Foolish Generosity – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY (1 Tim. 6:6-19)

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

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

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

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

  1. What is a “tithe”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How do you measure your growth in godliness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-This leads us to the last question:

  • Where is your treasure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY (2 Tim. 3:14-4:4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-“All Scripture is God-breathed”

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

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

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

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

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

Ex. 31:18 – God literally writes things

Jeremiah 1:1-2 – God speaks to people

John 14:26 – Spirit assisted memories 

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

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

-What is considered “Scripture”?

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

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

-What about the Apocrypha (RCC)?

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

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

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

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

  • The Bible is Truthful (John 17:17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-But notice where Paul also goes after this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Makes Us…

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

1 John 1:1-4

-What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. Christmas Makes Us Remember (1, 3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Christmas Makes Us Proclaim (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Christmas Makes Us Relational (3b)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Christmas Makes Us Joyful (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:17-33 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

READ/PRAY (pg. 569)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Address one another (19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Merriman Webster: a song of praise to God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And over all of this is:

  • Give thanks always (20)

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

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

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

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

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

  • Submit to one another (21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Why? (23)

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

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

  • How? (24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Husbands: Love Your Wives

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

And gave himself up for her

  1. Sacrificial Love (25)

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

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

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

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

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

-Husbands: how are you sacrificing for your wives? 

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

  • Sanctifying Love (26-27)

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

When Sinners Say “I Do” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Self-love (28-30)

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

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

  • The mystery of marriage (31-33)

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

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

Love & Respect

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

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

-We need to extend grace to each other. 

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

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

Ephesians 4:1-16 – 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.

-Played basketball in HS, remains my favorite sport (go Warriors!), yet there was something that still bothers me about the “team” aspect of it. All had to wear the same color shoes, couldn’t do headbands or arm bands, couldn’t grow facial hair, had to look as similar as we could, even wearing similar outfits on game day.

-All that disappeared as soon as practice started. 15 guys made the squad, only 5 guys play. For every 5 man drill, guess the breakup of the teams! The cherry on top was whoever won didn’t have to run suicides, so guess who just despised the starting 5 – everyone else! Anytime I’m with my basketball friends from high school and this comes up I can feel myself starting to get worked up again, I’ve mostly worked through it by now

-It’s one thing to have these external standards of conformity that we tend to view as unity. They look alike, they must therefore think and act alike. It’s a completely different ball game (pun intended) to actually be a unified people, despite the differences about us. Look around, we are not the same! Yet we’ve seen through the book of Ephesians these truths that we’re one people. So how can that work despite all our differences? 

READ/PRAY

  1. Unity Means We’re the Same (1-6)

-Paul continues all the thoughts he’s been building up until this point with “therefore” 

-One of the easiest ways to study the Bible is to trace the flow of thought. When you see a “therefore” in the text ask what it’s there for. It’s those silly little tricks like that that will help you better study the Bible!

-Paul’s been continually building on a single flow of thought through this book: apart from Christ Jew & Gentile (really everyone) are divided, once they’re brought from death into life now they’re a new people who can’t be divided. Last week I said the prayer served as the hinge point to transition from the theological exposition to the implementation of those beliefs (indicative to the imperative)

-A good way of summarizing what the implication of those beliefs are is vs. 1 “walk worthily” Remember, I shared back in Eph. 2, walk refers to your whole way of life. What do you think it means to walk worthily? Up until this point, what kinds of things has Paul said?

-“Love toward all the saints” (1:15) “Might reconcile us both to God in one body” (2:16) The church is where the manifold wisdom of God is seen (3:10)

-Unity in the church (explicit in vs. 3)

-It’s also important to note that this unity, this transformed way of living isn’t optional, because Paul goes on “of the calling to which you have been called.” God has called us to live our lives in such a way that it is worthy of Him. Paul has already said this earlier in 2:10 “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” How are you doing at this task of living out good works that are worthy of God? 

-Paul doesn’t just stop there though, and even my asking of that question should make you ask the next question: what does that look like, in practice? I’m glad you asked! Here’s a summary: 2-3

-Humility wasn’t held up as a virtue in the 1st century. It was seen as unbecoming of a man, unless it was a demonstration of someone’s lower class. It would be the same today as someone encouraging you to be prideful. How would you receive that? Then along comes Jesus who flips the world upside down. Matt. 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When Paul tells us to be lowly/humble he’s telling us to be like Jesus! 

-Not just humility, gentleness too! What a counter-cultural idea today. I preached a whole sermon on this idea last fall from Phil. 4:5 “Let your gentleness be known to everyone.” Are you known as a gentle person in your responses, or are you known as an angry person? Have you ever felt yourself getting worked up in a conversation, only the have the temperature drop immediately by someone’s gentle response? Prov. 15:1 “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” If all of us pursued gentleness first in our responses to each other, we wouldn’t even need some of the other reminders in this text!

-But almost as if to remind us that this task really is impossible in our own efforts, he adds patience! I remember joking with people that you need to be careful when you ask for patience, because God will provide the training grounds in short order! There have been seasons in my life where this idea has been pressed on me (I tend to get busy and keep pushing). I had one of those seasons in seminary where I would intentionally get in the longest line in the grocery store (I prefer self-checkout), I was commuting to seminary straight through the heart of Denver (mountains means there’s only 1 way) and would intentionally stay in the right lane (anyone that’s commuted knows how painful that is!). As I’ve shared before, I’m still not a patient person, but I’ve seen God continuing to beat some of that impatience out of me!

-Then, once you’ve got those first 3 down perfectly, you can do the next one easily: bear with one another. If only he stopped there! IN LOVE! We saw this idea last week in 3:17 “rooted and grounded in love.” It starts back there as a prayer, but then finds it’s necessary implication here. There’s a tendency among all of us to look down at other people who aren’t gifted the same way as us. I remember as I was growing up being baffled by people who weren’t musical, because it came so easily to me! Or having conversations with people who view themselves are more mature than they actually are, and then looking down on other people for not being at their level. Dear friends, the more mature we get, the lower the level we’ll be willing to go to “bear with each other.” 

-And Paul continues: “eager to maintain”, others: “Making every effort” What are you willing to do for us to stay united together? The two most important words in the English language: I’m sorry. This unity isn’t optional, it’s not a nice tag on, it’s a command. Jesus says this when he prays for us in John 17“that they may be one.” Yet how quickly have you seen people leave a church for a perceived slight, instead of making every effort to keep unity and peace?

-There’s a lot more that could be said about these first 3 verses, but we need to keep going! Paul continues to ground these traits in the same idea that he had been emphasizing in the first 3 chapters, look at this long list of ones: body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God. We don’t get to determine who is a part of this body, God does. Just like you don’t get to choose the family you’re born to, God does. 

-Despite the reality that we are now a part of the same body, this doesn’t mean we’re all clones. Think of the Star Wars prequels (which, let’s be honest, were still largely better than the ones Disney made where they just copied everything from the originals!) This is a bit of a spoiler alert, but it’s kind of given away in the title: The Clone Wars. Bad guys have created an army of clones to fight their battle, everyone is exactly the same. That’s not how it works with God! We saw a hint of this 2 weeks ago in 2:10 “through the church the manifold (multifaceted) wisdom of God might be made known” So the way we demonstrate our unity seems counterintuitive: by using our differences.

  • Unity Means We’re Different (7-12)

-Vs. 7 Paul is saying when we’re brought from death to life, the Spirit gives us grace (a gift) that comes from Christ.

-Paul uses a quote from Psalm 68 next, which I’ll talk about more in sermon scraps tomorrow since there’s some debate about what Paul means here, so consider this the preview! This quote comes up as a way for Paul to talk about how Jesus fills us with His gifts. The means by which He fills all things is by His body (the church) using these gifts together.

-In order to fill all things, God provides specific order and structure to his church. That’s where, in vs. 11 he describes the various church offices as: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Let’s take a look at each of these offices.

-Apostles. Literally translated it means messenger, used by God to explain and bring God’s good news of salvation found in Christ (the gospel)

-prophets: at times predicted future things that would happen, usually would explain what the gospel meant and how to be obedient to God’s will

-Evangelist: share the gospel with any and everyone, some people are uniquely gifted at this! I knew someone who was unbelievably gifted at this, who onetime stopped by a shoe store between meetings and led the salesperson to Christ!

-Some debate on this last one, whether it’s 1 or 2 offices. There is a different conjunction between these two offices. All the previous are “the,” this one is “and.” Some have even translated this as “teaching shepherds.” Most people argue that this 2 separate offices (all pastors teach, not all teachers are pastors) Explain how “pastor” and “shepherd” connect 

-But these specific offices don’t exist for themselves. Instead, these specific offices are given from God for 1 purpose: vs. 12. So often we look to people with charismatic personalities, or leadership abilities when God tells us that unless they’re equipping the saints, they’re failing at their job. 

-Brothers and sisters let me be as explicit as I can be: if I as your pastor, if we as your staff fail at equipping this body, you need to call into question whether or not we’re doing our job. In a little bit, we’ll get to what equipping looks like, but I feel like there’s profound misunderstanding of what those who are called to ministry are supposed to do. 

-Story of Jake with small groups being asked to pray.

-Equipping the saints for the work of “service” 3:7 “I was made a minister/ servant” Friends, we are all called to serve one another. We don’t get the option to tap out of that service. Since we’re all part of the body, we all need to do our part! If we’re not doing our part, we won’t build up the body of Christ.

-One thing to talk about in relation to this is the competition game we all play. We get upset that we’re not gifted the same way as someone else, or even start to look down on someone else who is wired differently from you (like I did with music!). But that’s the opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing here!

