The Worldly Image (Rom. 1:18-31)

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

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

-Structurally, functionally, relationally. 

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

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

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

Rom. 1 gives us that exact picture!

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Great Exchange (21-25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Unnatural Ways to Live (26-32)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-How do we engage this conversation today?

1. Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Higher calling than just “being honest.”

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

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

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

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

4. We need to be the church. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Image of God (Part 2) Sermon Manuscript

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

Genesis 2-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Again, celebrate that which is true!

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Vertical Relationship

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

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

  1. Unity (2:4-20)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Disunity (3:8-13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Violence (3:14-24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Horizontal Relationship

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

  1. Unity (2:23-25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Culminates in both being naked and not ashamed.

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

  • Disunity (3:12-19)

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

-When God confronts Adam, who does he blame?

-When God confronts Eve, who does she blame?

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

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

  • Violence (4:1-16)

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

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

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

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

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

-Back to the story: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Solution (4:26)

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

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

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

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

The Image of God, Part 1

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

Genesis 1:26-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. What is a human?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-This means we are both like and represent God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What does that look like?

-Structural, functional, relational.

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

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

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

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

-Prophet (Authority)

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

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

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

-Priest (Presence)

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

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

-King (Control)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Core Values Summary – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ Acts 2:42-47 – PRAY

  1. We – John 13:34-35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Humans are inherently good.

-Are they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jesus talking to his followers here. 

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

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

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

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

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

  • Welcome – Romans 15:7

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

-I knew hospitality was in there, but welcoming?

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

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

-3 stories encapsulate this:

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

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

-Prodigal Son: how does the Father respond? 

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

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

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

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

  • Word – Hebrews 4:12-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Worship – Romans 12:1-2

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

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

-Look at this passage in Romans 12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Witness – Acts 1:8 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. One Body (12-13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Many Members (14-20)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Chief master hot dog griller. 

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

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

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

  1. Interdependence (21-27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Look at vs. 24.

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

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

-All of us are called to do good works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome – Romans 15:1-7 Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Please Others Like Christ (1-3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-The 2 components are: endurance and encouragement.

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

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

  • God (5a)

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

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

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

  • Unity to Glorify God (5b-6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Welcome (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Gospel Comes with a Housekey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love – 1 Corinthians 13 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.

Love

1 Corinthians 13 (559)

-Love seems to be everywhere around us.

-Almost as if it’s in the air we breathe! Hallmark movies are plentiful this time of year, jewelry stores seem to double their commercials to air during Vikings games that proclaim “every kiss begins with kay.” 

-A yard sign in my neighborhood proclaims “love is love.” That runs contrary to the first rule I was taught in defining words: can’t use the word in the definition. 

-But even think about the way we use that word every day. I love that song, I love the snow, I love my wife Cara, I love my kids. Surely those don’t all mean the same thing, right?

-I’m going to give away the ending to this sermon at the beginning: love isn’t a feeling, as dc talk taught me in my formative years, love is a verb. More precisely, love is a list of characteristics that are meant to be demonstrated in all our lives, and even further than that, love was perfectly encapsulated in 1 person who came to earth 2,000 years ago.

READ/PRAY

-Dropping in the middle of a flow of thought. 1 Cor. 12-14 serve to break down divisions regarding spiritual gifts in the church. 

-Most often when we hear this text it’s at weddings, and while it’s certainly appropriate at weddings, that overly narrows the focus of the text.

12 talks about the wide variety of gifts given from the HS to the church. Natural tendency among humans is to elevate certain gifts. We do the same today! Do you realize the variety of people we have serving here every week? Decorating, coffee, cleaning, running sound, playing instruments, teaching kids, welcoming people, safety team unlocking doors. That’s just Sunday! Paul ends this section with an exhortation to “earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

14 then applies 12, 13 to prophecy and speaking in tongues, with a final exhortation for how the church should structure their weekly worship services. These 3 chapters are all centering around spiritual gifts and their use in the church, so even the love chapter is meant to be demonstrated not in marriage, but the church. 

-Let’s take a look at the 3 ways Paul talks about love in this passage.

  1. Love Lacking (1-3)

-These verses serve as a transition point from 12

-All about spiritual gifts being needed together to build up the church.

-Quick sidenote about that: there isn’t a JV squad in the church. There’s not even bench warmers! How often do we compare ourselves to what seem like “better” gifts and then become discouraged? Or even comparing ourselves to someone with the same gifts, but manifested differently and then beat ourselves up. Happens ALL THE TIME in preaching!

-Music and teaching/preaching seem to be highly elevated in our culture today. Did you know God doesn’t view it that way? Now, that being said, God DOES care that you’re actually using your gifts and growing in them (the parable of the talents speaks to this). If you don’t know what your gifts are, reach out to one of us, we’d love to help you discern your gifts!

-Paul does some comparing in these first 3 verses. 

-It seems that comparing gifts has been an issue for thousands of years! The church in Corinth said the best gifts were prophecy and speaking in tongues. Don’t have time to dig too far into those gifts today, but someday we’ll talk about them!

-First gift is speaking in tongues. This was viewed the best gift in the church, which is why Paul starts here. Some people today even use this as a way to determine whether or not someone is truly a believer.

-Look at the words Paul uses though: tongues of men and of angels.

-Some debate about what the gift of “speaking in tongues” is in the NT: either a known, earthly language or an angelic heavenly language that is untranslatable on earth. But Paul includes both! Whichever “tongue” it is, it needs to be done from the outpouring of love.

-Notice the comparison Paul makes here. If I have these amazing gifts of language, if I can speak every language on earth, AND in heaven, but don’t have love I’m just as helpful as a noisy gong, or clanging cymbal.

-In certain contexts, gongs and cymbals are great! Like in the movie ‘Shang-Chi’ that just came out. The gong as the war starts is super epic! But if you’re trying to have a conversation and you’re standing next to a cymbal how helpful is it?

-I love playing drums! But if I were to sit back here and play drums while I’m preaching, how helpful would it be? Does this help or hurt your ability to hear what I’m saying? Paul doesn’t stop with tongues though, does he?

-Up next is prophecy and interpretation of prophecy.

