Category Archives: Christian Living

1 Timothy 4.1-5

Title: The false appearance of godliness

Text: 2 Timothy 4.1-5

Introduction: We’ll begin in 2 Timothy 4 and at some point look at 1 Corinthians 7 & Mark 7. So, go ahead and find those other texts. We all filter our experiences through our worldview. You have one, whether you know it or not. Hopefully, it is a Biblical Worldview. That is the main reason I love Starting Points. It is a great class for helping your children develop a Biblical Worldview. In that class, a student creates a filter, a colander of sorts. This filter is based upon God’s Word. Then, as life goes by and these students watch movies or read books or articles, they will filter what they hear through their worldview.

Story of Peter: This is what happens to Peter in Acts 10. God is at work in the lives of two individuals: Peter and Cornelius. Tell the Story.

God is changing Peter’s worldview. He is seeing that Gentiles could get saved. He’s seeing that Gentiles could get saved and not have to become Jews first.

That illustration, that example, that story was experienced and written down for your and my benefit. The Holy Spirit was at work in the lives of those men to teach us. If you keep reading in Acts 11, you’ll see that Peter reports back to the leadership in Jerusalem. By the time we get to Acts 15, so many Gentiles are being saved that the Jews must deal with this issue of OT laws. Their worldview was changing.

But not everyone could get on board with this new way of thinking. Too many Jews, who had become Christians, just couldn’t give up the law. For one reason or another, they held to their Jewish worldview of legalism.

Now, fast-forward a couple of decades to where the Gospel has spread… well, all the way to Rome. And even though it had been concluded that Gentiles did not have to become Jews before they could get saved – the old worldview still corrupted the church through false teaching.

Henry has set us up nicely as he teed up our topic for us last week… Let me share with you his summation and how that fits with where we’re going as we make our way through July.

Henry said: Right actions of a right people flow from a right devotion to a righteous God revealed in His Son. I don’t know if this was his intention or not, but he described godliness. You might even say it is a great definition for godliness. Godliness is doing the right thing for the right reason.

  • Right actions: your behavior, what you do
  • Of a right people: Christians, made right through Christ. Forgiven. The actions of these people…
  • Flow from a right devotion: this is one’s intentions, their aim, and purpose in life. What they do isn’t motivated by selfishness or self-service in any way.
  • To a righteous God: No, it isn’t self-serving, it is all for God and his glory. That is their joy, their satisfaction.
  • (As) revealed in His Son: I added the word “as” for convenience. Jesus has demonstrated with his life what godliness looks like. He is the embodiment of godliness. We do what we do because we believe he would do that, too. We act like him, we talk like him, we serve like him, and we sacrifice like him. We do everything to the best of our abilities to be like him.

And when we do, they call us “Christians”. You’re just like your ‘Savior’, Jesus.

But there is a problem, in our text – this isn’t what the false teachers were preaching and teaching! Their view of godliness was earned. Godliness came through regulation and rules, through abstinence and denial. So Paul gives Timothy three actions of the believer to combat against False Godliness (Asceticism). Look with me at our text in 1 Timothy 4.1-5; So Paul says to Timothy that Ungodliness will infiltrate teaching in the church. Expect it to be taught, here are a couple of examples, and recognized the error in that teaching by knowing the Truth. Repeat. False Godliness

  • Expect it to be taught
  • Identify it when you see it. Here are some Examples of it (What it is…)
  • Understand what it does: it steals your joy! (What it does…)

Transition: So, let’s take these actions one at a time.

Three actions to combat against False Godliness (Asceticism):

  1. Expect it (1-2)

exp.: rd v 1; Really? People will actually do this? Yes, and you know this because the Holy Spirit has told you so. You should expect this false teaching promoting false godliness. It will be preached and taught and there will be those who will listen and follow – and as a result, they will be led away. The Holy Spirit expressly says, declares, and makes it known to us. It is going to happen, so don’t be surprised, expect it. Timothy repeats this in his next letter: cf. 2 Tim 3.1-7;

This is the beauty of our faith: we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. We don’t walk alone and we don’t walk in ignorance. When you become a believer by faith, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your spirit. This is one of the foundational, rudimentary doctrines of our faith. And we experience him in various ways as he guides, directs, teaches…

A thing or two about false teachers and those who follow them:

  1. They don’t lose their salvation – they leave the faith (1a); is there a difference? You bet there is! 1 John 2.19 – 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
  2. Their devotion is toward deceitful spirits and teachings of demons (1b)
  3. They ignore the foundation of truth and they follow the insincerity of liars (2)
  4. Their false doctrine leads to your false godliness: these people devote themselves to the wrong people and wrong actions thinking that those actions or behaviors are what makes them godly.

Transition: as a Christian, you’ve been forewarned of this invasion of the enemy: Expect it. Now that you know it is going to happen, how do you prepare for it? And this is our 2nd Action:

  1. Identify it (3)

exp.: You should be aware of what this false teaching looks like, in order that you might avoid its pitfall. Rd v 3; these folks were told that marriage was forbidden and sinful, as well as, they were required to abstain from certain foods. For sure, this isn’t an exhaustive list, it isn’t every doctrine that is false – it’s just two of them.

  • Lies about marriage: Celibacy/Single; today it would be cohabitation; sex outside of marriage; Gay marriage

exp.: We see this doctrine of marriage being misunderstood from the beginning of Christianity. Consider Paul’s counsel for people to remain single – in order that their devotion might be single-minded. 1 Cor. 7.1-9; rd v 1; just that alone, appears to say that marriage shouldn’t happen. But, when you read more, you realize that just isn’t the case. Rd 2-5; Sex is to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage. Outside of that context and you have misery. Look at 6-9;

Paul says within the confines of marriage, sex is good. But false teachers say, no – sex is bad. This is Satan’s greatest victory over Christians: he takes what God gives us and perverts it in one of two ways. First, he takes the gift of God and expands the boundaries to include everyone and everything. Or, 2nd, he goes the other way and limits the gift of God to the point that you never find joy in God’s gift.

Did you know that throughout most of the history of Christianity that sex has been seen as bad? R Kent Hughes has done some great research on this subject. He identifies many teachings throughout Christian history which identify sexual love as being wicked and evil. Tertullian, Ambrose, and Augustine wrote of the evils of sexual love. He quotes Ambrose: married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living. Augustine said that the sexual relationship in marriage was innocent, but the passion which comes along with the act is always sinful. The early church fathers praised virginity as superior to marriage. The Council of Trent denounced any who would deny such a thing. And the reformers didn’t help matters! Do you know who actually began to turn the tide on this thinking? The Puritans! Hughes quotes Dr. Leland Ryken: The Puritan doctrine of sex was a watershed on the cultural history of the West. The Puritans devalued celibacy, glorified compassionate marriage, affirmed married sex as both necessary and pure, established the ideal of wedded romantic love, and exalted the role of the wife.

I’ve got to be honest – I was so not expecting that! To be declared Puritanical is to declare a rigid, frigid, and presented in a negative way. When one thinks of Puritans, they don’t think of sex education. So, to clarify: I like what the Puritan’s had to teach! Let’s get this straight. Sex is great when understood as within the context of God’s design. That’s right, I said that from the pulpit. Sex is a wonderful gift from God. Enjoy it within the confines of marriage. Here is your warning: If you engage in this activity outside of that context, then you will experience pain, destruction, sorrow, depression, and all such misery. If you’re listening to me right now, please identify this false doctrine.

Paul then gives us a 2nd doctrine to identify.

  • Lies about foods: Don’t eat and Don’t drink

exp.: These two examples seem to be right out of the beginning of Genesis, don’t they? I think of Eve’s words – Don’t eat it, don’t even touch it. There are denominations that exist today that take the Old Testament Laws on forbidden, unclean food and apply it to their people. It is a lie that has been perpetuated throughout time. And Southern Baptists aren’t any different. We still apply traditional prohibitions to people – we say if you’re saved you can’t… eat this or that, or we say you can’t drink this or that.

It reminds me of the old country song from the ’70s that was sung by the Imperials as a dig toward conservatives: if you have long hair, then you can’t be saved. That was the big thing in the ’60s and ’70s: cut your hair and shave your beard! Some of you know what I’m talking about…

ill.: the big joke was of the boy who wanted to get a car. He begged his dad. His dad said that his grades were low, his room was a mess and his hair was too long – it needed to be cut. The son agreed to work on those things. Next report card came out and he had all A’s. His father acknowledged his room had been clean and looking really nice. The Dad said, but son, you didn’t cut your hair. The son said, “Yes, sir, I know, but Jesus had long hair. And without missing a beat the Dad said, “Yeah, but he walked everywhere he went, too.”

app.: I’m so glad we’ve moved beyond the coat and the tie requirement. And I’m glad you don’t have to cut your hair and your beard to be saved. But we still aren’t there if we put requirements of food and drink on people to declare their salvation and godliness.

Transition: Teaching on False Godliness – expect it, identify it and 3rdly…

  1. Understand what it does:

exp.: it steals your joy – You should know the truth about these doctrines. You should know and identify their parameters for your own health and safety; whether marriage or food – both are created by God and to be enjoyed by his people! Rd v 4-5; Everything God made is Good! Everything! 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

Turn with me to Mark 7.14-23; rd Mk 7.14-23; when you choose to put limits on what God’s gifts, then you miss out on the joy God intended for you to experience. Here’s our problem: we over-indulge in the gifts of God – and that can be a bad thing. Whenever you over-indulge in the gifts, you begin to seek the gift more than the giver of those gifts. Over-indulgence is a bad thing, just as exclusion is a bad thing. There is a happy medium that we need to find.

So, let’s bring the pendulum back to the middle. Let’s stop the extremes of God’s gifts: denial and abstinence or license and debauchery. And instead, enjoy all that this life offers as given by God. Amen?

Truth:

  • Fasting can bring you closer to God. But this is a serious endeavor and should not be embarked upon without preparation. May I be bold enough to say, yes – many of us need to fast.
  • Paul said in 1 Cor 7 that abstinence from your marriage partner for a time can be beneficial to your soul. But don’t use this as an excuse and don’t hurt your spouse with it. Sex isn’t a tool to use for getting what you want. It is a wonderful experience of intimacy in the marriage as created by God.
  • But God gave you these gifts to enjoy in life. Wow… go figure, God wants you to find pleasure in this life and you will find your pleasure in life when you are most satisfied in Him.

Take-a-ways:

  1. If you are not enjoying God’s gifts, get some help. Get help for the sake of your marriage. Get help for the sake of your sanity. Get help for the sake of your family.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met with and offered counsel to over these issues. Many of us bought into the lies of the world and the false doctrines brought into the church and we experienced the depression, the sadness, the anger, the abuse, and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with disobedience. And, we carried that baggage into our marriage. Husbands and wives have fought over these issues because they still feel guilty. Hey get help, get forgiveness, forgive yourself and live life to its fullest. Stop wallowing in your misery. It’s not healthy.

  1. Understand the beauty of moderation – The pendulum extremes are indulgence or abstinence. No, let’s find a happy medium here.

Here’s the thing about moderation – don’t impose your rules upon others. And, don’t confuse your activity or your inactivity with godliness. Just because you’re skinny doesn’t mean you’re godly. Just because you don’t physically cheat on your spouse, doesn’t mean you’re godly. Here’s the big problem with these false teachers – they impose a set of rules as requirements for godliness. Don’t do the same thing.

  1. Never confuse godliness with ritual or routine. Yes, it is important to come to church every Sunday, but that doesn’t demonstrate godliness either. Don’t confuse the two.

I wonder if it saddens the Father to see us missing out on the wonderful life he has designed because we fall for the lies of Satan? I wonder if he thinks that he made it so simple and we complicate it all. I wonder if it breaks his heart to see

  • a young woman destroyed by her decisions;
  • a young man suffering from his decisions;
  • a family, broken apart by another person’s decisions;
  • a person’s understanding that they are godly because they do this or that and avoid this or that.

Can I just conclude with this plea: God has created life to be enjoyed to the fullest possible extent. He created it, he designed it and wrote the manual on how it should be run. Will you trust him with it all?

If you’ve been trying to obtain godliness through all of your action or inaction, can offer you a moment to repent of that? Maybe you’ve never come to Christ and found the forgiveness of your sins. You’ve played the game of life and you’ve lost. Come to Christ. We’ll have a moment of silence and then we’ll be dismissed with a word of prayer. We’ll gather in the back for a time of fellowship – come to talk to someone about how to live this life to its fullest.

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Filed under 1 Timothy, Addiction, Christian Living, Scripture, Sermon

1 Timothy 3.8-13

Title: The Two Offices of the Church: Deacons are like Elders, mostly

Text: 1 Timothy 3.8-13

Deacons: A different group of people.

I want to talk to you today about the greatest need at Calvary Baptist Church, Tyler, TX. I’m talking desperation, here. This is a great day to take notes, and if you’re taking notes write this down: for the ministry and mission of Calvary, right now, our greatest need is for deacons. We have some deacons, but they’ve been working on a very limited basis. There is too much work for too few men. Some have gotten older and can’t handle the load that they used to carry. And so much then falls through the cracks.

Now I wonder, if some of you might be asking at this point: “Really Fred? That’s our greatest need?” Yeah, it probably is. Ministry opportunities are currently uncovered and not happening because we just don’t have the men and women in place to keep up with the need.

And it really shouldn’t be that way. We have enough people. Why is that?

  • My guess is that people just don’t know.
  • Maybe there is a stigma attached to the word deacon – like, someone feels they’re too young.

We as a body need to remedy this. So, today I’m going to talk to you about deacons and ministry in the church; and, just what we as a church need to be doing about it.

Our text is 1 Tim 3.8-13. I’ve divided this message into two parts with one excursus.

  1. Their Character (8-10)
  2. Their Competence (12-13)
  3. Excursus: Women in ministry (11). And we’ll talk about this when we get to verse 11.

So let’s take a moment and look at our biggest need right now. We need men and women to step up and fill in the missing gaps.

Some of you might be asking yourself if you’re deacon material. That’s a great question. Let’s talk about that. 1st, Paul tells us of…

  1. Their Upstanding Character

Exp.: It’s really a very short list; basically, a review of what’s already been said; rd v8a; Deacons likewise must be dignified. In the Gk there are three words; there is no verb here in the Gk, but it is supplied by the reader because the reader has it from above (cf.v2); must be, needs to be, it is necessary; Honorable, dignified. It’s not any different than the elders, with the exception of being able to teach. You might even sum it up by saying: these guys are elder-like. They have an upstanding character. That’s what the ‘likewise’ is for; it means in a similar manner or in like manner. To clarify, deacons aren’t to be…; rd 8b not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.

  • Not double-tongued could mean one of two things, and I think both apply.
    • 1st, not to say one thing and do another.
    • 2nd, not to say one thing to one person and something else to another.
  • Not addicted to much wine. This coincides with the elders. There isn’t anything wrong with a glass of wine, it’s when there is no self-control and wine takes control.
  • Not greedy for dishonest gain. I love the KJV: not greedy of filthy lucre. Again, there is control over passion and pursuits when it comes to money.

To say one thing and do another isn’t honorable. To say something to someone and something else to someone else is not honorable or dignified. Getting drunk is not dignified. Being selfish and greedy and doing what you do in the pursuit of money isn’t honorable or dignified.

