in. LOTS of texts to get through!

READ/PRAY (1 Tim. 6:6-19)

-I’m intentionally doing this sermon right now! We aren’t behind budget (THANK YOU!), we don’t have any major building projects right now (but as you heard this morning, we will have some big expenses coming up soon).

-Just as Micah had all sorts of caveats as he started, so I want to share with you that I hear all the comments: pastors only care about money, pastors are just trying to increase their salary, we talk about money all the time now. My salary is set! I’m not looking for a raise! I think it’s important to talk about this because Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined. And I want to talk about this because I care about you and want you to experience life to the full (being obedient to God). 

-Categorized this idea into 3 questions: what is a tithe, how do you measure your growth in godliness, and where is your treasure?

-Micah: our culture has flipped gender and finances around, we act as if finances are stable and won’t change and gender is fluid, but the opposite is true. There are all sorts of stories about people who put their hope in money being disappointed at the end of their lives, one that I read in The Treasure Principle about John D. Rockefeller who at his peak controlled 2% of American GDP. His accountant was asked how much money he left behind when he died. The answer: all of it!

  1. What is a “tithe”?

-Generally when churches talk about money, they talk about what is known as a tithe. But what is that? Why don’t we just call it a giving?

-Giving appears very, very early in the Bible. After Adam & Eve are banished from Eden, Moses tells us the story of Cain and Abel’s offerings. Gen. 4:3-7. We read that one offering is accepted and the other is not. All sorts of debate about why that is, does God only accept blood? Is Cain’s not the best, aka the “firstborn”? Lots of debate and conjecture, what I want you to notice is the giving reveals the heart of the person. Can’t distinguish the gift from the giver. 

-First time the word “tithe” appears in the Bible is in everyone’s favorite book, Lev. 27:30. It’s literally just 1/10th, that’s all it means. So anytime you come across it in the Bible, just mentally replace it with one-tenth. Here we see the tithe is God’s idea. This was put in place by God to provide for His work among the people. Now, when you really think about it, how much of this is the Lord’s? Yeah, all of it! He doesn’t need us to give Him anything, He literally created it all! This is where we see that the idea of a tithe isn’t for God, as if He needed anything from us, instead tithing is a way for us to be reminded that we’re merely stewards tasked by God with managing His resources. 

-As you know, most of the OT follows the story of God’s people obeying, then disobeying leading to punishment, then being reminded of the truth they’re supposed to be living by, repenting and renewing their commitment to the Lord. In one of the periods of reform for God’s people, King Hezekiah leads the people to cut down all their idols and reestablishes the temple worship, meaning the people needed to start giving! Look at how the people responded in 2 Chron. 31:5. Later on the text says they had to go through “heaps” of the tithes the people gave to God’s work. That’s a good description of what God has provided to us: heaps of gifts! This leads us right into the next text:

-Prov. 3:9-10 here’s where this gets a little uncomfortable for us in the conservative theological stream. Isn’t this just prosperity gospel? Are we just giving to get something from God as if we can manipulate or coerce Him into fulfilling our wants/desires? Hold on to that thought, we’ll flesh it out more fully later, but this text seems to be telling us that if we are faithful in giving the “firstfruits” or the best to the Lord, He will bless us in return. But what happens if we don’t give God our best?

-Mal. 3:8-10 This seems to double down on what we saw in Proverbs! If we don’t give to God we’ll be cursed! So we have 2 options: give our tithes if we want to be blessed, or hold back our tithes if we want to be cursed. 

-There are only 2 places in the NT where tithing is discussed, leading some to argue that tithing it no longer a required practice for new covenant Christians (us), which means I just wasted 15 min of your time by talking about it! I’m going to reverse the order of these from your notes and start with Hebrews before going to Matthew.

Heb. 7:1-10 It’s a little confusing because the author is making a really big deal out of someone that Scripture doesn’t give us a lot of information about! We learn more information about Melchizedek here than we do in the OT. Once again we see that blessing comes from God because of the giving. Look at vs. 7. This is another way of saying God doesn’t need us to give Him anything, it’s already His, but by responding to His invitation by faith and reminding and demonstrating that we acknowledge His Lordship, it leads to God’s blessing of us.

-Finally, let’s look at the 1 thing Jesus said about tithing: Matt. 23:23-24. The religious leaders are called out because they’re being faithful in tithing, but forgetting to act with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Does Jesus say they shouldn’t be tithing? No! Actually, when Jesus talks about OT ideas, He makes them even more difficult, doesn’t He? “You’ve heard it said you shall not murder, but I tell you…”

-No verse that says “all Christians must give a tithe” what you’ll find is that we’re supposed to give: generously, joyfully, and view giving as a gift.

-Have you ever thought about why God brings people from different socioeconomic backgrounds together? Even his early disciples were comprised of rich AND poor (tax collector and blue collar). I remember a few years ago stumbling across Luke 8 and feeling dumb for not noticing it before. How did Jesus survive during His ministry? People provided for Him and His disciples as they went about their ministry. 

-Friends, giving isn’t a 21st century idea. Giving isn’t done to pad the pocket of the church or the pastors. Giving is done because it’s a reminder that every good and perfect gift is from above, from a good Father in heaven who has given first to us. Then He allows us to join with Him and His body to demonstrate that His kingdom isn’t of this world. We’re not trying to build a holy huddle, but we are trying to take care of each other. 

  • How do you measure your growth in godliness?

-We talked about discipleship being your whole life the past couple months. But did you know that also includes your money? In fact, one of the best ways to determine how much you’ve grown in your godliness is by how much you’re willing to live without for the sake of your brother or sister. Why is it that we act like it’s nobody’s business what we make as well as how much we give away? If Jesus is so willing to talk about money, and money is one of the ways we determine how much we’re growing, shouldn’t we ask for help, accountability, and support with money just like other areas God is making us more holy?

-Let’s look at a few passages that talk about this, first: Matt. 6:19-21. When I first graduated from college, I got a job as a contractor in the Cities teaching new hire nurses how to use healthcare software (good use of my Bible degree). The owner of the company was very wealthy, and would regularly give me financial advice (invest in gold, start your retirement account yesterday, stuff like that). That’s not terrible advice! And taking care of your family is required for those who are believers (1 Tim. 5:8), but the goal isn’t to become materially wealthy on earth because you can’t take it with you. Notice some of the phrasing here: “lay up for yourselves.” Don’t be selfish with your money on earth because it doesn’t last, and here’s where God subverts our thinking, if we want to be wealthy for eternity, pay more attention to what kind of wealth you’re storing up for eternity! And as I mentioned about discipleship earlier, your pocketbook reveals where your heart is, or where you’re placing your ultimate hope and focus. This is a similar idea that Jesus brings up in our next passage:

-Luke 16:10-13. As your kids grow up, you get to slowly increase their responsibilities. If they prove themselves incapable of handling one step of their growth you don’t skip that step and move on to the next one, you take time to work with them on the current issue so they’re ready to handle even bigger issues as they get older. This passage tells us that’s how God is with our finances. The way we handle God’s earthly possessions is a good test of how we’ll handle God’s eternal possessions. 

-Here’s the crazy thing about this passage: Luke uses an Aramaic word in here to communicate a bigger truth about money than many of us are generally aware of, and he uses it twice in this section, vs. 11 and 13, first translated as “unrighteous wealth” and then “money.” That word is “Mammon” Often the NT writers would keep the Aramaic for names (NT written in Greek), this led the early church fathers to comment that Mammon is referring to a demonic power that seeks to use earthly possessions for power, comfort, and privilege leading to us putting our ultimate hope in Mammon, not God. And think about it: don’t many of us tend to view money through that lens? Money is what we think will guarantee comfort and ease, but what if it all disappears? Money (mammon) is a great tool and a terrible god. But with that in mind, what Jesus says here makes a lot more sense: You cannot serve God and Mammon (false god). 

-This is another way of saying money has a tendency to become an idol. We look to money (Mammon) as our sense of worth, of satisfaction, security and comfort. Those are all good things, but the only way those will ever really be solved is by God!

-One last passage for this section is the reason some of us in this room make more money than others: Rom. 12:3-8. We’ve looked at this passage before in looking at the way we all need to be using our gifts to serve each other and to function as a healthy body, but let’s pay careful attention to the list of gifts here. 

-Included are things we often think of in connection to church ministry: prophecy, service, teaching, but then what else is included in here? The one who’s gifted with contributing, or giving. Friends, the reason some people are gifted with making money is so that we can live out Acts 4:34 “there was not a needy person among them.” God knows exactly what each body needs and ensures that each body can function and be healthy., which includes giving generously. This is why, when we have a financial need we share it with you! Some of you are gifted with giving, so we’re trying to make you aware of a need. Just like we will ask for help with loving and teaching kids or joining in prayer, giving is a gift from God that we need people to be faithful in.

-This leads us to the last question:

  • Where is your treasure?

-ROI, I’m not a money guy, I know there’s some people that love spreadsheets and data, give me words! Lots and lots of words and I’m in my happy place! But let’s look at the return on investment we get by stewarding our money in a generous way.

Matt. 19:29. I’ve been told that by investing in the stock market, I can expect at least a 3% return, if you knew that you were guaranteed a 100% return, would you take it? How much of your wealth would you put in to a 100% return? Would you sell everything you had in order to put your money in this account? I would! And that’s what God offers us (in fact there’s a parable like this about a man finding an incalculable treasure in a field). Not only do we get eternal life, we also get a hundredfold return on our investment. I don’t know about you, but I would go all in on a return like that!

-Why else do we invest our money in different ways than the world? 1 Cor. 9:24-25. We’re supposed to view our lives like an athlete. I’ve been working hard on this post-athlete body for a few years now, but back in the day I was athletic! In fact, I got a prize my Senior year that I still have. But do you know where this prize is going to end up? With all the other stuff I collect throughout my life: dumpster. This has sentimental value for me, but no one else. Unlike this “perishable wreath,” I’d rather put my time and energy into my hundredfold return. 

-We have just a few more passages to look at, and these passages are more immediately applicable to us today. The norm throughout human history is that most of the world is poor, and a very small group of people is incredibly wealthy. That has changed over the previous 100ish years where there are way more wealthy people today than ever before in human history. But that means we are the wealthy ones compared to the rest of the world.

-2 Cor. 8:1-7. One of the reasons Paul went on one of his missionary journeys was to collect money for the church in Jerusalem who was experiencing persecution. This was an incredibly poor church, nothing to give, but how do they respond to a need? In their extreme poverty, they “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”

-Isn’t it amazing how Mammon can blind us to our wealth? If any of you, like me, have had the privilege of going on mission’s trips to other parts of the world you’ve seen this happen. Those who have nothing pull out all the stops to share the best of the best with their visitors. We need those reminders regularly so we don’t become blind to the way Mammon was so influenced our lives. 

-Just as we pursue growth in other areas of our life (faith, speech, knowledge) we should also pursue growth in being foolishly generous with our money. Remember: it’s not ours, we’re mere stewards entrusted with it for a small season of time, and it serves as a test of how well we’ll handle things of eternal value. 

-Paul continues this line of thought in the next chapter. 2 Cor. 9:6-15. How big do you want your storehouse to be in heaven? If your stingy in your generosity here, God will be stingy in His reward of you in heaven.

-What is this “not reluctantly” if we’re supposed to tithe? Dear friends, unlike the OT, I can’t demand you do anything! But I do want what’s best for you, and because what’s best for you is what God has commanded, why would you sow sparingly when you’re guaranteed the best ROI you’ll ever find?

-Paul says this in vs. 11-12 too. In your generosity God will support you. I was listening to a podcast on the idea of Mammon yesterday with Andy Crouch, an author. He said they have decided as a family, to not just tithe on their regular income, but twice in the past decade they have liquated 10% of their entire assets and given it away. He said it hurts! But the joy and thanksgiving that comes out of that is worth far more than the money they’ve given away. Jesus quoted in Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

-And pay careful attention to the last verse here. Paul has been encouraging the Corinthians to give generously, but then who does he thank for this generosity? Not the church! He thanks God. Have you ever thought of God using, gifting, and equipping you to be ridiculously foolishly generous with the resources He’s given you?

-Paul summarizes everything we’ve been talking about in this message in another text, and our last text for the day! 1 Timothy 6:6-19. 

-He begins with a good reminder: do you want great gain? The key is godliness + contentment. This from the guy who learned the secret to being content in everything! It’s not being content with stuff, you can’t take it with you. 

-This idea continues with a verse I’m sure many of you have heard before: the love of money! But pay careful attention to the words here! Money is not THE root of all evil, it is A root of all KINDS of evil. Money itself isn’t evil. Money becoming Mammon, or your god, is where money can become evil. Putting money above everything else is how you can end up wandering away from the faith.

-As if that’s not enough, there’s this last exhortation to us. Remember, we’re the rich in this present age! We have food and cars. We had some delicious donuts as a snack this morning. That’s not wrong, but we need to make sure that we’re careful and faithful stewards! So let’s read this last verses carefully. 

-Don’t be haughty, full of yourself, expecting special treatment because you have money. Riches will fail you either here or in heaven. Instead, put your hope, trust, and confidence in God who does richly provide us with everything (and often it’s through each other!)

-Additionally, we should do good, be rich in good works (be kind, considerate, look for ways to help and serve others), do all of this generously, and be ready to come alongside and share. That’s how you make deposits into your heavenly retirement account! And don’t stop doing it! It’s going to be much better for you to spend your money on bring foolishly generous with your money now because you don’t know how long it’s going to last.

-If someone got a hold of you bank statement, or credit card account, would you be proud or embarrassed about how you’re spending your money?

What’s the Big Deal About the Bible? – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Can anyone finish this phrase: “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect ______.” Where does that come from?

-Constitution of the USA. One of the most well-known documents, something many of us had to study in school or potentially even memorize. Serves as the written foundation of our country even down to today.

-Did you know that England has no such document? Closest they come is the Magna Carta, enacted in 1215 to prevent the King from tyrannical rule.

-For the past 800 years England has been forced to change, adapt, and tweak their governmental structure, but instead of writing them down in a formal document they rely on an abstract understanding of rules and laws that have evolved over a long period of time. Makes it slightly easier to make changes, but who’s to say the changes are in the positive or negative direction? How do they know which direction they’re moving?

-Just as it helps the USA to have a written constitution by which all subsequent laws are based or judged (then amended as necessary), we need to have some standard by which we can measure our spiritual selves, as well as provide an understanding of where the world around us is moving. 

-That’s where the Bible comes into play for those of us who believers today (but thankfully it doesn’t need amendments, nor will it ever be changed!)

-I love the way our SOF summarizes what we believe about the Bible. 

READ/PRAY (2 Tim. 3:14-4:4)

-As we think through the importance and significance of the Bible today, I want to remind us that Christianity isn’t unique in having a sacred text that we look to for our highest source of authority. I feel like the Bible gets the most scrutiny, but we need to remember that:

-Every major world religion has some sort of sacred text used to define how one is obedient to a deity or way of living. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism (that covers 78% of the world, the other are “unaffiliated”/“irreligious” or “folk religion”) 

-Islam has the Koran (Muhammed was visited by an Gabriel and told to write words down that were the fulfillment of all of god’s previous revelations) No one else to back up his claims, as well as debate about the originals said

-Hindus have “The Vedas” (meaning knowledge) which contain hymns, incantations, and rituals that were spoken to an ancient seer. Doesn’t really speak much to the real world, can’t test it against what happens around us (although looking at the Indian caste system I would hate to be forced to adopt that way of living!)

-Buddhists have memories of the saying of the Buddha, as well as rules for monastic life and philosophical texts. People today are questioning if “the Buddha” ever lived!

