Ephesians 2:11-22 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. Remember What You Were (11-12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Remember What Jesus Does (13-18)

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

“Far off” vs. “brought near” 

-Muppets made the best illustration of this with Grover

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

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

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

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

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

-But there was also a literal dividing wall in the temple where Gentiles were only allowed to a certain point before a sign would say “No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.” How do you think this would train the Jews to treat the Gentiles? But Paul goes even further:

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

-And those standards are the same across ethnic lines:

-“One new man” 

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

-“preached peace”

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

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

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

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

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

  • Remember What You Now Are (19-22)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 1:15-23 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. Gratitude (15-16)

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

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

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

-“Faith IN, love TOWARD”

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

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

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

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

-“Give thanks”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Paul’s Prayer (17-19)

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

-First: “Growth in knowledge”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-God’s great power

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Power in Christ (20-23)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 12 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.

-Psalm vs. Psalms

-The expression of human emotion. Listened to a podcast this week: Luther called the Psalms “the little Bible” meaning if you prayed through the Psalms you would pray everything in Scripture Calvin “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.”

-The Psalms give us language and prayers to use in the midst of whatever is going on in our lives. God was intentional about including a book of songs that give us language to process every emotion in our lives.

-Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Scottish pastor died at 29, compiled what may be the most used Bible reading plan where you go through the OT once, NT and Psalms twice, viewed the Psalms as just as important as the NT!

-Similarly, Thomas Cranmer (anyone heard of him) wrote the Book of Common Prayer still in use today, he viewed the Psalms as so important, the church read through all of them every single month!

-Nice thing about the Psalms, can be read through every month! Pick which ever day it is, multiply by 5, read through the next 5 Psalms, you’ll get through them every month!

-The hard part is preaching them! Many of these Psalms sound VERY similar, and they can end up running together! Still God’s Word, still applicable to us, still beneficial for growth in godliness, and above all these things it’s the songbook Jesus grew up singing. It’s not a coincidence that on the cross, Jesus’ last words were quoting the Psalms. The Psalms have given voice to God’s people for centuries, so I think we can be benefitted by learning God’s way of processing emotions too!

-One note: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in God’s divinely inspired hymnal doesn’t contain musical notes. The emotions expressed in these songs can be adapted to any cultural context and any style of music. We don’t even know what the musical notes mean!

-Summary: share your burden, listen to what God says, remind yourself who God is

READ/PRAY (257) 

  1. Wicked Words (1-4)

-This Psalm feels very applicable for today! Doesn’t it feel like there’s no more godly people involved in the public square? 

-Some of that is natural, life is all about our interpretation of our experiences. My sister and I largely lived the same life, but we are radically different people and even interpret our growing up through VERY different lenses. Same thing with Cara and I, can sit through the same conversation and have 2 very different interpretations of what happened! (She’s right, I’m wrong)

-The description of what’s going on is most explicit in vs. 2.

-“Everyone utters lies to his neighbor”

-Breaking the 9th commandment, remember we looked at this 2 weeks ago with Gospel Rooted Growth: when we lie we act as if our external image is more important than someone else. But what about an entire community marked by lying? How would anyone ever trust another? 

-Do you really think EVERYONE has turned into a liar? Using hyperbole to make a point, but I’m guessing at times it feels that way, doesn’t it? Have you ever felt like you’re the only person around you who’s trying to faithfully follow after God?

-Not just lying (as if that weren’t enough!), flattering lips and double heart.

-Flattering lips is buttering up unnecessarily, a corollary of lying. Keeps speaking super highly, yet you know they just keep digging themselves into a bigger hole because there’s no way you’re as great as they’re making you out to be.

-And finally, double heart. Lit. “they speak with a heart and a heart.” Talking out of both sides of their mouth.

-I think the best example of this is in politics. People only listen enough to condemn and villainize their opponents. I remember listening to a comedian onetime who picked up this idea, smear campaign against an opponent accused him of wanting to legalize shooting against children. The guy gets up and says “I was thinking of situations where a child gets a hold of a weapon and we need to do anything to prevent worse problems” The other guy responds “he wants to kill children!” WHAT?

-And it’s worse when the news sources get a hold of it! Look at these headlines referring to the same story (don’t read anything beyond the difference of opinions into this, not making a political statement right now, just showing competing interpretations). One of them is true, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know which one it is.

-At times, doesn’t it feel like our entire world is just crazy, and there’s only a few sane people left? 

-The Bible actually has a wonderful example of this idea of feeling all alone in the stand for what is right and good and true: Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10

-The story of Elijah is, I think fascinating, but what’s most fascinating about this instance is he’s coming off one of the biggest and most successful stories in his life. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah challenges 850 false prophets to a showdown on Mt. Carmel to determine who the true God was. After spending the day dancing and begging, nothing happens to Baal’s offering. Elijah prays a simple prayer and Yahweh’s offering is consumed by fire. Instead of living on cloud 9, Elijah runs away and hides from Jezebel, the king’s wife. And out of that hiding comes this passage where God asks why Elijah is hiding. 

