Remember: Jesus Came 2 Peter 1:12-21 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.

Who here can tell me what you had for lunch on October 13, 2019? I had Runza! Why do I know that? Because of this picture! What if I made it a super special day, dinner for Christmas Eve 2020? We had Lou Malnatis pizza!

I can guarantee you ate, had everything you needed to survive otherwise you wouldn’t be here today, but how good is your memory of that? There are only a handful of meals that truly stand out in my mind, that I can recall without pictures on a regular basis! I at times worry that we are guilty of the same thing in our faith. We don’t often spend enough time scrolling back through the pictures of Christianity in our minds, reminding ourselves of the call to daily die to ourselves and be conformed into the image of Jesus. Peter will begin this section saying “I intend to ALWAYS remind you of these things”

READ/PRAY

  1. Always Remember These Qualities (12-15)

-Therefore connects to last week

-Last week’s big theme was remember your calling, which begins with God’s call through our faith. God has given us everything we need to grow in godliness, therefore we need to continue working to supplement our faith, virtue, etc. So that we can faithfully run the race God has called us all to. 

-These qualities need to be our focus in our lives. Peter says he intends ALWAYS, he never stops harping about these qualities that need to be demonstrated in our lives.

-Yet there’s still the need to be reminded, why do we have to be reminded so often? 

-We are forgetful creatures! Have you ever heard of ‘The Doorway Effect’? Walking through a doorway causes a mental shift in our minds, where our brains move to a new mind space after walking through a doorway. Comic strip at Grace “now why did I come in here?”

-Because we’re forgetful people, the Bible regularly calls God’s people to “remember”

Deut. 5:15 – Sabbath. What purpose does the Sabbath serve? A reminder that God has providentially saved His people! That they used to be enslaved to the Egyptians but God brought them out with a mighty hand and His outstretched arm. That even if they’re enslaved in the future, God will continue to provide for them. Then for us today, it’s why we need to regularly gather together with other believers: to remember and remind. I’d encourage you to think about and approach Sunday morning with those 2 words in mind: remember and remind. Remember that we were once slaves to sin, but God has redeemed us, brought us out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, so we have a job to help remind those around us about these truths! Remember and remind. This is part of the reason it’s so important for us to GATHER TOGETHER!

Deut. 16:3 – Passover. This feast served as another reminder of what God had done to providentially provide for His people. When an entire country faced the loss of their firstborn sons, God told His people how they could be spared: the blood of a sheep. Thus, Passover is an annual reminder of how God providentially passed over their sins and spared their lives. Similarly for us today, our regular celebration of communion, the new covenant version of the Passover, is a reminder for us of how God now “passes over” our sins because they were dealt with once and for all when Jesus died in our place. I was in CO as COVID hit (just passed the 2 year mark), I pushed for us to not try to find creative ways to celebrate communion, because it’s meant to be a corporate act, an us gathering together unification. I intentionally tried to remind our body that watching online left something missing: the one anothering we’re commanded to. This isn’t just an OT idea:

1 Cor. 15:1 – the gospel. I find it interesting that after 14 chapters (most of the letter!) Paul then decided he needs to remind them of the gospel! It is the lifeblood of the church and every individual Christian. We need the gospel preached to us every day to remind us who we are and who God is! But at the very least, we need to be reminded of these realities every time we gather. Lastly:

2 Tim. 2:8, 14 – Remember who? Jesus Christ risen from the dead! Our whole faith is centered on an historical event, the reality of the empty tomb (which we’ll intentionally celebrate in a few weeks). And finally, there’s a last command from Paul: REMIND THEM! Focus on the empty tomb and quite fighting about issues that don’t matter. Some things won’t change until Jesus comes back, people still like to divide!

-None of these reminders are new! Notice the rest of vs. 12: you know them and are established in them. This means we never arrive that but still have work to do. This means we need to regular reminders in our lives, so keep coming to church to be reminded: you need it, and we need you!

-This reminding has become the primary focus of the ending of Paul’s ministry. ESV “stir you up” Greek literally: “Wake you up” Why do we act like “being woke” is such a bad thing? Biblically, we’re called to be awake! Eph. 5:14 “awake o sleeper, rise from the dead” That’s the gospel message in a nutshell! Wake up! Plead with others to be woken up out of their sleep!

-Peter knows that the end of his life is coming, apparently Jesus told him.

-We have 1 account of Jesus telling Peter of his death in John 21:18 “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)”

-Could be referring to that text, or that the post resurrected Jesus had appeared to Him some other time and shared with Him that the end was near. Either way, Peter knows he doesn’t have much time left, so what is he focusing on?

-One thing is Peter is refusing to become a bitter old man who’s yelling at the youths to get off his front lawn! Peter is refusing to sit back and let life pass him by.

-Remember last week we saw Peter’s command to make every effort to demonstrate certain characteristics, now we see what he’ll make every effort to do: to remind Christians about the truth. Being a Christian means to be marked by a remembrance of the resurrection. We saw the reminder of Sabbath for God’s people in the OT, now Sunday morning serves as a reminder of the empty tomb. That’s Peter’s 1 remaining goal in his life: make it easy for everyone to remember that reality.

-There are some people today who try to divorce that historical reality from their faith. The avowed atheist Christopher Hitchens was onetime interviewed about one of his new books by a Unitarian minister. 

The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

-Christopher Hitchens, the atheist, understands Christianity than this supposed “minister” And that’s the point that Peter is making here – if we think we ever move beyond the need of regular reminder of empty tomb, we’re not in any meaningful sense a Christian anymore.

-And this is what Peter goes on to remind us of:

  • We Have the Truth (16-21)

-For: reason for everything he’s been talking about

  1. The Word Made Flesh (16-18)

-Cleverly devised myths

-This is not a new accusation! It’s been trendy since the early church to question the realities of what Jesus did on our behalf. I’ve read The Da Vinci Code, that’s not a new proposal! (fun book, terrible historicity) Christians today have a tendency to get so worked up about some of the crazy ideas that come up. Don’t! These ideas have pretty much all come up before, and Christians much smarter than us have responded in some incredibly helpful ways.

-Remember: what we read in the Bible is rooted in historical fact. There is no serious scholar today that questions whether or not Jesus lived, the only valid questions are whether or not you take his claims seriously, which Peter did!

-Power and coming

-We’ll get to this part next week, but part of the purpose of this letter is because there were false teachers denied that Jesus was going to come back (we’ll see some more implications about this in the next section as well)

-Here Peter is reminding that Jesus is coming back. How does he know that? 

-Eyewitnesses of his majesty. Let’s look at the rest of this section as 1 big unit. 

-Eyewitnesses of his majesty, referring to a specific event, the transfiguration. All 3 Synoptic Gospels have the story, and many people think John 1:14 (And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth) refers to it too.

-Through most of His time on earth, Jesus’ divinity was concealed (Phil. 2 talks about Jesus emptying Himself) But the transfiguration was a time where it was completely revealed (Mark almost trips over himself describing it, Jesus’ clothes being bleached whiter than anyone can possibly bleach it). And this revealing was seen by 3 disciples: Peter, James, and John. 

-This revealing wasn’t done just by watching something, they heard the truth spoken too: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The eye-witnessing also had ear-witnessing to accompany it. 

-It’s important to note this: what they saw was accompanied with an explanation. When they saw Jesus’ as He truly is, the Father told them what He was doing. We see Peter talk about this another time in Acts 4:20 “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Do you do the same thing today? Are you at a place where you cannot but speak of what you have seen and heard?

-What’s difficult about this is it was a 1 time event that only 3 people saw, what about today, or other believers who didn’t see this event? 

  • The Word Passed Down (19-21)

-Now today we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed. 

-The first question you should ask is: what prophetic word? Was there some kind of prophecy the early church was aware of that we don’t have today? Everyone agrees Peter is referring to the OT, the question is: is he saying the OT is more fully confirmed than his eyewitness or that the Transfiguration confirms the OT prophecies? I tend to lead toward the former, that the OT is more fully confirmed since it’s something we can all look to together, and it’s what he goes on to talk about in the next verse.

-Since this word has been more fully confirmed, we need to pay attention to it. That means read it, study it, grow in it. This is a more fleshed out version of what we saw last week in vs. 3, we have been giving “ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness.” What God has given us is this prophetic word, the Bible! It should be the focus of our whole lives, like a light shining in the darkness.

-Have you ever been in a cave or even a room that’s pitch black? Your eyes start craving light, searching for any little speck of it to try to make sense of the space you’re in. That’s what the Bible is meant to do and be for us: the guiding light in the darkness. But only for a season, because someday:

-Day dawns, morning star will rise in our hearts.

-This is talking about the day when Jesus will come back. This was prophesied about back in Num. 24:17: You probably remember the guy who gave this prophecy, Balaam, who rode a talking donkey. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”

-Until Jesus returns, we need to pay close attention to God’s Word, this is our remaining source of authority that God has chosen to use. We’ll see in a minute that people will try to use this and twist and distort it to fit their own ideas or agendas, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true! It means we need to continue correcting our interpretations. This connects back to last week with the “knowledge” that we need to add.

-The remaining 2 verse get to the doctrine of inspiration. You’ve most likely heard me pray at the beginning of my messages for “the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word” Sermon’s generally aren’t meant to be teaching of theology, but when theology comes up in the text, I’ll share it!

-Wayne Grudem defines inspiration as “a term referring to the fact that the words of Scripture are spoken by God.”(1512)  

-“first of all” the starting point or foundation for this doctrine is the reality that no prophecy of Scripture (different than just prophecy, different topic for a different time!) comes just from someone’s own interpretation. This has a few implications:

-People twist Scripture to support their ideas, even during Peter’s time! (come up again in chapter 3) But Scripture, under the inspiration and direction of God aren’t brought about by an individual’s interpretation. Which means:

-Scripture isn’t just what people wanted to say. God was using various people to record the things that His people needed to be equipped for life and godliness. 

-Prophecy requires correct interpretation. Just as the transfiguration was accompanied with an explanation, so prophecy is meant to be connected to an explanation (Paul explains this further in 1 Cor. 14 if you want to study that on your own time)

-To double down on this, Peter emphasizes that NO prophecy comes just through someone desiring to do it, instead men “spoke from God.” That is, they uttered the very words God wanted them to! These words took places as they were:

-Carried along

-Not just dictation (although there are some instances where God told people to write this down) wasn’t possessing people as if they each went into a trance then when they came out of the trance they had the Bible in front of them.

-God used people’s own language, experiences, and skills to capture exactly what He wanted captured for His people until He comes back.

-The illustration my dad always used with me growing up was me “mowing” the lawn with him when I was 3-4 years old. Who’s actually doing all the work? But who thinks they’re doing it? The Holy Spirit was working through people to be a blessing to God’s people. But here’s the best part about that, who carried the authors of Scripture along?

-Holy Spirit

-same Spirit that inspired the Bible allows faithful interpretation today. Each time we come to God’s Word we pray for the Spirit to continue His work in us. The same work that inspired the authors when it was first written down.

-All of this is meant to center around and point us to the reality that Jesus came. What we read, study and devote ourselves to isn’t (as every other religion is) some cleverly devised myth, instead everything we believe centers around the realities of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And as I’ve heard, if you believe that someone has risen from the dead, the rest of the miracles in the Bible seem minor in comparison! 

Benediction (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the people of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Remember Your Calling – 2 Peter 1:1-11 Sermon

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.

-New series

Lombardi: gentlemen, this is a football. John Wooden: “Please take off your shoes and socks. I’m going to show you the proper way to put them back on.”

-The fundamentals make a huge difference in life. Russel Westbrook, UNC/Baylor

-In 2 Peter, Peter goes back to the fundamentals to remind Christians what we need to keep as the focus in our lives.

-Can almost guarantee that at some point/points I’ll refer to Peter as Paul, just warning you now!

READ/PRAY

  1. God Has Provided (1-4)

-Simeon – Hebrew spelling of Simon. Peter – most well known name.

-2 Peter is Peter’s last will and testament that we have recorded.

-Most of you know/remember who Peter is: one of the first 12 disciples, one of Jesus closest 3, saw the transfigured Jesus, and still disowned him on the last night. Often spoke far quicker than his brain could keep up.

-Quickly became a leader in the early church (I would think anyone who preaches their first sermon and has 3,000 conversions would pretty quickly become the leader)

-We know he wasn’t perfect, Galatians tells the story of Peter’s slide back into ethnocentrism. And that should encourage all of us! No one has arrived, no one is perfect (this side of heaven), even when we fall back into old habits/patterns of sin we still can be restored and reconciled.

-Think of all the things Peter has been a witness to: a few miraculous catches, walking on the water, Transfiguration, betrayal and crucifixion, an empty tomb, the ascension, the explosive growth of the early church spreading across the entire Roman empire, this persecutor Saul being miraculously converted, and now he’s imprisoned in Rome counting down the days to his death: the day that he’ll see his Savior once again. If you were in Peter’s shoes, what is the last message you’d give? Peter begins the same way the great coaches have: the fundamentals. 

-Notice his description of himself: servant first, apostle second. Common way of starting epistles (Romans and Titus begin the same way). Peter is very intentional to begin by reminding everyone their place in their faith: a servant of Jesus. We’re all serving someone or something, the best person to be serving is Jesus. Only when he mentions the servant does he then go on to the apostle part.

-We have the author of the letter, then he shares who he’s writing to: those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours.

-This should blow your minds! Peter, the early Apostles are no better off than we are today! We’re saved by the same means (faith in Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice), we’re indwelled by the same Spirit, we have access to the same Father. The only difference is what year we’re living in.

-That’s why Peter goes on to say this equal standing comes from the same place: God’s righteousness. Because God is perfectly righteous (morally perfect) The death, burial, and resurrection of His Son provides the way for everyone else to be made righteous too. This righteousness is freely given to anyone who believes. 

-Introductions out of the way, now onto the customary greeting: grace and peace.

-Combination of Greek and Hebrew greeting became the normal greeting in the early church. Grace from Greek, peace (shalom) from Hebrew (Jewish).

The order matters greatly, because you don’t have Christianity if those 2 words are reversed. Think of how most (every?) other world religion operates: if you can get somehow attain peace either through a specific set of practices, or emptying yourself THEN you can get favor/grace. I think we have a tendency to act the same, don’t we? We try to get our lives in order, we try to fix ourselves, try to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, THEN God will bless us! But that is literally the opposite of what the gospel says! The gospel says you can’t ever get grace, you could work for eternity and still not get enough peace to merit God’s grace. That’s why the gospel flips that idea on its head (and I think another reason Christianity couldn’t have been invented by mere humans). Even today’s text begins with grace and then moves to peace. God calls us, God has made us partakers of His divine nature, God has given us all the grace we need, and because of that grace, we can now “make every effort,” which we’ll see in the next section.

-Notice how this grace and peace are multiplied: through knowledge. Knowledge isn’t salvific (demons believe James 2:19) but it’s how we grow. Knowledge throughout the Bible isn’t merely mental ascent (as if we just have to reach a certain level of theological understanding and then we’re done). Instead, what we’re supposed to be doing is applying/living out the knowledge that we learn. James 2 reminds us that if we don’t have works with our faith, then our faith is dead. BUT in order to know how we should be acting, we need to grow in our knowledge, think of them as 2 wings to a plane. What happens if you only have 1 wing? Not good things! In order to grow more like Jesus, we need knowledge and applying that knowledge (faith and works). What knowledge do we need? Look at vs. 3

-His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.

-Seems like a weird phrase, doesn’t it? Why doesn’t he just say GOD has given us everything we need? Peter is reminding us the source of growth. We can’t do these things in our own power (just as we can’t get more grace from God). Everything we do and are comes from Him!

-Notice too how much He has given to us: ALL things! When God makes deals, he’s all in, there’s no half and half in Christianity! EVERYTHING we need related to life and godliness. 

