Category Archives: Sermon

Overcoming Discouragement

Title: Overcoming Discouragement

Text: Psalm 73

Background: We’re in Psalm 73 today. I think most of us understand the book of Psalms to be a hymnal for the Jews. But, it is so much more than that! There is a congruency – a consistency and a melodic line that flows through the entire book. There is purpose and design. My intention this morning isn’t to prove that. Maybe I can do that at sometime in the future. For now, let me bring you up to speed with Psalm 73.

I know some are thinking: what? I thought we were in Romans. Answer: we are. But, I felt the need to preach from Psalm 73 this morning since earlier in the week. It was not originally on my calendar, but felt the Lord’s prompting and so, I’m leaving Romans for today and preaching Psalm 73.

With that being said, turn to Psalm 73.

What you know of the book of Psalms is composed of 5 individual books. Psalm 73 is the 1st Psalm in the 3rd book. Do you see that there in your titles and subtitles? A quick outline of Psalms would look like this:

  • Introduction:1-2
  • Book 1: 3-41
  • Book 2: 42-72
  • Book 3: 73-89
  • Book 4: 90-106
  • Book 5: 107-145
  • Conclusion: Praise 146-150

As we start in Book three, we see that Book two has just ended. The Psalm states that it is “to/for/of Solomon”, but as it ends in v 20, we read: 20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended. So, King David probably composed this psalm as a prayer. David is a great earthly picture of a king and God, who is King of kings, has selected this man who will follow him. This is what scholars call a ‘Royal’ Psalm. Israel understood their King to be God’s man for the job of leading Israel and they prayed for him.

God is their King and David is their earthly king. In a sense, they rule together because David has been chosen of God. And, God has chosen not just David, but his heirs, as well. And, the Messiah, who is to come, will be like him. Or, better worded: David is ‘like’ the Messiah who is to come. You and I already know this. David was a type of Christ to show us a picture of the one who would come: Jesus.

And He is our focus.

If we skip down to Psalm 74, we see this call from the Psalmist begging God to defend His own cause: not the cause of the Psalmist, but that of God. The Israelites, The Kings of Israel have not imaged God the way they should have. Their situation has made God look bad. Sure, what has happened to them is a result of their own behavior and rejection of their King and His laws. But, when Israel is conquered or in famine or in ruin, it appears God can’t take care of his people – which, of course, just isn’t true.

So, 72 is the Culmination of the section on King David and 74 is this plea for God to act on His own behalf. The Israelites are making God look bad and the Psalmist is begging God to act. So what is 73 all about?

Introduction: He begins by telling us what He knows: God is Good

He begins with God is Good! (rd v1); you would think that’s all that needs to be said, but there really is a great lesson here in this Psalm.

Oh, how I wish I could just make this statement and you’d all say: Duh, yeah! God is Good – All the time. All the time – God is Good! I wish we all felt it and didn’t have to struggle with it. But, the truth is, although I think you might have a little trouble admitting it, God is good and we don’t always see it that way. Asaph sure didn’t.

That’s what he’s saying in v2-3: “God is good! But, I didn’t always feel this way”; rd v2; He says: I almost stumbled, I almost fell. And then he tells us why: rd v 3: He says: I had been discouraged at what I saw in the prosperity of the wicked. The word saw here, means to watch with envy. It means to covet.

Asaph’s Struggle:

Asaph was really struggling at some time in the past. He sat down and watched so many others, who were wicked people, live what looked like blessed lives. He saw sinful people living prosperous, easy lives. He on the other hand – didn’t have it so easy. That just didn’t seem fair. Surely someone who walks with God faithfully should have it easy, No? And, the wicked – they should struggle! But that wasn’t what he was seeing with his eyes. And so he became envious.

V 4-12 tells us what he ‘sees’. And, as we move verse by verse through to v 12, we see a progression of wickedness and a blindness of those who join with them.

Let’s look at what he saw of the prosperous:

Rd v 4a; As Spurgeon said: “They have a quiet death; gliding into eternity without a struggle.” Rd v4b; You must also consider that a 21 Century health-conscious person isn’t going to get this metaphor. There is plenty to eat and the work is easy.

Rd v 5; man, it sure appears that they got it pretty easy compared to the rest of the world! Rd v 6; Pride is easy to understand, but violence as a garment, well, that’s a little harder. I think this means that their wealth and prosperity have led them to cruel and violent behavior toward others. Rd v 7: These people get whatever they want – whatever their eyes see and their imaginations crave.

Rd v 8-12; Marvin Tate, author of the Word Biblical Commentary on Psalms 51-100, says that this passage seems to indicate that the ordinary people turn to the rich and drink down their language with unthinking desire for their affluent lifestyle. Regardless of how vile they may be, the ways of the rich are very attractive to many people. Even their foolish language (v 11) is treated as wise.

Ill.: This sounds so 21st Century America to me. For some reason, we think the rich are the smart people and that what they say has great value. In many ways, especially in this regard, we’re no different from Asaph.

Now, when we come to v 13, we see a self-assessment that the Psalmist does.

Asaph’s Self-Assessment:

“Truly” begins v1 and here demonstrates that something has changed. In v 1, the force of the “truly” is “in spite of everything to the contrary, God is good to Israel.” In spite of the way things appear in the prosperity of the foolish and the suffering of the faithful, God is Good! In v 13, the force is: “in spite of all the indications of well-being of the wicked, I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence”—which means that the speaker refused to run after the prosperous wicked and adopt their ways. It sounds as if he feels like he’s been good for no reason at all, but I don’t think that is his point. No, he’s saying in spite of all indications that the wicked are being blessed by God, I chose to keep my heart clean and not follow their path.

Rd v 14-16: lit., “it was a wearisome thing in my eyes.” Let me stop right here and now of how Asaph had become so discouraged. You can hear it in words. And, I’m pretty sure you could hear it in his voice, too, had you been around to hear him.

Oh, how Asaph was discouraged: have you ever been discouraged? Maybe you’re there right now.

  • Maybe you got passed up for that promotion. You’ve worked harder and longer and what has happened is just unfair. Maybe that other person even cheated or was dishonest. You played it fair and you’re your integrity, but now they have the promotion. There’s just something not right about that.
  • Maybe you’re checking out that other family. What is it about them? They always seem to be getting a new car or going on vacation. How can he get that much time off? They’re never in church on Sunday morning. You’re not even sure they’re saved. And you’re discouraged because you’re driving the same ole’ beater. You’re thankful you don’t have payments to the bank, but you’re local garage is getting regular payments.
  • Maybe you’re looking around at all the other churches in town and feel like God’s blessing everyone else, but us. Those people are getting a new worship center. Those people are remodeling their Family Life Center. Those people are getting a new Gym. Those people have a children’s ministry or a youth ministry or a (you fill-in the blank) ministry. Those people have this awesome choir and you find yourself discouraged because you’re looking at these other churches and don’t understand why God isn’t blessing you when you’ve stayed the course. You’ve been faithful. Your heart and your hands are clean before God.

Transition: But then, something incredible happens to Asaph as he encounters God.

Asaph’s Sanctuary Experience:

He was discouraged and wearied until… rd v 17; 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Asaph had a God-encounter! He saw what was real and realized what was not real. The sanctuary of God is the very presence of God. Asaph met God and it changed his attitude.

Isn’t it amazing what a proper perspective can bring? Asaph saw what was eternal and was able to bring into perspective what he had been looking at in the prosperity of the people.

When he saw God for who He really is, then:

  1. He saw the people for who they really are. Rd v 17b; rd 18-19;
  2. He saw his predicament, his situation in light of eternity. Rd v 20;
  3. He saw how he had been in his attitude toward God; rd v 21-22

Pray: Oh, God, forgive us when we focus on this temporary situation and put too much value on it in light of eternity. Oh, Father forgive us when miss what you’re doing in our lives and in the lives of others because we are focused on the temporary. Oh, Master, forgive us for when we think you owe us something – like you’re so lucky to have us on your team!

What a fearful, dreadful consideration: to be at odds with God. Would you choose today the materialistic success of the Western Church over and above God’s presence? Asaph says, no! rd v 23-24; He says I’ve experienced your presence and in v 25-26 he says, I don’t want anything in heaven or on earth that puts me at odds with you. I only want you! Rd 25-26

Whom have I in heaven but you. There’s none I desire beside you.

Conclusion: Now, the Psalmist has a great perspective on things. Now he really knows what is important. rd v 27-28

  • Their ending
  • My blessing: the presence of God – and that truly shows how wonderfully good He is!

Application: So, How do I keep from getting discouraged?

  1. Discouragement comes from a focus on the wrong things. When you want something more than you want God, you’re going to become discouraged.
  2. Discouragement comes when you think God owes you something. I’ve kept my hands clean and my heart pure. You owe me. You’re like the older brother in the prodigal son parable. When you assume that you’ve kept your hands clean and your heart pure and because of that, God owes you… you’re going to become discouraged.
  3. Discouragement is bred through gossip, slander and negative grumblings. Discouraged people discourage others. This kind of a person is a rebel and a beast toward God, too (v. 22).
  4. Discouragement is cured with a proper perspective of things:
    1. That God is in charge, in spite of what your circumstances tell you.
    2. That God is really all you want and need. Everything else is superfluous.
    3. That whatever you’re going through – it will pass. Let God teach you in it.

If you’ve been focusing on the wrong things: repent.

If you’ve been thinking God owes you something: repent.

If you’ve been badmouthing the church, a ministry, the pastor, an elder, a member: repent.

You don’t know what God is doing to and through others. So trust that what He is doing is right and best. It is what will bring him glory.

I’d like to visit with you about these things. Maybe you have a question about Christianity or maybe you’re interested in what it means to be a member of Calvary. If you want to talk about Psalms or this message – I’d love to visit with you.

 

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Abraham Believed God

Title: Abraham was Justified by Faith

Text: Romans 4:1-8

Introduction: We’re in Romans 4 today. We’ll also be in Psalm 32 – so mark those passages.

Our topic this morning, The Doctrine of Salvation is vital to us as Christians and Southern Baptists. What I mean by that is that it is vital you and I understand what that means. You might even say it is foundational in determining who we are. We need to get this right. And, we need to be communicating this right.

CS Lewis teaches us in his book, Mere Christianity, that Christianity will not make sense until you realize three truths:

  1. There is a moral law. Simply discussing it establishes it.
  2. There is a ‘Somebody’ behind it. He says this to the random mind in discussing this moral law. It had to come from somewhere.
  3. We’ve broken the moral law and are at odds with this ‘Somebody’ because we’ve broken it.

When it comes to the study of the Doctrine of Salvation, Romans is a great book to choose. Really, you could choose any one of so many different books, but Romans is definitely focused on Salvation.

In some ways, you could say it is a doctrine that is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. And, in other ways, it is a doctrine that can be confusing and hard to understand. It’s easy and straightforward, but there must be more to it. It only makes sense that there is something you must “do”.

We’re like the Philippian Jailer who asked Paul and his companions: What must I ‘do’ to be saved? We want to ‘do’ something – make amends, earn our way. John 6 demonstrates for us a crowd of confused individuals who sound very much like us. They asked: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

I think Paul is trying to make this very point in 3.27-4.1 with all of the questions:

  • Then what becomes of our boasting? By what kind of law? By a law of works?
  • Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also?
  • Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?
  • What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?

Is it really that easy? Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight. Is it really that easy? Yes! But it can’t be. Surely there is something I must “do”! What must I ‘do’ to be saved? The answer: believe. Yeah, but what must I ‘do’…

This is important. We need to get this doctrine of salvation thing right. Souls depend on it.

Transition: if there is no boasting because there are no works that bring about salvation; if for the Jew, justification is by faith, then, Paul asks this question.

I.     The Question (1)

exp.: rd 4.1a; What then shall we say was gained by Abraham…? Consider the Mt. Rushmore of the Jewish Faith. What 4 faces would be on there? Abraham, Moses, David… I don’t know who gets the 4th spot. Here we see Abraham and in v 6, Paul will quote David. Moses appears in chapter 5 with Adam. I think Paul is pulling out the heavy hitters to make his point.

ill.: think about it, If I were talking computers and technology and I said something like: Steve Jobs said… wouldn’t that add some validity and weight to my point? If I were talking money and I dropped Warren Buffett’s name…

app.: that’s what Paul is doing…; the argument might sound like this:

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.

By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Oh, really? Then what about Abraham? Abraham is on the Jewish Mt. Rushmore because of his works! Remember how he willingly offered up his own son?

t.s.: So, he continues in v 2 and answers his question…

II.    The Answer (2-5)

exp.: rd v 2; If… that’s such a big word. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Many Jews believed Abraham was justified by his works: Jubilees 23.10 – Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord. Or, Kiddushin 4.14 of the Babylonian Talmud says: we find that Abraham our father had performed the whole Law before it was given. The Jews held this principle of Abraham’s perfection to the Law in high regard. And, Paul is saying – yeah, but no! If he could…then he would, but he can’t – not before God. It would be that way for all of us. If anyone here could be justified by works alone – then, yeah, there is room to brag.

ill.: We like to brag: about our kids, our accomplishments, anything that shows how awesome we are.

  • My son took his first steps when he was 7 months old.
  • Oh, yeah, my kid was able to read at the age of three.
  • My son, started on varsity.
  • My son started on varsity for both the Offense and the Defense.
  • My son played college ball.
  • My son played for the 49ers.
  • My son invented the football!

Brian Regan calls it the “Me Monster” – Me, Me, Me, Me, Me. If you haven’t seen it, Google Brian Regan on YouTube and watch: I walked on the Moon.

