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. 

Glorifying God – 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.

-Johann Sabastian Bach (1685-1750) German composer 

-2 Chronicles 5:11-14, “At a reverent performance of music, God is always at hand with his gracious presence.” “The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than (1) the glorification of God and (2) the refreshment of the spirit.” Because of that, much of his music was signed S.D.G. 

-A few years ago we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On Oct. 31, 1517, Luther posted his 95 thesis on the door of the Wittenburg chapel, changing the landscape of the entire Western world, and even the way we talk about God’s glory. When Luther was born there were 2 classes – sacred & secular. 

“The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but all works are measured before God by faith alone.”

Allegedly Luther stated, “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays—not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” 

-Where I would disagree with that is not that God loves good floors or good craftsmanship, but He loves things done to the best of our ability as an act of worship, glorifying Him.

-The reformers, and we today, believe what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

-Westminster Shorter Catechism, written in 1647: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.

-So what do we mean when we talk about the glory of God? 

-Like fitting the ocean into a kiddie pool. God’s glory is inexhaustible. That’s why he’s God and we are not! If I were to preach every Sunday for the rest of my life on the glory of God, we would only just begin to scratch the surface.

-Similar to Luther, John Calvin sought to expound only “what I esteemed to be for the glory of God,” or he lived his life “Soli Deo Gloria,” and in his Institutes, he wrote, “wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory.”

-This is Calvin’s way of saying what David wrote in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare…” what?? The GLORY of God.

-Going back even further – the early church used God’s glory as a mark of orthodoxy creating the Gloria Patri (been reading it with a new devotional recently) – “Glory to the Father, glory be to God the Son, glory be to God the Spirit. As it was in the beginning, now and evermore shall be.”

-Look at 3 passages, with a 4th just mentioned quickly! 

READ/PRAY

  1. Strip Away Idols (Exodus 33) pg. 42

-2 book of the Bible, sin had brought all sorts of problems, God’s chosen people had been enslaved to the Egyptians until God delivered them, saving from all of Pharaoh’s armies, leading them into the desert. God manifests himself in a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night, and the people follow. They finally reached Mt. Sinai, where God meets with Moses to give him the rules for being God’s covenant people, including the 10 commandments. As Moses was meeting with God, the people got bored, and Aaron built them a golden calf. Because God is God, he knows everything and tells Moses what his people are doing. God tells Moses to get out of the way so he can kill the entire nation and start a new nation from Moses’ lineage, and Moses intercedes for the people. That leads us to Exodus 33.

1-6

God begins by commanding his people to leave Mt. Sinai. God had promised to bring them to the Promised Land, but he would not longer be with them, and why would he no longer be with them? So he would not kill them all because of their sin. This is the God we worship, and call glorious – God kills because of sin. 

-But notice that everything He promised would still come to pass. Vs. 2

-How often do you see or hear of people who would be completely content with that arrangement? You get all the “stuff” but you don’t get God. 

-I think at times, our evangelism can even be geared this way, can’t it? Accept Jesus into your heart so you can go to heaven! That’s part of it, but isn’t it more/bigger than that? Almost as if we’ve forgotten about the person who created the heavens and the earth. This temptation is true of every generation, they want the benefits, they don’t want the giver of the benefits. 

-Just funny to note: stiff-necked. Think about what that means. They won’t look beyond themselves and their own ideas. 

-Moses then talks about ornaments. Have you ever noticed this and wondered what it has to do with them being sinners? 

-Egyptian culture, these ornaments, bracelets, amulets served as protection, like a good luck charm (rabbits foot, dream catcher) The Israelites are literally casting off their idols of supernatural protection. 

-You can often tell your idols by that which you most closely try to protect, and we may not realize it’s an idol until it gets pushed. Another way of saying that is: what angers you? I had a moment at a previous church where I finally got a week off, which meant I was in the booth running slides! We had a pre-recorded sermon, so I started it and ran out to visit the loo. On my way out I was accosted by someone who demanded to know why I wasn’t preaching. I was the music guy, not the preacher. After I explained why, I was told, and while I have you, no one likes your music! 

-Music in the church has a tendency to become an idol, which is so ironic to me! Anyone remember surviving the bloody battles of the “worship wars”? Don’t worry, they still crop up from time to time! 

-The reality is we are all glory-thieves. Our first parents wanted to “be like God.” Have a piece of his glory, but sin turned that wiring for giving glory to God inward.

-Think of some of the ways the Bible talks about where we should give glory:

-Psalm 115:1 – “not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.”

-Isaiah 42:8 – “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”

-The best picture of idolatry in all the Bible:

-Isaiah 44:9-20 – carpenter chops down a tree, half is used for fire, half as a god.

-We don’t see people bowing down to a block of wood today, but what are some idols you see being worshipping today?

-Technology addiction – Time magazine, teenagers are becoming addicted to their cell phones, leading to depression.

-Social networking – FOMO, fear of missing out.

-Money? 401K your god? Maybe the security of being financial stable? 

Money isn’t evil James 4:10 “the love of money is A root of all kinds of evil.”