-If you (like me) have ever shopped at Ikea first thing you gotta do is check to make sure all the parts arrived! Don’t want to get halfway through and find out you’re missing a screw. However, if you’re also like me you have a tendency to just jump in instead of wasting the time counting screws! With God, you don’t need to worry if all the parts are there, it’s guaranteed!

-Notice that Peter repeats himself, this comes about through KNOWLEDGE

-God has given us grace, He has called us, given us everything we need, in order for us to be glorious and excellent.

-No excuse to not live a godly life (we’ll get to that)

-Partakers of divine nature. God’s promises (seen throughout the whole Bible) are the means by which we get to join with his divine nature. 2 things:

1-relates to our last series: we are being remade into the image of God. Remember, the fall tainted our image bearing like a carnival mirror, God now is working to refine us and correct us so that we can accurately image Him to the world. And we can do that because we’ve escaped the corruption of the world.

2-We no longer need to sin! We are new creatures, we don’t need to give into the sin nature of everyone else. God has provided everything we need to say no!

Think of it like this: when kids come into your life they suddenly have dibs on all your stuff. You no longer have any possessions. (me taking Lucy’s pacifier, her laughing and grabbing it back) Similarly, when God adopts us into His family, we now have access to everything that’s His (that’s a lot!) But it also comes with specific expectations: living a certain way.

-This is everything God does. Our faith, our righteousness begins with His initiative. But then we have work to do, at least as long as we’re still on this side of heaven!

  • We Make Every Effort (5-11)

-We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.

-Spurgeon: how do you reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility? “I never have to reconcile friends. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility have never had a falling out with each other. I do not need to reconcile what God has joined together.”

  1. Increase in These Ways (5-7)

-Make every effort.

-This doesn’t just happen. It takes time, work, intentionality, just like anything else in life! How do you get batter at something? You’ve gotta commit to working your tail off to improve! Just as we saw at the beginning of the message, you don’t ever assume! You need to be reminded of the basics regularly and then build off of them. Spend HOURS working, practicing, fine tuning

Carson: “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, and obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

-Peter commands us make EVERY effort. This isn’t like the Matrix, where something gets downloaded to Neo’s brain and suddenly “I know kung fu” There’s something in all of us to want an easy Christianity (what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace”) but what Christ calls us to do isn’t easy. It is impossible. It is daily dying to yourself. It is so hard, but the rewards are worth every pain. And don’t forget, all of it begins with what God has provided. We already have everything we need!

-Peter then moves on to a list of character traits that should be evident in our lives.

-Faith: the starting point. Most of the time I fear that all our efforts are aimed at conversion as if that’s the finish line. Conversion is just the beginning!

-Virtue: Same word in vs. 3 “excellence” Another reminder that this is only because of God at work in us! 

-Knowledge: there’s that word again! Need to continue growing in knowledge of God, who He is, what He’s done, what He expects of us.

-Self-control: not easily prone to give into selfish impulses, the corruption of the world.

-Steadfastness: not giving up, remaining faithful

-Godliness: better reflecting God’s image, looking/becoming more and more like Jesus

-Brotherly affection: first of the horizontal implications, ties into Jesus’ words in John 14

-Love: the final apologetic! Love binds everything together in perfect harmony

-Not comprehensive (look at Gal. 5 or Rom. 5)

  • To Remain Effective & Fruitful (8-9)

-IF – qualifier. These are meant to be descriptive of us, and not just now, we need to get better, stronger, deeper at them as we continue to grow. That’s why Peter says: increasing: We need to continue growing, don’t give up! If you’re still alive, still on this side of heaven, you still have growth to do! Because if we continue growing, it prevents:

-Ineffective, unfruitful.

-I think all of us would say we aim to be effective in all areas of our lives (I had a season where I was obsessed with lifehacks, like the 4 hour work week) But this is reminding us that we cannot neglect being effective in our spiritual lives as well. Just as it takes work/effort to grow more physically fit, it takes work/effort to grow more spiritually fit.

-Similarly, our goal is fruitfulness, literally bearing fruit (Gal. 5) think of the cursed fig tree who wasn’t producing fruit (parable for the temple)

-So in order to be effective/fruitful, it comes from having your foundation rooted in “the knowledge” (there it is again!) of our Lord Jesus Christ

-But what if we forget to do this? Peter says you’re so nearsighted you’re blind!

-The word nearsighted is squinting in order to see, so think of someone squinting so hard they shut their eyes

-What Peter is saying is: our gaze is meant to be always forward looking, always looking for heaven, instead of dropping our eyes down to the here and now

-We have a tendency today to become so nearsighted that all we can see is our own issues, problems, ideas. Think of some of the pictures you may have seen of people staying at their phones. You could walk a kangaroo through and people would miss it! But that’s become so normal! I’ve found 1 good thing to come out of Twitter:

-This is Peter’s point, if we neglect to continue growing like Jesus, if we neglect refining our image, we’re as faithful as someone staring at their phone, forgetting both their past and their future! Past, forgetting that we’ve been cleansed from our sins, and future that we have heaven to look forward to!

-So instead of being near sighted, lift up your gaze, and start to practice.

  • Practice! (10-11)

-Summarizing this section (therefore) everything has been building up to this final exhortation.

-confirm calling and election. How do you confirm your calling and election?

-These 2 words are very similar in meaning, and this doesn’t diminish anything that God does, remember the first part of this section is what God has done, this half is emphasizing our proper response. We confirm our calling and election by actively living out the character traits in vs. 5-7

-One commentator said “Those who live ungodly lives show no evidence that they truly belong to God, that they have genuinely received forgiveness.” THAT is how we confirm our calling and election: by living holy lives. 

-We have to admit, that is an impossible goal! We’ll never fully arrive, that’s why Peter says we:

-Practice: virtue list

-What does it mean that we’ll never fall? Because I sense that as I grow in holiness I’m just made more aware of all the areas I fail/fall! In this case, Peter is saying you won’t fall away from your salvation.

-You will continue to stumble/fall, but still moving forward. I love the name of one of the books on the history of the EFCA: “Stumbling Toward Maturity” We only get to maturity by stumbling. But look what happens at the end of our stumbling:

-Rich entrance

-Seen a cross country race? People stumble, collapse. You’re taught to continue running THROUGH the finish line. This is those who continue running through to a beautiful ceremony.

-The saints are cheering us on (Heb. 12) in this race, keep pushing! We need to be cheering each other on to keep practicing these things!

-Ladies and gentlemen: this is the Word of the Lord! Let’s get busy practicing it!

BENE (Heb. 12:1-2):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Wordly Image – Ephesians 2:11-22

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.

-Conclusion of our series, let’s take a minute and think back to everything we’ve studied

-Every human is created in the image of God: from conception to natural death. Nothing you can or will do changes that reality. Because God is the Creator, He has determined how our bodies best work and function, so if you want to flourish as a human, obey God as He has commanded us to live in His Word and world.

-The fact that we’re created in His image has 3 primary implications: relational, functional, and structural. We are called into a relationship that entails a role that we are uniquely designed to do.

-This idea of being created in the image of God has unfortunately been sidelined in many evangelical circles leading to us being unable to speak into some very important issues of our day. Things like: gender discussions, sexuality, racial reconciliation, rest, work, the list could go on to pretty much everything we do since we’re humans!

-It’s hard not to look at how unifying sports are in the USA as an example of what the church is supposed to look like. 

-I love basketball, have almost my whole life. First word was “ball” My poor wife didn’t know what she was getting into – on our honeymoon I made her adjust our whole schedule around when the Golden State Warriors were playing (no joke!) We were in Hawaii, so most often games were during dinner, which meant I was googling whether or not the restaurant we were looking at had TVs.

-Something happens when you’re with a bunch of people who are cheering for the same team (we lived in CO when the Broncos won the Superbowl – the whole state went crazy!) But then you even start to look for fellow fans out in “normal” life. People you wouldn’t normally associate with are packed in knees to shoulders yelling, screaming, and cheering together. But generally, the comradery doesn’t go beyond the game. In the church, it’s mean to be a place where we’re all up in each others business 24/7. 

-The question before us today is: how do we ensure we’re reflecting the correct image together? AKA what team are you on?

READ/PRAY (pg. 568)

-Begins with “therefore” continuation of Paul’s previous argument. First 10 verses talk about the uniqueness of God saving us by grace through faith. There’s nothing we can do to add or take away from that, and now we get to walk in the reality of the resurrection. Emphasizes the restoration of the vertical relationship between us and God. God has provided a way for us to have a reconciled relationship with Him: by grace through faith. But this leads him to the horizontal implications of this:

  1. Remember What You Were (11-12)

-“Remember” we saw this idea back in Rom. 1 a couple weeks ago. One of the ways unrighteousness is made visible is in the world is through not giving thanks to God (Rom. 1:21). 

-One of the markers of a Christian is someone who regularly remembers and gives thanks to God. Whatever circumstances we’re in, God is still good.

-In this case, Paul is encouraging the believers to remember what they were.

-Ephesians was written to a church with different ethnicities in it. Remember from last week, we saw in Acts 15 that this was a big issue in the early church! How can they get along and be unified?

-Unification comes by remembering what everyone once was!

-He specifically addressed the “Gentiles” in this text, but then notice the descriptions of the Gentiles: “in the flesh.” Happens twice!

-Does an external, physical change save you? If you remember to last week the answer is NO! Paul is saying the only difference between the 2 groups is a physical distinction, which doesn’t matter when it comes to salvation.

-These Gentiles (only in the flesh) were referred to in a derogatory way “the uncircumcision” (the haves and the have nots, just leave it at that!) It’s true that there are only 2 ways to live, but circumcision isn’t the marker, it’s faith! Paul doubles down on the fleshliness of this: “by hands.” Not something God does!

12 – another call to remember! 

-“At that time” past tense, not a present reality. At one time, in the past:

-Separated, alienated, and strangers, Which meant: no hope and no God. What sad place to be! 

-Paul goes on a tear here listing all the terrible things that come from that. They were separated from Christ, aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise. Another way of saying all of those is the Gentiles were the “others.” BUT they chose to be there! This is a little different than the ethnic divides we often see in the world!

-Because they chose to be “others” they had no hope. There was nothing to look forward to, nothing to give them comfort in the midst of struggle. The reason they had no hope is because they were without God.

-Before we continue, I need to ask if this is any of you. Are you hopeless and without God? Are you separated from Christ? You don’t have to stay there! And it begins with:

  • Remember What Jesus Does (13-17)

-Paul loves comparing with “But” The best word in the English language for us is “but”

-In the first section of Eph. 2 Paul does something similar to here where he reminds us that we were once dead. BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ! Similarly here, he’s contrasting the ways of the world, the ways we once lived (past tense) with our current state (present tense)

-If you’re in Christ, those who were once far off (othered) are now brought near.

-If you’ve ever seen Sesame Street, Grover: near, far.

-Jesus’ sacrificial death provides the only way for us to be brought near to God. And we’re not only brough near:

-Jesus’ death provides peace. 

-Text says “He Himself IS our peace.” Peace throughout the Bible is more than just the absence of conflict. When so many people use peace today it’s far too narrow in it’s application. I’ve seen social media posts saying to pray for peace in Ukraine! I totally agree, but true lasting peace isn’t just the absence of war: it’s everything being rightly ordered. Relationships, cities, homes, the earth. Biblical peace is something we hope and pray for, but we recognize that this side of heaven true peace will never happen.

-This connects back to the OT Aaronic blessing in Num. 6 “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” God has given us peace, but it took the sacrifice of His one and only Son. That’s how God blesses us! Not monetarily, not physically, but He brings us near. 

-This near-ness, this peace, lack of “othering” means these 2 completely different groups of people are now 1 new group. This happened because Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility. A couple ways this applies: 

-First is what is described in vs. 15, the OT commandments. We know Jesus says He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). A better way of translating that Greek word is: nullifying. The OT served as the point of distinction from every surrounding ethnicity. Meant to be obedient so they would shine as lights into the world and image God to others. They didn’t always do that well! Wanted to be like everyone else. It’s hard being the outlier! 

-The second implication Paul is talking about here is referring to a literal wall that separated the Gentile section from the Jewish section at the temple. The divide was so sharp, that Gentiles weren’t even allowed past that wall.

-Peter talks about this in Acts 10:28 “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation.” It was illegal under Jewish law to “associate or visit.” 

-How do you think that affected the most sacred space for them, the temple? They have excavated some of the signs that hung on that dividing wall: “No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.” That’s the ultimate “no trespassing” sign! Paul delt with the same problem, a riot is started in Acts 21 because they assumed he’d brought an Ephesian into the temple. Jesus dealt with the exact same thing! 

-Most people use the cleansing of the temple as an example for us to be angry today, but what Jesus was really upset about was the way the Jews were “othering” Gentiles.

-This article: “In Mark 11:15–19, Jesus returns to the temple to cleanse it the day after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Part of the corrupt situation he finds involves race-based systematized injustice. While the religious leaders protected the peace of the inner courts where Jews prayed and worshiped the Lord, they brazenly turned the court of the Gentiles into a noisy smelly livestock exchange and marketplace because of racialized bitterness. Jesus smells the ethnocentrism and the injustice, and it infuriates him.

Everything about the temple was intended to point to the coming Christ. And Jesus knows this ethnocentrism is a complete misrepresentation, a repudiation of the saving purposes of the God who would make his Christ to be a “light to the nations” (Isa. 49). In his zeal, Jesus completely dismantles the livestock exchange, refuses to let anybody pass through, and so restores the court for the Gentiles to pray. Then he exposits Isaiah 56:7: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?”

-All of that weight, history, understanding contained in that 1 phrase: dividing wall of hostility. And think about it: what ways do you see Christians today trying to enact walls to keep others out? We don’t put up literal walls, but we do have a tendency to create a list of rules or expectations we have for people, don’t we? Wear certain kinds of clothes, live in a certain part of town, make enough money, follow a specific code of conduct. In what ways are we adding to the simplicity of the gospel message? Because when Jesus comes, he gets rid of all that! He removes the cultural stipulations from Judaism and creates a new way of peace and reconciliation. This isn’t saying those things don’t matter, they do, but keep them in perspective! Allow the Holy Spirit to work in people!

-I think this even gets to one of the prevalent issues in our world today: deconstruction. 

-Because of the ways we’ve so enmeshed our faith and our culture (in conservative Evangelicalism) those who start to question some of the cultural pieces end up throwing out the faith with the culture. Instead of deconstructing, we need to disenculturate – separate the cultural trappings from the true essence of the biblical message. Doesn’t mean we go squishy on truth! But we need to understand that which is truly true. Dynamics of Spiritual Life pgs 186-7.

-Another reason for this movement is because the church hasn’t been willing to stand in the gap and address difficult topics like race. Many Christians were so enmeshed in their culture they weren’t able to separate that which was Christian from that which was American.

-Another component to the deconstruction phenomenon is the supposed individuality of it, yet everyone who deconstructs is following the same path/trajectory. “claiming to become wise.” Paul even addresses that idea! By nullifying the OT ways, Jesus creates a brand-new corporate identity. We, as individuals, are nothing, but once we are in Christ, we’re unstoppable! Not even the gates of hell can prevail against the church! But the church also assumes that we need each other! And most of the time, the first step toward deconstruction is abandoning the church. 

-Church: look at this carefully: the culmination of us BEING/BECOMING the church is peace (15). That is the only way true, lasting peace is going to come to earth. Look how vs, 16 goes on to talk about this:

-Peace comes about by reconciliation, but notice that BOTH parties need to be reconciled. This isn’t a one sided issue. Both groups are sinners, and when sinners gather together sin is going to happen. 

-This is something we saw last week with George Yancey’s approach to “Mutual accountability approach.” We need to address the depraved human nature in all of us.