A simple way to see this is to see them living out what they believe. rd v 9-10; They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. – 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. I note two parts to this:

  • An informed faith: deacons are not required to teach like elders are, but they do hold to the mystery of the faith. Mystery simply means that at one time it was hidden, but now it has been revealed. That’s the gospel. Many didn’t see it coming the way it did, but now they see. Now they know. And they not only hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, but they’ve been tested in it.
  • An incessant faith: it remains through all of the tough times. Many problems in life and in the church have come and gone, but they remain. They are a constant – like a lighthouse in the bay – their light continues to shine and guide others in spite of what storms rage around them.

Transition: these guys have been tested and tried and have come out on the other side blameless. Now, rd v 11 with me; – 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.

  1. Aside: Women who serve

Exp.: I want to be careful, but clear. The Gk reads literally: women likewise dignified. Grammatically, I want you to note:

  1. There is no pronoun their in the Gk. Some scholars argue that it is That means that previously, it was supplied and so you would supply it here, too. The argument is that the woman in chapter two is Eve and she is the wife of Adam and so, here it is the wife.
  2. The verb is to be supplied. So, women likewise must be dignified. This is the same exact wording as v 8, only in the feminine form. What does this mean? Well, it isn’t clear.

4 possible solutions:

  1. Women are deacons, too.
  2. Women who are not deacons, but rather deaconesses and a different group altogether.
  3. Women are married to the deacons and a part of their ministry. Now there is a 4th option and it is very close and similar to #3…
  4. Women are servants and assistants to the deacons in their ministry.

Of these 4 possible solutions: I don’t think it is #1. #2 – I like # 2, but really need to explain why I like it. I think one of the last two of these is a real possibility.

  1. Women are deacons, too. I don’t think that is Paul’s presentation. Strike it.
  2. Women who are not deacons, but rather deaconesses and a different group altogether. Possible, but I don’t think this is Paul’s presentation either. You would have an argument with the usage of ‘likewise’ but, Paul returns to the deacons in the next verse. So that probably isn’t the case. He isn’t leaving this issue of being deacons. I guess the reason I don’t like it is that it just doesn’t stand on its own. So strike it too.
  3. Women are married to the deacons and a part of their ministry. Highly possible; but I doubt this one. Many women who are married to deacons willingly volunteer their time and help their husbands. But not all do. If that is the case, then should a man not be a deacon if his wife doesn’t help him? Then it would need to be a requirement to become a deacon. Now there is a 4th option and it is very close and similar to #3…
  4. Women are servants and assistants to the deacons in their ministry. Highly possible; Women who serve; We find one such lady listed in Romans 16.1-2; Phoebe; “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” I think the term ‘Likewise’ gives them a classification, like their different from the men, but still an important and vital part of the church’s ministry;

So, this is how we understand it at Calvary: The deacon body consists of men appointed to this task by the church. There are women and men who serve under the responsibility of the deacons and administrate certain ministries. This is what our constitution says Deacon: Subject to the will of the congregation, the deacons shall care for the temporal needs of the members, attend to the accommodations for public worship, and encourage and support those able to help others and those with gifts of administration.

Question: Why is it that Baptists are against women deacons? My theory is that a typical Baptist church has its deacons serving in elder-type positions and making elder-type decisions. These deacons give oversight and rule. To be brutally honest, many Baptist churches function on their traditions and ignore the Scriptures. They go back to chapter two and see that a woman shouldn’t have authority over a man, therefore, a woman shouldn’t be a deacon. But, Scripture is very clear that Deacons are simply servants. They were created to serve in Acts 6.1-8. Their job was to ‘wait on tables’.

The job of the deacons is to put on an apron and serve. In John 12.2 – Martha served; Luke 17.7-10 – unworthy servant; Luke 22.26-27; 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

That’s the job of a deacon: to serve. Mark Dever: “Deacons should not act as a separate power bloc or second house of the legislature through which bills need to be passed. If the elders say, ‘Let’s drive to Pittsburgh,’ it’s not up to the deacons to come back and say, ‘No, let’s drive to Philadelphia instead.’ They can legitimately come back and say, ‘Our engine won’t get us to Pittsburgh. Perhaps we should reconsider.’ That’s very helpful. But in general, their job is to support the destination set by the elders.”

When you consider that deacons have no power, except as servants of the body… can women serve like that, too? The answer is yes. And they should…

Finally, Let’s get back to the passage…

  1. Their Outstanding Competence

Exp.: rd v 12; 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Their competence is seen in the way they manage their families:

  • Wife: same as the elder; a man of one woman; he is elder like in his faithfulness to his wife.
  • Children: again, just like last week: this doesn’t mean that his children are perfect.

Their family is a priority. As I think about this in my life, I’m reminded of something Mark Dever once said: the church can get another pastor, but my children cannot get another father. My wife cannot simply get another husband. And so it is with the deacon: his family is his priority.

The life of a deacon displays a servant’s heart. Being a servant means managing: managing funds, schedules, supplies, etc. There is a lot to administer and care for when someone serves. – I think this means you recognize these men because they’re serving already. They have a servant’s heart and that just comes out in what they do.

We are in need of people to serve. Let me rephrase that: we have a desperate need for people to serve.

So, here is my challenge to you:

  • Church, will you pray for the men in our congregation and ask God to show you men who should be serving as deacons?
  • Men, will you seriously pray about saying yes to serve if you’re asked? That’s a big thing for the church to say to you: I see Christ in you, I see your leadership capabilities and we’d be so blessed to have you serve. Will you serve?
  • Women, will you step up and help these men accomplish their duties. Will you be willing to say I’m here and will help in whatever capacity the Lord might want to use me?
    • Will you go visit the shut-ins?
    • Will you help care for the Widows?

*not just on your own, but under the care and guidance of the deacon body?

 

Some of you (men and women alike) are like: I can do that on my own? I don’t have to be a deacon to do that? No, you don’t have to be a deacon to serve. But can I offer a couple of pointers here?

  1. 1st, organization. The ministry needs to be organized. I’m reminded of the book of Judges where each person did what was right in his own eyes. And, it led to chaos, and rebellion and sin, etc. We’re grateful for when people cover areas of ministry where there is a need. But, can I encourage you to work with the deacons on this – help them keep things organized.
  2. 2nd, accountability. There is accountability when you surrender your personal passions to the leadership of the collective whole. That takes great humility and is most Christ-like. Submitting to the leadership of the deacons can keep you accountable to accomplish what you feel God has led you to do.
  3. 3rd, testimony. It is a great testimony against the lie of Satan when you submit to the leadership of the church. The lie of Satan says that authority can never be trusted because it is always tyrannical and oppressive. But there are wonderful, godly men who need your help. And that help starts by submitting to that leadership. And, it is also a testimony to the world when we function as a body the way God designed us to function.

God created two offices in this body: elders and deacons. The elders he has given responsibility to spiritual matters. To the deacons, he has given the responsibility for the physical, temporal matters. What a great testimony we would be if we functioned as we were designed to function.

I’m so grateful for the godly men who have served faithfully as deacons. They’ve blessed me. One such man, you would think, might never have made it back to church. You see, as a little boy, he was very poor. I don’t really remember his name – we called him Woody. Woody wanted to go to church. Somebody had invited him and so each Sunday morning as a little kid, he just walked to church. He went where they told him to go and he loved it. Until one day… one day a man pulled him aside. The man told Woody that we don’t go to church in these kinds of clothes. Those holes in his pant legs were unsuitable for church. He needed his momma to clean him up and fix his hair. He told him to head home and come back when he had nicer things to wear.

Woody didn’t return. He wouldn’t for years. He was an adult when he came to know Christ. What a change! Woody vowed that he would be a different kind of a man. He was loving and kind. He was generous. He was passionate about Christ. Woody was a servant. He was a real deacon who gave me great respect for deacons.

I have no idea what God has been doing in your life – how he has been molding you and shaping you to be the person you are today. But, maybe, just maybe, God has made you who you are today so that you’ll be fit for his service – just the way he wants you.

Let’s bow our heads for just a moment.

It is time for us to observe one of the ordinances of the church: the Lord’s Supper. Deacons, will you come and prepare the Lord’s Supper Table for this moment.

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1 Timothy 1.8-11

Title: What do we know about the Law?

Text: 1 Timothy 1.8-11

What do we know about the Law?

The answer is honestly…very little. And, what we do know about the law we often times don’t really understand. Or, we misuse it.

When one thinks about the law, that person usually thinks of it in negative terms. But the Bible doesn’t refer to the law in negative terms. Not really… consider:

Does this sound familiar:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Or this one:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

If you read Psalm 119 regularly, you might be familiar with this one: 97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Do we just throw out the Law as Christians? I mean, it is the Old Testament, right?

No! Because, the law does some truly wonderful work for us. Listen to what Paul writes in Galatians.

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

So, we can’t gain righteousness through the Law, but it still serves a purpose. We recently made our way through Romans 8. And the theme there was that we weren’t to live by the law anymore, but rather by the Spirit, whom God has given us when we become Christians.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.

And just how did he do that? We continue in Romans 8: By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We’re in 1 Tim 1. We’ve only just begun our study in 1st Timothy. Paul writes this letter for Timothy to encourage him to take a strong stand against false teachers. That is clear in v3-4; In v5-7 we are reminded, as we consider the law, of what the goal is supposed to be. Rd v 5; Love! Love.

Don’t forget that. It is so easy to do! Maybe people start off with love in mind, but it quickly disintegrates into anger and bitterness and defensiveness. It becomes a goal of winning an argument and being right.

Ill.: I remember after seminary learning about the Catholic Church and finding some truly wonderful practices about the Catholic Church. I met Father Dan Crawford, an Episcopalian Priest, who mentored me. It seemed to me that seminary training for me was more about what they did wrong and why the Reformation was launched. I knew about our differences, but not anything about what we hold in common. For me, it felt so much about being able to defend our differences and to win an argument if I debated someone who is Catholic or Episcopalian or Pentecostal. Maybe we need to stop being so argumentative and we need to start listening more.

Here’s where I’m going with this:

  • There are some people we feel comfortable worshiping with because they are just like us.
  • There are some people we wouldn’t feel comfortable worshiping with because they’re different.
  • But there are some people who are so different, that we would say, “That isn’t even Christian.”

But, in every instance, this isn’t about winning arguments. It isn’t about debates. Paul reminds us here: it is all about love.

Certain men, teachers of the law, did not have love as their motive. 1 Timothy 6.3-10 tells us their goal was to get rich. They taught certain aspects of the law from Speculation and not true knowledge and experience. And so we pick up in v8 of 1st Timothy 1. It is like Paul is saying: it isn’t that the law is bad… Really? So, what do we know about the Law? Well, Paul presents three facts about the law that I would like to spend the rest of the morning inspecting. First, we know that

I.     The Law is Good (8)

exp.: and we see that clearly communicated in v 8; rd v 8; how is it that? We see what looks to be a conditional clause: it is good if one uses it lawfully. So, you can use the law in an unlawful way. And I think that is what v6-7 is all about: Certain persons, by swerving from these (i.e., a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith), have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Using the law in an unlawful manner means to make confident assertions about the law that are false. It means using the law for ill-gotten gain. Using the law in an unlawful manner means leaving love out of the equation. It means being ‘right’ in a debate. It means using others to get what you want.

Ill.: There are different types of arguments and I’m not sure any of them are good to engage in. We have speech and debate; I’m not talking about those types of things. I’m talking about the casual conversations you have with your workers, friends, and acquaintances. If you argue and push until you win – you might lose the battle of trying to win them to Christ. If something is heretical, yes, you should shed light on that. But again, what is your goal – to show how stupid they are? Or, is your goal love and you want to help that person. Those are two very different things.

app.: I shudder to think of my behavior in the past when I was quick to defend a belief or something I disagreed with. Paul establishes for us that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught because the Law is good. So, don’t be afraid of it. Instead – look for Christ in it.

t.s.: Which brings us to Paul’s next fact… The law also has purpose.

II.    The Law has Purpose (9-10)

exp.: rd v 9a: understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just (or righteous), but for the unjust or the unrighteous; and he outlines them; read them; rd v9-10;

I want you to note that these echo or parallel the 10 commandments; you might consider these a commentary by Paul on the 10 Commandments; (the first three pair follow the 1st part of the Decalogue) lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane,; (the rest of the list, the 2nd part of the Decalogue) for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine;

thou shall honor your father & mother; thou shall not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery, enslavers is lit.: ‘manstealer’ it is used to describe someone who steals people and sells them; liars – bearing false witness;

Transition: Paul moves through the purpose and goodness of the Law and shares with Timothy that their newfound Faith in Christ doesn’t go against the Law;

The law has purpose – it shows us what a life in Christ is like.

Ill.: Listen to John Piper as he uses Galatians 3.19-25 to explain this text: So the law, Paul says, is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious. This sounds very much like Galatians 3:19. Paul asks, “Why the Law then?” Why was it added 430 years after Abraham was justified by faith? He answers, “It was added because of transgressions.” He does not say that it was added because of righteousness. It was added because of these kinds of things we read in this list in 1 Timothy 1:9-10. The law had a special role to play in setting a rigorous, detailed standard of behavior which functioned, Paul said, to hold people imprisoned (Galatians 3:22) or under a guardian or tutor (Galatians 3:24) until Christ came and justification by faith could be focused on him. The law commanded and condemned, and pointed to a Redeemer who was to come. Then Paul says, in Galatians 3:25, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

app.: So, it parallels the 10 Commandments and 2nd, it points us to Christ. Paul wants to establish that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught because the Law is good. Its purpose is to demonstrate life and to point to the one who was to come. It shows us our need for Christ; It shows us our sinfulness and our sin; it shows us our need for forgiveness;

t.s.: which brings us to this 3rd fact of Paul’s in what do we know about the Law? We know that (1) the law is good and we know that (2) the law has purpose. And, (3) we know that…

III.    The Law & the Gospel are in One Accord (11)

exp.: v 11; in accordance with the Gospel; that’s pretty clear; I think the converse would be true then: if you find something in the law and it doesn’t line up with the Gospel, then there is something wrong with the Gospel you’re teaching. That’s a bold statement. Am I off here? Think about this for a moment – let that sink in: if you’re teaching something from the law and it doesn’t line up with the Gospel – then there something wrong with the Gospel you’re teaching. You’re not teaching Paul’s Gospel. You’re teaching a false Gospel. The whole phrase, the Gospel of the glory is used only one other place in Scripture: 2 Cor 4.4 – In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

ill.: If you come across a teaching that declares you can be unfaithful to your wife. That is a false gospel. If you come across a teaching that insists you can steal something because you’re entitled to it. That’s a false gospel. If you hear a teacher proclaim that God wants to give you the abundance of riches and he or she declares that to be financial riches – that’s a false gospel.

app.: The Gospel is quite clear – and the law is in accordance with it. That is just one of the facts we know about the Law: 1. It is good; 2. It has purpose and 3. It is in accordance with the Gospel.

Conclusion: In 1945 the USS Indianapolis what’s sailing in the Pacific. On one particular run, the Indianapolis sustained significant damage from a Japanese Kamikaze – a plane that uses itself as a bomb. The ship limped into an island and made what repairs she could. But, the damage was significant enough that the Indianapolis was then forced to return to San Francisco for major repairs.