-If I can prophecy, speak on behalf of God to a group of people. And understand, notice the qualifiers: ALL mysteries, and ALL knowledge. AKA if I have the same level of understanding as God. And even beyond that, if I can do what Jesus said his followers could do with faith that can move mountains. If I can do all these things, but don’t have love, how helpful is it? It’s worth NOTHING.

-So speaking in tongues, prophecy, interpretation of prophecy, all faith if they aren’t done from love are literally worth nothing in God’s kingdom. But that’s not all!

-Finally, verse 3. If I force poverty on myself, if I do HUGE acts of charity and mercy for others, or even deliver up my body 

-Text says “to be burned” alternative text is “that I may boast.” Couple letter differentiation in Greek. The point is the same: either I offer my body to death, or sell myself into slavery for the sake of someone else.

-If I even do these unbelievable charitable things, but do it without love, how helpful is it in God’s economy? Worthless!

-Think about these 3 things like this:

-We all know how money works, at least most of us do! I still remember one time asking my mom to get a toy and being told “we can’t afford that.” I confidently told her “just write a check!”

-Imagine getting up to heaven, and acting like that with God! I prophesied! I spoke in tongues! I gave away everything I had! I can base my salvation on that! And God saying “depart from me, I never knew you. You can’t afford to enter here, your spiritual bank account is empty.” It’s like me trying to tell my mom to just write a check – it’ll bounce!

-Paul’s point is not that spiritual gifts are bad AT ALL! Remember, he just said to “earnestly desire the higher gifts.” But the point of these gifts isn’t to be used to build ourselves up (as we’ll see in the next section), instead the gifts are meant to be used from the foundation of love, to flow out into the building up of the church, the people of God. So how does Paul define love?

  • Love Lived (4-7)

-Here’s the most fascinating part about this, look at what Paul describes. Are these ethereal, pie in the sky definitions, or are these character traits that should be evident in our lives? 

-Paul lists 15 character traits of love, and he’s breaking love down into 2 lists: what characteristics should be demonstrated by love (7), and what characteristics should NOT be demonstrated by love (8). Let’s start with the negative, what love isn’t.

-Envious

-If you love someone, you cannot be jealous of their gifts, strengths, accomplishments. That is antithetical to how God has commanded us to live.

-Boastful

-The other side of being envious is turning into someone who thinks you’re the bees knees. In Greek, this is literally translated as “wind bag” so if someone is demonstrating this characteristic, tell them they’re like a whoopee cushion! 

-Arrogant

-Similar to the “wind bag” is arrogant. Self-centered and cocky about their own giftings/strengths instead of recognizing where those gifts are from. 

-Rude

-Descriptive of misbehaving/acting out, behaving in a way that doesn’t fit with societal norms. Like if you’ve seen those kids at Target who start throwing fits (always at Target, never seem to have those kinds of meltdowns in the car!) Think of an adult acting out like that, antithesis of love!

-Insisting on its own way

-This is a hard one! Especially when you KNOW you’re right. See the gospel compels us to “outdo each other in showing honor,” and to consider others interests even higher than our own!

-Irritable

-You know people who always seem on the verge of blowing up at you? You never know what’s going to set them off.

-Resentful

-This is keeping a record of wrongs. This is knowing life’s not fair, and keeping track of the ways you’ve been wronged. Another way of thinking about this is being unwilling to forgive an offense.

-Rejoicing at wrongdoing/injustice

-ESV says “wrongdoing” other translations have “injustice.” This is not celebrating when someone who is created in the image of God is treated poorly

-That’s what love ISN’T let’s take a look at what love IS.

-Patient

-Long-suffering, understanding, opposite of irritable and resentful. This is someone who won’t let circumstances dictate their responses.

-Have you ever had the privilege of going on a cross culture missions trip? Joining up with brothers and sisters from across the world who seem SO much more content with their life than I am here. They’re patient even in how God is working in their lives.

-“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Chuck Swindoll

-Kind

-loving, merciful. Opposite of rude/irritable. 

-Do you know anyone who just never seems shaken up? They’ve got an inner core that’s always at peace. No matter what happens they’re kind to everyone.

-Rejoices with the truth

-This is the one that most stood out to me this time reading through these characteristics. Because our world likes to define love VERY differently than this! You’ve probably even heard people talk about sharing MY truth. You can speak of your experience, but there is 1 truth. And all truth finds its consummation in the source of all truth, Jesus. 

-We should be on the lookout for truth around us, celebrate it, and find out how it points us to the ultimate source of truth in Jesus. Christmas is a GREAT time to be reminded of this. Our neighbors are decorating, presents are being bought, stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and it’s an opportunity to talk about the reason we all celebrate Christmas. Look for and utilize those opportunities! 

-Bears all things

-Love means being willing to be burdened for someone else. It may mean you emotionally help them carry the weight of their emotional issues.

-Ever had some issue that comes up that feels like it’s literally weighing you down, then sharing that emotional weight with someone else feels like the weight is lifted off your chest?

-Believes all things

-Do you assume the best in others, or do you approach everything they do with suspicion? Our world views everything through the lens of suspicion today! We’re not supposed to. Doesn’t mean be foolish, but if we’re extending love to others, we’ll hope for the best in them.

-Hopes all things

-Can you imagine never giving up hope?? Even when it feels like there’s not a chance in the world, love convinces you to continue on.

-Brothers and sister – I realize Christmas/Thanksgiving may be difficult for you if you’ve got estranged relationships, this text is reminding us to not give up hope. Pray, seek reconciliation, and trust God’s sovereign guiding hand.

-Endures all things

-Summarizes everything else, it will endure forever! Which you’ll see in the next section.

-The crazy thing about these characteristics is all of them are meant to be descriptive of us! So you should be able to replace “love” in these verses with “I am.” Just think about that. I am…

-God gets to define what love is because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

-Then the world gets to determine whether or not we’re Christians by how we love. (John 13:34)

-This is meant to be true individually, yes, but it’s also meant to be descriptive of us as the church. In fact, Jesus says in the previous verse that our love demonstrated visibly is meant to serve as a witness/example to the world of what God’s love looks like. That’s super hard to read/think, isn’t it? It seems like our world generally thinks of Christians as the opposite of these descriptions (some of it is because of our commitment to the truth). But similar to the gentleness idea we saw in Phil. 4, what would it look like for us to grow in love for God and each other over the next year?