In fact, none of these things are completely bad! A smart phone allows my parents to see their first grandkid on a regular basis. Social networking lets me keep up with friends across the globe. The problem is when they become gods.

-What about family? Families are a gift from the Lord, but elevating them to the place of God is wrong. I think this is one that is acutely true of the church.

-Maybe image is your God? Proverbs reminds us that beauty is fleeting

Health1 Tim. 4:8 “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

Job? What if you’re fired? Or have everything move to work from home and no one can see your accomplishments?

-What about our acts of worshipAmos 5:21-24 “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

-Old vs. New. High church vs. low church. Singing vs. not singing. The problem is looking to my own interests instead of others. Philippians 2

-The most difficult god for us to put to death is ourselves. We want the glory, we are all glory thieves. 

-We so often look to things outside of us as idols, but what about the idol of yourself? We see this when we drive, everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot, everyone that drives faster than you is a maniac. Each one of us is born into sin “by nature and by choice.” Josh Duggar. Trevin Wax: “sin is not primarily something we need to be sheltered from, but delivered from.”

-The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

-The biggest problem since sin entered the world is us. 

All these things are gifts from God! The fact that you’re alive is a gift from God! But what things do you need to cast aside in order to better give God glory? 

7-11

-This section serves as background to the current situation. Think of it like a flashback in a movie. Moses would speak to the Lord regularly. 

Exodus 16:10, “the glory of the Lord appeared in a cloud.” 

Moses and God’s unique relationship – only person called a friend of God 

“The Lord would speak with Moses”  (9)

-The glory of the Lord came down. Did you know that you can have the same privilege as Moses? Meeting with God.

12-23

-Cut back to Moses’ conversation with the Lord. 

-With Moses’ relationship with God in the background, we see why Moses is able to ask the Lord these specific questions 

-Moses tells the Lord that his presence is the only thing that makes them unique among all the people’s of the earth. Notice also how Moses is reminding God that they are HIS people, God’s, not Moses’. (vs. 13 contrast vs. 1)

-(18) Moses then asks God a huge request, he figures he’s 2 for 2, might as well go for broke – to see God’s glory. The perfect presence of God – related to his holiness. 

-Hadn’t he seen God’s glory in the cloud and the fire? Moses had seen manifestations of God’s glory, but not the whole thing. 

-People could tell when Moses was with the Lord, Ex. 34:29-35. His face was so bright he had to put a veil over his face! 

-We no longer need to look to other mediators, in order to see all of God’s glory, we need to look to Christ. 

Messianic prophecy – God’s glory would come down in Jesus Christ. 

John 1:14 – “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 17 (527)

What did Jesus do while he was on earth? He gave glory to the Father.

Jesus shared God’s glory “before the world existed.” We saw this in Genesis 1. 

What is that glory? Eternal life. To see God’s glory is to be given eternal life. 

God’s ultimate plan for his glory is our salvation.

-But salvation, as I mentioned earlier, doesn’t necessarily demand earthly benefits.

  • Suffering Leads to Glory (Romans 8) pg. 550

-Paul has been addressing the law and sin, and reminds us in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The same God that was ready to kill his people with Moses has born the penalty for our sins on his own Son.

-But our way to glory may not take the route we most often see. 16 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Our path to glorification may be/WILL be through suffering in this life. 

18

You know how people always say, “it’ll be worth it in the end.” I’ve seen my beautiful bride Cara give birth 3 times. Each time it is an amazing process, and I’m both glad and relieved that I will never have to go through what she did! But the end result was worth it!

-Church, we will face suffering of some sort, be it cancer, wayward children, financial difficulty, SOMETHING will happen to you. But no matter what happens, the other side of that is glory. And the glory on the other side makes everything else pale in comparison.

-We’re working on delayed gratification with our kids. Maybe you’ve heard of the experiment of the kids who were placed in front of a marshmallow, and told if they waited they’d get 2 marshmallows. It’s a marshmallow, not that tempting anyway. But God promises life WITH HIM, far eclipses any of the difficulties we’ll experience here. 

-And it’s not just us! All creation is waiting for this glory to be seen. Right now it’s like we’re looking through the veil that Moses wore, but someday everything will see God as He really is! And we’ll see each other as God originally created us to be.

-I read recently someone was asked if they’d know each other in heaven, and the reply was that will be the first time we’ll actually know each other! Without veil

-It’s with all this background and understanding (that glory comes through suffering) that this chapter includes one of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in all the Bible:

28 “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

-Not for our glory or our aim, but to give glory to God.

-What about now? We’ve seen what it looks like in the OT, how it looks in Christ, and in moments of suffering, but what about daily life?

  • Let Your Glory Shine (2 Corinthians 3) pg. 562

-Paul has been saying that in this new covenant we can have hope. 

-This hope leads us to boldness. Not presumptive, trusting.

-He has the audacity to say what we have today is better than Moses! That is quite the claim! 

-The veil served 2 purposes: prevent fear for the Israelites, but also prevented them from being made more glorious (glow in the dark toys). Needed to be hid from the glory to not be consumed. 

-The veil remains unlifted for anyone who does not believe in God, and the message of His one and only Son Jesus Christ. When God’s Word is read, how do you respond? Because if you respond in faith, there’s no longer any separation. God’s glory doesn’t need to be hidden at all, we all are now called God’s friends, we all are now able to talk to God face to face.

