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I’m Not From Around Here #3 – What To Do When Your Boss Isn’t Fair – 1 Peter 2:18-23


18  Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
19  For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
20  But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
21  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

If you are a parent of children old enough to talk, you have heard them complain, “But that isn’t fair!” And you responded, “Life isn’t fair!” We are born with a strong inner sense of fairness and a strong desire to fight for our rights when we have been treated unfairly. Although we know that life isn’t fair, we’re prone to fight back when we’re the victims of unfair treatment.

Let’s assume that you are a conscientious worker on your job. You get to work early, you’re careful not to extend your lunch breaks, and sometimes you stay late on your own time to finish a job. You’re careful not to waste company time with excessive chit-chat. You work hard and produce for the company. Because you’re a Christian, you don’t go out drinking after hours with the boss and you don’t swap the latest dirty jokes with him.

Another worker is, in your opinion, a goof off. He often comes in late, he spends a lot of time chatting with the secretaries, he takes long lunches, and he does sloppy work which you often have to correct. But he also goes out drinking with the boss and he always has a new dirty joke that sends the boss into hysterics. When a promotion opens up, he gets the better job and you are overlooked.

Life isn’t fair! The important question is, “How do you respond when you’re treated unfairly?” How should you respond? Is it wrong to defend yourself or to stand up for your rights? How should a Christian respond when treated unfairly, especially on the job? That is the question Peter addresses in 1 Peter 2:18-23. My guess is that you’re not going to like his answer. (I can guess that because I don’t like his answer either!) His answer is,

When treated unfairly by a superior, we should submissively endure by entrusting ourselves to God, the righteous Judge.

That principle is easily stated, but not so easily applied. Not one of the fifteen or so commentators I read dealt with the tough practical implications raised here. How broadly can we apply to modern life principles given to slaves? Do these things apply beyond the realm of employment to any situation? Is it always wrong to defend ourselves or to speak out when we are treated unfairly? Are Christians supposed to be doormats? If so, how do we harmonize this text with the numerous occasions where Jesus and Paul defended themselves and verbally attacked their accusers? These are some of the issues we must think through if we want to apply this text properly. I’m going to offer five statements to seek to explain and apply what Peter is saying. You’ll have to struggle to apply it personally to your specific situation.

The situation for submission is one in which we are under authority.

Peter addresses this to “servants.” The word refers to household servants, but these were not just domestic employees; they were slaves. They belonged as property to their owners. Immediately we cry out, “That’s not fair! Slavery is evil! Slave owners are wrong! Slaves shouldn’t have to submit to unjust authority! They should revolt!”

But that isn’t the biblical approach to righting the social evil of slavery. The biblical approach was to exhort slave owners to treat their slaves with dignity and fairness. They were even to view them as brothers and sisters in the faith (e.g., Philemon). And slaves were exhorted to be good, submissive workers. If they had an opportunity to gain their freedom, fine (1 Cor. 7:21). Otherwise, they were to be good slaves, in submission to their owners. It wasn’t a quick fix to the evil of slavery. It didn’t result in a slave revolt, although eventually it did topple slavery. But in the meanwhile, it demonstrated Christ-likeness within the existing social structure in a way that led to the spread of the gospel.

How do we apply this to our cultural situation? We aren’t slaves to our employers, although we may feel like it at times. Is it wrong to defend ourselves and to stand up for our rights when they are violated by an employer? That’s the American way, isn’t it?

It may be the American way, but it’s not necessarily the biblical way. God’s way is for us to identify the nature of the relationship: Am I under the authority of the person who is treating me unfairly? That is the first question I must ask to determine how I should act in a given situation.

God has ordained various spheres of authority. He is the supreme authority over all, of course. But under God there is the sphere of human government (1 Pet. 2:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7). Also, there is the sphere of the family, in which husbands have authority over wives (1 Pet. 3:1-6; Eph. 5:22-24) and parents over children (Eph. 6:1-4). There is the sphere of the church, in which elders have authority over the flock (1 Pet. 5:1-5; Heb. 13:17). And there is the sphere of employment (either forced, as in slavery, or voluntary), in which employees must be subject to employers (1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5-9).

Once we’ve identified whether or not we are under the authority of the person who is mistreating us, we then must examine our own attitude and motives and ask: Do I have a proper attitude of submission, or am I selfishly fighting for my rights? If I’m truly in submission and I’m not acting for selfish reasons, I would argue that there is a proper place for respectful communication that seeks to clarify falsehood and promote the truth. In other words, if our attitude and motives are in submission to God, we need not always silently endure unjust treatment as Christian doormats. There is a proper place for self-defense and for confronting the errors of those who have mistreated us, as long as we work through proper channels.