-AIO story of Mr Foot, Ms Lips

-“Since Christ is the giver of the spiritual gifts and spiritual functions, there is no place for human pride, as if the gifts were self-generated or in some way earned. Similarly there is no place for envy since Christ has gifted all and that in various and different ways.” (John Vooys)

-Yet even these various services have an expiration date to them:

  • Unity Means We Grow Up (13-16)

-The word “until” means there comes a time where the body of Christ won’t need to be built up anymore. However, as long as we’re on this side of eternity that moment won’t arrive! This also is meant to comfort us, because this means it will happen! 

-3 things about this maturity: communal, unity, the standard we’re aiming for

-Communal: “we all” We’re only as strong as our weakest link, which means we all need to be pouring into each other to grow into maturity. This is yet another reminder that we can’t just look down at other people who aren’t wired the same way, don’t have the same training or experiences, and instead we’re urged to bring them along with us (1 Cor. 11:1 “imitate me as I imitate Christ”) But this also should remind us that we all individually need to ensure we’re maturing, not for ourselves, but for the sake of those around us. Individually we all need to grow, so that communally our body can continue to grow. 

-Unity “unity of the faith” Our growth/ maturation is meant to lead us to unity, so why does it seem like those who claim to be the most mature are the most willing to separate? Or even a more intense question, if God has called us to unity, why are there so many denominations around the world? A really quick answer: unity does not mean uniformity. Since God is so great, He cannot be completely understood by 1 person or group of people, so each denomination emphasizes certain characteristics of God better than others. Second, don’t discount the work of sin, even in the lives of believers. It never fails to surprise me the reasons people will use as an excuse to leave a church, without being faithful to what Scripture has called and commanded in our lives. Friends, let me plead with you: don’t let sin have a hold in your life, don’t be easily offendable, and be quick to seek reconciliation. That’s a marker of maturity! Christians shouldn’t be a part of cancel culture, we’re called to be a part of reconciliation culture!

-One brief note on this unity, it comes through the knowledge of the Son of God. You’re not going to mature without growing in knowledge of Jesus, that’s impossible. And where/ how has Jesus revealed Himself to us? Through His Word. This means growing in maturity is growing in understanding of His Word, together.

-The standard we’re aiming for: “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Scholar FF Bruce helpfully summarizes this idea: “The glorified Christ provides the standard at which his people are to aim: the corporate Christ cannot be content to fall short of the perfection of the personal Christ.” We’re supposed to represent Christ fully. No excuses, no other options. I had a prof. in seminary who asked why we often miss this idea. We have the same Spirit in us that raised Jesus Christ, we have access to the same power that Jesus did, why do we tend to be unaware of that reality, or forget to pray that that power would be demonstrated in our lives?

-I sometimes wonder if we’re too quick to jump to “that’s impossible.” Think of what Jesus commanded in Matt. 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s the standard! That’s the definition of maturity, which means until Jesus comes back, we still have work to do. 

-This 3-fold aspect to maturity all combines together to land us in vs. 14 “so that” the maturity aims for…”no longer children” a natural byproduct of “mature manhood” in 13

-“Tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about” If or when we are not mature, we are susceptible to following false teaching. 

-Paul specifically mentions 3 things that lead people astray: doctrine (what about doctrine that doesn’t make sense or need emphasizes the wrong things “pisseth against the wall”), human cunning (People tend to be far too clever with their biblical studies, making weird connections that don’t need to be there. I had a member at one church who claimed to know the day Jesus was coming back from numerology and astrology), craftiness in deceitful schemes (good description of Mormons or JWs, or I would even argue people who are legalists). 

-Instead of being children who are repeatedly led astray, what does Paul say we should do? “speak the truth in love.” Friends, this is so hard to do! It’s easy to speak the truth, it’s nearly impossible to do it “in love,” especially over matters of doctrine, of beliefs that are essential to the faith. Yet how do we live in an understanding way with people who are at different stages of maturity in their walk with the Lord? John Stott understood this tension well: (long quote, but worthwhile)

-“Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God’s revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight. Others make the opposite mistake. They are determined at all costs to maintain and exhibit brotherly love, but in order to do so are prepared even to sacrifice the central truths of revelation. Both these tendencies are unbalanced and unbiblical. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. The apostle calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is himself ‘the Spirit of truth’, and his firstfruit is ‘love’. There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity.”

-Speaking the truth in love is the way God uses to help the church grow up into Him. He is the one who is joining and holding the various members together, but then all those individual members are called to work properly together. Do you see the interplay between the individual and the body here? Overemphasizing one at the expense of the other will lead to disfunction and unhealth. Another commentary helpful summarized this idea:

-“The church is not an assembly of self-sufficient individuals convening to discuss their similar experiences. Instead, it is an organism that grows as each part performs the task allotted to it.” (Mars Hill thing)

-As the organism called the church continues to grow/ mature, it is building itself up in, what’s the last phrase? “In love” Paul is reminding us that the single mark of maturity in the believer is love. Do you want to see how well you’re doing at maturing as a disciple? Take stock of how you’re growing in your love. Do you want to see how well we’re growing as a church? Looks at how we’re growing in our love. Again, not like the world defines it, love as God defines it in 1 Cor. 13

-Paul reminds us here that we must by united in Christ to grow in maturity. This unity is demonstrated in our diverse gifts, which all of us need to use to grow into maturity under the headship of Christ, which is all done under the ethic of love.

Ephesians 3:14-21 – 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.

-Struggle following along or want to find a quote? Go to my blog, also can get sermon notes at the welcome table when you come in every week

-More content every week on youtube.com/southsuburbanchurch or anchor.fm/south-suburban

-My dad can beat up your dad. If your dad is all powerful, that’s true!

READ/PRAY

  1. To Be Strengthened (14-17a)

-Up until this point, Paul has been expounding on the reality of the 2 distinct people becoming 1 new people in the church, with Jesus as the head. These verses serve as the hinge from theology into practical living, so next week’s text starts with a reminder to “walk in a manner withy of the calling to which you have been called.” That means live a different life. One author stated: “The ethic of chapters 4–6 has its foundation in this prayer” (Snodgrass, NIVAC)

-Many of the NT letters have explicit theology in the first half, leading to explicit commands for new life in the second half. Through chpt. 3 has been this high theology, next week we’ll start seeing what that looks like in practice. This is a reminder for us that we need to begin with good theology, but then make sure we also take the next step of living out that good theology in our day to day lives. 

-“For this reason” repeat of 3:1. Have you ever gotten distracted during a time of prayer? “God I’m so grateful for the sacrifice of your one and only Son. Man I’m hungry, I wonder what food we have in the fridge” You’re in good company – Paul did the same! What is this reason? Because of the nearness of God to us today.

-To be fair to Paul, he didn’t get distracted because he was hungry!

-“Bow my knees”

-Humble posture. Luke 18:9-14.

-“Father”

-God as Father. Starting point matters, don’t start with human and then project onto God, start with God and then start looking for places where He is demonstrated. Theology proper

-Earthly fathers are guaranteed to fail, that’s why we need a perfect heavenly father. Just as I said before, when you hear God described as “Father” don’t just replace that idea with your earthly Father. However, because that’s our tendency, God holds the fathers accountable for their families (we’ll get to that in a couple weeks, but the idea starts here)

-Paul uses it to describe the: source, starting point, provider, nurturer of every family. Play on words (paterpatria

-JI Packer “You sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God.”

-Whether the world realizes this or not, everyone and everything traces their source back to God. First catechism answer we gave: God is the creator. He designed families. We have to demonstrate how God designed families to operate, and be a bigger family that welcomes in anyone who doesn’t have an earthly family. This is also where we see the devil continually attacking the family in our world today! We’ll get to some of that in Eph. 4-5

-“riches of his glory”

-Our Father created everything, why do we worry that God won’t provide what we need? Talking to someone this week about Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Or reading through some examples in Acts of the early church 4:34 “there was not a needy person among them.”

-God has given us everything we need spiritually, and He’s given us the church to help us with everything we need physically. Do we live that out? Do we thank God for the gifts of each other? Do we ask God for these riches? As we go through here, be thinking through James 4:2 “you do not have because you do not ask” What’s stopping you from asking? But Paul doesn’t stop here! This is to remind us that God owns everything! Yet Paul doesn’t ask for everything, similar to Solomon who was offered anything he wanted, yet asked for wisdom.

-“To be strengthened with power”

-Can’t do it yourself (BE strengthened) Do you ask for this as well? This isn’t just grimace and bear whatever comes, this is intentionally asking God to sustain you through whatever comes.

-Comes only through the Spirit. The Spirit is what strengthens us, equips us, sanctifies us, brings us to life when we were dead. And now that the Spirit is alive in us, what do we have to fear?

-“In your inner being”

-Not Gnosticism (we are embodied beings, can’t separate) So much of what we see taking place in our world today connects back to this issue, we are gendered all the way down, can’t get away from that. We’re trying to train our kids this way, where Calvin is happy to be a boy, Ellie is happy to be a girl. Our world (our flesh & the devil) will try to train them differently.

-Paul is connecting to a similar idea in 2 Cor. 4:16-18 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Where are you focusing your attention?

-You’ve seen this if you’ve watched an older saint who’s faithfully walking with the Lord. Their faith gets sweeter, their temperament kinder. The fact that we’re still here breathing means God’s not done with us! He’s still helping us smooth out our rough edges, doing whatever it takes to make us more like Him.

-Purpose: “so that Christ my dwell in your hearts”

-This is part of where we get the idea to “ask Jesus into our hearts” but in the Bible that’s a whole big life change, not just a 1-time decision (we’re not witches)

-Great illustration of this: 2 of the 3 houses Cara and I have owned has been slightly neglected when we moved in. Seriously, what was the deal with wallpaper and popcorn ceilings? Over time, you pull down wallpaper, replace floors, remodel bathrooms, maybe eventually add some space in to accommodate your growing family. That’s what God does in our lives. He moves in “through faith” at that very moment, but then he gets to work remodeling, and sometimes he’ll need to knock down walls you’ve built, and it’s painful, difficult, and inconvenient. 