-One note on freedom: the freedom we have in Christ now isn’t ability to live however we want. Where once we were only able to live in sin, now with Christ in us we can finally have the freedom to say no to sin. (Heb. 11:16)

-Finally, the main point (18

-For those in Christ, unveiled has 2 implications. We don’t need a veil (we can approach God without a barrier) and our faces should be shining! (can others tell you’re a Christian?) Family from the walk with Cara in Frederick.

-We are being transformed, slowly becoming more and more like God, this is where the image of God is so important!

-And remember, this isn’t grimace and do it in our own strength, all from the Lord.

-The Westminster Shorter Catechism said the chief end of every human is glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Since the church is comprised of people, that must be our chief end as well! Just as it has been historically, so it will be in the future: we must seek to glorify God in everything we do and say. 

Making & Maturing Disciples of Jesus – 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.

-Much of what I’ve been preaching and talking about since I got here has been building up to this point! 

-If you can remember all the way back to when I candidated (almost 2 years, and 1 less kid ago) for those of you who were here then, my candidating message was on the great commission in Matthew 28. When I moved here I met with a friend who said “Welcome to finding new ways to say the same thing over and over again.”

-Mission tends to drift over time, other things become the focus, new ideas come up, new trends emerge. Think of how you dressed in the 80s. What about that thought you looked good? Don’t worry, my generation wasn’t any better! This is also true in the church. A dear pastor in the EFCA is preaching his last sermon today after 36 years of faithful ministry in the same church. He recently shared how discouraging pastors conferences were as he was starting out in the 90s because the entire focus was on how to become a megachurch and church growth (not inherently bad, but took the focus off the primary thing). How many of you, when you’re craving a juicy lucy would go to Chick-fil-a? Or vice versa, if you’re really wanting a chicken sandwich, who’s going to Five Guys? This is where it’s vital to remember what our primary mission is. Why are we here? What are we aiming for?

– I only have 1 life to pull from for illustrations, so I’m going to be repeating myself regularly! Similarly, we stand in a church tradition that traces its lineage all the way back to the first disciples. Have you ever thought of that? People have become obsessed lately with genealogies (I found my great grandma’s signature when she came through Ellis Island in middle school). If you trace the lineage of your faith to its origination point, it’s the first 12 disciples. They were faithful in their mission of making disciples, who trained the next generation to faithful disciple making, and so on through millennia until we’re her today.

-Since Jesus gave every faithful church a mission, I literally don’t think I could improve on what the Son of God gave us! So to that end, I present our new mission, which is the same mission Jesus gave us 2,000 years ago: (drum roll please) making and maturing disciples of Jesus.

-We’re going to look at a few different passages today that talk about this idea, but it’s going to be grounded in the great commission again. So if you weren’t here when I candidated, this will be new! If you were, I’m guessing many of you can’t remember what you had for breakfast, so I think it’s always helpful to be reminded!

READ/PRAY

  1. We Are Commanding to Make Disciples

-Where does he begin? With one of the most important phrases in the Bible.

         -“All authority”

-Doesn’t this strike you as a bit odd? Hasn’t he already HAD all authority? D.A. Carson in his commentary states “It is not Jesus’ authority per se that becomes more absolute. Rather, the spheres in which he now exercise absolute authority are enlarged to include all heaven and earth, i.e., the universe.” (594)

-While He has been authoritative up until this point, we see the domain under his authority has expanded to include EVERYTHING. Col. 1, by him and through him and for him all things were created.

-This is the foundation for everything that comes after it. If Jesus isn’t in charge we have no chance of ever bringing his commands to fruition

-With that foundation, we then get into the command, the great mission, the goal, the focus of every Christian since Christ ascended into heaven.

-In this section, 3 participles, 1 imperative verb. 

         -Don’t fall asleep here! Grammar has a tendency to do that to me too!

-Emphasis is placed on the imperative, that’s the primary focus of this entire section, it’s the phrase: (literally) discipling (1 word in Greek) 

-We tend to place the emphasis at the beginning or end, Greek didn’t always do that! But if we were, it would be something like: DISCIPLING, as you’re going, baptizing and teaching. Everything else is subservient to the discipling.

-So if that’s the emphasis, we should know what discipling is, shouldn’t we? That means we have to ask the question: what is a disciple?

-Google: a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher, 

         -So in this case, the most basic idea behind this is a follower or student of Jesus

-Someone who has surrendered to Jesus and is growing in theology & worship (or in doctrine & devotion)

-Jesus doesn’t say “make converts”

         -This is part of what makes Christianity unique & attractive

         -Muslims look to coerce or force people to convert “convert or die!”

-Christians set an example and invite, there’s pleading, begging, exhorting, not coercion. Christianity is not married to any singular culture.

-This is where we now get to the first word in verse 19: Go. Everyone is called to make disciples. Everyone goes somewhere at some point in your life. This isn’t talking about going from sitting to standing in the pews! Nor is it talking about walking from the sanctuary to the foyer for a cup of coffee. This is going into the world. “Worship through Witness” 

-This is also the first time in this Gospel the disciples have been commanded to go all the places. Matthew 10:5 “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans.” 