I make this point because many take the overly simplistic (and erroneous) view that Christians must always endure mistreatment in silence and that self-defense is always wrong. But Jesus Himself did not do this, nor did the Apostle Paul who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For example, in John 8 the Jews attacked Jesus’ character and authority by saying that He was bearing false witness about Himself and that He was illegitimately born. Jesus did not silently endure this attack. Rather, He defended Himself as being sent from the Father and He attacked these critics by saying that they were of their father, the devil! That’s hardly a passive, silent response! Nor was Jesus passive when He attacked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23). The Apostle Paul wrote 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and parts of other epistles to defend his character and ministry which were under attack. He put down his critics in a strong and, at times, sarcastic manner.

How can we harmonize such vigorous self-defense with Peter’s exhortation to silent submission? It seems to me that there are several factors to consider in deciding whether to defend myself or silently to bear reproach. First, Am I under the authority of the one attacking me? If so, I need to examine my life to see if I’m doing something to provoke the attack. If so, I deserve punishment (2:20). I may need to ask the person to help me with a blind spot. I may need to explain my motivation. If I conclude that the superior is simply out to get me because of my faith, I probably need to bear the unfair treatment patiently for Christ’s sake.

A second question: Is God’s truth being called into question or ridiculed? If so, I should clearly defend the truth. During Jesus’ mockery of a trial before the Sanhedrin, He was silent until the high priest said, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus couldn’t remain silent to that question, so He answered, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:63-64).

A third factor concerns our witness to outsiders. If I am being falsely attacked on the job, I need to ask myself how I can bear the most effective witness for Jesus Christ. It may be that a quiet but confident answer would be most effective. But if they’ve heard where I stand, it may be that quiet submission, where I let go of my rights, would be most effective. More on this in a moment.

The main principle is, am I under the authority of the person who is acting unfairly toward me? If I am, then I can appeal with the proper attitude of submission. But if the appeal fails, I must submit. Does that mean that I must remain under unjust authority for the rest of my life? Isn’t there a place for getting out from under corrupt authority? The answer is, “Yes, but be careful!” There is a place for Christians to flee from a corrupt government.

There is a time to get out from under corrupt spiritual authority (as in the Reformation). There is a time for moving from a bad employer. But if you move too quickly, you may miss what God is seeking to do in the difficult situation. He may want to teach you some hard lessons of being like Christ. He may want to bear witness through you. So weigh things carefully before you make a move. If you are defiant or impulsive, you probably should stay put and learn to submit.

The motives for submission are to please God and bear witness to the lost.

THE PRIMARY MOTIVE FOR SUBMISSION IS TO PLEASE GOD.

When Peter says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect,” it should be translated, “with all fear.” In the previous verse Peter distinguished between fearing God and honoring the king. So here, when he says that we should be submissive with all fear, he means, “fear toward God,” not “fear toward the earthly master.”

Also, twice (2:19a, 20b) Peter says that submitting to unjust treatment “finds favor with God.” Peter’s language here reflects the teaching of Jesus in Luke 6:32-35, which was no doubt in Peter’s mind (“what credit” there is the same Greek word as “favor” here). The idea is that God gives grace (same Greek word as “credit” and “favor”) to the humble, not to the defiant, assertive, and self-reliant. If we defy an authority which God has placed over us, we are, in effect, defying God Himself. Thus, conscious of God (probably the best translation of “conscience toward God” [2:19, NASB]), we should seek to submit to please Him, trusting Him to deal with the unjust authority.

One way to apply this is consciously to recognize that you don’t work primarily for your employer; you work for God. Howard Hendricks tells the story of being on an airliner that was delayed on the ground. Passengers grew increasingly impatient. One obnoxious man kept venting his frustrations on the stewardess. But she responded graciously and courteously in spite of his abuse.

After they finally got airborne and things calmed down, Dr. Hendricks called the woman aside and said, “I want to get your name so that I can write a letter of commendation to your employer.” He was surprised when she responded, “Thank you, sir, but I don’t work for American Airlines.” He sputtered, “You don’t?” “No,” she explained, “I work for my Lord Jesus Christ.” She went on to explain that before each flight, she and her husband would pray together that she would be a good representative of Christ on her job. She sought to please God first.

A SECONDARY MOTIVE FOR SUBMISSION IS TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE LOST.

The issue of a slave’s response to his master had far-reaching cultural implications in that day when there were millions of slaves. If Christian slaves were defiant, critics could have accused Christianity of stirring up rebellion and undermining the whole fabric of the society. Thus the theme of our witness to a pagan world underlies this section (as it does the previous and following paragraphs also).

Christ suffered on our behalf (2:21). His unjust suffering (Peter uses this word instead of “death” to relate to his readers’ suffering) secured our salvation in a substitutionary sense (as Peter goes on to make clear in 2:24). In a similar, but not totally analogous way, our unjust suffering can lead to the salvation of lost people if they see the character of Christ in us as we suffer. The attitude of fighting for our rights communicates to the world that we’re living for the things of this world. Submitting to unfair treatment and giving up our rights communicates the truth, that we’re living as pilgrims on our way to heaven.