-Do you think Elijah is really the only one in the whole country who hasn’t followed Baal? Absolutely not! Does that negate the way Elijah feels? Absolutely not! I can guarantee, if you remain faithful in your pursuit of the Lord, there will be times and seasons where you will feel completely alone in that pursuit! But don’t forget, you’re not! 

-I had a season in high school where I felt this way! God really captured my heart between my Jr/Sr years and it started to feel like high school was just a waste of time. I complained to my dad about it, and he took me to the 1 Kings passage and said “even when it feels like it, you’re never alone.” Once again, this is why we need to meet together like we are today! If you’re feeling alone, please reach out to someone sitting nearby you, and remember, you’re not alone!

-But it’s also important to note, what is your response when you start to feel like you’re all alone, the only one who’s following after God with all your heart? 

-Do you tend to withdraw, run away to cave and sulk? Do you tend to act like the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings and grumble and complain about how difficult your life is and how nobody knows the trouble you’ve seen? Let’s look back at vs. 1 to see what our response SHOULD be.

-“Save, O Lord” When you feel isolated, alone, don’t forget that even if that were true, God is still with you. One of the first promises my parents taught me as I was growing up was in Deut 31:6 “He will never leave you or forsake you.” Do you believe that? And not only was that true in the OT, it’s doubly true now that God literally lives IN you! We are invited to bring our requests, cares, and concerns to God! We saw this back when we studied 1 Peter 5:7 “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” When you feel all alone, bring it to the Lord. 

-The way this verse starts demonstrates to us that David has the right orientation toward God. He knows this true, he trusts that God will take care of Him, so instead of grumbling and complaining, he cries out to God! 

-Look at what David asks God to do. This is a request for God to enact judgment, there are numerous Psalms that are called “imprecatory Psalms,” asking God to curse or bring evil upon someone. 

-Note here, David is essentially asking God to prevent the evil from continuing to spread. It’s “an eye for an eye” so he’s not going way beyond what the people are committing. It’s also interesting that these are God’s Words in the Bible, how do we process them, especially in light of Jesus’ new commands to bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us. How are we supposed to process these ideas? Much bigger than I can fully devote time to, briefly: be slow to adopt them, but what other words would we have in times of mass genocide like we’ve seen a few times in the past century? How do we process the atrocities of places like the concentration camps of the Third Reich? Or the shooting of little children in school? Or the attempts to kill the entire Uighur population in China right now? Or the straight land grab currently taking place in Ukraine? You ask for God to save the person, but don’t you also say: do whatever it takes to stop these evils! Honestly, I really wish I could be a pacifist, and at times I think it does a better job with Jesus’ ethics, but then I think back to the Russian gulags, or the German concentration camps, and then I pray for God to enact perfect, lasting justice. This is also something we pray for (or should pray for) more often than we realize. Every time we pray the Lord’s prayer we are praying imprecatory things, when we ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done we are asking for him to bring about perfect, lasting justice, to vanquish His enemies and correct the sinful ways of people. 

-Yet another reason I’m a Christian: it gives voice to the evils in the world. It doesn’t skirt around them, doesn’t try to minimize them, doesn’t bury its head in the sand and pretend they don’t exist, it faces it head on and gives language to process through it. More to come as we come across more imprecatory Psalms! 

-But I also want to approach this idea from a personal perspective. I think of the old hymn “Come Thou Fount” where we sing “prone to wander, Lord I feel it prone to leave the God I love.” What do we do when we’re the one that need our flattering lips and boastful tongues cut off? What do we do when we come face to face with our sinful tendencies?

Matt. 18:7-9. We tend to read this and jump to hyperbole, but don’t just jump there too quickly, I think Jesus has a real point here. 

-Jake’s snake story.

-We tend to treat our sin as a little pet that we can keep in its’ container and pull it out to play with it every once in a while, but by doing that we’re only playing with our certain doom. That’s where Jesus says it’s better for you to cut off limbs to ensure your holiness than play with your sin and die.

-Smooth talker: can sell a cup of water to someone drowning, sell an umbrella to someone in the Sahara during the dry season. This is someone who’s so confident in their ability to talk their way out of any situation that they’re confident they’ll never truly be found out. Intentionally deceiving others and being disobedient to God. 

-All that, and we’re only 4 verses in! But don’t worry, there’s only 4 more verses!

-This first section we saw to bring your requests to God, let Him know when you’re feeling alone and struggling.

  • Holy Words (5-8)
    • God’s Words (5-6)

-God responds, but what is it exactly that God is responding to? 

