Foolish Generosity – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY (1 Tim. 6:6-19)

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

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

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

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

  1. What is a “tithe”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How do you measure your growth in godliness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-This leads us to the last question:

  • Where is your treasure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 5:17-33 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

READ/PRAY (pg. 569)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Address one another (19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Merriman Webster: a song of praise to God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And over all of this is:

  • Give thanks always (20)

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

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

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

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

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

  • Submit to one another (21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Why? (23)

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

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

  • How? (24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Husbands: Love Your Wives

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

And gave himself up for her

  1. Sacrificial Love (25)

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

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

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

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

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

-Husbands: how are you sacrificing for your wives? 

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

  • Sanctifying Love (26-27)

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

When Sinners Say “I Do” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Self-love (28-30)

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

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

  • The mystery of marriage (31-33)

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

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

Love & Respect

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

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

-We need to extend grace to each other. 

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

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

Ephesians 3:14-21 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. To Be Strengthened (14-17a)

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

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

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

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

-“Bow my knees”

-Humble posture. Luke 18:9-14.

-“Father”

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

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

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

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

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

-“riches of his glory”

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

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

-“To be strengthened with power”

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

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

-“In your inner being”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • To Grasp Christ’s Love (17b-19)

-“Rooted and grounded in love”

-Rooted like plants, grounded like a solid foundation.

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

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

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

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

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

-“To know the love of Christ”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • To Him Who Is Able (20-21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 1:1-15 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. Introduction (1-2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Chosen by the Father (3-6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acts 4:27-28

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

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

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

1 Cor 2:7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Redeemed by the Son (7-12)

-“In Him” again, we have redemption. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sealed by the Sprit (13-14)

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

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

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

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

-In Christ:

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

Psalm 18 – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. I Love You Lord (1-3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • God’s Power in Salvation (4-19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How We Can Be Saved (20-29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Praise to God (46-50)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 19 – 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.

-As we begin today’s message, I need everyone in here to pretend that they’re kids again, we’re going to play some games with our imaginations.

-First: I want you to think about your favorite place in the world that you’ve ever been to. Could be a cabin in the woods, a beach you visited, Lebanon hills, the mountains, Disney World.

-Now I want you to think about your favorite dessert, the best you’ve ever had. Over summer my mind often goes to a perfectly browned marshmallow (don’t you dare burn them!) with either Reese’s or Hershey’s on graham crackers! Maybe you love a good piece of pie, a piece of cake, a scoop of ice cream. Personally, I’m a sucker for crème brulee. Cara and I spent our honeymoon on the Big Island of Hawaii and I had the best crème brulee I’ve ever had! I’ve been looking everywhere I can to try to find a piece of that crème brulee, but none have yet come close to replicating it!

-Isn’t some of what makes your favorite place in the world and your favorite dessert the rarity of it? If I ate that crème brulee everyday accompanying every meal I would eventually grow tired of it. Or if you lived in your favorite place in the world, mine is Colorado. Got to live there for 5 years, and much to my dismay, there were some days that I forgot to look at the mountains. 

-So often we miss or neglect to enjoy the things that are right around us that were given for our joy. All these little things are supposed to be gifts from God that point us to Him! Today’s Psalm is a reminder that God’s fingerprints are all around us, if we take the time to stop and notice, to pay careful attention to how He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

READ/PRAY. How do you find Psalm 19? Why do we stand? Neh. 8:5Luke 4:16

  1. Creation – General Revelation (1-6)

-This Psalm begins looking at one way God reveals Himself to us: through the created order. There are 2 primary ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to His creation: the rest of creation, and His Word. Theologians refer to these as general and special revelation. General being something everyone can see, special being a unique separate revelation. General revelation/creation points to Him as the Creator, but a knowledge of God as the Creator doesn’t save someone, which is why He also gave us a special revelation: His Word, and ultimately His Word made flesh: Jesus. We’ll get to the special revelation in a bit, the first section is an extended meditation on creation.