         -Jesus is going global!

-Tim Keller describes this as the centrifugal force of the gospel message. I’m not a scientist so I have to make sure I get this right. Centripetal force is a pull to the center. That’s the tendency of any group: pull to the center. 

-The example of asking a group of people to stand in a circle and hold hands. Every time you ask a group to do that which way do you think they’ll face? Toward each other! We, as God’s people, have to be intentional to not just look inward.

-The Great Commission here is God’s command for us to become a centrifugalforce, going OUT into ALL the world

-This gets us to a second point here, notice some of the limits Jesus places on this commission: ALL authority, ALL nations, teaching them to observe ALL that I have commanded, he is with us always or ALL the days. So what limit is there on any of this? None. That’s a comfort! We’re faithful, we go, we do our best to make disciples, so how do we make disciples?
-Jesus tells us 2 things: baptizing and teaching.  

-First, baptism. As far as the clear commands in the Bible go, this might be the easiest one in there! How many of you love God perfectly with all your heart, mind, soul & strength? How about the next great command, how many of you perfectly love your neighbor just like you love yourself? 

         -As far as difficulty goes, this might be the easiest command in the whole Bible!

-Let’s note here, this is not salvific. Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Baptism is not salvific, but baptism is the first step of obedience

-Carson “The NT can scarcely conceive of a disciple who is not baptized or is not instructed.” So I’d urge you, if you have not been baptized, do it! We’re having a baptism service in just a couple weeks!

-But as that Carson quote just said, there’s a second piece: instruction.

  • We Are Commanded to Mature Disciples 

-To grow as a disciple means to watch your life and doctrine. (1 Tim. 4:16)

-Cannot grow unless you have training, cannot grow unless instructed, cannot grow unless you’re equipped. 

-Tendency to equate discipleship as head knowledge. 

-Jesus doesn’t just say “teach” he says teach “to observe” something, put it into practice

-Theology & Doxology. 

James 2:19 even the demons believe, they’ve got better theology than most of us! Deficient in their doxology.

-So what are we teaching? ALL that Jesus commanded! We’re teaching people how to worship Jesus in and through every area of their life. Worship at home, worship in your car, worship in your sleep, at your work, as you walk, as you run, as you drink coffee, as you eat food. Everything we do is an opportunity to worship God as the creator and sustainer of the universe. And out of the overflow of that worship comes witness to others. 

-This is quite the command/commission you’ve given us Jesus! This feels insurmountable and impossible

-In our own strength, it is. The sooner you realize that the better off you’ll be. 

-We need to remember we don’t go in our own power or strength, it is through Jesus being with us that allows us to work with people to grow as a disciple.

-This is what Paul talks about in our second text, 2 Timothy 2

-Paul writing to Timothy, his protégé who was pastoring in Ephesus (don’t worry, we’ll complete this by looking at Ephesians next!) 

-Second and last letter to Timothy

-Also the text for the first sermon I ever preached! (Don’t worry, I went and checked and it was a live 1 time event with no recordings available) The only thing I know is it was NOT a great sermon!

-First thing we see is something done to us: be strengthened.

-Other places where we see how we’re supposed to work, but in this case we can’t do it. The Holy Spirit working in us is the one who strengthens and allows us to remain faithful. I shared this example before, but I think it bears repeating (only have 1 life, sorry!) I used to “help” my dad mow the lawn when I was little. How much work do you think I did? How much work do you think my dad did? Don’t worry, it wasn’t slave labor! Phil. 2:13 “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” 

-Then we see what we’re strengthened IN: grace that is in Christ Jesus.

-Grace is the starting point of our faith. We saw that in the opening chapters of 2 Peter: grace and peace. Grace is the undeserved gift we’ve been given through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It’s the foundation by which we’re able to grow from. If we don’t have grace, we can’t be a disciple. 

-In addition to grace strengthening us, vs. 2 says what we have heard can strengthen. What does that mean?

-Christianity is a word-based faith. Actually until very recently, words had always been used to describe reality. What were the things that Paul would have shared with Timothy? If you go back to Matt. 28 the things Jesus commanded. 

-Saw this last week in 2 Peter too: what Peter said is what Paul said is what Jesus said. Here we see that what Timothy says is what Paul says is what Jesus said. All discipling is meant to be transitional.

-Jesus trained/discipled the first disciples. They lived together, ate together, traveled together, went about their daily lives together. But Jesus was planning for His transition where he wouldn’t be living bodily with them anymore.

-Then the early disciples started spreading out: “Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) and they started transition plans where they were discipling people to grow and then would go to a new place and start discipling new people and continue doing this in perpetuity. 

-Paul discipled Timothy the way Jesus said to in Matt. 28, and here reminds Timothy to continue passing that on – and Paul is thinking 4 generations away. From me – you have heard – faithful men – teach others also. This is meant to continue passing on, we’re all meant to serve as transitional pieces in discipleship. But we also see that we need to be looking beyond just us! We need to grow/mature as disciples in order to continue passing that down to others! That’s true individually, but it’s also true corporately, we as a church need to ensure that what we do today lays the foundation for continued gospel faithfulness generations from today.