-Love lived is demonstrated by these both positive and negative characteristics. But here’s the even more incredible part, compared to even the most miraculous spiritual gifts we saw, love is more important, because love lasts.

  • Love Lasts (8-13)

-Look at that first phrase: love never ends. When will it end? NEVER

-I remember trying to comprehend eternity when I was growing up, and it would freak me out. I’m so used to having an end point, it’s TERRIFYING to really sit down and think about forever. But because God is love, and God is eternal, so love is eternal. 

-At some point, prophecies will be done because we’ll be with Jesus! At some point tongues will stop because we’ll be able to understand each other. At some point knowledge/understanding won’t be necessary because we’ll be with God. But love? Love will still be going strong. 

-The reason for this is because we only know partially. These next few verses are different ways of saying the same point: right now we can’t see everything as it SHOULD be, we can only see/comprehend partially, we see glimpses, but only the rough outline, like looking in a distorted mirror.

-Think of how the world would be viewed through the lens of a child. Their perspective, their views are so profoundly influenced and shaped by their parents and what their parents expose them to. Calvin’s starting to ask questions about heaven and why Jesus had to die, and why people used spears on him, and Cara and I have to try to figure out how to explain it in a way a 4-year-old will understand. He one time asked me if God could pick up our house. 

-Do you ever view your questions of God like that? I don’t think I think of God the same way my 4-year-old does, I would hope that my perspective is a little farther and broader than his, but in God’s eyes 33 and 4 aren’t that much different! 

-“Even as I have been fully known.” God knows everything about you, and He still loves you. We’ll never fully know God (part of the reason we get eternity with Him), but he fully knows you and still sent Jesus to die for you. Christian, you’ve got nothing to hide today, nothing to prove, nothing to do that Jesus hasn’t already done.

-This love is something we get to tangibly see, taste, and touch when we celebrate communion together. 

-And we drink this cup and eat this bread together to remind us that our love for God needs to be visibly demonstrated by our love for each other. Our love is the way God works in and through each other to continue drawing us to Himself. 

-Because Christ is perfectly lovely, he can make even unworthy and unlovely people like you and me perfectly lovely.

Peace – 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.

Peace

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (pg. 562)

INTRO

-Advent season: celebrating the reality of the incarnation (God took on flesh) So we rejoice, give thanks for that miracle, but we also acknowledge that while we can celebrate, things aren’t as they should be, so we wait with eager anticipation.

-One scholar compared this idea to the difference between D-Day and V-Day in WW2. 

-One way we celebrate is by lighting candles to remember that Jesus came as the light of the world. Each week leading up to Christmas we’ll by studying a different theme of what Jesus came to offer us. This week is peace, next is joy, then love, then hope, and finally on Christmas Eve we’ll be looking at Jesus as the embodiment of all of these characteristics. 

-Peace is a theme prevalent in the story of Jesus’ birth. 

-Zechariah’s prophecy ends with “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

-When the angels appear to the shepherds to announce Jesus’ birth, they proclaim “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

-When Simeon, who had been waiting for this baby sees Jesus he exclaims: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,”

-Doesn’t that seem idealistic though? An article written in 1988 “since the Second World War the globe has only been without a war for…26 days in September 1945.” 

-How do we go about pursuing peace?

READ/PRAY

  1. Persuade (11-17)

-Once again dropping into the middle of a text (there’s a reason I prefer walking exegetically through a book!)

-Written by Paul, 4th letter written by him to the Corinthian church. Meant to continue encouraging them to remain faithful in their calling. First couple chapters are dealing with Paul’s call to ministry, his concern for the church, then he talks about the reality of this new life we have in Christ in chpts 34-5talk about the future realities we will have in Christ, then we need to read vs. 9-10 to understand the “therefore” in vs. 11.

-Our goal in this life and the next is to please God. Everything else should pale in comparison to that goal, that aim in life. Why do we live that way? Because someday we’ll all stand before Christ’s judgment seat. If that fills you with fear, good! That’s exactly why Paul is saying this. He’s building his argument as he’s walking through his argument here, that’s why the first word we heard in today’s text is “therefore.”

  1.  As Ourselves (11-13)

-Knowing what? The fear of the Lord. Don’t you find that a slightly odd place to start, especially as we think about today’s focus: peace! How does fear relate to peace?

-One commentator said “whatever it is that one fears the most that is what one will serve the most.”

-Some people will prefer to translate this as “reverential awe” or “respect” and that’s true, but we give him respect out of fear of what COULD happen.

-A couple illustrations that might help: my son is 4. He knows I love him, care for him, provide for him, but if he starts being disrespectful toward especially his mother, then sees me getting up to interject, he gets a little fear in his eyes! He knows he hasn’t been acting in according with daddy’s rules (even when he says it’s “not kind”)

-I think most people in the room drive, or will someday drive (way to go Fritz!). If you’ve ever been pulled over while driving, don’t you get fearful? I’ve only been pulled over a handful of times, but each time I have my heart rate increased, my palms start sweating, I triple check my speed, start thinking about whether I registered my car this year, look around to see if there’s someone else that they’re following instead of me. There’s a definite level of fear/respect there!

-We also need to remember that, as Prov. 7:1 says, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If you want wisdom, the 1st step is fearing God.

-After that first step of fearing the Lord, we then move outward to “persuade others.”

-I’ve titled this first section “as ourselves.” We often conflate this point to either persuade through our own gifts, persuasions, or abilities, or we try to be a duplicate of someone else.

-One time attending a preaching seminar titled “preaching not ourselves, but preaching AS ourselves.” Or as Paul put it earlier in 2 Cor. 4:5 “what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” All of us are uniquely wired and gifted. No 2 people have the exact same measure of gifts, and that’s exactly why God has given us each other. We are commanded to persuade others here, but it doesn’t give us a specific method (other than pointing everything to Christ). 

