Christmas Makes Us…

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

1 John 1:1-4

-What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. Christmas Makes Us Remember (1, 3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Christmas Makes Us Proclaim (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Christmas Makes Us Relational (3b)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Christmas Makes Us Joyful (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Formally & Informally – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

-Summary of the previous weeks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY (Deut. 6) 

  1. Formally: Right Theology (4-5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-That’s just the first application!

  • Informally: Right Living (6-9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Perseverance, Step by Step (10-25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imitate Me – Sermon Manuscript

-‘Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building’

-“I want to be like Mike”

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. People as God’s Fellow Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Two Pictures of Discipleship

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

  1. Following

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

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

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

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

-This tells us a few things about discipleship:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Imitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-persecutions: wait, even these?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Content of Discipleship – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY – Col. 3:12-17 (573)

What is the Bible?

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

-Really brief summary: God’s Word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Proclamation of the Word of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Prayerful dependance on the Spirit of God

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

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

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

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

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

  • People are God’s fellow workers

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

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

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

  • Perseverance, step by step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defining Discipleship – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY (Titus 2:11-14, 579)

  1. God’s Purpose in Human History

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

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

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

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

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

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

Titus 2:11-14 (579)

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

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

Col. 1:13-14 (572)

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

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

-Picture of this using an arrow.

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

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

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

  • What is a disciple?

Luke 6:40 (503)

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

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

-What are some pictures of this? Baptism & yoke

John 4:1 (518)

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

-Have you been baptized?

Matt 11:27-30 (476)

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

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

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

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

Matt. 28:18-20 (487)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Shift from “disciple” to “learner”

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

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

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

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

Eph. 4:19-24 “learned Christ”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What is discipleship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Thess. 5:13-22 (574)

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

-Look at all these various commands: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Children: Obey (1-3)

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

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

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

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

-“In the Lord”

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

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

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

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

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

  • Fathers: Teach (4)

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

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

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

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

-Discipline and instruction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Slaves: Obey (5-8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Lorence’s berry farm throwing rotten berries.

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

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

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

  • Masters: Honor (9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 4:1-16 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. Unity Means We’re the Same (1-6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-AIO story of Mr Foot, Ms Lips

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

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

  • Unity Means We Grow Up (13-16)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 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