-to the poor and the needy One of the theological issues Jeramy and I discussed this past Spring was the burden of being wealthy. Most of the time we’re not even aware of the spiritual weight having money is to us. That’s why Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24). That was a joke to make a point. How well would a camel fit through a needle? 

-Similarly, I read an article this week titled “True religion” The title is taken from James 1:27. The article said that unless your discipleship leads you to take better care of “orphans and widows” then you’re not growing as a disciple.

-Another situation I think fleshes this out: Jesus’ first public sermon (and description of His ministry) in (Luke 4:18-19). God cares about the marginalized in the world, it is when the marginalized are mistreated and abused that God responds. It should cause us to ask: do I care about the marginalized that I see around me? Who are the marginalized? Anyone that has a need (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, materially)

-This also gets us back to the imprecatory Psalms: we, today, are meant to be a visible demonstration of God’s lasting justice, that is care for the poor and oppressed looking for ways to care for them like God would care for them. 

-Look at what God will do, He won’t remove them from the situation, but will bring safety. God doesn’t promise us a carefree life, God promises to be with us the midst of whatever situations come our way.

-Compare the description of God’s words to the liar. Pure vs. impure. There is no double speak, no mocking, no flattering, no boasting, just pure honest words. What God says is true. Think about that, because God doesn’t change, the things He said here 3,000 years ago are just as true today as they were back then. They are more pure than the most refined precious metals in the world. 

-So for us, how do we treat/view God’s Word? Do you view it as pure? Do you meditate on it, soak in it, saturate our lives with it, or is it a nice treat on the side? Do you treat it as the main course or the dessert (eat sparingly). Jesus tells a story of how we should treat His Words: a man find a jewel in a field, sells everything to buy the field and gets the priceless jewel. Do we honor God’s Word as more valuable than a priceless gem/heirloom? 

-We need to be in God’s word to listen to what God says

  • Our Words (7-8)

-How does David respond to God’s promise to respond to the call of the poor and needy? 

-He extrapolates on the promises of God. God will keep the people He has promised to, nothing will be able to stand against Him and His ways. 

-Even if (unlike Elijah) you were literally the only child of God left on the earth, God would continue guarding and protecting you. 

-At the beginning of this Psalm, it seemed like the worldly generation would inevitably win, there’s no one godly left, but God will still protect and preserve, despite the evil walking right next to you.

-Keep to the straight and narrow, keep to faithfully following God’s Word, since the wicked prowl beside, but as long as we are being faithful and obedient to His ways, we continue taking one step forward as we seek to see His kingdom come and His will be done on earth just like it is in heaven.

-Preach to yourself: who is God, what is He like?

-So what do we do when we feel like we’re completely alone in the world? Share your burden, listen to what God says, remind yourself who God is

Gospel Rooted Growth – 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.

James 4:1-10

-Finally reached the end of this series! I hope it’s been encouraging to you, and a helpful reminder as far as what is it we need to focus on as a church, the non-negotiables that need to determine what we spend our time and money towards, and how we’re going to be moving forward together as a church. 

-Started with the mission of making and maturing disciples of Jesus. This is what sets the church apart from every other group, organization, or entity in the world. There are lots of other organizations doing lots of great work, but there’s only 1 group called to make disciples. That must be at the forefront of everything we do!

-Then we saw the need to by glorifying God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism begins: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We are created to glorify someone/something, if we glorify something other than God it’s idolatry and leads to death.

-This need to glorify God means we need to lead the gospel permeate into everything we do, so we looked at gospel centered worship. All of our lives are meant to worship God, so the gospel needs to be both explicit and implicit in our lives, and in our gathered worship.

-We also need to be a gospel shaped community, we looked at Gal. 5 with the need to lovingly care for each other and live out the fruit of the Spirit instead of the works of the flesh.

-This idea continues as we join with God’s mission to seek and save the lost. The church needs to embrace being the church and allow the gospel to shape both our gathering and our scattering. But the ultimate goal has never changed: God’s people in God’s place serving under God’s perfect rule and reign. Right now we already serve as an embassy where we serve a different king than the world. We do our best to represent that king and kingdom. Read this this week: 

-“The ambassador represents the message of the King, the methods of the King, and the character of the King.” (accelerate, 14)

-Let’s think about this for a minute. That ambassador language is taken from 2 Cor. 5 “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” 

3 aspects: message, methods, character. The message is the gospel, the good news of what Christ has done by entering into human history, dying on the cross, then rising again on the third day which changes everything about our future. That needs to be on the tip of our tongues and forefront of our minds for our whole lives.

-The methods are what I love describing as the “upside down way.” Acts 17:6 the early church is accused of “turning the world upside down.” Isn’t that exactly what Jesus coming does? Instead of being served we’re to serve others, instead of lording over people our status, we’re to act humbly. In our culture humility is a virtue, in the 1st century it’s a vice! God’s ways look counterintuitive to our fleshly human minds, but they’re the only way to find true, lasting life.