-This peace also only comes about THROUGH a bloody, hostile act: the cross. Jesus bore the weight, burden, and struggle for every sin, but unless we believe in the comprehensiveness of that payment, hostility will continue to happen. Jesus said that: wars, rumors of wars. Life is hostile this side of Eden and before eternity. But it doesn’t need to be.

17 When Jesus came, he preached the exact same message to both parties: Jews and Greeks, those who were far off and those who were near. They both needed a Savior! The Jews from their good works, the Gentiles to do good works! But the message is exactly the same: peace can happen, but only through faith in Jesus. It doesn’t matter how close or how far you are: it takes faith! Then once you have faith, you need to:

  • Remember What You Are (18-22)

-THROUGH Him. Who is the Him? Jesus! It is quite literally through Him, through His body placed on a tree where His blood was poured out for you and me. Through his death, burial, resurrection, and consequent victory over sin and death we both (those who are near and those who are far) have access in the same Spirit to the Father.

-Everyone can now become a son or daughter of the Most High God! It is through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to cry out “Abba! Father!” and boldly come into His presence without fear or shame.

-Paul uses the rest of this section to mixing metaphors to describe the status of those who are now a part of the Church.

-Fellow citizens, members of the household of God, a structure built on the apostles, prophets, and Jesus, a holy temple, a dwelling place for God. All those descriptions are true of us right now. In Eph. 2:6 Paul says we are RIGHT NOW “seated in the heavenly places.” All these descriptions are meant to be true of the church TODAY! Obviously, it won’t be perfected until Jesus returns, but that doesn’t stop us from working toward this end! What does all this mean, and what does it have to do with the racial/ethnic divides in our world today?

-First, we need to seriously recapture what it means to be the church.

-Has happened since the church was founded: people like to badmouth the church. I get it! The church has done some horrific things in the past! We looked at some of the ways the church in the USA has pushed for segregation, or marginalization of women, or any number of things. BUT the church is what Jesus literally died for. No other human entity, group, or organization can claim that.

-The church is a supernatural idea. Look again at the descriptions. We MUST fight for unity through the power of the Holy Spirit.

-Not a social club, not a place where likeminded people gather together

-We need to get uncomfortable here, be stretched, challenged, pushed, encouraged

-“Called out ones” this isn’t an addition to our otherwise busy weeks, this is meant to center our lives, to transform our lives, to make us new.

-Be a part of the “red church”

-Tony Merida: “a group of people, from every tribe and tongue, that has been redeemed by the torn-apart Christ, who spilled His red blood that we may be reconciled to God and to one another! “

-We do this by intentionally going to every ethnicity: invite them over, spend time with them, share stories with each other.

-We need to pick up the mantle and preach peace to those who are near and far.

-Disenculturate from the places where it’s too American, and then we have the freedom to re-enculturate the gospel message in any context we’re in! Paul can say I have become all things to all people: we can go to every ethnicity!

Ethnocentrism in the Early Church – Acts 15

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.

Reminder: this is a very unique/different series! We’re taking some biblical and theological truths, seeing what they say, and then applying them to various cultural ideas today.

-Foundation of the image of God, which is the reality that every human is worthy of dignity, honor, and respect simply because they’re human. This has relational, functional, and structural implications. 

-Last week we saw the worldly image. The ways the world images the creation instead of the Creator, and the most direct application to that is seen in the broken sexuality of so many people today. Still humans, still created in God’s image, just a distorted image.

-Today we’ll look at ethnocentrism in the early church. We’ll get to some definitions in a little bit, but I want to start with the Bible!

-How does the Bible speak to ___ issue? DOES the Bible speak to ____?

READ/PRAY

  1. Salvation

-Christianity started as a Jewish sect. Had a whole way of life, specific holidays, foods, ways of existing that were distinct from everyone else.

-Torah even included the identity markers required for sojourners/strangers who wanted to become a part of God’s people. (circumcision and following the law) Might even say the Pharisees had a good point! They were the ones following the Bible! That was how one came into the family of God.

-The problem became apparent when suddenly Gentiles started trusting in Jesus. What was the early church going to do in response? Did Jesus’ arrival change anything in how believers acted and behaved, or was it just a continuation of the same rules and expectations? 

-This was a watershed moment in the life of the early church! The definition of the gospel literally depended on it! Is salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, or are we saved by faith + works (cultural distinctions)?

-If you didn’t realize it, most of the NT is the outworking of these questions, and the implications they bring up. How do people from 2 utterly different backgrounds, from completely different cultural understandings come together and be unified in 1 church? How can the family of God continue to exist as a family? What does obedience to God look like?

-Passage begins in Antioch, then transitions to Jerusalem (about 250 miles away) where starting point and authority for the beginning of the church is centered. First example in Scripture of a members meeting vs. 7: “after there had been much debate.” Nice to know some things never change!

-First, Peter stands up. The first Apostle to be called to the Gentiles (most likely referring to his visit to the Italian Cornelius after being encouraged to eat bacon for the first time!) Peter reminds the room that the law was given to demonstrate to the Jews that they couldn’t keep it! Salvation comes only through the grace of Jesus.

-Then, Paul and Barnabas tell what has happened on their missionary journey, and finally, James, the half-brother of Jesus (same mom, different dad) shares how this is the fulfilment of the prophets. Now the elders have spoken! 

-4 things, not salvific, but for fellowship and unity in the body: food offered to idols, sexual immorality, things that have been strangled, and blood. Doesn’t 1 of those sound much more important than the others? Most likely the Gentiles had a VERY different sexual ethic than the Jews (we looked at some of that last week) yet the church calls Christians to sexual purity.

-Not contrary to Rom. 14 or Acts 10, they don’t need to DO anything to be saved, but because of the desire to live in true fellowship with each other, this would allow the Jews & Gentiles to live life together, to have table fellowship with each other. Remember that, it’ll come up again. 

-Paul and Barnabas are then sent back to Antioch with the good news: your ethnicity no longer matters! Salvation comes through the grace of Jesus alone! 

-The Great Commission literally commands us to go into all the ethnes, ethnicities of the world and make disciples. Command to Abraham, and Israel too

-So what is the purpose of the wide variety of ethnicities across the world? 

  • Ethnicity

-Like many of you, I’ve been watching with shame what is taking place in Ukraine over the past week. So many people refused to admit Putin actually meant what he said, until the day when the Russian forces invaded the borders of Ukraine. It has been fascinating to read what Putin has been repeatedly saying regarding the history of the 2 countries. According to him, the West’s influence on Ukraine has led to Nazis being in control, and everyone in Ukraine was just waiting for the troops to FINALLY come in and bring them back under Russian rule.

-I started thinking about how often a false understanding of history has affected conversations and realities today. Is America a failed/doomed experiment, completely flawed from it’s foundation as the 1619 Project articulates? Is American Exceptionalism the name of the game and America is now God’s chosen nation? Maybe it’s some of both!

-“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Edmund Burke

-If we misdiagnose the problem, it will lead to more harm than good. If we don’t understand how we got to where we are today with the difficulty of conversations, or refuse to acknowledge some of the ways Christians have historically been complicit in sins we’ll never understand why people are frustrated. 

-Similarly with the Jew/Gentile divides in the NT: the 2 ethnicities worked to empathize/understand each other so they could live in true unity with each other.

-As we enter into this discussion, we need to be on the same page. The world uses all sorts of words with different definitions than I would use them. Even pronouns are losing their purpose in our culture. So some terminology that I’ll be using:

-Race. Vs. ethnicity. Race is a social construct meant to elevate certain ethnic groups above others. Historically in the US it has been used to elevate whites to positions of power and influence. Where people often get frustrated is there’s 1 race: the human race. The Bible uses the word ethne as the distinctive word, where we get ethnicities. The world continues using the word “race” and since most people understand that, I will almost always begin conversations using the word “race” since it’s understood. Then as the conversation continues we can get to redefining words. When talking to unbelievers always celebrate the places where they’re pointing to truth! Even when the world is using a different dictionary than us, we need to look for every opportunity to point them to truth!

-Reconciliation: hasn’t everything been reconciled? Until Christ returns NO! That’s what Bruce’s favorite passage is all about: 2 Cor. 5. Until He comes back there is ALWAYS reconciliation that needs to take place.

-Don’t use buzzwords like: CRT: advanced legal theory that very few people understand, BLM: the organization is deplorable but the sentiment is something we should totally agree with (black lives matter too), defund the police. We don’t need hashtags, organizations, or the world to tell us how to deal with the sin of racism/ethnocentrism, God does in His Word!

-NOT a standalone message! Everything else has been building up to this. I also only have ___ min left, so I obviously have to be selective in what I’m bringing in.

-History of ethnocentrism in the USA (define ethnocentrism). This isn’t the first place we see slavery, and unfortunately wasn’t the last place, still slavery today, however we need to understand/remember OUR history so in order to remind us:

-Aug. 1619, the first slave ship arrived at Jamestown, VA, beginning a deplorable history that we can do nothing but condemn. At the beginning here, I want to mention something we have to wrestle with: Christians were both the most vocal supporters and opponents to the slave trade in the USA. We just have to admit both of those realities when engaging this conversation.

-Trans-Atlantic slave trade transported between 10-12 million men, women, and children from their homes to various other parts of the world to work as unpaid labor and be viewed as another’s property. Families ripped apart, people treated as subhuman. For every 100 who reached the Western hemisphere, 40 died either during the march to the coast or during the “Middle Passage.” There are countless human remains sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean until the resurrection. This carried on until 1808, which didn’t end slavery, but shifted to:

-Domestic slave trade. Instead of shipping humans over from Africa, they started being sold domestically. Imaging giving birth to a beautiful baby, seeing that baby growing up before your eyes, then suddenly you’re ripped away and sold to another plantation, never to see your family again.

-While slavery was finally outlawed at the conclusion of the Civil War (1865), there were still laws on the books (Jim Crow laws) that negatively affected people of color for another 99 years. This is where the idea of “separate but equal” took hold. There would be a white bathroom, and a colored bathroom, and again this carried on for almost 100 years. 

-Sermon from a well-known, conservative pastor: “If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God Almighty because He made racial separation in order to preserve the race through whom He could send the Messiah and through whom He could send the Bible. God is the author of segregation. God is the author of Jewish separation and Gentile separation and Japanese separation. God made of one blood all nations, but He also drew the boundary lines between races.”

-During this time, if there was a perceived slight or offense toward a white person, without a jury there could be a public execution known as a lynching. These would often become public spectacles where a body was beaten beyond recognition, and body parts taken as souvenirs.

-While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made segregation illegal, how long do you think it took for people of color to make up the lost ground from the past 300 years?

-Redlining 1935-1977. FHA provided government backed loans to people, but would draw red lines around “poor” (black) areas. Many of those places remain the poorest neighborhoods to this day!

-My history, as I’ve been digging into this issue further:

-My great grandparents immigrated here in the 1890s from Norway. Great grandpa came through Canada to ND, great grandma came through Ellis Island eventually making her way to ND. Personally, I viewed the racial issue as a “southern” thing. That was until last Nov. 

-Had the wonderful privilege of joining a number of other pastors from our district to travel to Montgomery, AL and visit The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The Legacy Museum traces the history of African Americans since they were brought over on ships, and then the implications of those relationships that continue down through today. It was unbelievably hard. One of the first areas of the museum was this picture. An African artist is capturing the faces/bodies of many different Africans to use in this exhibit. Yet there was a shocking contrast. I love the beach, the rhythmic pounding of the waves, the sand between my toes. Yet for over 10 million people, this was their last sight of their home country. The faces grimacing in pain, chains holding them together doesn’t correlate to the image of the beach I have in my mind today.

-A little further down the hall was some hologram images of actors sharing stories that had been written down by former slaves. The one that got me was 2 children who kept shouting “Mommy! Mommy! Have you seen my mommy?”

-Finally, they got to lynching. Did you know that Duluth, MN was the site of a lynching in 1920. Isaac McGhie, Elmer Jackson, Elias Clayton lynched in front of 10,000 people. Afterwards, postcards were sold commemorating the event.

-After some time in The Legacy Museum the group went to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. There are over 800 boxes shaped like coffins that track (to the best of their ability) the lynching’s that took place. Each box stands for a county and there are name or names on each of them. And MN is up there. 3 people, created in the image of God, were “othered” and killed.

-It wasn’t just MN! My whole family is from ND: Law 1943: “If any judge, justice of the peace, priest, or any person authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony knowingly shall perform the ceremony of marriage for any white person with a negro person, he shall be punished by imprisonment…or by a fine…or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

-For my grandparents, America was the land of opportunity, for others it was the land of enslavement. Story from ‘Weep With Me’ about college admission. How do we “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice” regarding this history? Many people ask what’s the point of reliving history? Because we need to understand it in order to better address the problems we see today. Just like a person, countries have good and bad history that we need to acknowledge. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! The foundation has cracks. No country is heaven, until we get to heaven we are commanded to continue bringing reconciliation wherever we live!

-That’s all very interesting and moving history, but what does that do for us today?

  • Engagement

-Many people have done some fascinating studies on how we engage this important topic, and I believe we NEED to engage it, because so many people in our current cultural climate are concerned about it.

-I at times wonder if, in our pursuit of being quick to listen, we forget that we are supposed to speak too! Just be slower to speak! And go back to the Bible to help interpret what how we’re supposed to engage these issues instead of our favorite political pundit. None of these things should scare us! We have the ultimate source of truth, so why should we be afraid if/when controversial topics come up? I am fully convinced that the Bible actually gives us a framework for us to faithfully engage all these issues that we’ve been studying together from gender discussions to same sex attraction to racial divides to even owning up to a bad history.

-Even gets to the question: how do we view history? Cyclical, slowly getting better, ups and downs. History is moving us somewhere, each day is closer to THAT day. Until Christ returns we’ll have problems, sickness, broken relationships, but God has us here as his ambassadors pointing to Him.

-George Yancey, a professor at Baylor recently talked about the 2 primary ways to engage this issue in our culture today: colorblindness or antiracism. One views the problem largely through an individualistic lens, the other primarily through a cultural or societal lens. 

-Colorblindness (Racism is something that is overt and only done from one individual to another individual) studies have shown that there has been no decrease of racial discrimination in hiring over the past 25 years. Educational outcomes are different for people of color.

-Antiracism (Racism is structural as well as individualistic and social institutions can perpetuate racism even when individuals do not intend to be racist) studies have shown that diversity training improves relationships for about 6 months, then goes back. Also shows that this training leads to less sympathy towards whites, but no increase in sympathy toward blacks. 

-His problem with both: they ignore human depravity. We’ve looked at that! Sinners by nature and choice!

-He argues for: “A mutual accountability approach: A Christian based approach whereby we recognize that people of all races have a sin nature that has to be accounted for. Thus, everyone has to work towards healthy interracial communications to solve racial problems.” This isn’t a 1 sided problem!

-Next week we’ll look more fully at how we engage this, but we can start with 4 things:

  1. Listen

-Commanded to be QUICK to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Remember, this doesn’t mean we never speak, but we need to ensure we’re listening before we do.

-This also assumes we have people that we can listen to. Remember: we’re commanded to go into all the ethnicities and make disciples. What’s amazing about living here is all the ethnicities are coming here! Most of us can just walk down our street to reach other ethnicities with the gospel.

-This also assumes that we realize every person we meet has different life experience than we do. I have yet to meet anyone that has lived my exact life, and even my siblings who got as close as anyone experienced it differently than me, so when we get into disagreements we need to listen to each other. READ some new books!

  • Lament

-I think this is a big piece that has been missing from our American Evangelical discussions for a while! Not just in this conversation, but it certainly applies to this conversation! There’s a lot that we should have been lamenting over the past 2 years, there’s lots of lamenting we should be doing with Ukraine right now.

-Mark Vroegop Weep With Me pgs. 18-19. Lament gives a voice to those who are struggling. Instead of just putting on a mask every time you come to church (I’m great, how are you?) this is supposed to be the place where you can let down your guard and honestly share how you’re doing.