-This is a 2 step process for all of us: 1- fear the Lord, 2- use whatever gifts you have to persuade others to join with you in fearing the Lord

-But I also think there may be a sense in which we’ve lost the art of persuasion in our evangelism. I struggle with this! For the sake of not offending I soft-shoe my conversations instead of trying to “persuade” others. As we’ll see in this text, God gives us the blueprints for lasting peace, why don’t we try to persuade others about this reality?

-In the midst of this persuasion (making our aim to please the Lord), we remember that whatever else happens, we are “known to God.” 

-Another translation says this is “well known” or “clearly evident,” to God. In our persuasion, we may me mocked, ridiculed, belittled, but is we could look at things through God’s eyes instead of ours, we’d be just fine! This reality gives Paul, and us, confidence for the rest of this section: 

12

-We don’t preach ourselves, we’re not the point of the story! 

-Others worry about external appearances, but God worries about our internal motivation. It’s not enough to put on a façade of holiness, God even worries about what happens in your heart and mind!

13
-Paul does all this for their sake, to encourage and support them and not worry about what others say

-Since we’ve seen that God cares about your internal motivation and desires, that’s what Paul talks about next, our persuasion must be:

  •  Through the Love of Christ (14- 17)

-We’ve seen our aim is to please God, here we see that the driving force behind that is the love of Christ. Think of it as pleasing God is the finish line, the fear of God is the starting line, and the fuel that gets us there is the love of Christ.

-This word “controls” is a fascinating word in Greek, includes “seized, surrounded, occupied, hemmed in” Is used when Jesus is held in custody by soldiers in Luke 22:63. The point is that once we are in Christ, we have no option but to operate out of His love for others. The primary force that drives everything else in the life of the Christian is Christ’s love. 

-Now, we often miss the implications of that because today love is often used as a synonym with acceptance. People will say if you love me you must accept/endorse everything I want. We’ll take a look at that belief in a couple weeks (spoiler alert, that’s not the best definition of love!). Why is it that Christ’s love is what controls/compels us and hems us in?

-Because we have concluded this reality: 1 died for all, so all have died.

-This idea can be difficult for us to wrap our minds around, in addition to love being acceptance of who I am, the idea of 1 person serving as a representative goes against the second Western ideal of individualism. This is known as corporate solidarity: “the one stands for the many and the many are represented by the one.” (ESV Exegetical Commentary) Just as we saw in Genesis that Adam’s sin cast the cosmos into sin, so in Jesus his 1 perfect life redeems the entire cosmos. We’ll see the implications of that in the next section.

15

-Paul doubles down on this idea, Jesus died for all SO THAT those who are now alive in Him will no longer live for themselves, but for Christ.

-Christ’s love controls us, everything we do is meant to bring honor to God, so we need to die to our own desires, preferences, and ideals so that Christ can be seen in us.

-What does this mean for us in the church? It means we look to honor others even better than we honor ourselves. It means we come to Sunday morning looking to see how we can serve our brothers and sisters instead of coming to get our felt needs met. It means we look for opportunities to humble ourselves and sacrifice for each other. 

-I was thinking this past week about how Jesus describes the righteous vs. the unrighteous as those: fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, and clothed the naked. That’s how we live for Christ!

-This verse is a beautiful, succinct summary of the gospel message! Christ died for all, so that we could now live in Him.

-But if Jesus had just died it wouldn’t change anything. Many people have died. Actually, everyone who ever lived has died (with the rare exception of Enoch and Elisha), and if you haven’t died yet, don’t worry, it’s coming! I don’t say that to be morbid, but I do say that as a reminder that this life isn’t all we have. And that’s only true because of the last 2 words: was raised.

-It almost feels like just a throwaway phrase, doesn’t it? All this big build up to: and was raised. Because if Jesus wasn’t raised, then we have no reason for living, no reason for hope, no reason to celebrate this or any other Christmas.

-Because Jesus was raised, we no longer treat people as mere humans. 

-C.S. Lewis The Weight of Glory “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.”

-All this is building to the fact that: anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. This is the theme we saw in Genesis: the first thing we learn about God is that He is the Creator, but he hasn’t stopped creating. Each time someone is saved they are re-born, re-created, brought to true life. This is what Pastor Jeramy talked about last week from John 3: you must be born a second time!

-And now that this new creation has broken through into the old, we have a new ministry.

-Have you ever thought of Jesus as the only perfect picture of this new creation? We have all these hopes/ideas for what heaven will be like, but we don’t to wonder because Jesus already showed us! Might mean heaven is a lot more like this world than we would care to admit!

  • Preach Reconciliation (18-21)
    •  From God (18-19)

-This shows us the wide-reaching implications of our salvation.

-Dane Ortlund: “Whereas for justification the sphere is the courtroom, for sanctification the temple, for redemption the slave market, and for adoption the family, the sphere of reconciliation is that of friendship.”

-Have you ever realized that part of the reason Jesus came was to befriend us? Now I want to be careful because this can lead to an overly casual approach to Jesus, but just as the Father welcomes us in, so Jesus makes us friends. This is what he says in John 15. This friendship with Jesus then pours out into our friendships with others.

-Let’s look at how we do this. “All this” all the realities we’ve seen in the previous verse, the new life, new creation, Christ’s love, it’s from God.

-As we saw in Genesis the perfect relationship between humanity and God was severed because of sin. God’s desire is to restore every aspect of the broken relationship, so God sent his one and only son to bring about reconciliation. 

-Notice that it’s “through” Christ. It is literally through his broken body, but it’s also only through faith in Him that reconciliation happens. It’s only through faith in Him that He will now call us friends!

-Once we’re reconciled to God, we’re given a ministry to carry out: the ministry of reconciliation. 

-This is what Christ’s love compels us to, horizonal reconciliation. Do you see how both components of reconciliation are found here? Vertical AND horizontal. And you don’t get horizonal reconciliation between people apart from vertical reconciliation with God. What does this ministry look like?

19

-In Christ God is actively reconciling the entire world to Himself. 

-Our scope of ministry is literally the entire world! There is no sphere, no domain, no relationship that’s beyond the reach of God’s reconciliation! 