-I ran into my preaching mentor at a conference in February. He served as the professor of homiletics (preaching) at TEDS for almost 20 years. He shared that he loved coming to this conference because it was a picture of this text! He looks back fondly at his preaching mentor, then he became a preacher for almost 20 years, then he taught faithful men in seminary for 20 years, who are now training others! We all are supposed to do this, continue looking for ways to train others.

-Paul goes on to give us 3 pictures of what this looks like, but the connective tissue is vs. 3: share in suffering. This is the only thing Jesus guaranteed would happen to us (John 16:33). What does it look like to share in the sufferings?

-First like a soldier. Soldiers give up their entire lives to devote to their country. 1st century Rome, sometimes soldiers enlisted for 25 years, vowing to not get married and have 1 focus. If they were divided in what they were doing they wouldn’t last! Everything they do and at times even their very survival is mandated by not losing their focus. Everything they do is meant to be obedient to their superior officer. Think of the infamous Benedict Arnold! That’s NOT a good soldier! Similarly, in faith we’re meant to have the singular focus of obeying Christ. Don’t let anything distract you from that! The church has been guilty of missing this mission, of worrying too much about what the world thinks or using worldly metrics (building, budget butts). What we’re called to is being faithful, the fruit is up to God.

-Second is like an athlete. In order to win, there are specific rules you need to follow. Think of the shame of the steroid scandal in baseball. Cheating to get to the top is shameful! In faith, we need to be obedient to everything God has commanded us to do (teaching them to observe everything).

-Lastly: a hard-working farmer. I don’t know if you know any farmers, but there are times of the year where you won’t see them! Working before the sun is up to after the sun is down. In faith, we need to not rest on our laurels, but instead work diligently in our pursuit of Christ-likeness. 

-Summary: singular focus, obedient, diligent. 

-Last text: Eph. 4 I promise, we’ll get through it quickly!

-God gives everyone a unique gift that is meant to be used for the equipping of the body. We’ll be studying this text in more detail in the Fall, so don’t worry about all the details now! But every role is meant to: equip the saints. We all have a job to do if we want to be a faithful church. No JV, no bench warmers, we’re all in.

-Until: maturity. Won’t completely happen until Christ returns, but that means we continue to have a job to do.

-Finally, this is done to build each other up in love. Assume the best about each other! So much of our world today trains us to be inherently skeptical toward others. That’s the opposite of what’s supposed to happen in the church! As we use our gifts, we bless each other, encourage each other to keep this singular focus in all our lives.

-Everything we do as a church is meant to either make or mature disciples of Jesus. Nothing new! It’s what the church has been doing for 2,000 years! But sometimes we need the reminder!

-One of the ways we’re obedient to everything Jesus commanded us to do is through the celebration of the 2 ordinances, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel message. We saw baptism today, which is a 1 time demonstration of our new life, but then we also are to celebrate communion which is an ongoing reminder of our dependency on the gospel for growth. We’re going to sing a couple songs together, and use them as an opportunity to prepare your heart for this celebratory remembrance of our dependence on Jesus. Bible tells us if you are a faithful believer you are welcome to celebrate with us, but to examine your heart. I’d like to encourage you especially today, to take some time to confess if you’ve experienced “mission drift” away from what Jesus has explicitly commanded us to do.

He Is Risen Indeed! – Luke 24 Sermon Manuscript

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Have you ever wondered why we say that every Easter? Was it just something someone came up with to be clever? We find it in the Gospel of Luke! We’re going to be studying Luke 24 together this morning, open your Bibles. 

-We’re going to see as we walk through this text that the early disciples demonstrated every possible normal human response to the miracle of the resurrection. All the “new” ideas about what happened to Jesus aren’t so novel when you find out people in the 1st Century (even those who believed Him!) thought the same things!

READ/PRAY (words of our mouths and meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O Lord our rock and our redeemer)

  1. The Women Are Reminded (1-12)

-Good Friday we ended with the Sabbath note, today picks up where we left off. Since Sabbath is Saturday, what do you think “the first day” is? Good start! Sunday. 

-First example of the validity of the resurrection. Throughout all of Jewish history, their week was centered around Sabbath, Saturday. Why do you think suddenly this group of Jews started centering their week around Sunday? Something significant must have happened on a Sunday to change the way the early disciples oriented their lives.

-Who’s this “they” look back at 23:55 “the women” before Sabbath they had done the prep work, today was the delivery.

-Common practice in the 1st Century, preparing a body for burial, which they didn’t have time to do.

-Something is wrong as they approach the tomb: front stone is rolled away, and there was no body in the tomb. Did they go to the wrong place? Look again at 23:55: “saw the tomb and how his body was laid.”

-They were perplexed. Seems like an understatement to me. If you saw a dear friend of yours beaten to a pulp, then hung on a cross by an expert executioner, had no breath or pulse, when he was taken down so you put him in a tomb, what would you expect to happen? Let me ask another way: what would you expect someone who’s dead to do? Stay dead! None of the disciples were expecting this! Think of all the spices they wasted!