-I know of one church that has been having an internal discussion about whether or not it’s sinful to extend empathy. Just blows my mind!

  • Learn

-Be in relationship with “others” Are they a human? Then we need to share the gospel with them in word and deed. Invite “others” over to your house to learn from each other.

-MLK: the most segregated hour is 11 AM on Sunday morning. To address that, we need to fix truly the most segregated time which is 6 PM every day. Invite people over that don’t look like you. Jesus in Luke 14 says to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind because they cannot repay you.

-The gospel isn’t constrained by any 1 culture or ethnicity. God’s goal from all the way back in the garden was to have the entire world worshipping Him. That goal didn’t change with Abraham, he was to be a blessing to the whole world. If we try to define Christianity by 1 culture/ethnicity we’ll misunderstand many aspects of what God has called us to do and be. In the West we have a largely individualistic approach to everything, but the Bible was written in a communal context, so in order to understand and apply the Bible we need to understand another culture!

  • Love

-Francis Schaeffer in his little book ‘The Mark of the Christian’ described love as the final apologetic. 

“without true Christians loving one another, Christ says the world cannot be expected to listen, even when we give proper answers. Let us be careful, indeed, to spend a lifetime studying to give honest answers. For years the orthodox, evangelical church has done this very poorly. So it is well to spend time learning to answer the questions of men who are about us. But after we have done our best to communicate to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gives is the observable able love of true Christians for true Christians.”

-Love that covers a multitude of sins, love that will endure, love that is sacrificial and other oriented, love that looks like Jesus.

-Listen, lament, learn and love, but the greatest of these is love.

The Worldly Image (Rom. 1:18-31)

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.

-Spent last 2 weeks laying the foundation of understanding what does it mean to be human. It means reflecting the image of God in the world. 3 primary ways that happens:

-Structurally, functionally, relationally. 

-That doctrine is what has led to the need to treat every single human from conception to natural death with: dignity, honor, and respect because every single person has been created in the image of God.

-Last week we emphasized the relational aspect of this image, and talked about how that has been broken by the Fall in Gen. 3. But it’s not the only part that has been broken, all relationships have (between God and humans, human to human, and human to the rest of creation)

-We know that, recognize it, acknowledge it happens, but what does that look like, what are the implications of the Fall affecting our imaging of God?

Rom. 1 gives us that exact picture!

-Last week focused on the “othering” we as humans do. Talked to/got emails from a few people who shared where they most struggle is in relation to those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I was already planning on touching on that today, but we’ll go a little further into that than I was initially planning on since it is such a prevalent issue today that is also connected to the image of God. But we have some work to do before we get to that conversation!

-Looked at Rom. 1:16-17 my first Sunday here! The theme statement of the whole book: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.””

-You can go back and listen to that message for the whole explanation of what the gospel is, but in short it’s the good news of Jesus coming to save us from our sins. Belief in that gospel will make us distinct from the world, but allows us to be saved, taking us from living under God’s wrath to being made righteous.

-Today’s text explores what it looks like to live under God’s wrath, or to reflect the image of the creation instead of the Creator, like we were created to do.

-Ever been to a carnival with the crazy mirrors that distort the images? 

READ/PRAY

  1. Revelation of God’s Wrath (18-20)

-When’s the last time you heard a sermon on God’s wrath? Time to change that!

-A couple notes: God’s wrath is a real thing, we need to talk about, be aware of, connects from his holiness. Because we sin, we are separated from God. As we talked about last week, we are literally “othered” from Him. Yet God’s wrath was poured out on His one and only Son on the cross.

-Note where this wrath is revealed. Not against men, it’s against men’s ungodliness and unrighteousness. Eventually his wrath will be poured out against them, but that’s in the future.

-Unrighteousness repeated, the opposite of Rom. 1:17. The way to be righteous is by putting your faith in Jesus. Apart from that one way, you will be under wrath.

-This wrath will come because they have suppressed the truth.

-That’s a fascinating phrase! Not just ignored: suppressed, pushed down, restrained. There is truth out there that we need to learn, but people stuck in their sin use that sin, their unrighteousness to prevent the truth from coming out. I think we, unfortunately, see that regularly in our world today. With the #metoo movement, with the debates about church authority. 

-Moo: ““Truth” in the NT is not simply something to which one must give mental assent; it is something to be done, to be obeyed. When people act sinfully, rebelling against God’s just rule, they fail to embrace the truth and so suppress it.”

-In short, if we don’t suppress the truth, but instead expose the truth and let it flourish, we will be living in righteousness, as God has commanded us to. Therefore, we need to look for places/areas where truth is coming out and celebrate it! 

-Paul then goes on to share explicitly how they are suppressing the truth.

-Because God has revealed Himself. Vs. 19 “God has shown it to them.” 

-We spent last Fall looking at Genesis. Who created the world? God did! We could use the cosmological argument for this (anything that exists must have a cause, since the universe has a beginning the universe has a cause) The Bible tells us that cause: God! 

-This is referring to the reality we see in passages like Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Everything we see points to the greatness of a creator. Our bodies work/function/flourish in such precise ways because they were designed, created this way!

-Then the pinnacle of the entire creation is humanity. Unique among the rest of the world (We’ve seen some of the descriptions of that in the videos we’ve seen) Why are humans so different from other animals on the earth? Because God designed it that way so that humans are meant to demonstrate God’s image/glory to the rest of the world.

-However, instead of imaging God, humans have given up this reflection, as we see in the next section:

  • The Great Exchange (21-25)

-Continuing the argument: since God has revealed Himself through His creation, humans are held responsible for not acknowledging Him or His work.

-Look at the description in 21: did not honor or give thanks. Did you know ungratefulness is a demonstration of an unrighteous heart? We are to GIVE THANKS ALWAYS. We have salvation because of the atoning work of Jesus! If that doesn’t foster a spirit of gratitude within us, something is wrong!

-Vs. 22 then reminds us that truth is found in God alone, so when you suppress the truth (suppress the reality that God is God) you become a fool and participate in the great exchange.

-This exchange idea works its way through this whole section: appears in 23, 25, 26. First is exchanging the glory of God for other images. At its core, this is idolatry. Remember: we’re supposed to be imaging God to the world around us, but because of sin we fail in that task and start to image ourselves after other people or even the animals in creation. 

-The description goes from higher to lower: man, birds, animals, creeping things. Almost as if idolatry reverts the world back to its primordial state of chaos, before God commissioned humans to steward the rest of the created order. 

-This idea is seen even in the language of virtue vs. vice (the third section of this text is a vice list) virtuecomes from Latin for “human/perfection” vice comes from Latin for “beast/animal-like” To act virtuous is to image God, to act using vices is to image the creation, or mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

-Because of this tendency among humans to participate in this exchange, God gives them up, allows them to continue down the path of their own folly. This doesn’t begin with God, but He allows them to bear the consequences of their choices, which is getting to disordered or misplaced worship. 

-Every time we sin we’re breaking at least 2 commandments: whatever sin we’re participating in, and idolatry/ no other gods before Him. Notice the “lust of their hearts” Another place we see that idolatry is at the core of our sins. We don’t trust God, we don’t believe His way is best, we’d rather do things our own way. Throughout Scripture, idolatry is referred to as harlotry, so many times we’re uniting ourselves to sin instead of to God.

-(25) Second use of exchange: I view this as a reference back to the Fall in Gen. 3. Ever since the Fall we’ve struggled to trust God, we’ve instead trusted creatures. Because of the idolatry of our hearts we continue to be tempted by the lie. As if to remind people that God must be worshipped above everything else, Paul breaks out into doxology! 

-Even thinking about misplaced worship reminds Paul to worship God. Church, that’s what we who have new hearts are supposed to be doing! Even when we see or talk about sin in the world around us, it should bring us back to orienting our lives to God, praising Him and Him alone. This is what we do every week: we see idolatry all around us, we gather to remember and remind each other that we worship the Creator, not the creation.

-Finally, Paul gets even more specific about what this great exchange has led to:

  • Unnatural Ways to Live (26-32)

-“For this reason” that is: because they have exchanged God’s truth for a lie. We have perpetuated the same lies that caused our first parents to sin. We have not loved God with our whole hearts, and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. 

-The way you should think about this section is what the Bible would describe as “unnatural” is what the world would believe/define as completely natural. These 2 things are completely opposed to each other. So while we would see these descriptions as completely negative, the world would hold these up as virtues. 

-Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the world manifesting these things! When they aren’t, that’s the miracle!

-Paul begins with women: who have given up the natural way God designed things to function, and pursued other desires. But it’s not just women who have done this, men too have given up “natural relations with women” and instead or full of desire for each other.

-One of the “clobber passages” in the Bible. Every verse in the Bible is important, but you need to take it within its context

-Let’s begin with the reality that same sex attraction is a result of the Fall, not the way God intended creation to function. With that said, all of sexuality has been abused/broken by the Fall, not just homosexuality. Jesus took the exptectations from the OT and raised it to an almost impossible level, if you even look at someone with impure ideas/thoughts that’s sin!

-Notice as well that homosexuality isn’t the only sin listed here! Gossip, slanderer, disobedient to parents. All a part of the exact same list of sins. 

-Every culture has their own list of vice/virtue lists that have some aspects that line up with God’s list, but everyone falls short in some area. Christians here have a tendency to elevate sexual sins higher. When I was growing up premarital sex felt like the “unforgiveable sin.” Matt Chandler: Jesus wants the rose. No one is too far gone for God to save! That’s literally the point of the gospel! 

-Anyone who has sinned sexually can find forgiveness in the cross of Christ!

-It feels like this conversation has fallen upon us like a tidal wave in the past decade.

-Even in MN we had stark reversal of laws from 2012-13. In 2012 an amendment was made to limit marriage to one man and one woman, which got voted down in Nov. (It almost sounds cute/quaint to say that now) Just 9 months later, Aug. 2013, same sex marriage became legal. 

-How do we engage this conversation today?

1. Identity

-I keep talking about this idea of “expressive individualism” that our world uses. This is one of the biggest examples of this! Instead of deriving our sense of identity outside ourselves, we’re trained to look inside (listen to your heart!) and then force everyone else around us to embrace our self-expression, whatever it is that day. 

-But what have we seen the past 2 weeks? Our identity isn’t found inside, it’s found outside and most closely connected to being like Jesus.

-This is where we need to get back to an understanding of who God is, since He created us, our identity needs to be rooted in Him, and it’s only by recognizing that reality that we’ll be able to live whole/complete lives.

-If instead of reflecting the image of God, we reflect the world/creatures we’ll see all sorts of issues coming because of that – and that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the world today! An epidemic of loneliness, searching for happiness, spirituality isn’t decreasing it’s INcreasing but in the wrong places (wicca, witchcraft)

-Part of the difficulty in this conversation is that sexuality has changed from something we do to something we are. We are not defined by our sexual desires! We are first and foremost humans! Therefore we need to try to separate the sexual conversations from the identity conversations as much as we can.

-Jesus, the most human person to ever live died a virgin! 

2. Heterosexuality isn’t the goal, holiness is.

-In the beginning, God intended man and woman to complement each other, to image God to the world, and to be in perfect relationship (God, others, creation) Because 

-Christopher Yuan Holy Sexuality and the Gospel “Heterosexuality will not get you into heaven and is not the ultimate goal for those with same-sex attractions. God commands us to “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16). Because God is holy, he requires his people to be holy as well. Thus, the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality – that’s not the ultimate goal. But the opposite of homosexuality is holiness.” (p. 52)

-All of us have sins that we struggle with, and may continue struggling with until the day we die or Christ returns. We as a church are meant to be a place of refuge, a source of strength and encouragement in our daily fight against our sins. We should never look down on someone else for their struggles when they’re not the same as ours.

-I have a distinct memory of the time a friend shared with me (VERY nervously!) that he wasn’t a virgin. I think he was even more surprised when I didn’t shame him. (much better response than the time a friend in college told me!)

3. Higher calling than just “being honest.”

“The Christian has a higher bar for his or her speech even than honesty, and that bar is edification (Rom. 15:2). Not every honest thing needs to be said…Friends, just because we’re honest, doesn’t mean we’re edifying.” (Isaac Adams Talking About Race, 40–41)

-When talking about this issue, how can we engage it in such a way that we’re edifying the person we’re talking to? This isn’t just for believers, Rom. 15:2 is referring to your neighbors. If you want to know who your neighbor is, go read Luke 10:25-37 it’s a parable called the Good Samaritan.

-Similar idea in Col. 4:5-6 “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” How can you be gracious toward those who are of the world and dealing with these issues?

-Where the world calls for endorsement, we are called to love them – truly love them! Treat them as humans who are created in the image of God and create a place for them to understand who God created them to be. And it starts with us living that reality out.

4. We need to be the church. 

-We are commanded to be welcoming (Rom. 15:1-7) we are all commanded to be hospitable (Heb. 13:2). I don’t see anywhere where we’re commanded to fight against those who are sinning, because we don’t fight against flesh and blood.

-“There is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted.” Rosaria Butterfield Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Rosaria was a Lesbian activist and scholar (writings laid the foundation for much of Lesbian agenda today) Came to faith through a pastor opening his home. Which means we as the church are called to be a:

-Family. For those who struggle with gender dysphoria, for those whose family members are losings this fight, we are meant to be a place where sinners are made whole.

-Parents: it’s not your fault. We’ve been looking at the doctrine of humanity, and part of the implication of that is we are all sinners. But don’t forget to pray, don’t forget to listen, don’t forget to be hospitable. We shouldn’t act surprised when sinners sin, it’s in the name! I preach this now understanding I may need this reminder in 20 years as my kids grow up. But please don’t keep this in isolation.

-For any of you who struggle with sexual sins of any kind, please don’t struggle alone. Bring it into the light, let others know, let them come alongside you, and let’s continue stumbling toward maturity together.

-People view it as either you need to affirm marriage in my life or you’re condemning me to a lifetime of loneliness. I’ve known lots of married people, marriage doesn’t solve loneliness! In fact, at times it can make it worse! That’s where we all need each other!

-Lots of fun debates about whether how to welcome people into the church. Do they have to believe before they can belong? I think we need to be more intentional about creating places for people to belong before they’re going to believe. That means invite your friends, neighbors, coworkers, enemies over, show them the truths of the gospel. If you remain a loyal, faithful friend we’re going to speak volumes to people who get cancelled at the drop of a hat.

-This week read Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. Author wondered why teenage girls identifying as transgender jumped by 1,000% in a year. She interviewed those who have done irreversible damage to their bodies and now regret their youthful folly. Church: are we going to be a place where those who have made those decisions can find a place to recover, or do we just look down on them?

  • The Greatest Exchange (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

-Another vice list by Paul, but this one ends with a pointed reminder: and such were some of you.

-Brothers and sisters, we’re not better because we have different, more socially acceptable sins. The only difference is faith. Do you believe, trust in, throw yourself upon God’s mercy and trust Him to daily conform you to His image, or do you instead want to continue trying to reflect images of the creation? One leads to life and flourishing, the other leads to death. And if we are pursuing Christ, it’s on us to continue looking around for those imaging the creation and demonstrate and share how to image Christ, and we need each other to do that!  

-Instead of reflecting the carnival mirror, we’re commanded to reflect God to the world! 

The Image of God (Part 2) 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.

Genesis 2-4

-To understand the broken world we find ourselves in, we need to first begin with the understanding of what a human is.

-Last week we looked only at Gen. 1, this week we’re going to take a summary look at Gen. 2-4 to see how sin fractured humans ability to adequately reflect the image of God, and after we’ve laid this foundation of theological anthropology (define) we’ll take a look at the implications of that as seen in the early church, but the roots of all the issues we see throughout the rest of the Bible are seen in these 3 chapters today. 