-House projects never come about at the right time. Our fence blew over 6 months before Calvin was born, I was in school, Cara was in school, our church was moving to 2 campuses (I was in the build out for the 2nd campus), our dog chewed up our carpet the next month, Cara’s car got totaled in May, yet God worked in that time, church came around us.

-This illustration is where Paul (borrowing from Jesus) talk about building your foundation in the right place, which leads us right into the next section:

  • To Grasp Christ’s Love (17b-19)

-“Rooted and grounded in love”

-Rooted like plants, grounded like a solid foundation.

-Love is the new ethic of all believers, not optional, but also not as the world defines live, go read 1 Cor. 13 to see how God defines love, but also note that this isn’t option for a Christian. (hold on to that idea, because Paul brings it up again later)

-“May have strength” (connected back to 16) “to comprehend” what?

-Options: (1) the incredible power of God (2) multifaceted wisdom of God (3) the love of Christ (4) the mystery of God’s plan of salvation. Literally text: “To grasp what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ.”

-“Perhaps it is best to see all four of these dimensions as summing up this chapter. If this is the case they may be said to refer to a combination of the last three possibilities – the revealing of the mystery as a result of the love and wisdom of God. Paul is then asking for the multidimensional plan of God to work itself out in the church and the world, manifesting God’s wisdom and Christ’s love as one person after another is converted to Christ.” (Osborne, 102)

-“with the saints” You can’t begin to comprehend Christ’s love alone, you need the church, livestream isn’t enough, solo Christianity isn’t enough, your nuclear family isn’t enough (have been told “youth group isn’t biblical”)

-“To know the love of Christ”

-How do you know love? It’s not just a fleeting feeling. Marriage, for many of us, is the proving grounds of where we start to know this (starts with our parents first). You think you love someone the day you get married, but you it hasn’t really been tested yet. Takes time, work, walking through sickness and health, through richer or poorer, then you can start to “know love”

-Story of the twin 18 month old boys. Orphanage in Russia.

-“surpasses knowledge” never be able to understand it, but as time goes on you’ll know it more.

-“filled with the fullness of God” 2 primary aspects:

-become like Christ (the remodeling is toward a specific end)

-fullness of love (John 17:26 “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”)

-As I mentioned earlier, love is the new Christian ethic. However, this love cannot be divorced from truth! “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” Tim Keller

  • To Him Who Is Able (20-21)

-These great truths that Paul has been praying lead him to a doxology.

-Think of this reality: since God is all powerful, what can He not do? He can’t lie, betray Himself, can’t change. Because of that, God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think. Church, you literally can’t out-ask or out-think God. God has already done it all and thought it all, your thoughts are merely derivative of His.

-But let’s take this in context, because what has Paul been asking for? Strengthening in the inner being (by faith), and growing in understanding of who God is (making and maturing disciples).

-This isn’t “name it a claim it” (explain) This is asking God to work in us and make us more and more of what He has created us to be. I read a really interesting book on this idea this past week titled ‘Plugged In’ where it talks about how we can engage our culture today. One of the pieces that stood out to me is that we don’t have a choice on this, we’re in this culture whether we realize it or not, the question then becomes: what is the best way to be faithful in the place and culture God has called us? We need to start looking at things through a gospel lens. I mentioned this phrase in a sermon a couple weeks ago, but it’s where I got this term “Subversive fulfilment” from. The gospel is subversive fulfilment to all the stories the world tells, because the worlds stories can’t hold up to the reality of the world around us. Another way of thinking about this is we, as Christians, need to get better at telling the better story (abundantly more than all we ask or think)

-(Strange, 102) “The gospel…subverts in that it confronts, unpicks and overthrows the world’s stories and fulfils in that it connects and is shown to be worthy of our hopes and desires encouraging us to exchange our old stories for new ones which turn out to be the originals from which our false stories are smudged and ripped fakes” 

-Look for opportunities/ways to point out where the world is right (common grace) and then think and process through where their thinking falls short and use that as a connection point to the greatest story that is still being written! How often do we view our mighty God as too small to be working in the world around us? Whether we realize it or not, God is working in and through human history with an end, goal, and purpose in mind! That end is something we can only dream about right now. That is: as we grow more like Christ, we’ll be more filled with the fullness of God and be a better witness to the world around us of what we’re supposed to be like. This aim leads us to the last verse:

-Glorifying God, and he answers where, how, and when. Where: “In the church.” How: “in Christ Jesus”, and when: “throughout all generations, forever and ever.” 

-If you want everything Paul promises in this section, you must be a part of the church, which today is made visible in local churches. There’s a reason I keep emphasizing the church as vitally important today! It’s not an option add-on, it’s literally meant to be your lifeblood as a Christian today. If you’re not a part of a local church you won’t be strengthened, you won’t grasp Christ’s love, much less demonstrate Christ’s love to the world (which is how we glorify God today) The church is going to last forever, under the Lordship of Jesus, throughout all generations, and on into eternity.

-Since God is now our perfect heavenly father, we get to ask Him (pray!) to strengthen us and help us understand and then live out His love for us, and by doing that we bring glory to Him in the church and in His Son forever. And this prayer is meant to be a global prayer because there are saints across the world! So pray that God’s glory would be seen in the making and maturing of disciples of Jesus throughout the world, until He finally comes back and makes us completely holy.

Ephesians 2:11-22 – Sermon Manuscript

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

-What is your earliest memory? Memories are a fascinating thing, aren’t they? Some moments we can remember as clear as if we were there each time we bring it to mind, others are just completely gone until you find a picture or an old friend reminds you of a shared experience. Maybe like me, you’ve been carelessly walking through a mall when a smell hits you, and brings back a flood of memories! When I moved back here, the first time we took our kids to MOA when I caught a whif of Cinnabon! I hadn’t eaten or smelled that delicious concoction since I left MN, but it brought back all the times I’d gone there with friends growing up, and the worst part is now that I have the money to buy it, I know I shouldn’t!

-Memories are significant in all of our lives, there can be negative memories we have that get triggered regularly, or positive memories that get triggered by other things, almost like riding a bike! No matter how long it’s been, they can come back.

-God has also given us collective memories that we’re supposed to call to mind on a regular basis, this is why it’s so important for us to gather together on the Lord’s day, this is why something like NCC is so important: God has designed our minds to remember certain things. I’ve started describing the purpose of our gathering as: remember and remind. Remember who God is and what He’s done, and then intentionally remind each other to live in light of that truth.

READ/PRAY

  1. Remember What You Were (11-12)

-“Therefore” connects us back to last week. That was a whole 7 days ago, so what did we study last week? Before Christ, we were dead, but God, who is rich in mercy, brought us to life and prepared good works for all of us to walk in. Because of this new life that is given by God, Paul begins by encouraging the Gentile readers to look back.

-Need to talk about an issue that I hadn’t made much mention of before: the different ethnicities Paul addresses in Ephesus, and the ethnocentrism that has been a problem since the Fall. 

-It’s important to remember Paul’s history in regards to ethnicities: he was a Jew. And not just any Jew, Acts 22:3 summarizes his life: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” In Phil. 3 he refers to himself as blameless according to the law, he was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted anyone who was a follower of Jesus.

-Paul demonstrated the way the Jewish people had been trained to think: there was Jew, and then then there was everyone else. And unless you were a Jew you were useless. (you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much) One Jewish author actually wrote that Gentiles were created to keep the fires of hell burning. Just to be fair, everyone else also looked down on the Jews as weirdos, so it was a mutual hatred! 

-But the crazy thing about this new faith called “The Way” or “Christianity” is it was meant to transcend all ethnic and cultural boundaries, and transform everyone from the inside out. But how difficult is it to overcome historical tension that goes back generations? We struggle with tensions that go back a week! So how do you think people from different ethnic backgrounds (who had been taught to hate each other their whole lives) would feel when they walk into church on Sunday and sitting next to them is that person? How would they be able to sit together, much less actively love each other? It’s only through a radical, life altering transformation. Thankfully, as we saw last week, that transformation has taken place! Dead people can’t get along, if you’ve seen any zombie movie you’ve seen that! But now, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, these 2 diverse groups can begin to get along.

-“Remember” doesn’t Paul contradict this in Phil. 3:13?

-Remember last week: we are sinners by nature and by choice, all of us need to be saved from our sin, whether you’re trying to be the best person you can, or you’re stuck in a cycle of addiction and sin that you can’t escape. God’s grace and mercy are still for you. We all need to remember what Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:11, after running through a list of sins “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” Even in our remembering, we recognize that we’re no longer that way! 

-“You Gentiles, in the flesh” flesh is repeated again.

-The differences are only skin deep. Circumcision was meant to be the sign of the covenant since the time of Father Abraham. Every law-abiding Jew was circumcised (even Paul). On the flip side, the Gentiles mocked the Jews for the practice of circumcision, so it was a contentious issue! But how effective is an external surgery at dealing with the problem of sin?

-This is a temptation for all of us! We all want to find something that will allow us to be measured righteous without having to die to ourselves. If only it was as easy as cleaning up our lives! It takes a death, and then daily dying again and again to our own made up standards so that we can actually follow Christ.

-Paul is not afraid here to call out what they’re adding to the faith when he says “by hands.” Remember, circumcision was the sign that someone was in right standing before God (righteous) but by using that phrase, he’s equating circumcision to idolatry. How would Jews feel about an accusation of idolatry? 