-Suddenly, 2 men appear in “dazzling” clothes. 

-I think we have too many “touched by an angel” shows today, every time angels appear in the Bible people are terrified! 

-They ask one of my favorite questions in all of Scripture: why do you seek the living among the dead? Once again, seems like a weird statement! The women had just seen Jesus die. So they didn’t know they were looking for a living person, they thought they were looking in the right spot. 

-Where would you go to look for living people? Walk through the neighborhood, always people at MOA, airport, Target, LOTS of options. 

-Where would you look for a dead person? Hospital, funeral home, graveyard. Much more limited options. Based on all the information given to them, the women think they’re in the right place.

-The angels then go on to tell the women to remember what Jesus said. 

-Hindsight is 20/20, as you read through the Gospel accounts, Jesus repeatedly told his followers that he would die, but they didn’t connect the dots until later. Honestly, it would sound completely ridiculous as Jesus’ fame was growing, people were being healed, He was providing for so many people, why would he die a martyrs death? John 12:16 tells us: “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” They were living it, and they still had trouble remembering it!

-Jesus wasn’t the only person who claimed to be the Messiah in Israel’s history, there were even other so called Messiah’s who were killed by the Romans in the first century! Jesus’ disciples thought there was something different about Him, but apparently his death had proven their hopes wrong. Or had it? 

-Look at vs. 8. “They remembered his words.”

-If you’ve been paying attention during our 2 Peter series, you’ve heard that word repeated regularly. God knows us all, He knows just how forgetful we humans are! I joked about it during one sermon that you forget things by walking through a door (called the doorway effect, real thing!), and then Micah had to tell me to do that twice this past week!

-The angels’ reminder jogs the women’s memory, so suddenly it all comes back to them! In their excitement they go back to the rest of the disciples and report what happened. But no one else believes them!

-Look at vs. 11

-‘An idle tale’ could see this as “an old wives tale” equivalent to: if you read in the dark you’ll damage your eyes. This is one of the reasons we can believe these accounts, they contain natural human responses to what happened. If one of your friends was publicly killed, and then someone came and told you they had 2 angels appear at his grave and tell you he’s alive, how would you respond? Accuse them of making things up, and not believe it. Just like the text says!

-But something changed in the disciples, because Peter, when he wrote 2 Peter 1:16 said “We did not follow cleverly devised myths.” Luke recounts that Peter ran to the tomb to see it, and saw exactly what the women said.

  • The Two Foolish Ones (13-32)

-The next account Luke records for us is of 2 other disciples who were leaving Jerusalem.

-Yet again, we see the validity of this account because this is another normal, human response to what had happened. They saw Jesus killed, they waited for Sabbath, then they decided they needed to go back to what they were doing before they followed Jesus. And as they go on their journey, they (again, normal human response) are talking about what happened.

-But then some other dude catches up to them and joins them on their walk. The person they were just talking about appeared (like the women were NOT expecting it) so they didn’t recognize him.

-Maybe you’ve had one of those experiences, like running into a pastor at the grocery store (I thought he lived at church?), or you run into one of your work friends at a church friend’s house and you don’t even recognize them, since your brain can’t make those 2 connections. I can’t be the only one who’s had that experience! However, in this case there’s something more going on, as the text says their “eyes were kept”

-Jesus proceeds to ask them what they’re talking about on their walk

-Yet again, another human response, they’re sad! The person they had banked their lives on, that they had become convinced was the Messiah was gone. But it’s not enough for them just to remain sad, the one disciple who’s named in this encounter sarcastically responds to him saying “Where have you been?” It’s like that old Geico commercial: “could Geico REALLY save you 15% on car insurance? What, have you been living under a rock!?” How would you feel being recorded in Scripture as the guy who was trying to make Jesus feel bad for not keeping up with the headlines? Think maybe Jesus said “I’ve been busy”

-Thankfully, (For Cleopas) Jesus plays along with them, and asks for an explanation. Cleopas answers with an explanation of everything that happened on the fateful weekend, and then lands on their response:

-Look at vs. 21 with me. “We had hoped”

-Past tense. Just as other so-called Messiahs had risen up and died, leading to the dissolution of their followers, so it looked like this Jesus was going to follow the same path. We had a good run!

-This is day 3! Didn’t have the same medical technology as us, so sometimes people would be very sick, but not dead, so day 3 made the person officially dead. Then he tells the account we just read about the women, and that Peter went to look, but they still couldn’t find Jesus, not even his body.

-This time, Jesus doesn’t hold back. “O foolish ones” This is not MN nice!

-There is no underselling or tiptoeing around these issues this time. As I was thinking about how direct Jesus was here, I thought about a friend whose way of telling me I need to lose weight is every time I see him he asks “Have you been working out?” This past week, my son was cuddling with me in bed in the morning, and his approach was to poke my stomach and say “Daddy, your tummy looks full!” Thanks bud. Calvin took the Jesus approach!

-But he goes on, not just foolish, but also “slow of heart to believe” Despite repeating Himself while He was still with them, they still forgot. And I think we often do the same thing! No matter how many times throughout the Bible God promises to be with us, to sustain us, to provide for us, we still struggle to believe Him, don’t we? Despite thousands of ways He’s provided in the past, we still forget.