-Image of God is the foundation of understanding what a human is. So to be human = bearing the image of God. That’s as far as I believe the Bible allows us to go with that, because as soon as you start putting other qualifiers on it you leave someone out. 

-The way I’ve started talking about it is: conception to natural death

-There are huge implications to the reality that every human is created in the image of God, affects things like: abortion, Physician assisted suicide, in-vitro fertilization. All of this are major ethical conversations/debates taking place in our world today. 

-Even in the grant I received, there were 5 other churches that also received it, each one of them is looking at different implications: LGBTQ, worshipping as embodied people, original sin, another church is doing like a 12 week series looking at pretty much every contemporary discussion (racism, abortion, gender issues, being bodied people, creativity…)

-The crazy part is even atheists see how much Christianity has shaped our thinking on these issues. Tom Holland “To live in a Western country is to live in a society still utterly saturated by Christian concepts and assumptions…Whether it be the conviction that the workings of conscience are the surest determinants of good law, or that Church and state exist as distinct entities, or that polygamy is unacceptable..The West, increasingly empty though the pews may be, remains firmly moored to its Christian past.” (Dominion, 13)

-People don’t realize just how much of Christian thinking has impacted our lives and thinking today. The fact that we view ourselves as individuals comes from the Bible!

-We spent last time looking at the functional and structural aspects of the image of God are. Functional is how we interact/engage in the world around us (cultural mandate, fill the earth and subdue it) Structural is the reality that every single human is created in the image of God regardless of any other measurements/standards.

-We are called into a relationship (relational) that entails a role (functional) that we are uniquely designed (structural) to do.

-God calls us, gives us a job, and has uniquely equipped us for that job.

-Video – listen carefully to how this person answers the question. Remember, last week’s video, Bill Gates emphasized the functional aspect of humanity, listen to which area this person emphasizes.

-When you’re in conversation with someone, look for the areas in which they’re right! Celebrate them, God has placed eternity in every person’s heart. He clearly understands that to be human is to be in relationship, but that relationship is only 1 sided (human to human)

-“We confer personhood upon each other through empathy and compassion and trust.”

-Good starting point: but what standard do we use for empathy, compassion, and trust? What about different definitions of those things? What about the Uyghur genocide currently taking place in China? In the Chinese mindset, they are acting empathetic by forcing these people to become more like them.

-“I believe that when we acknowledge each other’s consciousness and complexity we lead better lives and feel less alone in our grief and our joy.”

-we agree! BUT WHY?! We’re created to be in relationship!

-Again, celebrate that which is true!

-“Being human is both something we are and something we aspire to be.”

-Most true thing in the video! But what are we aspiring toward? What is the end goal? Being human is a teleological pursuit (define). Who is the most human person to live? Jesus. So our definition for human needs to include becoming more like Him!

READ/PRAY (Gen. 4:1-16)

-In the creation account, we see that to be human is to be in relationship, 3 ways, we’re going to focus on 2. We are in relationship with God first and foremost, then in relationship with each other, finally in relationship with the ground/rest of creation (that’s why we actually need to take care of the world, to steward it, but that’s a different topic)

-I want us to begin by looking at the vertical relationship.

  1. Vertical Relationship

-God from eternity past has always existed “in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 

-God, by definition is relational. He doesn’t need anyone or anything else for that to be true. Because God is relational, when he created the cosmos, He created everything to be in relationship with Him.

  1. Unity (2:4-20)

-The pinnacle of creation is humans on day 6. Every previous day was described as “good,” but after humans are created it’s “very good.”

-Everything was properly ordered, everyone was in right relationship, there was no anger, bitterness, fighting, sickness it was “very good.”

-Everything that the creation needed to flourish existed in this one space, the garden (or orchard) of Eden. Plants for food, plentiful water with rivers flowing to all 4 corners of the world. And Adam in perfect communion/relationship with God.

-But despite this perfect setting, something isn’t right. Adam doesn’t have a corresponding part to image God to the world.

-This takes place after Adam has seen the rest of the created order, God brings every animal to Adam to determine what they should be named, but none of them were quite like Adam. None of them could serve as a helper corresponding to him. 

-Despite being in perfect relationship with God, Adam was still created to be in relationship with other people, something that had not happened yet.

-One of the things we see in Gen 3:8 is God coming to walk in the cool of the day, which some scholars have used to say that God would regularly come to the garden to spend time with his creation. So you could say that God and Adam would hang out together on a nightly basis! Don’t worry church, that day is coming again in the future!

-Part of being human means we measure ourselves in relation to God. Every human, whether they realize it or not, is created to be first and foremost in relationship with Him, but because of what we’ll see in the disunity section, that relationship has now been severed, broken, cut off.

-This is where we see an innate desire within all humans for transcendence (something greater than we can see around us). This is another instance where we can tell people you were created for something more than this world!

-C.S. Lewis: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.

-Augustine: “Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Ecc. 3:11 “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”

-This is intentional! God designed us this way, it’s only because of the Fall that we are not in perfect unity with Him.

-This leads us to the Fall (which we studied appropriately last Fall!) in Gen. 3

  • Disunity (3:8-13)

-Everything was perfect, but that wasn’t enough. Feels a bit like those memes you may have seen “You had 1 job”

-Hang out with God, in a world that He created JUST FOR YOU! But sin is too enticing, the serpent too clever. 

-Before the fruit was eaten from the forbidden tree, the unity of the relationship had to be questioned. 

-Serpent attacks the relationship: did God REALLY say? Is God good, is He kind, does He actually care about you?

-Then, starting in vs. 8, when God comes for his nightly walk with his creation, what’s their response?

-I think of a scene from Monty Python: RUN AWAY! The unity that had been so perfect is shattered. They can no longer live perfectly in the presence of God. 

-I think that’s even summarized in the fact that this is the first question God asks in the Bible. He knows everything, He knows what’s happened, but He still wants that relationship with His people. 

-Think of when you grew up, texting had just become a “thing” when I was in high school, and the dreaded text would come from my parents: Where are you? (before every phone had GPS and built in tracking apps) Generally asking because of a breach in the relationship, just like what has happened here in Gen.

-How does God deal with the breach in trust, with the dissolution of paradise and with the now broken relationship?

  • Violence (3:14-24)

-Notice that all the relationships are broken. Serpent is literally lower than all the other animals and is cursed. There is now violence between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent: one will have a bruised heel, the other a bruised head. One of those is worse than the other.

-Woman: childbirth is a violent affair! I’ve seen it 3 times now, not the prettiest thing in the world. The result is beautiful, but gross! 

-There is also now violence in the relationship between the man and the woman (we’ll get to that one on just a minute) 

-But notice that the violence is directed toward that which she was created from: man. Similarly for Adam:

-Man: violence between the ground and the man (the third ordering of relationships)

-Finally, God commits violence by killing animals to clothe Adam and Eve. Because of sin, someone’s life had to be taken to cover/atone for the sin. God is setting up the whole sacrificial system here.

-Culminates in expulsion from the garden “to the east” where we’ve been banished since. But it comes with the promise of violence if one were to try to take the garden back again: guarded by a cherubim and a flaming sword.

-This separation, disunity continues, although not completely, until Christ returns. Because now we can have the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, literally living in us, making us new people, new temples, so we can continue carrying out the command to fill and subdue the earth.

-That’s not the only broken relationship, let’s look at the horizonal relationships

  • Horizontal Relationship

-Remember, despite being “very good” it’s not good for Adam to be alone.

  1. Unity (2:23-25)

-God creates Eve from Adam’s rib, then brings her to Adam (walking her down the aisle) to be perfect complimentary partners in ordering the world.

-To be gendered is good! It takes men and women to “fill the earth.” God could have created another Adam to help him subdue the earth, but He didn’t. He created someone who corresponded to Adam, not exactly the same.

-Adam breaks out in praise! Wooing Eve with a love song. 

-This takes place after Adam had seen every animal God created, none of them was the right fit. You guys all know this! We’ve got dogs, they’re fun, but not the same as sitting down with my wife! And don’t even get me started on cats!

-Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She’s just like me! She understands me. Implicit in this is the idea that language is a part of relationship (but don’t confuse those 2, language serves the relationship not the other way around)

-Just as he had been naming the rest of creation, Adam continues his task from God and names her Woman (ishah) because she was taken from man (ish)

-Culminates in both being naked and not ashamed.

-Not JUST physically (although it includes that) Known and completely accepted. Nothing hidden, nothing forced, nothing fake completely open, honest, and transparent with each other. It’s the kind of relationship every one of us longs for, but so often aren’t willing to engage in because of past hurts or brokenness. Isn’t it scary to be completely known? But God already does know us, why would we be afraid of being open to people on earth? Because right now we have:

  • Disunity (3:12-19)

-What was originally a good, pleasing, perfect relationships became broken, full of distrust, blame, and disunity.

-When God confronts Adam, who does he blame?

-When God confronts Eve, who does she blame?

-Suddenly, every relationship is fraught with suspicion and blame. Serpent gets cursed, woman gets painful childbearing and a broken relationship with man, man gets the ground cursed and now has to work hard to eat and bear fruit. Every relationship is broken.

-Generally, when looking at the problems with humanity, we stop here (and I was planning to stop here too!) Until someone pointed out to me that the core problem with relationships is manifested more fully in Gen. 4 where we see the violence rearing its’ ugly head, even in horizontal relationships.

  • Violence (4:1-16)

-Most of us know the story of Cain & Abel, the 2 sons of Adam & Eve. At the root of these broken relationships is the reality that we don’t always treat other humans with the dignity, honor, and respect that they’re due simply because they’re humans created in the image of God. 

-You may have heard of the idea of “othering” which means you create some kind of rule that separates people into groups, you identify yourself with one of them and then create “others” of whom you don’t associate and then start to paint them as villains. This is the first instance of that happening (although an argument could be made that happened right after the fall when they played the blame game!)

-We all do this! We compare ourselves to others and try to (either intentionally or unintentionally) find some way to make ourselves look/feel better. Did anyone ever read the Star Bellied Sneetches growing up? 

-“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

-Time in college we had a speaker come for “man church” who is a theology prof at Talbot. Talked about how we all try to compare ourselves to others instead of God, like playing pick up basketball. A guy burns you, gets a layup, and your mind immediately goes “I bet you haven’t read a book all year.” I ended up playing basketball against him, burned him, and then told him I read 2 books that week! 

-Back to the story: 

-This tension begins in their very names. Cain means “to bring forth” while Abel means “nothingness.” Their whole lives Cain is viewed as the chosen one, while Abel is literally named “nothingness.” How do you think that affected their relationship?

-Cain and Abel were making offerings to the Lord. Cain brought normal (most likely thinking he’s fine, the chosen one), Abel brought the best of the best (knowing he has nothing apart from the Lord). The Lord accepts Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Text doesn’t say why, but Good goes on to say “If you do well,” so there’s a heart that is not a part of Cain’s offering.

-Instead of getting himself right and offering a pleasing offering, Cain begins to “other” Abel. Notice: sin is crouching at the door. Sin is always there waiting for us, looking to devour, looking to destroy. John Own “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” 

-Cain brings Abel away from their community to kill him. Went out to the field.

-What Cain needed was a brother to help restore him to his right place, to help him bring the right offering, but what he did was kill the brother he needed.

-This is where “othering” leads: to violence. We either kill them outright (Russian gulags, German concentration camps, South African apartheid) or we kill them in our hearts (which Jesus equates to killing them outright)

-What we’re supposed to see in these early chapters of Genesis is: we find ourselves in Adam & Eve. Given the same options, we would choose to sin too. Same with Cain & Abel: each of us could be either of them: “othering” a different group or being “othered” by a different group.

-Think of all the places we do this: politics, theology, gender, skin color, education, financial well-being, generationally. If there’s some measurement we can use to separate people into groups, someone will take it, sin will then distort it, and we will find the culmination of it in violence. But here’s the best part. We have thousands of years after this story that point us to a solution to this problem.

  • The Solution (4:26)

-“At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

-The violent display of death on the cross takes the disunity of the world and brings unity to a new people, the reversal of the fall. The cross provides the only means by which the “othering” we as humans do to each other can be solved, dealt with once and for all.

-This “othering” is at the root of every conflict, issue, struggle humans have had throughout history. They’re a different tribe from us, kill them! They speak a different language than us, kill them! They’re a different religion than us, kill them!

-Jesus comes, and instead of “othering,” he becomes the “other” so we killed him. The gospel message means people can actually be unified today. It’s when we have idols in our hearts, it’s when we’re NOT calling on the name of the Lord that we start to treat “others” as less than human, but the Bible doesn’t let us do that. Instead, every human being who has ever lived and will ever live is worthy to be treated with dignity, honor, and respect merely because they are humans. Regardless of anything that we/the world would use to differentiate between each other, God calls us to love people just like He loved us and sent His Son to become “other” for us.

The Image of God, Part 1

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.

Genesis 1:26-31

Intro: Last Spring we walked through the book of Amos, that was a really hard book! If you haven’t read through any of the minor prophets they deal with some really weighty and heavy issues that are wildly applicable to our life today. Things like: justice, misplaced/disordered worship, treating fellow image bearers as God has commanded us to. Some of the things that came up in that series were SUPER convicting and I had a number of meetings with people afterwards to talk about some of what I said. I realized that I was making some assumptions about how people were thinking/approaching some important contemporary issues.

-There are always ways in which the Bible will cut through or against some of the ideals we hold most dearly. Part of why we need to meet together every week is to be reminded how we should view and live in the world we find ourselves.

-From last Spring through today I’ve been studying and wrestling through how do we engage and talk about some difficult topics that taking place regularly in our culture? Specifically: why is it so hard for us to talk about racism without canceling each other?

-In order to study this, I applied for a grant from our seminary to be better equipped to understand and engage this very important issue. 

-Through the course of this grant I’ve had a number of conversations with other pastors/theologians who have said racial reconciliation is one of the most important topics for the church to be equipped to speak carefully and intentionally about today, because our world keeps trying to provide solutions to this issue that don’t work.

-This is going to be very hard for us, because so much of our lives are influenced by politics today. But just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean we should shy away from it. I am by no means an expert on this topic, nor do I claim to be a sociologist, I am an amateur historian, but I have devoted my entire life to understanding and applying the Bible, and because of that I am completely convinced that in order to understand how we approach and address the topic of racism, we need to better know what the Bible says AND how that applies to our lives and context today. If you want to be an overachiever, read these 2 books.

-Which means: at the core of this conversation is the doctrine of humanity, or theological anthropology. DEFINE. Anthropology is pretty trendy today to study (how did the last 2 years affect us, how are smartphones affecting us, etc)

-“true knowledge of the human person begins with the relationship between God and humans.” (Cortez, 5)

-John Calvin: “true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

-There are 2 aspects to both of these quotes: if you want to grow in knowledge/wisdom, it begins with growing in knowledge of God, before we can grow in awareness or understanding who we are. As I shared last month, we are both Dependent and INTERdependent beings, God alone is Independent. 

-Catchisms often begin with a question: who is God? That communicates something. Who’s first? God. This is why we open our time together each week hearing from God’s Word. This is why we spend so much time reading and studying God’s Word together each week. This is why we sing God’s Word. It’s all centered on God’s Word: our highest source of authority. God’s Word is where we learn who God is, what He’s like, and how we got here!

-In essence, in order to understand humans, we need to make sure we understand God.

-This is going to be a very different sermon series. We studied some of these texts last Fall but I approached them intentionally through a biblical theological lens (tracing the themes through Scripture) this time we’re going to look at the same texts, but look at them through a systematic theology lens. (pick a theme, look at everything the Bible says and put together a systematic description of what the Bible says) 

-Additionally, these sermons will sound different than I typically preach as we’ve got a lot to cover. So the first 2 weeks will be largely information and foundation work to get us to the application of racial reconciliation over the next 3 weeks.