-We’re all tempted to do the same thing today: add external things to our faith on a regular basis, oftentimes without even realizing it! Music, clothes, schooling, books (Harry Potter), political party. We, as humans, are really good at creating ways that we’re supposed to follow God. Then we ostracize anyone who doesn’t agree with every detail of trappings we’ve added to the faith, which ironically enough is meant to be the marker of those who aren’t following after God.

-Once again, please pay attention to what I’m NOT saying: not saying there aren’t things we should divide over, but we need to be careful what it is that we’re putting up as markers of true orthodoxy, and what is an application point from true theology. (more in that in tomorrow’s Sermon Scraps!)

“Separated, alienated, strangers, no hope, without God”

-These are the markers of someone who isn’t in God, not meant to be dividers of those who are in Christ. 

-No hope is an interesting thing to contemplate. Paul talks about this in 1 Thess. 4:13 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” One of the primary markers of Christians is that we are a hope filled people. The world may fall down around us, but we still have hope, not in ourselves, not in the world, but we have hope in God! This hope is based on what Paul goes on to talk about:

  • Remember What Jesus Does (13-18)

-BUT NOW- once again, Paul starts with the bad news before talking about the shift that come: “IN Christ Jesus” all the blessings that we have come about ONLY because we’re in Christ. Blessings, children, seated with Him, now the emphasis is on relational distance that has now been amended.

“Far off” vs. “brought near” 

-Muppets made the best illustration of this with Grover

-For those who are not in Christ, we’re eternally separated from God, a chasm that we cannot cross. Think of the first time you saw the ocean (assuming you’ve seen it) I remember feeling completely overwhelmed at the distance between me and the next chunk of land “if I get sucked out, I’m not getting back” That distance pails in comparison to the eternal gulf separating us from God. There’s no way to bridge that by our own efforts, it only comes about because Jesus bought us with his blood. We saw this in Eph. 1:7 “In him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”

-This idea of how we can be near to God is one of the major themes throughout Scripture. Talk with Micah – one way of putting the Bible together is the way we can be near God. Think of how Matthew structures his book, begins with Immanuel (God with us) last phrase of the great commission: behold I am with you always, to the end of the age. Genesis begins with God dwelling with His people, Revelation ends saying “The dwelling place of God is with man” this separation that we have today will no longer exist!

-He is our peace, because He is now alive in us (Gal. 2:20) Peace is the theme of this section, notice the end of vs. 15 repeats the peace idea, with 3 things this peace accomplishes: made us one, broken down the dividing wall, and abolishing the law of commandments.

-Made us one, beginning and end (14a16b). The things that we once used to divide are no longer allowed to divide those of us who are in Christ. Same as we saw at the beginning of this section, we’re no longer allowed to divide however we want, we need to divide where God divides: in Christ or not.

-Second: broken down the dividing wall. Some debate about what Paul means by this, as he goes on to talk about the means by which he has done this is “by abolishing the law of commandments” The law was what served as the distinction between the two groups, Jews obeyed, Gentiles didn’t! 

-But there was also a literal dividing wall in the temple where Gentiles were only allowed to a certain point before a sign would say “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.” How do you think this would train the Jews to treat the Gentiles? But Paul goes even further:

-“abolishing the law of commandments” Abolishing has a wide range of interpretive options: “make powerless” “use up” “to be released from” one translation went with “nullify” When Jesus came, he came to fulfill the law. He obeyed everything God had commanded perfectly, because no one else could. One of the primary reasons God gave the law was to reveal how unable we are to achieve the level of holiness He expects. And then when Jesus came he double down: it’s no longer a matter of mere external obedience, now it’s internal obedience, so even your thought life is required to be holy. 

-And those standards are the same across ethnic lines:

-“One new man” 

-Think of all the genocidal fights that have happened throughout history, that try to create different people. As we read through the OT we see Israel against the Canaanites, NT Romans vs. Jews, Sunni vs Shiite, Germans vs Jews, Russians vs Ukrainians, blacks vs whites. The normal state of human affairs is conflict! Most of us have lived in this weird time of not much conflict, but that is not the norm. However, true and lasting peace, without hostility can only come about because of the cross.

-“preached peace”

-Same message to both! Both those who were/are “near” and “far” need the same message from God: peace is possible! But not through the ways humans want to pursue peace. It’s not through a complete turnover of society, it’s not about pursuing power, it only comes about by pursuing God. This idea is something Paul is picking up from:

Isa. 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.””

-Salvation creates a level playing field for all of us: same spirit, same Father, we’re now a family. Family doesn’t always get along, but you can’t escape them! 

-Think of your extended family! Every family I know has someone that’s the weird one/odd ball doesn’t really fit in with everyone else, but you can’t change the fact that the same blood flows in your veins, same for those “in Christ!”

-Scene from ‘Remember the Titans’ “Alice, are you blind? Don’t you see the family resemblance? That’s my brother.” There’s no longer any room for comparison, or belittling others, we’re now a part of the same family, which is where Paul goes next.

  • Remember What You Now Are (19-22)

-What you were, but no longer! Apart from Christ, we are strangers and aliens to God, then once we’re in Christ we move to being strangers and aliens to the world! We no longer have the same identity markers or judge using worldly standards, because God’s standards are radically different. Yet at the same time, we have some things to learn from this, because 

-How was Israel to treat a stranger and alien? Sabbath was commanded for everyone, including the alien. One note, not alien like outer space, alien as in not a citizen. Even Lev. And Deut. Talk regularly about how God’s people are to treat aliens and sojourners. For example, they’re commanded to not harvest their field all the way to the edge, they’re commanded to leave grapes that fall when you’re harvesting for the poor and the sojourner. Similarly for us today, how should we treat the stranger and the alien, those different from us?

-I was reminded this week of one of my favorite books: The Rise of Christianity because the author died over the summer. Stark was a sociologist, and in the book studied the early church through a sociological lens, concluding that the reason the early church spread was their care for the poor and marginalized. Friends, we should be known for those who care for everyone, but especially the poor and marginalized (poor materially, spiritually, emotionally). This has been the marker of the church since Jesus commissioned us! It’s no coincidence that so many hospitals used to be named after saints (until they all got bought out), because Christians took care seriously! Even the word “hospital” was taken from “hospitality” that Christians showed to aliens and strangers. 

-This is a high bar, but the best part is we don’t need to do it alone, nor are we the first generation to be wrestling with these ideas. Look what we’re built on. We aren’t the foundation! Christianity in the big scheme of human history, doesn’t depend on us, because even if we were wiped out today, God has people following Him faithfully across the globe.

-There is a tendency to get myopic and overly fixated on right here and now instead of remembering our past and the reasons for our hope. This forces us to ask the question: where are you building the foundation of your life on? Because if you’re in Christ, He’s the cornerstone, and literally nothing can shake that foundation, not even hell itself! 

-We also need to note that it is: “being joined together” it’s not done, and it won’t be until Christ comes back. That means that as long as we have breath in our lungs on this side of eternity, we need to continue pursuing peace with God, and preaching peace to those who are near and those who are far.

-By doing this, God’s people grow into a “holy temple”, AKA the place where God’s presence dwells. This is the craziest part of salvation! God is no longer mediated through a law or an intricate sacrificial system, He now lives in those of us who are believers. The reality that God’s dwelling place is with humans is already happening, but we are often completely oblivious to it. Why don’t we often believe enough to pray “your kingdom come and your will be done,” and instead try to pursue these things through purely human efforts? It will never work! Instead, we need to die to those worldly ways, submit ourselves to God’s work in us through His Spirit, and become one new people. 

-Friends: what do you remember? We remember who we were before God saved us, we need to remember what Jesus did and does, and finally remember and remind each other each week how God has transformed us and made us a new people.

Ephesians 1:15-23 – 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.

-One of the jobs that has fallen to me simply because of my age since I was about 15 is the job of IT support. I’m part of that generation that grew up without a cell phone, so I remember the freedom and joy of not being available 24/7, but once those bad boys came out we were all in on them! I still remember the shift in my parents, we bought a computer in about 2002 and my mom made me wait until my dad was home to set it up. Basically from that point on, my dad wasn’t allowed to try to fix anything on the computer and I was called in as the expert! Because of the ability to work on computer stuff, it led to my first job out of college teaching new hire nurses how to use the charting software. The people coming in were from all sorts of backgrounds, especially in regards to computers. The teachers would swap stories about students, one came in grabbed a mouse and asked “What’s this?” Gonna be a long day! Through these conversations, you also learn to ask the 2 questions that solve approximately 90% of technology issues: did you turn it off and turn it back on? And Is it plugged in? I don’t know if you realize this, but technology requires some kind of power in order to work correctly, either a battery that recharges, or it just needs to stay plugged in 24/7. Doing THIS with a surge protector isn’t going to work! Just as a surge protector needs to be plugged in to an outlet to get power and work, we need to remain connected to God “In Christ” in order for us to work as we’re designed.

-Last week we saw Paul praise God for his sovereignty (power and authority) to bring everything to pass as He saw fit. This week we’ll see that Paul prays for that sovereignty (power and authority) to be made manifest in the lives of the Ephesians.

READ/PRAY

  1. Gratitude (15-16)

-Paul is continuing the idea that we studied last week. 

-Praise to God who, from eternity past, had planned to send Jesus to earth to provide salvation. That salvation is demonstrated by the seal of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, we are now “in Christ” therefore, Paul gives thanks.

-Just as last week was 1 long run-on sentence, so is this week!

-“Faith IN, love TOWARD”

-If we have faith in Jesus, it will manifest itself in love toward other believers. This isn’t optional! Bonhoeffer Life Together “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.” (30) In other words, this is already happening, but you get to decide if it is demonstrated in our body.