-Jews have the same Bible we have, but without the NT. Remember, I made a big deal at Christmas Eve about the 400 years of silence, Jews have been waiting for 2,400 years! 

-“unaffiliated” have (I would argue) a different trinity than we do: “science,”  “social philosophy” and, themselves. They believe “science” can provide answers to everything, that “social philosophy” can bring true and lasting meaning to a person’s life, and that they are their highest source of authority. Often read history through a modern-day lens and view culture as a long march toward “progress.”

-All that to say, Christianity isn’t unique in having a sacred text that we look to as our source of ultimate authority. Everyone has something or someone that they use as their source of authority

-It would make sense why people would then push back against the Bible in a culture that values expressing my wants and desires as a higher priority than anything else. “That’s just your opinion” or “I need to share MY truth.” Into that culture, we stand here holding a book written (at least) 1,933 years ago and claim that this is unlike any other writing out there, and needs to serve as the authority for everyone and everything. And we do it unapologetically! Let’s see why:

  1. The Bible is God’s Very Word (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

-There’s a lot in just these few verses of 2 Timothy for us to unpack BRIEFLY! Because we’ve got lots of other things to cover.

-There is something wonderful about being able to look back and remember things fondly from your childhood. Favorite movies, favorite foods, favorite vacations. For those of you who grew up in the church, you have a beautiful foundation that you’re building on that you should not let go to waste! 

-And for those who aren’t yet adults here, this is why your parents will bring you here on Sunday mornings, even when it’s hard to wake up and get out of bed, God is working here even when you don’t want to pay attention, because His Word is being shared! We’ll see this at the end, so wait for it, but one of the truths we believe about the Bible is that it is effective. Anytime God’s Word is spoken or read, it is doing something.

-This is what we saw in the discipleship series. The content of discipleship is God’s Word because it always accomplishes what God wants it to accomplish. This is why we need to know enough about God’s Word to speak into every situation we find ourselves. Trust it and rely on it.

-“All Scripture is God-breathed”

– Θεόπνευστος “the Holy Spirit superintended the biblical authors as they composed their writings, the Word of God.” Gregg Allison

-This doesn’t mean that the authors had some out of body experience, then woke up and suddenly the text was in front of them, instead God used a wide variety of people, a wide variety of situations, and a wide variety of writing styles to record His revelation and His will for the world.

Heb. 1:1-2. Think of all the ways the Bible was written.

Gen. 1 says “In the beginning” before anything or anyone was created. Who was there to give the eyewitness account of creation? God was. Tradition helps us understand that Moses wrote the first 5 books, Moses had many conversations with God on a mountain over a period of 40 days.

Ex. 34:27, Jer. 30:2 – God commands people to write things down

Ex. 31:18 – God literally writes things

Jeremiah 1:1-2 – God speaks to people

John 14:26 – Spirit assisted memories 

Luke 1:1-4, 1 Kings – people do historical research

-Today we have the fulfilment of all the things God was talking about and planning throughout the Bible, Jesus! Jesus is the centering point around which the whole Bible points. The OT points forward to Jesus, the NT points back to Jesus and talks about the implications of His first coming and how to live in light of His second coming.

-What is considered “Scripture”?

-39 books in the OT, starting at the very beginning, recounting the history of God’s people as well as pointing to how true lasting deliverance was going to come about. It began with God telling Moses to write down the law, and continued down until about 475 BC, where God continued telling people to write things down, but this is when the last prophecy was given. The OT has remained the same since then.  

-God’s speaking changed in the NT when Jesus came! Then there was new writings to explain how Jesus fulfilled all of God’s promises and what it means to be a follower of God today. The litmus test for the books of the NT were books written or authorized by an apostle. Look at the universal recognition of these books.

-What about the Apocrypha (RCC)?

-Jesus and His followers quote from the OT regularly, but never from the Apocrypha as God speaking. Jerome, who added the books into his Latin translation of the Bible described them as “books of the church” but not divine. In fact, the RCC didn’t recognize them as Scriptures until the Council of Trent in 1546 (anyone remember when the Reformation started)

-Tradition vs. tradition. One of the reasons we trust the Bible we have is true is because of the 2000 years of tradition that accompany it. Tradition isn’t the same level as the Bible (unlike RCC), but it provides guardrails or guides to help us ensure we’re staying on the right path.

-Ensures we’re not participating in “chronological snobbery.” The world isn’t always getting better all the time. If you go to Rome you’ll see 2,000 year old roads that are still used! I don’t think roads in MN last more than 2,000 minutes!

-Because the Bible is God’s very word, and we can trust the Bible that we have in our hands, it also means:

  • The Bible is Truthful (John 17:17)

-Because it’s God’s very words, we need to know some things about God to understand how it is truthful. Num. 23:19, Heb. 6:18

-Our first point was this is God’s very word. All of it is what God wanted us to have, it contains everything we need for growth in godliness and understanding who God is and how He’s worked throughout human history. But because it’s God’s very Word, what comes out from God is truthful because God cannot lie. 

-Need to do some logic, if God cannot lie, what does that mean about every word he says? Not going to lie, which means it will be truthful! Which is exactly what we saw from Jesus in John 17.

-This has 2 components to it: truthfulness means it describes reality, but it also means that the Bible will truly accomplish what God intends it to do.

-These are known as the doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility, you’ll often hear me say those things when I pray on Sunday mornings! Means not liable to error and not liable to failure. (Isa. 55)

-There has been some debate/discussion about these issues today. I first started becoming passionate/concerned about these doctrines when I had a friend who said he didn’t believe everything Paul said was true. And again when another friend said he didn’t believe Jonah contained a factual account of real events.

-This is why both of these words are important! They aren’t stuck in academy, they have implications for you and I today! Let’s think about this again (put on your thinking caps with me!) If the Bible has things that aren’t true, what would that do to our faith? How would we know which parts are true and which are false? Not only that, what would that say about God? Or if the Bible was ineffective in accomplishing what we saw in 2 Tim. 3, that we could never be “complete” we would always be needing looking for something else.

-Some of you may be thinking this sounds like “circular reasoning” just using the Bible to make claims about itself.

-While that’s true in one sense, that doesn’t make it wrong! If the Bible is the highest source of truth, then it needs to be the measuring stick we use for everything else, otherwise whatever else we’re using becomes the higher authority (usually it ends up being my own reasoning, which isn’t the best source of truth!) 

-But it’s not just the Bible we appeal to in order to validate it as true:

-What other book is as tested and proven as the Bible? 

-Think of The Book of Mormon (which LDS use as their inspired text). There are all sorts of historical claims in the book (like Jesus resurrected and then came to the USA, no evidence for it). Honestly, when you dig into some of the claims of other world religions it becomes laughable! Do you know how demeaning LDS is to women? When a Mormon couple marries, man taken behind curtain and given a secret name for his wife that only he knows so that when he’s in heaven he can decide if he wants to call out his wife’s name to have her join him. 

-Or think of Buddhism, which says everything is an illusion and nothing matters. What do you think would happen if you were stole all their money? Would they let you get away with it or would they cry for justice? But if nothing matters, why shouldn’t I do anything I want to achieve my own sense of happiness?

-What I’ve found in talking to people from other faiths is there’s a tendency to make yourself the center of the world, then look for the best idea that will allow that to continue. However, God doesn’t let you get away with that, instead He says you need to die to yourself if you really want to live!

-Unlike that, the Bible has yet to be proven false by any archaeological find. Just this past year, they believe they uncovered the home of the apostle Peter, and uncovered curses from Mount Ebal that says “cursed by the God YHW” dated from 1200-1400 BC. I’ve shared before the little piece of pottery that says “bayt David” in Hebrew, validating the existence of King David.

-The longer we go the more historical and textual evidence we have for the Bible being corresponding to reality. And if the Bible truly describes the world around us, shouldn’t we also trust it for the things it describes that we can’t see?

-Because the Bible is true, it also means that it is:

  • The Bible is Necessary (Psalm 19:7-11)

-Let’s looks briefly at Psalm 19, I say briefly because I preached a whole sermon on this last summer! Look at all the words used to describe the Bible, as well as the implications for following them.

-law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear, rules

-reviving, wisdom, rejoicing, enlightening, enduring, righteous, great reward

-If you want a full, content, blessed life, live how God has commanded us.

-Let’s see what else God through Paul says Scripture does in the same place we started today, 2 Timothy:

-teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness. Doesn’t this sound similar to what we saw in Psalm 19? It’s almost as if there’s 1 main point behind this whole book! 1 Divine Author speaking the same message through dozens of people over thousands of years.

-Look where it finds its fulfilment: Leads to being complete (accomplishing God’s intent, infallible). 

-But notice where Paul also goes after this:

-Preach the Word! Use it to: reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.

-It’s hard in the church, because many people today are described in vs. 3. You can hear exactly what you want to hear 6.5 days of the week! Your social media feeds will cater to your specific preferences, you can even listen to your favorite preacher from the comfort of your living. However, that doesn’t allow us to live in community with others, and when we gather together we’re supposed to be challenged, stretched, pushed outside our comfort zones because we’re coming face to face with the living God as He’s revealed Himself to us!

-So, if you want to know how you can become a complete person:

-Begins by trusting in God as your Savior and Lord. But that’s just the first step. We saw in our last series that God’s command is to make disciples BY teaching people to observe everything God commanded.

-Requires regular studying of God’s Word. One of my favorite parts of preaching is that I get to spend intentional time each week digging into God’s Word pretty deeply, and it transforms me! You will NEVER become an expert on this book. You can spend a lifetime studying, restudying but you’ll never have the whole thing down.

-Let me encourage you, with it being the start of a new year, how can you take 1 step closer to Christ in your reading/studying of the Bible?

-Maybe you can start by reading 1 verse a day! Grow from there, but that’s a great starting place. 

-Maybe you need an intentional plan to help you read through it, I printed off a number of copies of my favorite plan (5 Day Plan)

-Maybe you need to start studying it! Get a good study Bible (NIV, ESV) and read through the notes as well as the Bible

-Maybe your next step is memorizing and meditating (Psalm 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you”). The OSB memorizes a new passage each month, if you want to know the verse we’re memorizing that month let me know! 

-Find some way of growing 1 step closer to Christ through His Word this year, whatever it is! Share it with others who can encourage you and help you grow in that, and let the Bible begin to transform you and make you more like Jesus!

Christmas Makes Us…

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

1 John 1:1-4

-What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

-25 years ago I accidently created what has become my parents favorite tradition because I was too creative for my own good. I found a puppet book at church and created an entire Christmas story play with script, backgrounds, and puppets and forced my sister to do the puppet show with me. 

-The problem was I didn’t expect to be forced by my parents to do it into my 30s, nor did I expect to have in-laws roped into the festivities. 

-For about the last 15 of those 25 years I’ve tried unsuccessfully getting out of it, but this year is finally the year. I have produced enough progeny that I get to watch the play I foolishly made a quarter century ago.

-That’s my least favorite, my favorite has become lighting the candles on Christmas Eve.

-We’re not the first generation of Christians to spend time contemplating what Christmas (Jesus’ first coming) does to us. John, described in his Gospel account as the disciples “whom Jesus loved,” also contemplated the implications of the incarnation (try saying that 5 times fast!) in his first Epistle.

READ/PRAY

  1. Christmas Makes Us Remember (1, 3)

-John is encouraging his readers to think back to what’s really real. This letter was written (as most NT are) to correct an issue, people thinking and believing something untrue about how God has revealed Himself to be. In this case, John is writing because there’s a group of people who didn’t believe Jesus was really God.

-Does that sound like a familiar argument you may have heard before? So many people act as if they’ve uncovered some novel or new idea that no one has thought of before, especially in regards to Jesus. I was recently listening to a podcast that was arguing that modern day atheists are just a repackaged form of Epicurians. I don’t have time to go further on that, so I’ll let you do your own research and thinking on that if you want, but I think it’s an insightful idea! There’s nothing new under the sun, but people will try to come up with new or clever ways of saying the same old thing! I’d rather stick with the true original, God created everything!

-Which is also where John begins. “That which was from the beginning.”

-Do you remember how he begins his Gospel account? “In the beginning was the Word…” This story that we celebrate each year should bring our minds back to the very beginning, before the world was formed, before anyone walked the face of the earth God was. God created everything and it was very good, for 1 page! We know the story of Genesis 3 where sin enters the world, and as Romans reminds us death through sin.

-Some of those realities are the reason Christmas may be difficult for you. Because of sin, because of fractured relationships, because of death Christmas isn’t full of “good cheer.” I know some people in our body have lost loved ones this past year, and Christmas can be difficult when someone who’s supposed to be there isn’t. It’s a reminder that this side of heaven isn’t the way things are supposed to be. We all have a longing for what the Bible calls “shalom,” everything being at peace. That’s far more than the absence of conflict, it’s everything being in its’ proper place. Relationally, in the world, even your tools always being in the right spot!

-John goes on to say that the way we can have that shalom, peace, is because of what they saw with their own 2 eyes.

-Remember, there were people in this congregation who didn’t believe Jesus was truly God. But unlike John, these people weren’t there.

-Think of some significant events in history, the biggest one in my life was 9/11. I wasn’t there, but I watched the news as the planes flew into the WTC. One of my favorite pastors is Timothy Keller who served in NYC for a majority of his ministry. He lived and served in NYC when this event was happening, he saw it. Whose story do you think would be more accurate, his or mine? Similarly here, John saw, touched, heard, and it wasn’t just John, WE, other disciples were there too! There’s a whole group of people you can talk to about what happened!

-Christmas makes us look back, seeing how God has worked in human history, how He sent His one and only Son into the world, which leads us to this second Christmas makes us do:

  • Christmas Makes Us Proclaim (2)

-Christmas is the news that changes everything! Christmas is the reason we can and should proclaim about the realities of what Jesus has done! We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past few weeks looking at this! 

-We’re caught up in something far bigger than ourselves, we’re caught up in God’s work of reconciling the world back to Himself. John describes this as “eternal life,” and when we read eternal life we have a tendency to only think about life after our time on earth is done, but when the Bible talks about eternal life it talks about something that starts now, the moment when you’re brought from death into life and put your faith , your hope, your trust, your confidence in Jesus’ work on the cross on your behalf.

-But it’s not enough for you to keep that news to yourself, part of being a Christian means sharing the with everyone else what’s really happening in the world around us. It’s so easy to get distracted or caught up in what Jesus describes as “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.” Those things seem to matter a lot, don’t they? We need to eat, have a house, have a full life. The problem is all those things are wonderful gifts, but if those gifts become the end itself you can’t really enjoy them.

-Think of your favorite food. Mine is a perfectly cooked steak. If steak becomes your entire focus it starts to lose it’s specialness. Even the best steak in the world is only meant to serve as a small taste of the perfect gifts God has given us. When you’re able to use God’s good gifts without excess or as an end in themselves you’re able to live in a way that demonstrates to the world what God does to you, and how He lets you live life to the fullest!

-But this also should make us question: what is it we’re proclaiming? You naturally share the things that you’re most passionate about and most enjoy. 

-I love coffee, reading, and basketball, but my love for those is miniscule compared to the love of my wife, kids, and that’s even less than my love of the Lord! In conversations with people I’m going to be looking for opportunities to talk about the things I love. Cara has even asked me after we’ve spent time with people why I kept bringing some of these things up. I care greatly about people finding and knowing more about the God! And so should you! Anyone who is now in Christ needs to work out best to proclaim the truths about what God has done in you, and how He loves others. John talks about it, and so should we.