If you’re being treated unfairly at work, you may be looking at a tremendous opportunity to bear witness for Christ by your behavior. If you yield your rights in a Christlike manner, people will notice and may wonder, “Why doesn’t he fight for his rights?” Maybe you’ll get an opportunity to tell them. If so, your words are backed up by the powerful testimony of your good works. You have demonstrated what it means to live under God’s authority, with a view to pleasing Him.

This raises the question of whether or not it is proper for Christians to belong to trade unions. That’s a sensitive issue, and I don’t have time to deal with it. I will say in passing that you need to think through whether you can bear witness of a Christlike spirit, in submission to God and to your employer, while belonging to an organization that seeks to fight for your rights.

Thus, the situation for submission is one in which we are under authority. The motives for submission are to please God and to bear witness.

The pattern for submission is Jesus Christ.

Christ left an example for us to follow in His steps (2:21). The word example is literally, “underwriting.” It was a school word. Teachers would lightly trace the letters of the alphabet so that students could write over them to learn how to write. Or, as in our day, teachers would put examples of the alphabet up in the room for students to look at to copy as they formed their letters. Christ is that kind of example for us. If we follow how He lived, we will form our lives correctly.

Following “in His steps” pictures a child who steps in his father’s footprints in the snow. Where the father goes, the child goes, because he puts his feet in those same footprints. In like manner, we are to follow our Savior. Peter says that we are called to the same purpose as Christ was (2:21). If our Master’s footprints led to the cross where He suffered unjustly, so we can expect to die to self and suffer unjustly. If we respond as He did, people will see our Savior in us. Many people will never read the Bible, but they do read our lives. They should see Christlikeness there, not a defiant spirit of self-will that characterizes those who are living for themselves and the things of this world.

The principle of submission involves not retaliating when we are wronged.

When Jesus was wronged, He did not retaliate in kind. He could have called legions of angels to strike down His enemies. He could have selfishly stood up for His rights (after all, He is Lord of the universe!). But He didn’t. He always acted selflessly, even when He did confront His accusers. While we’ll never be as unselfish as Jesus, it is a goal we should strive for.

Peter quotes (2:22-23) from Isaiah 53 to show how Jesus did not retaliate when He was wronged. There are four things mentioned which we need to keep in mind when we are treated unfairly. First, Jesus did not commit sin. He always acted in obedience to the Father, never in self-will. Second, there was never any deceit in His mouth. He didn’t bend the facts to win the argument or get His own way. When He defended Himself, He was always truthful. Third, when He was reviled, He didn’t revile in return. He didn’t trade insults. Fourth, He uttered no threats. He didn’t say, “Just you wait! I’ll get even with you!” In other words, Jesus didn’t respond to verbal abuse with more verbal abuse. Neither should we. Vengeance is always wrong for the Christian (Rom. 12:19).

How can we possibly live this way? Peter gives the answer in the final clause of 2:23:

The means of submission is to entrust ourselves to the Righteous Judge.

Jesus made it through the cross by continually entrusting Himself to the Father who judges righteously. He knew that He would be vindicated by being raised from the dead and enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He knew that His persecutors would be judged and dealt with according to their sins. So He “delivered Himself up” (the literal translation of “entrusted”) to God. It is the same word used for Jesus being delivered up to Pilate by the Jews and to the soldiers by Pilate (John 19:11, 16). They delivered Him up to death, but He delivered Himself up for our sins, trusting in the Father.

Jesus entrusted Himself to the Father, knowing that even though the way led to the cross, it also led through the cross to the glory beyond. Even so, we can entrust ourselves to God. The way will lead to the cross; but also, it will lead through the cross to the glory that awaits us in heaven. God is the righteous Judge who will someday right every wrong and bring vengeance on those who resist His authority. Our task is to trust Him by submitting to human authority, even when we are treated unfairly.

Conclusion

The great goal of the Christian life is to be like Jesus. That sounds wonderful until we realize that being like Jesus means submitting to proper authority, even if it’s unjust. It means submitting to please God and to bear witness to the lost. It means following Christ’s example, even as He went to the cross. It means not retaliating when we’re wronged. It means entrusting ourselves to the Righteous Judge, knowing that someday He will right all the wrongs.