-The heavens and the sky are serving a purpose. Skies bring forth rain, seasons, sustaining of life. But looking up at the skies, do you ever feel small? Every time you walk outside and look up you’re staring at a place where you could most likely fly in a straight line and hit nothing for lightyears.

-You can see another example of this if you ever walk into an old historic cathedral. Those buildings are awe-inspiring (intentionally so!) what do people do the instant they walk into a building like that? Silence, look up. This is meant to communicate the bigness of God (transcendence)

-Heard one pastor say no one walks up to the edge of the Grand Canyon and brags how smart they are. If you saw someone do that, wouldn’t you look at them like they’re crazy? Dude, you’re missing something amazing if you’d get over yourself!

-Now look at the verbs connected to the skies and the heavens: declare and proclaim. Has anyone ever heard the sky talking? We know this isn’t literal! But they do declare and proclaim some truth: the glory of God, and the work of his hands. There’s a couple reasons for this speaking.

-The first, as we’ve seen, is to remind us of the bigness of God. He is so far beyond anything we could ever figure out on our own!

-The second reason is a reminder that the creation is not God. The weather is one of the few places today humans are still reminded that we’re not God! We’ve sent people to space, we’ve learned much about sicknesses and disease, we’ve mapped the entire human genome, but we have yet to prevent rain, turn the tides, or even prevent a tiny little coronavirus from circling the planet! Everything that exists was created by God, yet is not god. That’s a vital distinction for us to remember! When David was writing this, most other cultures nearby worshipped the creation, they would have a sun god, a moon god, star gods. This is David saying none of those created things are meant to be worshipped!

-This declaration and proclamation that the heavens and skies are doing occur day after day and night after night. This tells us the purpose of all creation: to point to the Creator God. But let’s ask that question again: have you ever heard the sky talk? Vs. 3 says that exact same thing!

-CSB: “There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard.” However, it almost feels like David is VERY forgetful, because look at vs. 4

-Despite the reality that creation doesn’t speak audibly, nothing can stop them from continually pointing to the creator, screaming out the reality of God! I can’t remember where I heard this (I’ve tried looking it up since) so it was probably Spurgeon that said it! But some well-known preacher one time said: a dog worships God by acting like a dog. Barking, wagging his tail, chasing his tail. Similarly with the skies, they worship God by acting within their nature: the sun worships by continually burning, the Earth worships by continually spinning, the moon worships by reflecting the sun. They can’t help but continually worship and praise their Creator. So David talks about the sun continually worshipping:

-In the sky, we see the sun rising and the sun setting day after day after day. Remember we saw in Psalm 15that David questioned who could sojourn in God’s holy tent referring to the dwelling place of God. Similarly here, God has created the space for the sun to live and move, and in the sun’s obedience to worshipping and living as God has commanded him (her?), the sun never runs out of energy.

-David compares the sun to a bridegroom running out on his wedding day. I don’t know about anyone else when they got married, but I couldn’t wait for that day! I even woke up super early for Cara and I to get a cup of coffee together and chat about the day before we got busy with the rest of our preparation!

-The other comparison is like an Olympic athlete who shoots off their starting blocks and chases down the gold medal. I care about running about once every 4 years (which coincidentally coincides with the Olympics!). Let me clarify, I like watching the 100m race, the one that’s over in 10 sec. I remember watching Usain Bolt back in 2016 glance over and smile at a camera DURING THE RACE! How frustrating would it be to race against that guy? Do you think he has joy when he’s running? Or maybe you’ve seen the classic movie “Chariots of Fire” based on the life of Eric Liddell. When talking to his sister about pursuing his dream of running in the Olympics, Eric says “God made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.” Because the sun was made to shine into the darkness of the galaxy, it continues burning with exuberance, like Usain Bolt or Eric Liddell running with joy!