-We have no reason to view any person who is created in the image of God as too far beyond the reach of reconciliation. The gospel that we believe in, that has brought us into this new life means there is ALWAYS reason to hope that God is working in someone’s life, and you might be the person who brings about the message of reconciliation to that person.

-Isn’t that amazing that God uses ordinary people like us?

-As if to double down on the reality of our reconciliatory ministry, Paul says God has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. 

-That word translated “message” is the same word we looked at 2 weeks ago: logos, word. Once again, just as the gospel can’t be communicated apart from words, so reconciliation cannot be communicated without using words. 

-We are called through Scripture to go out into the entire world and speak/preach the words of reconciliation. Each and every opportunity we have in the world to push this message we should celebrate!

-Our city/state have over the past 18 months been rocked by calls for justice and reconciliation, and when we hear people talking that way, we should be on the forefront in joining them in pleading and praying for reconciliation. But we need to remember the answers the world gives will only be 1 sided, they’ll neglect the vertical dimensions to this reconciliation and try to only deal with the horizontal dimensions. God has called us as the church to both demonstrate and PREACH for reconciliation that comes only through Him, and only then can we have a prayer of having true and lasting reconciliation.

-Paul’s final point in this section is that reconciliation is meant to come:

  •  Through Us (20-21)

-“Therefore” this message of reconciliation finds its’ summation in the reality that:

-we are ambassadors

-Do you know how ambassadors work? Same today as in the 1st century. Ambassadors are sent to another country to represent and act on behalf of their home country.

-Just as Jesus was sent here as an ambassador from another world, now God sends us out into the world as ambassadors, representing Him, speaking for Him. This is why Jesus says “this world is not our home.” We’re not first and foremost Americans, we are citizens of heaven. Our primary home, our primary allegiance, our primary focus is our homeland. We’re only here to serve as ambassadors of that other country.

-Continuing that theme, Paul tells us what our ambassadorial message is: God is appealing through us. Another way we could translate that phrase is “as though God were begging through us.”

-Similarly, we “beg you” be reconciled to God! When’s the last time you begged someone to be reconciled to God?

-There’s some pretty weighty words of exhortation in here for us: persuade, implore, appeal. All for the ultimate goal of being reconciled to God.

-Just as reconciliation is through Christ’s death, so our ambassadorial role is THROUGH us, which means each and every day we need to die.

-Paul ends this section in a very appropriate place: repeating the gospel message. 

-This verse is saying God quite literally equated Jesus to sin when He died for us on the cross. That’s where we can sing “the Father turned His face away” because God can have nothing to do with sin. 

-Martin Luther called this the “great exchange,” our unmeasurable debt traded for innumerable riches in Christ!

-Vs. 21 MSG – “How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.”

-The only hope we have for true and lasting peace is for us to get serious about begging others to be reconciled to God. Until that disordered relationship is put back in place, the world will continue living in a Gen. 3 falling world.

John 1 – 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.

A New Beginning

John 1:1-18

INTRO: Grew up in the church ALL THE TIME. “Midwest goodbye” I did things like: play computer games, read all the books in the library, watch movies, count all my dad’s books, one of the “fun” things I did: write a suggested sermon for my dad, on John 1. Titled, this will give you some insight into my mind at the time “A Very Short Sermon.” You could tell from a young age I was destined for where I am today! It planned to cover 1 verse, had 2 points, and I told my dad even he couldn’t go longer than 5 minutes on it! The 2 points were: The Word was With God, The Word was God. My Christology was on point! But now I actually get to preach that sermon, I’ve got 3 points, and we’re going to be here a lot longer than 5 minutes! 

READ/PRAY (pg. 517)

-Similar themes/ideas to the past couple months in Genesis, light, darkness, God speaking, echoes of creation trickle down to this text.

-I want us to think this morning about the reality of the new creation that we have today. We’ve seen how history started, how our story intersects with that history, and how God’s plan from the beginning of the world was to send His Son into our story.

-We’re also coming up on the Advent season, in which we contemplate the reality of the incarnation (God himself took on flesh) and how we live in eager anticipation of that day. 

-In short, I want us to use this Advent season as a time to better worship/adore God because of how He was worked in human history, but also because of how he’s worked in our individual stories. Each of us is here for a reason, because the message of hope that we remember at Christmas was shared with us. 

  1. In the Beginning (1-5)

-Sound familiar? Where have we seen a verse like that before? 

-We don’t have new revelation today, but what we can do is look back and more faithfully interpret the text that God wrote. Paul’s idea “mirror dimly”

-Ever seen a window that’s super old so it distorts the image you’re trying to look through? That’s how the OT views Jesus, can see shapes/ideas, but not the correct image, it’s distorted. Now in the NT the window is fixed! 

-So what does this tell us about the original creation all the way back in Gen. 1?

-Creation was a trinitarian act. The Father spoke, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit who was hovering over the waters (Col. 1:16 “for by Him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, all things were created through him and for him.”)

-If we were able to see things through a spiritual instead of physical lens, if we could zoom into every particle in the universe, we’d find that Jesus holds it together. We exist because Jesus holds us together. If it weren’t for Jesus we would cease to be. 

-One of the implications of that is that we need to be looking for areas where we see God at work. Since Jesus holds all things together, everything can be used to point to Him. Listening to a podcast this morning on the way we as Christians tend to look at culture as negative, but God commanded us in the garden to create culture. So art, buildings, music, theater all should point us to God, we should look for the areas in which they all point us to God!

-John is reminding us of God’s act of creation to point out that this is the beginning of a NEW kind of creation. Just as in the beginning God made something out of nothing, so with Jesus, God makes a child appear in Mary’s womb out of nothing.

-But does any remember HOW God creates? Gen. 1:3, “And God said…”

-The second reality we learned about God in Gen. 1 (after creator) is that God is a SPEAKING God.

-God’s Words carry meaning, and he’s chosen to use words to reveal himself to us. Words carry significance and meaning, so when we come to the words of the Bible we need to dig in to understand what God means when He uses them.