If we could actually attain salvation through our works… could you imagine the egos? The front row would be reserved for those very few who actually attained that perfection. We’d have a place in the hallway for their pictures. We’d have classes on how you, too, can attain salvation by your works. We’d have levels and patches and pins you could wear. You would know who was where on the scale by the color of their hat or the many badges on their sash.

app.: if you’re studying world religions and looking for how to get to heaven, then let me let you in on the difference. World religions are all about doing. Islam, Hindu, Buddahism… it’s about attaining. I just read a book entitled: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nebeel Qureshi. In it Nabeel presents the reader basic Islamic beliefs. And, the way to heaven is through works. I highly recommend the book if you’re wanting to know what Muslims believe. Paul is saying here: here’s the truth – you can’t earn it. For the Jews: look at Abraham – even he has no room to boast before God in his works.

exp.: rd 2b; But not before God; no one can boast before God; 1 Cor 1:26-29;

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

exp.: next Paul quotes from Gen 15:6; rd v 3; So, why can’t he boast? Rd v 4; it isn’t something earned, it’s a gift; someone who has worked and earned something deserves his just wage; but not so with gifts; gifts are undeserved.

ill.: As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I’m deeply moved at the grace of God in my life; The Grace of God is a wonderful teacher. Consider your sins. They teach you all about your weakness, your need for God to protect you from yourself. You tried it your way and you failed miserably. Now, you stand as someone wiser. The sins of your past have made you who you are;

  • They keep you humble because you know how weak you can be.
  • They keep you trusting God, because you can’t trust yourself to accomplish this on your own.
  • They keep you dependent (I know I’ll fail on my own – that is my experience).

exp.: v 5; this is the 3rd time ‘counted’ is mentioned; look at the other verses 3-8; logistics; it comes from the Gk word meaning to calculate something. This is an accounting word and it means to give credit to one’s account; to balance your books.

app.: to illustrate his point, Paul will bring in another heavy hitter… another whose face is on the Mt. Rushmore of the Jewish Faith: David

t.s.: The last section here is…

 III.  The Illustration (6-8)

exp.: rd v 6-8; Paul is referencing Psalm 32.1-2; Some people think Psalm 32 should be read with Psalm 51 – the great Psalm of repentance from his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. There are a half dozen words for sin in the Bible for sin and in Psalm 32, David uses three of them.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Transgression or rebellion; sin: a missing the mark; iniquity: think perverse. Three separate words to define for us just how far from God we are.

  • Rebellion is an uprising against the authority. I’m going to do it my own way.
  • Sin is a missing the mark. You line up, tee up your golf ball and shank it or hook it off into the woods. That’s missing the mark!
  • Iniquity is crookedness, perverse or wayward.

Each word describes a different part of who we are:

  • Rebellion is in relation toward God. It describes our action against God.
  • Sin describes our relationship to God’s Law. We simply fall short.
  • Iniquity describes the affect of sin on who we are now. It describes what we do and how we do it.

But just as David uses three different words to describe us in the state we’re in, he also uses three words to describe God’s action toward us in pardoning us.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

  • Forgiven means to lift or carry away. You get this picture of sin that weighs you down. It is a burden to big to carry and God simply lifts it off of you and carries it away.

I think of the people who get trapped under mounds of rubble in an earthquake or like when the twin towers came down. What a fearful and scary nightmare to be trapped below ground, pinned beneath the weight of hundreds of pounds of concrete. That is until someone comes and lifts it off of the person trapped. That’s a picture of your and my sin. And God lifts it and carries it away.

  • Covered: it means atoned for. It is the word for atonement. The blood sacrifice covers the sin.

The 3rd word is different in that it describes something God does not do.

  • Counts not: He does not count our sins against us. There is now no record book to show our sins. You have this record of your debts and now, God has credited to your debts the necessary amount to balance your books.

David was there. His sin was ever before him. Like a giant boulder, he was suffocating beneath the weight of his sin. But look at v 3-4 (Psalm 32.3-4):

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

But something changes in v 5:

5I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Conclusion: This Psalm means so much to me today. Many years ago, as a young man struggling between the way of the world and walking with Jesus, I found myself in this state. I remember coming across this v 3-4 and thinking to myself that this is where I am. I hated myself. I hated who I had become. I hated the decisions I was making – the decisions I had made.

But then something happened: I read v 5 and said, God, I want to do this. And so I did. I acknowledge my actions were missing the mark. I wasn’t even aiming at the right mark. I no longer tried to hide my sinful behavior, but rather uncovered it. The truth was I thought I was hiding it beneath my good works, but my good works was too small of a blanket. And, I confessed my rebellion and repented of it.

I wish there was a way to describe my relief. I wish I could communicate verbally to you the liberty I now felt.

I want you to know that you can have that same freedom today. You cannot do anything on your own to alleviate the burden you’re under. Salvation is available to you today and you don’t have to work to receive it. All you have to do is believe that what God said is true.

  • God’s Character: He is holy.
  • Offense of Sin: We are not. We have broken the law of the lawgiver and are at odds with him.
  • Sufficiency of Christ: Christ died to save us from our sin.
  • Personal Response: I want to give you the opportunity to respond.

I’d like to ask … to lead us in a benedictory prayer after we’ve had a moment of silence. Then, when he says amen, I’d like to invite you to the back for some cookies and coffee where we can visit.

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The Law of Faith

Title: The Law of Faith

Text: Romans 3.27-31

Introduction: We’ll be in Romans 3.27-31 this morning. We’ll also go to Zechariah 14 at some point. You’re your bulletin or something you can use as a bookmark and identify Zechariah 14.

This morning we come to a concluding statement by Paul. We’re in Romans 3.27-31; Paul presents this part of his letter with rapid-fire questions and answers. It is a popular style and makes it easy for him to answer questions he has probably heard before and can even hear being asked by the reader as they read his letter.

My guess is that this diatribe is with an imaginary Jew. Probably, an imaginary Jewish Leader. I sense from Paul, that he believes this person has a problem with Pride.

I read this week that Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it. Attributed to Buddy Robinson.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. He says he’s talking about Pride, in his chapter on Pride.

As we turn our attention to our text this morning, I want you to note how the diatribe is broken up by 4 sets of questions. My sermon has three points, but the text has 4 separate sections. I’ve combined the 1st two into one point. Here’s how I see it broken down:

  • 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.
  • By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
  • 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
  • 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

So Paul is saying The Law of Faith means:

  1. Boasting is ruled out – you can’t brag about something you didn’t do.
  2. There is One God who has done all that he has done for all people: Jews and Gentiles.
  3. The Law of God is not nullified, but rather validated and upheld.

The Law of Faith means

I.     Boasting is ruled out – you can’t brag about something you didn’t do (27-28)

exp.: rd 27a; οὖν; This word is often translated: therefore. Therefore ties the previous passage to this one. The previous passage is 3.21-26; It deals with the righteous work of God through Christ making us righteous – taking away our sin. According to this passage in 3.21-26, we’re all sinners. There was nothing we could do to make ourselves righteous. We were all in a state of sinfulness and fallen from God’s glory. But, in Christ, we are now made righteous, we’re now justified by his grace as a gift freely given to us. This is through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus whom God purposed and planned to be a sacrifice for our sins. His death paid our penalty for us.

Therefore, there is no place for boasting. There is no place for pride. Paul writes in 27a; It is excluded. This is a compound word combining the preposition out or outside with the word meaning to shut. Where is the boasting? It has been shut out! Paul continues in v 27b: How so? By a law of works? There is a question of whether this means the ‘Law of Moses’ or works as a principle (i.e., doing good works). I don’t know the answer to that but I don’t think it matters because it is the same result either way. Put both possibilities up there and the answer is still NO! But by a law of faith! And then he explains in v 28; 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

You see, there isn’t anything to boast about because you didn’t do anything. God did all the work in your salvation.

ill.: there is a story about a theologian who was being pushed to defend his doctrine of the sovereignty of God. The question: What part did you play in your salvation? He replied: I played no part. The theologian was pressed again: But what did you do? Reply: I did nothing. So the man pushed: You mean to tell me that you did absolutely nothing in the process of being saved. The theologian thought about it and answered: I did all the running.

app.: there are no works for you to do – God has done all the work necessary. He could boast – but that isn’t is style. When he speaks he’s just stating the facts; He’s not boasting. You (and I, on the other hand) really can’t say anything in a prideful way about our salvation because (you and I) really can’t do anything to earn our salvation. The most we can say about work, is that we were running from God. And God pursued us.

Think about this: you can’t boast in faith, because faith is basically receptive. Faith looks to another for help.

Ill.: Consider people in Scripture who through faith received help, rescue, intercession, etc. from God.

  1. The Woman at the Well: She didn’t run into town and say, hey! Look at me! Look what I did! She said: Come and meet a man who…told me everything I ever did. The people said: we believe, not because the woman said, but because we’ve seen this for ourselves. He’s the savior of the world!
  2. The man born blind from birth: Jesus healed him and the religious leaders didn’t like it. They kept pestering the man for an answer. He was like, “listen, all I really know is that I was blind and now, because of what he did, I see.” They didn’t like that, so they pestered him more. The man really upset them when he asked: do you want to become a follow of him, too!
  3. The Woman healed of her disease that had kept her bleeding for 12 years. She had basically given up on everything, after spending all of her money on doctors. She didn’t brag about how she was able to brave the crowd and reach out to touch the hem of his coat. I was brave. Oh, the people, they were fighting me off, but one by one I knocked them out of the way and that is what made me whole again! She knew it was Jesus who had the power.
  4. The Gadarene Demoniac; I love the way this guy just wanted to be with Jesus. He was so thankful for all that Jesus has done for him.

That’s four quick examples. We could probably spend the rest of the morning looking at examples of those who had faith in Christ and then Christ delivered them – he met them at the point of their need.

App.: Faith doesn’t pour itself out on itself. Faith is focused on another – the one who has helped or saved or redeemed.

t.s.: These 1st two questions are closely related to each other and pertain to us. They pertain to us in a negative way: our boasting has been nullified and our work has been nullified, too, because you can’t be justified or made righteous by your good works. The answers are simply put in the negative form: No!

Now we turn to God and the answers get positive.

The Law of Faith says there is no boasting, because you can’t boast in something you didn’t do. Next, the Law of Faith declares

II.    God is One and He is the Father of all. (29-30)

exp.: Where the first three questions go together, I think Paul is making a new argument here. I don’t think he’s building upon his previous argument. I say this because he uses the word “Or”. This is another argument in support of justification by faith; rd v29; See, here the positive answer: Yes, of the Gentiles also. And then, Paul says; rd 30a;

Now, what does he mean? Where is he coming from? It’s possible that Paul is coming from Zechariah 14. Specifically, v 9; Rd Zech 14.4-9;

Consider this: the context of Zechariah is a future day. If that is the case, then Paul is doing more than just saying Jews and Gentiles can now be saved. He’s making a specific remark about Salvation History. Consider this also: salvation is today. But, it is also a day in the future. You are saved on the day you commit your life to Christ. You are being saved today. And, there will come a day on that great day of the Lord when you will be saved. Are you following me? We are saved today, if we’ve committed our lives to Christ. But, there is coming a day, a final day, when salvation will be realized. On that Great Day of the Lord, Jews and Gentiles will be gathered into the New Jerusalem. There will be no need for a sun to light the City because the Glory of God will light that place. God will rule and reign in that place over all people.

But there is another verse that Paul might be referencing here. It might be that Paul is being super simple here. If you think about it, you’ll realize that the Jews would get this reference right away. Did you? Where have you seen this statement before? That’s right. The Shema; Deuteronomy 6.4: Hear O’ Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One. He is the God of the Jews and of the Gentiles;

To be fair, many Jews understood that God is the One true God. He is the Creator of All, and the Ruler of All, and is judge of all. But, on the other hand, they saw themselves as distinct and would reject the idea of Gentiles being on their same level. They had the court of Gentiles on the outside of the Temple. Sure, there were some Gentiles who followed God, but they were never on the same level as Jews.

The Lord is not divided. Rd all of 30; This is to affirm 3.22; all are sinners (3.21) and all are justified…

I want you to note the difference in words about faith used by Paul in v 30: who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Really, I couldn’t find anything with any solid explanation. Augustine argued some 1600 plus years ago that Paul was simply being rhetorical and stylistic. And most scholars agree with him. Paul’s writing style demonstrates for us what an intelligent and brilliant communicator Paul was. He was putting the Gentiles on the same playing field as the Jews.

ill.: To say that God is the One true God and Father of all is really being super intolerant today, just like it would have been to all of those Romans who believed in a polytheistic religion. Our postmodern world says that there are many ways to this one God and we’re all just trying to get to the same place through different paths. When you and I say that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and his name is the only name by which we must be saved, you and I are considered bigots, narrow-minded and archaic.

Appeal: if you’re sitting here this morning, or listening by way of the Internet, and you’ve never known what it means to be truly forgiven – you can today. That’s been Paul’s message: Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins. You see, we’re all sinners. I’m not picking on you by calling you a sinner. We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But, you can have those sins forgiven through placing your faith in Christ today.

Here’s another point: this takes great humility. You can’t be proud and come to Christ. Some folks struggle with the idea of sin and a holy God because they’re prideful. That’s probably how Satan keeps people from coming to faith – it’s their pride. J. Oswald Sanders said: Nothing is more distasteful to God than self-conceit. This first and fundamental sin in essence aims at enthroning self at the expense of God.

You’ve got to remove yourself from the throne of your heart and make room for Christ to come and rule and reign in your life.