-So in order to understand the racial dynamics going on in our world today, we need to go back to an understanding of what a human is.

-So at the very beginning of this series, here’s what I would ask: listen carefully. Listen to the whole sermon, please don’t take one phrase out of context and run to conclusions with it. I’m also going to be working really hard to carefully define the words I’m using, but each word has specific uses and understandings, and you might be using a different dictionary than me.

-Additionally, we’re going to have a time for some Q&A and further conversation at 9 AM upstairs starting next week. This will give you a week to think through the messages and have room to dialogue further. If you have questions, please plan to come.

READ/PRAY

  1. What is a human?

-How would you answer that question? There are MANY contemporary discussions related to this issue. Trans-humanism is a modern ethical discussion, what is consciousness has turned into some fascinating sci-fi movies, even theologians get into the debate and have discussion about whether or not we are comprised of 2 or 3 parts (mind, body, soul vs. mind/body) 

-Our culture is even debating this! Are we gendered beings? What about my attractions? What about my desires? Watch this video from 2015 where Bill Gates tries to get at a definition. (social -> passing of knowledge, essentially enlightened animals, assuming the passing of knowledge makes us better and better)

-And who gets to define these things? I’ve talked before about our hyper-individualistic culture today, where each person gets to define their own identity. You can trace these ideas back to the Enlightenment, which (I think) culminated in Frederick Nietzsche (philosopher) saying “God is dead, we have killed Him.” The enlightenment tried to make everything an intellectual pursuit, so the way the Western world has answered this question since then is summarized in another famous philosophical statement from Renes Descartes: I think, therefore I am. Since the 16th Century, the predominant belief has been we are merely thinking beings. All issues require better thinking to tackle, leading to people starting to think they could out-think God. This leads to hyper-individualism because we just have to think. 

-Leads to bodies being evil, leads to treating less intelligent as inferior, it cannot provide the whole answer to what a human is.

-All of us are approaching these topics with some preconceived ideas. Anytime you’re asked a question, you have mental models and ideas that help shape/inform the way you answer the question. 

-Did you know that our minds literally create ruts (like if you’ve seen the remains across the Midwest plains of the wagons going west) that cause your brain to make similar connections repeatedly, saving time & energy? So then we have to intentionally and actively work to knock our brains out of these ruts to pull in new information and distill it in new ways. 

-Additionally, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the primary idol in our world today is comfort. Don’t want to be sick, don’t want to be stretched, don’t want to be challenged, we want all the benefits that come from working through difficulties, but don’t want the difficulties. Yet the difficulties is what God often (probably always) uses to make us more like Him.

-So just as we do with any question in front of us, we need to find out what the Bible says about it. 

-We read Genesis 1 – which the text I read even requires some background. One of the most important things to realize about the Bible is it begins in a specific place for a reason. What is the first thing we learn about God? He is the Creator. 

-The New City Catechism says it this way in question 2: “God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.”

-I’ve been hammering this idea lately for a reason: God being the Creator means He gets to determine how everything is supposed to function together. Essentially if you want to figure out the best way to have flourishing in our world today: obey the Creator, He’s told us how it all fits together. 

-The problem is, and we all feel this, sin has broken even our desire to completely obey our Creator, so we’re not as human as we SHOULD be.

-So humans are: creatures (Gates called us animals). Just as one day God created other creatures, so on the 6th day God created humans as creatures. We’ll get to the differences in just a moment, but let that sink in, the first thing we see is we’re like the rest of creation.

-Next, created in the image of God – we’ll explore that further in a minute.

-Then we see how we’re different from the creation: we’re to have dominion over. I have a friend who loves to talk about how we can disciple people through earth care. (don’t have time to go further on that, if you want to learn more come grab me and I’ll explain that)

-Finally, in addition to reminding that we are in the image of God, we see another important reminder: we are gendered beings. That’s all I’ll say for now, we’ll be looking at THAT issue a little more intentionally in a couple weeks.

  • What does it mean that humans are created “in the image of God”?

-Lots of ink/confusion brought to this issue. This is a very weighty topic that explores some big ideas in systematic theology. Remember: true wisdom relates to understanding God and self. We won’t get true knowledge without growing in knowing who both God is, and we are.

-This means we are both like and represent God.

-Represent is what I’ve shared before: that images of rulers were sent throughout kingdoms to remind people who was in charge. So in this case we’re meant to show people that God is our King.

-But how are we like God? 2 legs, 2 arms, etc? Thinking? Emotional? Relational? 

-Yes. All of the above! It is a multifaceted idea, has all sorts of implications.

-Same idea comes up again in Gen. 5:3. This gets to the idea that being created in the image of God means we are His children.

-Frankly, I’m still working to wrap my mind around this topic and keep getting blown away by all the crazy implications of this for our lives. So the best way I’ve come to define this topic can be written as a math problem: human = image of God. If you are a human, you are created in the image of God because as soon as you start defining beyond that you start to leave people out. Ridiculous: 2 legs so if I get cancer and they cut off a leg I’m no longer a human. Thinking: what about someone who is intellectually handicapped, are they any less in the image of God?

-I hope you know what happens in Gen. 3, the Fall, so the image today is distorted. Paul in 1 Cor. 13, we see in a mirror dimly.

-The true/full image will be complete when Jesus returns, so until then people will better/more poorly reflect the image of God, but it’s still there. This is the foundation for treating every human being with dignity, honor, and respect, regardless of any issue (age, intelligence, strength, height, wealth)

Marc Cortez: “God manifesting his personal presence in creation through his covenantal relationships with human persons, whom he has constituted as personal beings to serve as his representatives in creation and to whom he remains faithful despite their sinful rejection of him.”

-Part of the goal of humanity is to help subdue the earth so the whole world is a temple dedicated to the worship and glory of the creator God. That’s where we saw last month that we are now Jesus’ body! 

-Covenantal relationships. God is a covenant making God. God covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, then promises a new covenant in Jer. 31 that we now live in today.

-“He has constituted.” That’s the Creator idea that is so vital to this whole conversation

-We’ve already talked about the representative part (we’ll look even further in a minute)

-God’s faithfulness. This past week at the EFCA Theology Conference, Micah and I got to lead some music for it, and there was a session where we read through Psalm 136 as a call and response. You have half of it memorized: for his steadfast love endures forever, repeated 26 times. Time 10, I was like “OK, I get it.” And then it hit me at about time 16: this Psalm is walking through the history of Israel, and reminding them that every step of the way: his steadfast love endures forever. If anyone ever complains about new songs being too repetitive, remind them that God was the one that invented that. And this love/grace toward us is toward both the saved and unsaved (doctrine of common grace)

  • What does that look like?

-Structural, functional, relational.

-Structural is what we’ve just been looking at. We can’t help but be created in the image of God. It’s stamped on every single one of us from the moment of conception. 

-Functional. This is related to the representative nature. How do we represent God on earth?

-Prophet, priest, king (John Frame – Systematic Theology)

-This description is often used to summarize Jesus’ ministry, and all 3 roles in the OT were vital to the flourishing of God’s people. Prophets spoke God’s Words to his people reminding them to obey Him, priests acted as mediators between God and humans to help address the relational divide, kings ruled in a way that allowed the people to more faithfully follow God on earth. We now, as Jesus’ body, have the same job/goal.

-Prophet (Authority)

-One primary aspect to this is to speak prophetically to the world around us. When I use that word I’m not using in the sense that I fear many Christians use it today for either end times theology, or telling someone the future. I was asked about this when I candidate: 2 parts to prophecy: foretelling and forthtelling. I’m talking about forthtelling, this is the kind of authority we’ve been given by God.

-This connects to being Word people. We can speak prophetically (forthtelling) into the world because we know that’s not the way humans are to live.

-This also connects to subduing the earth and fulfilling it. Remember back to our study in Genesis, God’s task to Adam and Eve (and thus us) was to spread throughout the earth, extending the borders of Eden until it covered the Earth.

-Priest (Presence)

-The co-reigning we do with God isn’t meant to be rule from afar – we’re to go everywhere using every opportunity to point people to God. And the way we can do that is by filling the earth and subduing it. This is getting to what we talked about last week, worshipping God as a living sacrifice. 

-We are meant to spur one another on toward love and good works, we’re to confess our sins to each other, we are the priesthood of believers, and we need each other.

-King (Control)

-Have dominion over. There’s a kingly rule, serving under the King of kings to care for the rest of the creation (at least days 3-6). Our job is to create a place in which the worship of God is happening.

-This means fostering places and spaces that are conducive to fix our eyes/gaze on Jesus. 

-Relational this will be the topic of next week’s message because I think it’s that important!

-Summary: We are called into a relationship (relational) that entails a role (functional) that we are uniquely designed (structural) to do.

-Begins with God calling. All of this centers around God, we always need to be growing in understanding of who He is.

– I realize this was a LOT of content today, and potentially some new words for you. So what things do I want you walking away with today?

-First is: isn’t God amazing? He’s created us as these unique, one of a kind creatures who are tasked to join with Him in bringing order to the world. Who could come up with this intricacy? God!

-Second: Are you doing what you can to join with God and His people in filling/subduing the earth with God’s glory? 

-Third: because of the realities we saw today, in what ways do you need to grow in your treating other image bearers as true image bearers instead of using the world’s standards or measurements of what it means to be a human? What we studied today is just the tip of the iceberg in an ocean of knowledge that gets to this unique interchange God has commanded us to pursue. 

-Fourth, finally: the goal for all of us to daily become more like the most human person who ever lived: Jesus. He is the perfect model of what humanity is supposed to look like, and He alone has provided the only way that we can grow in our true humanity, beginning with growing in our understanding of who God is. This is an eternal pursuit, but the best part is we get to do it together, in the context of community! 

Core Values Summary – 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.

All out there! It was great hearing from everyone on staff about our new core values, and to hear from some of you where you’ve seen these emphasis in your own life!

-Stories are important, we are caught up in the greatest story ever created. One scholar I know refers to it as the “drama of redemption” We are caught up in God’s drama as if we are characters in a play that He has written. We all have a vital role to play, an indispensable part. However, none of us are the main character. All of us are meant to point to shine the light on the main character of Jesus. He’s the reason we exist, He’s the reason we’re alive, He’s the point of everything we do. If our focus ever shifts off of Him, we need to close our doors and find some place that is focusing on Him.

-Here’s the best part: our story is still being written. From our founding in 1978 to our multiple building projects, to our continued updates and remodels in the past year, and we’re just getting started!

-Do you know how miraculous it is that we’re still here? This building was almost sold off in 2010/11 because we couldn’t pay the mortgage. Yet God sustained us, many of you remained faithful in attendance and giving, and each year brings us that much closer to being debt free! 

-Back before this building was ever here, the land was purchased and a sign placed off Johnny Cake Ridge Rd, and a certain Bruce and Linda Hibbard one time drove by, and Bruce had the audacity to share “what kind of dummy would build a church here in the middle of nowhere!” Jokes on him!

-Today, we’re going to spend some time walking through all 5 of our new core values, how they fit together, how we’ll be talking about them moving forward, and some other helpful passages of Scripture that tie in to each point of emphasis. 

-Tried using alliteration to make it easy for you all to remember them! AND each arrow should help you remember each point as well, they all have significance! 

READ Acts 2:42-47 – PRAY

  1. We – John 13:34-35

-We don’t exist without each other. We need each other to function/thrive/survive. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian (Keith reminded me, he had Toto)

-The predominate theory today “expressive individualism.” If you haven’t heard that term, maybe you’ve heard the mottos of it: you do you, be true to yourself, follow your heart.

-Historically, humans have been educated/taught to conform to some standard outside themselves (cultural, religious, familial) but today we’re encouraged not to conform ourselves to any other standard, but to “figure out/discover” whomever we want to be.

-An Australian author/pastor Mark Sayers have been unbelievably helpful for me in how we engage this cultural idea, and also pushes Christian to be better trained/equipped in how to deal with these ideas. He wrote a book called Disappearing Church where he defines this idea with 7 summary statements:

  1. The highest good is individual freedom, happiness, self-definition, and self-expression.

-Yet this has led to an increase in depression, suicide, etc.

  • Traditions, religions, received wisdom, regulations, and social ties that restrict individual freedom, happiness, self-definition, and self-expression must be reshaped, deconstructed, or destroyed.

-Once again, how is that working out for people?

  • The world will inevitably improve as the scope of individual freedom grows. Technology —in particular the internet—will motor this progression toward utopia.

-This was the predominant thought at the turn of the 19th/20th cent. Too. Then a world war came. And after that, a second one!

  • The primary social ethic is tolerance of everyone’s self-defined quest for individual freedom and self-expression. Any deviation from this ethic of tolerance is dangerous and must not be tolerated. Therefore social justice is less about economic or class inequality, and more about issues of equality relating to individual identity, self-expression, and personal autonomy.

-This is fine, but what about when your quest contradicts someone else’s quest? Who gets to decide who “wins”?

  • Humans are inherently good.

-Are they?

  • Large-scale structures and institutions are suspicious at best and evil at worst.

-Even the church is questioned (sometimes rightfully so!) Every institution is comprised of people, who (contra point 5) are not good!

  • Forms of external authority are rejected and personal authenticity is lauded.

-What is “authenticity”? Drives me nuts “authentic” worship 

-We’re not immune to these things! People leave church because it doesn’t conform with their preconceived ideas. We complain when things aren’t done “our way” instead of looking to build each other up. We so often aren’t even aware of how much we’re influenced by this thinking because it’s the air we breathe. 

-Sometimes it feels like people treat the church like Burger King: have it your way! What about God’s way? 

-This isn’t new! This is the way people in the 1st Century lived too! What is new is that today we have the internet so each individual can find other individuals who are pushing and believing the same things so then a new community comes out, but no one monitors or upholds people to a specific standard.

-Out of that hyper/expressive individualism of the 1st century came a church that was commanded to love each other more than you love yourself.

-The fact that “we” is one of our core values is vital to our continued health!

-I am honestly convinced that by committing to and demonstrate that we need each other we’ll serve as a blatant example of what the world is trying to do/be with purely normal means. The problem is it takes something supernatural to truly bring people together. (we’ll look at that more fully in our next sermon series)

-One way of talking about this is the: 59 “one anothers” of the NT

-Do a quick word search for that phrase if you haven’t already. We’ll look at one of them, but take note: it’s really hard to “one another” without another! The Christian call is a call to community, to being together, to “one anothering”

-Jesus talking to his followers here. 

-A new “commandment” Do you know of any other commandments? Maybe 10 of them? In the OT the ten commandments served as the ethical framework for God’s people, in the NT, the ethical framework is: love. Poster of one anothers.

-Let’s think about this: how did Jesus love us? To death! And that’s how we’re supposed to love each other. That’s quite the command! 

-I love the way the EFCA SOF says it: we are to love God supremely and others sacrificially. And notice vs. 35if we demonstrate our love for God supremely and others sacrificially then other people will sit up and pay attention, and notice. But that means we actually need to love each other. 

-The we is the circle that surrounds every other value: we do all these other things together. I shared this example when I candidate here: when people stand in a circle which way do they always stand? Facing inside, but when we’re together we cannot just look at each other, we need to love and care for each other with one eye out to those around us, looking for opportunities to share the gospel in word and action.

-The first step of the process is looking back to welcome others in

  • Welcome – Romans 15:7

-I couldn’t find a better verse than this one to encapsulate this idea! Sometimes there are passages in the Bible that are surprising to me. Last year the most impactful for me was Phil. 4:5 “let your reasonableness/gentleness be known to everyone.” So far this year it’s been this passage. 

-I knew hospitality was in there, but welcoming?

-This is another one of those “one another” passages.

-Notice: “as Christ has welcomed you” How has He welcomed us? Have you ever had a conversation with someone who seemed completely enraptured in the conversation? They were all in, legitimately cared for you. Take that, add some steroids to it and you have Jesus. 