-The character. Brothers and sisters, we are literally commanded to look like God. “Be holy as I am holy.” (Lev. 19:2, 1 Peter 1:16) Have you ever thought of what that looks like? Being just as perfect as God? Don’t just run to “I’m not God” actually think about that for a minute.

-One characteristic about God I’ve been trying to meditate on recently is “draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” When I am confronted with a sinful situation in my life or heart, I’m supposed to use that to run TO God not AWAY from God. So if we’re supposed to act like God, shouldn’t we be a welcome place for someone to run to when they’re confronted with their sin? Why do we act surprised when sinners sin? 

-Religion: “I messed up. Dad’s gonna kill me!” Gospel: “I messed up. I need to call Dad.”

READ/PRAY (pg. 587)

-Different message, intentionally today! I don’t like using a text as a springboard, but I think James lays a great foundation to talk through what I mean when I talk about gospel rooted growth, but then I’m going to spend the bulk of today on how to apply these truths using 2 of the most helpful books on sanctification (becoming holy) I’ve found: Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands and How People Change. The first is in the library, the second will be there tomorrow.

  1. The Tensions of This World (1-4)

-The first step in any hope for growth is recognizing there is a problem! 

-I don’t know if any of you had this experience, but I had no clue how truly selfish I was until I got married! I thought I was a fairly patient, understanding person until I actually had to be accountable to someone for money, time, location!

-The problem for all of us is we are sinners, which means we are far far worse than we would ever imagine! We are sinners down to our core. This is why we need the gospel message, which means because of Christ we are far more loved than we could ever dream.

-James says even our passions are suspect! What is it that you most deeply think you want? Because if it’s anything other than life with Christ, you’re going to be severely disappointed. Think of the last time you got a new (at least to you) vehicle. You promise yourself that it will be different this time – cleaned every week, meticulously maintained, then what happens? Lasts for maybe a month! You can’t change you!

-Because of sin, we are our own worst enemy, and by giving in to the way the world operates, we put ourselves at war with God. Every time we sin we are breaking at least 2 commandments: the 1st one (no other gods) and then whichever of the next commandments we also broke. This is why worship is so important: we all worship someone or something, and sin has misplaced our worship. 1-3: no other gods, no other images, God’s name in vain (dishonor Him)

-4 Sabbath – my time is more important than God’s time, and I have no limits

-5 honor parents – my will is higher than God’s, and I don’t need authority in my life

-6 Do not murder – others exist for me, if I am not treated as the highest authority, I will seek revenge

-7 No adultery – my pleasure are more important than others, even God’s law

-8 Do not steal – I need more things to be satisfied instead of God

-9 No lying – my image is more important than someone else’s image

-10 do not covet – I similar to 7, my needs/desires are more important than others and I can’t celebrate when someone else is blessed.

-Prayer can help you do this! ACTS: by the time you get to “supplication” you’ll actually start to be praying for those needs according to God’s will.

-We need to treat sin as it really is: a cancer that spreads into our whole bodies affecting everything we do. John Owen: be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.

-So what do we do about that? This is where How People Change is so helpful! 

-Using Jer. 17:5-10 as a picture: heat, thorns, cross, fruit. I’ll let you go read the passage on your own time, but I’ll walk through this illustration to help you think through what this looks like in your life.

-Heat: situations that God brings into your life, all of us have things that happen to us each and every day. The way God works in us is our responses to the “heat” that comes into our lives. The Bible is full of examples of this! The Israelites, the kings, the prophets, the apostles. The Bible accounts how people responded to many of these situations! The way we respond to these situations reveal exactly what’s in our heart! Initially, our fleshly response leads to thorns.

-Thorns: these would be responses that manifest our sinful tendencies, and what kinds of things have you seen that come out when you respond to situations sinfully? These thorns are areas that God allows for us to see the ways our sin so easily entangles us.

-The authors have a list of typical ways people respond with thorns, I’ll just pick a couple and let you go read the rest.

Deny, avoid, escape: how many of us refuse to admit where we’re struggling or hurting? We put on the “good Christian” face, but inside we’re scared to admit we’re struggling to keep our head above water. Or maybe you’ve found ways to numb the difficulties you’re feeling, either with working too many hours, or eating too much food, or drinking too much. Whatever it is, it allows you to run from facing your thorns head on. 

Magnify, expand, catastrophize: maybe you view your entire life through a negative lens. No one else could ever truly understand your difficulties, no one else carries the same burden you carry, nor do you believe anyone else would truly care enough to let them in. Maybe it’s even giving into 1 story that has shaped the way you view literally everything!

Self-excusing self-righteousness: instead of actively killing our sin, we see our sin, but then blame other people for it and refuse to acknowledge it. This is most often manifested as children start to grow up and become independent. Your parent’s end up becoming the punching bag for all your issues because they clearly didn’t understand you as well as they should have. I could go on with these ideas, but you get the point! The thing to remember is: God will allow thorns to expose our sin.