-Christmas makes us look back and remember, Christmas makes us proclaim the truths of what Jesus has done, but we don’t do it alone:

  • Christmas Makes Us Relational (3b)

-One of the things we saw last night is that Jesus’ arrival brings peace. The normal state of affairs in the world and in relationships is conflict and turmoil. It’s difficult to be in relationship with others because it means being hurt regularly, and being willing to forgive. On top of that, it also means you’ll hurt someone else regularly, someone that you love. In order to have a real lasting relationship it requires regular repentance and forgiveness. 

-But notice as well that John talks about fellowship connected to the proclamation.

-As we preach the gospel, it allows and finds its’ fulfilment in fellowship. True, lasting open relationship is now possible because of God’s perfect plan coming to fruition. 

-This also means there’s more to fellowship than enjoyment of the same things. Those who denied the reality of the incarnation were breaking fellowship with the believers. This tells us that we can’t have true fellowship with those who deny orthodoxy. This isn’t something that people like to talk about or admit today, but it’s not a new issue. True, lasting fellowship isn’t possible with those who have abandoned Scriptures clear commands and teachings. They need to be brought back into last fellowship with God and others, but it’s only possible by proclaiming/believing the right things. 

-That’s what John goes on to say here, fellowship horizontally is dependent on fellowship vertically. How can you have fellowship with God? By believing in His Son and then living in light of His coming.

-When our relationship with God is right, it is made visible by our relationships with other believers.

-This also shows us the importance of being a part of a local expression of fellowship. When God saves us He makes us a part of a huge family that is made visible by local churches, local expressions of fellowship where we can demonstrate and live out all the requirements of being in relationship with one another (look up the “one anothers” of the NT if you don’t know what I’m talking about!) Summarized as “love one another.” 

-We’ve seen: remember, proclaim, relational, but when those 3 things are true it will lead to the fourth things Christmas makes us:

  • Christmas Makes Us Joyful (4)

-Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is a fleeting feeling that can change in seconds. Joy is a conscious decision that is far more lasting than a fleeting feeling. Remember how John has through this whole section been talking about the implication of the incarnation, or what happens because of salvation. The final marker of salvation in the believer is that they are a joy-filled person. 

-Paul commands believers to be joyful always in 1 Thess. 5, and he is someone who manifested that perfectly. Paul is the guy who had learned the secret to being content in all circumstances. He learned how to be joyful when he had plenty, when he didn’t have enough to eat. He learned how to be joyful when he was mocked and belittled, or when he had an audience with people in high standing. When Christ is in us, we can choose to keep our eyes on what God’s doing and how He’s continuing to work in you. 

-When God saves you, the culmination of that is joy. But notice the pronoun connected to the joy: OUR. It takes a community to be joyful. You can’t do this on your own, nor does God want you to do it on your own. It takes others to help you express your joy. I heard a quote last week that I really like. It’s a Swedish proverb that says, “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow.”

-Isn’t that true? When you’re celebrating you want others to join with you in that celebration. And when you’re struggling you need others to help encourage you to not give up. It’s another way of saying what Paul reminded us of in Rom. 12: “Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.” By fellowshipping together, we can have that fulfilled joy. 

-All of this is a description of what is true because of the gospel message, author Trevin Wax wrote an article a few years back where he said it this way:

Trevin Wax: “If you excise the gospel community from your thinking about the gospel announcement, you gut the gospel of its purpose. Though the church is not the subject of the gospel announcement (Christ alone is the subject, of course), the church is a necessary object. Christ’s death has a purpose: to save sinners and incorporate them into a community that reflects His glory. . . . I fear that most evangelicals see the church as ‘just an implication of the gospel’ instead of thinking, This is the whole point of the good news—God forming a people for His glory and the good of the world.”

-Christmas changes everything, and causes us to respond by remembering, proclaiming, relating, and being joyful. 

Formally & Informally – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-We’ve covered a lot of ground in this series! Basically, what I’ve tried to do is look at the topic of discipleship from a wide variety of angles.

-Your perspective on things can be deceiving! Remember the gorilla we saw (or maybe missed!) a couple weeks ago? 

-Today I’ve got a different picture to show you to demonstrate just how much your perspective changes things. At first glance it appears that dear Prince William is upset with someone, doesn’t it? What do you think he’s trying to communicate? But wait until your perspective changes, what do you think he’s trying to communicate now?

-Perspective matters! How we view discipleship matters. A good summary has been seen by the 4 Ps we’ve mentioned regularly.

-Summary of the previous weeks:

-Defining Disciple (learner): a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. 

-The Content of Discipleship: God’s Word spoken in a wide variety of ways and contexts, because God’s Word is always applicable. (the way we move up the arrow is by God’s Word) Need to inwardly digest the Bible more, met people with digestive issues, why do so many Christians today have spiritual digestive issues that go undiagnosed or ignored?

-Imitate Me: God has given us a body of people who all have different strengths and weaknesses, but there will always be someone who is more mature than you in some area that you would do well to spend time with and learn how to imitate them. You become like the people you spend time with. SG a good place to do this! (We look back at people further down the arrow to invite them to imitate us)

-The Assembly: Micah reminded us last week that the gathering is integral to the life of a disciple. God literally baked this idea into the created order, and we need to gather because everything around us disciples us one way, but God’s ways are often the opposite of our worldly training so we need to be retrained and have the compasses of our hearts re-magnetized to true north. Sundays serve as the tuning fork for the rest of our weekly discipleship.

-I was reading an article this week that had a line that stood out to me that I thought was helpful in thinking of what Micah preached on: “The audience for worship is God, not us.” Sunday morning is a beautiful reminder that we exist for someone else, not for ourselves. This is part of the reason I think it’s important that we meet on Christmas Day (debate every time it falls on Sunday)

-This week, we’ll be looking at how we put all these various pieces together and pursuing holistic discipleship in every facet of our lives, or being intentional to disciple others one step closer to Christ informally and formally.

-I think Paul summarizes this idea really well in Phil. 4:8-9. Growing as a disciple (learner) of Jesus is learning how to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), which is focusing on this list of truths (even toward other people). The most difficult thing to disciple is your thought life. Think about it: who is your biggest critic? Who lies to you more than anyone else? We’re coming up to the time of year where we all make big bold commitments that we know we won’t follow through (they’re called New Year’s Resolutions). If you’ve ever had a gym membership you know it’s packed full in January, but usually by about mid-February there’s plenty of room again!

-One more thing before we read, remember what we are caught up in. The greatest story ever told!

-“Storytelling has been central to Christianity from the beginning, because the Gospel is not a body of teaching, but an account of something done.” Colin Morris. That’s literally why Christmas is such a big deal! The eternal unchangeable God entered into time and space to redeem the whole creation. That’s an historical fact that should cause us to ask a question Jesus asked His disciples: who do you say that I am?

-EFCA SOF: “God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.”

READ/PRAY (Deut. 6) 

  1. Formally: Right Theology (4-5)

-Notice where Moses’ announcement begins: with a statement of theology.

-Have a tendency today to view this as an academic pursuit instead of the core of discipleship. It’s just talking about God, which everyone does. The centering point that we’re gathering around together is the Bible, God’s inspired and authoritative Word because that’s the measuring stick that we’re commanded to use in our lives. We will only grow more mature as a disciple as we grow in understanding and application of God’s Word in our lives. If God has told us something, we need to obey. 

-This is why we spent a whole Sunday working on the content of discipleship: if we don’t, we won’t be learning the right things.

-There’s 2 ways to interpret this phrase here, hard to translate because there’s no verb. “The Lord our God the Lord one” could be a statement of identity (who God is) or could be basically a catechism statement: The Lord OUR God” 

-All theology is practical or applicable. Theology isn’t just an endeavor for the your minds, remember what I’ve shared before, it’s meant to make the 18” move from your head to your heart.

-Moses knows this: no transition, he goes straight into “love the Lord your God with everything” Because God is one it means something in all our lives, and Moses immediately jumps to the application of God being one! The last word there is an interesting one, literally could translate it as “muchness” or “abundance.” Just a way of saying everything. Then in the NT Jesus doubled down on this statement!

-This is where we see that we’re supposed to worship God with every single thing we do. What’s left out of “muchness”? Nothing! Moses is reminding God’s people that God’s people must represent Him to the world. Church: we have a job to do!

-That’s just the first application!

  • Informally: Right Living (6-9)

-How do we know how to obey God? What is the method God uses to help people move up the arrow? We need to soak and saturate our lives with His commands/words. We saw that when we looked at the content of discipleship.

-Did you know that boundaries, fences actually help instill a sense of security and protection in people? A study done in 2006 compared the activity of children who were taken to a playground with fences vs. a playground with no fence. Those children who had a fence used every available square inch to explore. The children without a fence stuck really close to the teacher to ensure they didn’t stray too far away. 

-The Bible (rules, stipulations, commands) are meant to allow us to experience freedom in Christ instead of living in fear. Think of how difficult it is to keep up with the moral relativism around us today! How do you know if something you say today won’t get you cancelled in the next 5 years? Friends, God has given us a spirit not of fear, but of freedom! All our sins past, present, and future have been atoned for, they’ve been dealt with, they’ve been cast as far as the East is from the West. Can you measure that? 

-Look where these verses begin: words. Remember, it’s not enough to just have a head knowledge about God, it needs to trickle itself down into the very center of your being and drive, your heart. The only hope we have of maturing as disciples is by letting the truths of God’s Word permeate into your heart, the very center of your being, “on your heart.”

-What is it that drives you? What we just saw in the previous 2 verses is for those of use who are in Christ, the driving force behind everything we do should be loving God perfectly, with all our “muchness.” That is literally the whole point of discipleship: learning to love God more correctly. 

-These commands, these rules are so important, God’s people are commanded to teach them, but not just teach, there’s an adverb here: diligently. I was listening to a podcast recently from a pastor who said: if anyone talks to me for more than 5 minutes, they’re quickly going to learn 2 things about me: I love Jesus, and I love my wife. We talk about the things that we’re most passionate about! Which is where Moses goes next:

-Describes how you diligently teach: talk. Once again, this is Moses assuming that God’s people know enough about God’s rules and commands that they’re able to talk about them diligently. 

-Church: don’t miss this! I keep saying it, but I want to point it out as we walk through all the places Moses says we’re to talk about God’s words. Everything we’ve looked at over the past 5 weeks is only possible if we ourselves are studying God’s Word and are then able to apply it to every context we find ourselves in. This gathering isn’t sufficient for you to let God’s Word soak into you deeply!

-The other thing I want you to be aware of is Moses’ overall point in what he lists here. He’s not limiting the teaching to these 8 areas, instead he’s using a literary device common to Hebrew known as Merism. Example: I searched high and low, meaning I searched everywhere (yet I’ve discovered that there’s something called “husband eyes” that still miss things!). Moses is using 2 examples to cover every aspect of life, yet I think these examples are still worth looking at, as a way of encouraging us to bring God’s Word to bear in our whole lives. 

Sit in your house: what things do you talk about when you’re at home? Vikings historic comeback win yesterday? Weather? Stocks? How long would someone need to talk to you before Jesus comes up? How do you create opportunities in your home to talk about what God is doing in your lives? Once again, this assumes that you know enough of God’s Word to talk about it, but when you’re home, inviting others in, how do you love God with your “muchness” in the home? This idea will come up again, so just wait a minute.

walk by the way: Not enough to talk about God when you’re in the house, there needs to be a PDA: public display of affection that’s geared towards God! Maybe today it should say “drive by the way” How can you drive in a way that shows you love God with your everything? 

-This is one of those areas that I worry we may be neglecting today, our culture has trained us that religion is something private that we leave at home, but for anyone in Christ, we’re supposed to have every area of our lives transformed. Even the act of going for a walk is supposed to be different because Christ is in us. One of the things I try to do when our family goes on walks is look people in the eye and say “hi” it’s an easy way to treat them as another person who carries the image of God. 

-Moses begins with your daily life: home and outside the home, what about with respect to time? 

lie down. What’s the last thing in your mind as you go off to sleep? “Vikings played an amazing second half today” Or maybe what is your nightly routine as you go to bed? What does it mean to love God with your everything at the end of the day? One of the ways Cara and I have built this idea into our daily lives is asking “what are you thankful for today” as we’re getting into bed. It’s an easy to way to reorient our minds to giving thanks to God even when it’s been a terrible day! I’ll be honest, sometimes the only thing I’m thankful for is the bed!

rise. Similarly what’s the first thing you think of when you wake up (other than: do I HAVE to get up?)? Maybe you roll over and check Twitter, the news, or the stock market. What would it look like for you to begin your day loving God with your everything? Maybe it’s thanking God that “his mercies are new every morning.” Maybe it’s giving thanks for God’s sustaining you through the night and that even when we need to sleep, God doesn’t ever get tired. Whatever it is, find some way to begin your day with God at the forefront of your mind. 

-But it’s not just you individually or as a family working through these things, because God gives you to other reminders to keep Him first. So, to ensure you don’t forget them:

Sign on your hand. How often do you use your hand during the day? How do you think your hand could be used to remind you to keep God first? Maybe it’s changing what your hands do on social media. Maybe it’s working harder at your job because it’s a gift from God to be able to work and do what you do.

Frontlets between your eyes. If any of you (like me) need glasses, you know how hard it is to see without your lenses. What would your life look like if you viewed everything through the lens of the God’s Word? What would it mean to view everything you see as God sees it?

Doorpost of your house your house should be different than those who aren’t following Christ. Once again, I have to ask, do you think this is true of you and your family? Are you just chasing the same American dream as your neighbors or can people tell something different about you in how you live and operate in your home? 

-Doesn’t necessarily mean putting a Bible verse on your door, but that may not be a bad idea either! Better than anything else you could read as you walk out of your house!

-What does it mean to be a Christian in the home? Training children, walking with the Lord. Living a life of repentance, prioritizing God over other good things. There needs to be something different about us. I think sometimes we’re guilty of slapping a “Christian” label on something and then continuing to pursue whatever we want instead of understanding the God is seeking to transform you from the inside out.

Gates: We often think about this in terms of our own private houses, but at this time period houses didn’t have gates around them, the gates was referring to the public square, so even in the public square, God’s people were to keep God at the forefront of their minds and act differently than those who didn’t follow the one true God. So for you today: do people at your work, in your interactions at the grocery store, can people see you follow God? What do you think it would look like for you to bring God into all these interactions?

-The summary: nothing is left out! God’s people need to bring God’s commands to fruition in every area of their lives, and we need to encourage each other to love God with our “muchness” and love others as we love ourselves.

-This idea is summarized in a similar way in a NT Epistle, and it’s where I’ve stolen some language when I talk about discipleship:

1 Tim. 4:16 (NIV) “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

-Anyone who has had a failing in ministry has failed in 1 of these 2 areas. Not mutually exclusive, these should be growing together, symmetrically. Think of a train. In order for a train to move forward it needs 2 rails, otherwise disaster strikes! Similarly for our growth as a disciple, we need to grow in both life and doctrine to pursue maturity. 

-How am I hoping we flesh this out in our context? Classes and small groups. Classes are a great environment to learn doctrine, to grow in knowledge of God. Small groups are great environments for living out the truths you’re learning, and accountability to apply those truths on a regular basis. If you ever want a book to read, please come talk to me! I love reading!

  • Perseverance, Step by Step (10-25)

-Remember that Israel here on the verge of entering the Promised Land, the place they’d been waiting years to enter. Living in the desert, eating nothing but manna and quail for 40 years, yet what does God remind His people to do as they look forward to that day? Not forget him! Look at all the things God’s going to provide for them: great cities, houses, cisterns, vineyards, olives trees.