In 1945, many Americans believed the War was coming to an end. All indications were that was the case. Because of this, Lt. Commander John Emery used his position to pull some strings and get his son, William Friend Henry stationed to the USS Indianapolis at San Francisco. The Lt. Commander thought his son would be safe there. He thought his son would stay there in dry dock while repairs were being made. And, then, she would probably never head back out to war – the war would be over and his son would be alive. So, using his rank and his relationships with his powerful friends, he got his son transferred to Indy.

But a need arose. The powers that be needed a ship to transfer the atomic bomb to Guam. The USS Indianapolis was in a perfect place to become the ship that would transfer ‘the bomb’ – The atomic bomb that would be loaded onto the Enola Gay and then flown to Japan, where it was dropped on Hiroshima.

It was after this transfer at Guam that the Indianapolis was sent to the Philippines for some training exercises. The crew thought they were safe. Laziness and inaction by others gave the Captain of the Indianapolis a sense that they were safe. Lt. Commander John Emery thought they were safe – he thought his son was safe, but as you know – if you’ve ever seen the movie Jaws – you know it was torpedoed and sank. You know that most of the men on board that ship were killed. In an effort to save his son, the actions Lt. Commander Emery took actually brought about the death of his son.

There is another story about a Father whose actions brought about the death of his son. But this father wasn’t acting to save his son. The actions he took were intentional. He was acting to save you and me. God sent his Son, Jesus to die on the Cross of Calvary and to pay the penalty of sins for you and for me. You see, that’s the Gospel. Talk about love as the goal: that’s the Gospel.

Paul wants to establish that he’s not bothered about the Law being taught, because:

  1. The Law is good.
  2. It shows us our need for Christ.
  3. It is consistent with the Gospel.

Take-a-ways:

  1. Read the Law – it is good for you. It is a major part of your sanctification. Read a little. Meditate on one verse. Read one chapter a day. Read 5 chapters a day.
  2. Learn the Law, so that you might learn of Christ’s Character. Remember he said that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He fulfilled it. Perfectly.
  3. Live the Law – to do so would be to be like Christ. Sure, there are some hard things about the Law, but in reading them, learning them and living them out, there is great reward. Do this, because the Law is good, it has purpose and it is in accordance with the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God.

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1 Timothy 1.3-7

Title: Timothy’s Appointment to the Church at Ephesus

Text: 1 Timothy 1.3-7

Introduction:

March 2, 1962. Hershey, PA. Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points in one game. The record has been approached a couple of times but never broken. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points a few years back. My hero David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs scored 71 in one game. And, the night he set the record, he made 28 free throws out of 32. Here’s the thing about that: Chamberlain was a pitiful free throw shooter, but not that night. Normally, he would shoot in the 40% area. That night he shot nearly 90%. The difference? He shot his free throws underhanded.

But here’s an interesting tidbit of information: shortly afterward, Wilt Chamberlain went back to shooting his free throws overhead and his percentage plummeted once again.

Why? He tells us in his biography: I felt silly, like a sissy, shooting underhanded. I know I was wrong. I know some of the best foul shooters in history shot that way. Even now, the best one in the NBA, Rick Barry, shoots underhanded. I just couldn’t do it.

Check that out…he says: I know I was wrong. He is saying the right thing to do – the best way for him to score on his free throws would be to shoot underhanded. But then he says he just couldn’t do it.

Here’s my question: I wonder how many men would have to shoot underhanded before he would have changed his style.

Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast on this topic (Revisionist History)– the idea that each of us has a threshold where we will surrender our beliefs about something. We have beliefs, but we don’t live by those beliefs all the time.

Gladwell gives the example of a teenager who drives a hundred miles an hour with three of his buddies in the car. He isn’t doing it because he believes it is the right thing to do. He probably believes it is wrong. His threshold for doing what he believes is so low, that he surrenders what he knows to be right to do something wrong. Consider if his grandma was driving that car. Do you think she would drive 100 miles per hour to impress his friends? Example: Do think Melodese would drive 100 miles per hour to impress her grandson’s friends? Or Debbie Raney doing the same thing to impress Regan’s friends? Their threshold for such activities is pretty high. Probably, untouchable.

Transition: Identifying this threshold in our lives is so very important.

Consider a leader in the church. The truth is that when a leader upsets people in the church something happens:

  • Upset one person and that person might leave – taking their family, sometimes their friends, their tithe, and their opinions that they share with others in the community.
  • Upset more than one person and you could have a potential church split.
  • Upset enough people and you’re out of here…terminated.

So, people-pleasing is a tough dilemma for leadership. Leaders face a threshold like what Gladwell talks about in his podcast.

I wonder what it was like for young Timothy… Here is a young man who has to stand up to the likes of false teachers in his church, the church at Ephesus. Turn with me to 1 Timothy 1.3. Pg 932.

I’ve identified three parts to the overall passage of 1.1-11: A Bird’s Eye View of our Journey through 1 Timothy

  1. The Purpose of the Leader: His Charge (Week 1) v1-3
  2. The Purpose of the Letter: His Concern (Week 2) v3-7
  3. The Purpose of the Law: His Caution (Week 3) v8-11

We’re in the 2nd section: Paul’s Concern. In this section we note:

  1. The Assignment Paul has for young Timothy (v3-4)
  2. The Aim in standing up to these leaders (v5)
  3. The Assessment of the situation there in Ephesus (v6-7)

Let’s begin with…

I.     The Assignment: to remain and charge (v3-4)

exp.: The assignment was to… rd v 3b; to remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine…

  • The Charge: Authority from Paul, now on Timothy; Authority of Paul is established in 1-2; an Apostle; by the command; God our Savior; Christ our hope; Now, Timothy has an Assignment and it comes under the Authority of Paul. This comes straight from the top! There is a direct line here in the chain of command; Specifics:
    • Do not teach: a different doctrine; Gal 1:6-10; you see this in the churches in Galatia, but it is also evident in other letters of Paul. There is only one Gospel. Anything different is false. Note the threshold for Paul in v 10; You can’t make him preach something else to please men.
    • Do not devote
      • Myths and Endless genealogies: scholars don’t agree on what these endless genealogies were; probably something to do with Jewish ancestry; however, what is important is what chasing after these useless myths and endless genealogies did: it brought…
      • Speculation v. Stewardship; I have no idea where this quote comes from. I wrote it down years ago and came across it this past week in my notes on this passage: Speculation without knowledge detracts from responsible execution of the ministry; and here’s why…
        1. Speculative knowledge is a type of theoretical knowledge. It is a knowledge that is gained through reflection without experience.
        2. Stewardship involves our use of not only the financial resources but our gifts, talents, abilities and time.

ill.: I.H. Marshall: …the label applied here and elsewhere in the PE may target not just the fallacious interpretation of OT passages but also applications of this material to conduct that contradicted traditional patterns of godly behavior.

app.: this is the danger of moving away from God’s Word and teaching from the way one feels about something.

t.s.: And Paul has given this particular assignment to Timothy to ‘charge’ these men not to teach false doctrine; But Paul gives Timothy a warning on how this is to be done; Rd v 5;

II.    The Aim: love from… (v5)

exp.: the Gk word here is τέλος; the vb form of this word is τελέω (to bring to an end); this is the word from which we get “telescope” and others like it; it means to bring something which is far away much closer. This is how we get our word for goal or purpose. You plan your current situation so that you’ll arrive at the appropriate place. The purpose, The goal, The aim, The endgame is love.

  • this verse changes the thought from the negative result of erroneous teaching to the motives of proper instruction within the church; The motive, the goal the aim is…
    • Love (issues itself from Three Sources)
      • A pure heart; καθαρᾶς 1John 1:9; the καρδία; is the center of the person; who we are before God; our true personality; the seat of our emotions; the origin of desires; This is what we are to love God with…’all of our heart’; Q.: seriously, who wants to bring an impure, dirty heart before God? No one, right?
      • A good conscience; 2nd dimension of the inner person; this word isn’t found in the OT; the heart served in this capacity; in the NT it means a knowledge of good and bad; compound word, with (to gather) knowledge; This conscience isn’t the ultimate judge of right & wrong; it only serves us as a guide since it can be seared by sin; important: we think sin doesn’t affect us, but it does; what our eyes see, what our ears hear; what our senses experience, through time, slowly disconnect us from reality; we truly are in an age when evil is called good and good is called evil, where reality is called false and false is called reality. The media would have you believe you’re watching reality TV. John writes: Little Children, keep yourselves from sin. A pure heart brings a clear conscience. Note: the word good is sometimes translated clear, which would fit here well;
      • A sincere faith; it appears the false teachers taught with an objective other than love, their goal: 1 Tim 6:5 ff; was their pockets;

app.: their endgame is not love! Their endgame was what they could get from these people…

t.s.: and so Paul placed Timothy there to confront these men, v 6ff tell us why; rd v 6-7;

III.   The Assessment: Certain men have wandered off course (v6-7)

exp.: The problem: these men are ‘missing the mark’; they have wandered (turned); Certain people have lit.: “missed the mark”; they have deviated off course and wandered from these (a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith); These people are the “false teachers of the Law”; this word, νομοδιδάσκαλοι teachers of the Law is found only 2 other times in the NT and clearly refers to teachers of the Mosaic Law; This Wandering leads to:

  • Vain Discussion; ‘empty, fruitless discussions; kids are good at this; and that’s immaturity; “my uncle has some cows”; what’s bad is when adults do that; what’s worse is when teachers do that; what exactly were they doing? rd v 7
    • Teaching without understanding (they are wrong)
    • Application with error (they are sincerely wrong)

ill.: As a pastor, I have had people say to me: We don’t need more doctrine! What we need is more practical preaching! I think that means: don’t teach us, tell us stories.

app.: But can’t you see that doctrine is the basis for living? It is what you know from experiencing God’s Word as you live out his teaching for your life. My goal isn’t to motivate you to live a better life. This thing I do up here isn’t just about inspiration. My goal is to love you in such a way that it leads you to a closer relationship with God. And, I do not really love you if all I do is tell you what you want to hear!

Transition: The Church must keep great oversight on what is being taught and be willing to confront doctrine that is unhealthy. Our threshold must be high and not give in to what is popular or the current trend.

Conclusion: Wilt Chamberlain mentioned Rick Barry in his biography as the one person who would shoot his free throws underhanded. He also mentions that Rick Barry led the NBA in Free Throw percentage each year. Rick says that one year he missed only 9 shots. 9! And the next year, he only missed 10. To put that in perspective, Lebron James misses about 150 free throws a year. Rick Barry made 90% of his free throws throughout his career. Lebron James? 73%! Wilt Chamberlain? 50%!

What made Rick Barry not care about what others thought? Well, His goal wasn’t to please others. His goal was to make the shot. He really didn’t care what people thought about him. And, the fact that others made fun of him didn’t bother him. His threshold was incredibly high.

So let me ask you: how high of a threshold do you have toward others making fun of you for not following the world? Paul had an incredibly high threshold. He’s encouraging Timothy to have a high threshold. And I’m doing the same for you: and that brings us to the applications for this morning…

Application: So what do we learn from this section of Paul’s letter? To check our:

  1. Our motives in teaching (in ministry): Love? Do you love your students? Do you love God’s Word? Is your heart pure, your conscience clear and your faith totally sincere.
  2. Our doctrine in teaching: on course with God’s Word?
    1. Books; be careful;
    2. Study Bibles: notes are not inerrant
  3. Our practice in selecting teachers. We should be concerned with each teacher. Not just filling vacancies, but finding good, competent, teachers.
  4. Our goal: lead people to Christ, disciple them and send them out.

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1 Timothy 1.1-3

*Note: the audio begins late… for the full audio version, you can visit our church’s Facebook page and view the service.

Title: 1 Timothy: An Introduction

Text: 1 Timothy 1.1-3

Introduction: Erin Brockovich is now famous for her legal work against a giant company. She herself was not a lawyer, but rather a legal clerk who worked for a small law firm. Her story inspires most because she represents many of us – at least that is the way we see it.

She didn’t look the part. She wasn’t educated. She had made many mistakes when she was young. She was judged on her appearance and not on her work. The snobs with the money judged her incompetent because she didn’t dress like they did. She didn’t have the law degree they had. It was a modern day David and Goliath story. Pacific Gas and Electric Company had been poisoning the land around Hinkley, California. Their reckless behavior made the people the people of Hinkley and the surrounding area sick – many even died.

Her story inspires because she stood up to the mammoth of a company that had money and lawyers to fight. But she never backed down. She spent countless hours learning the ins and outs of that company. She met and got to know the people of Hinkley. She knew the sick by name. She knew their spouses and what their spouse did for a living; she knew who their kids were and what grades they were in. She knew where they lived. She knew where they shopped; who their doctors were; the most intimate details about their lives. She knew the company was dumping hexavalent chromium and contaminating the water sources the people of Hinkley were drinking.

Her story inspires because she spoke out and defended the ones who could not stand up for themselves and won.

For me, the Pastoral Epistles inspire like that. Paul writes to these young men who are serving as pastors in their local churches and encourages them to speak out against those who are killing the people around them. He writes to Titus in Crete and to Timothy in Ephesus. Our focus this morning is on Ephesus and this letter to Timothy. The Letter is entitled 1 Timothy. If you’re using a pew Bible, you’ll find the letter on page ???

Paul states his purpose quite clearly in 3.14-15; rd 3.14f; you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Sound Doctrine is vital to a church’s existence. Unhealthy doctrine destroys a church. Sound Doctrine teaches a church 1) how to behave, 2) it represents God, and 3) is a pillar and buttress of the Truth!

Over the next 4 months, our church will be looking at 1st Timothy. I have invited 8 men to walk this journey with me, 6 of whom will preach to you at one time or another. I did not choose the sermons for the guys, nor their texts. It was all very random. The only part to this that I did know were the dates that needed to be filed. In some ways, I feel like Paul – and these men are like Titus, Timothy, Tychicus, Apollos, Zenas, etc.

Our basic goal this morning is to look at the introduction. We find the introduction in 1 Timothy 1.1-3 or on page ??? if you’re using a pew Bible.

Basic Outline: First, we will look at the writer (who the letter is from), then the recipient (who the letter is to), and his purpose, which he alludes to in v 3;

  • From: Paul
  • To: Timothy (and the church at Ephesus)
  • Purpose: you may charge…

Transition: that outline looks short, but the truth is, there is so much here, so let’s get to it.

  1. From: Paul

exp.: Paul wrote this letter somewhere around the years 62-66 AD. Consider the following

  • Paul was martyred by Nero in Rome. That is the historical tradition and has strong backing.
  • Nero died in 68 AD, so, we’ll start with that date.
  • Paul was near his death when he wrote 2 Timothy, his last book or letter that we have. If Nero put Paul to death, then Paul died before Nero. Make sense?
  • So, let’s put Paul’s death around 67 AD – that means 2 Timothy was written near that time.
  • There are at least two winters recorded in the Pastoral Epistles (Titus 3.12 and 2 Timothy 4.21).

Titus 3.12: When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.

2 Tim 4.21: 21 Do your best to come before winter. Another winter is fast approaching. Each reference is a different context. So: at least two different winters. They could be one year apart or more; winter of ’67; the winter of ‘65. So, that would put 1 Timothy somewhere around 62-64 AD. These are rough guesses, of course – give or take a few years on each side the largest span would be 62-66. You probably have a good guess at the introduction in your Study Bible at 1 Timothy.