Thomas Browne writes:

“If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
That might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, “Thou art not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art replete with very ‘thou’
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says,

“This is enow unto itself- ’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”

t.s.: The Law of Faith says there is no boasting, because you can’t boast in something you didn’t do. God did it all. 2ndly, the Law of Faith declares that God is One and He is the God of all. He makes himself known and has done the work to restore this relationship with him – that the whole world might be restored to him. A proud heart will find it impossible to come to this conclusion. Thirdly, The Law of Faith does not nullify the law or good works, but rather validates it.

III.   The Law is not nullified, but rather establishes it (31)

exp.: rd v 31; this word means to wipe it out, void it. It is to say that because of faith, the law is now abolished and useless. But that isn’t what Paul is saying at all. Paul says: μὴ γένοιτο; May it never be! Rd 31c: on the contrary, we uphold the law. When you consider 3.21 – that the law and the prophets bear witness to the fact that righteousness would one day be made available and that day is now, you understand the law isn’t made void. It isn’t nullified. It is Validated!

Furthermore, we don’t just live a life of license. We believe laws are good. Good behavior is needed. For those of us who love the Lord, we want to do what he wants us to do. We want to be good. We want to be righteous. We want to live a life worthy of this calling we’ve received.

app.: And again, that doesn’t reflect a life of pride. That reflects a life of humility.

t.s.: Humility comes hard. Pride is something that doesn’t want to die in you. But let me end with the words of the Momma whale to her baby whale as they swam along: When you get to the top and start to ‘blow’, that’s when you get harpooned!

Conclusion:

Application: Don’t let pride keep you out of heaven. Humble yourself, acknowledge your sin and find salvation in Christ. We’re going to gather in a moment at the back of the worship center for some coffee and cookies. I’d love to visit with you about today’s message. The Staff and Elders will back there, too.

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The Righteousness of God (Part 2)

Title: The Righteousness of God Part II

Text: Romans 3.21-26

Introduction: We’re picking up today with part 2 of The righteousness of God. I always thought that meant that God was good and perfectly good. And it does. But, there is so much more to it than that. And, as we make our way through Romans, I hope we’ll gain a fuller, even clearer understanding of what that means. You remember my three points from last week?

  1. The Righteousness of God Declared
  2. The Righteousness of God Explained
  3. The Righteousness of God Demonstrated

Let’s do a quick review of the 1st two and then we’ll continue on w/ #3.

I.     The Righteousness of God Declared: Declaration: rd 21-22a; I told you that most scholars hold this particular part of Romans to be the heart of the epistle. One of those scholars I quoted was CEB Cranfield who also said so scholarly what Leighton Ford says so plainly: God loves us just as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way. Cranfield said that God is Worthy of what we bring to him in worship and devotion because of all that God has done for us. To be sure, He is worthy of praise and worship no matter what he does or has done. But, that fact that God demonstrates his love toward sinful humanity through the work of Christ on the Cross, in the Tomb, by his Resurrection and His Ascension should lead us to devotion. God does not mock or insult his created beings by pretending that sin doesn’t matter. It does. Tremendously! And so his action demonstrates just how much he loves us and just how far he would go to redeem us.

Ill.: It attests the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness, which, whereas forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of his faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as his morally accountable creature, is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter, but rather himself bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously– lovingly.

So now, the righteousness of God, something truly inconceivable before, has been manifested to the world. It is brought to us and made available to us.

t.s.: Paul makes this declaration, and now explains it in v22bf;

II.    The Righteousness of God Explained: Explanation: rd 22b-23;

exp.: rd 22b-23; You probably remember me saying something about God’s perfect ability to demonstrate judgment apart from favoritism or partiality. God sees no distinction between people: not race, not color, not ethnicity, not social status, not age, not income brackets… God see the soul of a person. He sees is if a soul is blemished or pure. He sees even the smallest stain!

ill.: yesterday Go Light Your World finished up here. That’s why there are so many chairs in the Worship Center. Hundreds of folks from many different states converged upon Calvary for the Speech and Debate Tournament. I was privileged to serve as a judge and I was asked to judge without partiality. Cute 12 year olds went up against strong, smart 18 year olds who have been doing this for some years. I wasn’t allowed to give a cute 12 year old bonus points because he was so adorable. I was to make no distinction and judge impartially. And so I did my best, but it is hard – and we as humans are imperfect judges.

But with God, there is no partiality, no favoritism, and no distinction. Everyone is classified the same. All are the same, on the same level, measured by the same standard. Consider what he says: all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.

All are sinners. No distinction – no favoritism. But, as we see in the next verse, justification comes to all through the demonstration of God’s Righteousness…

t.s.: And that’s Paul’s third point…

III.   The Righteousness of God Demonstrated: Demonstration (24-26)

I asked these three questions last week, but didn’t have time to answer them. As we consider the demonstration of God’s righteousness this morning, I’d like to outline this section with three question:

  • What?
  • How?
  • Why?

So let’s do that now…

What?

What is being accomplished here through this demonstration? rd 24-25a; 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Answer: Justified; we are being justified (pres pass ptc); I like and being made righteous; Do you remember last week I told you: justify and righteous are the same word in the Gk. One is a noun and the other is a verb. You probably remember that faith and believe are the same word in Gk. It is just one is a verb and the other a noun. So, in English we have two different words. It is the same with righteous, righteousness and justify or justification. This will be important as we make our way through the text. We’ll come back to it. I mention it now because of how I like to translate this phrase.

Transition: for now, let’s move to the next question: How.

How? How will God justify or make us righteous? Paul’s answers are in the rest of 24 and 25a; 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. That’s how. Paul gives us three categories or parts to work through in understanding just how God’s justified us or has made us righteous:

  1. The Purchase:
  2. The Price:
  3. The Process

t.s.: look at the purchase first.

  1. The purchase –it almost seems contradictory in this statement. We’re justified by his grace as a gift. So, God’s great mercy poured out on us by his grace has made this justification available to us totally free of charge to us. It is a gift. Humm… let’s keep reading in v 24; through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. He redeemed us; if it is free, then why did something have to be bought back? See what I mean by ‘contradiction’? Well, it is free to us, because it is a gift freely given. But it wasn’t really free, because a price had to be paid. That’s #2 here…
  2. The price – I get this from the word propitiation in v25; propitiation means a sacrifice or a payment that is offered with the purpose or intent of appeasing the wrath of God. So according to our verse Jesus was put forward as a sacrificial offering or payment to appease the wrath of God.

Now, read v 25 with me again: 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood…

I touched on this last week, but let me revisit it for the benefit of others who might not have been here, or for those who were asleep. Put forward has the connotation of a public display. The NASB translates this: whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation bin His blood through faith. That’s an accurate translation and so are all of the other English translations; however, I think there is a better way to think about this. This is a good translation because it is so very literal and it is so very true.

  1. Christ was made a spectacle. He was very publicly humiliated and killed.
  2. Much of scholarship over recent years has leaned heavily toward this meaning of Public Display, which is why I think all of translations lean this way (like the NASB which I quoted).
  3. This word can mean a public display. And it often does in extra-biblical material.

But there are some very good reasons to consider this word as being presented from a different perspective.

  1. Some of the earliest of scholars (Augustine, Origen, Chrysystom) understood this word differently than a ‘public display’. Instead, they understood this word to mean purpose or
  2. When this word appears in the NT, it has the context of plan and purpose. This is very compelling for me. We find this word three times in the NT. The two other times in the NT both deal with idea of ‘purpose or plan’.
  • Romans (1.13): 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.
  • The other time is also used by Paul in Ephesians 1.9: making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time…

So, put these words together now: One understanding of v25 would be God publicly displayed Christ’s sacrifice to appease His wrath. That would be a true statement, but I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying. I think Paul is declaring here that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t something God used as a display, but rather it was his plan. God purposed in His heart, according to the counsel of His Will, to put Christ to death as a payment for our sins. So, taking those same words with our better understanding: 25 whom God purposed as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Or, 25 whom God planned as an appeasement of his wrath by his blood, to be received by faith.

Paul isn’t saying that Christ was hung on a tree to show us how mad God was about our sin. But rather, Paul is saying that Christ was hung on the Cross of Calvary because it was God’s plan and purpose from before time even began to satisfy the payment of sins through his death.

I think in coming to this solution it clarifies for us the love of God: the amazing, wonderful love of God. Who can truly grasp it? Before time began, even before Adam and Eve sinned, God had a plan – he intentioned it in his heart, to present his son as a sacrifice for our sins: a sacrifice that would pay the due penalty (redemption) and appease the wrath of a righteous God (propitiation).

That should blow your mind. Not only did God know Adam and Eve would sin before he created them, but he had a plan in place to redeem them. It wasn’t a contingency plan. It was THE plan all along.

Transition: So, we’ve seen the purchase (redemption) and the price (propitiation). Now let’s look at the process…

  1. The process – the answer is at the end of 25a: to be received by faith. I can stand here and offer you this free gift of God’s grace, but I can’t make you take it. Some folks are uncomfortable with gifts. Some people want to achieve this redemption – some, to somehow earn it. It has to be received.

Ill.: I could tell you each that someone has blessed us here today with a gift of $10,000. All you have to do is come forward and receive this free gift. But, what if you began to celebrate and then you left this building without picking up your check? How much of it could you spend? What could you buy with all that money still in my hand? You would have to receive it… deposit it into your account.

God did all of the work necessary for your salvation, but the process still involves you. You must receive this precious gift.

Transition: now, let’s turn our attention to the last question.

Why?

Why would God do all of this in this particular manner? Why not something different? Let’s first look at Paul’s answer and then whatever other options God had. Rd 25b;

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Well, there is your ‘why’: To show God’s Righteousness; it is to illustrate for us that God just and the justifier; we see it again in v 26; But here is where we need to go back to the words righteous and justify. Do you remember I told you that they are the same word in the Greek, its just one is a verb and the other is a noun? I think it might do us some good to keep those words the same in both places.

  • And are being made righteous by his grace… v 25: This was to show God’s righteousness because…
  • And are justified by his grace… v 25: This was to show God’s justification..

I like that phrase: the justification of God. The first time I ever heard it used was by John Piper. It felt weird to me – unnatural even. But, now I get it. And that is strengthened by these verses: rd 25b-26. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God is justified in his actions because what he does is right. He has perfect intentions, perfect motives and perfect actions. Look at that last line: that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

  • God is just. Perfectly so!
  • God is the one who justifies. And perfectly so!

As CEB Cranfield stated previously, God does what he does because he loves us so. He could have just annihilated us. He could have just spoken forgiveness. But there are two truths we are reminded of here:

  1. Sin really does matter. It really does separate us from God and it really has consequences that are eternal. I think that was one of Satan’s ploys when he told Eve unequivocally: You will not surely die! Listen, God was truthful with them and Paul is with us, too. Sin really does matter to God.
  2. God’s Holiness and Glory matter. To not act justly would lessen the value of God’s holiness and glory. And you can’t really do that. Anything less than holy isn’t holy at all! Any thing less and God would not be God – and you can’t have that. It just doesn’t work mathematically. God wants you to know he is holy and he won’t cheapen it.

Conclusion:

Cliff Barrows, long time song leader for Billy Graham tells the story of when his kids were little. They hadn’t obeyed him in something he had told them to do and so he gave them a fair warning. He said if he came home the next day and they had disobeyed him, he would have to spank them.

Well, as the story goes, he came home the next day and they hadn’t done what they had been told to do. They simply rebelled against their father. Barrows says they were real little back at that time in their lives, but he had told them of the consequences. The truth was he didn’t want to punish them. But he’d already told them what would happen. Billy Graham tells the story in his book, How to be Born Again.

He quotes Cliff here: Bobby and Bettie Ruth were very small. I called them into my room, took off my belt and then my shirt, with a bare back I knelt down at the bed. I made them both strap me with the belt ten times each. You should have heard the crying. From them, I mean. The crying was from them. They didn’t want to do it. But I told them the penalty had to be paid and so through their sobs and tears they did what I told them.

I smile when I remember the incident, he told me. I must admit I wasn’t much of a hero. It hurt. I haven’t offered to do that again. It was a once-for-all sacrifice, I guess you could say, but I never had to spank those two children again, because they got the point. We kissed each other. And when it was over we prayed together.

God is the perfect parent. The consequence of our sin remains. We will surely die. But, God has made a way. In his just and righteous nature, he can’t allow sin into his presence. So he punished sin by sending his son to die on the Cross of Calvary for your sins and my sins. And because he is righteous and because he demands a penalty for sin, he alone has provided a means of escape by pouring out his wrath on Christ and allowing him to die in our place.

I’d love to visit with you some more about this if you’re interested. We’ll close our service now with a moment of silence and then afterward we’ll have a benedictory prayer by … If you have a decision or commitment you wish to talk with us about, we’ll be at the back of the worship center in the Cornerstone area, where coffee and cookies will be available while we talk and fellowship.

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The Righteousness of God (Part 1)

Title: The Righteousness of God

Text: Romans 3.21-26

Introduction: I want to talk to you this morning about the Gospel. My concern in simply preaching and recording this message is that the lost person cannot possibly grasp the simplicity of this good news. 2 Cor. 2.14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Without an intervention by the Spirit of God, the Gospel is foolishness (folly, child’s play). I cannot intellectually persuade someone to come to Christ. Sure, there is an intellectual part to it, but without the Spirit of God interceding on the part of the individual – it remains a foolish concept. It is a message that is spiritually discerned.

Within the context of this passage, Paul has been declaring to both the Jews and the Gentiles that their works of the law, whether out of knowledge or intuition, will never bring about righteousness. Oh, it might bring about a sense of righteousness. You know, kind of what you feel when you do good things: go to church, read your bible, you give money or gifts, etc. But, those things, those works of the law, as it were, will never make you righteous in God’s eyes.