-Lastly, notice the expanse of the sun: it covers everything we can see, and shines even into the darkness so nothing and no one can be hidden from it. This is here to remind us that God sees everything, nothing can be hidden from his sight, which is what David will go on to say in the next section:

  • The Word – Special Revelation (7-9)

-What does general revelation refer to? Right, creation. Now David turns to special revelation, and what makes it special is that it explicitly tells everything we need to know about God. In this section, David seems to be stuck in a rut. He keeps repeating the same phrasing throughout this section. So I figured I would break it down a little bit like a math problem.

-Notice all the ways David describes God’s Word: law, testimony, precepts, commandment, rules (fear is slightly different). 

-If you’re anything like me, when I was growing up, anytime people started talking about the Bible as laws, commandments, rules my eyes started glossing over and I thought suddenly everything turned into adult time. Rules sucked the joy out of life and were meant to be broken. Why would God stoop to making all these rules if he knew we had not chance of keeping them? But just you wait before you go assuming these are rules that are meant to be broken!

-Have you ever read a fantasy book, about a far-off land where things are different than what you see around you? Maybe Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia or one of my new favorites The Wingfeather Saga. Whether you like to admit it or not, even those places have certain rules that everyone is supposed to follow. Generally, the story gets good because the main character refuses to follow an unjust law, but that just tells us there are some laws that are right and should be followed! And who is the one who wrote all these laws? God is! The thing is, God wants us to grow in satisfaction and enjoyment of what He has given to us, so even His laws and rules are in place to help us enjoy everything He made.

-Let’s look at the effects of God’s Word in our lives. 

-First, it revives the soul. If you’ve ever done any kind of manual labor, there come points where you would do anything to be revived! My first “grown up” job was out of high school where I did painting and remodeling to help pay for college. I’ll be honest, my favorite days were the days when it rained! It meant I got to sleep in and have a day off! I’m currently doing some work on the floors of the main level of our house, and my back and legs would LOVE to have some way of being revived every day! Spending time in God’s Word allows your innermost being to be revived, giving life back to you.

-Next it’s good for making wise the simple. Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 1:20-21 “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” True, everlasting wisdom is found in God, not in the way the world likes to measure wisdom (things like ACT scores, GPA, always a number)

-Then it rejoices the heart. It brings joy that won’t every fade, despite what’s going on in your life. Even when you’re sick, even when your friends betray you, you can still have joy. One of the songs I learned when I was growing up: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where?”

-Then it enlightens the eyes, which connects to God’s commandments being radiant, thus it brings light to the eyes. If you’re like me, you don’t like being in dark places. If you want to ensure that you can have lights to understand what’s taking place in your life, look to God’s Word! I don’t even like going down into my basement without a light on, imagine trying to live your whole life in the darkness, how easy would it be to get around? God’s Word gives us a light so we can see everything going on around us!

-Finally we see how it affects us, fearing God the means by which we endure forever. God hasn’t left us in doubt about how we should live, He’s told us everything we need! So we need to respond in fear, reverence and awe.

-The last reminder: true and righteous. In a world where the standard seems to be changing from day to day, God never changes, and His standards have been the exact same since the world was created!

  • Our Response to God’s Revelation (10-14)

-David writes similar thoughts to this Psalm in Psalm 8, but in that case asks the question: “what is man that you are mindful of him?” Then recounts how God created everything, but the pinnacle of the creation is humans who are given dominion over the creation. Unlike the previous Psalm, this time David has just finished the second revelation of God: His Word. So what is the proper response to God’s two revelations?

-First is we should want them more than anything else in the world. The older I get, the more security seems to be talked about more often. In my 20s I didn’t care about a life insurance policy, but TBH I also felt like I was invincible! Boundless energy, more time than I knew what to do with, and then I hit 30 and everything changed (and I’ve heard 40 is even worse!) But all the security in the world, the best 401K, the paid off house can’t change the fact that the mortality rate still sits right at 100%. So where are you placing your security? Because even your 401K has an expiration date! God’s Word lasts forever.