Next, Paul is imprisoned in 2 Timothy, but in 1 Timothy, he appears to be writing after his imprisonment as mentioned in Acts 28. I tried to locate times and places mentioned in 1 Timothy with Acts and I can’t reconcile them. Allow me to show you what I mean:

1 & 2 Timothy place Timothy in Ephesus. I jokingly say that he is the pastor of the 1st Baptist Church in Ephesus. 1 Timothy has Paul going to Macedonia (1.3). In the book of Acts, Paul does travel to Macedonia from Ephesus (Acts 20.1), but Timothy has not been left behind in Ephesus. Instead, he is sent ahead to Macedonia (Acts 19.22). Added to this, Timothy accompanies Paul on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.4). It is possible that Paul left at Timothy in Miletus when he was meeting with the Ephesian elders; however, Paul’s journey was toward Jerusalem in the opposite direction of Macedonia.

So, I can only conclude that Paul was released from prison after Acts 28. He ministered and wrote his letters (1 Timothy and Titus) between the dates of 62-66 AD. Then, at some point after those letters, he is thrown into prison again. According to 2 Timothy, he must have gone eastward after his Roman Imprisonment and not on to Spain, because he left his cloak and books at Troas. From his prison cell, during this 2nd Roman Imprisonment, he wrote his last letter, 2 Timothy.

app.: Paul has a sense about him that the end is near. Verse 1 tells us about his calling: apostle. That means he is a missionary, a church planter. His authority is from God, who has called him and commissioned him. But, as the years have gone by, he finds himself unable to keep up with his previous pace of planting churches and discipling new believers. Jail time has put a toll on his body. Long hours, long travel, persecution, stress, these all have aged him.

So, he has strategically placed younger men in places of service. 1.3: Timothy at Ephesus; Titus at Crete (1.5); He sends their replacements. 2 Tim 4.12: Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Before that, in Titus, Paul sent Tychicus to Crete – evidently to carry that particular letter. Paul mentions that Zenas, the Lawyer, and Apollos have been there with Titus and that Titus should send them on their way to Paul. Crescens is in Galatia; Titus served in Dalmatia, as well as in Crete. Mark is serving somewhere along the way between Ephesus and Rome. It would be a hard, but fun study to locate all of the names of these young men and see where Paul had located them for service – with both locations and dates.

Now, added to their placement as overseers in their respective churches, Paul has given them instructions about how a church should look and act. Now, this is so important! Don’t miss that! That is what these letters, 1 Timothy and Titus, are all about; more on that in a moment.

t.s.: For now, let’s turn our attention to Timothy

  1. To: Timothy

exp.: rd v 2; he uses the same language with Titus; my true child in the faith. The Gk word here is legitimate. I think this means that Paul had a hand in their conversion to Christ and their foundation in discipleship. My guess is that Timothy was converted to Christ on Paul’s 1st MJ. We first meet Timothy in the book of Acts (16.1). Paul and Barnabas had finished their 1st MJ and had returned to Antioch to report their mission work. After some days and some disagreement about how they should handle things, Paul and Silas take off on Paul’s 2nd MJ. Their first stop is in Galatia, at Derbe and on to a small town called Lystra. This is where they meet a young Timothy, who has impressed the people of Lystra and Iconium – and Paul, too. Paul immediately recognizes his potential and wants Timothy to accompany them on their journey. And so begins a mentoring relationship between the two men that will last for the next 15 years or more. So great is this relationship, greater even than any other relationship Paul will have with many men, that Timothy appears in all but three of Paul’s letters. Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus. An interesting side note about that: Timothy was from Galatia and he was the pastor at Ephesus.

The rest of v 2 is a typical salutation – if there is such a thing. Paul has worked at refining his introduction through the years to reflect a high Christology. And, built upon that Christology is the authority given to Paul. It is typical in nature to other letters, but of course, reflects the change and growth in his faith. Listen to Gordon Knight:

This form of salutation reflects three factors: first, the teachings of the Christian faith have molded Paul’s adaptation of the standard form. Second, there is a great uniformity in this molding, especially in the grading section, which reflects a certain crystallization of his manner of expression of the essential Christian truths in these salutations. Third, there are certain variations that either reflect the recipients’ situation and need or anticipate and emphasize that which will be presented in the letter proper.

In all of his letters except the letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul refers to the recipients’ relationship to Christ (i.e.: to all the saints in Christ Jesus, as here – my true child in the faith, etc).

ill.: but here is where we can’t see the bond and what has forged it. As you read through acts you see Timothy right there with Silas and others, learning how to stand for Christ, learning that persecution will come. He is watching Paul as he suffers: in Philippi, in Thessalonica, in Berea as he watched Paul sail away alone – alone for his own safety; he is there in Corinth when the city erupted and wanted Paul’s head. Timothy was at Ephesus the first time Paul spoke there. He probably heard Paul’s promise to return if the Lord willed it. And the Lord did and Paul returned and stayed for two years. He watched as the people jumped up and down, screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” He watched as Paul begged to address the thousands of people who wanted him dead. Paul saw a crowd where he could preach Christ. I’m sure Timothy was one of the men who begged him not to do that. The crowd yelled for two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

We have a bunch of material from Acts where Timothy watched and learned from Paul. But what about the “so much more” that we don’t have. What was it like in those prison cells as they had time for some one-on-one discipleship? What was it like for Timothy to listen to this brilliant man who knew the Scriptures and how to apply them? What was it like to watch as the man went from reading the Scriptures to quoting them because his eyes were failing him? What was it like to hear the story of Paul’s conversion and calling – to hear him tell it – the story we read about in Acts Chapter 9 without the inflection, without the emotion of Paul’s voice?

app.: As a pastor, I’m in awe of this relationship. Paul loves the people of Ephesus. He detests false teachers coming and leading people astray. He trusts Timothy to serve those folks – to teach sound doctrine and protect them from the foolishness that others try to bring into a church.

t.s.: which brings us to this last section… it deals with what I touched on at the end of the 1st section… the purpose of these letters, and this one in particular.

  1. Purpose: charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine

exp.: rd v 3; Paul gets straight to the point. This is why I left you there in Ephesus. This is why I’m writing to you! Paul deals with false teaching repeated through his ministry. We see it in just about every letter. We’ll see it in this letter, so you’re going to see it again and again (1.3-11; 13-20; 4.1-7; 6.3-10; 20-21).

  • Myths (1.4; 4.7)
  • Genealogies (1.4)
  • A concern with the Jewish Law and its application (1.7)
  • Empty sounds and contradictions referred to as ‘knowledge’ (6.20)
  • Deception (4.1-3)
  • Immorality (1.19-20)
  • Financial Gain (6.5)
  • Harsh Asceticism (4.1-5) through denying the self what God has blessed us with; rd; 4.1-5

ill.: false teaching is alive and well in the church today. Consider the following for us:

  • For the first 1500 years of the Church’s existence – teaching came only through hearing the Word. Very few people could read it and very few people had access to it. The Word of God was spread through copies and often times, those copies were chained to the altar at the church. Regular people did not have their own copies. The only time they got God’s Word was through the preaching.
  • Along come Guttenberg and his printing press, making it possible to have a copy of God’s Word. So, for the next few hundred years, the word of God could only be spread reading it and the public preaching of it. As the Word of God became more and more prevalent, it was outlawed in certain countries. The Church didn’t want it in the hands of normal people because they might teach falsely. I think it was more about control.
  • The Advent of Radio and Recording makes it much easier to access the preaching part. But today, with the internet and TV, with its 557 channels and nothing on, you can hear multiple preachers in any given hour. False teaching can be pumped into your homes and into your head anytime you want to listen to anyone who tickles your ears.

app.: For me, it is a scary time.

  • Consider Mayor Pete Buttigieg: the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, IN. He’s the next big thing for liberals because he is gay and he is married to a man. And, he is a very nice young man. He’s intelligent and articulate. He went to Notre Dame, Harvard, and Oxford. Ok, so far not too very different from most liberals. But, here’s the thing: he spouts his faith and declares his Christianity unashamedly. And this is where I think Sound Doctrine is of great importance to us. Just look at our text, down in v 8-11. Now, there are some, probably more on the internet than here in this room, who would say it is wrong from me to ‘judge’ him and his faith. I think to some degree that would be true. But this is where we need to be very careful. Scripture is clear on this issue. He may be sincere, but he is sincerely wrong according to Scripture. What is scary for me is that there is a group of young, progressive Christians who are pushing and supporting his rise through the Democratic party.
  • Al Mohler recently shared an article which came out in the New York Times questioning the foundational doctrines of our faith: the Trinity, The Virgin birth, The Resurrection of Christ. I’m guessing it was Easter and all – and that’s the perfect time to attack Christians. Nicholas Kristoph interviewed a Seminary president: Serene Jones. She is the president of Union Theological Seminary. And the article basically boils down to throwing out the main tenets of our faith. Serene Jones doesn’t believe in a resurrection. She says the empty tomb illustrates that “the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.” She says there isn’t a resurrection in Mark – only an empty tomb. Kristoph challenges her, not really, but just so she can expand on her thoughts: But without a resurrection, aren’t we left with just the crucifixion? She answers: “Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me,” she said, “the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope? Well, according to Paul – No! If all we have is the crucifixion, if Christ is not raised, then we are to be pitied above all men. If Christ is not raised, then we are hopeless and our faith is futile.
  • Joel Osteen is a motivational speaker who masquerades around as a preacher. I’ve chosen not to slam other preachers, but I don’t think Osteen lands in this category: a preacher. Joel Osteen’s teaching revolves around the self. There is no guilt and shame – those things don’t belong at his church. He will not talk about sin – that is so degrading. What he focuses on is making you feel better about yourself when you walk out those doors.
  • The following is from CBSNews.com this morning:

Rachel Held Evans, a popular, progressive Christian writer who challenged the traditional evangelical views, died Saturday, her husband confirmed in a blog post. She was 37.

Evans was hospitalized in April for what she described in a tweet as “a flu + UTI combo and a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics they gave me.” Her husband, Daniel Evans, had been updating on her blog about her health, writing that she had been placed in a medically-induced coma.

On Saturday, he wrote that she had been weaned from coma medication, but seizures had continued and severe swelling of her brain had been found, which he wrote caused severe damage that “ultimately was not survivable.”

“This entire experience is surreal,” Daniel Evans wrote. “I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story.”

Evans was the author of several books, including “Faith Unraveled,” “The Year of Biblical Womanhood,” “Searching for Sunday” and “Inspired.” She spent more than a decade writing about what she described as “faith, doubt, and life in the Bible Belt” on her blog. 

Her popular writing and views on Christianity often enraged traditional evangelicals. In 2015, The Washington Post called her the “most polarizing woman in evangelicalism.” She was an advocate for LGBT membership in the church, urged fellow pro-life Christians to vote for Hillary Clinton and wrestled with the role of the patriarchy in the church. She served on former President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. 

She eventually left the evangelical church, writing in 2016 that “church universal is so much bigger than white American evangelicalism, and that’s going to become ever more apparent in the months and years to come.” 

I’m sad that this young woman died.

But the saddest part of her story is that so much of her ‘ministry’ was much like Hymenaeus and Philetus. She rejected the hard parts of the Bible and followed how she felt. Many have been led astray. She had a great point. I too have been sickened at the organized church; the power plays of individuals; the segregation that is most evident on Sunday mornings.

t.s.: So, how do we handle this? Well, a guilty man should feel guilty. Sin is what separates us from a holy God and we have to deal with our sin. Most people just don’t want to change. But God loves us too much to leave us the way we are.

Conclusion: We must act and respond like Paul, who is being very clear that Sound, Healthy Doctrine is vital. It is what should guide the church. It isn’t enough to just babble on and place your focus on things outside of Scripture, like how you feel. We must be clear about what is in Scripture. And that is the whole purpose behind 1 Timothy.

Application:

  1. The Charge: someone has to confront those who are teaching something other than sound doctrine. Someone has to cry out that the water has been poisoned. Don’t drink that water, but rather, come to the life-giving water. Here at Calvary, that is the elders’ responsibility.
  2. The Word of God is our Standard: It has to be the standard. Culture changes; laws change; emotions change; The Word of God is unchanging! For Timothy, he had the letter to the Ephesians, and he had this letter. This letter closes with a plural “you” – that is ‘the church’, so it appears that Paul had the intention for this letter to go to the church, too.
  3. The goal of this charge is love… v. 5; it isn’t to win arguments, but people. I’ll expound on this next week, but how can we say we love someone, but don’t love them enough to tell them the Truth.

As I think about Ms. Rachel Evans, I’m reminded that her passion was for those who were being rejected by the church. Something has got to change! But what must not change, is the Word of God on which we stand. What must change – is us. Love must drive us to understand God’s Word and use it as the standard for our faith.

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Romans 8.29-30

Title: The “Those”

Text: Romans 8.29-30

Introduction: Let me begin with an outline of my process this morning:

  • Summary of the passage
  • A couple of thoughts to begin
  • The Work of the Spirit Step by Step in the Spirit-Filled Believer
  • Take-a-ways

Allow me to summarize the text to this point in short fashion: in 8.26-27, those who stand no longer condemned have hope in this life and in the life to come. Their hope extends to points beyond their present suffering. In their suffering, when they don’t even know how to pray or what to say, the Holy Spirit intercedes for them. In 8.28, we see that God combines their life experiences and causes those experiences (good or bad) to work together for good – no matter the circumstance. This is why I encouraged you last week not to tally up your life’s score at the halfway point. God isn’t through with you yet. Where you’ve failed him, own up and fess up! Then, live up to the calling you’ve received. There is more on this calling in our verses today.

The prayers of the Spirit on behalf of the ‘those’ are that they be conformed to the image of God’s son, Jesus Christ [the Spirit intercedes for ‘those’ the saints according to the will of God (27) and all things work together for those who are called “according to his purpose” (28) and that purpose is that they be conformed to the image of his son (29)]. “Those people”, that is the called, they can be confident that God will bring all of this about because he works all things together for good. They can be confident because he has set his covenantal affection up them:

  • He has predestined them to be like His Son, Jesus (i.e.: according to God’s will, according to his purpose, to be conformed to the image of his son)
  • He has called them to salvation,
  • He has justified them in that salvation,
  • And He has glorified them (aor. tense, as if it is already done).

A couple of Notes about our text before we look at that work of God:

Relationship

I want you to note that Paul is talking about certain people in this text, not everyone. Romans 8.1: There is therefore now no condemnation for… what does it say? … for those in Christ Jesus. There are those who are in Christ Jesus and there are those who are not in Christ Jesus. The people here are those in Christ Jesus.

He repeats it many times in our text today so that you’ll know this is a specific group of people: for those who or for those whom. 6x’s!

This all presupposes a relationship. What does Paul say about those people? They love God. And what does Paul say about God in relation to them? With God, he has called them. Relationship. Note the two ‘those’ phrases:

  • Those who love God. It sounds like they made that choice. And, that is true, they did. This has always been a prerequisite for God’s people – to love him. Have you ever heard of the Shema? Deut. 6.4-6; Love the Lord your God with… Classic Judaism. 2nd
  • Those who have been called. This sounds like God initiated the contact. This is His Action toward us. That’s why Paul says we cannot boast about our faith because God has acted on our behalf. No one saves himself. Eph. 2.8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Mystery

The 2nd item to note is mystery… This dichotomy is a mystery. The free will of man and the sovereignty of God work simultaneously.