That’s probably why this message is hard for the regular person. The regular person says to himself: I’m not that bad. I’m pretty good. I’m better than him/her/most people. And their measure of righteousness is based upon someone else or something else. And here’s the thing: you and I will always be able to find people we’re better than.

You and I will always find other people whom we consider bad. And that’s the problem. We’re trained from early on to measure ourselves by others. The problem with using others is that they, whoever they may be, no matter how good or bad they may seem, those people we measure ourselves by are inherently sinners, too.

That’s the whole message of Romans 1.18-3.20. Paul wants to preach the gospel because it reveals the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of man and how the two can only be reconciled by the work of God.

And this work is only effective with the intercession of God’s Holy Spirit. So, let’s pray for that now.

Prayer:

Transition: We pick up our text in Romans 3.21 where Paul makes a declaration about the Righteousness of God. If we go back to Romans 1.15-18 he says he wants to preach the Gospel because it has the power to save everyone. For in this Gospel is the Righteousness of God revealed. Now, in 3.21, he reaches the heart of the matter.

I.    The Righteousness of God Declared: Declaration (21-22a)

exp.: let’s read that: rd 3.21-22a; Boom! That’s the Gospel! According to Thomas Schreiner: Most scholars rightly acknowledge this paragraph as the heart of the epistle. C.E.B. Cranfield says this section is the centre and heart of the main division to which it belongs. Cranfield, in his commentary on Romans, gives one of the most beautiful statements on the Righteousness of God manifested to us that I think I’ve ever read. Now, that’s a bold statement I know: Really, the most beautiful? Yes, and to quote him here is difficult. There are two problems with reading it to you. 1st, Cranfield is smarter than most human beings. When he writes a sentence, most people have to read it a few times, parse it and dissect it to get his meaning. 2ndly, he was British. So Cranfield didn’t talk Amurican. He spoke the Queen’s English. He died a couple of years ago a few months shy of his 100th Birthday.

Listen to Cranfield: the crucifixion, together with the resurrection and exaltation of the one who was crucified attests the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness, which, whereas forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of his faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as his morally accountable creature, is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter, but rather himself bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously– lovingly.

I know that is a mouth full, but Cranfield has concisely – really in one sentence defined for us just how far God’s righteous act has gone.

Consider:

  1. God’s Love: he could have at any moment along the way destroyed all of humanity and he would have been justified. But, God’s love for us is so great that he would not abandon us in our helpless state. …the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness… who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter. When we measure ourselves by others, we declare that sin does not matter. But sin matters to God. But God’s love for us declares to us that sin does matter…that his righteousness is important to him.
  2. The Act of God’s Love: God declares his love through his action of sending his son, to live in the flesh – a perfect and sinless, unblemished life. And yet, it was the Lord’s will to crush him (Isaiah 53.10). When we comprehend the Lord’s Act of crushing his son, we then clearly perceive the weight of our sin and the great punishment our sin deserves. Why doesn’t God just forgive? Why does the penalty of death have to be carried out? Cranfield tells us it is because God’s Righteousness matters to Him, our sin is a big deal and he wants us to know it. If he simply declared us righteous without any punishment imposed, then sin wouldn’t really mean anything. But it does…

exp.: rd v 21: the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it. To be righteous before God required perfect attention to the law, which no man could ever do…that is, until Jesus did it. And because it did, things have changed: But now…

app.: Now, the righteousness of God, something truly inconceivable before, has been manifested (which is more than just revealed). It is brought to us and made available to us. But how? How did God love us through this act? And, another question: why? Why would God do all of this?

t.s.: This comes out in Paul’s explanation as presented in v22bf;

II.   The Righteousness of God Explained: Explanation (22b-23)

exp.: rd 22b-23; I read these verses and another question comes to mind: what? What does he mean when he says no distinction? We know from many other passages, including our chapters 1, 2 and 3 to this point that God makes no distinction of persons. He shows no partiality or favoritism to anyone.

ill.: You and I are not that way. We try to be. We try to show each child of ours equal and fair partiality. But it doesn’t work. Sure, we love each child as much as we possibly can, but some children require more attention, more instruction, more discipline. You do this at work, with your neighbors, your students, at church. I’m thinking of how much I love you all. Do you believe me if I say there is none I favor more than you? Would you consider yourself my favorite church member? Would you consider someone else? I hope not. Henry, consider your class? Jason, Joshua, your classes? Do you have a favorite? Duffey, a favorite youth? Wait, before you answer: is there a person in your class or group you don’t get so excited about? Maybe the problem isn’t favoritism, but rather the negative way you feel about someone. That’s partiality.

But with God, there is no partiality, no favoritism, and no distinction. Everyone is classified the same. All are the same, on the same level, measured by the same standard. Consider what he says: all have sinned and fall short. Note:

  • One Action, Two Results: All have sinned and fall short. At first glance you might consider these two separate actions. Everyone has sinned and, everyone has fallen short of God’s glory. But, I think they’re one and the same action. You might consider it one action with two results. The results are that we are sinners and that we’ve have fallen short of the Glory of God. You might consider fallen short that separation between God and man.

Well, by the one action of the man Adam, we all became sinners. (That is a simple statement with huge ramification.) We also find that by the one action of the man Jesus, we can all become righteous.

  • All are made righteous: rd v 24; Do you see the word righteous and the word justified? They are the same root word; one is a noun (righteous) and the other is a verb (justify). Righteous is what God is and he makes us like him when he justifies us. And Paul answers our question of how when he says (v24) we are justified, we are made righteous by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

ill.: My kids are at an age where if they want something, they can buy it themselves. That makes it hard to buy Christmas gifts. If they can’t afford it, then I probably can’t either!

app.: Here is a gift you could never afford, but it is freely given to you. By God’s Amazing Grace, you and I, through our faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice, can be justified, cleansed and forgiven. We are justified by the redemption that comes through Christ Jesus.

t.s.: but still, how? How are we justified, how are we made righteous? And that’s Paul’s third point…

III.    The Righteousness of God Demonstrated: Demonstration (24-26)

exp.: How? Rd v 25a; God demonstrates his righteousness in one action with a dual purpose: God put forth His Son. Cranfield says this one action is three events wrapped up into one. His death – the shedding of his blood, the stopping of his heart, the ceasing of his breathing; His resurrection – that fact that his dead body was ‘quickened’ by the Spirit of God and brought back to life and third; his ascension – which I think relates to his glorification. These three movements of the same event are the one action I’m talking about.

But here is where, at least for me, things get tricky. The translation in western thought has the idea of ‘display’. And I believe the NASB says public display. To be sure, every translation from the King James on presents this action of God with the idea of public display. And yes, Christ was made a spectacle. He was very publicly humiliated and killed. To add to our confusion, much of scholarship over recent years has leaned heavily toward this meaning, which is why I think all of translations lean this way. But the earliest of scholars (Augustine, Origen, Chrysystom) they understood this word differently than a public display. Instead, they understood this word to mean purpose or plan.

This word appears two other times in the NT and both times it deals with idea of purpose or plan. One of those times is here in Romans and we saw it in 1.13: 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. The other time is also used by Paul in Ephesians 1.9: making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time…

Paul is saying that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t something God used as a display, but rather it was his plan. He purposed in his heart, according to the counsel of his will, to put Christ to death as a payment for our sins. You could translate v 25 this way: 25 whom God purposed as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Paul isn’t saying that Christ was hung on a tree to show us how mad God was. And I think we look at it that way. It sounds that way in English. But, Paul is saying that Christ was hung on the Cross of Calvary because it was God’s plan and purpose from before time even began to satisfy the payment of sins through his death.

Yes, the wrath of God was on display as Jesus hung on the cross. And, Jesus hanging on the cross suffering an excruciating death displays the idea that sin matters to God. That is all true. But what I believe Paul is communicating to us is that God isn’t whimsical. God didn’t just explode his wrath upon Christ. God planned it all out and structured every step in the process so that we would comprehend just how much sin matters and what God’s Righteousness means to him.

There is so much more here and so I’d like to move to some closure for today and come back to this place next week and unpack this idea of Demonstration.

Conclusion:

Chuck Swindloll, in his book, Improving your Serve, tells the story of a young man he calls Aaron. Aaron isn’t his real name, but just one that Swindoll uses.

Late one spring Aaron was praying about having a significant Ministry the following summer. He asked God for position open up on some church staff or Christian organization. But nothing happened. Summer arrived, and still nothing. Days turn into weeks and Aaron finally faced the reality–he needed any job he could find. He checked the want ads and the only thing that seem to be a possibility was driving a bus on the south side of Chicago.– Nothing to brag about, but it would help with tuition in the fall. After learning the route, he was on his own –a rookie driver in a dangerous section of the city. It wasn’t long before Aaron realized just how dangerous his job really was.

A small gang of tough kids spotted the young driver, and begin to take advantage of him. For several mornings in a row they got on, walked right past him without paying, ignored his warnings, and rode until they decided to get off… All the while making smart remarks to him and others on the bus. Finally, he decided it had gone on long enough.

The next morning, after the gang got on as usual, Aaron saw a police man on the corner, so he pulled over and reported the offense. The officer told them to pay or get off. The bus turned another corner to the gang assaulted the young driver.

When he came to, blood was all over his shirt, two teeth were missing, both eyes were swollen, his money was gone, and the bus was empty. After returning to the terminal and being given the weekend off, our friend went to his little apartment, sank onto his bed and stared at the ceiling in disbelief. Resentful thoughts swarmed his mind. Confusion, anger, and disillusionment added fuel to the fire of his physical pain. He spent a fitful night wrestling with the Lord.

How can this be? Where is God in all of this? I genuinely want to serve him. I prayed for ministry. I was willing to serve him anywhere, doing anything, and this is the thanks I get! On Monday morning Aaron decided to press charges. With the help of the officer who had encountered the gang and several others were willing to testify as witnesses against the thugs, most of them were rounded up and taken to the local County Jail. Within a few days there was a hearing before the judge.

In walked Aaron and his attorney plus the angry gang members who glared across the room in his direction. Suddenly he was ceased with a whole new series of thoughts. Not bitter ones, but compassionate ones! His heart went out to the guys who had attacked him. Under the Spirit’s control he no longer hated them– He pitied them. They needed help, not more hate. What could he do or say?

Suddenly, after there was a plea of guilty, Aaron (to the surprise of his attorney and everybody else in the courtroom) stood to his feet and requested permission to speak. “Your honor, I would like you to total up all the days of punishment against these men– all the time sentenced against them – and I request that you allow me to go to jail in their place.”

The judge didn’t know whether to spit or wind his watch. Both attorneys were stunned. As Aaron looked over at the gang members (whose mouth and eyes look like saucers) he smiled and said quietly, “It’s because I forgive you.”

The dumb-founded judge, when he reached a level of composure, said rather firmly: “Young man, you are out of order. This sort of thing is never been done before!” To which the young man replied with genius insight: oh yes it has, your honor… Yes, it has. It happened over 19 centuries ago when a man from Galilee paid the penalty that all mankind deserved. And then, for the next three or four minutes, without interruption, he explained how Jesus Christ died on our behalf, demonstrating God’s love and forgiveness.

Aaron was not granted his request, but the young man visited the gang members in jail, led most of them to faith in Christ, and began a significant Ministry to many others in Southside Chicago.

Application: Just like the young gang members in the court room, you and I will all stand before our judge and be read a guilty verdict. We’ll stand before God and give an account for our lives. The difference in this story is where God has allowed a substitution to be made – and that substitution is only found in Christ. And what’s truly interesting in this action is that it was his plan since before time began to make a way for us to be with him.

In a moment we’ll have a time of silent reflection. Here’s what I want you to think about:

  1. The seriousness of sin in God’s eyes.
  2. The magnitude of God’s love – how great it is.
  3. The incredible cost of God’s Grace – Amazing Grace given so freely to us.

After we’re done, I’m going to ask someone to dismiss us with a word of prayer and then we’ll all meet in the back for a time of fellowship over coffee and cookies. Maybe you’ve got some questions about church membership, becoming a Christian or what it means to be called to ministry. Maybe you just want to meet us. Come on back and visit with us.

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Filed under Romans, Scripture, Sermon

The Inexcusable Guilt of All Mankind

Title: The Inexcusable Guilt of All Mankind

Text: Romans 3.19-20

Introduction: This morning we’re in Romans 3. The only other text I’m planning to go to is Romans 7.

I watched the movie: The Case for Christ. It was a good movie, I recommend it. Highly. There is a lot of information given in the movie about Jesus. Historical, scientific, archeological, and the list goes on. Lee Strobel is an Award winning American Journalist whose wife comes to Christ. Both he and his wife were atheists before her life shattering decision to follow Christ. And so to bring her back to her senses, he decides to appeal to her intellect. After all of his research, he is drawn to this conclusion that everything he has studied about Christ points to the fact that he was a real man who died on the cross, was buried and resurrected on the third day.

At the absolute climax of the movie, the musical orchestration is at it height and Strobel has been working through all of the answers he’s found, he asks the big question: why? Why did he die? Why did he endure all that he did – all of the suffering, the cat of 9 tails, the beating with the rod, the dying on the cross – why did he endure it all if he was God? Why didn’t he use his power and stop it all – save himself?

I know you know the answer and so I don’t feel like this is a movie spoiler alert at all – but, at the moment this movie, this really good movie presents the answer, I felt like it just flopped. For me, anyway, it just flopped because the movie missed something vital to the gospel message.