-Throughout the Old Testament God’s Word is his revelation of himself, Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

-God’s word is connected to Himself. We can trust His Word because He is the source of all truth. Anytime we talk about words, I’m reminded of one of my least favorite quotes that I seem to stumble across at least yearly. “preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”

-Sounds catchy! And at first glance you think “that makes sense!” Half of it’s right! We’re called to love in word & deed, our lives MUST be radically different, but half of it’s not. Rom. 10:14, “How will they call on him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” God reveals himself to us through words and THE Word, Jesus Christ.

-What this means is just as the first creation came about THORUGH the Word Jesus, it’s the exact same thing with the NEW creation, it only comes about THROUGH the Word, Jesus. 

Now we’re back to John 1 with the Word. John’s point is different than all the other Gospels because he’s beginning his book in the very beginning.

-John has a very high Christology, as we see in these first few verses, and John’s point in the beginning is to remind us of 2 thoughts that make up the gospel message: visible and invisible. The invisible reached out into the visible to make himself known as the Word. John then spends to rest of this passage talking about the interaction of the visible and the invisible.

-Vs. 2 reminds us that Jesus has always existed, and 3 reminds us what we saw in Col. 1, everything was made through him. 

-But this creation isn’t JUST referring to physical creation, this also refers to invisible, spiritual creation, as seen in 4-5.

-This points to the reason Jesus came to earth, which is explicitly stated in Matt. 1:21, “he will save his people from their sins.” He will give them life.

-Interplay between life and light here.

-Pointing us back to Gen. where the light and the darkness were the first day of creation. Another evidence of this being a new, unique act of creation

-There’s even a sense of hope John uses to end this section: the light SHINES – present tense. The light is STILL SHINING in the darkness! 

-This leads us to the next section, what do we do with the knowledge of the light? We bear witness, just like John the Baptist.

  1. Bearing Witness (6-13)

-See God’s working again in John who was “sent from God…to bear witness about the light.”

-Notice just how explicitly John explains the role of the Baptist: witness, witness, witness. John wasn’t the light, he came to REFLECT the light back to the Son. 

-Do you know how the moon works? The moon isn’t a source of light, the reason we can see the moon is because it reflects the light of the sun, which is why we end up with something called an eclipse, because we on earth, get in the way of the light. 

-We can often do the same thing by getting in the way of the message of the gospel. So many people think we need to add rules and ideas and expectations on what it means to follow Christ, yet verse 12 tells us it’s very simple: believe in his name.

-I think the Christmas season is the perfect time to think about this idea because opening presents often leads to a sense of injustice. You see what someone else got you and go, “Shoot, I didn’t get you enough!” Or else you open their present and go “Well I wasted my money!” That defeats the purpose of receiving a gift! 

-We operate the same way in the spiritual realm. We either try to atone for our own sins or clean up our own lives because we think we’re unworthy to receive salvation. Here’s the thing: we are! Because the point of our lives isn’t about us, it’s about Jesus, just like John made the goal of his life. 

-A little later on in John, we see just how willing John was to be a witness and get out to the way of Jesus, toward the end of John 3, John the Baptist’s disciples came to him complaining that more people were being baptized by Jesus now, but John knows his job: to point to Christ, so he says one of the most helpful verses in the Bible: He must increase, but I must decrease. 

-His entire aim and goal in his life was to be a witness to Jesus, to prepare the way for him. That’s the goal of every single one of us as Christians: to bear witness to who God is, to get out of the way so that people can see Christ working in us. 

11

-Throughout the Old Testament there were hints that someone was going to be coming who would usher in a new era of history. We saw that with the line of Cain vs the line of Seth, or the seed of the woman vs. the seed of the serpent. God sent people, prophets, who would remind people to turn from their sins, repent, and believe in God. The problem is those who were supposedly anxiously waiting for him missed him. Completely.

-Think of those little kids who try so hard to stay up waiting for Santa but miss him every year. God’s chosen people, who had been given the prophecies and promises from old fell asleep and missed him when he came. 

-A.W. Pink, “When the sun is shining in all its beauty, who are the ones unconscious of the fact? Who need to be told it is shining? The blind! How tragic, then, when we read that God sent John to ‘bear witness of the light.’ How pathetic that there should be any need for this! How solemn the statement that men have to be told ‘the light’ is now in their midst. What a revelation of man’s fallen condition.” 

-How often do we miss the way God is working around us because we’re overly worried about appearances, or recognition, or are too busy worrying about ourselves? How many times do we fixate on how terrible our culture is instead of looking for the positives that are taking place around us?

-That’s why we need this next verse. Once you believe, God makes you a child of God. But how do we remain children of God?

13

-John reminds us that there is nothing we can do to ensure our salvation.

-not of blood – genealogy doesn’t matter, being born into a believing family doesn’t make you a believer. Going to church doesn’t make you a believer. Family heritage doesn’t make you a believer. Tradition doesn’t make you a believer. Even acts of “obedience” don’t make you a believer! 

-not of the will of flesh – sincerity doesn’t save you. No matter how much you want it/desire it/hope for it, that won’t save you. On top of that, I can guarantee that your sincerity will fade.

-not of the will of man – effort can’t save you, because Isaiah reminds us that all our “righteous” deeds are as helpful for our salvation as ratty old rags. If you’ve ever tried to do better, just pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, eventually your effort will run out. What do you do then?

-Instead, we become children of God BY God’s grace alone. (we’ll see that in the next section)

-We’ve talked about this idea before: But can literally change your life! Think of news you get: you have cancer, BUT it’s easily treatable. I got in a car accident, BUT I’m fine. 

-We were dead in our sins, BUT God has made us alive together with Christ. And how is that possible? This is where we get to the best news ever:

  1. The Word Became Flesh (14-18)

-Literally, The Word became flesh and tabernacled/tented among us. The Message: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

-In the minds of the Jews, they would’ve heard tabernacled as a reminder of the Exodus. Same word used in the Greek version of the OT when it talks about the tabernacle. God gave his people instructions to build a tabernacle where his manifest presence/glory could dwell with his people, because no one could see God and live (Ex. 33:20). But notice what John says about Jesus, “WE HAVE SEEN.” 