-Dear saints, we have been blessed beyond measure! Christmas is a great time to think about this, Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 4:7 “what do you have that you did not receive?” Everything we have is a gift from God because God sent His Son to Earth to adopt us and make us His children, and then send us on a life of learning (discipleship).

-Moses goes on to say that the reason parents need to know and understand these truths is so that they can answer when your children ask you questions about your faith. How do you answer that question? (20) “Mom, dad: why do we obey God’s rules? Why are we different from my friends? Why do we have to wake up early on the weekend and go to church? Why do we spend our money differently?” 

-First of all, this assumes that you’re living differently. As I’ve said before, I sometimes worry that we’re not!

-I’ve had numerous conversations with some of you here about some of these issues. Why are kids leaving the faith? What hope is there of the church enduring? I listened to a podcast this past week that got my wheels turning on the need for us to live differently. Let me share some thoughts:

-We’re at a unique day in our culture where many of our assumptions are being challenged. One scholar has quipped that the job of apologetics today is not explaining the church to the world, the job of apologetics is explaining the world to the church. Why does it seem like our culture is getting crazier each day? The book of Judges summarizes this well: everyone did what was right in their own eyes. No accountability, no oversight, we live in the day of expressive individualism (def.) Yet the whole point of our faith is to be conformed into someone else’s image, not our own.

-Dear friends, we need each other to help each other grow in life and doctrine. We need each other to make disciples and to help each other mature as disciples. Every single person here is here for a reason and has some area where they can help those around them mature as a disciple. And as parents have questions, they need older people to help encourage them to persevere in their parenting and chasing after God. 

-Defining Disciple (learner): a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life.

-Newbigin quote. The only way of interpreting the gospel. 

-The gospel message isn’t just a mental idea that we check the box with and move on. The gospel leads us to a community of people who will disciple us so that we can in turn disciple others. We need to love each other enough to call out the sins we see in each other, and look for ways to share the gospel in word and in deed until, encouraging people to take one step close to Christ. We’re on an eternal journey of learning Christ more fully, so let’s start today.

-As we wrap up this series, 1 question for you. Where are you at on this arrow? What do you need to do to be or become a better learner? And who do you need to call to imitate you as you’re imitating Christ?

Imitate Me – Sermon Manuscript

-‘Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building’

-“I want to be like Mike”

READ/PRAY (2 Tim. 3:10-17)

-Remember what we saw last week, the 4 Ps of discipleship.

-I got a great question this week from someone: “are we going to be changing our values now?” What’s the point of the 4 Ws? The 4 Ws honestly are communicating the same thing as the 4 Ps, just in a different way. One of the exercises the book gave us was to come up with different ways of communicating the 4 Ps, (4 Ss, SPUR) I chose 5 Ws!

-Proclamation of the Word of God (Word) Prayerful dependence (Worship –> prayer) People (We) Perseverance (Worship – continually)

-Nothing sacred about them, hold on to whichever one makes the most sense to you. It’s a way of trying to summarize the biblical message in a way that makes sense to us today, that’s all it is!

-Last week, we spent most of our time on the first one, today I want us to focus on the third one, and think of it in terms of imitation.

  1. People as God’s Fellow Workers

-God is always at work around us if we have the eyes to see it (One of the words we’ve been talking about recently in our staff meetings is: intentionality. What is it we’re prioritizing in our lives, in our families lives, and in the church? What are we intentional about?)

-Remember, we looked at God’s plan from eternity past, is to have a people gathered around His throne in worship and praise of Him.

-Lewis The Weight of Glory “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal…All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”

-Do you view your interactions with people in that light? Pushing people one way or another. One of the markers of someone who is moving closer to Christ is that they’re more willing to look for people further down the arrow who they can proclaim the excellencies of Christ to! Humility means you look to other people and their interests over and above yourself

-So often we miss that part of Christian maturity. “I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm” So do I, and it’s a sin I’m trying to rid myself of! We assume that because someone has attended church a long time it makes them more mature, or we equate biblical knowledge with maturity, but if that’s true, the Devil is the most mature being in all of creation! Part of the reason we gather together every week is to remind each other what’s really true.

-If you’ve ever read The Chronicles of Narnia series, when you get to The Silver Chair it gets fairly depressing as Eustace and his friend Jill are whisked back into Narnia to save a Prince who is captured underground. The witch queen of the underworld captures our heroes and slowly convinces them that Narnia isn’t real. Yet Puddleglum (the Eeyore of the story) rouses himself and responds to this wicked witch saying “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

-This is where we all come into play, we need the encouragement of each other, it takes all of us joining together as God’s fellow workers (1 Cor. 3:5-8), which is the amazing thing about being a part of what God has started since before the world was created. This is the story (HIS story) that we’re invited in to.

-A theologian I greatly respect refers to it as “the drama of doctrine.” We each have an integral part to play in God’s master plan for the world, a part that only we can play, but remember what we’ve seen the past couple weeks in 1 Cor. 3: we can plant and water, but who is that causes the growth?

-Ultimately God, God alone saves. We can point, we remind others, but we are not the savior. Think of John the Baptist, who regularly reminded people “I am not the Christ!” We have that same responsibility today, boldly proclaim the gospel message in word and deed, but remind people it’s only because of God’s grace that causes these things to be true.

-Reformation motto: “It is faith alone that justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.” I am somewhat worried that our culture today has so ignored the second half of that statement that we don’t think beyond the line of faith. Brothers and sisters, that beautiful moment where a dead sinner is brought from death to life is just the beginning of a whole new way of living! That’s why the great commission doesn’t stop at “go and make disciples” it goes on to say “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.”
-We have a job to do! We now are meant to serve as a visible demonstration of what Jesus looks like to the world, and this happens the moment we’re brought from death to life. We’re caught up into an epic adventure of good vs. evil, we’re in the middle of the greatest story that has ever been written, and is currently being written! The end hasn’t come yet, which means we all need to be Puddleglum to each other (not the negativity part) We need to rouse each other out of the sleep the world lulls us into and remind each other the cosmic realities that we’re a part of every day!

-Really briefly, just because we covered this in Eph. 1, I want to look at the interplay between God’s job and our job

Eph. 1:11-14. Predestined, yet we’re the ones who believe

Acts 13:48 “as many as were appointed believed”

-This is 100% God’s job, and 100% our job. How does that work, don’t dwell on it too much on this side of eternity, because it’ll make your brain hurt!

-What is involved in being faithful disciple? What is required to make more disciples? Col. 3:17: word and deed. You may have heard a quote falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: preach at all times, and if necessary use words. You can’t disciple without words! Words are the currency of relationship.

-Think about is, how do we know who our friends are? They tell us! How do people find out things about you? You tell them! It requires words to build relationships. Same with our discipleship, it requires speaking to others to build them up, to use your interactions, conversations, and anything else you do to build others up (in LOVE)

-Why don’t we easily share what God is doing in our lives with others? At work, share something that stood out to you from the sermon. After church, share a passage you’ve been memorizing with the people you talk to. At a restaurant, pray for your waiter/waitress and be kind. (Culver’s with the student ministry) What opportunities are we missing because we’re not paying attention? What things are we focusing on instead of being attuned to what God is doing around us?

-There was a video I was made aware of in Middle School that made this point really well! If you’ve seen it, don’t give it away! Video of a basketball pass

-How many passes did you count? If you counted 15, way to go! But did you notice the gorilla in the video?

-Unless we’re reminded of the bigger realities of what’s taking place around us, we will miss them. That’s part of the reason we need to tell our stories to other people, remind them of what we’re caught up in.

-Really briefly, have you thought about the way we today get to fulfill some of the OT prophecies?

Numbers 11 (you don’t need to turn there) Moses brings together 70 elders who will be tasked with sharing the leadership role of God’s people. God comes down to share his spirit with the leader, 2 of whom missed the memo and weren’t at the meeting, yet because they were supposed to be there they started prophesying. Joshua comes running up to Moses and says “STOP THEM!” And Moses replies Num. 11:29. Wouldn’t that be a day! When all God’s people were filled with the Holy Spirit speaking God’s Words to each other! Toward the end of the OT, God promises that exact thing to happen in Joel 2, and Acts 2, and 4:31 specifically talk about that idea being fulfilled then.

-If prophesy is speaking God’s Word to others, do you realize we can do that all the time now? The OT people literally dreamed of living in the time period we’re in today, and we forget or neglect it, or even get nervous of what someone would think of us if we start to share God’s Word with each other!

  • Two Pictures of Discipleship

-With all that in mind, of being more intentional to see where God is working and joining with Him in pursuing those realities I want to give us 2 pictures today of what that looks like in our day to day lives: following and imitation.

  1. Following

-When Jesus began his earthly ministry, as he was recruiting His disciples, do you remember the command He gave them? “Follow me.” (Matt. 4) What’s their response? Immediately they left their lives behind to follow Jesus. What is your response when Jesus asks you to do something? Or potentially another way looking at this is what changes has God asked of you to be a disciple of Him? You can’t follow Jesus as a disciple and keep anything else on the side, God will not allow that to be the case!

-There are entire books written on this idea! One by David Platt was called Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. (In our library) This book encourages people to think about those whom Jesus called to follow Him. They didn’t have wealth, didn’t have prestige, didn’t have notoriety, weren’t “influencers,” they were normal, everyday people whose lives intersected with Jesus and then had their entire life trajectory changed.

-But notice as well, what did these early disciples give up to follow Jesus? Everything! They left their vocation, their families, their communities to follow after this new teacher who would go on to teach them a new way to engage everything around them.

-On top of that, look at how Jesus reframed their lives. Where they once were fishermen, Jesus was going to teach them how to fish for men. (Even Jesus enjoyed a good dad joke, very punny!)

-This tells us a few things about discipleship:

-First, it’s a call to follow Jesus and only Jesus. You don’t need anything else, in fact most other things will get in the way of you pursuing Jesus alone!

-Second, God will take our natural talents, gifts, wirings, and reframe/refocus them in a new direction. I’ve said this before, but it is no accident that you’re in the job you’re in. It’s no accident you’re in the family you’re in. It’s no accident you’re in the home you’re in. It’s no accident you have the hobbies and interests you have, God needs you to use them for His glory. He needs you to demonstrate Him in those contexts, so do it! Start praying about what it would look like for you to represent Jesus wherever you go!

-The next passage I want us to think about in relation to following Jesus is Mark 8:34-38. This passage doubles down on the idea that discipleship is a call to die to your old way of living in order to live for Christ.

-At times the things Jesus calls us to isn’t the easy way or the way we want to go, but it’s the right way. Jesus regularly tells people to count the cost of following Him. Have you ever done that? Or maybe a different way of asking it is what has it cost to follow after Jesus? Honestly, for most of us it hasn’t cost much, but it seems that the time is coming where it will (or is starting to) count a little more.

-I’ve talked to some of you about some of these things before, pronouns, rainbow pins, life altering surgeries. How do you engage these issues with the truth when the truth is liable to punishment in your jobs? Dear saints, that is counting the cost of discipleship! (Heard of a guy at Mayo yesterday wrestling through this very thing!) That is being willing to identify with Christ while here on earth, and I am at times worried that we’re not willing to do that, nor are we willing to do that together. I talked before about casting your cares on the Lord because He cares for you, but one way we can do that today is by casting our cares on each other, because we’re here to represent Christ to each other!

-The last passage I want to look at in connection with following is Luke 9:57-62

-One of the biggest problems I have with today’s Christian culture is the idea that Jesus just wants to take all your favorite desires and bless them and move them to the next level. Think of things you’ve seen with the #blessed on the socials. New car, new job, new house. But what happens when life doesn’t go the way you want, when you don’t get to just keep doing whatever you want? God wants us to realize that we live #blessed all the time, regardless of life’s circumstances because we have a new life in Christ! God wants to make us new people, not leave us to wallow in our tiny ideas of what constitute the best life!

-What we’ve seen abut following through these 3 passages is it requires dying to ourselves, it reorients our whole lives around a new person, and it requires sacrifice. It’s both the easiest and hardest thing you’ll ever do. Easiest because it doesn’t depend on you! Hardest because it requires you to die.

-Let’s now turn our attention to the second picture:

  • Imitation

-What does it mean to imitate someone else? To copy them, to model yourself after. I think we live in the most imitation heavy culture out there! Instagram influencers, how many followers someone has. Social contagion of tics because kids are watching Tik Tok videos from influencers who have facial tics that they’re emulating. Whether you realize it or not, you become like those you spend time with, you imitate them. There are 2 passages from Paul that I want us to think of in relation to imitation (even though the first one says follow!)

-Timothy was Paul’s protégé. Just as Jesus’ followers had other people follow them, so Paul continued the tradition with Timothy. There was imitation that was taking place, so much so that unlike the false teachers, Timothy was to follow Paul in his: (2 Tim. 3:10-11)

-Teaching: that which corresponds to the great tradition handed down from Jesus to the first disciples all the way down to today!

-conduct: the way Paul lived his day to day life

-aim in life: what is it we’re all aiming for? Maturity in Christ! (Eph. 4)

-faith: that moment where our lives radically change, we’re brought from death to life.

-patience: do you remain patient when things (bad or good!) are happening to you?

-love: the new Christian ethic where we love everyone!

-steadfastness: endurance, perseverance step by step, not giving up!

-persecutions: wait, even these?

-suffering: AND suffering? Paul goes on to say anyone who wants to live a godly life will face persecutions. All of us are guaranteed that in some capacity. Yet if even Jesus suffered, why would we expect anything different?

-Finally, the last passage we’ll look at today: 1 Cor. 10:31-11:1.

-Remember our definition of a disciple: a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. So Paul starts with worship. Do everything to bring God glory, even something as mundane and trivial as eating or drinking! And use things as an opportunity to point others to Christ, not causing them to stumble (different topic for a different day!)

-But where does Paul land? Imitation. Friends, do you invite people to imitate you? If someone were to imitate you, what would that do to their spiritual development? Would it bring them closer to or further away from Christ?

-Notice that there are limits to this imitation, we imitate ONLY IN SO FAR AS the imitation is like Christ. What areas of your life are worthy of imitation? This week, today, take stock of your life, what areas should you be inviting others to come imitate you in? And as you do that, what areas of your life do you need to find someone you can imitate?

-I shared at the beginning of this message my desire when I was growing up was to be like Mike, but I’ll encourage you here at the end with that same message: Look at me, imitate me insofar as I imitate Christ. I’ll keep my eyes fixed on Him, I’ll keep striving after Him, and when and where you see me doing that, join with me in pursuing the same thing!

-This week, find 1 person that you can encourage (maybe it’s starting by praying for this) to imitate you, and then encourage them to find someone else who can imitate them, and pretty soon we have an entire church full of people who are disciples looking for every opportunity they have to make and mature more disciples. We plant, we water, and we trust the growth to God.

The Content of Discipleship – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-God’s plan in human history is to redeem people, moving them from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His Son. This looks like God’s people, in God’s place, serving under God’s rule and blessing. 

-A disciple is: a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. Summarized by an arrow picture

-Today we’re going to look at the idea summarized in the movie Pay it Forward. Don’t recommend watching it, I haven’t even seen it myself, but the storyline is brilliant (feature a young Haley Joel Osment coming off his smash hit The Sixth Sense). His teacher challenges his class to come up with a way to make the world a better place. He says he’ll find 3 people to help, with something big that they can’t do for themselves, who are asked to do the same for 3 more people, and so on and so forth, until pretty soon you’ve helped a literal country’s worth of people.

-You may have seen or heard of this happening on a smaller scale in a drive through, but there always ends up being someone who stops the chain!