-So what do we do? We run to God!

  • The Grace of God (5-6)

-God’s grace is sufficient. Grace is described as “the thick rod of rebar that courses through the concrete of the biblical story.” (Instruments, 32)

-The very moment where we’re tempted to turn around and run away from God, the moment when we feel most distant, most disconnected, most afraid of Him, is the moment where He is most near. It’s at that moment when we finally start to realize that we need His grace. Lewis: “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Spurgeon: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the rock of ages.”

-Leads us back to the need to bring everything to the cross.

-Cross:

-The cross means we have a brand new way of living (because of God’s grace) that wasn’t available to us before God saved us. This idea is most clearly demonstrated in:

-Gal. 2:20 This new life is signified with baptism, we die as our old selves and rise as Christ. Not an improved person, a brand new one! I have been crucified (saved) Christ lives in me (present tense) The life I live in the body (ability to live a new life daily)

-This is how we now have the ability to live a changed life! All the excuses we once had are now pointless and useless. Because of the cross, we can own up to the times we fall short, which leads instead of thorns to:

-Fruit: lasting heart change instead of merely external obedience is only possible because the gospel is taking root in our lives.

-ILLUS: staple an apple to a dead branch. Does this apple have any hope of continuing to grow? This is what happens when we try to force obedience without a transformed heart. With my kids! Until God saves them, this is what I’m going to be doing (doesn’t mean it’s bad for parenting, but as they grow I need to continue going for the heart, not the externals)

-This is where we all have the need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day. You need God’s grace today just as much as you did yesterday, and you’ll need God’s grace tomorrow just as much as you’ll need it today.

-However, we often forget that we need the gospel in our lives today. We have a tendency to view the gospel past tense (were saved) and future tense (will be glorified) but the gospel is also the means by which we can have lasting fruit. And once again, we need to remember this needs to be done in the context of the church. James is written to a church to help them live out these truths. Galatians is written to a church to help them live out these truths. Actually the NT is written FOR THE CHURCH to live out and embody gospel rooted growth.

-So how do we do that together? I’m glad you asked!

  • Humble Repentance (7-10)

-Submit to God: don’t puff yourself up, allow Him to work in you.

-Resist the devil: we can actually do that now! Before we had no hope of defeating his temptations, but now we can!

-Watch your life and belief: life: “cleanse your hands” belief: “purify your hearts”

9 – how do you respond when you’re made aware of thorns in your life?

-“God uses the instrument of His Word, delivered by human preachers and applied by the Spirit, to call his people to repentance.” ESV Expositors

-Every revival in church history began with repentance!

-How do we seek repentance together? First we need each other!

-Heb. 3:12-13. Love, know, speak, do from Instruments

  1. Love

-Christ’s love in us, which compels us as believers (2 Cor. 5:14-15), we have a new way of treating others, we are actually called to love them, even our enemies! That’s where love is described by Jesus as the last apologetic, the way the world knows if we’re Christians. 

-“If there had been no fall, if we had never sinned, we would still need help because we are human.” (Instruments, 41)

-Get up in each other’s business! We act as if we can’t have deep, lasting relationships, but that’s exactly what we need! If we are only known 99% we’re not actually known! This leads us to:

  • Know

-Ask questions, don’t assume you know everything that’s going on.

-Need honesty, both sides: look in the mirror before the other (log vs. speck)

-Try to actually understand the other person. How many arguments take place because you don’t actually understand what the other person is saying?

-Or let’s think about this another way, go to the Dr but you’re dishonest about your symptoms, will the medicine he prescribes be effective? In order to deal with the cancerous sin, we need to use the right medicine, it is the gospel, but it’s applied in different ways.

  • Speak

-Speak the truth in love. What do we speak? “The word of Christ” (Col. 3:16)

-Don’t just confront your preferences, confront where someone is out of line with what the Bible commands! AKA, extend grace to others and assume the best. Even in confronting, you can do it in a way that honors and assumes the best of someone else! 

-Podcast this week, “I heard you saw ____ this week and I’m just wondering if you meant that, why you said that, and how that aligns with Scripture?”

  • Do

-Continue living in relationship with them. This is going to need to happen again and again until Christ returns.

-Accountability. Do people know what’s really going on in your heart? When you are demonstrating thorns instead of fruit, who will tell you?

-Long term hope for us: 

-a healthy church that intentionally looks to welcome people in 

-disciples them on what a healthy church looks like and how it operates (steeped in God’s grace)

-and sends them out, every week, but also:

-Church planting. I found documents from 2008 when I got here that said “South Suburban needs to remain committed to church planting,” and I completely agree!