-Jesus knew exactly what He came to earth to do, he uses the word “necessary” in vs. 26. God’s plans are perfect, and they’re guaranteed to come to pass!

-Jesus moves to take them on probably the most enlightening Bible study that has ever taken place. Starting with Moses (the beginning, the first 5 books), all the prophets (there’s a lot of them!) “in all the Scriptures” just throw the rest of it in there too. Must have been quite the long walk! According to a study I found, it would take the average reader 56 hours 44 minutes to read the entire OT. If you look back to vs. 13 you can see they were only traveling 7 miles, so no more than 2 hrs 20 min. Doesn’t quite add up. Slightly hyperbolic statement! Instead, He went back and pointed out the ways the Bible was pointing to Him. This is meant to change the entire way we approach the Bible! I’ve said this before, we must read the Bible Christocentrically, everything centered on Christ!

-Finally, after the greatest Bible study with the greatest Bible teacher, they arrive at Emmaus, and Jesus goes for the sneak attack: pretends he’s going to keep going, but since it’s approaching night time, they beg Him to stay with them. During their evening meal, suddenly their “eyes were opened” again, this is God’s doing, didn’t just happen, but they finally realize who they just journeyed with, and as soon as they realize it, he’s gone.

-This story of the disciples is little picture of what it means to become a Christian: initially, Jesus appears as a stranger, and then over time reveals Himself to us so that we can then look back and say “didn’t our hearts burn within us as we started learning more about who He is?”

  • Jesus Trains and Sends (33-49)

-Just as the women had to run back to the rest of the disciples to share the good news, now it’s Cleopas and the other unnamed disciple’s turn.

-Once again, hindsight is 20/20, since these disciples are now able to piece together what just happened. And despite the day being “far spent” (29) they immediately run back to Jerusalem to tell everyone else what happened.

-Then we see why we say “He is risen indeed!” every Easter. As Jesus slowly starts appearing to the disciples, there become more and more eyewitnesses to the reality of the resurrection.

-Now we’ve got 2 different groups of people who claim to have seen the risen Jesus, so they have a very normal, human response: they start talking about it! But as they’re talking (I would imagine having a very heated debate) Jesus appears with them. It doesn’t say how, just that suddenly He’s there. And look at the first word He says: peace.

-We saw something very similar at the beginning of 2 Peter: grace and peace. If you weren’t here, we have a slightly too small definition of peace when we use it today. We tend to refer to it exclusively as the absence of conflict, but when the Bible talks about peace it includes the absence of conflict, but it goes beyond that to mean everything is as it should be. Relationally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Everything is correctly ordered exactly how God intended it to be. Paradise. 

-No coincidence that this is the first thing Jesus says to His disciples. Because of the sacrifice Jesus made (grace) there is now the possibility of peace. True, lasting peace.

-Yet again, another normal human response: they think Jesus is a ghost! Wouldn’t that make more sense than someone rising from the dead?

-And Jesus goes right there with him, but calls out their unbelief. Thus far, we’ve got a few women who have been reminded what Jesus said, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple who went on a walk with Jesus, but the rest of the group still has serious doubts. Jesus encourages them to use their senses to discern whether or not it’s really Him. He begins with what they can see. The number of people who would now be eyewitnesses is expanding dramatically. But it’s not just enough to see, they’re invited to touch Him. This isn’t an illusion, this isn’t a spirit, you can touch Him, He has a body.

-Then Luke gives us another reasonable doubt: “still disbelieved for joy.” Despite seeing and touching Him they didn’t believe it was Him since they were overly joyful. Have you ever had a dearly loved pet die on you? You spend the first couple weeks being reminded all the time, seeing the remnants of your old buddy, but each time that hope is dashed. The disciples don’t want that disappointment, so despite Jesus being there they don’t want to believe. This story is showing us such typical responses to this whole story.

-The final cherry on top is that Jesus is hungry. Do ghosts need food? CAN ghosts eat food? (Scooby Doo episode watching the food in the stomach) What else could Jesus do to prove that it’s really Him? The disciples are incredulous, untrusting even their eyes! 

-If you’ve ever been to Disneyworld you’ve probably seen people with the same experience. We got some free tickets last Fall and took our older 2 kids, the first half of the day was AWESOME, then they got tired and hot. We walked in the front gates as a parade was starting, Tinkerbelle was carried by on a float waving at everyone, I pointed her out to Calvin and his first question was: “Is she real or betend?” That’s a loaded question at Disney! But that’s the exact experience as the disciples – is this real or betend? 

-Just as the women needed to be reminded, Jesus needed to remind the rest of the disciples what he had been trying to prepare them for. Just like a parent repeatedly reminding your kids to be obedient, you can say it until you’re blue in the face, and they will look you in the eyes and be disobedient.

-Then, just as he explained the Bible to the 2 disciples on the road, he explains how they should interpret the Bible, and the mission it points them to in vs. 47. “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to allnations.”

-This is why Jesus came: to offer a way to have sins forgiven. But then once you have repented of your sins and put your trust in Jesus, you’re given a global job. 