-This concept is a good summary of discipleship: each person reach 1 other person with the gospel message, who will reach 1 more person until it literally takes over the world! Paul summarizes this idea in 2 Tim. 2:2“what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people, who will be able to teach others also.”

READ/PRAY – Col. 3:12-17 (573)

What is the Bible?

-Great place to look is a dictionary! Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms

-Really brief summary: God’s Word.

-Inspired: summarized as “God-breathed” These are God’s very words that are being spoken to us as we hear, read, think about them. That means it is authoritative, the final say in all our lives and the means by which we understand what holiness is. We wouldn’t know who God is apart from His revelation in His Word.

-Because it is God’s very Word, it is also truthful. Everything it says is true and corresponds to reality. The difficulty with this is sometimes we’ll get our interpretation or understanding wrong. The problem isn’t with the Bible, it’s with us! Our tendency is to look at the Bible as the problem instead of looking at ourselves. 

-Next, we see that the Bible is sufficient. If you want to know how to grow in holiness, what God is like, how we got here, the purpose of human existence, look to the Bible! Other things based on the Bible can be helpful, but the Bible is the only one that is completely true. 

-Because it is sufficient, that also means it’s necessary for us. If the Bible is the only place we can truthfully and perfectly know God, we need it like a fish needs water, or a human needs food. We can’t survive without it!

-We also praise God that His Word it clear. It is able to be understood, however, it can’t be understood completely, and it requires the proper tools (and the HS). 

-Finally, and most importantly for our topic today: the Bible is powerful! I have lost count of the number of testimonies I’ve heard where someone picked up the Bible and started reading, and suddenly were confronted with who Jesus is and put their faith in Him! 

-A few weeks ago I heard another story of someone who was intrigued enough to start reading the Gospel of John, only to get to John 8 and stop because they were scared of how Jesus would respond to the woman caught in adultery. Months later, their curiosity got the best of them and they returned to John 8 and seeing Jesus’ response was enough for them to believe in Him.

-But the Bible isn’t just powerful for salvation, notice the other effect: transformation. As disciples, we’re called to pursue transformational learning. It’s not enough to be a bunch of eggheads walking around with more biblical knowledge (trivia) than anyone else, we need to live it out.

-This is summarized by 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Do you want to know how to be complete? Know, live, breath God’s Word, and then live it out by your good works.

-Do you realize how powerful God’s Word is? We read it in a place like Rom. 1:16, but do we actually believe that? God’s Word has toppled tyrannical dictators, literally changed the course of western civilization, and was the tool used to save everyone in this room who believes in Jesus as their Savior.

-Many people miss heaven by 18”, the space between the head and the heart.

-How do we ensure that we’re not one of those people? What is it that we need to help others grow as a disciple, and ensure we’re growing as disciples?

-I gave it away last week: the proclamation of the Word of God, done by the people of God with prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God, and this can only come about by persevering step by step, moment by moment and day by day. The 4 Ps, hold on to those, because those are the focus of our series! I even gave you blanks this week to fill out because they’re that important! (I don’t like giving you blanks because it causes your brain to listen for just those things instead of the whole message)

  1. Proclamation of the Word of God

-This is why we began with a question. If the Bible is God’s chosen means of revealing Himself to us then we need to make that the focus of our lives. Jesus summarizes this idea well when He’s being tempted by the devil: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 

-Brothers and sisters, think about that reality. If we’re not spending time with God in His chosen means of revealing Himself to us we are killing ourselves, cutting ourselves off from the source of life He’s given to us.

-I’ve shared this example before, but it has stuck with me. We as Evangelicals claim to be people of the book, but how early in our worship services is God’s Word opened? Go look at some other churches, see when the Bible is finally opened! Usually it’s when it’s time for the sermon. If you just attend a RCC service every week for 3 years the whole Bible will be read to you, yet it’s not always applied, lived out, or trusted to be enough.

-Similarly, the fact that you’re sitting here tells me that over the course of your life, you’ve eaten food. Yet how many of those meals can you remember? A couple, but those are literally lifegiving to your body! Spiritually, you need to be ingesting God’s Word, even though it can at times feel completely plain, ordinary, and boring (like eating kale). It’s giving us life, it’s transforming our minds, and conforming us (SLOWLY) into God’s image.

-Think of a cup of tea (tried it, came back to coffee!). Tea is water that has been transformed. Takes on the smell, flavor, color of the tea literally transforming the water. We need to steep ourselves in God’s Word so that we are transformed, so that what comes off us is the small, the flavor, the color of God instead of us.

-Let’s look at 1 passage in connection with this idea. Col. 3:12-17

-Just as we saw in Eph. We see another reminder to put off the old sinful ways, and put on God’s characteristics/traits.

-Love is the new ethic and standard of living for believers. Peace is possible in and through Christ. “And be thankful” Good week to have that reminder! If we are “In Christ” than gratefulness should be our MO. No room for Eeyore’s in God’s house!

-How does this take place? By letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly. How can Christ’s word dwell in you unless you’re spending regular time in it? Richly, not just haphazardly or a little bit. A rich cup of coffee has a ton of flavor in it, our lives should be so steeped in God’s words that that’s all we know! I have heard it said that the gospel is a well that we need to keep come back to again and again and again. We’ll grow deeper and deeper, but it’s never a new well. Same place, same person, same methods, but we become changed.

-This dwelling in Christ’s words isn’t just for us, we’re to use it to “teach and admonish” each other. Do you let God’s Word teach and admonish each other? There is nothing more powerful and encouraging than speaking God’s Word to each other. We can even do that with singing!

-On top of all those things is “whatever you do.” Everything you do (word or deed, life encompassing) should be done as an act of worship to God. Are your words and actions representative of Him? Is your life matching your talk, and is your talk matching God’s Word?

-Think of how the book of Acts talks about the spreading of the early church.

-As God’s Word spreads, disciples are made or matured. It doesn’t happen apart from God’s Word going out!

-Think of what we saw over the past 3 months in Ephesians! (a brief overview of the entire book here:

-The book begins by praising God for his work before the dawn of time to call a people to Himself. A people who heard “the word of truth” and then believed, leading to the third person of the Godhead living in you.

-Then Paul gives thanks for the church’s “faith and love toward all the saints.” The Word is planting itself in people’s lives and being made visible through their actions. 

-These new actions leads to a new life that is completely dependent on God, because we were/are dead without Him, but now because of His grace in us, we can live transformed lives.

-This transformation is seen by 2 very different people becoming 1 new person under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, making us citizens with the saints and members of God’s household. 

-This proclamation continues in chapter 3 where Paul shares how he preached this message of God’s plan from eternity past for all people, leading to Paul praying for the church be strengthened in Christ so that He will dwell in them.

-As they’re strengthened, Paul urges them to “live worthily,” which is accomplished through God’s people using their gifts in service of each other so that everyone will become mature.

-This is the opposite of the way the world works, they have not “learned Christ,” they haven’t put off their old selves which means they have no hope of putting on the new self! The rest of the book is an explanation of how they show they’ve “learned Christ” in all the areas of their lives (marriage, children and parents, slaves and masters). 

-Paul ends this wonderful book by asking for prayer to boldly proclaim the gospel, just like we should be doing to the world and each other on a regular basis, in order to encourage each other to move 1 step closer to Christ.

-So what does it look like to proclaim the word of Christ to each other? Is it only singing? Is it only preaching? Do we have to walk around with the Bible app open on our phone to look for the best verse for every conversation we’re having? (that would be funny) 

-Think of all the examples the Bible gives us of how we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (taken from The Vine Project, 86):

-You could write a letter. Most of the NT is letters! Letters mean a lot more today than they did 15 years ago, much more encouraging than a text!

-You could invite a group of people to your house for a late night get together. Share stories, share a meal, and talk about what God has been doing in your life [Acts 20:7-9 Eutychus] 

-You could talk about the sermon from that day as you go out and grocery shop after church on a Sunday. I ran into a couple people at Sam’s Club at about 1 PM last week! [Acts 17:17-18] 

-You could look for opportunities to encourage the barista at Caribou when it’s so early you’re just grumpy (it worked for Paul in Acts 16:13-14)

-You could find the local meeting place (I think in MN that’s Target!) and look for opportunities to share with others about why God makes sense in this crazy world we live in [Acts 19:9] 

-You could read Scripture in here or in class or even if you think God has given you a gift to preach, to let me know and have you preach here! [1 Tim. 4:13] 

-Or you could talk about it during your commute, in an Uber, on the train, it worked for Philip when he was going about his daily life! [Acts 8:29-35]

-There is no area in your life that is left out of the need for God’s Word to speak truth into. But here’s the other part about it. You don’t even need to open the Bible to proclaim the Word of God to someone else.

-Imagine sitting down with a child who is afraid of beginning school for the first time. You can encourage them to trust in God, that God is always with them, that God will never leave them alone. You could open the Bible to Phil. 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” You could take the child to 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Or you could summarize those ideas for him. 

-But this assumes that you know enough of God’s Word to be able to proclaim it in any situation you find yourself in. This is how you demonstrate that you’re letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly! If you know God’s Word, love God’s Word, and are letting God’s Word soak into every pore of your being, that’s what will come out.

-But that’s only the first P! Don’t worry, we’ll walk through the next 3 much quicker, because we’ll be looking at them in more detail in future weeks!

  • Prayerful dependance on the Spirit of God

-We saw this verse last week, but it bears repeating this week 1 Thess. 4:17. We’re commanded to pray without ceasing. Pray for the people you come into contact with, pray that God will bring to mind the truths of His Word in every situation and circumstance. 

-Maybe you’ve had a situation where someone is sharing something going on in their life, and you’re reminded of a verse that you’d been meditating on the week before, and you share it. Isn’t that a wonderful way to let Christ’s Word dwell in you richly? 

-I have a friend who’s been praying for opportunities to share the gospel with his boss. They were meeting to talk about a big project that was due soon and he said “I hope we can get it done!” The boss said “hope isn’t real,” and my friend took the opening!

-Once again, this assumes you know it well enough to be able to bring it back to mind when those situations arise. And what better things to be praying back to God than the very Words He inspired! (Read the Bible and pray those truths!)

-“Prayerlessness, like Wordlessness, is a classic symptom of a sick disciple-making culture.” (TVP, 90)

  • People are God’s fellow workers

-I read a quote last from Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, but I only shared 1 line from it. I wanted to read the whole thing this week. 

-We cannot do this alone, we desperately need each other. Yet how often do we try to do it alone, in our own strength, in our own power? Jesus never meant for us to work on discipleship in isolation, but we often miss this until we’re at our breaking point, and then we start to open up to others! If we let others in at the front end, if we open up to others and both encourage and are encouraged by them, we’ll have people ready to speak truth to us when we’re weak.

-Is this God’s job, or ours? Yes! Paul calls us the body of Christ today. We’re supposed to represent Him to those we contact. Think of what Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:6-9. We can plant, we can water, but we can’t force anyone to grow. We plant and water indiscriminately! We spread God’s Word far and wide, anywhere we go and with anyone we come into contact with! We are God’s chosen means of spreading the gospel message today, in word and deed.

  • Perseverance, step by step

-One of my favorite verses of all time is Gal. 6:9.

-Notice the key to reaping: not giving up. Perseverance is expected in the Christian life! That doesn’t mean it’s easy, doesn’t mean it always comes naturally, but a verse like this gives us hope to NOT give up! No matter how hard it gets, keep doing good.

-Paul talks about this all over his letters! Think of all the putting off and putting on we studied in Ephesians! In between Christ’s 2 comings we positionally are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies, but we still strain and groan and grow while we’re here on earth. Think of how Paul summarizes this in Phil. 3:12-14

-We continue pressing on! We continue straining forward! We keep our eyes on the prize: the upward call (discipleship)

-How do we put this all together? The 4 Ps: Proclamation, Prayerful, People, Perseverance. We, Word, Worship, Witness.

-None of us are in the same spot, none of us have the same temperament, none of us approach problems exactly the same. We need each other to speak God’s Word to each other and continually encourage us to take 1 step closer to Christ. But remember, the message for believers is the same message an unbeliever needs. Wherever anyone is on this arrow, what they need is encouragement from God’s Word. We’re not trying to make clones, we’re trying to become what God has uniquely created and wired us to be.

-Discipleship isn’t systematic or programmatic. That’s part of why there’s so much confusion about it! It’s the same tools, but leading to a different result. 

-No 2 snowflakes are the same, just as no 2 Christians are the same. God has chosen a wide assortment of people to demonstrate Him, it requires a wide assortment of people to demonstrate Him to others.

-This week, who is 1 person you can intentionally “pay it forward” to, and find a way to encourage them to take 1 stop closer to Christ.

Defining Discipleship – Sermon Manuscript

-Humans are hardwired to want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. 

-I’ve been talking to a friend recently about what makes a story “epic.” (stirs the soul, captures the imagination, sense of longing) Think of the appeal of LOTR or Narnia.

-I think all of us long for this. Civilizations since the dawn of time have had stories to help us understand our place in the world. Beowolf, Epic of Gilgamesh. Jews had Noah and his ark, the crossing of the Red Sea. Rome had the raising of the twins by wolves. Americans have the midnight ride of Paul Revere. 

-This past week, I went to a conference in Denver where I ran into a friend from seminary who is planning to pursue PhD work in New Zealand, AKA Middle Earth. As soon as I heard that I said that to him, and he agreed that’s why he wanted to go there! We LONG to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. 

-Yet that’s exactly what God invites us into. But this invitation is to something even more epic than a fantasy story full of talking animals. God’s story is true, and allows us to get caught up in the most epic story that is taking place around us every moment of every day, yet we need to retune our minds so that we can better see and understand what is taking place around us all the time. We need a Gandalf to rouse us from our complacency, and jump off the couch and go on this wonderful adventure!

READ/PRAY (Titus 2:11-14, 579)

  1. God’s Purpose in Human History

-How do you summarize the story of the Bible? Creation, fall, redemption, consummation? The revealing of God’s eternal plan? The establishment of God’s people? 

-Establishment of the kingdom of God: God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing. We studied 1 Peter together, that book was a reminder of how to live as holy exiles, remembering that our kingdom is not of this world. We’re citizens of a new country where Jesus sits on his throne, and the best part is he can’t be outvoted!

-God’s people are those who seek to worship (obey) God in every facet of their lives, imaging Him and obeying His mandates to fill the earth and subdue it.

-God’s place is everything! Since God created everything there is nothing outside His realm. Kuyper: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

-God’s rule and blessing comes about as His people (the church) preach and practically live out the gospel in every area of their lives. God’s purpose, from eternity past, was to have a people who demonstrate Him by what they say and how they live, distinct from the world around them. 

-Let’s look at some passages that talk about what this looks like:

Titus 2:11-14 (579)

-“Grace of God appeared” that’s talking about Jesus. This brings about salvation, which is available to everyone. Then when we are saved, it leads to godly lives today, as we anxiously wait for God’s return.

-“Purify for himself” holiness/sanctification, means we are “zealous for good works.” Those who are saved are looking for opportunities to do good works. Do you look for those opportunities? Are you “zealous” working your hardest, to do these good works? 

Col. 1:13-14 (572)

-Delivered from the domain of darkness, in a new kingdom, gives us redemption. We can summarize this idea with a diagram.

-We are called to live out good works, to live out the truths of the gospel, and we are called to do that together, in community during “this present age.” But this isn’t just an NT idea, we see another picture of this in the OT

-Picture of this using an arrow.