-Kids, how many of you like eating dessert? One piece of advice for you, because nothing in life is guaranteed, it’s best to start eating dessert, and then get on to the rest of the meal! My son loves dessert, I feel like he asks for dessert after every meal we have at home. Did you know that David says that spending time in God’s Word is even yummier than eating your favorite dessert? It’s true! And just like dessert, it makes you want to keep eating more and more, the more you spend time in God’s Word the more you’ll want to keep spending more and more time in it!

-By listening and obeying God’s Word it helps us know which rules we’re supposed to follow and which ones we’re not supposed to follow, and it also means that by obeying God’s rules we will win the race of life we’re running, we’ll have “great reward.” (11)

-I’m not sure where this idea that “everyone’s a winner” came in, because when you do that everyone is still keeping score and knows who won! It’s the same thing with God’s law – He’s told us what we’re supposed to do, how we’re supposed to live, and if you faithfully follow after Him you will have a great reward!

-The text then takes a bit of a weird turn after this, David realizes He can’t obey all God’s rules. He can’t discern all the ways He continues to sin, no one can! One translation translates vs. 12 as “Who perceives his unintentional sin?” (CSB). 

-Many of us worry about the sins we commit (which David talks about in vs. 13) but we very rarely think of the sins we don’t commit, but God cares about both! Maybe you didn’t help your brother or sister when they fell down, maybe you didn’t share your snack with a friend who forgot theirs. The sins of things we forget to do could probably go on forever, but how often do we think about them? David here is reminding us to confess the sins that we’ve done, and the sin we’ve committed by leaving things undone. My goodness, who could ever measure up? This is why we need Jesus to come in our place, to allow us to actually desire the right things, to do the right things, to obey the right things.

-David ends in the same place he began, but we need to pay careful attention to understand how. Remember he began this Psalm talking about how the heavens declare God’s glory, we see in vs. 14 that we’re supposed to do the same! 

-In the Gospels, a similar story is told: during the triumphal entry, the Pharisees were upset that people were praising God because of Jesus Luke 19:40 “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Here’s the crazy thing, THEY ARE! The stones, like the rest of creation, can’t help but cry out in praise to God!

-Just like the heavens declare the glory of God, God made us to declare His glory with our entire lives. 2 ways we do that: 

-Every time we see creation doing what it’s supposed to do we glorify the God who made that creation. Marvel when you see a tree waving in the wind, give thanks when you’re out mowing your lawn cultivating your little section of the garden God created, praise God because the sun allows you to see the beauty of the world around you, give thanks when you see the colors of the setting or rising sun.

-The second way is to be savoring God’s Word. Treat it like you would your favorite dessert or favorite place. Soak and saturate yourself in it! To remind you to savor God’s Word I got honey packets for you all to pick up on your way out (parents be careful to not let your kids spill!) 

Gospel Rooted Growth – Sermon Manuscript

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

James 4:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY (pg. 587)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Grace of God (5-6)

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

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

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

-Cross:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Humble Repentance (7-10)

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

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

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

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

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

-Every revival in church history began with repentance!

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

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

  1. Love

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

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

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

  • Know

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

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

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

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

  • Speak

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

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

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

  • Do

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

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

-Long term hope for us: 

-a healthy church that intentionally looks to welcome people in 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel Centered Worship – Sermon Manuscript

-New mission/vision: making and maturing disciples of Jesus, last week glorifying God, this week gospel centered worship, then gospel shaped community, gospel driven mission, which culminates in gospel rooted growth. The gospel is at the core of everything we do.

-Really briefly, if you haven’t been here for long, the gospel is taken from the Greek word “euongelion” which literally means “good news” The good news is that our sin has been dealt with once and for all by God Himself, who came to earth 2,000 years ago, lived a perfect life and taught how to become a part of this new kingdom that is upside down to the way the world teaches us to operate. Then Jesus validated everything he had taught by rising from the dead. Because the tomb is empty, we need to respond to Jesus call to repent and believe in Him. Then, once you believe in Him your journey is just starting, because you need to daily choose to become more and more like Him obeying him more and more fully. You can summarize everything I just said in 4 words: God, man, Christ, response. And that last word (response) will take eternity to fully grasp! So you may as well get started today! 