-This is one of the ways our culture today struggles to understand a common first century idea: none of us can exist in complete isolation, but that is especially true of anyone who is now “in Christ.” We saw this 2 years ago when we studied 1 Peter 2:10 “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.” God takes individuals and brings them into a family. Regardless of how healthy your biological family is, God has created and invited you into a new family that you can participate in – through faith.

-We saw this last week too, we are called individually, but we’re called into a new community. That idea will continue to develop further throughout this book, so keep it in mind!

-Jesus said something similar in John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So faith in the Jesus leads to and is evidenced by love toward other disciples of Jesus. You can’t be a disciple of Jesus and not love other believers. This is a good heart check for all of us to consider regularly! Is your faith being evidenced by your love, care, and concern for your brothers and sisters? Because the Ephesian church was demonstrating their love, Paul goes on to give thanks for them. 

-“Give thanks”

-Paul gives thanks in many of his letters, but this is the only one that contains both a note of praise and thanksgiving. I think this may be because of the long period of time Paul spent with them, as well as the close relationship he had. In Acts 20, it recounts the last encounter Paul would have with them, and it says of the elders of Ephesus “There was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again.”

-Paul has a lot of things he gives thanks for in his letters! Let’s look through them all and see what kind of themes emerge.

Rom. 1:8 “your faith is proclaimed.” This first assumes you have a faith worth proclaiming, but it also assumes you’re proclaiming your faith! Do you have a faith that is worth sharing with other people, or is it just a tack on?

1 Cor. 1:4 all of us who are now “In Christ” have God’s grace given to us in an overwhelming flood! Grace upon grace has been lavished upon us, as we saw last week! Do you give thanks to God for that grace?

Phil. 1:5 do you gives thanks for the ways we can be a part of a bigger movement in the EFCA, or for the variety of missionaries we support? This is why we’ve been bringing our missional partners in, it gives us specific things to pray for, and reminds us of the partnerships we do have! Go look at the wall!

Col. 1:4-5 almost the same as Eph. But then giving thanks for the gospel message! Do you give thanks for this word of truth that saves and sanctifies you and those around you? The gospel in and of itself is worth giving thanks for every single day you wake up!

2 Thess. 1:3 same as Eph, there is a theme here!

2 Tim. 1:4 this one stood out to me this week! We need each other! Because we’re embodied beings it’s not enough to just do church online, we need to be together to fill each other with joy. I know as people get sick, face surgeries, the isolation that comes from that isn’t healthy!

Philem. 4 same as Eph! Now, looking at that list, how do your prayers match up? Are you regularly giving thanks for these kinds of things that you see going on around you? What about giving thanks for other believers around the world? I think of Rom. 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Why is this so hard for us to do? We look at someone’s job promotion and complain that we keep getting passed over, we look at someone’s house and complain that ours is too small, we look at someone else’s kids and wish ours were better behaved. Ephesians is reminding that us that God is behind all of those things! God is going ahead of you, and then walking with you, no matter what else is going on in your life. The question is: is He enough for you, or are you going to continue looking to the world for your satisfaction and worth? Our standard is supposed to be Jesus, and when we look at that standard, all of us are off. Let’s see what specifically Paul goes on to ask in the lives of the Ephesians:

  • Paul’s Prayer (17-19)

-What does Paul pray for? 3 things: growth in knowledge, enlightened eyes of the heart, and understanding God’s great power. 

-First: “Growth in knowledge”

-The same spirit who serves as the seal of our redemption gives us wisdom and revelation. When we are saved, the Spirit begins working in our lives to reveal the truths of the Bible to us, and begin shaping and forming us into the image of Jesus. But this starts by growing in  wisdom and knowledge of Him! We require the Spirit to understand the things of God.

-I remember in college, a professor posed a question: can an unbeliever read and understand the Bible? At first glance it seems like an easy enough answer, right? Obviously, as long as the Bible is in a language you can read, there’s understanding that can come from it. But without your spiritual eyes opened, you’ll miss the way God has created the Bible to connect together and point to Him! We’ll get to that more clearly in the next section too.

-Carson “Do you feel you know God well enough? Surely no thoughtful Christian would want to answer such a question in the affirmative. Indeed, the more we get to know God, the more we want to know him better.” (172)

-Prince Caspian: Lucy is awoken to a someone calling her name As she is looking around for the source of the voice, she finds Aslan, and says to him, “Aslan, you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?” “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

-Are you growing in knowledge? Are you being intentional about continuing to study God through His Word in relationship with other believers who can help you grow in the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him? This growing in knowledge is supposed to be a communal project! This comes after the “love for all the saints.” Even study of the Bible is something that is great to do on your own, but it’s meant to be studied, and more importantly lived out and applied with others.

-“Enlighted eyes of the heart” We today talk of the heart as the center of our emotions. I had to explain to my kids last week how someone could be “in your heart” it’s a weird idea! In 1st century, this was more like the way we talk about our minds today. The heart was viewed as the very center of your being. Everything comes from the heart! 

-This is an implication of growing in the knowledge of Christ. We can’t have the eyes of our heart enlightened unless we’re growing in the knowledge of Him. But this also continues:

-“Know the hope to which he has called you” This idea, I think, runs completely contrary to the way our world is trying to force us to operate. As you look around the world, do any of you get the sense that there is hope? I’ve gotten into debates with a few people just this summer who argued that the world is just getting worse and worse. That’s a pessimistic look at the world, one without hope. Hope is used 4 times in Ephesians1:121:182:124:4.

-First we see that being hope filled people comes about only because we’re “in Christ” remember last week! Then we see that hope is connected to our call from God. Finally, we see what it looks like for people who have no hope, it’s descriptive of those who are separated from God. For those of us who are now “in Christ” which one should describe us? Once we’re saved, we suddenly have nothing to fear! And think of the guy who’s writing this letter: threatened to be killed “to live is Christ, to die is gain” shipwrecked, starved beaten “I have learned the secret to being content” This guy is so frustrating to his enemies! And so can we, if we, as we saw last week, keep our eyes on the right place instead of becoming bogged down and losing hope by looking at our immediate context. And the reality is we know the end of history. We should have complete hope in God! We need to have an eternal perspective, not a temporary one. Jesus has told us the purpose and direction everything is headed towards, which is meant to give us hope to persevere today. This means we need to ask the question: are you a hope-filled person? Are your prayers marked by hope, or by complaining about what’s going on in your life? And we realize this hope comes because of:

-“riches of his glorious inheritance” We need to know the hope, and this glorious inheritance. And the glorious inheritance is part of the reason we can have hope! We know what’s waiting for us! This comes about because of a couple things Paul talked about in the previous section. First is the reality of adoption. We were once enemies of God, but He has now brought us in, that leads to blessings being lavished on us, then it leads to an inheritance that is made manifest by the Spirit in us. But there’s another element to this inheritance, while we’ve been given every spiritual blessing from God, we are His glorious inheritance “IN the saints.” That doesn’t seem fair, which is exactly why we need the gospel! God’s plan from eternity past has been to give His people everything, by His losing everything. We’ve been given every blessing, He bore the penalty for our eternal rebellion. We rejoice in this reality because now, today, we have access to this glorious inheritance. It’s not only a future promise, it’s also a present reality. All the blessings Jesus had when He was on earth are available to us today. How often do we not ask? How often do we not trust? How often do we forget that we are now sons and daughters of the Most High God, with all the rights and privileges that come along with that? This is meant to be a reminder to us that all of this is only possible because of God’s supremacy (power and authority)

-God’s great power

-immeasurable greatness, power, great might, all toward those who believe.

-Remember, Ephesus was a center of magical/cultic religions. Had a giant temple to Artemis, as well as various inscriptions and incantations to other various gods. In Acts 19:19 “And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.” AKA 50,000 days of work. Today’s average worker in the US earns $216/day, meaning this would be $10.8 million. What’s fascinating to me is that people today are just as obsessed with other religious options. 

-A fascinating look at some of these changes is documented in a book called Strang Rites: New Religions for a Godless World. Not saying it’s something everyone should read, but it gives a fascinating look at what “religions” our world is following today, because whether people like to admit it or not, everyone believes in something. In this book, she traces what she dubs “remixed religion” where many people today will take bits and pieces from all sorts of places, throw them in a pot and claim that’s what they follow. “One of the biggest problems for secular culture [is that] you have to cobble together and make it yourself.” (31) Essentially, each person has become their own pastor/priest/god.

“These new institutional religions – each one, at its core, a religion of the self – risk creating an increasingly balkanized (divided) American culture: one in which our desire for personal authenticity and experiential fulfillment takes precedent over our willingness to build coherent ideological systems and functional, sustainable institutions. When we are all our own high priests, who is willing to kneel?” (34)

-Did you know that “there are more witches in the United States than Jehovah’s Witnesses” (117)? There are monthly witch subscription boxes you can buy, witch blogs and newsletters have continued to grow over the past decade, even Sephora, the makeup chain, in 2018 sold a “Starter Witch Kit” for only $42, then pulled it after a few weeks because they were accused of “cultural appropriation.”

-Church, this shouldn’t surprise us! There’s nothing new, the devil’s bag of tricks isn’t limitless, he’s just really good at repackaging and repurposing things. And when you have the hyper-individualism that is our cultural context, there’s no one to push for logical consistency or the ways these various beliefs compete with each other. We’ll see some more ways to pray for/about these ideas when we get to Eph. 6. But for now, Paul goes on to expound on the ways God’s power is made manifest through Christ. 

  • Power in Christ (20-23)

-This power was made manifest in 3 areas: resurrection, ascension, authority.

-First in the resurrection. Jesus’ death looked like the defeat of God’s plan, but then He didn’t stay dead, but rose from the grave 3 days later. Then he ascended into heaven to sit at God’s right hand, the most privileged place that is far above any other: power, dominion, rule, authority, or name. Essentially, anything that could be used to invoke good luck or charm. One 3rd century document listed the need to know a deities name to properly get your needs met.