-Jer. 29:5-7 life in exile for God’s people (382)

-Notice how normal this is! Live a holy life in the normal everyday life, we’ll look like we’re doing the same things as everyone else, but with a different focus, aim, and goal. We’re supposed to actively look for ways to be a blessing to our communities (don’t have time for this now, but I’ll talk about it some during Scraps tomorrow, how do we pursue the blessing of our community when the culture emphasizes the opposite of what we’ve been called to do/be, and calls our attempts at blessing intolerance. Separate issue than we have time for today, but I think it warrants conversation)

-Before we get to “discipleship” I think we need to understand what a disciple is, so let’s begin defining what a disciple is before we get to the activity of discipleship (or, spoiler alert, “discipling”)

  • What is a disciple?

Luke 6:40 (503)

-At it’s most basic level, it is a “learner” Saw this in Eph. 4:20 “learned Christ” All of us are supposed to be learning from Christ, remembering that we aren’t above our teacher (Jesus) but the aim, direction, purpose, is to “learn Christ” that is to be like Him, to follow after Him, to represent Him to others, to help teach others what He’s like.

-So we can take our arrow picture and add the idea of them becoming a “learner” by putting an “L” above those who are learning Christ.

-What are some pictures of this? Baptism & yoke

John 4:1 (518)

-What does baptism signify? Dying to your old ways of living, washing the old self off and putting on the new. We see in other places in the NT that baptism serves as a visible demonstration of our death to ourselves and the new life we’ve been given in Christ. In 1st Cent. Served as a physical, visible identification with a new teacher. John had quite the following, if Jesus comes and baptizes even more, his notoriety would have spread quickly! Therefore, baptism serves as the visible demonstration that you are publicly identifying with Christ and dying to your old ways of living. 

-Have you been baptized?

Matt 11:27-30 (476)

-This is where it becomes fun! Jesus invites us into the epic story of cosmic, universal renewal. It doesn’t make sense in our minds, because it’s both the easiest and the most difficult thing you’ll ever do.

-Yoke is easy and light (which is only true because Jesus is pulling with you, but it’s still a yoke, which means you need to put in all your effort. Is this God’s doing or ours? Yes! 100% our job, 100% God’s job. Our work is light and easy compared to trying to do it by ourselves, but we need to do the work if we want to join with God in this epic story we’re called into. 

-Another way of summarizing this idea is: “Transformative learning” Doesn’t just stay in the theoretical (it can’t) it must lead to transformation and conformation (conforming into the image of God)

-The last text I want us to look at is Jesus’ last recorded words in Matthew’s Gospel, the great commission 

Matt. 28:18-20 (487)

-Preached on this text before (when I candidated) but that was over 2 years ago now, and that was meant to serve as the starting point for this series now! What is the significance of this passage to being a disciple? It’s the last recorded words from Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, meant to be the final/lasting thought for us of the story of Jesus, and it’s significant because it’s how Jesus’ ministry is meant to continue. So really briefly, what does this look like: 

-Dependent on Jesus’ authority. If He’s not in control, why would we obey Him?

-“As you’re going,” This is not mean to be a completely different thing, nor is it supposed to be unique. Everyone lives a life somewhere (job, house, hobbies, favorite restaurant – Applebees) 

-Jesus answers HOW we make disciples: BY baptizing & teaching (baptizing is the entry point, teaching is the continual training) another way of saying this is making and maturing

-The way you know this is working is the outworking of this in “observe all that I have commanded you.” So let’s ask: how well are you obeying everything Jesus commanded? Let’s start with a basic one: do you love God completely with everything you have? That’s the first and most important commandment! The second most important is how are you loving your neighbor?

-With this big emphasis we’ve seen on making disciples, you’d think it would be prevalent throughout the rest of the NT, right? The funny this is, the last time the word “disciple” appears in the NT is Acts 21:16 “Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us…” and then it disappears. So am I just making a mountain out of a molehill, emphasizing something that should be ignored of forgotten? Do you think that maybe the disciples forgot about it, or moved on from making disciples to the REAL work of the ministry?

-Shift from “disciple” to “learner”

Rom. 16:17 “contrary to the doctrine you have been taught” (learned)

1 Cor. 14:31 “So that all may learn and be encouraged”

Phil. 4:9, Phil. 4:11 “what you have learned, practice them” “I have learned to be content.”

Col. 1:5-7 “You heard and understood…just as you learned from…”

Eph. 4:19-24 “learned Christ”

Titus 3:14 “learn to devote themselves to good works.”

-Using the previous diagram, we could summarize these ideas by adding an “L” to the top of those who have moved from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son.

-How, then do we define what a disciple is? 

            TVP: “A forgiven sinner who is learning Christ in repentance and faith” (74)

GW: “A disciple is someone who learns the way of Jesus, which is both cognitive and behavioral, knowing and doing.” (213)

Mine: A redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. (A good summary/litmus test of this is Gal. 5 the fruit of the Spirit) What’s left out of this? Nothing! Fruit of the Spirit is meant to be demonstrated in every circumstance/area of our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The key is someone who is learning. I onetime heard someone say that the road to Christian maturity is paved with Christian books, you can’t grow in learning of Christ unless you’re reading about Him! But it’s also not enough to do this individually, because as we’ll see next, transitioning from disciple to discipleship is a community endeavor. 

“whereas we often think of learning in terms of our own personal growth and advancement—of becoming a better me in some way—to learn Christ is to be increasingly focused on others rather than ourselves.” (TVP)

-James talks about this in James 1:22 the need to be hearers AND doers, not enough to just think right, you also need to live right, which is where this learning must be transformative. 

  • What is discipleship?

-Moving on to the next step of this, to be a disciple is to be a learner, so discipleship is helping people become better learners. Some potential definitions: 

-While listening to Dr Hendricks speak, I sensed that discipleship might be something I could do, unlike more public types of ministry because you didn’t have to preach or do anything public.[Dennis McCallum and Jessica Lowery, Organic Discipleship: Mentoring Others into Spiritual Maturity and Leadership]

-What would happen to the church of Jesus Christ if a majority of those who claim to follow Christ were nurtured to maturity through intimate, accountable relationships centered on the essentials of God’s word? Self-initiating, reproducing disciples of Jesus would be the result.[Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ

-Discipleship is all about living life together rather than just one structured meeting per week.[Francis Chan with Mark Beuving, Multiply]

-Many churches have used various types of small groups as part of their discipleship strategy (home groups, life groups, fellowship groups, community groups, etc.).[Randy Pope with Kitti Murray, Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church]

-Mark calls the Church to abandon its imperialistic dreams on the one hand, and its passive noninvolvement on the other, and to become for the world what Jesus was for the world. That is what discipleship, following Jesus, really means. [NT Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship

-We need more of the engine that Jesus used to change the world, the engine he instructs us to use. This engine will not create perfect churches, but it will create effective churches. It’s relational discipleship. [Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington with Robert E Coleman, DiscipleShift]

-Anything that helps someone take 1 step closer to God in their life aka worship 

-This demands both making and maturing, as well as doing and being. I at times worry that we’ve segmented discipleship as a tack on for only the “mature” Christians, when the reality is that discipleship is inherent to the Christian faith! To practice discipleship is to be a Christian, however, there are both good and bad ways to do this, we’ll look more fully at this idea next week, as there’s something that needs to be the foundation of all our discipleship, spoiler alert: it’s God’s Word. This means discipleship can even take place with unbelievers, where we live in a unique way, ask unique questions, and encourage them to bring their lives closer to Christ. 

-Now remember, this cannot be done alone. It takes others to teach and demonstrate to you “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31)

-Anyone who is married can testify to this reality! Can’t hide your sin anymore! Don’t realize how selfish you are until someone else sees/calls you on your sinful tendencies. And then when you throw kids in, they both start to imitate and then call you on any negative traits! Our kids have learned about kind/unkindness, great thing to learn, not as great when they start to tell you your discipline is being unkind! That’s ok, it’s an opportunity to disciple them!

-Examples of this abound in the NT, but I want to take some time to look at 1, especially as it was reminded to me a couple months ago by a fellow pastor of mine in how we should engage each other.

1 Thess. 5:13-22 (574)

[13] Be at peace among yourselves. [14] And we urge you (y’all), brothers, admonish the idle,encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. [15] See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. [16] Rejoice always, [17] praywithout ceasing, [18] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [19] Do not quench the Spirit. [20] Do not despise prophecies, [21] but test everything; hold fast what is good. [22] Abstain from every form of evil.

-Look at all these various commands: 

-Explain the text. This is all done in the context of community, discipleship cannot happen alone.

-Bonhoeffer in Life Together “The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”

-We need each other, we need God’s Word to be spoken to each other, and we need the church to hold us accountable, which is what we’ll be looking at together over the coming weeks. I love the way The Vine Project summarizes this idea.

TVP: “the persevering proclamation of the word of God by the people of God in prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God, otherwise known as the four Ps: 

  1. Proclamation of the word in multiple ways 
  2. Prayerful dependence on the Spirit 
  3. People are God’s fellow workers 
  4. Perseverance, step by step”

-So what does all this look like? A couple ideas as we wrap up:

  1. Take what you’re already doing, and refocus it toward growth/holiness. Matt 4:19 (472). Jesus took fisherman and refocused them to become fishers of men.
  2. We do this because we are sent & commissioned by God John 20:21 (529). Do you view your life as sent by God, to actively work at moving people 1 step closer to God with your interactions? Because that’s exactly what God has called us to do and be: a disciple who pursue discipleship by our daily interactions with each other. 

-Even this week! Take some time during Thanksgiving to think about how you can intentionally make and mature those you’re interacting with!

Ephesians 6:10-24 Sermon Manuscript

Spiritual Fighting in Christ

Ephesians 6:10-24

We’ve made it! This is the end of our series on Ephesians! 

So: a quick recap: We saw all this rich doctrine, theological truth in 1-3. That God extended his grace to us when we were sinners, that faith allows us to be sealed by the Holy Spirit, the riches we’ve been given in Christ, remember those 2 words: BUT GOD! 

Then there was a shift in chapter 4 that set the tone for the rest of the book. Paul urged us WALK WORTHILY! We do that by seeking unity, continuing to put off our old self and put on Christ, walking in love, have rightly ordered relationships at home and outside of the home. Today we’ll look at the final way we walk worthily, and it picks up a similar theme to the end of chapter 4: we’re called to put something on, instead of putting on the new self, we’re called to put on the whole armor of God, which we’ll see is the same thing as putting on the new self.

READ

PRAY

As a guy growing up, this was one of my favorite Bible passages, because it has that connotation of fighting with it. I even remember wearing those cheap plastic “armor of God” toys when I was in Sunday School. Look, the 90s were a weird time in the evangelical Christian subculture. In fact, that stuck with me so much, that when I got to college and took Greek, I spent 3 months studying this passage, and did a whole presentation using pictures and movie clips from the movie 300. I loved this! Paul’s picking up all these Roman ideas, this elite fighting force who dominated world history for centuries! 

The problem is: that’s not Paul’s intent! While Paul’s imprisonment certainly would have given him many opportunities to see Roman armor up close and personal, his choice of armor would be leaving out some key areas in the Romans armor. Instead, Paul’s picking up on this Messianic prophecy in Isaiah. 

You don’t need to turn there, but listen to some of this wording.

Smack dab in the middle of a Messianic prophecy that gets read most Christmases about someone coming from the stump of Jesse on whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest. Isaiah 11:4-5 “Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.”

On dealing with the Lord’s coming salvation, coming right before one of the Easter passages in Isaiah 53, is Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion ‘Your God reigns.’” 

Isaiah 59:17 “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.” 

In Paul’s mind as he’s writing this is all these things we now get because we’re in Christ! Which leads us in to verse 10. 

  1. Be Strong in the Lord! (10-20)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of HIS might.

Finally – this is the last of how we practically walk worthily, and in many ways this is a summary of everything that’s come before, as we’ll see as we continue walking through it! 

Notice whose might are we to be strong in? Even the command to “be strong” has the connotation of being strengthened, we are the ones being acted upon to be strong. God is the one whose power is at work in us (1:19) when we are brought into right relationship with God. It is GOD who works all these things out in our lives. Remember that quote from Johnathan Edwards: “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” 

This is circling all the way back to chapter 1, “In him…” we have redemption (7), we have an inheritance (11), we were sealed with the HS (13) 

These things all take place because of Christ’s work in us, not because of anything we can do. And how do we appropriate this strength? By putting on the armor of God. Putting on the armor of God is HOW we remain strong in the Lord. 

  1. Use the full armor of God in your spiritual battles (11-13)

Put on the whole armor of God, 

First thing, we’re called to put on the WHOLE armor of God. We don’t get to pick and choose the pieces we want. 
Generally, that’s the way armor works anyway. EVERY individual piece is necessary for comprehensive coverage. But there’s also nothing that’s redundant or unnecessary. It’s all carefully thought through & planned to be most effective in battle. Similarly here, we need to arm ourselves completely. Why? Look at the rest of vs. 11-12.

That you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The physical world is not all there is. Western world is unique because we have a tendency to ignore the spiritual realities around us that the majority world continues living in. Yet we can’t get completely away from it, even in our “enlightened” minds! There’s still magic 8 balls sold in stores, you can still buy a “lucky” rabbits foot, there’s still “psychics” who will tell you your fortune for the right fee, even Sephora tried getting into the game by selling “witch kits!” We are far more spiritual than we care to admit!

The problem for many of us in the Western world is: we don’t pay enough attention to the spiritual state of our souls. We care far more about our physical health than our spiritual health because the spiritual health is a lot harder to measure. I think this is a large part of the reason it’s so hard for many of us to get to church on time! I know, there’s kids, there’s the lame driver, the list is endless, BUT that’s why we need to gather together! We are a visible representation of the world to come, which we’ll see in the next verse. 

Satan, the evil one really exists – AND he’s had millennia to hone his craft. Think about some of your hobbies. How do you get good at them? Practice. Hours and hours and hours. Now take that and expand it by millennia, and that’s what the devil has had to work with. 

Paul also says this is wrestling in the spiritual realm. I remember loving the idea of wrestling when I was growing up, wrestling with my dad, my sisters, my friends. Calvin loves wrestling with me! But this signifies a specific type of fighting. 

This spiritual battle is not something far off, removed from us, it’s close, it’s intimate, it’s something we need to deal with because ignoring it leads to our detriment. We’re in this battle already, the question is what are we going to do with it? Paul answers what we should do with it in verse 13:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Again, we see this reminder to take up the whole armor of God. SO THAT we can stand. That idea of standing has come up a few times now already in just a few verses. This seems to go against this idea we’ve been sharing of “WALK worthily” We can’t walk and stand at the same time, well, I guess there are those moving walkways at the airports that make it possible, BUT other than that you can’t walk and stand at the same time! Notice that Paul doesn’t say we need to win the war, he just says stand. The battle’s already been won!

The evil day – Bible talks about 2 periods of history, before Christ, and after Christ, and the after Christ is known as the last days, what we’re living in right now. 

What Paul is communicating is the way we walk worthily, the way we orient and go about our lives, means we must stand strong against the devil and his works. It means not rescinding any areas to him. Think of someone wearing a military uniform, if you notice the flag on their arm, no matter which way they’re going the flag is flying back, so they’re never giving up any ground! Similarly, we cannot give up any ground to the devil. That’s how we stand firm. Now let’s take a look at howwe’re able to do that, as we put on the whole armor of God. What does the armor consist of? 

  • The armor consists of… (14-20)

The armor: subjective AND objective. Every piece.

Many scholars debate whether these things are talking about Christ’s attributes or ours, much ink has been spilled in this debate, but when you get right down to it, both are supposed to be true. Christ personified every piece of this armor perfectly, so should we. 

Having fastened on the belt of truth

What is the truth he’s referring to? 