Ill.: I love the picture Brother Ken Brown painted for me when I was at Kirby Baptist Church as a young believer. He said something like:

Imagine you are walking along in life and you come to an entryway to somewhere. You see written over the entryway, “Whosoever shall come, may come.” And you do. You say, “Hey, that invitation is for me.” You make the turn and walk through the entryway in the Kingdom. But, as you make your way through the gates and to the other side, you pause and look back at the opening through which you just came. And on the other side, you read above the entryway, “Chosen before the foundation of the World.”

On the one side of this entryway, you and I, as lost people, we heard God’s call. Something inside us communicated God’s love to us and we responded. The Holy Spirit of God was wooing us. We didn’t know that was what it was, but we were being drawn. So, we entered in through the gate into this glorious salvation. And, it is only on the other side of this decision, this entrance and journey into the light, that we even become aware of God’s activity.

So our context today is that this popular verse isn’t just a slogan for hurting people – although it can be that for sure. It isn’t a mantra to be repeated by people who are going through a tough time – although it can be that, too. It isn’t just used by self-help gurus and sages. This is for a specific people: those who love God and those who are loved by God… aka, the called.

This bit of information is pretty overwhelming. There is nothing we’ve done on our part to deserve this ‘call’. God has initiated the call and we’ve simply answered. But you might be struggling with this concept, with this theology. It is truly mind-boggling. But, Paul knows that. Turn with me a couple of pages over to chapter 11.33:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

So, if you are having some trouble already – that’s OK. Paul tells us that you can’t wrap your mind around something so grand, so large, so incredibly complex, so God-sized. That’s OK! No one really can. What you know, even if you don’t understand and comprehend is: God is at work in all of these things causing them to work out for good in the lives of his people.

The question for us this morning is “How?” How is he at work? Look at what Paul lists as God’s work in “those” people:

  1. He foreknew them
  2. He predestined them
  3. He called them
  4. He justified them
  5. He glorified them

Let’s begin with #1…

I.     God Foreknew

Exp.: v. 29… for those whom God foreknew… now, stop right there. I think this verse gets hammered, particularly this word. Some people think that ‘foreknew’ means that God knew beforehand who would get saved. While that statement would be true (that God knew beforehand who would get saved, because he did and he does), it means that God foreordained those people to be saved.

Two reasons we have it translated this way:

  1. That is the lit.: pro – before; Gnosis – knowledge. My guess is that this is where we get our English word ‘prognosis’ from…
  2. That is what the word has always been translated. The problem is that this word doesn’t mean the same thing in its original context as what “knowing beforehand” means today.

To be quite honest, that’s a given that God knows. God is omniscient. So, yeah, he already knew. But this word has a deeper meaning in its original use than what 21st Century Christians water it down to.

The best way I can think to communicate this the idea of foreknowledge is by using the phrase in Genesis 4.1: Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore him a son. You read that and you know it means more than just he saw her and said, oh, hey, I know her! BTW: you see that again in Genesis 4.25… Adam knowing Eve in this context infers relationship – a deep, intimate relationship. What I’m getting at is that ‘know’ means something different in a different time and language. Know doesn’t mean that God conceptualized in his mind. Knowledge is something deeper.

Amos uses this same wording about God and his people (Amos 3.2): You only have I known of all the families on the earth. Is God saying that he didn’t know anyone else on earth except the Jews? No, he created every single person on earth. He knows them all, but he has a special relationship with His people.

Write that one down: God has a special relationship with his people.

That is what foreknowledge means: Foreordained. #2…

II.    God Predestined

Exp.: Let’s keep reading; Rd 29; Keywords here: image, Son, brothers. God has chosen to put together a people that he will call his own. A family of sorts. He is the Father. He has a Son. The Son has many brothers and sisters who are being conformed to His Image. Knowing the Old Testament and the way he chose Israel – the way he put together a people that he would call his own, does this surprise you? God has blessed us with stories and actions that demonstrate for us his work. One example is that He gave us ‘types’ of Christ so that we would recognize him when he came (David; Jonah; Moses; Zerubabbel). This is similar to that.

I like Ephesians 1 as a parallel passage to Romans 8. Turn there. If you’re using your pew Bible, it’s pg ?? beginning in v 3; Rd v 3-13; [Compare and Contrast these two passages]

While we’re here at predestined, let’s add called.

III.   God Called

Exp.: to be fair, this is a hard doctrine. I’m thinking that those who are believers don’t necessarily have a tough time with the understanding that you were once lost, God called you from your lost state…wherever and whatever that was. You knew, somehow, that God was calling and you responded. You knew because God used someone or something to clearly communicate to you. You knew who you were and you didn’t want to be that way anymore. You sought Christ’s forgiveness and you’ve run to him time and again as you found yourself in need.

Ill.: this hits home for me from an earthly standpoint. Lisa and I were friends before we dated. As a friend, I loved and cared for her – as a friend. Yes, she was the prettiest girl in school. I mean that. I’m not just saying that because she’s my wife now. I would dare say that most of the guys in our school would agree with me. But, she was only my friend.

But Lisa didn’t feel that way toward me. She ‘fell in love’ with me way before I knew she felt that way. Now, for her to say to me, ‘Fred, I loved you before you ever knew me…’ doesn’t make me mad.

App.: Now, that is a weak illustration, I know. Here’s where I’m going:

  1. The Doctrine of election and calling is tough when you try to limit it to human understanding. But even then, does it upset you that God loved you before you even knew about him – before you drew your first breath? That’s absurd?
  2. This idea of election and calling is here in the Bible, so we don’t just skip it. We do our best to understand it. But the truth is, we just can’t totally grasp it with our small minds.

Let me offer you some guidance here. Paul’s purpose here is an encouragement to the one suffering. So, keep that in mind. Because Paul is simply trying to encourage those who are suffering, here in Romans, let me offer you some encouragement, too. The Father’s higher ways are not shared with us to make us feel elitist. So, do not use this doctrine as a battering ram. Do use this doctrine as a roadblock for fellowship or evangelism. Let this doctrine be a strong tower where you can run to and feel safe.

Caution: Some have said that if God truly predestined “the called,” then we need not evangelize. I would say, ‘You haven’t been reading your Bible.’ They would add that God is going to save those who he is going to save, so we don’t have to do anything. But, I would say, the same God who told you that you were saved from the foundation of the World has also said to you, ‘Go and make disciples…’

There is a phrase, I believe it comes from Spurgeon, that is so helpful to me: The One who determines the ends, also determines the means. God, who foreordains and predestines and calls, he has determined that the Gospel is the tool that will be used by the believer to convince a lost world to come to Christ. So we go because we’ve been commanded. That is the tool that God uses to call others. And then, they too, find that Christ loved them from before the mountains were formed or even the earth was brought forth.

Can I take a moment to ask you if you’ve been praying for someone who is lost? Who is your one? ? UR 1

If you’re not focused in on someone, would you? Set aside one minute every day at one o’clock to pray for your someone.

Paul says the purpose in this is that we be conformed to the image of his Son. There are pictures here of the Garden. We were created in his image. The Fall has marred that image. Christ is the perfect image of the Father – the radiance of his glory. God has purposed in all of this to conform you to the image of Christ. That is what he does through the doctrine of Justification… and that’s #4

IV.    God Justifies

Exp.: 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified… I love that Paul calls all of this a mystery. God foreordains all that is. God predestines believers to salvation, to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He calls us to believe through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. And, when we believe, he justifies us by declaring us no longer guilty. Christ has paid our punishment in full and the Wrath of God has been satisfied. We are now in a right standing of God.

Finally…

V.     God Glorifies

exp.: and those whom he justified he also glorified. Aorist tense or past tense; He says it as if it has already happened. It was the first verse we read in Ephesians 1: who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. In Ephesians 2 Paul says that God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places. Paul is saying what will be as if it has already happened. Don’t that just push your mind to the point of collapse? Its as if God has already seen it all and knows it will happen. And, by the way, he has and he does.

Closing Thoughts:

  1. There is no such person who wants to get saved but can’t because he isn’t predestined to be saved. That’s ludicrous. The very notion that a person desires to be saved is evidence of God’s call upon that person’s life.
  2. And, There is no such person who hates Christ and his church, who detests God and wants nothing to do with him, but will be forced into salvation because God will make him because he has been predestined. And he will continue in that vein, hating Christ, hating the church, but go to heaven. That, too, is ludicrous.
  3. Sovereignty vs. Free Will – I like to explain it this way: we know that there are times in Scripture when we find two truths which appear to be contradictory. But, we know both to be true. But there have been those in history who have established one to be a doctrine over the other. The deity of Christ. Was Christ God? Yes. And, some have said that because he was fully God he could not be fully man. Because he was not fully man he did not live in the flesh here on earth. Because he was not fully man, he could not fully die for our sins. But, you and I know that Christ was fully man. That he lived on earth and suffered and died on the Cross of Calvary. He got thirsty. He got tired. He got hungry. He was just as we are in human form, yet was without sin. He as 100% God and 100% man. Two truths which appear to be contradictory to Humans. But it isn’t to God. And neither is the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.
  4. The Doctrine of Election should set you free to evangelize with greater fervor – really, for two reasons.
    1. You now know that someone else’s reception of the Gospel isn’t up to you.
    2. You now know that someone else’s rejection of the Gospel isn’t because of you. If you are rejected, it isn’t you or your presentation. Your job is obedience to the Great Commission and you leave the results up to God.

Ill.: I tell my CWT class of the time I botched a presentation of the Gospel. I thought there is no way on earth this person is going to accept Christ. No way. My presentation isn’t even understandable to me. And when I offered an invitation, that person got saved. I was like, are you sure?

  1. Who is your one? ?UR1

 

 

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Romans 8.22-28

Title: The Work of the Spirit in the Spirit-filled Life!

Text: Romans 8.22-28

Introduction: Thank you, Joshua, for reading our text.

Tough days. We all have them. Some are worse than others. Like the one, the hard-hat employee reported when he tried to be helpful. Maybe you heard about it too; the account actually appeared on a company accident form. Bruised and bandaged, the workman related this experience:

When I got to the building I found that the hurricane had knocked off some bricks around the top. So I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building and hoisted up a couple barrels full of bricks. When I had fixed the damaged area, there were a lot of bricks left over. Then I went to the bottom and began releasing the line. Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was much heavier than I was—and before I knew what was happening the barrel started coming down, jerking me up.

I decided to hang on since I was too far off the ground by then to jump, and halfway up I met the barrel of bricks coming down fast. I received a hard blow on my shoulder. I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my fingers pinched and jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground hard, it burst its bottom, allowing the bricks to spill out.

I was now heavier than the barrel. So I started down again at high speed. Halfway down I met the barrel coming up fast and received severe injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground, I landed on the pile of spilled bricks, getting several painful cuts and deep bruises. At this point, I must have lost my presence of mind, because I let go of my grip on the line. The barrel came down fast—giving me another blow on my head and putting me in the hospital.

I respectfully request sick leave. (Chuck Swindoll quotes Michael Green in his book: The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart.)

Sounds like he needed some help! I think we all do, from time to time. Amen?

Our text this morning is all about the Spirit of God rendering aid to us in our time of need. We are not alone in this life. We are not alone in this struggle. And because of Him, we are not silent when we don’t know what to say or even how to say it.

Our text is sandwiched between the hope we have as believers and the knowledge of what we know about our current suffering: that God works all things together for good.

  • We know our hope is in heaven.
  • We know God works all things for good.

Or,

  • Our hope of the hereafter
  • Our hope of the here and now

Our hope is not in this life. Our hope is not in our possessions, our job, or prestige, our position, our home, or our accomplishments. Our hope is not in our parents or in our children. Our hope is the redemption of these frail bodies to a new body in a new heaven and a new earth. Paul says that The Creation has been groaning while in this present time – the time between the perfection of the garden and the perfection of heaven. And, he says, we, too, groan in this present time, as we wait eagerly for the redemption of these bodies. We suffer in hope because we know our future. So note the groaning going on here: The Creation, we (ourselves), and in our text the Spirit, who is acting on our behalf.

Transition: Let’s look at our text to see how the Spirit acts on our behalf. Rd v 26a:

I.     The Spirit helps us in our weakness:

Exp.: 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. I was sharing with someone earlier this week that a literal translation of this verse is: In a similar way the Spirit renders aid to our weakness. Think with me for a moment about our weakness. Back up in verse 3, we see this word weakness used: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. The point is that our flesh is our weakness. Sin has weakened us. And yet, we have to live in these bodies. We live in this weakened state. Therefore, we are subject to all of the struggles that come with living in the flesh. They are unavoidable. We exist in this body and so it becomes our focus. That is why Paul says to set your mind on the things of the Spirit. But that is so hard.

Consider that most of our prayers are for the physical things of this body. Thank you for this food. Provide for my needs. Lord, I need a pay raise. Lord, my health is failing, my eyes are weak, my body is weak, I’m sick. God, help my friend who is sick, who is in financial straits, or open this door or open that door. Guide us as we travel. Most of our prayers are focused on this weakened state we’re in. Sometimes, this weakened state of ours is worse than others. Sometimes it is almost unbearable.

But not the Spirit of God, he intercedes for us in ways that are spiritual. He intercedes for us in ways that are in line with what God wants and wills for us.

Lit.: v 26 reads: In a similar fashion, the Spirit renders aid to our weakness. And then Paul tells us just what our weakness is in 26b: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:

A. Because we don’t know what to pray or how to pray it.

Ill.: Maybe that was the direction one of the disciples was going when he requested of Jesus: Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples (Mt 11.1). The text says there in Mt 11 that Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he had finished the disciple requested of him, “Lord, teach us to pray like John taught his disciples.” I love that he was watching the Master pray and wanted to know how to pray in a similar fashion: to be a pray-er like Jesus and to pray like Jesus. And then he taught them The Lord’s Prayer.

Maybe that is where the disciple was coming from: Lord, with all that is going on around us, I don’t know what to pray or how to pray it. I want to pray like you.

App.: We’re blessed to have the Spirit of the Living God rendering aid to our weakness, helping us overcome the weakness of our flesh, which is where our focus is when we suffer.

But this is where it gets really interesting for me. God is at work for us, and we didn’t even know we needed it. This parallels the Gospel so closely. You guys know the Gospel.

  1. God is holy and we’re not.
  2. Our sin separates us from God.
  3. There is nothing we could ever do to repair and recover this separation.
  4. So, God acted on our behalf and sent his Son Jesus to die for us. God in the Flesh. That’s what the beginning of this chapter states: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. God punished sin through his son, Jesus.

In a similar fashion, I think this is what Paul is teaching now about the Spirit in v 26-27; God moves and acts on our behalf:

  1. You and I have no clue what to pray for or how to pray for it. And this is probably because we’re not like God. He is perfect and we’re not. He is holy and we’re not. We ask for things that are no good for us and we don’t even know that it is not good for us.
  2. So, God acted on our behalf and sent his Spirit to live in us and to commune with our spirit and to communicate for us in accordance with his will.

And we’ve seen this action of the Spirit multiple times here in Romans 8:

  1. In verse 2, The Spirit has set us free
  2. In verses 5-6, The Spirit helps us walk according to the Spirit
  3. In verses 9-11, The Spirit takes up residence in us and makes us alive when we become believers.
  4. In verses 12-17, The Spirit adopts us into the family of God
  5. In verses 16-17, The Spirit bears witness that we are his Children and heirs with Christ.
  6. In verses 26-27, The Spirit now groans for us when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray so that we pray according to God’s will.