-Next, Jesus ascended into heaven, signified by the reality that He now sits at God’s right hand. 

-Finally, this ascension means He has complete authority “ALL things are under his feet” so why should we be afraid? There is nothing that has been, is, or will be that could ever defeat Him. But notice how this authority is demonstrated today: the church.

-Brothers and sisters, we don’t need tarot cards, incantations, spells, or a starter witch kit, because we have each other, and together we demonstrate Jesus’ rule and reign over the whole world. We together contain the fullness of Jesus, we need the church to be the church. 

-You may have heard: I love Jesus but not the church. This isn’t to marginalize or minimize hurt by those who claim the name of Christ, the church is full of sinners, sinners are guaranteed to hurt you, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Until Christ returns, the church will continue to hurt people, fall short of what God has called us to be, yet by God’s grace still be used to demonstrate God’s rule and reign to the world. We need to live like we believe the hope of the gospel and the call God has placed in our lives. We need to daily be conformed into what God has called us to do and be, use these verses as a template for how to pray in light of God’s sovereignty. Church, we all the power we need to fight against the spiritual forces of darkness, and even to fight against the sin inside of us that would prevent us from loving our fellow believers. We can ask God to continue filling us, and letting his power be at work in us to be all that He has called us to be. 

-And do you know one of the ways we fight against the forces of darkness? We commit ourselves to the church. We unite ourselves to others who aren’t exactly like us, but are all striving to become more and more like Jesus. As I quoted from Bonhoeffer earlier, it’s already taking place around us, but you can now participate in that brotherhood. One of the ways Jesus told us to participate is through the act of communion. Just as the cross doesn’t make sense as the source of redemption, communion doesn’t make sense to the world! Early Christians were accused of being cannibals! Yet what we’ll ingest into our bodies is a visible reminder of the power available to us because of the broken body and shed blood of the Messiah. As Paul encourages in 1 Cor. 11 please examine yourselves before you take, think through the things Paul prayed for today and pray them to God in preparation for us celebrating together, and uniting ourselves together. If you are not yet a believer, please don’t take the elements, but instead let me encourage you to take up the cause of Christ, put your faith in Him so that you can have a new sense of hope in the gospel message.

Ephesians 1:1-15 – 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.

-If you didn’t know, I love to read, I have for years! I used to sneak books into my bed and stay up late just trying to get through as many books as I could. My favorite books when I was in elementary school were mysteries. Read every Hardy Boys, The Happy Hollisters, slowly moved my way up to reading all of the Sherlock Holmes books, and Father Brown by GK Chesterton (also a BBC series that was wonderful). I think part of the reason mysteries are always an enjoyable read is they provide clear explanations for events, and we like certainty! 

-Think about being a kid, the most frustrating thing to be told is “because I said so!” and we all swear we won’t say it to our kids, and then we have kids! We all want to know with certainty how things work. We invest in the stock market because we know it’s going to work. We go to our jobs because we know we’re going to be paid. But what about things you don’t completely understand? 

-Did you know we understand and have studied more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the ocean? We have found creatures thought to be extinct for millions of years in fishing expeditions. Even the new James Webb space telescope is revealing things that scientists are now being forced to change their thoughts about how the known world came into existence.

-We love certainty about things, but we worship a God that we can’t fully understand. Since we’ve been taught to figure out how everything works (including unsolvable mysteries) we tend to approach God the same way. We’re going to spend some time today plumbing the depths of God’s mysterious plan from all eternity past. And we’ll walk out of here reminded that when we come to something we can’t understand, it’s our cue to fall on our face and worship.

READ/PRAY

  1. Introduction (1-2)

-Start right out of the gate listing who wrote this letter.  Now there has been some debate in the past 2 centuries about whether or not Paul actually wrote it (some unique words compared to his other letters, and a quarter of it is nearly verbatim re-recorded in Colossians). I don’t find those arguments convincing (and neither should you!), because wouldn’t you use similar language on a regular basis, and at the same time, don’t you try to accommodate your message to the people you’re talking to? Not saying you change the truth, but you do use different language based on the group.

-Apostle. 1st century, limited to those who had seen the risen Christ. Literally refers to a messenger, in the NT generally refers to someone sent by God to spread the gospel message. Who is he an apostle/messenger of?

-Jesus Christ. The whole Bible is about God’s revelation through Christ Jesus, Paul in this letter explains the reality of Christ Jesus being the focus of our entire lives. Keep that theme in mind throughout the next 3 months through this book!

-“Will of God.” Paul didn’t come up with this call or commission from his own desire or gifting, this comes straight from God. This theme will also carry throughout the book, God’s will from eternity past has been to unity a people to Himself for His glory. God’s sovereignty (power and authority) over everything in creation is where Paul begins this letter and sets the stage for the implications of that in the rest of the letter.

-“Saints” or lit. “holy ones” Often when we read something like this we think of those who have been “sainted” by RCC, but throughout the NT anyone who is “In Christ” are saints! 

-“in Ephesus” At the time, 3rd biggest city in the Roman Empire, strategically placed as the intersection of 4 main roads, and a port city. This means it was incredibly wealthy and a center of commerce and influence in the rest of the world. A couple notes about it.

-Had a huge temple, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, to Artemis/Diana, was 4 times the size of the Parthenon! While Diana was the most prevalent, she wasn’t the only god worshipped. Lots of magic and cultic ideas pervaded Ephesus. Not dissimilar to a major city today! Think of a New York or Hong Kong.

-Also knows as the “mother of Asia” as Ephesus served as the entry point to the rest of the continent. Most scholars believe this was meant to serve as a circular letter, since Ephesus was the entry point, word would travel from there to the rest of Asia. 

-Typical Pauline greeting: grace (Greek) peace (Jewish).

  • Chosen by the Father (3-6)

-These verses (3-14) are the longest run-on sentence we’ve found in any ancient Greek literature. This means all these verses are connected together, for Paul there’s no distinction in how all 3 persons of the Godhead are involved in salvation. 

-“Blessed be.” This is a Jewish custom called berekah, Hebrew word for blessed be. In the first century, Jews had 18 different “blessed be’s” they would recite throughout the day.

-Notice the repetition here: blessed be God, blessed us, with spiritual blessings. We bless God, because He first blessed us with specific blessings. Even the worship and praise of God originates with Him. We can’t bless God unless He first blesses us, which has happened through Jesus. 

-And how many spiritual blessings? Every single one. I think we are at times tempted to view God like Scrooge from “A Christmas Story,” counting every penny and ensuring no one gets too much. Instead, the picture we’re seeing here is of a God who’s throwing out blessing like it’s running out of style! Or like Oprah, you get a blessing, you get a blessing, blessings for everyone! There is nothing held back, nothing kept in reserves, God is all in on his blessings. But where are these blessings? I look at my life and I don’t always feel like it’s overflowing with blessings, still sickness, people dying, wars.

-“Heavenly places” The first century readers would have understood there’s more to the world than we can see with our 2 eyes. There’s a greater reality taking place around us all the time that we are often oblivious to.

-Think of it like the radio waves. Everywhere we walk there are radio waves that are passing through us, but we can’t hear them. But if we got a radio and turned it on, then tuned it to a specific frequency we would be able to listen to music, talk radio, etc. Is that too dated of a reference now? Cell phones! 

-How do we tune to the right station, or make sure our cell phone is connected to the right network? Spiritually, we need to be “in Christ.” That theme is the connective tissue throughout this section. Paul repeats “In him/Christ” 11 times in these first 14 verses! “The ley for understanding this letter is recognizing that all believers have a new identity in Christ.” (ECNT, 79)

-When did this being “In Christ” begin? When God chose us “before the foundation of the world.”

-From eternity past, God had a perfect plan that included the salvation of His people. But notice as well that there is a point to this choosing: to be holy and blameless before Him. Do not get that order reversed! God didn’t choose us because we were holy and blameless, or because of anything we’d done that merited His favor, we were chosen only because of His grace. Then because of that grace we can now be holy and blameless before Him.

-This isn’t a new reality, this has been God’s plan literally forever. That’s why we seen glimpses of this even in the OT. Abraham wasn’t chosen because he was richer, smarter or better, the nation of Israel wasn’t chosen because of anything they did (in fact God said they were the smallest and weakest nation!) it’s only because of God’s love and mercy that anyone is chosen.

-Next, we see a word that has caused all sorts of discussions over the past 2 millennia: predestination! I’ve even been told from some people that predestination is unbiblical! Not sure what Bible they were reading, but it wasn’t this one! Predestination is a wonderfully biblical and comforting doctrine! But before you jump to any conclusions on this, let’s look at the what the Bible actually says about it. 

-First, what are last 2 words of vs. 4? “In love.” This predestination isn’t (as I’ve heard some people describe) God playing a cosmic game of duck, duck, grey duck where people are randomly condemned to hell for eternity. Instead, since God is love (1 John 4:8) everything He does is an act of love. We need to tremble with fear as we come into discissions about God because we need to admit we’ll never fully comprehend Him (if we could, He wouldn’t be a God worth worshipping). 

-AW Tozer Knowledge of the Holy If we get God wrong, we’ll be conforming our lives to the wrong standard and aiming in the completely wrong direction. 

-Additionally, because we’re not God, we have a “mystery” card to play! But don’t play it too soon, wrestle with everything God has said and revealed, but then when you come the point of mystery, fall on your face and worship Him because “his ways are not your ways, and His thoughts are not your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8-9)

-Predestination (προορίζω) lit. translated “to foreordain or predestine.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theologydefines it as ““God’s predetermination of persons to a specific end…an aspect of God’s rule over all that he created and sustains.” (693) It’s only used 6 times in the NT, let’s look at all of them to see what it means.