-So when I say we need to have gospel centered worship, what am I talking about?

-Volunteers: gospel centered worship through eating a snickers bar.

-First, there is an orientation to our worship. Our whole lives are lived coram deo before the face of God. That’s why we started with glorifying God last week, everything we do and say is meant to glorify Him, point to Him, even image Him.

-Second, there will be a lot of things that compete for our worship, so we need to regularly remind ourselves of and brings ourselves back to the fundamentals: the gospel, so then everything else will fall into proper place. Think of 1 Cor. 15 Paul delivered the gospel, which is of first importance. We need to keep the gospel in the place it deserves: the first place! Only when we have that first can we get to properly ordering other things in our lives.

-Third, we need to think about how we approach the worship of God. I’ve shared before one of the words that drives my nuts that people use connected to worship is “authentic.” What does that even mean?

-Most people use that to talk about only doing what I feel like or want to

-What I prefer to use is from Heb. 12 acceptable. Believe it or not, God cares how we worship Him, and sometimes His people need to repent of worshiping Him unacceptably, which we’ll see in Isaiah

-We’ll be looking at 3 texts today to see what it means to have gospel centered worship, which means we need to do the right things (right action) and it needs to come from the right desire (right motives)

READ/PRAY 

  1. Right Action, Wrong Motive (Isaiah 1) pg. 327

-Last Spring we studied Amos together, fascinating book, and one I mentioned last week from Amos 5 where God tells his people he hates their acts of worship. God says something similar here in Isaiah, and remember this is the first chapter of the book! God comes out swinging! 

-Word of the Lord

-Isn’t made up by the prophet, must pay attention to this!

-There are other places where the Word of the Lord has come, think of the part of the Bible where you quit doing your daily Bible reading every year: Leviticus. God gave explicit commands to his people in how they were to worship Him. Do you remember what they were? Sacrifices, offerings, blood!

-Some scholars argue that these people were quick to jump to excessive offerings given in service of the Lord. You see this in vs. 12-13 trampling done by the running of bringing so many offerings in, and all the people coming, and vain offerings are pointless/useless

-God says all the external obedience in the world is pointless. Look at what He says in 14 that their external piety has become a burden to God. When Jesus comes, He referred to people who act like this as “whitewashed tombs” we may call it “putting lipstick on a pig.” Later on in Isaiah 29, God says “this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” 

-So what is acceptable worship in God’s eyes? All these things they were doing were the right things to do! The things God Himself had commanded! But God won’t look or listen to them.

-Think of the story of Elijah vs the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Do you remember how it went down? Showdown of the gods, they had 450 prophets vs 1 prophet of the one true God, and Elijah spends the day mocking them, saying their god is indisposed, or sleeping, or on a trip, but the one true God will always listen. Unless your worship is unacceptable. 

-Lots of verbs: wash, make, remove, cease, learn, seek, correct, bring justice, plead. Acceptable worship of God will be evident in your response to “the least of these” Another way of thinking about that today would be your life outside of these walls must represent the God we claim to worship on Sunday.

-Then God says, alright let’s talk! 

-A verse many of us know! If they address their unacceptable worship, do all the action points listed above, then this is how God will respond to their sin.

-Notice the two IFs here. The people have a choice! If they obey God they will eat well, if they disobey God, they will be eaten. Those are their options! God says go ahead and choose! He’s put all his cards on the table!

-This also says the primary problem is human stubbornness. We’re unwilling to look at things from someone else’s perspective, even God’s! 

-Where do you see this kind of misplaced/misguided or unacceptable worship today? 

-Politics. How many of the political conversations taking place today are rising to the level of the single most important thing in the world? Where these conversations have devolved is to demonize anyone who disagrees with any finer point of the political agenda. In so doing, you come to the conclusion that the if only everyone would vote or agree with your political agenda, the entire world would be saved. Let me ask: what is the only way to be saved?