-Seismic shift: We go from no one can see God and live, to WE SAW HIM. That’s why I like what The Message says, he came and lived with us. We saw him, we ate with him, we touched him, we were WITNESSES to this truth, just like John the Baptist. 

-Remember who this is: God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, becoming Emmanuel, God with Us. 

-Why did Jesus do that? This is where it’s helpful to read/study/memorize catechisms, summaries of what the church has believed. One is the New City Catechism:

22: Why must the Redeemer be truly human?

That in human nature he might on our behalf perfectly obey the whole law and suffer the punishment for human sin; and also that he might sympathize with our weaknesses.

23: Why must the Redeemer be truly God?

That because of his divine nature his obedience and suffering would be perfect and effective; and also that he would be able to bear the righteous anger of God against sin and yet overcome death.

-Not God’s Word, but takes ideas/summaries from God’s Word and puts them in a concise statement.

“We have seen his glory, full of grace and truth”

-The hope of the OT was that the whole world would see God’s glory, “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory,” (Is. 66:18)

-Whose glory? The only Son – there’s a unique relationship. This is the one all of human history has pointed to. One author describes it as the OT is Promises Made, the NT is Promises Kept. All the promises of the OT find their fulfillment in Jesus, the Word made flesh.

-This is where we see worship radically changing after Jesus comes. Tabernacle – temple – anywhere because now we worship in spirit & truth.

-Then there’s a parenthetical note about John as a witness again in 15

16

-Connects to the “full of grace and truth” in 14

-This fullness connects us as believers today to the same fullness of Jesus

-What do we get? We get “grace in place of grace.”

-This is demonstrating that both the OT (old covenant) and the NT (new covenant) are acts of grace, so what God is doing by sending his only Son is replacing one act of grace with a new act of grace in the gospel message of His one and only Son.

17

-We see the final expression of grace by God sending his son. This isn’t law versus grace, this is grace UPON grace! What this means is we move from a God who has given to his people to a God who has come to his people. 

-Throughout the OT we see these hints of something to come that is far greater, and all those things are fulfilled in Jesus. We no longer need the shadow of the law because we have the light of Christ who has revealed himself to us!

So how do we respond to the reality that God took on flesh? 2 things:

1 –witness. I’ve told many people that for every pastor their job is one of preparation, but that’s also true for every Christian! We work together to prepare each other to grow more like Christ for the people they’ll interact with, or for coming face to face with God!

2 – worship. Apart from God we are dead in our sins, but from God we receive grace on top of grace. Because of Jesus moving into the neighborhood we now have eternal hope, and a day to look forward to when we will see God face to face.

Genesis 10-11 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.

The Dispersion of the Peoples

Genesis 10:1-11:9

Membership in the church. 2 key passages

2 Cor. 12 “12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”

-We all have a part to play, integral member of the church

Heb. 13 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

-Who are your leaders? And who will I give an account for when I stand before Jesus?

-Walking into a church building doesn’t make me a Christian or a part of the church. (walking into the Target Center doesn’t make me an NBA player, wearing a jersey doesn’t make me a football player)

-How long does someone need to come to a church before they’re “a part”? 1 week? 1 month? 1 year? 

-Think of membership like an embassy. 

-Church isn’t God’s “plan B” it’s His intention to build the church.

-Been popular since I was in college to bash/complain about “the church” as if individuals are not contributing to any problems. This is part of what we’ve seen through Genesis – we’re sinners, all of us. EFCA SOF: “In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath.” So what do you think happens when a bunch of sinners gather together regularly? Think sin becomes less of a problem, or more of a problem?

-Church is a group of sinners, saved by God’s ridiculous grace, who have covenanted to God and each other to love each other DESPITE the ways we sin against each other. This commitment, despite ethnic, gender, intelligence, gifting  differences serves to demonstrate to the world a picture of God’s love for them.

-Also provides a different level of 2 things: support and accountability.

-Support: OSB prays for all our members, we all need each other to function properly according to 1 Cor. 12, you can know that no matter what happens you’ve got a family who will come around you

-Accountability: we’re not meant to survive alone. None of us can! I’ve had people here tell me when I say something too careless in my messages, I need that! I’m a sinner too! This means we’re going to be better together – God saves us individually, but then calls us/draws us into a new family.

-What does this have to do with Genesis? Great question! Generally what happens when people come together is sin gets amplified, that’s true in cities, in apartment buildings, and yes, even in the church. So what’s the solution to living near people? Great question, let’s take a look at today’s text!

READ/PRAY

  1. The Table of Nations (10)

At this point in human history, we’ve got 8 people left on the face of the earth: Noah and his wife, 3 sons and their wives. 

-We know that book is meant to serve as the introduction to the entire world and explain how things got where they were, specifically how Abram came to be, and then culminating in God’s chosen people, the Israelite nation.

-Thus, the purpose of this whole chapter is to describe the various nations that would have been surrounding Israel when Moses was writing this, centuries later. Longman: “This ‘genealogy’ is really a primitive linguistic, political map that reflects realities of a later time.”

-Showing what the world/cultural ideas were thousands of years ago

-First son listed:

  1. Japheth (2-5)

-14 names listed here

-Don’t treat this like ancestry.com or geneaology.com the way we think of it today

-Names are here to make a point, each name is in for some reason, not necessarily every single person in the line

-Notice this line focuses primarily on sea-towns, or “coastland peoples”

-Second son listed:

  • Ham (6-20)

-We all remember what happened to Ham last week! If you weren’t here, Ham looked upon his father Noah’s nakedness and dishonored him.

-Has the biggest group with 30 names/groups

-His descendants primarily go to the southern side of the Mediterranean

-Again, most likely signifying that these were the most impressive people (line of Cain, seed of the serpent) and contains most of Israel’s enemies.

-Random excurses on this Nimrod guy.

-No one knows who he is or why he gets the significance he does. We know he was a mighty hunter, so much so that he gets a poem written about him

-Founded many cities that serve as enemies to Israel later on, also points back to Cain, who also “built” cities (seed of the serpent)

-Contrast this idea of Nimrod “building” places like Nineveh and Babel to Noah (and later on Abram) who “built” an altar.