-3 stories encapsulate this:

John 4 the woman at the well. Micah talked about this, so we won’t turn there today. But this woman had 3 strikes against her: woman, Samaritan, and living in sin. Did Jesus treat her as less than? Now he didn’t let her sit in her sin, but he honored her, treated her with dignity and respect.

-Secondly, another woman, this time in John 8. This woman only had 2 strikes: being a woman, but caught in the act of adultery. Caught in the act. Yikes! And how does Jesus treat her? Again, he treats her with honor. Yes, calls out the sin, but doesn’t belittle her, doesn’t join in with the fuss or condemnation. 

-Prodigal Son: how does the Father respond? 

-We, similarly, should welcome everyone. Regardless of age, race, gender. Think of what God has saved you from, no one is too far gone!

-This is why you can probably quote my sermon opening, but I always introduce myself as a way of trying to welcome people in. 

-Had someone at a previous church tell me they long for the day where I don’t have to introduce myself on Sunday morning. If we get to that point we’re gonna die! We have new people every week! Introduce yourself!

-Next is our foundation for everything we do and say.

  • Word – Hebrews 4:12-13

-One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the fact that the Bible is alive. In fact, one of the reasons I believe the Bible is true today is because there is no singular culture that the Bible explicitly endorses. Every culture/civilization has something in the Bible that they would find offensive. 

-The church is meant to be a counter-culture to our prevailing cultural ideas and ideals that are taking place around us. We’re meant to live out a different way of living that is rooted and grounded in God’s Word. And God’s Word doesn’t fit nicely into our human made boxes. There’s a reason Christianity has spread to every corner of the globe! It isn’t culturally bound, so there can be Christian expressions just as easily in Japan or Mongolia or Russia or France as it does in the United States.

-But it’s not enough to merely say that, we need to read/study AND APPLY what we read to our lives today. It cuts through cultures, yes, but is also cuts through our hearts that are so prone to sin, or as we sing “prone to wander, Lord I feel it”

-Now that I say that, I also want to remind us that the Bible isn’t the only source of authority. It is the ULTIMATE source of authority, but God has also given us other means/methods of learning and growing. 

-I worry at times that we conservative Christians have a narrow biblicism that doesn’t recognize what the Bible actually calls us to. We are called to SOLA Scriptura, not SOLO Scriptura.

-I think this even affects the science/Bible “debates” The Bible isn’t a scientific textbook, we shouldn’t read it like that! The Bible tells us truth and is the source of truth, but it doesn’t teach us things like mathematics or science or how to build a house. It tells us that we should work hard, build good things, create culture, but it isn’t meant to be an instruction manual. Instead, it’s supposed to give us a language and create a new culture.

-The picture I’ve shared before is that the Bible is a window. Can spend time looking at the window, but a window is meant to be looked through. We’re supposed to use the Bible as a means of viewing/interpreting the world around us. So we gather together to spend time learning where our views are warped and deficient and submit ourselves to the Bible as our ultimate source of authority.

-Hence the down arrow. I get that idea from a passage like Col. 2:6-7 we need to remain rooted in Christ Jesus (we do that by learning/studying his teachings which are God’s Word). The Bible needs to be our foundation that we build on, because all other ground is sinking sand. 

-This leads us to the up arrow! It is through God’s Word that we better learn how to worship God with everything we are.

  • Worship – Romans 12:1-2

-Back when I was titled a “worship pastor” I would just tell people that means I’m the pastor of everything! Every individual area in our lives is supposed to be used as an act of worship. That means you work hard at everything you do, because Col. 3:23 reminds us we’re not working for people, we’re working for God! 

-Work hard and play hard. Not too far from the truth, as long as you’re remembering that your play is an act of worship.

-Look at this passage in Romans 12.

-Present your body as a LIVING sacrifice. We read that so often we can just glance by it, but think of that for a second. Isn’t that an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp.” How can it be a LIVING sacrifice. The sacrifice is what you kill as an act of worship.

-In a sense that’s what happens – the Christian call is a call to die so that Christ can live/be seen in/through us. But at the same time, Paul says LIVING sacrifice, so we’re still alive!

-At the heart of that this is the irony of the Christian life. If you really want to live, you have to die. That’s how live a life of worship.

-But Paul doesn’t stop with just being a living sacrifice, he talks about HOW we operate out of being a living sacrifice. 2 things: don’t conform, be transformed.

-The temptation is to be conformed. To give in, to look exactly like the world. I think that’s been somewhat true if you study the history of Christianity in the US. There was an assumption somehow that if you were an American you were a Christian. We’re seeing some of those facades stripped away now and to be a Christian is finally starting to mean something again. But because of that, there’s a lot of people who associate Christianity with certain worldly things that aren’t meant to be true of the church.

-Instead, we’re supposed to be TRANSFORMED. How? Through the renewal of your mind. That’s more than just thinking differently. In fact sometimes I think it’s imperative that we just “go through the motions” because I think we can act ourselves into better states of thinking than we can think ourselves into better states of acting.

-2 aspects of this worship: gathered and scattered. Gathering is important to help us renew our minds every week. To be reminded of what is true, to be encouraged in our pursuit of Christ, so that we can scatter and continue being a living sacrifice. 

-This arrow points us up because our orientation needs to be heaven-ward. The author of Hebrews reminds us to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ. By doing that we can keep all the things in the rest of their lives in the proper order.

-Finally, we don’t exist for ourselves, we need to keep an outward orientation at all times

  • Witness – Acts 1:8 

-We’re here because the first disciples were faithful witnesses. I thought Pastor Bruce had a stroke of genius last week in reaching out to his son-in-law to find out how he views a witness. 

-Expert and fact witness. Really hard to claim to be an “expert” witness on Christianity (there’s so much to learn!) but all of us are supposed to be “fact” witnesses! 

-One of my favorite examples of this in is in John 9 with the man who was born blind. The Pharisees are grilling this guy, they grill his parents, and here’s his fact testimony: “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” That’s a beautiful picture for us! All of us were once blind, but God opened our eyes and now we can see. I used to be one way, but now because of God transforming my mind I’m completely different! Your witness doesn’t have to be much more than that! Just tell about how God is working in your life.

-Look at where Jesus tells them to go: Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, to the END (not ends) of the earth. We can be fact witnesses to our transformed lives, or as the EFCA SOF says “demonstrating the gospel in word and deed,” all across the world.

-None of this is anything new/novel, in fact it’s what the church has been doing for 2,000 years, but we need a way of capturing that idea together, so I used alliteration and arrows to try to help you! 

-The order matters: we, together, need to commit to this otherwise it’s just words on the wall. (keeping with the w theme!)

-This also serves as the way we grow as disciples:

-Someone welcomes us in enough to give us a glimpse of God’s love

-We’re given God’s Word to be planted and grounded in as our foundation

-Because of that foundation we’re better equipped to worship God with more areas of our lives

-This worship leads us to be a fact witness about the transformative power of the gospel in our lives.

-Here’s the crazy part (to me) about this. One of my most helpful books on philosophy of church ministry is Center Church by Tim Keller. I read this one a number of years ago, and made a note on a specific section in here. Then I forgot about it. After coming up with our new core values I was perusing this book again and found my notes. I need to find a better system of tracking these things!

We – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 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.

Most of us today don’t like the idea of being dependent on anyone or anything. In fact, on my tax form every year, I get to check the box that says I have dependents. And for anyone 18 years of age or older, they like to claim their INdependence. No one wants to ever be in need, especially of others. People will claim to be self-made, no one helped them get to where they are today, and no one will help them continue on that path! This is ESPECIALLY true of Americans! We are all taught in Middle School about the Declaration of what? That’s right! INdependence. We are a country who isn’t dependent on anyone or anything, at least we have been since 1776. 

We even see this with technology: almost every major Silicon Valley company claims to have started in a garage. Strong, intendent spirits without the influence of “the man” suppressing their visionary ideas. But HP was designed in top of the line labs, Apple did no designing or manufacturing in the garage it was more a place to plan and hang out, and Google intentionally moved into a garage to perpetuate this myth after they’d gotten a million dollars of investment (I also have to point out the irony: I used Google to search for their founding myth!)

The problem is that flies in the face of what God has called us to be as Christians. God has called us to be both dependent and INTERdependent, but nowhere has he called us to be INdependent. In fact, most, if not all, of the sin in our lives happens when we try too hard to be independent. God has called us to be completely dependent on him (Ephesians 2:1 – apart from God’s grace in our lives we are DEAD and unable to do anything to save ourselves), but not only has God called us to be completely dependent on him, he has also called us to be INTERdependent on each other. 

Here’s the reality: we all need each other! And one of the things I often hear people say is that they want good friends and fellowship with others, but so often are unwilling to give up their independence to gain those friendships. We’re going to look today at a passage that talks about how we’re being called to INTERdependence.

READ/PRAY

  1. One Body (12-13)

-Paul uses literally the most connected thing we all have and use everyday: your body. 

-Lots of descriptions throughout the Bible to describe the church: body, temple, royal priesthood, ambassadors. Each has a role/purpose, the body imagery is meant to convey how intimately connected we are supposed to be.

-The church is not meant to be a group of slightly connected individuals, or a democracy, or like our country where each special interest group demands representation. Instead, we’re called to be as connected as a body.

-So what does that look like? Well, let’s think about our bodies for a second! 

-Has anyone here ever broken a bone? I one time broke a toe. I was shocked at just how often I bump my stupid toe! And EVERY time I bumped it I was in excruciating pain. My face would grimace, I’d reach down to grab my foot, and then start hopping around yelling “OW!” But think about all that’s involved in that momentary decision, or if you haven’t broken a bone, maybe you’ve stepped on a Lego in the middle of the night: Foot steps on that tiny torture device. Brain immediately registers pain, Hands reach down (again from the brain), Face grimaces, Eyes immediately look for the cause of such excruciating pain, Next thing you know you’re on the floor crying! 

– All these things happen almost immediately without us really giving much thought to each action. What would happen if your brain just decided “Eh, I’m not really feeling like registering pain today, so carry on!” No! Each part of the body is going to do its best to play its part, and do it to the best of its ability whether it wants to or not, if it DOESN’T do it’s part it’s called an unhealthy body, and your body will literally fall apart from not registering pain.

-I think this is why Paul is describing us as a body, a body is comprised of many members, but we’re all a part of the same body.

-This is where we get the 21st century idea for church membership today. Not the same as Costco or Lifetime where every member pays their dues for the exact same benefits, in this membership means we all have an essential part to play (so we’re having a membership class NEXT WEEK after services! Sign up!)

-Notice HOW we are brought into one body: baptism. In the waters of baptism, the barriers that normally divide us are gone, washed away.

-What I read was the drinking is most likely not referring to the Lord’s supper, but I can’t help but make the connection, as Jesus gave us 2 ordinances to practice TOGETHER as HIS BODY: baptism and the Lord’s supper! It would only make sense that they’re connected here

-Even though we’re all part of the same body, each body is comprised of:

  1. Many Members (14-20)

-Paul paints a slightly grotesque image in verse 14-20 about this idea. 

-Think if your various body parts just decided to go their separate ways. 

-If you didn’t notice when you walked in, I brought an example of this with Mr. Potato Head. So over here we’ve got a random ear, over there we’ve got his nose, some lips up here, and don’t forget (if you’ve seen Toy Story 2) his angry eyes!

-This is the picture (although with a real body) that Paul is painting (guessing he didn’t have Mr. Potato Head to use as an example)

-Now that we have all the parts for him, Paul uses a few examples: foot is jealous of the hand so foot leaves. Ear gets jealous of the eye, so eye leaves. This is supposed to be funny! Paul is using an absurd idea to make this point: each part/member of the body has a specific/strategic role to play, and each part (if it does its job) does it better than any other part of the body.

-Starting in vs 17, Paul doubles down on this idea.

-Each part is indispensable to the whole. Again, he uses more absurd/funny statements here. Think of a giant ear, you wouldn’t tell me: there’s good ol’ Jim! He’s great a hearing, not so good at playing catch!

-Not everyone is wired/gifted the exact same way. You may have heard the old phrase: to a hammer everything is a nail. I saw that with my kids! Hammer is GREAT to use on a nail, or the claw end to help rip things apart, but if you’re trying to use a hammer to screw something in you’re going to be VERY disappointed. 

-Same thing in the church. Each of us is given unique gifts and skills that are meant to serve a specific function for the sake of our body.

-Have you ever thought about the fact that God called you to South Suburban because we need the unique gifts and skills that you alone can offer? That’s what is said in vs. 18. Contrary to popular belief, nothing we “just happens.” There’s hours of planning that go in to every meeting, communication, every Sunday morning. From making sure people are here to turn lights on, make coffee, teach kids, lead us in singing, making sure the carpet’s clean and you have a seat to sit on. And it’s more than just 1 person can do by themselves, it requires many different people working together with the same goal, kind of like a body.

-I worry that we are too often trained to think of/approach church with a consumeristic mindset, or almost like a Costco membership. I’ll remain involved/engaged as long as MY needs are met. As soon as I’m dissatisfied I’m cancelling and transferring to Sam’s Club! So often we come to Sunday morning looking to be given something instead of asking what can I give? 

-I saw this a LOT with music things like “where was my hymn???” or “your shoes are too bright” or my personal favorite, “Do you tweet with no spaces in between the words!?” (I share these to laugh together, because we can’t take ourselves too seriously, none of these were things I’ve been told here!)

-I get it! It’s tough for us to look beyond ourselves when we gather together, but that’s exactly what Christ has called us to do, not just LOOK beyond ourselves, but DIE to ourselves. Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

-We’re called to die to ourselves for the sake of our body – that means getting over your personal preferences, desires, wishes, and goals for the sake of the body.

-Sometimes we do need to serve in areas that aren’t our strength simply because of a need, and the goal in the midst of that is to disciple someone else, that is help train and equip them to grow in that area so that you can then pursue where God has actually gifted you. 

– Chief master hot dog griller. 

-The best way to learn how God has gifted you is to serve. So let’s serve, and display our unity through our service.

-I’ve shared this story before to, but I think it’s worth repeating: I had a good friend who was a huge encouragement to me when I was just starting out in ministry, a guy named Larry. Larry had worked all over the country at churches, schools, at one point owned a grocery store! Larry was early 70s when I met him, and was the one of the most energetic 70+ year olds I’ve EVER met! He found out what day I’d go to Starbucks to work and meet me there to see how I was doing, find out ways he could pray for me, and encourage me. He didn’t love the music we did, but he knew the music wasn’t about him or for his own edification. 

-This also means is that every single person is indispensable! We all need each other to help each other grow to become more like Christ, and we all have an integral part to play. This gets us to the last section of this text, the need for:

  1. Interdependence (21-27)

-Let’s continue with the body idea Paul has been using. I remember growing up hearing about this little thing called an appendix that was useless. I was actually told in school that it just demonstrated our evolutionary past. Yet a few years ago I read an article that stated that’s not true at all, but it actually helps keep our bodies healthy by helping to flush out toxins and keep good bacteria in your body. Now, people can function just fine without an appendix, my dad had his appendix removed when he was a teenager and he’s still alive today, just as some people can get by without a hand or a leg. It works, but not quite the way it was intended to. That’s what happens to a church body when not everyone is involved and asking the question: how can I best serve those around me today. 

-Now this goes contrary to our nature. Again, our sin nature is wires us for and causes us to desire independence: autonomy from anyone or anything. It’s HARD to ask for help! I get it! 

-I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working on projects that would be easier with someone else and just not taken the time to text someone and ask for help since I’m a strong, independent man. 

-One of the things to remember about 1 Corinthians is in this church they had elevated certain gifts to higher levels, so if you wanted recognition in the church you had to speak in tongues or prophecy. To counteract that, Paul adds in vs. 22.

-There is no JV in Christ’s body! There’s no second string, there’s no second class, there’s only believers who have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. 