26For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, and it continues but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

This is the 2nd way the Holy Spirit of God helps us in our weakness: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:

B.     By interceding for us with groanings that are too deep for words.

For me, this is what brings this passage back into the context of suffering. Yes, we know that our hope is heaven – our home. And yes, we know we’ll be there soon enough. But, in the meantime, when all hell breaks loose against us, when sin is victorious and we find ourselves speechless before our Master, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I don’t necessarily want to go where I need to go for a moment, but I do feel it is necessary because this passage is sometimes confusing. Let me clarify a couple of questions that might pop up later in some discussion.

  1. Some people think this means ‘speaking in tongues’. But, I would disagree simply because the gift of tongues is only for certain believers – it is limited in scope. Tongues are used in a worship service and there is a translator. But, this particular act of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8 is for every Christian – especially in these times of suffering. Remember, that’s our context. Speaking in tongues is in the context of worship. So, don’t apply the gift of speaking in tongues
  2. Some people think that this means the person must groan. They would argue or teach you to moan and groan when you don’t have the words. I don’t doubt that groaning comes during suffering, but I don’t think that is what Paul is saying. The groaning is of the Holy Spirit, not the believer. Please hear me, I’m not saying you won’t hurt so bad that you groan. You just might. I hope you never do, but you could. But that isn’t what this verse is saying.

App.: Simply put, you don’t know what to pray or you don’t know how to pray and you don’t have the words to communicate what is going on in your spirit.

And when you’re in this place of suffering, something absolutely amazing happens in your spirit. Rd v 27; 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

As I mentioned before, God acts for us because we’re incapable of acting on our own behalf. So, he intercedes. He sends his Spirit to live in us. And he who searches hearts… he knows.

There are so many wonderful verses that declare the work of God in searching out our hearts.

  • 1 Sam. 16.7: … for God does not see man as man see man; for man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.
  • 1 Chron. 28.9: … for the Lord searches all hearts
  • 17.10: 10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
  • Rev 2.23: … And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

This has always amazed me and keeps me on my guard. What are my motives in a matter? God knows. I can fool you. I can sometimes even fool myself, but I cannot fool God! I can tell you one thing and convince you that I’m too busy, I can’t make the time, I don’t have the money, and I have other obligations, that isn’t my ministry, I’ve been called to something else, I’ve got another engagement, no one else is available to help.

I think sometimes we fool ourselves when we pretend we are in a certain mode and can’t do something. We say this and it becomes an excuse – a valid excuse, but, in my heart I know I’m only lying. Sure, it looks good to you and I feel justified because you’re convinced. But God, who searches the heart and the mind, he knows!

Why don’t we just say – don’t come over because my house is a mess and I don’t want you to see. Why don’t we just say, I’m embarrassed because I didn’t prepare; I didn’t get that done.

  • Luke 9.47: … 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts,
  • Luke 16.15: … “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.
  • Acts 1.24: … “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
  • Acts 15.8: … And God, who knows the heart,
  • 1 John 3.19-20: … 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Rd 8.27: and he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit… He knows our hearts in those troubling times. He knows our needs in those times of suffering and he knows the mind of the Spirit. Aren’t you glad that God knows the mind of the Spirit! The Spirit only wants good things. He only wants God’s glory. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

This is the 3rd sub-point: The Spirit helps us in our weakness:

C.     By interceding for us according to the Will of God.

This is the hardest part of surrendering, isn’t it? The hardest part in surrendering is giving up our will – giving up what we want. We might not say it out loud; but deep down inside, that is the way we feel. Outwardly, as people look at us, we want them to think we are really good Christians. But, inwardly, we’re just as rebellious as Adam and Eve. So, on our own, it is really hard to pray that God would not do what we selfishly want and to do what he wants for us.

Ill.: As a believer, there has always been a prayer in the Bible that fascinates me. Jesus has acted and responded in Scripture multiple times, not because he had to, but for our benefit. These actions, these responses have always fascinated me. One, in particular, is Mk 14.36: 36 and he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

This is fascinating to me because Jesus has known his purpose: to suffer, to die, to be buried for three days and to rise again. He has told his disciples repeatedly that he is going to happen. He says it so much that Peter even rebukes Jesus for such negativity and Jesus said get behind me, Satan. The moment comes and what does Jesus pray? “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus says this in Mk 14.36 when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He comes back to where Peter, James, and John are supposed to be praying with him and what does Jesus find them doing? Sleeping! And Jesus says something we often repeat, but I wonder if we truly understand the depth of their meaning: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Doesn’t this apply to us in our suffering? The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And guess what – The Spirit helps us in our weakness! because we don’t know what to pray or how to pray it. And, the Spirit does so with groanings that are too deep for words. And, the Spirit does so according to the will of God.

What is the will of God? The Spirit knows. It is up to us to trust.

But how? I’ve jotted down some thoughts as take-a-ways for today:

Review: the context is groaning, but rather still, the overarching context of suffering. As we suffer, just like creation with all of its storms and thorns, hurricanes and tsunamis and other types of natural disaster, we sometimes suffer in ways that create for us a situation in which we don’t even know how to pray. We don’t know what to ask. We can’t see God in this mess. We can’t hear God through the raging storm. We’re in an unnatural position and we’re clueless in what to do.

  1. First, Look at the next verse: 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Bear this in mind. We don’t know his will, well, he does and he is working all things for good – according to his purpose.
  2. God is with you in your suffering. Even if you can’t hear him, feel him, see him, or even sense him, He is there. And I think this next take-a-way follows closely…
  3. God hears our prayers – especially the prayers of ours produced by the Holy Spirit.
  4. God’s Will only needs to be known by him. You don’t have to know! It is enough to trust that God is working his will in your life. He is. Trust Him!
  5. God searches our hearts and knows the mind of the Spirit. Let that just wash over you for a moment. You’re weak. You’re imperfect. You’re speechless before him. You don’t understand what is happening. But you don’t have to know. He who searches out the heart, he knows the mind of the one who is interceding on your behalf.
  6. God’s work is not limited by your situation or circumstance. It may feel that way. It may feel that your pain, your suffering, your experience is going to hurt, limit or mar God. Don’t believe it. There is nothing you can do or have done that can limit the work of God. Nothing. If you think that, you’re thinking too highly of yourself!
  7. Prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind. It’s about changing us to align ourselves with God Will. God is already perfect. His will is perfect. Perfection doesn’t need change. What needs changing is imperfect us. But sometimes we just don’t know how to do that.

 

One great way to experience that this morning is to give your life to him. Repent of your sins – that means changing your mind about you and acknowledging that God is right about you. Come to Christ this morning. As always, the decisions and commitments we make are unlimited as God works in each of us. I’d love to visit with you about that. The way we do this is we dismiss for a time of fellowship in the back of the church. Grab a donut or a cup of coffee and let’s visit.

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Filed under Christian Living, Romans, Romans 8, Scripture, Sermon, Sin

Colossians 1.15-20

I had the privilege to preach at the BMA Seminary in Jacksonville this morning. I was deeply honored that Dr. Charley Holmes would invite me back again this year. I wanted to post this message, but warn any regular readers that I’ve sampled some recent illustrations from my Sunday morning Romans 8 Series Sermons to fill in with some great examples. 🙂

Title: Boys, Do what you’ve been called to do, because of what you know to be True.

Text: Colossians 1.15-20 ESV

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

I want to thank Dr. Holmes for giving me the hardest text of Scripture to preach on to a bunch of young theologians… I wonder if more denominations and cults have been started from these few verses than from any other few verses grouped together in Scripture? Let me just affirm that using an archaic word with a contemporary meaning can bring a lot of confusion! It is so easy to use a word that sounds one way, without understanding its meaning in the appropriate way.

Misunderstandings can happen, but they can also leave a lot of damage.

  • Autocorrect on your phone can contribute to some of this.
  • Not totally understanding what someone is asking for is how we got Potato Chips. The story goes that a man wanted French Fries. The cook didn’t know what French Fries were. The man did his best to describe what French Fries are. When his plate came out, he had on his plate what today are called Potato Chips.
  • World Magazine issue February 28th, 2019 reported that a young Kentucky man, Allan Harris, wanted to get his wife, Nina, what she wanted for Valentines. He did his research. He found out what she loved and wanted for Valentines. He knew she would be happy with them, after all, it was what she asked for. Then, he went and searched high and low for her special gift. When he showed up with a few turnips, she clarified it was tulips she had wanted.

My hope this morning is that I would not be misunderstood.

Let me quickly show you the words that bother me; words, I’m afraid you might mistake.

  • Verse 15: Image. We see the word image and we think it is a reflection to some degree of what the real thing looks like. But it isn’t the real thing – it is just an image of the real thing. uuuuuuu….
  • Verse 15: firstborn; (cf.: 18). We see this word and think that it was the first of its kind. Sounds like it was created first of all things…. Uuuuuuuuuuu…
  • Verse 20: reconcile all things to himself; this has a universal sound to it. Like ‘all’ things and no ‘things’ will be left out. Uuuuuuuuuu….

Let’s deal with this first misunderstanding: image.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And it was good. Along with all of this, God created man. The Text says: 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

                27         So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Made in the image of God… I wonder what that was like? You know, when it was all still good. You know, before the fall. Too bad they couldn’t have done things right. Too bad they couldn’t just obey. But they fell for the lie – you know the lie: the one that says, “you’ll be like God”.

Somehow, they missed that they already were like God. He had made them in his image. I want you to ponder that thought for a moment. They were made in the image of God, but Satan fooled them into distorting that image.

  1. Perfect Creation: made in the image of God and marred in the Fall. They were supposed to be the image of God, but Satan said: Don’t listen to him! He knows that you’ll be like Him when you eat of the fruit! This is the lie of Satan. He wants to distort the true image of God.
  2. God’s Children, Israel, commanded to image God and be holy as he is holy. They were to not make idols and not worship idols but instead chose to worship the creation instead of the creator. They worshipped images of things made by men, instead of the perfect, holy God. Like Adam and Eve, they failed to image God perfectly. Enter Jesus…
  3. Jesus imaged God perfectly! 2 Cor 4.4; In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Hebrews 1.3a; He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Col 1.15;

He is the Image of God the verse says, but to clarify Paul continues: of the invisible God. So, what we see is that – what was invisible has now become visible. God, who is invisible has become God visible before us. He is the divine representation of God. That is true, however, I like the phrase, the divine manifestation of God here on earth even better. Or, as we said when I lived in Hawaii: That’s mo’ bettah! If we go to John 14 we find some strength for our understanding when Philip, in a bit of frustration, said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Just by itself, that request doesn’t seem so bad. But, Jesus appears to demonstrate a little frustration toward Philip in his response: Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

For me, that’s pretty clear. I wish I could say to people who ask me to show them Jesus: Dude, how long I have been your pastor that you still don’t know me? Whoever has seen me has seen Jesus! How can you say to me: Show us Jesus?

I feel more like Adam or Israel in this regard – I’m a poor image of the Messiah. Because you see me in a fallen state!

Paul is declaring that Jesus is God right here. Now, he strengthens his remark with another one, which is my 2nd concern: the firstborn of all creation.

I told you this is my second concern because I’ve personally seen this one totally misunderstood.

Ill.: Our church began a small group of women who were having Bible Study and losing weight. I was fine with it because this Bible Study was purchased from our Denominational Bookstore. The ladies were in a few weeks when my wife asked me about something that the teacher said. I didn’t like it, made the correction and we moved on. But then I got word that the Bookstore, which by the way is Lifeway, was pulling it because the author declared that Jesus was the first created being. The author misunderstood this verse. She quoted from it in her defense. As the pastor, without talking to the ladies, canceled the Bible Study. One woman from the study was furious with me. She had lost more weight doing this study than by any other diet.

Every translation I looked at translates this firstborn of all creation. But firstborn doesn’t mean born first. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages states that this Gk word πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos), ον (on): adj.; and it means birthright, pertaining to the inheritance rights of the firstborn; in other words, it isn’t a position in the order of birth, it is the position in order of importance. It deals with the right of the firstborn, which we know, isn’t necessarily the one who is born first (Ishmael, Isaac; Esau, Jacob; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah). But check it out, it continues: existing before (Col 1:15); 3. LN 87.47 superior (Col 1:15), as in showing position.

We see this used exactly this way in the Old Testament – of those who were not the ‘firstborn’ sons in the family, but the title is used of them to give them a position of inheritance. It is used to show their prominence. Consider Jeremiah 31.9 where God says: …for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. If you know birth order, you know Manasseh was born first. But, Grandpa Jacob, did a switch on Manasseh and Ephraim. The point is that it isn’t about the first to come into being – it is the one who is given the rights and privileges of the one who has this position.

Herein is our first point of the morning. Paul is declaring that Jesus is Lord over all creation.

1. The Supremacy of Christ in Creation (15-17)

exp.: first he created it all; Jesus is the agent by which all things came into being; rd v 15-16; I love to quote John 1 here: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Jesus made it all!

That makes him a really big God! J. MacArthur expounds on Creation in his commentary series on Colossians: By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (One hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. That is roughly the number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts. (Colossians and Philemon, J. MacArthur, Col. 1.16)

Consider that we’ve not even really been able to search out the farthest most remote places in our Universe and the Bible says he created all of that.

But v 17 tells us even more; rd v 17; He is not only the one who created it all; he is the one who holds it all together. The Supremacy of Christ in Creation tells us that he is the Creator and the Sustainer.

I feel a song coming on! Worthy of Worship (Blankenship)

Verse 1

Worthy of worship worthy of praise
Worthy of honor and glory
Worthy of all the glad songs we can sing
Worthy of all of the offerings we bring

Chorus

You are worthy Father Creator
You are worthy Savior Sustainer
You are worthy; worthy and wonderful
Worthy of worship and praise

The fact that Jesus created all that is, and is still moving. Consider the fact that he sustains all things, too.

Ill.: Being here today brings back wonderful memories for me as I think about my years of Seminary training. I was privileged to sit under some of the most wonderful minds in Theology. I’ll bet some of my professors wrote some of your textbooks. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me. One such professor was Dr. Bill Tolar. He’s gone to be with the Lord now. He passed away this past December 29.

I want to encourage you to Youtube Dr. Tolar’s message: Creation. Chance or Choice? Good stuff. In that message, he lists 10 different scientific facts about the earth, the moon, and the sun. And, he demonstrates how life would not be able to exist if any one of those facts were to change. Here are some of those:

  1. The earth is tilted at just the right angle (23.3o ) – straight up and down, life couldn’t exist
  2. It is spinning at just the right speed (1,000 mph) – a little slower and things would burn up; a little faster and things would freeze – life couldn’t exist.
  3. It tilts back and forth just far enough, going no more than 3o in either direction; any further than that, then life could not exist.
  4. It is just far enough away from the sun. It spins and encircles in an oval rotation – perfectly. If it was any further away, most of life would die, probably from starvation. But we need plants to make oxygen. Any closer and the plants would burn up. We would burn up.
  5. The moon is just far enough away. It regulates the tides. If it were closer or further away, then the tides would either pull back and make too much ground or the waves would crash against the Rocky Mts.
  6. There is just enough water in the oceans…any more/ any less by just three feet!
  7. There is just enough land and just enough of the earth’s crust. If the earth’s crust were just 10 feet thinker life couldn’t exist the way it does. And the earth’s diameter is about 8,000 miles. But just 10 ft would make that difference so dramatic, life couldn’t exist as it does.
  8. I highly recommend his message, but listen, here’s my point: Christ not only made it all, but he also holds it all together!