-Look at vs. 48. We’re meant to be witnesses of the realities of the resurrection. Similarly to this story, one of the things we saw in 2 Peter 1 was the need to be both eye and ear witnesses. These early disciples were eyewitnesses before they became earwitnesses (hearing and believing the truth). Today, we’re primarily earwitnesses and longing for the day when our faith will become evident in what we see around us. Jesus even says those who believe without seeing will be blessed in a different way than those who believed because they saw Him (John 20:29).

-As we walked through this text, I tried to point out the places where we see very normal human responses to the story of the resurrection. Why would we believe that someone rose from the grave? It runs contradictory to everything we’ve been taught to think and operate. I think we need to remember Luke’s point in writing this letter was to create an orderly account of what happened with Jesus.

-When we read this today, it’s really easy for us to read this and forget that the early disciples weren’t expecting this. We’ve read the story so many times and can easily neglect the human, real aspect that these are true historical events. Not just a made-up story. So that leads to the question: what do you do with Jesus?

Bart Ehrman: “It is indisputable that some of the followers of Jesus came to think that he had been raised from the dead, and something had to have happened to make them think so” (How Jesus Became God, 182-83).

-If you haven’t read CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity, he postulates 3 options to respond to Jesus: liar, lunatic, Lord. 

-Liar: what kind of liar gets a following from so many people, and says things like “do onto others as you want them to do unto you” or “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

-Lunatic: if you haven’t, go read some crazy people’s writings. David Koresh has his last letter published online! It’s nuts! And doesn’t sound remotely similar to Jesus. Additionally, the Gospels tell us His family initially accused Jesus of being crazy! But then ended up following Him and dying for Him.

-Just for fun, Bart Ehrman, who I read earlier, added that Jesus was merely a legend. Like a fish story. 

-We have more historically accurate accounts of Jesus written within decades of his life than any other person who lived during the 1st Century.

-The Gospels are proven time and time again to contain verifiable, historical data. In one verse, Luke 3:1, Luke gives us 15 different historical facts. Do you think this would be something that would be easy to fake?

-Lewis had a great quip on this idea too: “as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly.” (from the article“What Are We to Make of Christ?”)

-That leaves us with 1 possible, dare I say scientific, option: Jesus is who He said He was: the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord, whose arrival ushered in a new era of human history. Whose death at the hands of sinners and subsequent resurrection provide the only means of salvation because there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. As I was preparing this sermon this week I was once again overwhelmed with the mountain of evidence that points to the historical reliability of this Gospel account. So if you are a believer, remember that our faith isn’t some abstract concept and be encouraged to even more diligently commit to live in light of the resurrection each and every day. If you aren’t a believer, I want to ask you: why don’t you believe that Jesus is who He says He is? 

-You may have been told the way you give a talk is 3 things: tell people what you’re going to say, say what you’re going to say, then tell everyone what you just said. Jesus told everyone what he was going to do, He did it, then told everyone what He just did. Then He leaves the choice up to you: will you believe Him? Brothers and sisters, if He can rise from the dead there’s nothing that can stop Him!

The Worldly Image (Rom. 1:18-31)

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

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

-Structurally, functionally, relationally. 

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

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

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

Rom. 1 gives us that exact picture!

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Great Exchange (21-25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Unnatural Ways to Live (26-32)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-How do we engage this conversation today?

1. Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Higher calling than just “being honest.”

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

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

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

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

4. We need to be the church. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Image of God (Part 2) Sermon Manuscript

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

Genesis 2-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Again, celebrate that which is true!

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Vertical Relationship

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

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

  1. Unity (2:4-20)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Disunity (3:8-13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Violence (3:14-24)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Horizontal Relationship

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

  1. Unity (2:23-25)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Culminates in both being naked and not ashamed.

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

  • Disunity (3:12-19)

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

-When God confronts Adam, who does he blame?

-When God confronts Eve, who does she blame?

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

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

  • Violence (4:1-16)

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

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

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

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

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

-Back to the story: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The Solution (4:26)

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

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

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

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

Core Values Summary – Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ Acts 2:42-47 – PRAY

  1. We – John 13:34-35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Humans are inherently good.

-Are they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jesus talking to his followers here. 

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

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

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

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

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

  • Welcome – Romans 15:7

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

-I knew hospitality was in there, but welcoming?

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

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

-3 stories encapsulate this:

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

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

-Prodigal Son: how does the Father respond? 

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

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

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

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

  • Word – Hebrews 4:12-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Worship – Romans 12:1-2

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

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

-Look at this passage in Romans 12.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Witness – Acts 1:8 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

  1. One Body (12-13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Many Members (14-20)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Chief master hot dog griller. 

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

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

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

  1. Interdependence (21-27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Look at vs. 24.

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

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

-All of us are called to do good works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome – Romans 15:1-7 Sermon Manuscript

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

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

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

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

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

READ/PRAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Please Others Like Christ (1-3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-The 2 components are: endurance and encouragement.

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

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

  • God (5a)

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

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

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

  • Unity to Glorify God (5b-6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Welcome (7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Gospel Comes with a Housekey

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

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

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

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

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

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