Acts 4:27-28

Prayer of the believers asking for boldness to continue preaching. Begins “Sovereign Lord…” quotes Psalm 2, then goes here. This tells us that even worldly events happen according to God’s predetermination.

Romans 8:28-30 The Golden Chain of salvation!

-In salvation, we are predestined individually, notice the purpose to which we are predestined (to be conformed, aka “In Christ”). Predestination is just 1 part of the chain that culminates in glorification. This passage tells us that salvation comes about because of God’s predetermination.

1 Cor 2:7

-Paul here is talking about Christ being the power and wisdom of God, which according to worldly standards is foolish. Here we see that salvation through the cross was God’s plan before history was written. The only other passage is Eph. 1 where it occurs twice.

What we see throughout Scripture is 2 things: 1 – God is completely sovereign, in control of everything that happens. 2 – humans are completely responsible for their actions. How does this work in God’s economy? Mystery! We must only go as far as the Bible explicitly speaks, and no further! 

-I think this is most evidenced in: Acts 13:48. Somehow and some way humans are responsible for their belief, and God is sovereignly orchestrating all things. Think of the end of Joseph’s story: Genesis 50 – You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

-All that to say, when we read “predestined” in our Bibles, it’s meant to comfort us. It’s supposed to be a pillow, not a sledge hammer. Since God is in control we can actually sleep at night! Not worry and fret about whether or not we’re “predestined.”

-Charles Spurgeon was asked how to reconcile God’s sovereignty and human’s responsibility, and he replied, “I never reconcile two friends.” Another pastor was asked about this “problem” and he replied, “That’s not my problem. That’s God’s problem. And for God, it’s not a problem.”

-Where does predestination lead? “To adoption as sons”

-Adoption is a beautiful reality throughout the Bible. It means we have all the rights and privileges of being in God’s family. Maybe you have friends who have adopted, they see a cute little baby who needs a home and brings them in. However, spiritual adoption isn’t quite like that, because God adopts us when we’re enemies who are opposed to Him. There’s nothing cute or lovely about us, we’re literally at war with Him, but in spite of that God still chooses us.

-Sons doesn’t mean women are left out. But we need to understand the context this is written in. In the 1st century women weren’t included in a family inheritance. I’m not saying that’s right, that was just what happened! Throughout the NT, when adoption or an inheritance comes up it will say something like this “as sons” which would have been revolutionary, since it included men and women! In God’s family, we’re all considered “sons” or worthy or receiving the family inheritance.

-And all of this is done according to “His will” and leads to his glory. Certainly more that could be said, but we’ve got more to cover! In the next section Paul shows us how we saved.

  • Redeemed by the Son (7-12)

-“In Him” again, we have redemption. 

-Comes “through His blood”, leads to “forgiveness,” comes about because of “the riches of his grace.” 

-This redemption is meant to remind the readers of the redemption that God had done for his people historically. Just as God had redeemed his people from slavery in Egypt, today God has redeemed his people from the slavery to sin. But redemption only comes about if we are “In Christ” if his blood has covered us and paid the penalty for our sin. This is known as grace, which has been:

-“lavished upon us.” (8) Once again, God isn’t stingy! We see this in John 1 through God we receive “grace upon grace” God starts with grace and ends with grace, everything we have is a gift of God’s grace to us.

-This grace is how God has revealed to us the “mystery of his will.” 

-Magic and the occult was a big part of the Ephesian culture. Trying to understand the mysteries of the gods, how to appease them, how to use them to get what you wanted and need from them when you needed it, never quite knowing if you were in the right place or doing the right thing. Yet when you’re “in Christ” you’re now a part of that mystery, which is no longer a mystery! God’s mysterious plan has already taken place! That’s part of the joy of living on this side of the cross! We can look back and see how it is that God accomplished his eternal plan by sending His one and only Son to bear the penalty for the sins of the world, and “unite all things in Him.” That is to have Jesus be the ultimate King over any other supposed ruler or king that people were tempted to worship.

-Notice that there is nothing left out from His rule: heaven and earth. Another reminder that what we taste, see, smell isn’t all there is.

-“In Him” we also have an inheritance! All of us, sons and daughters, because we’re in Christ no one is left out of this blessing, this grace upon grace where God gives us everything He has created.

-Again, there’s the predestination that serves to remind us that God is in control, so we don’t need to be afraid. To God, nothing is a mystery! And finally, we see the aim of Jesus’ redemption: “to the praise of His glory.” We are saved to bring honor and glory to God. Everything in salvation is meant to lead us to respond to God with praise, or blessing. We see this throughout the Psalms (including the one we read as the call to worship), “Bless the Lord”

-I titled this message “Trinitarian worship” We’ve seen that we should bless God the Father because He chose us before anything was created, He accomplished this choosing through the Son’s redemption, and we know this is guaranteed to happen because we have been sealed by the Spirit.

  • Sealed by the Sprit (13-14)

-Are you starting to see the theme I mentioned earlier? “In him.” WHEN you heard…and believed. The exact moment when you respond to the truth of the gospel message and believe “in him,” you are given the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead living in you.

-Because God now lives within us “in Christ,” Jesus even said during His earthly ministry that it was better for Him to leave so that we could have the Spirit in us. In salvation, the Spirit serves as the “seal” or “guarantee” During the NT, a seal was used to make ownership. Animals would be “sealed” (think of brand on some cattle you may have seen today) It served as an identification, so if someone else tried to come take it they wouldn’t be able to! The Holy Spirit in us identifies us as God’s chosen ones.

-This seal serves as the starting point, the taste, of everything that will be fully realized when Jesus finally comes back. We haven’t yet completely acquired everything God has promised, we see glimpses of it, but it’s not quite there yet. John Stott compares this to a down payment on a house. You scrimp and save for years to get that down payment, which then serves as the guarantee that you’re invested, but it’s also the first payment of the loan. Similarly, the Holy Spirit serves as the down payment of our future inheritance.

-“to the praise of His glory.” All of life is meant to be lived as worship to God. Plumbing the depths of God’s eternal plan is worthless unless it leads to greater appreciation and worship of God, who predetermined from eternity past to choose in, redeem us, and seal us by His Spirit. Yet that doesn’t leave us off the hook for the choices we make. Every person has a choice to make: when will you bow the knee to Christ as the Savior and King of the universe? Will it be before you die, when that means you’ll be sealed by the Spirit and be adopted into God’s family, or will it be after you die when it will be too late, and you’ll be separated from God forever? 

-In Christ:

-Each of us must make the decision about whether or not we will be in Christ. Don’t let this opportunity pass by you! Realize that God’s mysterious plan has been revealed, and you can be a part of it! You don’t have to know the mystery, you have the trust in the God to whom nothing is a mystery.

Psalm 18 – Sermon Manuscript

-I think a fascinating thing to study is music, especially church music. Why were songs written the way they were, what was the inspiration for the words, who wrote them? One theme in songs (and you can trace it in the Bible as well) is God being our rock! We sang the refrain from one song about that this morning “On Christ the solid rock I stand” but that’s not the one! One of the most well-known songs in church history is “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.” Written by Augustus Toplady in 1776, the song was inspired by one of his travels. He got caught in a heavy storm and found shelter in the cleft of a rock, inspiring Him to pen the now well-known words to the hymn: “rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” This song deals with the exact same themes we’ll be looking at in Psalm 18 today.

-The 4th longest Psalm in the book, if you need to sit down at some point, please do.

READ/PRAY

  1. I Love You Lord (1-3)

-Repeated almost word for word in 2 Samuel 22, which comes right before “the last words of David” in 2 Sam. 23. This tells us it was toward the end of David’s life as he looks back and reflects on God’s protection and preservation throughout his life.

-I have noticed that as people get older there tends to be some sentimentality and almost looking back over life with rose tinted glasses. As we read through this Psalm there will be some of those moments! But there’s also ways in which the Holy Spirit used these words to point to great David’s greater Son!

-David doesn’t begin where I would think he should begin, with thanksgiving. If the point is to be grateful to God for his protection, wouldn’t the right instinct be to give thanks? Instead, he says “I love you, O Lord.”

-I think this tells us just how much we need to be reminded of the gospel message: that Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live and died the death we deserved to die so that we could not be declared righteous instead of sinful. And how often do we then stop in response at thanks, instead of moving to the next step of love? Giving thanks is right, and we should, but we can’t just stay there, because it’s meant to lead us to that next step of being in a close relationship with God.

-Think of how you receive a compliment, don’t you at first just feel awkward? I feel awkward when people say “great sermon pastor” “thanks?” We often don’t know how to respond. When we read that God saved us, that He loves us, that He wants to spend time with you, do you actually believe that, and respond by engaging with Him as He has called us to do, or do you just feel awkward? This first phrase, I think, should be a bigger focus in our lives than we tend to make it! You can love and enjoy a relationship with God, He invites you to!

-We have seen throughout these 10 Psalms this summer a lot of rocky themes. God is a rock, a fortress, a protection. All of these are meant to serve as a reminder that God will protect and preserve His people. Don’t be afraid, don’t be alarmed, entrust yourself to our good God. Therefore, we call on Him and He will save us, which is what David elaborates on in this next section:

  • God’s Power in Salvation (4-19)

-There were numerous occasions where David was on the verge of death! Saul wanted him dead, the Philistines wanted him dead, his son tried to usurp his throne, even God one time threatened him because of a sin he committed! It’s a tough job to be the king! I highly doubt any of us have ever faced the same kinds of imminent threat David faced on a daily basis! 