-Church revitalization. Until Christ returns, church’s are going to need help to get healthy. How can we help other churches be healthy? When one church catches fire for the Lord, it raises the temperature of every other church around them.

-Pastoral training. Because of my commitment to the local church, I’m convinced the best place to train pastors is, guess where? Partner with seminaries to help train new pastors.

-Today is multiplication Sunday in our district. We have an EFCA church plant coming into Eagan, Lord willing this fall! What can we do to help them be a healthy church that’s pursuing God’s kingdom together?

Gospel Shaped Community – 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.

-Working our way through our new mission/vision

-Nothing new, but reminds us the fundamentals of our faith, things that have been true since our founding in 1978.

-If you played sports growing up, you had drills you had to practice. Basketball: dribbling, triple threat stance, defensive stance, shooting form (follow through). I remember going to watch Kevin Garnett growing up, saw his pregame routine, was the exact same thing we did at high school, but unlike us, he didn’t miss! 

-We saw last week the story of the gospel, leading to the need to have gospel centered worship shape everything we do (so we had some people eat Snickers for us, and yes we did have Snickers in our new members class)

-Today we’re going to look at farming. Before my family moved to MN, we lived in ND. Both families were farmers, so when we’d go to family get togethers we’d spend hours driving through the ND farmland (most of the state) Always amazed me, my parents knew exactly what each field contained by a quick glance. My plant identification skills still leave my dad in awe of my ignorance! (when we first moved here my dad asked me what kind of trees we have in our backyard) Whether we realize it or not, all of us are farmers. Our habits, routines, practices are all planting seeds that will someday sprout in our lives and demonstrate what kind of seed has been planted in our lives. 

READ/PRAY (pg. 567)

-Galatians is written to a group of churches who have been inundated with false teachers who wanted to add to the gospel message. If you’ve read through the NT before, you’ve seen the way most of the Epistles are written is half theology, half implementation of the previous theology. Galatians is no exception! Paul expounds the realities of the gospel message

-By adding man-made rules, the false teachers were enslaving a people who had been set free. But this freedom is very different than the way we often view freedom today! Remember, the same guy who wrote this freedom idea in Galatians also wrote Romans! 

Rom. 6

-Everyone is a slave to something: what are you a slave to, sin or righteousness? Both have demands, both have expectations, both have masters that you’re serving, but one leads to life.

-That’s where back in Gal. 5, Paul will talk about freedom with ethical implications to it. When we think of freedom, we have a tendency to think (philosophically) libertarianism. Most often hear that word in connection to politics today, politics is named for the philosophical idea that every person is an autonomous free will agent. That’s not what Paul has in mind when he uses freedom (which we associate with the American way). 

-The Christian’s freedom is the joy to lovingly serve each other, the horizonal dimension to our faith. (cross shaped, quoting Jesus from Matt. 22 greatest commandment)

-The natural state of a human is conflict/war. You see that with kids! It takes time and effort to train them to stop thinking only about themselves, and it’s hard! Adults are similar, we just hide it better.

-Yet becoming a gospel shaped community means we don’t “bit and devour one another.” It means we honor others above ourselves, and it means even our so called “freedom” is meant to be a way to die to ourselves. All that to get to: 

  1. Lives in Step With the Spirit (5:16-26)

-Paul is expounding here what it means to love our neighbor as ourself, and it begins with walking by the Spirit. 

-Notice that the theme of the Spirit permeates this whole section, and there’s some important verbs connected to the Spirit: walk (16), led (18) live (25) keep in step (25) for now just note that, we’ll get to what that means as we walk through.

-Walking refers to your entire orientation, the way you go about your life. 

-Remember, building up to this point Paul had quoted Jesus’ greatest commandment, Jesus was quoting from Deut. 6, which has been memorized, studied, lived out by the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Another way of saying “walk by the Spirit” is remembering God first and foremost. Look at this.

-Statement of who God is, followed by a command for us to follow. God’s commands are to be written on our hearts. We say this last week “let the word of Christ dwell in you.” Meditate, think on these things. But these things aren’t meant to be done in isolation!

-Teach them to your children! When? House, travel outside your house, going to bed, wake up in the morning. If it’s in your heart, that’s what will naturally come out as you’re doing your normal daily things.

-Should become so soaked into who you are that it’s like they’re written on your hand and placed in between your eyes. Should permeate everything you do that your front door is marked by the implications of God’s Word, and your gates will be obedient to God’s commands.

-Everything I’m talking about with our new vision can be found here. Worship in vs. 5, community with children and your house (7, 9), mission in 78, 9 and growth back in 5

-This is what a life walking by the Spirit will look like: it will drive us to worship, community, mission (worship, we witness) and it all centers around the Word of Christ (the gospel!)

-Back to Galatians, living this way means we stop catering to our fleshly impulses. 