-Also setting the foundation for what we’ll see in the next section, with the tower of Babel

-Finally, the third son:

  • Shem (21-31)

-Last because he’s the one whose eventually child will be Abram, the Father of Israel. His people (primarily) went further east than the other

-26 descendants 

-Combine all the descendants up in these lists, and you get 70. There’s a couple other places in the Bible that pops up again: 

Exod. 1:5 “All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt.” Israel is meant to serve as a picture of the world on a smaller scale.

Luke 10:1 “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two (70) others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” Similarly, Jesus’ disciples are meant to serve as a picture of the world on a micro scale, and they’re to go INTO all the world!

-and NOW that command is on us, to continue going out into all the world

  • Noah (1, 32)

-To wrap up this “table of the nations,” we end where we began, with “righteous and blameless” Noah. The second Adam who failed just like the first Adam.

-We read this with the knowledge of what happens next, and so would Moses’ first hearers, but we also need to remember that we read this with an eager anticipation of when the TRUE second Adam will come

-There’s a longing/desire to know where we fit in humanity, to enact the right changes, and even to be on the “right side of history” Do you want to know how to do that? Make sure you’re a part of the “seed of the woman” and not the “seed of the serpent” because at the end of all things, that’s the only hope we have.

-Let’s see how this dispersion began. The genealogy serves as the ending of Noah’s story, then chapter 11 begins with the explanation of how and why this dispersion took place.

  • The Tower of Babel (11)

-This first verse tells us that this is a flashback from the previous verse. Multiple times throughout chapter 10 it tells us each person had their own language.

2

-Shinar. Where have we seen that before? 10:10, suddenly we see why Nimrod was mentioned! 

-Some people have taken this to mean that Nimrod built the tower

-Shinar was the home of Babel back in that same verse, this is focusing in on something that was just mentioned/alluded to back then

-This reads like a technological advancement, like human ingenuity coming to play.

-One of the things that I find fascinating reading through Genesis is how much sin still affects things even through today. How many people would say the world is slowly becoming a better place?

-Looked through a book over the summer titled ‘Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know’ 

-“Since 1820, the size of the world’s economy has grown more than a hundredfold. Over the past 200 years, the world population grew somewhat less than eightfold.”

-As late as 1820, nearly 84% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, that dropped to 66% by 1910, 55% by 1950, and 42% by 1981. In 2018 that number dropped to 8.6%, meaning that by 2030 (assuming trends continue) less than 5% of the global population will live in extreme poverty

-Famine’s have essentially disappeared worldwide, except in war zones. “In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average food supply per person per day rose from approximately 1,800 calories in 1961 to 2,449 calories in 2017.”

-Last one: the global tree canopy increased by 2.24 million sq. km (865,000 sq. mil.) between 1982-2016.

-Even when we’re not aware, good things still are happening, God is still on his throne, and His common grace means incredible things will continue to happen

4

-They’re not just building a tower, the tower gets special notice/significance, but this is a whole way of life centered around the tower.

-Some archeological excavations have uncovered temples from this era in human history, would have been what is known as a ziggurat, series of increasingly smaller levels.

-Moses tells us their hopes/dreams with this: the top will reach the heavens (the realm of the gods) they will make a name for themselves so they won’t have to be dispersed.

-One of the commands God gave to His people was to “fill the earth” that means they have to go out and actually go out into filling the earth! 

-We know that’s not the primary/only problem, because one of the things His chosen people do is settlein the Promised Land

-I’ve even heard/read that some people argue that this is why cities are inherently bad/evil. But what they forget is that in the new heavens and the new earth, one of the most distinct features is: a new city, Jerusalem! 

-Let’s admit, there are some unique things about cities that can exacerbate/accentuate the evil proclivities of the human heart, but those tendencies are there without cities! It’s some of what happens when a large group of sinners gather in 1 place! Yet another reason the church is such a unique entity – the one place where sinners can gather together in close proximity and have your sins become LESS of a problem!

-The whole goal/purpose of this city/tower is to build on their pride (make a name for themselves) and allow them to disobey the explicit commands of God.

-This is a theme throughout all of human history. People are still people, sin is still sin, and we are not prone to obedience toward God. D.A. Carson For the Love of God:  “People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

-I’ve been listening to the big biography about Alexander Hamilton recently (inspired by the musical) and it honestly just sounds like the guy wanted to build a tower in his image! 

-But we tend towards the same things – wanting to be known/ recognized/ acknowledged instead of trying to be faithful. Another theme we’ve seen is what’s considered success in God’s economy is VERY different than ours!

-That’s their goal, what’s God’s response? Look at vs. 5

-“came down” is worded VERY intentionally. Look how the builders described their “impressive” tower, and God still has to “come down” to look at it. That’s a really good summary of how God views most of our feeble attempts at building a name for ourselves! 

-Scene in Avengers Endgame that encapsulates this idea really well, spoiler alert, but if you haven’t seen it by now that’s not my fault! Thanos, big bag guy intent on wiping out half of every living thing has an adopted daughter Gamora that’s not scared of anyone/anything, attempts to kill Thanos and is still referred to as “little one.” That’s kind of how God views these human attempts to reach him, apart from faith in Him.

-After coming down to see what they’re trying to do, God decides to confuse their language, further complicating human relationships (and confusing them to this day!) They left defeated, unable to communicate, and finally spread across the earth.

-Name is Babel: in Babylonian literature it means “the gate of God” in Hebrew it means “confusion.” Babylon serves as a key city throughout the rest of the OT too, but it gets its start here.

-What in the world does this story mean for today? 

-First, this is the origination of the diversity of languages we have across the world today (side note, just so you’re aware, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English!) 

-Second, this lack of communication is a demonstration of the Fall. The OT has a couple texts that point to a new day coming when language will no longer be a barrier to human relationships. Let’s take a look at a couple:

Zeph. 3:9 “at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.”

Acts 2 – “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?”

-Today, God sends us to speak in every language, phrasing, understanding we can to point others to him. Do you speak of Him in every area of your life? What do you think it would look like to not build towers to yourself, but instead point everything to God? How can we as a church ensure we’re not building a tower of Babel, and instead are using every opportunity we have to point others to God?