-Sunday mornings So often we see socio-economic divides guiding our gatherings, we see racial divides guiding our gatherings, we use secondary theological issues to divide our gatherings. We’ll separate based on musical preferences, clothing styles, kids ministry, youth ministry, all because of something we like or don’t like (preference based instead of dying to self)

-Neighborhoods how many of us are trying to keep up with the Jones’? I was told they don’t know what they’re doing either! 

-Theological conversations – I’m as guilty of this as anyone, but how often are we (similar to politics) dissecting every word and phrase to ensure 100% alignment instead of loving each other unconditionally?

-That’s the first instance where we need to ensure that our whole life is lived in a way that brings honor to God. Up next we’ll see where we need to orient our worship

  • Wrong Action, Right Motive (Colossians 1) pg. 572

-Paul begins this chapter by giving thanks for what God has done in the church at Colossae, then focuses on what Christ accomplished on the cross, and then uses what many people believe is an early church hymn of praise for who Jesus is.

-“He is the image”

-We’ve studied this idea quite a bit together! Where we reflect the image of God poorly, Jesus reflects the image of God perfectly.

-Firstborn

-Jehovah’s Witness use this to say SEE, Jesus was the first created being. Unfortunately for them, it can also mean the pinnacle or highest person. And if you look at vs. 18 it uses the same phrase, but He had raised other people, so within the context it would make more sense that this is the pinnacle, because that also fits the next verse:

-Why would He be created if everything was created BY Him? Doesn’t work!

-Nothing is outside of His creative control: heaven and earth, visible and invisible, people that appear powerful on earth. Everything that exists was created to point to Him. This is another way of saying that our worship must change our orientation to be Christ focused! He must be the focus of our worship!

-The second half of this section focuses on Jesus’ role in the church, of which He is the head.

-He not only imaged God perfectly, He is God perfectly 19

-Then finally, after all these wonderful words about who Jesus is, does the attention finally turn to us. Jesus’ work on the cross brings about reconciliation. Church, at the heart of the gospel is a reconciling God! First he reconciles us to Himself, and then gives us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5)

-But God didn’t save us when we were lovely, Paul goes on to say we were alienated (far away) hostile (fighting against) doing evil deeds (antithetical to God’s very nature). These behaviors are the wrong actions, yet before God saves us we assume, act, and operate as if they’re the right things! We don’t know any better!

-I’ve got young kids, do you know how hard it is to teach someone to share? And the reason they don’t like to share is because their orientation is focused on themselves instead of toward Jesus, who I try to keep reminding them told us to treat others the way we would like to be treated.

-This orientation toward Christ could also be described in vs. 23 the hope of the gospel. We need that regular gospel reminder in our lives! Part of the reason we need that reminder is because we tend to forget, maybe you have a better memory than I do, but I forget what it means to keep Jesus as the focus of my life on a regular basis. This is part of where it’s SO important for us to have these regular patterns of gathering with fellow believers for encouragement, edification, and reminding us what’s really real. To remind us to place our hope in the truth of the gospel. That means what we do on Sunday has a specific purpose.

-One of the things I love learning/studying about is the liturgy of the church. What is the order of our worship services, and why do we do it that way? I was listening to a podcast this past week that talked about the liturgies of God’s people through history. One of my favorite books on this topic is Christ-Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to get an understanding of what should be a part of our corporate gathering. 

  • Right Action, Right Motive (Colossians 3) pg. 573

-Summary: our gatherings are meant to reflect the realities of the gospel, both implicitly and explicitly. One author has said when we gather we’re supposed to “Read the Word, preach the Word, pray the Word, sing the Word, see the Word (in the ordinances).”

-Paul tells us in this passage how we are supposed to operate now that we’re a part of the body of Christ. 

-Earlier in this section he said we need to put to death or put away the earthly way of living, so stop with the wrong actions we say back in Isaiah. Instead of that, we’re supposed to put on some things: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Do you see any of those things in our current cultural climate? What we’re called to is radically different to the natural way people want to operate. 