The answer the movie gave – one word: love. And Lee was overcome. That is probably why it played out that way, because it was his experience. But what the movie failed to present was the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus was and is our payment for our sin. Why did Jesus die? Yes, God did it all because he loves us. But, his demonstration of that love was to pay the penalty that our sin has demanded of us: death.

For the wages of sin is death. That’s a sad story. That’s an offensive story. No one wants to hear that they’re sinners. Everyone wants to talk about love.

We come to the conclusion of this section 1.18-3.20 where Paul will make a final summary statement before presenting the hope of this desperate situation we all find ourselves in.

Here is his summary statement and I’m reading Romans 3.19-20:

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

An outline can be broken down as follows:

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,

so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight,

since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Transition: What we’ll do this morning is walk through each of these steps as they build on each other. This is what we know: the law speaks; in order that; because; because. Let’s look at Paul’s first statement – what we know.

I.     The Conclusion of the Matter: The Law speaks to those under the law (19a)

exp.: 19a Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law… How are we to understand this? Well, if we break it down, we understand it to be saying that after three chapters so far in Romans, we’re coming to a conclusion. And, that conclusion is that we now know something for sure. We know that the law speaks to those under the law. So, this is important, the first and primary people to hear from God were the Jews. They were given this great advantage of hearing and being given responsibility for the Oracles of God (3.1). The Gentiles follow in that there is an innate understanding of God’s law. But for the Jews, they were special people with a very special experience. And that experience with the law communicates to the rest of the world that no one, not even those who are special because they were chosen by God to be his people, no one is righteous of their own accord. Even if you have the very law of God communicated to you personally and being presented with the advantage over all the rest of the world to follow God according to his requirements, you still will fall short of that perfection. You can’t.

app.: And if the Jews, who have every advantage over the Gentiles can’t, then the summary is this: No is righteous. No one does right when left to his own ability. Not one! And the law speaks that to us very clearly.

t.s.: And just why does the law speak to us all?

II.    It does so to shut people up as they stand before god: there is no excuse before God (19b)

exp.: 19b so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. “So that” shows purpose; Gk is ἵνα; This is called a ἵνα clause; Which is totally different than a Santa Claus! A ἵνα clause show the reason for the statement. This sounds very mean to say it this way, but the reason is to shut the mouths of everyone who would stand and give a defense. There is nothing to say. You stand there with the knowledge that you’re guilty.

Not only will everyone close their mouths, but then there will be accountability. The purpose of giving the law to one people (the Jews) was to silence everyone and hold everyone accountable to God. 1.20: So they are without excuse. 2.1: Therefore you have no excuse. And then there is this key word: and. Not only will every mouth be silenced before God, but then there is this issue of accountability. You will be held accountable because you have the knowledge of your sin.

Ill.: You might be thinking to yourself that everyone being held accountable to God is unfair. Some people have never heard the Gospel. Some have never heard of the Law. Paul has told them already in the previous couple of chapters that they are without excuse because God has made himself known to them in three ways: these three texts declare man’s guilt before God and that we are inexcusable before him. God has shown us three areas where he has communicated this to us:

  • Romans 1: in nature;
  • Romans 2: in conscience;
  • Romans 3: in the Law.

Therefore, everyone is without excuse. You’ve known about me through nature, through your conscience and through the law. And because of that, all excuses are taken away and everyone is left standing before God with nothing to say. And then we will all be held accountable.

t.s.: But Paul doesn’t end here, he offers more… if 19b offers the purpose – so that every mouth will be stopped and everyone held accountable, then v 20 offers the reason…

III.   Because no human being will be justified by works of the law (20a)

exp.: I love that Paul includes this last phrase… in his sight. Maybe in their own eyes they might consider themselves justified. Maybe in our own eyes we feel justified by our works! 20a For (because) by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight… “every mouth will be stopped and everyone held accountable because no human being will be justified by works of the law.” What is Paul saying exactly? He is saying the Jews are the example for the rest of the world that no human being can be justified through the works of the law. They failed miserably. Therefore, everyone who tries will also fail miserably. They may have been justified in their own eyes, but not in God’s eyes.

ill.: I’m always amazed at how people offer excuses and try to justify their actions. Tyler H. posted a Yelp review of the restaurant Sweet Dixie Chicken on October 9th. Located in Long Beach, California, Tyler said he saw an employee entering the back of the restaurant with a big bag of chicken from Popeye’s Chicken and he wondered if they actually served it. So he ordered the chicken for $13.95 and asked the waiter how they cooked their chicken. After checking in the back, he told them they order their chicken from Popeye’s. The owner of the restaurant said she was proud to serve Popeye’s chicken that she bought her gumbo from the local farmer’s market and doesn’t mill her own flour.

app.: You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking: yes, we never imagined you’d mill your own flour or make your own sugar, but we sure thought you mixed all of those things up to create your own meals! She actually feels justified in her answers.

app.: But it won’t be that way on that final day when we all stand before the Lord. Not one word will be spoken. No excuses given. No one can say that they are justified in their actions. You might be thinking to yourself: And, why not? I mean, why would God give the Law if no one could actually be justified by keeping? Isn’t it possible to say that if anyone actually kept the law perfectly, wouldn’t he or she be justified before God? Was God lying when he gave the law?

t.s.: No! Paul explains this in his last phrase…

IV.    The only thing the law does is teach us what sin is because no one can actually keep it (20b)

exp.: But this is an important juncture. You see, it isn’t simply about information of sin, but it is an awareness that one cannot avoid sinning. That’s a deep cut! We know this because of the word in 19a: οἶδα; it is a more intimate knowledge from experience than the other common word for know: γνῶσις. 20b since through the law comes knowledge of sin. This is the heart of the matter: the law brings a knowledge of sin, but it is more than just information. This information is meant to lead us to repentance. God shows the law and we become knowledgeable about sin.

ill.: This past week my students in Venture had to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. In the story a lawyer named Utterson is responsible for a letter given to him by a doctor who is a common friend between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Utterson. It is sealed and the instructions are to not open the letter until this Dr. friend has passed away. At first Utterson didn’t know the letter existed. So, no temptation. Knowing its existence was one thing, but once he found out that he couldn’t open it until… Oh, man. I was screaming at the book: just open the letter! Information about something piques one’s curiosity.

Listen to Romans 7: 7-12: What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

app.: When we become aware of something, that’s when we’re tempted to fall into it.

t.s.: And that’s just what Paul has been saying: No human being will be justified by works of the law because the Jews have demonstrated for us that it is impossible to perfectly keep the law. And because of this, every human being will be silenced before God and held accountable.

Conclusion: That is scary in itself. Standing before God to be held accountable for every careless word, every thoughtless deed. And, if that were the end of the story, you and I would have no hope. But it isn’t. You see v 21 is coming and with it, hope: But now…a righteousness of God has been revealed. What? You can be righteous without the law?

That’s why I was so disappointed with Stobel’s film. It’s a good movie and you should definitely pop some popcorn and watch it. But, if you invite a lost friend over to watch it with you, which you should definitely do, you should add this part, because its not in the movie: Jesus demonstrated his love for us by dying on the cross, but the reason he did it was to pay the penalty for our sins. He did what we could never do. He was the only one who fit the requirement as established by the law.

Application:

  1. Everyone is guilty before God.
  2. No one will be able to say a word before him.
  3. Everyone will be held accountable for what has been revealed to the world.
    1. Whether in nature
    2. Or through conscience
    3. Or through the law
  4. Remember, there is hope – and his name is Jesus. He’s the reason for this season of celebration. We give gifts because he is the greatest gift giver. We sing songs because he has put a song in our hearts. We celebrate because he has given us hope.

In a moment we’ll break for fellowship and have some cookies and coffee. I want to invite you back to the cornerstone area to visit with either me or a staff member or an elder. If you’ve never invited Christ into your life and found the forgiveness of sins, let us share with you how you can do that. Maybe you’re looking for a church home or you just have some questions: come visit with us.

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Filed under Romans, Scripture, Sermon, Sin, The Gospel

Affirming the Call of God

Title: Affirming the Call of God

Text: 2 Corinthians 8.16-24

Introduction: We’re in 2 Corinthians 8.16-24 this morning. Turn there.

Answering the Call of God upon one’s life can be the most exhilarating and adrenalin pumping adventures for any man. It is scary and exciting all at the same time. The journey begins with humble commitment and unrealistic expectations. I suppose the same goes for missionaries and other types of call.

But it gets hard through the years because the church often times feels it must keep a tight budget. Pay raises are passed over and excused as budget cuts. Church members try to run a faith budget like their home or business. Added to this, no one keeps track of the minister’s days off (except for maybe his wife, who feels defenseless in speaking up about either the finances or the workload) and so he works too many days without taking the break he needs. Many men of God feel overworked and underpaid.

Church members feel that the call of God weighs heavily on the person’s life and that they’re called to serve – they’ve been called to ministry, not to money. The pastor and his family are made to feel out of place and awkward if they even talk about money.

Isn’t it odd how the church wants men who’ve been to school – who have a Master’s Degree or even a Doctorate, but they want to pay those men like they’re high school dropouts?

Anybody getting uncomfortable? Are the A/C’s working ok? Is it getting warm in here?

There are hard issues in calling someone to commit to this ministry. Aren’t there? You’re getting something very special here in calling this family. What will you give in return?

How Special, you might ask: The elders and the search team feel like we’ve found you the very best man for the job. That’s not hyperbole. That’s not exaggeration. We’re so excited to present this young man to you. WE believe we’ve done due diligence in ferreting out this man from the crowd of applicants. Furthermore, we believe Duffey to be an answer to the prayers we’ve offered. We believe this is God’s man for this position.

I’m not slamming any of the other applicants. There were some quality applicants. And I’m sure God has great plans for those people; however, we believe God’s plan for Calvary is this man. It began for us as elders a couple of years ago and has grown to this point. We done our best to follow God’s leading in this area. Nearly 2 years later, we’re standing here in front of you guys with a confident assurance that God has brought us to this place.

Transition: So, what do you do as a church with this information? How do you behave and act toward someone being called as Pastor of Worship and Students?

A Brief look at the Reformation:

Historically, the Pope and his Bishops did all that. The Pope basically issued orders ex cathedra and the people followed. Martin Luther and John Calvin rose up against that very thing in a little movement called the Reformation. Luther taught that Christians should gather, not at the call of a particular man (pope or priest), but that they should gather around their shared convictions. That was huge! Unheard of!

Ill.: Ignaz Semmelwiess had a revolutionary idea for doctors. As a physician himself, it was something he began to do in his practice – and his patients faired well because of it. He, however, was opposed and ostracized. His views were seen as unscientific. The mistreatment he experienced from his fellow physicians was so great and so overwhelming that he was forced from his practice. Decades later, as doctors began to see the wisdom in what he had done, they began to adopt this new practice of his. But he wouldn’t live to see it. He died in an insane asylum years before.

What was his crazy idea? Simply this: wash your hands before visiting each patient. That’s it. Wash your hands in between patients.

App.: many of you would be grossed out if your doctor didn’t wash his or her hands when they came into see you. But that’s because it is accepted today.

And it is that way as you vote today. It should feel natural. Christians in the 1500’s would be aghast!

Luther believed that Christians should organize themselves as their own final authority in religious matters. Next month will mark 500 years since this radical new teaching. You practice it today, but it was born out of the Reformation and established under much persecution. Luther believed firmly that the Bible teaches what we call ‘congregationalism’. We are governed as a Congregation. Luther and many of the Reformers believed that the sheep know the Shepherd and identify his voice. John 10.4-8

When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

Jesus warns the believers about false teachers and the fact that they have the ability to do something about it.

Cf.; Mt 7.15: A Tree and Its Fruit 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

We see this set out plainly for us in the pattern for selecting deacons. Acts 6.3-4: Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

I love this: YOU pick. We’ll put them to work. When Luther wrote about these new ideas and practices in 1523, he entitled his tract, A Christian Assembly or Congregation Has the Right and Power to Judge All Teaching and to Call, Appoint, and Dismiss Teachers, Established and Proven by Scripture.

You must understand how radical this was in 1523. The Reformation had been gaining ground over the past 100 or so years to be sure, but to pick and choose your leaders? That was a radical reformation. And just how did Luther accomplish such a feat? He translated the New Testament for the people to study these very doctrinal issues in their own language.

This doctrine of Congregationalism began gaining momentum through the 1600’s as John Cotton, John Owen, and Thomas Goodwin advocated for “the Congregational way.” By the time of the American Revolution, a full 40% of Christians in the American Colonies was in a congregational church.

So what do we do with this gift of self-governing? We choose. You chose your deacons. You chose your elders. Sure, it all begins with a sub-committee of sorts doing the hard labor of research and organization. But in the end, you listen to the voice of the Lord and affirm God’s will in this matter.