-One of the things I’ve noticed about getting older (I know, I’m not that old, but it’s coming, or so I’ve been told!) Conversations change. “How’s your back” has become a common question among my friends (I’m much ashamed to say) I’m telling you, something happens the day you go from 29 to 30!

-The past few years I’ve had back issues, and it seems to be tweaked with things like: picking up kids, or moving heavy things, or my favorite: sleeping. Feels like you get betrayed by your own body! But when I’ve done something to it, in order for me to continue functioning like a normal human being, I’ve had times where I’ve had to twist a certain way, walk kind of funny, and stumble along leaning on whatever wall’s closest. 

-When that’s happened, my legs and arms haven’t said “you should’ve gone to the gym!” Thanks Sherlock! Instead, the body naturally reacts to help cover for the area of weakness. So how can you, in this body, help to cover for the weaknesses of some of those who are around you today? 

-Look at vs. 24.

-Anytime we’re deficient in honoring each other, God makes up the difference. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying, in fact, I believe that because God is the one who made us into a body, and is continuing to bring us closer together and closer to Him, as we see more of God’s heart toward us, we’ll begin showing more and more honor to each other, regardless of our backgrounds!

-We have a similar tendency today as the Corinthians, we elevate certain gifts/callings above others. I think our tendency in 21st century America is to elevate the gift of preaching above anything else. This is what God has called and equipped me to do, but what has God called/equipped you to do?

-All of us are called to do good works.

We are not saved by our good works, in fact the Bible says that all our “righteous” deeds are as helpful as a nasty old rag. There’s nothing we can do that would add to or subtract from the salvation freely given to us by Christ. Just so we’re clear there! 

BUT we are saved to do good works! Eph. 2:10 says it this ways, “We are his (Christ’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 

God has saved us from the need to perform good works, but then allows us through his Holy Spirit to actually serve each other through our good works. 

That’s how we obedient to the great commandment: love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, which then allows us to obey the second commandment: to love our neighbors as ourselves (which is what Micah reminded us of last week!). We’re called to daily die to ourselves so that others may see Christ’s love shine through us, and that is demonstrated by the health and unity of our local body – the Church. 

It’s through the church that we can demonstrate to each other and to the world how people who have no right to get along, will sacrificially love and care for each other, no matter what the consequences are, or how inconvenient it is. Look at: 26

-When’s the last time someone suffered with you when you were suffering? What about rejoicing with you when you were rejoicing? This is the call for all of us: to care for each other no matter what else is going on so that we can continue to be made more like Christ as His body. Our focus should be on him, not on my own wants or desires. So that means all of us need to use the gifts we’ve been giving for the good of each other to worship throughout our entire lives.

-The Bible calls us to sign our names to the declaration of INTERdependence where we’re loving and serving each other and functioning as a healthy body and all of us together are completely dependent on Jesus Christ. One commentator said it this way: “In order to accomplish his work on earth, Jesus had a body made of flesh and blood. In order to accomplish his work today, Jesus has a body that consists of living human beings” Church: we are that body today. We are commanded to join with Jesus in making and maturing disciples of Him, and to do that, we need each other.

Welcome – Romans 15:1-7 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.

-Series I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while now! We’re going to spend the next month looking at the things that are going to be non-negotiables for us moving forward together. And the thing is, they’re all traits that have been true since this church was founded in 1977. 

-Since I came, the word I’ve most often heard from people who have come here for the first time is (drum roll please): welcoming

-I honestly have lost count of the number of people I’ve talked to who have said they walked in our doors, and immediately had people welcoming them in, showing them around, answering their questions, it’s a JOY to hear that! That’s why I wanted to hear from David & Rayna on why they’ve decided to plant themselves here (also, did you notice it wasn’t the preaching, thanks a lot guys!)

-You may be wondering if that is a biblical trait, is welcoming something we are supposed to exemplify in our lives? As we walk through this section in Romans, I think we’ll see just how important it is for us to be a people marked by being welcoming, since that’s what God has done for us in Christ.

READ/PRAY

-Many of the Epistles (letters) in the NT are divided into 2 sections: orthodoxy, orthopraxy (define: theology, lived out)

-Remember from our study on hope in Rom. 5, that the theme through that first section is: righteousness. The first 11 chapters of Romans thus are the deep, rich theological truths about God’s righteousness, then chapter 12 begins the application of God’s righteousness into everyday life. 

-So chapter 11 ends with a doxology: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

-Then 12 begins: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

-ESV Study Bible helpfully summarizes this as “God’s righteousness in everyday life.” Chapter 12-13 are then titled “Marks of the Christian Community” and “A call for mutual acceptance between the strong and the weak.”

-A brief note on Paul’s flow of thought in chpt. 14, because it flows directly into vs. 1of our section today.

-One of the primary issues in the 1st cent. Church was how different ethnicities/traditions could get along in the same church. Specifically, Jews & Gentiles, because they have VERY different ethical approaches for day to day life. Things like: what kinds of food can be eaten (pork was outlawed for Jews, Gentiles (like me) would have been asking “have you tried bacon?”), do we observe/honor the Sabbath, and what day should we honor the Sabbath?

-It’s not dissimilar to today, TBH. Do we homeschool, public school, Christian school? Do we watch movies? Which theological persuasion are you? What are your thoughts about the end times? Which political party are you?

-Paul does his best in this section to remind each other to focus on the primary things, this is where it is VITAL for us to remember to have a “theological triage.” 

-There are so many issues in our lives that we make a mountain out of today, make it a theological issue, then force others to either be one of us or not.

-I remember one time playing cards with my dad at my grandma’s house, and she came out and saw us and told us when she was growing up that was a sin. That’s attaching theological significance to an ethical issue for which there can be room for both sides of the argument.

-And this was a focus of Jesus’ ministry when He was on earth! He had some pretty big indictments against those who made others follow their man-made rules. Jesus didn’t have a lot of patience for legalism.

-Now that I say that, it doesn’t mean we are free to live however we want (as Paul asks “Do we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” Rom. 6:1)

-Read an article this week about 2 dogs. 1 lived in the city, craved the great beyond, would wait eagerly for the owner to come home to try to sneak outside. The owner would come in, not let the dog escape, and the upset dog would sulk in the corner planning his next escape. 2 dog lived in the country, no fence, boundaries at all, but stayed near the porch waiting for his master to come home each day. The great beyond had no enticement for him, he was content with his owner. “Growth in holiness does not take place when our focus is on the boundaries but when our focus is on the Master. Fences may keep us from harm, but love for the Master is what keeps us from fences.”

-Martin Luther described this as a drunken man on a horse: he starts falling off one way, then falls off the other way and that continues indefinitely! Legalism vs. licentiousness.

-Paul explains that each of must live out the faith we claim to believe in, that we must have reasons for how we behave, and that we should not pass judgment on each other either way we choose to live.

-With all that said, our driving force, focus and motivation MUST be to bring glory to God

-We’re commanded to not put ourselves first, to not seek out own interests, but instead to be others-oriented in our lives, just like Jesus was

-So the first thing we see is that we are to:

  1. Please Others Like Christ (1-3)

-This is a continuation from chapt. 14 (which is why I spent so much time explaining what was said in that chapter)

-Paul considers himself to be in line with the “strong” (those who don’t feel the need to obey the OT ethical commands)

-For us today: was onetime told that if you know enough of the Bible to quote this verse, you are not one of those who are “weak!” 

-First notice the “obligation.” This isn’t an option, we all need to work with each other!

-Then to “bear with,” which is much more than merely enduring.

-A similar place Paul uses this phrase is in Gal. 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens”

-Think of it like this: for those of you who are married, when your spouse asks you to do something you have 2 options: do it or not. Or in my case, Cara has a tendency to word it poorly: “Would you mind.” “Yes, I would mind!” 

-Paul’s use of “bear” is more than “yes, I would mind” instead it’s bending over backwards to actively look out for someone else, instead of yourself.

-In chpt. 14, Paul has been encouraging the weak to not “pass judgment” on those who are strong, here Paul flips the exhortation to remind the strong that they have an obligation to not please themselves, but instead to please others. 

-Notice how many times “please” is used throughout here: 3x in 3 verses.

-This isn’t “please pass the salt,” one commentator said: “please means an act or gesture that will meet a real need or enhance spiritual stability.” (ESV Expositor’s Commentary, Yarbrough) AKA: real physical need or push them closer to Christ

-That’s the point Paul is making in vs. 2 here. Our goal is to “please” our neighbors, that is meet their real, legitimate needs or help them to be more conformed to His image.

-By referring to neighbors, Paul is echoing back to Lev. 19:18, just as he did in Rom. 13:8-10, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

-The way we please our neighbors is by loving them. Paul says in Rom. 13“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

-We saw over Advent what love looks like practically in our lives, it’s not endorsing anything anyone wants, and it’s not based on fleeting emotions, true love could be viewed the same way we saw above: to meet a real need or help them grow spiritually. 

-What is our perfect example of this? Paul reminds us in the next verse: 3

-Paul quotes from Psalm 69:9, a Davidic Psalm asking for the Lord to deliver them. In this case, Paul is talking about Jesus bearing our reproaches. In other words, even if we are mocked/belittled for bearing with our weaker brothers and sisters, it’s worth the cost, since that’s what Christ did for us!

-Think of Jesus, who in Phil. 2 emptied Himself to our level. There, Paul reminds us consider others more significant than ourselves, look out for others interests, which is perfectly modeled in Jesus. The one person who legitimately could have demanded he be worshipped and served, instead came to serve us, to welcome us into his perfect family.

-This also ties into the sermon on the mount, where Jesus says those who are reviled are the ones who will be blessed.

-Paul uses these next verses to explain how we can know that, and His primary point here is that by being a welcoming community, we will have endurance and encouragement through God’s Word, which is the same as being filled up by God Himself.

  • For Endurance and Encouragement (4-7)
    • The Word (4)

-Paul used Psalm 69 to talk about how Jesus is the primary example and focus of everything in the OT, in fact in 2 Cor. 1:20 Paul similarly says “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

-The main point here is why Paul referenced back to the OT. The examples in the OT were written for us to learn/grow/become more like Jesus, Jesus is the perfect example that we are supposed to imitate, and the focus of the whole Bible. 

-Everything we do is meant to be rooted in God’s Word, as we study God as He has chosen to reveal Himself to us, we grow more like Him.

-One commentary said: “instruction is a reminder that learning (or discipleship) is a central component of the Christian faith.” (ESV Expositors)

-Paul David Tripp: “The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is not theological information but heart and life transformation.” (Dangerous Calling)

-The 2 components are: endurance and encouragement.

-The endurance piece is sticking it out, remaining faithful. Paul David Tripp: “the character and quality of your life won’t be defined by two or three life-changing moments. No, the character and quality of your life will be defined by the 10,000 little decisions, desires, words, and actions you make every day.

-Encouragement comes by the Scriptures, from God’s Word, soaking and saturating every part of our lives. This culminates in hope. Saw that before!

  • God (5a)

-Just as God’s Word is meant to lead to endurance and encouragement, so God Himself is the author of our endurance and encouragement. We can’t do anything apart from Him, so we need to regularly come back to Him as the one who will allow us to endure and be encouraged.

-This is where it’s important for us to remember that God has chosen a specific way to reveal Himself to us: through His Word. Each time we read the Bible we are reading God’s very words to us.

-But it’s not just for us individually to have endurance and encouragement, actually we can’t endure or be encouraged by ourselves. Even reading/studying God’s Word isn’t meant to be done alone (reading the Bible alone is a GREAT thing you should do) but the Bible is meant to be understood and applied in community. That’s what Paul says next:

  • Unity to Glorify God (5b-6)

-Everything in the Bible is meant to lead us to live in harmony with each other.

-This harmony leads to glorifying God with 1 voice, together, completely unified.

-Unity does not mean unanimity. I am all for the priesthood of all believers, which means all of us need to contribute to the good of our body. I love that Paul uses musical terms here: unity and harmony. Songs only become interesting when harmony is added in. Singing is a beautiful picture for us of how we are commanded to live in this passage, we sing the same words, united together, but each person has a part to contribute a harmony (or a joyful noise) that makes up the whole. Just as our gifts are meant to serve together!

-It also means daily dying to yourself, to your own preferences, to your own desires and finding space to live with each other despite differences.

-Again, this is where we need theological triage: Moo: “Divisions in the church over nonessentials diverts precious time and energy from its basic mission: the proclamation of the gospel and the glorifying of God.”

-There’s a time and a place for those discussions! We’ve seen previously, that even Paul shared theological ideas that were “of first importance” which means there’s implicitly theological ideas that are of second importance. If anyone ever wants to discuss some of these finer details of theology, let me know, I’ll buy you a coffee and chat! But then after we leave the coffeeshop, we go back our unity

-Even Jesus in his high priestly prayer in John 14-17 prayed that we would be united today. That’s how we glorify God! By actively pursuing unity and harmony together. 

-Think about this, if you look around this room we’ve got people from all sorts of various backgrounds, different education levels, different theological persuasions, even different political persuasions. Yet we’re willing to look past all the measurements of division the world uses and actually come together for the common purpose of making disciples of all nations. This is a unity the world can’t even begin to fathom! The world forces everyone to align with every individual piece of ideology to be a part of them, and then cancels you if you don’t completely agree. Jesus welcomes everyone in with open arms and then gently leads you to rely more and more on Him until you are someday perfected, and we all do that together!

  • Welcome (7)

-“Therefore” Paul is summarizing everything he’s said up until this point. Today, as God’s people, we are meant to be a welcoming community to everyone who walks in our doors. Christmas week we had over 400 families walk through here to pick out toys for their kids for Christmas! 

-We’ve got a wonderful example of what it means to be welcoming in the life of Jesus. How did he treat people anytime they came to Him? Honor, respect, understanding, patience. Think of what we studied at Christmas Eve: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I think another way of summarizing all those characteristics is by being welcoming.

-Often when we think of being a welcoming we think of close friends/neighbors, coming off Christmas where we’ll tell our friends “you’re always welcome here!” But you know you’re not supposed to actually put that to the test! 

-There’s a scene towards the end of Seinfeld where Kramer is remembering previous moments with Jerry, 1 where they meet for the first time and Jerry says “Make yourself at home!” So Kramer proceeds to take that literally (as I’ve done when my friends have told me that!)

-But being committed to the gospel (as we are!) means that it’s not only friends we’re supposed to be welcoming towards, the gospel means that we’re also supposed to be welcoming towards our enemies.

Matt. 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

-This goes COMPLETELY contrary to our normal human thinking. That’s what Jesus is saying here. “You have heard it said” = the normal human reaction to our enemies, but Jesus gives us a better way, the way of welcoming.

-Gospel Comes with a Housekey

-This may mean being inconvenienced, this may mean our church ends up with a lot of broken people who need grace, but guess what, that’s true of all of us! All of us need to aim to not please ourselves, but instead please God. Remember Paul talks about pleasing our neighbors in this text, do you remember who Jesus said is our neighbors? 

-In fact, because Christ didn’t come to please himself, we who are walking in the new life found only in Him are now welcomed to His table. 

-Those who were far off, those who were His enemies have now been made friends, and more than friends, His family! He’s built a bigger table to accommodate all of us, and now one of the ways we carry on the great commission is by welcoming people to our tables. 

-Been thinking a lot lately about Christians needing to be “table people.” We need to welcome people to our tables so that we can ultimately welcome them to the ultimate table to the Lord.

-R. Kent Hughes: “Whenever we crush the bread of Communion between our teeth and swallow the cup of his blood we cannot escape the fact that he did not please himself.”

-Think about the importance of tables in the Bible: how were Adam & Eve tempted? Eating. What event signified the Passover/preservation of God’s people in Egypt? Eating. What did Jesus command on His last night? Take & eat. What will we do when Jesus comes back? Eat!