-Notice the constant battle going on in our lives: flesh vs. the spirit. When you find yourself giving in to the same old sin it’s your flesh winning the war. When you find yourself becoming more patient in responding to your spouse, it’s the Spirit winning the war. This is the process of sanctification, and all of us are in different places spiritually.

-We will get to the community part in chapter 6, but we need to begin with this, since Paul is talking about the way individuals will act in this new body/community that we’re called to. 

-This leads us to some lists. First, a list of the works of the flesh. 

-Notice the plural behind this workS. Then 15 things that seem to not have a lot in common with each other. Loosely follow: sexual sins, spiritual sins, communal sins, excess, but then we see it’s not exhausting: “things like these.” Almost as if Paul gets too tired of listing them “you know I could go on forever, but we’ll stop there.” I find relief in this list, there’s nothing new! These things still crop up in the church today! How often in the church (sometimes even here) do we see strife, dissensions and divisions? Every church I’ve ever been to has the battle scars to prove that these have come up before. Just so we’re on the same page here, is this evidences of the Spirit, or flesh? When you see these characteristics coming up, RUN AWAY! Instead, what we need to demonstrate and look for is:

-Singular fruit. None is optional. 3 groups of 3. God, others, ourselves.

-If we are in Christ we have the freedom to demonstrate this fruit instead of the works of flesh! We’ve killed that flesh, but the flesh keeps fighting back!

-live by the Spirit (only way TO live) keep in step (who’s setting the pace? Hank Griffith finally keeping up with Donna since she had her gall bladder removed!)

-If we all individually are living out this fruit, it will allow us to have gospel shaped community where we will not be opposed to each other.

  • Bears Each Other Burdens (6:1-5)

-All that previous stuff we saw is the characteristics, traits required of all of us individually to allow us to now live out these truths in this section. It turns us into:

-Brothers – we are now a family

-Listening to a podcast yesterday on the invention of the nuclear family. When the Bible talks about family it’s far bigger than we tend to think today. We’re far too nearsighted when we think about family today.

-Diognetus: 130-200 AD.

-“follow the customs of natives” in but not of the world

-have no home, living for another world

-“do not destroy their offspring” true Christians have been against abortion since the 2nd century. It’s purely a modern idea that “Christians” would support the killing of the unborn. Pray for Roe to be overturned, but that’s the end of the beginning, because it will essentially not change anything.

-“common table, not common bed.” Share meals together, but not sleeping together. What a wild idea!

-“surpass the laws by their lives” often too independent today to do this!

-“unable to assign any reason” brothers and sisters this could hardly even describe those in the church today, much less the way we treat those outside our body. Wouldn’t you love to be a part of a group of people who exemplified this reality? We can! That’s why it’s a part of our vision, this is something we aspire to

-Caught

-traps, snares. World, the flesh, the devil. How often do you find yourself giving into sinful temptations, or living out the fleshly works instead of the fruit

-Who are spiritual, opposed to fleshly

-Those who are living the fruit of the Spirit, should be most of us! 

-I was tempted to preach on 1 Cor. 5 where Paul tells us to judge those inside the church, or follow Jesus’ command in Matt. 18. Church discipline is a beautiful thing, and most of the time we’re not even aware of when it’s taking place since it starts 1 on 1. And the end goal of church disciple, or judging those inside the church is:

-Restore – set a broken bone, fix what was broken. Ultimate goal is restoration or reconciliation. Yet when we do that:

-don’t fall into the same temptation. Be aware of your own personal temptations, and don’t get caught by the same sins.

-And notice how we approach this restoration process: with gentleness. How often do we just condemn, and not use gentleness? Not shying away from the truth, but speaking the truth IN LOVE. Gentleness isn’t weakness, it’s a mark of keeping in step with the Spirit, being led by the Spirit. 

-Bear each other’s burdens

-Did some drywall yesterday, have any idea how tough that is to move by yourself? I heard sounds coming out I didn’t even know I could make! Having a second person makes it infinitely easier. Similarly, we’re not meant to carry our spiritual burdens alone. 

-Song “Christ has no body now but yours” some issues, Jesus still has a body

-What is the law of Christ? John 13 love. The way we demonstrate our love is by not letting our family carry their burdens alone. We just read this description from the second century of the church living this out.

-While we’re commanded to love each other, our brothers and sisters will not bear the penalty for our sins when we stand before God.

-We will be culpable for how we love our church family, we’ll be held responsible for whether or not we carried their burdens, but the reverse is not true. We cannot be like our first father Adam and blame anyone else for our sin.

-The fact that we need others should lead us to gospel rooted humility, there is no such thing as gospel rooted pride! The gospel will rip the roots of pride right out of your life, it will force you to take the attention off yourself the put it on Christ, and then care for others’ interests even higher than your own.

-Listened to a podcast that was titled “Will the real adults please stand up?” Just waiting for someone else to do it. All of us need to say it starts with me. 