There was something going on in the life of the Church that we find is very similar to what we’re doing here today. 2 Corinthians 8.16-24 is about a collection taking place throughout Asia Minor and is being carried to the brothers in Jerusalem and Judea who are in need. That is the context. But here is the application:

God is at Work in Duffey’s life and in the life of our church. This is evident when you…

  1. You Affirm him through your vote.
  2. You Appoint him to his service.
  3. You Support him in accomplishing the ministry

Transition: let me show you where this is in the passage…

I. Your Affirmation of Him with your vote (16-18)

exp.: rd v 16; God was at work in the life of Titus, placing deep within him, a care and a concern for the people. God has been at work in the life of the Henderson family. At sometime in the past, he put a deep desire for ministry in Duffey’s heart. God called him to this service. Furthermore, God is calling him to serve here. That is being demonstrated through a passion for leading in Worship and ministering to our Students. Your vote today affirms the Call of God to this place.

rd v 17-18; It is so hard to explain the passion in one’s heart when God calls. It moves men to service and surrender. The passion for ministry is something that burns deep within. It is a felted thing, but evident in one’s actions. By your vote, you affirm

  1. His Call to this ministry
  2. His Passion for this ministry

t.s.: 2ndly,

II. Your Appointment of Him to this Ministry (19-22)

exp.: rd v 19; As your leadership, we’ve done what we believe is God’s will for Calvary. We have not entered this lightly. We have bathed this in prayer over the past two years. We’ve cast vision and dreamed dreams. We made PowerPoint presentations of how to realign staff and reorganize our ministry to accommodate the needs of the church. We’ve evaluated our situation and found it lacking. Stability has been the answer we’ve come up with and Stability is what we’re trying to bring about. We believe God has brought us to this place. Not just over the past 2 years, as this began for us in October of 2015, but even over the past 10 years. We believe and understand that God has been at work in the life of our church all along, bringing us to this point.

And so we present Duffey to you. But, like the Church at Corinth who had to appoint men to do the work that they couldn’t do, you must appoint Duffey to this ministry in our congregation. We present him to you for this appointment because we’ve found him to be of sound character and high moral value.

Note what Paul says of Titus and Epaphras; rd v 20;

  • Blameless; rd v 21
  • Honorable; rd v 22a
  • Trustworthy: Tried and Tested; rd v 22b
  • Full of Faith – con: with; fidere – faith.

app.: His presence here today with his wife demonstrates his confidence in you. He loves the ministry and mission you’ve displayed and have been active in. He and his wife have spoken highly of what you’ve been doing. We as a team have heard them. They are so excited about the opportunities to serve with us – helping us accomplish the ministry God has called us to.

t.s.:  Which brings me to my last point this morning. God is at Work in Duffey’s life and in the life of our church. This is evident when you…

  1. You Affirm him through your vote.
  2. You Appoint him to his service.
  3. You Support him in accomplishing the ministry

III. You Support Him in Accomplishing the Ministry (23)

exp.:rd v 23-24;  It excites me to think of this young man coming alongside me in ministry… to be my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. Which makes me think of a few cautionary points.

Benefit here doesn’t mean that your work is done. He is not here to do your work – the ministry God has called you to accomplish. He is here to benefit you, not take your place. His presence and ministry should augment what we’re doing here at Calvary. I’ve experienced this first hand when I accepted a call some years ago. The team that brought me in just disappeared. They felt their work was done.

I know you have worked hard, but now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to rise up!

2nd, We (the elders) don’t believe that because God has brought Duffey, Calvary will now grow to a thousand. Our baptistery will not overflow because Duffey Henderson is leading our Students. Our coffers will not overflow with money because Duffey Henderson is leading our Worship. That’d be nice, but your elders don’t have some “if you build it they will come” mentality. We don’t think Duffey is the Savior of the World. No, that position has already been filled and will never be vacated!

Conclusion: Howard Hendricks, Living By the Book (as quoted by Chuck Swindoll)

A scientist was using the inductive method to observe the characteristics of a flea. Plucking a leg off the flea, he ordered, “jump!”

The flea promptly jumped.

Taking another leg off, the scientist again commended, “jump!”

The flea jumped again.

The scientist continued this process until he came to the sixth and final leg. By now the fleet was having a little more difficulty jumping, but it was still trying.

The scientist pulled the final leg off and again order the flea to jump. But the flea didn’t respond. The scientist raised his voice and demanded, “jump!” Again, the flea failed to respond.

For third time the scientist shouted at the top of his lungs, “jump!” But the hapless flea lay motionless.

The scientist then made the following observation in his notebook: When you remove the legs from a flea, it loses its sense of hearing.

app.: Funny how the scientist didn’t connect the dots correctly… we’re worried that you might think like that scientist. Baptisms, Financial blessings may come and they may not, but don’t connect the one with the other. God’s blessings are God’s blessings.

Still, Your support of Duffey is vital to the accomplishment of this ministry. You call him, you appoint him, you support him. You support him with your words, your presence, and your money. You support him by loving his wife and their children. Pay him well and make sure he is keeping the Sabbath.

Duffey’s success is dependent upon you.

We’re going to move to a time of business now. We’ll take a few moments for folks to leave if they’d like. If you’re a guest, you’re welcomed to stay if you’d like, but please feel free to slip out if you’d like. As for our membership: we’ll take a couple of minutes to break (go to the bathroom or get a drink) and then we’ll regroup for our special called Business Meeting.

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, Calling, Commissioning Service, Faithfulness, Leadership, Sermon

Christ, Our Blessed Hope

Title: Christ, our Blessed Hope

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4.1-5.1

Introduction: This morning we reach the conclusion of this Summer’s Sermon Series: HiStory. Last week we ended the 9th sermon in this series with an empty tomb. The tomb is empty because Jesus is risen. And what’s more… we have this hope that we will rise again in like manner, should we face death before he returns.

Our text for this morning’s sermon is found in 1 Thessalonians 4. We’ll be there this morning, so go ahead and turn there: 1 Thessalonians 4.1. A 2nd place we’ll be is in Titus 2. So, if you’d like to put a bookmark there…

This sermon is the last sermon in a series entitled: HiStory. The premise behind the series is that the whole of the Bible is one story. From beginning to end, the story is all about Jesus. God’s intention from before the foundation of the world was to save his people and to send his son, Jesus, to be the savior of his people.

We opened this series with a look at the perfection of creation and how it was ruined in Adam and Eve’s rebellion. As they were banished from the garden, God gave them a promise of someone who would come and restore things. Gen. 3.15 was the 1st indication that Jesus would someday come. In the future, somehow, someway, the snake crusher would come and restore what was damaged.

We saw how life in the fall was a continual downward spiral, until God destroyed it all in the flood, but saved 8 people and a bunch of animals through the Ark. Creation was destroyed  and God started all over.

This 1st section of the series was my favorite. I loved how our Community Group spent extra time in this section observing a film entitled: Genesis: is it history? Del Tackett was our guide and narrator. I highly recommend this documentary if you’re looking for help in strengthening your biblical worldview.

In Genesis 12, God picked a man from whom he would build a nation and from whom the Promised One would come. This nation would be his people (Israel) and he would be their God. The problem was that they, too, rebelled, like Adam and Eve. Instead of serving and following God, they chose to worship and serve idols.

God sent them Prophets, Priests and Kings, but somehow, someway, they still rejected the God who loved them. Their priests didn’t intercede like they should have. Many of these priests were worried more about themselves than teaching the people and interceding for the people. Their Kings never lived up to the role. One came pretty close – his name was David. He set an example of what the true King would one day look like. But he wasn’t the promised King. No, these Kings led the people astray. God sent them prophets to tell the people His words. But the people rejected the prophets. They beat them, shamefully mistreated them and in some cases, killed them.

In so many ways, many of these prophets pointed to the Promised One, but none of them were him. After many years of being caught up in a cycle of following God, not following God – God grew silent. There were no prophets to tell them God’s Word. No kings either. The people entered a time of darkness and silence for 400 years.

Then one day, after those 400 years of silence from God, the Promised One finally came. God’s voice broke the silence. God’s son lit up the darkness. He came and lived a perfect and sinless life. Then, he died on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for the sins of the world – to restore that which had been damaged. And, after three days of laying lifeless in a tomb, he rose again.

Many of his followers thought that the Kingdom would be restored when he rose from the dead, but instead, he delayed the coming Kingdom. Instead, he commissioned his followers to share this good news of redemption with the world until he does return for his people.

Titus 2.11-13: 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

There is so much to unpack in these three verses, and that isn’t even our task today! It is an outline for our lives in this era: God’s grace Saved us, God’s grace is Sanctifying us, preparing us for glory. For now, what I really want to focus on is what Paul calls our Our Blessed Hope, which is Christ’s Glorious Appearing.

  • The hope you and I have as believers, as we live out our lives in this present age, isn’t the rapture to escape the tribulation.
  • The hope you and I share as believers as we live in this present age isn’t perfect health and untold riches of materialism.
  • The hope you and I share as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ as we live godly lives in this present age is Christ and his glorious appearing!

Let’s break down Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica:

  1. 1st, he tells the Thessalonians how to live while we wait for his appearing (4.1-12).
  2. 2nd, he tells them what to expect when Christ returns, especially for those who already died (4.13-18).
  3. 3rd, he tells them of the Great Day of the Lord (5.1-11). He’ll finish his comments on this in his next letter, 2nd Thessalonians when he teaches them about the lawless one, the antichrist.

Transition: let’s look at this 1st section, which outlines for us how then we shall live…

How then shall we live?

I. We Walk with our Lord (4.1-12)

exp.: rd v 1-3a; Sanctification is often seen in two phases. There is the immediate phase and the process phase. In a very real sense, we are sanctified at our conversion. And, in a very real sense, we struggle with sin throughout our lives – not experiencing total sanctification in this body until this life is through. Our statement of faith teaches this better than any other document. Let me quote from the BF&M 2000:

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.

There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

  1. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior
  2. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.
  3. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.
  4. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

Glorification is what we’ll experience at his glorious appearing. For now, though, how then shall we live?

I think it helps to understand that there is in one very real sense the sanctifying process that God is at work in us and on the other hand, there is a very real sense that there is our responsibility to be at work in the sanctifying process. Many Christians call this ‘the walk’. In Philippians Paul told the Christians at Philippi that they were to be “working out” their salvation with fear and trembling as God was “working within” them to will and to act according to His good purpose. Look what Paul says to Thessalonians here:

  • Be holy: rd v 3-7; avoid immorality, impurity;
  • Brotherly Love: rd v9-10; and then he gives them some instruction on neighborly affairs: rd v 11-12
  • Walk properly before outsiders: live quietly, mind your own affairs, work with your hands, and be dependent on no one.
  • Being Holy is how you live within yourself – it manifests itself externally, but it is an internal quality. Brother Love is the display of your holiness within the church. But there is contact with the real world, too. That is your … as he calls it …‘walk’ as seen by outsiders.

app.: We walk with the Lord and our work is a witness to those who are lost. Not that our walk saves us, but that rather our walk is a demonstration of what we believe to a lost and dying world.

t.s.: How then shall we live? 1st, we walk with the Lord. 2ndly,

II. We Wait for His Glorious Appearing (4.13-18)

exp.: waiting means that life goes on – day after day, month after month, year after year as we walk with the Lord; And, a big part of life is death; this was a concern for the Corinthian church we looked at last week – and, it is a concern for these folks in Thessalonica, too. They didn’t have a lot of doctrine to go with their newfound faith. Remember, the Jews had a foundation for their faith. The Gentiles, not so much! So, they had a lot of questions. For them, they wondered what would happen when their loved ones died. Would those who passed on miss out on Christ’s return?

Let’s read what he tells them; rd v 13-14; Paul told the Corinthians in his final letter to them that to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord; Paul tells the Thessalonians here something very similar: that as their loved one’s body lay in the grave, their spirit was with the Lord; Then, when Christ returns, they will accompany Him.

ill.: As I quoted from Joni Eareckson Tada last week: One day actual spirits will return to their actual graves and reunite with stone-cold dead forms and – in the twinkling of an eye – we shall be changed. Paul says, that those of us who are still alive will certainly not precede those believers who’ve gone before us.

app.: Rd v 15-16; And so, while we continue in this body, we wait. As our loved ones die and are buried, we wait. We wait for his glorious appearing where we will … rd v 17-18: 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

t.s.: We have this hope – not a hope like it is going to rain, but a certain knowledge and faith that communicates: at his glorious appearing we shall be with him.

So, How then shall we live? we walk with the Lord, we wait for his return, and..

III. We Watch for The Great Day of the Lord (5.1-11)

exp.: why do we watch? Well, read with me v1-2; we watch because it is unexpected and we don’t want to be caught off guard. Rd v 3-4; look at these three phrases that describe the suddenness of Christ return:

  • Like a thief in v2
  • Sudden destruction in v3
  • To surprise you in v4

Exhortations: (in v6-11)

  • Stay sober and awake! Because, it will come suddenly and without expectation!

Transition: there are many terms and teachings on this doctrine called eschatology. And, in preaching a message like the sermon this morning, I’m ever aware of the differences of opinion when it comes to End Times. That’s right, I said opinion. There are those who would disagree with me: they are so dogmatic, that they think they’re the only one’s who are right!

Let me take some time to lay out four truths that we should all agree on and avoid the hot topic areas of disagreement. This Wednesday night, our Community Group will be discussing these different views and I’ll lay out for you there what I see in these passages and in Revelation. In that meeting we will look at the areas of disagreement. For this morning, I arrange these doctrinal truths on which we should all agree from the book on systematic theology by Wayne Grudem. Bruce Demarest, a mentor of mine at Denver Seminary, also has a wonderful systematic theology in 3 volumes. It doesn’t read as easy as Grudem’s, but it is a wonderful indepth look at the end times. I’ve chosen to use Grudem’s outline because it was handy.