Eph. 1:13 “When you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him.” 

The gospel message is associated with the truth. All truth is God’s truth.

Remember, truth both subjectively and objectively, so it begins when we objectively believe the truth of the gospel, believing in Jesus who is THE truth (Eph. 4:21), but then subjectively it means we are truth- tellers (Eph 4:25)

As Christians, we have the only truth. As that truth of that gospel takes root in us we become marked by truthful lives. That leads us to the first question: Are you marked by truth? 

Throughout history, those who have been most used by God have been people who have been those most saturated in God’s truth. Martin Luther had most of the Bible memorized. John Wesley, whose evangelistic zeal was the spark God used to begin a revival, had the NT memorized in Greek. This foundation will come up again. 

And having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

Righteousness is one of those Christian words that gets tossed around a lot but not always defined. So what is Paul talking about? 

Once again, it’s come up before. Eph. 4:24 “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” 

Something God-like in righteousness. It is moral uprightness, which we know is not our own doing, because apart from God we have no right standing. 

So again, subjective and objective. Objectively there is 1 righteous person in all of existence, yet through faith in Christ, his righteousness is given to us. This is what is known as imputed righteousness. Christ takes the penalty for our sin on himself, and we get the righteousness of Christ given to us. One author has called this The Great Exchange. We give sin, we get righteousness. THE BEST!

So: have you made that great exchange? Have you given your sins to God and received his righteousness? 

And as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

All of us wear shoes. There’s various types of shoes for various types of activities. You’ve got your hiking shoes, basketball shoes, tennis shoes, sandals, dress shoes, Crocs. And there’s nothing worse than wearing the wrong shoes for the current activity! I played basketball growing up and had really weak ankles, which meant I had to make sure I had the right kind of shoe for the activity to make sure I didn’t accidentally roll my ankle. Shoes really matter! But spiritually, we need to be ready to manifest the gospel of peace. BUT not just the gospel of peace, but the readinessthat comes from the gospel of peace. So what does that mean? 

We must ALWAYS be ready to share the gospel in any and every opportunity we have. There’s a certain amount of jealousy that I have for those of you who are not in vocational ministry. You get to have those conversations around the coffee machine that I don’t! I miss the days where I was getting to rub shoulders with unbelievers every day in the work place, because those opportunities came up almost weekly where someone would ask something about me that was different. But this isn’t just at work, as we’ve seen over the past couple weeks, parents, YOU have opportunities probably every day to demonstrate the gospel in word and deed with your kids!

But it’s not just the gospel, it’s the gospel of what? Peace! We tend to neglect that aspect to our faith except for Christmas, where we remember Jesus is the prince of peace. And don’t forget, this is peace objectively and subjectively! Objectively, the gospel allows us to have peace with God which leads to the peace of God. Apart from God’s work in the spiritual realm, there is no hope for peace in the physical realm. 

Clinton Arnold, “Spiritual warfare is the solution to human warfare”

BUT, in God, there can be peace. Apart from God, there is no peace. 

So is your life marked by the gospel of peace? 

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one

I believe, help my unbelief. 

Faith in God is based on a precedent of what God has previously done to/for you. So again, remember objective and subjective. Objectively, we have faith in God, but subjectively, that faith is based on things God is doing and has already done. 
Here I raise my Ebenezer (Come Thou Fount), stone of remembrance 

We NEED those because we’re so quick to forget how God has provided! Think of the space we’re in right now. Do you know what went in to get here, or the fact that we nearly had to sell the building 12 years ago to survive. Think about how God has provided above and beyond what a few people (some of whom are sitting in here) over 40 years ago could have even dreamed of??? And not just us, think about the church in Ephesus 2,000 years ago, under persecution daily, do you think they ever could have thought Christianity would become THE dominate world religion? So have faith!

When we have faith, it allows us to fight against temptation. Think about the way we try to excuse sin…The devil made me do it…I was born this way…it’s not my fault…it was bad parenting…it was the hand I’ve been dealt…You do realize that none of that matters or is an excuse for sin? We all have our pet excuse we go to when we allow those darts from the evil one in, and as we saw earlier, he’s been practicing his archery a lot longer than you and I have been around! So put your faith in God! Trust that He is better than any temptation the devil may throw at you.

And take the helmet of salvation

Just as a helmet protects us, so salvation protects us. For those of us who are “in Christ” we can now wear the helmet of salvation. Once we’re truly saved there’s no going back! This allows us to walk with confidence because we already know our destination. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I hope and pray we start to see more of that in our prayer chain!

Grace Be With You (21-24)

Let’s see how Paul ends this letter. 

Paul is sending “the beloved brother.” A dear friend who’s been through thick and thin for the purpose of encouragement. Paul, the guy who’s under arrest is trying to encourage the church in Ephesus. That’s amazing! That’s the guy who’s learned the secret to being content in all circumstances! That’s the kind of question all of us should be asking: how can we encourage each other no matter what circumstances we’re in? 

Finally, the last things he mentions are: peace, love, faith and grace. That’s a pretty good description of the gospel, and a great way to end our time studying this book. Peace: God has provided a way for people from EVERY walk of life to come together and get along. Peace with God leads to the peace of God. Love: and not just get along, but genuinely LOVE each other! Just as Christ loved us. Faith: the bond that unites us, blood is thicker than water, except in the family of God. Grace: God’s undeserved favor given to us. We need to be reminded of that reality all the time, instead of dismissing or neglecting that truth.

Paul’s told us how to ensure we stand fast against the schemes of the devil, and it begins by praying, so I’m going to give you some time to pray right now. We’ve seen things we can pray for, we’ve seen to pray for the strength to stand firm, we’ve seen to pray for each other, and for boldness to proclaim the gospel. 

Ephesians 5:17-33 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-What’s the best piece of marriage advice you got before you got married? Start with me second best advice: “know your home team.” Best was “if you wake up every day and decide you’re going to die to yourself for the sake of your spouse, you’ll be just fine.”

-Same guy who gave me the best parenting advice: “never, never, never shake your baby.”

READ/PRAY (pg. 569)

  1. Be Filled with the Spirit (17-21)

-Seems to be an abrupt diversion into: being drunk. Where did that come from?

Drunkenness has been a problem for a really long time, and is always sinful. Remember back to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), people thought they were drunk! So what that means for us is: 

-We should be “under the influence” of the Spirit, not alcohol. The amazing thing is we, as believers, have the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, indwelling us as believers, leading us and guiding us in righteousness, reminding us of the things Christ taught, and conforming us more into the image of Jesus. We are in a unique era in human history, because once the Holy Spirit’s in us, He’s not leaving! That’s what it means to be new covenant believers.

-Another thing we see is that this isn’t something unique for those “super holy” Christians, this is descriptive of the normal, daily Christian life, daily filled by the Spirit.

-Keith really struggling, driving and singing his heart out, didn’t realize how fast he was going and got pulled over.

-“The result of the Spirit’s work in our lives is renewed worship and renewed relationships.” (Merida, 133)

-So how do we encourage each other to be filled with the Spirit? I’m glad you asked! Paul reminds of 3 things: Address each other, give thanks always, submit to each other

  1. Address one another (19)

-Notice the vertical and horizontal component to our singing: “addressing one another” and “to the Lord” 

-Think about it like a see-saw – in order to keep that see saw level we need BOTH components. 

-There’s an element to our singing that is teaching, which comes out in the parallel passage in Col. 3. We teach the truths of the gospel to each other when we sing, that’s why the content of our singing is important. 

-Notice that Paul encourages a variety of types of songs. Nowhere in the Bible is any particular style/genre of music listed as “better” than the others. 

-So Paul says, “Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs.” Psalms are Hebrew songs of praise to God, hymns are Greek songs of praise to their gods, spiritual songs encompasses everything else – Spirit inspired songs of praise. Paul is not referring to How Great Thou Art when he lists “hymns” 

-In fact, people mean different things when they talk about a “hymn” Augustine defined it: sung, praise, to God. 

-Google: a religious song or poem of praise to God or a god.

-Merriman Webster: a song of praise to God

-I’ve yet to find a definition of hymn that means: in the hymnal or old.

-Grant Osborne “Hymns in the early church were used to teach theology to believers. The lyrics were chosen not for their artistic value but for their truth and depth of content.” (182)

-THAT’S what matters! The content. So we work INCREDIBLY hard to ensure that what we’re singing is biblically true, Christ centered, God glorifying, and that can be done with a wide assortment of songs

-Paul is saying whatever your background musically, it’s welcome in the church. 

“with your heart” is not saying we sing silently, or internally, but instead with our whole being. The heart is the center/sum of who we are. So sing with ALL WE’VE GOT! This means singing is not optional! Paul COMMANDS us to sing! 

-Pliny, governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor Christians “met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god.”

-Tertullian, writing from North Africa during the end of the 1st Century, “Each is invited to sing to God in the presence of other from what he knows of the holy scripture or from his own heart.” How would you like to be invited to sing your own Scripture memory each week? 

And over all of this is:

  • Give thanks always (20)

-As Christians, we always have a reason to be thankful, because of the truth of the gospel message. We were once dead, alienated from life in God, but God who is rich in mercy saved us. Therefore, we give thanks!

-The opposite of this is sin. Richard Coekin in his commentary on this passage says, ““Sin is essentially rebellious and complaining ungratefulness; and holiness is essentially a life of gratitude for all that God has graciously given us in Christ.” (158)

-Even the fact that we’re here gathering together should be enough of a reminder for us to give thanks. COVID should have been enough of a reminder for all of us of the need for meeting with other believers for encouragement and edification. I know I look at this gathering much differently today than I did before COVID!

-I don’t always like what we do on Sundays “If the gathering is about building up and encouraging the church, then a song I don’t like presents an opportunity to love and encourage others whose tastes differ from mine.” (Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace, 88)

-“Are you known for ongoing thanksgiving or for complaining, murmuring, and pouting?” (Merida, 134)

  • Submit to one another (21)

-This is a daily dying to yourself. Dying to your preferences, desires, goals, everything for the sake of those around you. 

-This is most visibly made manifest through the process today known as church membership. Through that, we make a commitment to love each other unconditionally, support each other through anything, and be willing to do so until the Lord moves us or calls us home. Why do we do this? Because we see it modeled in our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

-This is the opposite of how we naturally orient our lives. Everything we do gives us the illusion that we’re the center of the world, which then affects the way we interact with each other in the family of God. We’ve got our iPhones, iPads, etc. 

-That’s part of the reason this gathering is vital to our lives. We need to be reminded that we’re not the center of the universe. We need a weekly reorientation, like calibrating your phone when you use the compass. 

-The next section seems to be an abrupt shift from talking about corporate worship to talking about marriage, but the reason Paul does this is because each family unit needs to be healthy for the whole church to be healthy, AND because marriage serves as a visible witness of the gospel message – that message that makes the church body unique. 

-On top of that, it struck me recently that for Paul, this wasn’t a disjointed idea. The church body is a family, which means everyone has a specific role to play. Because of the church/family connection, Paul just continues his thought from the church to the nuclear family. Those 2 ideas aren’t disjointed to Paul, instead they’re intimately connected (one requirement of an elder is managing his own household well, because the church is a bigger household!)

-Now anytime we talk about marriage in the church, I know there’s a temptation for singles to tap out and not listen, at least that was my temptation when I was single! But don’t tune out! Whether or not you ever get married you’re a part of the church, which means you need to know these things to encourage your brothers and sisters who are married, AND as a reminder of the realities of the gospel message, as we’ll soon see in verse 32. And the reality is, as Kent Hughes says, “Many of the problems in Christian marriages come from either an ignorance of or a cavalier disregard for the scriptural teaching on the roles of men and women in marriage.”

  • Wives: Submit to Your Husbands (22-24)

-This is one of the most hotly contested passages in the Bible. What does it mean to submit, and what does it look like?

-A large part of the reason this is contested is because none of us like the idea of submission, and in our culture there has been a flattening of any leadership, we love it when the underdog sticks it to “the man” Yet that’s not God’s way. In fact, submission is at the heart of the gospel message! 

-You see, Jesus is the king of everything, which requires everything else to submit to him. So becoming a believer means submitting ourselves to Jesus as the Lord of everything. Then, for our flourishing that means we need to correctly order our earthly relationships. So it begins with wives submitting to their husbands. 

-That word submit is someone who is completely equal being willing to trust and follow their leader’s guidance. So submission in the home does NOT mean women are inferior in any way. Both men and women are created in the image of God, equal in dignity, status and worth. 

-One way to think about this is in the military. The military cares greatly about correctly ordered relationships, which requires submission. If there is correct submission and accountability the military will flourish, if not you’re left with anarchy, so at the heart of what Paul is saying here is: submission is how we have correctly ordered relationships in the home. And why do wives submit? Let’s read verse 23 again:

  1. Why? (23)

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and his himself its Savior.

-What does Paul mean when he says head? Well think about your own head, what does your head do? It’s the command center, if you will, of the rest of the body! The head provides nourishment to the rest of the body, and also dictates where the rest of the body goes and does.

  • How? (24)

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

-Paul shares an example of how wives are to submit to their husbands: that is just like the church submits to Christ, who is the head of the church. 

-Notice as well that this isn’t ALL women submit to ALL men, this is just within the home, between a husband and wife. BUT:

-No qualifiers: IF he’s smart, IF he loves you, IF he helps around the house. It doesn’t even say IF he’s a Christian, it says, “in everything” This was one of the ways the early church grew, through women honoring their husbands well, thus leading them to the Lord by the way they lived.

-Just as I shared last week with slaves, this does NOT mean women are doormats who are expected to not think, talk or do anything but serve their husbands, we’ll see the husbands role in a minute. 

-It also does NOT mean following your husband in to sin. Here’s the thing, even though the husband is the head of the home, we, as husbands have an even higher authority: God.

-The key to remember here is this God has designed marriage, he decides the rules, he dictates the best way for families to flourish, which means wives submit to their husbands. This means a daily dying to yourself for the sake of your family. 

-Now husbands are not off the hook. And Paul dedicates the rest of the 9 remaining verses (women only get 3) in this chapter to addressing husbands, and it’s very simple: 

  • Husbands: Love Your Wives

-While wives are called to submit, husbands are called to love their wives, JUST LIKE CHRIST loved the church! Paul describes a number of ways that we are to love our wives, can be summarized with S: sacrificial, sanctifying, and self-love. 

And gave himself up for her

  1. Sacrificial Love (25)

-I am by no means an expert on marriage, as we’ve only been married for 7.5 years, so I’m going to be relying heavily on the thoughts of others for this section, as you’ll hear from the various quotes. My dad, who was a pastor, encouraged me to preach all my sermons on marriage BEFORE I got married, because you don’t realize how hard it is until after! BUT, I do know what the Bible says. 

-Have you ever thought about the way the gospel is made evident in marriage? Tim Keller in his book “The Meaning of Marriage,” which I HIGHLY recommend, says, 

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” (44)

-This notion of giving of yourself means you as the husband must daily die to your wants, desires and preferences. It means LITERALLY dying for your wife if you must! It’s this self-sacrificing love from a husband that makes it easy for a wife to submit to her husband when necessary. 

-I once heard a pastor sharing a wonderful example of this in his daily life that’s such a little thing it seems trivial, but speaks to the larger way we as men can sacrificially love his wife. When they drive in the car she picks the music. 

-Husbands: how are you sacrificing for your wives? 