Transition. 1st, We see Christ’s Supremacy in Creation as Creator and Sustainer.

2. The Supremacy of Christ in the Church.

Exp.: we stand and look at Creation and are all in awe of Christ. Well, Paul says that there is something as wonderful that Christ created and it is His Church. Rd v 18; When you read that, it almost sounds like he’s talking about two different things: one, the church and 2nd, something about being resurrected from the dead. But consider this: these are really about the same thing. They cover the same topic.

If Christ had not risen, what difference would there be? Ladies and Gentlemen, I propose to you that it would make all the difference in the World! The Resurrection is a vital part of our Faith. Indeed, if you remove the resurrection, what do you have? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ has not been raised, we are still in our sins, our faith is futile and we’re to be pitied above all men!

The Resurrection is important because it is the basis by which all other matters rest. Without the resurrection, the church falls flat on its face. But consider this: those who are in this body, of which Christ is the head, they have the hope of the resurrection. Christ is simply the first to be raised and never to die again. His resurrection demonstrates for us that we too will be raised on that day. Here again, we see position: that he might be preeminent. That he might be in the first position. He’s the boss. He’s Lord. There is no one above him. There is no one who outranks him. The buck stops with Him. But, just so you don’t miss what Paul is saying, he brings more clarity: rd v 19; He’s God in the Flesh; rd v 20; So,…

In this passage, we see His Work in Creation and His Work in Redemption.

You know I began my message with the Creation story. The Fall marred it all. But here we read that Christ is reconciling the world to him. This doesn’t mean that everyone gets to heaven. This is a reference to what shall be.

Ill.: If you’ve not been to a Simeon Trust Preaching Workshop, I highly encourage you to go. If you’re a woman here, they host workshops for Women, too. But, one of the lessons we learn in a Simeon Trust Workshop is about books and finding the theme or topic in a book. One such way to locate your theme is by locating the top and the tail. It isn’t just the book, but it can also be used for a pericope or a passage. It helps us to determine what the theme or topic might be. An example we use is Mark. Mark begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The introduction climaxes with God proclaiming in v 11: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – So with the introduction, you have this claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Throughout the book, demons and spirits call him the Son of God. Before he is crucified the High priest asks him if he is the Son of the Blessed. And Jesus says, yep. And at the book’s climax, as Jesus dies on the cross, the Centurion witnesses the entire events and says: truly this was the Son of God. You can then go back through the book of Mark to see if this is a theme that flows through the entire book and wah-lah! There is… Demons declare him to be God’s Son. Remember the Gadarene Demoniac: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most-High God? That’s just one example.

I’m preaching in the book of Romans right now. Let me show you the theme in Romans: read the introduction. Observe 1.5: Paul is declaring the Gospel is preached to the nations to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name. Now look at Romans 16.25: 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

There you have it. You do a little research on Romans and you’ll see that this is exactly what the Letter is all about: The preaching of the Gospel to all the nations in order to bring about the obedience of faith.

So, what am I getting at? At the beginning of this book (The Bible), you have the story of Creation. A topic near and dear to this passage. In that beginning, we see perfection. Then, there is the fall. Everything falls apart. The couple is banished. Perfection is lost. Thorns, weeds, storms, chaos, murder. Sin has corrupted what was perfect. But, Paul is telling us about the end of this book. In the beginning story, you have a unique relationship with God. In the end, that relationship is restored. You have a river in the garden in the beginning. Look, you see the same at the end. There is a tree in the midst of the garden in the beginning. What do you know? There is a tree in the end, too. Coincidence. No, that is the melodic line of this book. God is reconciling a fallen world to himself. And, in the end – that is exactly what will be! There will be a new heaven and a new earth. All things will be reconciled.

Conclusion: So, is all of this theology important? You bet it is. Not just because you’re going to be preachers and teachers of God’s Word. But it must apply to your life and to the life of those you serve.

Many years ago, when I was first in ministry, there was a man who came to see me. Pastor? You got a second? Sure. This man hadn’t been going to my church for very long. His beliefs were different than ours, but he loved our worship and was complimentary of my preaching.

He began to pour out his heart about his struggles. He had been a member of the Hell’s Angels gang in the Los Angeles area back in the ’60s and ’70s. The hard life had left him in constant pain. As an addict, he shied away from drugs. So, he lived with the pain. He told me he had a certain amount of money in the bank, in a savings account. He gave me the number of the account. I wasn’t sure where he was going.

He asked me to explain my theological understanding of suicide and, as a pastor, would I ever let someone who committed suicide to have a funeral in the church. He told me that he would be ending his life in a couple of days – he was going to commit suicide. But, the money, that was for the funeral and to make sure his boys were taken care of. He still had two sons at home. They were pretty close to being able to take care of themselves…

I was caught off guard. I knew I couldn’t let him just kill himself. I didn’t know the laws, but I was pretty sure this guy needed help. He needed help beyond what I could give. I was this young buck just fresh out of seminary.

But, the moment he noticed me interceding, he threatened me. Did I tell you guys that he was a former member of the Hell’s Angels? He was more than twice my age, but I also knew that he knew how to put a hurt on me if he wanted to do so! It didn’t matter. I knew what I needed to do.

Then he said if that is what you’re going to do… Then I’m going to go home and kill myself in front of them.

I was scared. I didn’t want that.

Now, at this moment, how does your theology impact your actions?

You study that Christ is God. He is the creator of all that is. He is the sustainer of this whole thing. He is the head of the church. He is the first to be resurrected and has shown us exactly what it will be like for us on that final day when we, too are resurrected to a new life. But does that help you at that moment?

You bet it does! Your theology grounds you in what you do as a pastor. And trust me, your theology will conflict with your experience. You know God is sovereign, but what about the day that it feels like he isn’t. You know that Christ is in Control. But, what about the day it feels like he’s lost control. You know God is powerful. But what about the day he doesn’t display His power in your life.

I told you when I began that I don’t want to be misunderstood. Hear me now and once again: You can go and serve where he has called you because you know this is true. He is Lord over all Creation and Lord over his Church. And because of this, you know that he is Lord over eternity. And he will sustain you in whatever you go through. Boys, Serve Him well and do what you’ve been called to do because of what you know to be true about Him. Let’s Pray…

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Colossians, Creation, Scripture, Sermon, Worship

Romans 8.22-25

Title: The Permanent State of Hope

Text: Romans 8.18-25

As I began last week, I want to remind you that I don’t come to you this morning from a wealth of experience in suffering. I can only tell you stories of those I know who’ve walked that journey. I can only tell you what the Bible says about suffering and hope that you can come to a place of understanding, so that, when you suffer, whether great or small, your suffering will be endured with a proper perspective on life and eternity.

Today’s message is about hope. Hope, I believe, is something about which I know a little more than suffering. In this regard to hope, we all stand on the same, level ground. None of us here has seen what will be. So, in that regard, no one here has a leg up on any other person. But again, because of this, what I share is what I know from God’s Word. His Word gives us hope.

And hope is so very important. I think of the passage where Paul talked about those who grieve at death as those who have no hope. We are not like those people, though. Because we have this hope and this hope is something that keeps us moving forward.

Suffering is a strange phenomenon that knows no boundaries. It lays itself on anyone and everyone. No one is exempt from its attack. There are no riches, no age, no race, there are no social or cultural boundaries it cannot encroach. And this is why Hope is needed. This is why hope is given.

Now last week I noted how Paul mentions suffering in v 17&18, but then he doesn’t address it. He says suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us. And so he doesn’t. Instead, he gives us a history lesson.

In the beginning, all things were perfect, but in chapter 3 of Genesis, we see the fall. And, ever since that fall, sin has impacted and affected everything in this world. That is why we suffer from one degree to another; some, more than others; some, more public than others.

Two points of clarification that I’m not sure I made last week:

  1. We do not suffer because God is punishing us. Someone may very well ask if God is punishing me because of something I did – and more specifically, a sin I committed. The answer is no.
    1. The effect of sin on us is not the same as punishment. I’m not saying that God doesn’t discipline his children. He does. Hebrews is very clear on that. God disciplines his children and brings them back into line with His Will. But that is a very different scenario than God punishing us. The punishment for sin is Hell.

ill.: a friend of mine many years ago told me about his life and the decisions he had made. He had been unfaithful to his wife and had married the woman he had been in a relationship with. These two came to faith some years later. He even apologized to his first wife and asked her forgiveness. She, too, had been remarried and had become a believer with her new husband. Anyway, this friend said that he was afraid that God would now punish him for his actions. I asked him what he meant. He said he was afraid that God would kill his little girl to punish him. I think this was born out of the David and Bathsheba story.

app.: My friend had a wrong perspective of God. I told him that it isn’t to say that his little girl would never die, but the punishment of sin is reserved for end times.

  1. The effect of sin on us is because of the fall. That is what our text says: v. 20, for the creation was subjected to futility. God told Adam and Eve that their rebellion would end in death. That effect still has an impact on us. That’s what This present time is in v 18;

But, all of this might be just too much for you, especially if you’ve never dealt with this issue. Let’s say you’re new to this Christianity thing and you’ve had a friend or a family member die way too soon. Maybe it was an accident that should have been prevented. Maybe it was a heart attack or cancer, and you’ve got questions.

  1. Let me help here: You need to see God from a proper perspective. What I mean is that God is huge! He is so much bigger and higher in reality compared to our experience and our intellect. Maybe that is what Paul is doing by mentioning creation in each verse here…

ill.: John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Colossians 1.16: By studying the creation, one can gain a glimpse of the power, knowledge, and wisdom of the Creator. The sheer size of the universe is staggering. The sun, for example, has a diameter of 864,000 miles (One hundred times that of earth’s) and could hold 1.3 million planets the size of earth inside it. The star Betelgeuse, however, has a diameter of 100 million miles, which is larger than the earth’s orbit around the sun. It takes sunlight, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, about 8.5 minutes to reach earth. Yet that same light would take more than four years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, some 24 trillion miles from earth. The galaxy to which our sun belongs, the Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. And astronomers estimate there are millions, or even billions of galaxies. What they can see leads them to estimate the number of stars in the universe at 1025. According to Dr. Bill Tolar, that number is roughly the same number of all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches and deserts and along every shore of every river and every lake.

 

When I was in seminary, I had Dr. Tolar as a professor. He was a man with a brilliant mind. Actually, I had quite a few like that. But this professor, Dr. William Tolar, was especially intelligent. He studied science before being called into the ministry. He now has a famous sermon, Creation, Chance or Choice and it is available on Youtube. But here are some points he makes in that message. As God created all that is, he created:

  • The earth is at just the right angle (23.3o ) – straight up and down,
  • He created it spinning at just the right speed (1,000 mph) – a little slower and things would burn up. A little faster and we would be thrown off!
  • It tilts back and forth just far enough; life couldn’t exist if it straightened or dropped more than 3o in either direction!
  • It is just far enough away from the sun. And it spins and encircles in an oval rotation perfectly. It couldn’t handle being any closer or any further.
  • The moon rotates and spins at just the right distance. It’s just far enough away and just close enough. If it were closer, the waves of the oceans would come crashing upon the Rocky Mts or if it were further away, they would be pulled back exposing too much ground.
  • There is just enough water in the oceans…any more/ any less would make it where there would be too much oxygen or too much Carbon Monoxide.
  • There is just enough crust in the earth’s crust.
  • Photosynthesis – couldn’t work as it needs to if any of these were out of whack. We need enough plants, we need enough water, we need enough light. But, the inverse is true too. We can’t have too many plants, compared to too much water, compared to too much darkness.

Why am I saying all of this? Because I fear your perception of God might just be too small! We sometimes want God to fit into a box that you understand. But when we create God in our image, we fail to see how magnificent and terrific he truly is.

Your first step in finding hope is gaining a proper perspective of how great God is and how small we really are.

When this happens, you can begin to understand God’s righteousness and justice in subjecting the world to futility. The passage continues in v 20: God did so in hope. And then Paul eventually gets to this hope in v 24. 24 For in this hope we were saved. This hope is what he’s been talking about since v 18. Let’s backtrack for a moment.

  • V18: Glory to be revealed; this is the hope for us, that it is something we have out there in our future. Can I encourage you to see this as a promise from God? Promise #1: There is a glory in our future that far outweighs our current situation.
  • V19: for the revealing of the sons of God. That is, those of us who are believers. We’re Sons and Daughters of God. Verses 12-17 told us about how God adopts us and puts his Holy Spirit in us. Can we call this Promise #2: In that glory, we will realize our full understanding of our position as those who’ve been adopted into the family of God.
  • V20: brings these thoughts together and tells us that our hope is the freedom from the bondage of corruption (that’s the sin and its effect on us here) and the freedom of the glory of the children of God (that’s the place where sin will no longer have its impact on us). That’s heaven. Let’s call this promise #3: God has been at work and he will fulfill and complete his work. He is not delayed, as some see this ‘waiting’; God did what he did with purpose and intent. God has been at work and he will fulfill and complete his work.
  • V23 gives us more promises; rd v 23a; the firstfruits of the Spirit means that we have something that those before Jesus didn’t have! We have the Holy Spirit of God in us: that in this groaning and in this suffering, we have been given a precious gift as a down payment, as an earnest of our future inheritance… here’s promise #4: we’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit of God.
    • This means that you don’t suffer in vain. There is purpose in your life. There is value in your life.
    • This means that you don’t suffer alone. Just before Jesus ascended to be with the Father he said: And, lo, I am with you always…even until the end of the age. He’s with us by giving us his Holy Spirit to live inside of us.
  • The next part of v23 states that we wait for the redemption of our bodies. The Corinthian church was having a tough time with this concept, so Paul spends a good deal of time sharing with them what that would be like. But for now, just in this text, Paul is saying that we have these bodies that are wasting away. They’re hard to manage. They’re imperfect. Sin is bringing about this body’s decay. The eyes are giving out. The bones are becoming brittle. The circulation doesn’t work like it used to work. These bodies are fragile – yes, truly magnificent, but fragile. And the older we get, the more fragility we see. We become weaker. We get slower. But our hope is in the redemption of these bodies. And this is Promise #5: Something far greater awaits us in glory. Bodies, that we can only use our imaginations to try and comprehend, will be ours.
  • But to conclude his remarks on hope, Paul identifies and defines for us what hope is. Hope isn’t seen. Hope isn’t wishful thinking. Our hope is the knowledge and certainty of what we cannot see. And God is so good to give us earthly examples for our comprehension.
    • Wind: we don’t see it, but we know it blows. Ill.: the banner out front and the roof on Jules.
    • Radio and television waves.
    • Current and electricity: just one movement or a shot of lightning isn’t seen by the human eye. Of course, today, with our modern technology, you can watch YouTube videos of how a lightning bolt hits the earth. I watched a video in super slow motion and was amazed at all that takes place in one lightning strike.

Oh, the promises of God and the hope he gives. Hope in these struggles. Hope in this pain. Hope in suffering.