  1. There will be a sudden, personal, visible, and bodily return of Christ. like a thief in the night… Note all four aspects of his return:
    1. Sudden and unexpected
    2. Personal: he is coming with his army of angels
    3. Visible: this isn’t some spiritual type of return, we’ll see it.
    4. Bodily: Christ Body isn’t in the grave and he didn’t have just a spiritual resurrection after his death. He was raised physically, and he’ll return physically.
  2. We have no idea when Christ will return. The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Mt 24.44); for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Mt. 25.13); Jesus said that no one knows the day, not the angels, nor even the Son – only the Father knows the day he has chosen. (Mk 13.32-33). You and I can know the season – we can see the time for his return, and I believe that it will be soon and very soon. But as for that day… no on knows.
  3. We should eagerly long for Christ’s return. Maranatha, Even so, Come Lord Jesus. And as Titus records: 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Christians should be eagerly and expectantly longing for Christ’s return. For someone to hope for his delay because he loves this world and his life in this world demonstrates a tremendous misunderstanding of what this life is to be. If this is all you hope for, you’re missing something very important. You’re not understanding sin and its effects.
  4. No matter how you get there eschatalogically, Evangelicals pretty much all agree on the final results: we will all stand before the Son of God – unbelievers to judgment and believers to their reward. Believers will live forever with Christ in a new heaven and a new earth. In this place – this new heaven and earth – believers will worship God in a never-ending kingdom where there is no more sin, no more sorrow and no more suffering.

Conclusion:

Dr. Harry Pritchett, Jr. tells the story of a friend he had, who taught 8 year olds in Sunday School. In a Sunday school class of 8-year olds Philip stuck out because of his Down’s syndrom. Eight-year-olds can be cruel. The third-graders did not welcome Phillip to their group. Not just because he was older. He was “different.” And because he suffered from Down’s Syndrome, he had many difference that were quite obvious: facial characteristics, slow responses, symptoms of what we used to call ‘mental retardation’.

One Sunday after Easter, the Sunday school teacher gathered some of those plastic eggs that pull apart in the middle — the kind in which some ladies’ pantyhose used to be packaged. The Sunday school teacher gave one of these plastic eggs to each child. On that beautiful spring day each child was to go outdoors and discover for himself some symbol of “new life” and place that symbolic seed or leaf or whatever inside his egg. They would then open their eggs one by one, and each youngster would explain how his find was a symbol of “new life.” So … The youngsters gathered ’round and put their eggs on a table, and one by one, the teacher began to open them. 

One child had found a flower. All the children “oohed” and “aahed” at the lovely symbol of new life. In another was a butterfly. “Beautiful,” the girls said. Another egg opened to reveal a rock. Some of the children laughed. “That’s crazy!” one said. “How’s a rock supposed to be like a new life?'” Immediately a little boy spoke up and said, “That’s mine. I knew everybody would get flowers and leaves and butterflies and all that stuff, so I got a rock to be different.” Everyone laughed. The teacher opened the last one, and there was nothing in it. “That’s not fair,” someone said. “That’s stupid,” said another. The teacher felt a tug on his shirt. It was Phillip. Looking up he said, “It’s mine. I did it. It’s empty. I have new life because the tomb is empty.” The class fell silent. From that day on Phillip became part of the group. They welcomed him. Whatever had made him different was never mentioned again.

Phillip’s family had known he would not live a long life; just too many things wrong with the tiny body. That summer, overcome with infection, Phillip died. On the day of his funeral nine 8-year-old boys and girls, confronted the reality of death, marched up to the altar–not with flowers. Nine children with their Sunday school teacher placed on the casket of their friend their gift of love – an empty egg …

You see, believers get it. They know the meaning of the empty egg story. Like Philip, they say I have life because the tomb is empty; they know the hope of life after death because Christ is risen. And, they know the hope of His Glorious Appearing –

  • And so, they walk with God every single day of their lives;
  • They wait patiently, knowing that one day he will return and
  • They keep a watchful eye out, because it will happen when this world least expects it.

Let’s pray…

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Filed under 1 Thessalonians, Eschatology, Messiah, Resurrection, Scripture, Sermon

The Church’s Foundational Doctrine

Title: The Church’s Foundational Doctrine

Text: 1 Corinthians 15.1-11

Introduction: We’re in 1 Corinthians 15 this morning. Our topic: the resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15.1

“Our Savior’s resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it.” – John Locke

John MacArthur says: The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter.

If Christ is not risen, we are to be pitied more than all other religious peoples. 1 Cor 15.17-19: 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Christ repeated this idea dying and rising again to his disciples throughout his ministry with them: 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. Mk 8.31-32

David Jackman, the British preacher recorded in his commentary on 1 Cor. 15: The climax of the story of the cross is the resurrection. Indeed, without that demonstration of his triumph, we could have no assurance of Christ’s victory.

How can these men make such an assumption? Can it be true? Does the crux of Christianity rise and fall on this one doctrine? 1 Corinthians 15 declares it to be so. Turn there with me.

We’re in the midst of a sermon series on HiStory. The premise has been that there is one storyline that rises above the many stories of the Bible. That in actuality, although the Bible contains hundreds, thousands of stories, there is to it a basic story of Salvation: That God was always at work saving his people.

Paul presents three separate testimonies or pieces of evidence to the Corinthian church demonstrating the reality of Christ’s resurrection. The purpose is clear: without the resurrection, salvation as we know it could not happen. Consider Paul’s teaching to the Romans: that if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead… you will be saved.

I think it is important to point out that the Corinthians didn’t have a problem with the resurrection, per se, but rather with their own resurrection. With that being said, let’s look at the evidence Paul presents to them. As in a trial, I’d like to call each piece of evidence Exhibits. First we have Exhibit #1

I. The Church (1-2)

exp.: rd v 1-2; In our opening sentence, we read: Now I would remind you, brothers – the word remind, is really an interpretation, not a translation. The thought is right, but it is inaccurate as a translation. Let me remind you that I say this with caution. 1st, I’m no Greek scholar. I practice Greek like I ride my bike. I’ve got one and I ride a few times every week. But, that doesn’t make me a pro. I’ve never ridden in a race. 2nd, there are people who do this translating work who are a lot smarter than me. With that said, let’s look closer at this phrase Now I would remind you, brothers…

This word translated ‘remind’ means to make known. Luke 2.15: 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” The angels didn’t remind them: they announced!

In modern day English we might say something more like: I’ll have you know… which means you probably already know, you’re just not acting like you know. Maybe that is why the translators used remind, because their knowledge of the matter is already sure. So, he’s just reminding them… but in a stern way

In the original language though, the thought is clear: Paul is not happy with them. He’s chiding them. Some people, it would appear, have begun to live like they never even heard of Christ. And Paul is saying, That isn’t the Gospel I preached to you!

Ill.: Can you hear your momma or your daddy in your head? That isn’t the way I taught you to … Paul is saying something like: I’ll have you know, brothers that the Gospel I preached to you is the one you received, in which you stand and are being saved.

Something interesting to note: The Gospel (εὐαγγελίζω), is the same Greek word as Preached (εὐαγγέλιον), The Gospel is a noun and ‘preached’ is a verb. That’s the difference.

  • I Preached (εὐαγγέλιον),
  • You Received, (arorist, not passive)
  • In which you stand, You are living out; Stand; in the pft, the idea that they are in a present state of being because of this past action in their lives. It is the Gospel being lived out still.
  • The result: by which you are being saved – a passive verb. God is saving them, they can’t save themselves.

Paul is in effect saying: Whatever word you’re getting of no future resurrection or that it already happened is rubbish! That’s not what I taught you. In both of his letters to Timothy, Paul refers to a man named Hymenaeus. Hymenaeus was a thorn in Paul’s side. He cause Paul a great deal of harm. It appears that some of his teaching was that the resurrection had already happened. Paul calls this false teaching a sickness like Gangrene. It makes me wonder if this false teaching had infiltrated other congregations, as well. Like here in Corinth. We don’t know that, but it is apparent that there were men who were just making stuff up!

A great reminder for us today: we must be careful who we chose to listen to or read.

Paul continues in v 2; Rd v 2 with me: and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Some people think this is a proof text for apostasy. They say: This is one of the verses that proves you can loose your salvation.

Ill.: I received a phone call from a man in Oregon who said he is moving to Tyler and looking for a church. He said the purpose of his call was that he wanted to see what I believe. In the course of my doctrinal interview (which by the way, happens more than you think) we came across this doctrine. Can you lose your salvation? No, I said. I do not believe in apostasy. At this stage of the conversation, I began to realize that he didn’t want to know what I believe. Rather, he was looking for someone to debate with him. This was one of his many verses to ‘prove’ to me that you can indeed lose your salvation.

Those of you, who know me, you know my understanding that one does not and cannot lose their salvation.

This is one of those verses that helps me with this doctrine. As you see it in English, you might infer that one can lose their salvation – that is to say if you hold fast like it is this condition God has set up with believers. I’m willing to save your soul, but one false move, Buddy and you’re out of here! That isn’t the way this is set up. Paul isn’t saying if you do this, then that and if you don’t….

There are clearly people who make a profession of faith. They come to church and maybe even get involved. They can even share Christ with others, but one day, they walk away from the faith. This man who called me would say they lost their salvation. I, on the other hand, would say they were probably never saved. I say ‘probably’ because I don’t know. They may very well come back to Christ in the future. That is my prayer. I know people like that. You probably do to! That is my hope that they’ll return. They may grow up, have some kids and begin to realize their frivolity. If that happens, they cannot crucify the Son of God all over again. But they can repent and be restored.

It appears to me that much of this arguing is mostly semantics in nature. Someone says they lost their salvation, I say they never really were saved to begin with. The end result is the same. They say that someone comes to Christ after having lost their salvation. I say they’re rededicating their life. The result is the same.

app.: Here is all we really know from what Paul says: If you’re not living out the Gospel, you’re probably not saved. Again I say probably, because I don’t know. That call is way above my paygrade. I know that sounds harsh, but that is all we have. A salvation experience is evidenced by the life of a changed person. Paul says – if you’ve gone through this whole experience and walked away from it all, then your salvation was all on you – not God. You’re resting your hopes on your ability, your obedience, your following the rules, your church attendance, your…whatever. And if salvation rests on you – then you’re not saved. If you think you can get into heaven on your dad, your husband, your service, your money – think again. That is all in vain. And, you’ll walk away from it someday. Why? Because you’re incapable of fulfilling such a impossible task.

t.s.: in this phone conversation with this man from Oregon, I told him he might like to call another pastor, who shall remain nameless in this recording. This man thought I was saying to him, you’d be happier somewhere else. Well, that is true, but it wasn’t what I was saying. I said, you like to debate – so does this pastor. He got upset with me and said, you want me to go to a church that condemns your’s, because you don’t believe God’s Word.

Now that upset me. But I was nice and closed the conversation with kindness. But he’s got it wrong. No church, nor any person will be my judge, but Christ alone. And that goes for you, too. Sure, we do our best to maintain purity in this local body. That is our responsibility. But it is Christ who sits as judge over salvation.

And I think that is really what Paul is saying here: Salvation that comes by the hands of humans is no salvation at all. It is Christ alone who saves and the church is evidence, a testimony to the risen Christ.

His 2nd exhibit…

II. The Scriptures (3-4)

exp.: rd v 3-4; in accordance with the Scriptures. The scriptures testified to what would happen. The NT Scriptures testify to what did happen. Notice Paul says I delivered to you. This isn’t something he made up or designed. This isn’t something he created. He simply delivered to them what the Bible said would happen.

That’s the mark of a good preacher. Be very leery of someone who gets up and is crafty about God’s Word. A preacher’s job is delivering the groceries. That’s it, he’s just a delivery boy. It is the same with teachers.

Let’s look at these three components.

  • Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; Jesus told the two men on the road to Emmaus about how the Scriptures pointed to the Messiah and his death. 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Jesus pointed to Jonah as a sign for this unbelieving generation. The disciples quoted from Psalm 16 and Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52-53 and the list Goes on.
  • He was Buried
  • He was Raised on the 3rd Day in accordance with the Scriptures. His body did not see decay, as David had foretold.

app.: Paul uses this phrase twice according to Scriptures to point to the fact that the Word of God is a piece of evidence to be witnessed and acknowledged when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus.

t.s.:  His 3rd exhibit.

III. Eyewitnesses (5-10)

exp.: Eye-witnesses; rd v 5 and that he appeared… There is a good list here.

  1. Cephas, if find it interesting that the ladies are not mentioned first; this is Simon Peter.
  2. The Twelve, a title for the closest disciples. There aren’t really 12 anymore because Judas has died before the resurrection; however, it is a title for that group, even if there aren’t that many at that moment. And, at first, Thomas was there either. But eventually, he was.
  3. 500 brothers – most of who are still alive. We don’t know when this was or where this was. 500… brothers? It must have been at the ascension. But it doesn’t have to be. But Paul is saying, Hey, most of these people are still alive. You can ask them about it. Edwin M. Yamauchi, former professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, emphasizes: Do you realize that if each of these 500 men were to testify in a court of law and each were given just 6 minutes of examination, there would be an amazing 50 hours of testimony?
  4. James: the Lord’s brother; this one is pretty powerful for me. James used to be an unbeliever. You probably remember when we were in the Gospel of Mark of how he, his momma and siblings thought Jesus was crazy. He was embarrassed at the behavior of his brother, Jesus. Paul lets us in on something incredible here. Without this letter, we would have no idea that James was an eyewitness to the resurrection.

James saw Jesus resurrected from the dead and what a difference it made in his life. His life was so affected by what he witnessed that the direction of his life changed. James became the pastor of the church at Jerusalem and a leader in the early church. He served the Lord with his life.