-But that’s not the only kind of love Paul talks about, he goes on to talk about:

  • Sanctifying Love (26-27)

This process of sanctification is purifying or cleansing. Think of taking a shower after an exhausting day. Marriage is one of the primary means of sanctification because it’s in the daily grind that your sinful tendencies come out. And the best part of that is: because there’s a covenant, you know they’re not going anywhere! Your spouse is committed to loving you IN SPITE of your sinful tendencies! And here’s the deal: you BOTH have those sinful tendencies. 

When Sinners Say “I Do” 

-I one time heard a story of a really difficult season in a pastor’s marriage. The church on the verge of a church split, long-time members were calling for his firing, things at home weren’t easy, and there seemed to be no way out. He and his wife one night went on a walk and were talking about everything going on, and his wife asked “Why are you still with me?” The pastor replied, “Because I made a covenant with you.” 

-Not the most romantic moment for him! But the point is true, we can’t rely on feelings to get us through a lifetime together, we need a covenant.

-This idea of sanctifying and cleansing also carries with it the idea of being set apart for God, which means men have an immense responsibility to point their wives to the Lord.

“A Christian husband will want to support Christ’s will for his wife, not with an overly intense marriage, but with one that enables them to serve God together and so proclaim the triumph of Christ in the spiritual realm.” (Coekin, 171)

-A problem for many of us is we are selfish. We don’t think about pursuing holiness because we’re too worried about happiness, which will only come about as a byproduct of pursuing holiness. So for husbands, that means intentionally praying for your wife. Praying for the strength to lead well, to point her to Christ, and to die to yourself. I was listening to a pastor once state that husbands should go to bed EXHAUSTED every day, because you are pouring yourself out. And one of the ways you should be pouring yourself out is in prayer. 

 “If we are not praying for our wives in detail, we are not loving them as Christ loved the church and are, in fact, sinning. We should be praying for their spiritual life, obligations, pressures, friendships, and dreams daily and passionately, for that is how Christ prays for us!” (Hughes, 189)

So husbands: how are you doing with loving your wives in a sanctifying way? Kent Hughes summarizes this well:

“Is our wife more like Christ because she is married to us? Or is she like Christ in spite of us?” (Hughes, 191)

  • Self-love (28-30)

Here’s the crazy thing about a husband who doesn’t love his wife well: he’s only hurting himself! When you are married you go from 2 separate families to 1. The way this was described to Cara and I during our premarital counseling was: you’re on the same team! This is why communication is so important! We need to know what’s going on so we can ensure we’re staying on the same team and not drifting apart. 

Wayne Grudem leaving TEDS for his wife who suffers from fibromyalgia, which flares up in humidity. They took a trip to Phoenix. 

  • The mystery of marriage (31-33)

This is where we see why this applies to everyone, not just those who are married – marriage is an example of the gospel because Jesus is our bridegroom. Going back to music – one of the things people have complained about is “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs, and that’s right, because that’s not intimate enough! The church is preparing herself to meet God face to face where we will finally be united, like a husband and wife are united. 

-Notice now how Paul wraps up this section, it’s a little weird, because you’d expect it to repeat what he’s been talking about: wives submit to your husbands, and husbands love your wives, but he changes what he tells the wives, instead it’s respect

Love & Respect

-The key to all of this: get over yourself. Decide every day when you wake up that you’re going to die to yourself so that you can faithfully serve your spouse, your family, your God, and your church. 

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 99) 

-We need to extend grace to each other. 

-“Gospel-driven forgiveness is the glue that sticks our imperfect marriages together – gradually overcoming bitterness and despair with real hope and joy.” (Coekin, 174)

So all of us: sing loudly! Proclaim the excellencies of the God who saved us! Husbands: love your wives with all you’ve got. Sacrificially, sanctifying, like you love yourself. Wives: respect your husbands and submit to them. Unmarried: encourage the married that you’re friends with to continue on, and for all of us: prepare for our future marriage to God! 

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Playing a game, gotta learn the rules! Frustrating playing with someone who keeps changing them or twisting them to their own advantage.

-Game of life is similar! Need to obey the rules to get it right. Who do you think made the rules for our lives? God! 

READ/PRAY

-“Household code” rules that we all obey. Because you are a Strand, you must ___ 

-Remember Paul has been explaining what it means to “walk worthily,” which means your whole life now is meant to look different. 

-We’ve found other “household codes” from the 1st century, Aritstotle: “almost all things rule and are ruled according to nature. But the kind of rule differs; the freeman rules over the slave after another manner from that in which the male rules over the female, or the man over the child; although the parts of the soul are present in an of them, they are present in different degrees. For the slave has no deliberative faculty at all; the woman has, but it is without authority, and the child has, but it is immature.”

-Do you see the difference? Where in Eph. 6 do you see “ruling”? Paul is taking a commonly understood idea (house codes) and turning them on their head, and this is significant, because these house codes are what lead to the flourishing of society. Remember throughout the OT God’s people live in a theocracy, under the NT we no longer live that way, instead we attempt to be the best citizens we can possibly be, we do everything in love, we celebrate where our culture believes in (as Francis Schaeffer said) “true truth,” and we order our alien society differently than the country in which we find ourselves. There are some other great resources out there that will help you with ordering your house, but only in so far as they help you live out the biblical principles. 

-Spurgeon: “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.”

-One of the most unique aspects of Paul’s rules for the household is who gets addressed. Generally limited to those in positions of power, those who weren’t were only mentioned for how the powerful person should engage with them. So kids would be mentioned only in reference to the Father, how he keeps them in line, etc. Paul begins with those why are “the least of these”

-Jesus in Matt. 25:40 “As you did to the one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Jesus takes what we think of as common knowledge and flips it on its’ head! So the fact that we see children, slaves, wives brought up as the focal point would have been radically counter-cultural! Don’t miss that looking at this text through 21st cent. Eyes. 

-We’ll see in this text some explicit commands for the people mentioned, let’s dig in!

  1. Children: Obey (1-3)

-Obedience isn’t limited here. Obey your parents when it makes sense, obey your parents when you want to, obey your parents when you feel like it, no, it’s an explicit command. That being said, we’ll see how parents are to live in a minute!

-So kids, when your parents are talking to you, what does the Bible say to do? Obey! This is meant to come in the context of a relationship, so you can ask clarifying questions, can try to better understand why your parents are telling you to do something, but at the end of the day, what does the Bible command? Obedience. Why do you think that is?

-Parents are meant to serve as a picture/illustration of God, so we demonstrate our obedience to God by obeying our earthly parents. Gen. 1-3 teaches us that God began creation by creating the family. Adam & Eve were commanded to image God to the rest of creation by ordering and bringing structure to what He had created. Part of what that means is creating the various civilizations we see around us! But the basic building block of every civilization is: the family! As the family goes, that’s where the rest of society will go, which is why families matter so greatly to God! 

-That being said, because we’re humans, we have a tendency to ask the next logical question: Is there any room to disobey? Yes, but that shouldn’t be a regular part of your life. If obedience is the expectation, there should only be rare exceptions where you disobey, and the only time & place to disobey is when your parents are telling you something that is contrary to the Bible. One example I’ve seen some parents do is lying about your kids age to get discount food or entrance admissions to parks! There was a video that went viral a few weeks ago about a family sneaking a child into Disney World in a stroller dressed like a baby, and then as soon as they walked in the child came out! God’s rule is even higher than your parents rules, so help your parents obey God’s rules! That’s what Paul says next anyway:

-“In the Lord”

-Isn’t limiting to only believing parents, instead a reminder that children are indwelled by the Holy Spirit too.

-Remember, this letter was meant to be read in the gathering on Sunday morning for the entire church, which means because children are addressed, Paul is assuming they’ll sitting next to their parents! We are meant to be a multi-generational gathering! 

-It’s also important that Paul is rooting this command in previous writings, not something he came up with, it’s in both OT and NT (quoting Ex. 20:12 & Deut. 5:16)

-Proverb, generally true, but unfortunately nothing is guaranteed. Some of this means families are meant to serve as a preserving function in society, if you want your society to function well, families must be given prominence and helped to flourish, how do you do that: connect to a local church.

-But kids: pay attention to what this says about your parents too! Paul isn’t singling you out, your parents also have a job to do, and they’re going to be held responsible by God for how they raised you!

  • Fathers: Teach (4)

-Fathers in the 1st cent. had complete control, could conduct infanticide, sell into slavery, beating was seen as the best form of training. Remember what we saw from Aristotle! There was a literal hierarchy in society, and men, specifically free men, were the pinnacle, everyone else served the men.

-This command is hard! Part of it means in order to discipline your kids correctly, you need to be discipling yourself, not respond in anger because then you’re setting a bad example. When we read of God being described as our Father, it should give us pause, because we need to ask how well we’re doing at representing God to our children. Father’s we serve an incredibly important role in our family, and it begins by not provoking, not belittling, not demeaning them.

-Read a story of an incredibly accomplished theologian who was asked how he was able to write as much as he did, his response was that he sacrificed his kids. Far too many kids bear the brunt of the parents’ insecurities and issues, which perpetuates family wounds and struggles through generations. So dads: be intentional about what kind life you’re building, as well as what example you’re setting.

-Paul uses “bring them up” ektrephete in Eph. 5:29 “nourishes” his wife. Dads, instead of antagonizing your kids, nourish them, feed them, help them understand who God is, what He’s like, and how we should live with Him as our Lord. Paul uses 2 words to describe this:

-Discipline and instruction

-Not just “because I said so” (As often as that turns out to be appropriate I’ve learned, much to the dismay of my 7 year old self!) Instead, this training is supposed to be “Of the Lord” If you limit your correction and training to what God has commanded you’ll be doing well! If you keep your training rooted in God’s Word, not only will you be setting them up for success, but you’ll give them a holistic way of approaching the world and life. Legalism won’t accomplish that, it only leads to either fear of being outside the lines, or rebellion for not being able to measure up.

-“Legalism will prove to be a bankrupt basis for behavior and ethics. Parents need to help their children transition to intrinsic motivations for good behavior.” (Arnold, 430) Another way of thinking about this is teaching them God’s Word, what it means, how to study it, and then taking God’s Word seriously yourself! Share with them how God’s teaching you, share with them about times you mess up, apologize when you’re leaning on legalism instead of God’s Word!

-Obviously this isn’t only for dads, moms play a huge role in raising children, but notice the ultimate responsibility and accountability God has given to Fathers. Take this job seriously! The kids you have are a beautiful gift from God that have been entrusted to you for this season of their lives!

-Practically, what does this look like? (Richard Coekin, pg. 184)

1. It takes a church to raise a kid – so show up! 

2. It takes the gospel to raise kids – so speak up!

3. It takes God to raise kids – so pray up! 

-If your relationship with your parents is strained, if they weren’t believers, thank God that you have a church! Get connected here, we’d love to walk alongside you! Paul in other cases encourages us to treat each other in the church like a family, and all that comes along with that!

  • Slaves: Obey (5-8)

-Need to talk about slavery. Often what comes to mind when we see slavery in the Bible is the chattel slavery that is an abominable reality of our nation’s history. Slavery was different at this time, I found this summary to be helpful:

1) Racial factors played no role. In the US that was the determining factor! How much melatonin in your skin served as the only factor for your role in society. In the 1st century, slaves could be any race, any background, and people even sold themselves into slavery as a payment for debts. 

2) Many slaves could expect emancipation in their lifetime. Slavery was for life here. No hope of freedom, no way to get out, suffer and bear it. Many people in the 1st century were worried about how many people were becoming freed, and started advocating that there should be an age minimum given so there weren’t too many former slaves in the world!

3) Slaves worked in a variety of specialized and responsible positions. Were far more than hired hands to pick the fields. Slaves could be household managers, doctors, and even:

4) Slaves received education and training this was seen as a way to get more value from the slaves. They would become better and better at their craft until they finally were freed.

5) Freed slaves often became Roman citizens and worked with their former masters Eventually given a privileged status and then a job to continue working in! Since they were trained, they became very valuable!

-While you won’t find a verse that says “slavery is sin” you have all the implications that land there. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor not own them, and treat others as we would want to be treated. 

-Paul in 1 Tim. 1:10 lists “enslavers” as living contrary to how God has commanded. As I’ve said before, remember that this text was read in the church, where both slave and free met in the same congregation, sitting right next to each other. 

Philemon is another example of this reality, this new way God wants us to live! Paul wrote the entire letter asking Philemon to free his former slave Onesimus, who ran away than was saved under Paul’s ministry! 

-Obey them like you obey Christ. Not as a lap dog, but as the position God had placed them in.

-Paul doesn’t ground slavery in either the OT or in a theological position. We’ll see next week husband & wives is grounded in both a theological truth and the OT, and so is the command for children. The reality that slavery isn’t grounded in God’s design for the world or with theological reason is significant! It’s demonstrating to us that there’s something different about slavery than there is wives and children.

-And this obedience should come about because of the transformed heard. It’s easy to work hard when you want recognition or attention, that’s normal! But what God has called us to is so far beyond our own power that it can only come about because of His Spirit at work in us! 

-Lorence’s berry farm throwing rotten berries.

-What would it mean to do your work in such a way that you behave like your boss is watching over your shoulder? (He is) That’s the point of vs. 8, God sees everything we do (and think) and wants complete obedience. Do you obey? Do you work hard? Do you view your work as an act of worship, obedience, and service to the Lord, or is it just a means to a paycheck? Remember God has wired you in a specific way, so even your vocation can be a ministry.

-Roots and fruit, doing and being, God cares about our internal motivations and wants to sanctify even our desires.

-Once again, unlike other household rules, Paul turns the idea upside down:

  • Masters: Honor (9)

-Same as slaves? This is radically counter-cultural! What is the same? Treat them as fellow image bearers. Don’t just worry about what other people think (people-pleasers) do good to them because God is watching.

-Threatening seen as the primary way to motivate slaves. We have a document from 61 AD (about the same time Ephesians was written) where someone talking about slavery writes “The only way to keep down this scum is by intimidation.” That’s not how Christians should serve as masters! Don’t threaten, we’re now commanded to do everything we do in love, according to how God has loved us. 

-And then to heap on the expectations, there’s an even higher master than the earthly master. Remember back to Aristotle’s idea, the master who is a male is the highest power, but for anyone in Christ that’s no longer true! Our true master is in heaven, and in his eyes we’re all the same. This last part is the final nail in the coffin for slavery.

-No partiality, we are all one in Christ. Col. 3. The ground is level at the foot of the cross, so live like it! Treat other people how you want to be treated, no matter your position, no matter your power, the way the world uses these things is corrupted, we’re to use them for good.

-Takeaways for us today, despite not living in the same culture. We no longer live in a culture where slavery is the norm (which should lead us to praise God for the common grace of that reality! So while we’re not slaves, all of us have some place we work. Some of us even have people who report to us in our jobs. So how should this passage change the way you approach your work?

-Whenever you work, do your best, work hard, and remember who you’re doing it for. I share regularly 1 Cor. 10:30 “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” which means you can add work in there! When you are at your job God is watching your interactions, He’s watching how you’re using your gifts, and He’s seeing if you’re representing Him well. I don’t say that to heap guilt (he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake) but instead to “make the best use of the time,” to live as Christ has called us to live.

-But this also cuts back the other way, if you have people reporting to you at work, are you honoring them as a human being creating in God’s image, or do you belittle, undermine, and use them to advance your own aims? Don’t threaten them (obviously there needs to be accountability), represent Christ to them.

-God has given us a pretty high bar to follow! Children are to obey, Father’s are to teach and train those children, servants are to obey like they obey Christ, and master’s are honor their slaves as fellow human beings. And all this is only possible through the same power at work in us that rose Jesus from the dead. As we pursue Christ-likeness, as we’re conformed into His image, He will give us the strength we need to be this faithful family.