-On top of all those things, we’re supposed to bear with each other. Life is way too hard to do it by yourself.

-This means being real, open, and honest with people. Instead of being “MN nice” and not wanting to burden anyone you actually have to put yourself out there! 

-I just need to tell you, if anyone ever wants to talk to me, you’re NOT being a burden, nuisance, or interruption. I don’t remember where I read it, but I remember reading one time that ministry is the interruptions. If I don’t have interruptions then I’m not ministering! I’ve had overseers tell me they felt bad for taking my time! Please don’t ever apologize! We all need each other! But it’s also contingent on the next part of this verse:

-If someone wrongs you (including me!) please don’t assign nefarious intentions. Remember, that’s the way the world teaches us to think: distrust and suspicion. But we cannot operate that way in the church! Look at the bar Paul sets for us: forgiving like who? The Lord! And what did He forgive? Everything, 

-If only he stopped at forgive! He goes on to add love, which he defines in 1 Cor. 13. The nice thing is, the call he’s giving us is merely very hard (just mostly dead). Jesus already did the impossible by creating a way for us to come to Him through His death on the cross! That death leads to peace! Reconciliation leads to peace, true lasting peace. Then as a throwaway comment: be thankful. A mark of a Christian is thankfulness, it will come up again.

-Then we get to the main point: what should we let dwell in us? The word of Christ.

-Remember back in Col. 1 we saw that the fullness of God dwelled bodily in Christ. Now we today have the same command, but we’re to let the word of Christ dwell in us. This is why we spend SO much time in God’s Word together each week. And what do we do with God’s Word?

-Teach and admonish.

-Positive instruction and negative correction. I was texting another pastor friend this week about the need to allow the Word to do the work. By myself I’ve got nothing to give you guys! What I do have is God’s Word which is living and effective, that will never return void, that has everything we need to grow more like Christ. But this isn’t just my job, this is the job of all of us! Keep giving the Word to each other because if we don’t we don’t have anything!

-Notice a way we can teach and admonish: singing. Have you ever viewed singing as a way to teach each other? This is why we’re SO careful about the songs we sing! They’re meant to be used to teach and admonish each other. Which also means you should probably sing, because otherwise you won’t be able to teach those around you. 

-Story of ‘Not for a Moment’ 

-Notice even singing is meant to be connected to thankfulness.

-Then, to wrap up this whole section, Paul throws in not just singing, but anything else you do too! 

-What you say, what actions come out in your life are meant to be done to point to Jesus Christ, in other words they’re meant to be gospel centered. 

-And this gospel saves us, sanctifies us, makes us new creatures, brings us together, allows us to become one body and should create in us a thankful spirit. Each time we leave our corporate gatherings we should be giving thanks to God for the blessing of His people in our lives.

-Let me simplify everything I’ve said: we start with God, God has revealed Himself to us in His Word, His Word tells us the Good News (gospel) about Jesus, and we respond by living a transformed (worshipping) life that reflects the gospel message we believe. 

-I’ve been thinking about this reality for a while now. Why is it that we are so often exactly the same as our neighbors and culture that we live in? This is the 3rd state I’ve served as a pastor in, and there are some unique things in each of those places! Gives you some perspective/understanding, appreciation and frustration of each of them! 1 thing is true: people are sinners! 

-How do we live a life that is gospel centered? It’s doing everything you already do with a new/distinct outlook or motivation to it.  

-Eating a Snickers bar (imagine your favorite meal untainted by our sinful taste buds. These are meant to give us a tiny taste of eternity)

-Mowing my lawn (be patient with my kids!)

-Reading on our front deck (we need more front decks!)

-Helping my neighbor move his new skateboard ramp to his backyard

-Working

-Driving

-Resting or Playing (re-creation) How many struggle taking time off? Productivity has become such an idol for so many of us. 

-All these things must be rooted in the Word “have the mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:5) we look down to bring our gaze back up in awe of God. Every day is practice for THAT day when we’ll finally be unencumbered by sin, our flesh, and the devil.