  1. The Apostles: all of the Apostles.

ill.: Nothing beats a great list of eye-witnesses. David Jackman tells of Frank Morrison, who set out to write a paper disproving the resurrection. His paper was to be entitled: Jesus, the last Phase. He started with the crucifixion and ended with the testimonies of the witnesses. In the course of his trial, he mind was changed and he was convinced that Jesus really did rise from the dead. The end result was his conversion to Christ and his book, Who moved the Stone? Josh McDowell has a similar testimony of his efforts in college and the overwhelming evidence that demanded he cast a verdict of Risen!

app.: Paul says to the Corinthians: some of you aren’t living your life by the Gospel – at least not on the Gospel I preached to you. I presented to you truths from the Scriptures that point to this very phenomena: the Christ was to suffer and die, be buried and rise again three days later. Furthermore, there are hundreds of people who testify to this fact: Jesus is risen!

t.s.: Today is July 30th. Do you know what happened on July 30, 1967? Joni Eareckson dove into Chesapeake Bay and broke her neck. 50 years ago today. That human error has put her in a wheelchair for the last 50 years.

Conclusion:

Some years ago her mother-in-law invited her and her husband out to Forrest Lawn, a cemetery. Being a Sunday afternoon, she thought of a hundred different things she’d rather do, but being the dutiful daughter-in-law, she and her husband headed out to meet her mother-in-law.

The Realtor met them at the plot and began her sales pitch. The plot is located in the section called Murmuring Pines. She gave her spiel: with Joni’s head here and her feet there, she’d have a wonderful view of the mountains. Joni kind of chuckled to herself… like it really mattered where her bones lay.

The family walked around, but Joni rolled her wheelchair over her plot – the very place her body will be laid to rest when she dies – and she turned to face the mountains in the distance. A gust of wind blew through that area, rustling her hair and indeed, creating a murmuring sound in the pines. She writes that a profound peace settled over the scene.

Suddenly, in a sort of way that just overtook her, she realized that she was actually situated over the place her body would rise from – should she die before Christ returns. Listen to her in her own words: Jesus is quoted in John 5.28: for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out. Astounding! One day actual spirits will return to their actual graves and reunite with stone-cold dead forms and – in the twinkling of an eye – we shall be changed.

I think of Ezekiel 37: Can the dead bones live again? You bet!

Joni continues: We shall come forth and rise strong and brilliant with hands and arms, feet and legs, and like Jesus with his glorious body, we shall be perfectly fitted for both earth and heaven.

Sitting in my wheelchair under the pines, it was enough to spill tears. That grassy hillside ignited the reality of the resurrection, wrapping sight, sound, and touch around all the sermons and essays I’d ever read on the subject.

What Joni began to realize in that moment was something possible because Jesus has already been resurrected. And that is the hope that you and I have, too. Because he has conqured the grave, you and I have the hope – not hope like I hope it rains – but a certainty that says, that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, Resurrection, Sermon

The Messiah Finally Arrives

Introduction: In Shakespere’s history of Henry the V, the king takes the cloak of a commoner and walks amongst his men. It is 3.00 am and the sound of hammers hitting against metal ring out in the night. It is a somber sound of what is to come and the men know it. Soon they will be in battle against the French, who outnumber them by a large number. In the course of his walk, and incognito, he stops and chats with some of the men. Shortly, their conversation grows terse. One of the men tells the king that if they weren’t getting ready to battle, he would box his ears. Of course, he doesn’t know he’s the king. The king tells this man to give him something that he would recognize later on. He tells the man that he’ll wear it “on his bonnet”. So then, when he sees him again, and recognizes his property on this man, he can do just that – box his ears. As a reader, you know this guy would never threaten to beat up the king. But this guy has no idea who he is talking to… he has no idea who is in his presence.

1 Corinthians 2.8 says: None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The religious leaders who killed Jesus failed to see who was right there in their midst. They had all of the information, but their minds failed to process that information.

Which brings me to the task this morning:

  • Identifying the Messiah.
  • And 2ndly, properly presenting him to the world.

t.s.: this morning, I want to help us fix our eyes upon Jesus… and see him for who He really is. And then, present Him to the world. The text I’ve chosen to do this with is Philippians 2. Look with me at Philippians chapter 2.

In Philippians 2.5-8 we learn some important doctrinal concepts about who Jesus is. Rd Phil 2.5-6a;

1st we see that Paul is teaching us that…

I. Jesus is God (5-6)

exp.: Can I preface my remarks with the statement that it is most difficult to describe a spiritual existence with physical terms; Paul writes that he is ‘God in form’; μορφή; you’re most familiar with the word metamorphosis meta: change; Μορφή: form

ill.: Mark 9.2: μεταμορφόω

Here, Paul is teaching us that Jesus is God. Before we know him any other way – He is God. His nature, his form, his essence, his position is God. Let’s continue; Rd 6.b; 2ndly, Paul says that Jesus is equal to God, that is: ‘God in equality’; if a=b and b=c, then a=c; if the Father = God and the Son = the Father, then the Son = God. John brings this out multiple times in his Gospel; in Jn 1.1; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Two uniquely individual parts or persons in the same Godhead. In Jn 5.18 this very clear concept was a very real problem for the religious leaders: 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

app.: Paul’s teaching is clear: Jesus isn’t partly God; he isn’t from God or of God; Jesus is God – 100%

t.s.: notice 2ndly that Paul teaches us that…

II. God became a Man (He condescended) (6-7)

exp.: rd v 6b-7a; God becoming man is really an incredible action; and hard to fathom; there are certain traits Paul uses to describe this action; the one trait he magnifies in this passage is Humility (v3, 8): rd 6b; though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped… look at this humility displayed:

  1. Though he was equal with God, he let that go; he condescended, he stooped down, rd v 7a;
  2. Though he was fully God, he Poured himself out; κενόω; Emptied himself; This word means to pour out until empty – to empty out something, like pouring our everything within a pitcher. Jesus was fully God, but made a choice to empty himself of those divine qualities, characteristics and become a man. But there is more…rd 7a-b;
  3. Though he was master and King, he became a slave; δοῦλος; BTW: same word here, μορφή; Talk about a swinging pendulum – talk about a major transformation! Not did he just go from God to Man, but he went from God – the highest place, to the lowest place, a slave. Rd 7c; being born in the likeness of men.
  4. Being born means that he became human. Our text last week focused upon the fact that he was born of a woman – the fulfillment of prophecy. He could have arrived in pomp and circumstance in God form, but he would not have been able to die for the sins of man.

app.: Before we move to v 8, I’d like to clarify a couple of misperceptions about what we’ve just read.

  1. Jesus never stopped being God. Even while he was in the flesh as man, he was and is still God. His form may have changed, but who he is never did. Having emptied himself of certain divine characteristics it did not limit his ability nor his function as God. Jesus, becoming a man, never stopped being God.
  2. He wasn’t a mixture of both (say 50%-50%). He was 100% God and 100% man. James 1.17: 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. We probably first learned this doctrine from the song: “Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

So, if Jesus never stopped being God and he isn’t a mixture of one part and another part, how is it that he sometimes seems limited?

  1. His glory as God was hidden beneath or behind his human nature. So well hidden was this phenomenon, that some people actually thought he wasn’t a very good man, let alone, that he was God. Others saw it clearly (John 20, Thomas: My Lord and my God). Still, those who couldn’t just could not get past this idea that Paul says: he emptied himself. For them, Jesus wasn’t anything near what they had expected – a mere man, as they saw him. He hid his glory beneath or behind his human nature.

t.s.:  now, let’s read v 8; Paul is teaching us that God sent us His son to die for us.

III. Jesus was sacrificed for our sin.

exp.: Jesus is the One who was to come. He is the Messiah. We would know that he was to come because for centuries God had told all about him. The information is there… we just need to process it.

His one purpose, as we looked at it last week in Galatians 4.4-5, was to redeem us.

1 Jn 3.16: 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. You see two parts in this verse:

  • The sacrifice of Christ and
  • Our call to sacrifice for others.

Let’s deal with this 1st part: Christ’s sacrifice.

Why? Why would Christ die for us? Truthfully, that is an ocean too deep and too broad for us to comprehend. When you consider the sum of its parts, you’re left undone. Really, you are! Consider the 1st part of that verse: By this we know love.

  1. God is love… it is who he is… and so, he loves us. That in itself is almost too much to take in: that God in perfection would love someone like me – a sinner. Someone who rejected him. Someone who is selfish and can be so unkind. 1 Jn 4.8 says point blank: God is love; I don’t mean to imply that God is touchy-feely or that he is akin to humans. We must never take our human traits and place them upon God. True, we are made in his image, but please remember the he is not to be made in our image. He loves differently than we do. His love is a perfect love. Our love fails in so many ways. Which brings me to my second application.
  2. His work to save us comes to us totally free and undeserved. God’s love is unmerited. Eph 1.4: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. You and I don’t love that way. We try, but we fail. Not God – in his perfect love, he offers this precious gift of salvation through the sacrifice of his Son, free and unmerited.

Ill.: In our Community Group I asked our folks to ponder the lengths God went to in order to save us…in order to save you! Let’s do that for a moment. Move beyond this moment in time we’re looking at – when Christ was sacrificed and consider what God was doing to get to this place. God was at work before the creation of the world to restore what would go wrong. God was always… God has always been at work bringing about the restoration of what was destroyed in the garden.

Which brings us to our second goal this morning: properly presenting him to the world. In Mark, Jesus is quoted as saying: Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

In our video, Kevin DeYoung said: as you’ve probably heard by now and should definitely tell someone else…

See the verse above and when you consider this word world (Go into all the world), I want you to think ‘badness’ over ‘bigness’ (D.A. Carson in his little book, The Difficult Doctrine of Love brings this out so beautifully). The word world is often times used to describe the evil that has infiltrated God’s creation because of sin. There is not doubt that at times this word means the earth, but at other times it is used to describe the sinfulness of man.

  • Be in the world, not of it.
  • Paul said of Demas in 2 Timothy: 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Paul isn’t saying Demas loves this big planet, but rather the wicked ways of this world.

When you hear 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Think badness, not bigness.

The word So is not a definition of God’s love, but rather the demonstration of God’s love. I’ve used the terms manner and measure before. Then, consider the world not in its bigness, but in its badness. And, let that settle over you. Oh, how amazing God truly is, that He would work to restore what has been destroyed.

When you look at the whole picture from Creation to today, stop at the flood. God was so repulsed at the world, that he destroyed it all and started over. This time though, he sent his son.

The 2nd part of 1 Jn 3.16: 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. This is our call to sacrifice for others.

For sure, there is no place on this earth that we should not go to take this message. But don’t think of it geographically, but rather as demographically. Infiltrate all of its badness with this good news to every single person. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is the only antidote – the only hope against evil.

Lisa was telling me this week that one of her messages, Bible studies for the children during VBS was John 3.16. One task with the kids was to answer why Jesus came.

Why did God the Father send Jesus? Jesus came to Restore what had been damaged at Creation through Adam and Eve’s rebellion.

What did he do for us? Their 2nd task was to Recognize what Jesus did. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin; thereby, making this restoration possible.

3rd, they were asked, “How should you Respond to this Good News?” Believe and Receive. 2ndly, go and tell. Because they don’t know – they’ve not heard. It is as if Jesus is right there in their presence but they just don’t recognize him.

Transition: All of what happened from the very beginning has pointed us to this moment – the virgin would be with child and give birth to a baby boy, who would be called Emmanuel: God with us. This baby would grow into a young boy and into a young man. He would live a perfect and sinless life, thereby making him the only one who could pay the penalty for sins: yours and mine. He would die on a cross, making atonement for our sin. He would rise from the dead and ascend to the Father where he rules and reigns in glory as we await his imminent return.

Why did he come? He came to restore that which had been damaged. Our part then is to recognize the lengths God went to restore what has been damaged in sending his son to die for our sin. And, then we should respond appropriately with that Good News.

Conclusion: I met Jesse as a young man in the Army. We were stationed together and he had just been reassigned to my company. He was to me, larger than life. He had a personality they just drew others to him, including me. What was truly amazing to me was that he wanted to be my friend. I’m not sure anyone has influenced my life like Jesse did. Sure, many have had an influence, but Jesse influenced me as a total person.

He could always tell a good joke. He made me laugh so hard. I wanted to be able to tell jokes like he did. So, I practiced. Sometimes, I could just look at him and he’d make me laugh. He could just make a certain face or movement and he would set me off.

We went to the same church. Jesse could give me the giggles and that’s bad during a sermon!

He was so outgoing – not afraid to talk to anybody. I liked that in him. So, I tried to be more like him when I met people. I think some of that was already in me, but Jesse brought more of that out in me.

Jesse was very much an outdoorsman. He could scuba dive, skin dive, surf, boogie board, snorkel, sail. He could hunt and fish. We would go night diving and spear fish while they were sleeping. Sometimes, he would go down and pet a gigantic fish while it slept. He could reach out and grab a lobster with his hands. I could never do that. Jesse could hold his breath for what seemed like endless minutes. He would go down, find a lobster or gigantic eel, like those in the Little Mermaid, and then call me down. I would swim down, holding my breath. He’d point out something fascinating and then I’d have to go back up to catch my breath. He’d stay down there for a while and then swim back up. Amazing.

Jesse was the best friend I think I ever had. In many ways, I wanted to be just like him.

As I look back on that relationship, I worshipped Jesse in many ways. I know I have to be careful when I say that, because it can be misunderstood. But that is probably a good word to describe the relationship we had.

App.: When you worship something or someone you begin to take on those characteristics and manners. When you take someone or something and hold it out there before you – and, it consumes your focus and attention – a part of you changes. Now, that can be really good or that can be very bad.

What or who do you worship? What or who influences your life? Your decisions? Your actions? If Jesus is your idol, your object of worship, you will become more like him. And that, my friends, is one of the ways the people around you will see him. Then, when you tell them about him – it will all come together.

How will you respond to Jesus? I hope he will become the center of you attention and life.

Invitation.

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Filed under Messiah, Philippians, Sermon