-The chapter after this song in 2 Sam recounts “David’s mighty men” All these crazy guys who fought for/with David, basically the Navy Seals of Israel. I remember reading that chapter in high school after the movie 300 came out, and I thought “When is someone going to make a movie like that on the life of David?” He was crazy! Yet even all these mighty men aren’t enough to save David from death. Whether we realize it or not, all of us are 1 step, 1 phone call, one missed heartbeat away from your life completely changing. Nothing is guaranteed! But look at vs. 6: the thing that is guaranteed is God will respond when we cry out to Him! We’ve seen this idea repeatedly over the summer too, He will hear us! And look how God responds here:

-This language is what is called a “theophany” a visible manifestation of God. A couple notes on these:

-First, I think we tend to forget about God in the midst of the world continuing to move. We have a tendency to act (as we saw in Psalm 14) as atheists, that God isn’t still actively involved in our day to day lives, even in the weather! We see earthquakes as merely tectonic plates shifting, we see rain as the descent of evaporated water, wind as the effect of high and low pressure systems. Yet who is the one who created and continues to sustain them? God!

-Second, and more immediate to this text, but we don’t have any examples of David seeing any of these things take place! As far as we know from David’s life in the Bible, he never saw God shake a mountain, or hailstorms and coals of fire come from him, or turning over the seas in his pursuit of His enemies. But there are places in Scripture where these events do happen!

-Think of when Moses recorded the 10 commandments, after 40 days on the mountain with God. The people were told to stay away from the mountain, to not touch it because if they did they would die! There was a cloud, they saw fire. The earth would have reeled and rocked! Or when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by hail and coals of fire. Or when God’s people walked across the dry ground to escape from the pursuing Egyptians as they walked across the Red Sea.

-David wasn’t alive in any of these stories, but He knew them! His job as the King was to be so immersed in God’s Word that it felt like His story. In Deut. 17 we see the king’s primary job to be knowing, reading, and studying God’s Word, because the king is meant to serve as the example to the rest of kingdom of what a faithful follower of God looks like. He is to submit his whole life to God’s Word.

-This also shows that David is aligning himself with God’s people throughout history. Just as God protected and provided for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, just as God protected and provided for Moses, God protected and provided for David! And that is also true for us today! We read, study and immerse ourselves in God’s Word so that we can readily call to mind these stories of how God has protected and provided for His people throughout history, and will continue to do the same thing into the future.

-The last thing David mentions is the individual preservation the Lord provided Him (19). David was nothing by Himself, but God supported Him. David was in a tight spot, surrounded by many enemies and certain death, but God brought him to “a broad place” because God delighted in David. There’s that same idea! We have meant to have a delightful relationship with God, He loves you, that’s why He saved you!

  • How We Can Be Saved (20-29)

-Then David turns to another section that feels off with both this Psalm and the rest of the Bible! Notice all the personal pronouns in vss. 20-24: my righteousness, my hands, I have kept, all his rules before me, I did not put away, I was blameless, I kept myself, my righteousness, cleanness of my hands. Is David suddenly slipping into his latent narcissistic tendencies?

-This is where we need to keep this Psalm in the context of the whole book! If you flip over to Psalm 51it feels like a completely different person: “have mercy on me! Wash me from my iniquity, my sin is ever before me.” It’s almost like David was a real person experiencing real, human emotions through every stage of his life, and then recorded them (with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) for followers of God throughout the rest of human history. 

-We also need to read this in context with the next section, don’t just lift up 1 verse here, then run to a conclusion based on that 1 verse.

-David is demonstrating how God (generally) deals with people.

-One of the things I’ve started sharing with people who want to talk about exceptions to rules is: there are always exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions don’t make good rules! So you start talking about how smoking kills, and then someone says “I know someone who smoked a pack a day until they died of old age at 88.” Good for them! I still wouldn’t recommend anyone pick up smoking! As a general rule of life: if you are obedient to how God commands us to live and operate, you are more likely to live a long life. That’s true throughout all of human history! Always exceptions to the rule (Job specifically comes to mind, as does Jesus, but that’s again a later conversation!)

-There was even a Jewish tradition that said this was true even as Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years. Remember how God miraculously provided manna and quail for them? “The Jewish tradition was that the manna tasted according to each man’s mouth; certainly God shows himself to each individual according to his character.” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David) AKA you reap what you sow! Do you want God to be merciful to you? Live a merciful life! Do you want God to be loving to you? Live a loving life! 

-One last note about this section that I don’t want you to miss: you can never out-sin the grace of God. As David is looking back over his life, he can say he has been righteous and obedient to God’s rules and statutes, but we know he wasn’t always faithful! God has cast our sin as far as the east it from the west (eternal) but that doesn’t mean we just continue in sin. That means in our fight against sin, we don’t give up, we keep going, and we keep trusting ourselves to our merciful God. There is nothing you can do that will separate you from God’s love, for those of you who have been saved! (we’ll get to that in Ephesians this Fall!)

-David begins applying these truths to his life, then applies them more broadly in vs. 25-29 before going back to recount the ways God provides for His people in their salvation.

  • God’s Provision in Salvation (30-45)

-Start to see some repetition here, but please note that repetition isn’t always bad! In the 2nd section David recounted God’s marvelous power in salvation, which leads to the means by which God has provided for His people through salvation.

-Remember, this is what David was pointing to in the previous section! Where does our righteousness come from? It’s not inherent in us! Where does the strength to endure under suffering come from? Not from us! Our righteousness is an alien righteousness, foreign to us coming only from God, made possible by and through Him.

-This section begins with David reminding us that there is no one like God. His way is the only way, thus it is perfect. His word always is proven true, as David just demonstrated by recounting how God worked in human history, and finally he reminds everyone that God is a shield (35), protecting His people if they “take refuge” (30) or place their faith in Him. You may then ask, what does that look like?

-A long list of things here! I think it can be broken up into 2 areas: God sustains David with everything he needs, and then through God, David’s enemies are defeated. First the provision: Notice that God’s equipping with strength is what leads to a blameless way. Brother or sister, now that we have died, and are raised in a new life with Christ we have the strength to say no to sin! We have the God-given ability to put to death the sinful tendencies we have in our lives. He will make us as fast as a deer, and give us the insight to see the world for what it really is. He gives us the tools and weapons we need to fight spiritually (again, we’ll look at that in more detail this Fall!). 

-We also have “a wide place for my steps.” (36) Think of how tricky it is to walk on a balance beam. We took our kids to an open gym this past Spring, and Ellie tried her hand at walking all the way across the balance beam. Look at the focus and determination to get across! If it were 4’ wide, how much easier would it be? By obeying God, fighting with His strength in us, walking through life is like walking through a wide-open field, no tripping or stumbling through it, it becomes easy.

-The second focus is the defeat of David’s enemies. God went before David even in the defeat of His enemies (ties into the wide place for his steps). As David was writing this his livelihood literally depended on his defeating his enemies! If his enemies won, he was out of a job (and most likely out of a life!). Yet as he looks back over his life, he’s seen God’s provision to never let him be completely defeated.  

-That gets us back to where David begins, and an appropriate ending place after recounting all the ways God has provided for David in his salvation:

  • Praise to God (46-50)

-The right and proper response to God working in your life is to praise and worship Him. Which means our whole lives should be responding to the reality that God has saved us! This is why it’s so important to me that we have a call to worship every time we gather, it helps us to remember and reorient our thinking to what God has done, and then our proper response is to join together in praising Him!

-“The Lord lives” He will never die, He will never get tired, He will never stop loving and being a kind and caring Father. Therefore we will bless and exalt Him. Just as David said at the beginning, he says at the end that God is our rock. 

-Anytime you see God described as a rock, think of one of the parables Jesus told: of the man who built his house on the rock. If God is our rock, the place we’re building the foundation of our life upon, then nothing will shake us. The storms can come, the creek can rise, the wind can blow, but the house of our life will stand firm. 

-Then we’re finally at the last verse! Whew! Lots to cover in this Psalm! This last verse confirms for us something that I’ve been alluding to throughout this whole message: this Psalm points us ultimately to great David’s greater son: Jesus.

-In order to understand how we see Jesus throughout a section like this, we need to understand a theological concept known as typology. Since all of history is a story of God working, He sovereignly ordained from the dawn of creation how the story would be written. Therefore, He used people in history to point to the greatest reality ever: that God would dwell with His people forever. We see throughout the Gospels how Jesus fulfilled the promises to his people. We see in Rom. 5 that where Adam failed, Jesus was victorious. We see in Moses a glimpse of the perfect prophet to come who would speak perfectly on behalf of his people. We see in David the glimpse of the perfect king who would come to rule forever. This is where I’ve repeatedly said we need to read the entire Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ. The whole thing is about Him! 

-It is because of Jesus that David can say “the Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness.” Look back at vs. 20-24. Who is the only person to live who fulfilled this description? And then look at vs. 25-29, and to whom was this rule not true? Jesus! Despite being merciful was given wrath, despite being blameless was blamed, despite being pure was made sin, despite being perfectly straight was given torture.

-And now, because of Christ, these descriptions can be true of us today! Jesus has saved us from our enemies! Sin, Satan, and death no longer have any power over us. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have the weapons and strength we need to fight against any temptation we would face to deny or give up on faithfully following God with our whole lives. None of this is because of anything we’ve done or can do, but because of what God has done in us.

-Therefore, we can join together in remembering and celebrating this reality in the Lord’s Supper. Each time we celebrate this, we are commanded to remember our salvation. The body that was broken for us, the blood that was shed for us, the connection back to the Passover where God has worked in human history to bring about His perfect plan. Each time we take and eat we are joining with God’s people starting all the way back in Eden to say “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” We are joining with God’s people to say no to sin, and yes to Christ, to praise God for the salvation freely given to all who receive Him. 

-I was reminded recently of Psalm 116:13 in connection to communion where the author states “I will life up the cup of my salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” Just as we saw in Psalm 18 that David praises God for his salvation, we too need to praise God for our salvation.