Conclusion: Chuck Swindoll uses an illustration by Arthur Gordon, who relates a story of a man who had been stricken with polio at the age of three, and his parents, probably depression-poor and overwhelmed, had abandoned him in a New York City hospital. Taken in by a foster family, he was sent to stay with their relatives in Georgia when he was six, in hopes that the warmer climate would improve his condition. What improved his condition, though, was Maum Jean, an elderly, black woman who took that “frail, lost, lonely little boy” into her heart. For six years, she daily massaged his weak legs; administering her own hydrotherapy in a nearby creek; and encouraged him spiritually with her stories, songs, and prayers. Gordon writes:

Night after night Maum Jean continued the massaging and praying. Then one morning, when I was about 12, she told me she had a surprise for me.

She led me out into the yard, placed me with my back against an oak tree; I can feel the rough bark of it to this day. She took away my crutches and braces. She moved back a dozen paces and told me that the Lord had spoken to her in a dream. He had said that the time had come for me to walk. “So now,” said Maum Jean, “I want you to walk over to me.”

My instant reaction was fear. I knew I couldn’t walk unaided; I had tried. I shrank back against the solid support of the tree. Maum Jean continued to urge me.

I burst into tears. I begged. I pleaded. Her voice rose suddenly, no longer gentle and coaxing but full of power and command. “You can walk, boy! The Lord has spoken! Now walk over here.”

She knelt down and held out her arms. And somehow, impelled by something stronger than fear, I took a faltering step, and another, and another, until I reached Maum Jean and fell into her arms, both of us weeping.

It was two more years before I could walk normally, but I never used the crutches again…

Then the night came when one of Maum Jean’s tall grandsons knocked on my door. It was late; there was frost in the air. Maum Jean was dying, he said; she wanted to see me.

The old cabin wasn’t changed: floors of Cyprus, Windows with wooden shutters–no glass, roof of palm thatch mixed with pitch. Maum Jean in bed, surrounded by silent watchers, her frail body covered by a patchwork quilt. From a corner of the room, a kerosene lamp cast a dim saffron light. Her face was in shadow, but I heard her whisper my name. Someone put a chair close to the bed. I sat down and touched her hand.

For a long time I sat there; now and then Maum Jean spoke softly. Her mind was clear. She hoped I remembered the things that she had taught me. Outside, the night stirred with a strong wind. In the other room the fires snapped, throwing orange sparks. There was a long silence; she lay with her eyes closed. Then the old voice spoke, stronger suddenly, “Oh,” said Maum Jean, with surprising gladness. “Oh, it’s so beautiful!” She gave a light contented sigh, and died…

All that happened a long time ago. I now live in another town. But I still think of Maum Jean often, and the main thing she taught me: Nothing is a barrier when love is strong enough. Not age. Not race. Not disease. Not anything.

And so it is with suffering in this life: Nothing is a barrier when love is strong enough. Not age. Not race. Not disease. Not anything.

And indeed, so great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called Children of God. And that is what we are… provided we suffer with him.

Maybe you’ve never given your life to Christ. If not, then you don’t have the promises I’ve talked about today. You don’t know the hope we know. Won’t you give your life to Christ?

Maybe you’re in the midst of struggle and pain. Maybe, you’re suffering now. Would you trust Christ with your pain? Would you ask him to use it to show others of his great love and mercy?

Over recent weeks I’ve been challenging out people to choose someone who doesn’t know Christ and begin praying for their salvation. Just one person! I asked: Who is your 1? I have some business cards to help you with this. I want to ask ushers to come forward and pass these out. Will you pray that God will give you someone to pray for? Just 1 person, 1x a day, at 1 o’clock, for 1 minute.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Romans, Romans 8, Scripture, Sermon

Romans 8.18-23

Title: The Temporary State of Suffering

Text: Romans 8.18-22

Introduction: We’re in Romans 8 (pg. 888 in the Pew Bible). The Subject this morning is Suffering. And my sermon doesn’t come from the tremendous depth of experience, but rather, it simply comes from God’s Word. The sermon this morning won’t have all of the answers on suffering. I’ll only cover what’s listed here in Romans.

I make no apologies in this regard, but rather count it a blessing and thank God that I have not had to suffer as so many in the world do. I’ve never been to prison for my faith. And I have been relatively healthy – able to do the things in life I want to do. I enjoy the physicality and thought that goes into reaching summits in Colorado. I ride my bike, jog, walk as much as I want and not as much as I should. I take one pill a day – and that is for my thyroid. My doctor says that dosage will increase with age, but for now, I feel blessed.

So, as I think about suffering, I have to ask myself… and I think, we should ask ourselves as we look at this text: what is the context of suffering here? Is it cancer? Is it sickness, illness? Or, is it imprisonment, mistreatment, and punishment for being a believer? Well, contextually, I think it has to do with suffering for being a Christian. As for application, I think this applies to both: You can trust God in your sickness and in your illness, too.

I don’t say this lightly. I’m very aware that many of you are suffering now. Some of you may suffer for being a believer – you’re passed over for work or promotions; you’re placed in an awkward position; moved to a different location.

On a side note: It was good to hear the State of Colorado dropped their case against the Christian Baker, who refused to create a transgender anniversary cake. The same baker, by the way, that won a Supreme Court decision last year. But, I think more persecution is coming.

Added to these types of persecution and suffering, I know that many of you are suffering health wise – you or a family member.

I don’t enter into this subject lightly because it is something my family is experiencing. It is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul hasn’t mentioned suffering up to this point. As a matter of fact, he won’t mention it again. You’ll only see it here in v. 17 & 18; Verse 17 is what gives us our context. Rd v 17: 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 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.

Flow: There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why? Because the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death. How? Through Jesus; who died on the cross to pay that penalty on our behalf. V4 says that Jesus satisfied the righteous requirement of the law. The Benefits are tremendous: freedom in the Spirit, Focus for life, The Spirit-filled believer is now alive in Christ – and, as we talked about last week – The Spirit-filled believer is adopted into the family of God!

But then Paul ends with this odd statement: provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Paul is definitive on this topic of suffering: in this life, we will suffer as believers. Period. We don’t all suffer the same way and we don’t all suffer the same thing – but, understand this: if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will suffer in some fashion.

Why is that? And where does it come from? And, what is its purpose?

Well, that is a topic that is rather large and most definitely something we cannot possibly accomplish completely today. And we shouldn’t try. Paul doesn’t. Paul has good reason to do so, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t make his focus about suffering. Instead, he acknowledges it but then turns his focus elsewhere. And so should we. He mentions suffering and then gives us a history lesson.

Let me repeat: he mentions suffering and then, doesn’t talk about it, but rather gives us a history lesson. He comes back to this idea of how we suffer now when he talks about the Spirit and the Spirit’s intercession in our lives – who helps us in our weaknesses (v26).

Read with me v 18-23 (pg. 888): 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

What is Paul saying? He’s letting us in on something absolutely incredible. I’ve been taught, as have many of you, that when you’re looking for the theme of a book you’re studying, you read the beginning and the end. Usually, there at the beginning of the book or letter, and repeated in the end, you will find the melodic line that flows through the book. A great example is Mark, a book we studied a few years ago. Mark begins with: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The introduction climaxes with God proclaiming in v 11: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – So with the introduction, you have this claim that Jesus is the Son of God. Throughout the book, demons and spirits call him the Son of God. Before he is crucified the High priest asks him if he is the Son of the Blessed. And Jesus says, yep. And at the book’s climax, as Jesus dies on the cross, the Centurion witnesses the entire events and says: truly this was the Son of God.

So Mark’s theme is Jesus is the Son of God. Is this true for our book, Romans? Let me show you: read the introduction. Observe 1.5: Paul is declaring the Gospel is preached to the nations to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name. Now look at Romans 16.25: 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

There you have it. You do a little research on our book and you’ll see that this is exactly what the Letter is all about: The preaching of the Gospel to all the nations in order to bring about the obedience of faith.

I mention these because I think that is what Paul is doing. I mention these to raise one last question about beginnings and endings: is this book (the Bible) like these others – does it have bookends which identify for us a theme? And, does that theme flow through the whole of the Bible in such a way that it acts as a melodic line of sorts? Well, let’s look.

  • When you read v 19-23, what stands out? The Creation. Where is The Creation Story in the Bible?
  • We see in chapters 1-2 of Genesis that the world is created and everything is perfect. The Creation the way it should be. Or, the world as it was designed to be.
  • In chapter 3, we see the fall. Sin enters into the world and everything is marred. Everything. Sin now brings death, disease, and dysfunction. Cain murders his brother, Abel. Weeds, thorns, storms, sickness, struggle all enter the picture. Animals are no longer friends with man, but rather, animals fear man.

What we see in the introduction is Creation, and then, creation falling apart, or de-creation. So, what do we see at the end of the book, in Revelation? We see Eden restored. We see re-creation. So, do we see some of the same elements in the beginning and in the ending? God is in the beginning doing his work and he is in the end doing his work. There is a garden in the beginning. There is a garden in the end. A tree – a tree; a river – a river; Ezekiel 25 tells us of the garden of God, Eden. It tells us of the precious stones and gems and colors. We see the same thing in Revelation in Heaven, Eden restored. So is that the melodic line of this book? That God creates, Sin destroys and God will recreate in the end? All we have to do is look throughout the book at the stories that are told.

  • Adam and Eve are in the garden; they sin and are banished into exile from the garden. Do you see times in Scripture where there is a desire to get back to the garden? Absolutely.
  • God creates for himself a people, through Abraham. He promises them a land. A land flowing with Milk and Honey. It is a picture of the return to the garden. But do his people obey – do they live out the obedience of faith (as it says in Romans)? No, So look what happens to Israel. It becomes a desert wasteland.
  • But there hope is that it will be restored. For you and me, we know that restoration isn’t a “Mighty Israel” here. It is a new heaven and a new earth.

This is what I think Paul is doing: I think he is visiting the melodic line of the Bible for us: There was perfection with God. Sin entered into the picture and destroyed that beauty. It continues to wreak havoc, but one day, Eden will be restored. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. And that – out there in our future – is what Paul wants us to focus on!

  1. Creation Present: Read v 19; we longingly, actively wait with eager expectation for glory.
  2. Creation Past: read v 20; creation waits now in the present because it was subjected to futility in the past. That verse is talking about the fall of man – the story of Adam and Eve.
  3. Creation Future: read v 21; it was subjected in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption (that’s sin and the effect it has on us now) and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (that’s heaven, where there will be no more sickness nor sorrow, no more pain and tears, there will be no more thorns, no more tornados, no more earthquakes, no more hurricanes, no more cancer, no need for glasses.

Why is that? Because creation will be restored. Paul is reminding us of the big picture. Suffering in this present time is temporary. Heaven, where there is no suffering, will be eternal.

So, here is the problem: we’re stuck between the now and the not yet. With this bit of information, how then shall we now live?

A few comments about these verses:

  1. In v18, the verse reads: 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 1st, this word consider – it is the Greek word for which we get our word logistics. Paul is being logical about suffering and he’s working through the problem. 2nd, There is a word in the original language that isn’t in the English and it’s the word ‘about’. Lit.: the about to be glory. The idea is that it is just right out there beyond us. I believe when we’re there, we’ll look back at this time and think about how brief it really was. We worried about a lot of stuff that didn’t really matter that much.
  2. In v19, we read: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. I already told you that I’d translate this: actively waits with eager expectation. The word wait here means a deep sense of waiting with passion and longing. Also, the word in here revealing, is the Gk word from which we get our word Apocolypse. And, normally, that word is scary, but, not for the believer! Because what will be revealed for us is a wonderful thing!
  3. In v20, it says that the creation was subjected to futility… The idea is that this isn’t so much a result of what Adam and Eve did, but more about the plan of God. See, if you keep reading you’ll read: not willingly, but because of him who subjected it… Who is this ‘him’?
    1. Some folks say Adam. He was the one who sinned and by which all sin has been passed on to us. The read the verse this way: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Adam who subjected it…
    2. Others say no, it is Satan. Satan was the one who wreaked havoc on the world by leading Adam and Eve astray. These people read the verse this way: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Satan who subjected it…
    3. But there is a third option and I believe this is the correct understanding: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of God who subjected it… And I say this because of the next couple of words: in hope.
      1. Satan would never offer hope, so that knocks him out of the running.
      2. I don’t think Adam actually thought to himself: I’ll eat this fruit in disobedience to God’s command in order that those who follow after me will have hope in God. That’s ludicrous.
  • It can only be God. God did this, subjected creation to futility in hope of our future glory.

Now that’s a pretty powerful statement. God did this because he had a plan.

  1. In v22 we read about this momentary affliction. Paul uses the terms of a pregnant woman giving birth. The idea is that the pain is very real, but a momma endures such pain for the joy that is before her. She knows that after she has endured, after she has given birth, she will get to hold this precious little one. There is pain and struggle in the moment, but joy comes in having given birth. To use what seems to be an oxymoron: this is a joyful pain. And so should our suffering in this current world be. Joyful in that it is temporary. Joyful in that it is preparing us for the glory that is yet to be revealed in us. It is hard now, but hang in there. There is joy coming! And that is what he says in v 23; rd v 23;
    1. Consider the disciples who declared it a joy and a privilege to suffer for Jesus!

Application: Paul tells us about suffering:

  • How we suffer: The Creation actively waits with eager longing as we suffer.
  • Why we suffer: The Creation was subjected to futility (to this suffering) unwillingly
    • God did so in hope
      • of freedom from bondage to corruption
      • of obtaining freedom of the glory that is to be revealed in us
  • Conclusion about suffering: The Creation groans with a pain that ends in joy – because joy is coming. You’ve just got to hang in there!

Conclusion:

  1. Suffering is temporary: this present time (kairos). The difference between Kairos and Chronos is like the difference between a minute and a moment.
  2. Suffering is an extreme opposite of what we’ll experience in the “about to be”: There is no comparison
  3. Here’s the incredible truth about suffering and sin: We can grasp the incredible grace of God because we know what sin and suffering is.
  4. I’d like to say a word about what suffering is not. Sometimes, I’m convinced that we think we’re suffering and we’re really not. Let me ‘splain.

In life you have expectations. You’ve had them already today. You come and you expect certain things to happen or not to happen. You have expectations. You expected to sing songs this morning. If we hadn’t sung any songs, you would have responded. Some of you: negative. Some of you: positive. But there are expectations and you respond to those expectations based upon your experience. Maybe you come to worship expecting a normal service, but we show a video. Your experience is different from what you expected and maybe you’re happy or maybe your sad. You respond to your experience based upon your expectations.

But here lies the problem. Sometimes, your expectations aren’t met and you become unhappy. You think you’re suffering. But are you really? You’ve come expecting there to be seats. What if you came in this morning and there were no seats in the worship center? How would you respond? Some folks would be like: Cool, we’re doing something different! Others would be like: this is so uncool! Honey, go find me a seat. If I said, we’re sitting on the floor this morning, some of you would feel like you had to suffer today. But, do think there are churches gathering today somewhere in the world where there are no chairs? Would you say they’re suffering?

Here is my point: sometimes you think you’re suffering, but you’re really not. You’re just selfish and you’re not getting your way.

Your expectations are about you. Hey, listen, I’m no different. I know it. I sometimes pray and act like I’m suffering until my eyes are opened and I realize that I’m just being selfish.

Suffering Requires:

  • Perspective: An vantage point of the whole, big picture – and you see what’s coming (18).
  • Patience: Wait eagerly for adoption to come to fruition (19).
  • Knowledge: we know that this was done in hope of freedom

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Filed under Christian Living, Creation, Eschatology, Faith, Romans, Romans 8, Scripture, Sermon, Spiritual Formations