-I think of the verse I’ve seen in SO many houses growing up (my mom had it in the bathroom my sister and I shared) Joshua 24:15 “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Do you have that attitude? I don’t care what everyone else does, we’re different. 

  • Does Good (6:6-10)

-Share with the teacher (6)

-People generally take this to refer to paying pastors, and that’s part of it (so thank you for allowing me to spend time studying God’s Word each week! I don’t take that lightly, and consider it a privilege)

-But also, this is where as we’ve gotten to the end of sermon series, I’ve asked to share where you’ve been encouraged, challenged, or learned something new. Not just for me, tell Tami, Micah, Jeramy, Bruce, Sabrina. If something comes up, please share! I’m not always aware of what is effective and what isn’t. Plus, we’re supposed to be encouraging toward each other anyway! 

-Sowing and reaping (7-8)

-If you didn’t know, Spring finally came this week, at least for a couple days! With Spring comes planting time. Cara has high hopes for what plants will eventually be growing in our backyard, and guys I’m trying to pretend to care! But even I know how this works, so if Cara tells me she’s planted some lettuce seeds, what’s (barring famine, neglect, or insect) going to grow? If she tells me she’s planted some cucumber seed, I should be expecting what to grow? Everyone knows how this work, it’s not rocket science!

-Paul takes that idea and asks: spiritually, what kind of fruit are you going to bear? You’ve got 2 places to sow seed: flesh or Spirit.

-Remember the previous section Paul compared works of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit. But one thing about fruit is it’s a byproduct of the work. The plant can’t help it, it’s the natural overflow of what it does. In our lives, the natural byproduct of planting Spirit filled things will be the fruit of the Spirit. When we try to do it in our own comfort or strength we’ll end up doing it in the flesh/works. 

-True individually and corporately. Are the ministries, works, seeds we’re trying to scatter in the Spirit or the flesh? Are you praying regularly for the seed that is sown here, both individually and corporately to be leading to fruit? This means we need to do regular evaluation of what’s bearing fruit, if something we’re spending a lot of time and money on isn’t bearing fruit, we either need to change it or get rid of it! We only have so many resources to give, we need to ensure we’re being faithful to what God has called us to do! Make disciples. 

-If you are ever discouraged by what feels like unfruitful work, go read Gal. 6:9. Sometimes I feel like it’s the only thing that keeps me going!

-Life on this side of heaven is hard! In the most difficult season of ministry I experienced this verse was a lifeline for me because of the last line: “if we do not give up.” In the midst of my struggle there were many days when I woke up and wanted to give up, to go work somewhere else, but this reminded me to continue putting 1 foot in front of the other, keep moving forward. 

-But it also means we need to ask the question: what season are we currently in? Are we in a planting season? Are we in a pruning season? Are we in a fruitful season? One thing remains constant through every season: do good.

-When we’re mocked, do good. When we’re upset, do good. When we’re belittled, do good. When we’re depressed, do good. Come what may, we do good. The reality is, God will bring us opportunities to do good, the question is are you ready for them?

-Notice vs. 10, generally, do good to all, but there is a unique burden to do good to those who are believers, the burden of love! We’re now family, which means we need to treat each other like it, far more than just casual acquaintances.

-Made a joke to Cara yesterday that I was triaging my parenting, one child was being very disobedient so they were getting all my focus. Another one tried to get me to do something else but I couldn’t get away to help the other child. Then we practiced actual triage when someone wiped out on his bike! We have the burden of caring for those in our body who can’t go on by themselves. 

-The gospel calls us into a community, the gospel then embeds itself in our community and transforms us, planting seeds in us to bear the fruit of the Spirit, the question for all of us is: what field are you planting in, the flesh or the Spirit? 

Ethnocentrism in the Early Church – Acts 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ethnicity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Listen

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

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

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

  • Lament

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

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

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

  • Learn

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

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

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

  • Love

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

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

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

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

The Worldly Image (Rom. 1:18-31)

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

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

-Structurally, functionally, relationally. 

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

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

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

Rom. 1 gives us that exact picture!

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Great Exchange (21-25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Unnatural Ways to Live (26-32)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-How do we engage this conversation today?

1. Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Higher calling than just “being honest.”

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

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

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

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

4. We need to be the church. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Image of God (Part 2) Sermon Manuscript

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

Genesis 2-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Again, celebrate that which is true!

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Vertical Relationship

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

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

  1. Unity (2:4-20)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Disunity (3:8-13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Violence (3:14-24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Horizontal Relationship

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

  1. Unity (2:23-25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Culminates in both being naked and not ashamed.

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

  • Disunity (3:12-19)

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

-When God confronts Adam, who does he blame?

-When God confronts Eve, who does she blame?

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

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

  • Violence (4:1-16)

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

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

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

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

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

-Back to the story: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Solution (4:26)

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

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

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

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

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!