These are not easy things for any of us to apply. But consider the rebellious spirit of our age and of our country and ask yourself if you are behaving properly toward those in authority over you, especially at work. Our response to unfair treatment should be submission, not fighting for our rights. If we put our trust in God, He will look out for us and right all the wrongs. It’s true: life isn’t fair! But thank God that Jesus endured unfair treatment on our behalf by bearing our sins so that we could receive eternal life!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in Sermon

 

I’m Not From Around Here #1 – Get Into the Word 1 Peter 2:1-3


“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles…”

Have you ever relied on the expression “I’m not from around here?” It’s something I’ve said quite often when someone stops me wanting information or directions when I am visiting another city, state, or country. They understand and are quite comfortable “moving on” to find someone who can help them.

Our subject is the pilgrim life (sojourners/exiles) – the fact that we are just passing through this life, journeying toward heaven. We are on this earth only for a short while and we should feel as settled in this world as we would feel if we were traveling in Mongolia. It may be a fascinating place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to sink down roots there.

Being a pilgrim just isn’t the dominant model of the Christian life for our times. Our view of Christianity is often geared to the here and now: What will it do for my marriage? How will it help me raise my kids? Will it help me succeed in my career? Will it help me overcome personal problems?  Will it help me feel fulfilled as a person?

For some, heaven is thrown in as a nice benefit at the end of the ride. But heaven is not our focus. We want to enjoy life now and cling to it as long as we’re able. We don’t view death as the gateway to everything we’ve been living for. We see it as something to be postponed and avoided at all costs. We often don’t view ourselves as pilgrims.

There’s nothing wrong and everything right about enjoying God and the blessings He freely bestows on us in this life. But if we don’t hold the things of this life loosely and aren’t focused on God Himself and on being in heaven with Him as our goal, we are holding to a shallow form of Christianity.

If we’re just living for the good life that being a Christian gives now, we won’t last very long under persecution. We wouldn’t endure much suffering. Nor would we withstand the many temptations to indulge in fleshly desires. The only thing that can steel us to endure suffering and to seek holiness in this wicked world is to live as pilgrims, bound for heaven.

Part #1: Getting Into The Word (1 Peter 2:2-3)

In his book, A Quest for Godliness J. I. Packer reports that a Puritan preacher named Laurence Chaderton once apologized to his congregation for preaching for two hours. They responded, “Sir, Go on, go on!” Ah! Every preacher’s dream! At 82, after preaching for 50 years, Chaderton decided to retire. He received letters from 40 clergy begging him not to, testifying that they owed their conversion to his ministry of the Word (p. 57).

Packer states (p. 98): Puritanism was, above all else, a Bible movement. To the Puritan the Bible was in truth the most precious possession that this world affords. His deepest conviction was that reverence for God means reverence for Scripture, and serving God means obeying Scripture. To his mind, therefore, no greater insult could be offered to the Creator than to neglect his written word; and, conversely, there could be no truer act of homage to him than to prize it and pore over it, and then to live out and give out its teaching. Intense veneration for Scripture, as the living word of the living God, and a devoted concern to know and do all that it prescribes, was Puritanism’s hallmark.” (at a seminar at Harding University, we were told that Martyn Lloyd-Jones spend MANY years teaching just from the book of Romans.)

I assure you that I won’t preach for even 35 minutes this morning. But I this will be my feeble attempt to motivate each of us to get into God’s Word consistently. More than the food we eat, we must have God’s Word!

We must have God’s Word to grow in our salvation. 1 Peter 2:2 (ESV)

2  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

God’s Word not only imparts life to us, it nurtures and sustains it. Apart from God’s Word, we shrivel and die like a starving child whose mother’s milk has dried up and who has no other source of food. Therefore, we must have God’s Word.

What the Word is like: The word is pure (2:2).

The Greek word means, literally, not deceitful. It means unadulterated, not watered down. Dishonest merchants in that day would add water to their milk to make more profit. This was “deceitful” milk. Peter tells us to long for the pure, not-deceitful milk.

This means that the Bible, if you take it straight, tells you the honest truth about yourself. It exposes the very thoughts and motives of your heart so that you have no where to hide.

It is not uncommon, after I preach, to have someone come up to me and ask, “Did anyone tell you about what I went through this past week?” When I assure them that no one told me anything, they say, “It seemed like you knew everything and you were aiming that sermon directly at me.” It isn’t me; it’s the Bible!

We tend to deceive and flatter ourselves. But the Word of God cuts through the deception and lays out the honest truth so that we can deal with our problems.

That’s like going to a doctor who doesn’t talk about sickness, but who gives his patients sugar-coated pills that make them feel good without dealing with the root cause of their problems.

The Bible declares that the root cause of our problems is our sin. By confronting our sin and presenting God’s remedy for it, the Bible brings lasting healing.

The word is rational.

The literal translation of verse 2 is that we should long for “the pure, spiritual milk.” The word “spiritual” also means “rational” (Greek = “logikos,” from “logos”). The only other time it occurs in the Bible is in Romans 12:1, where Paul says that presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God is our “spiritual (or rational) service of worship.”

He means that it is a spiritual thing to do, since we don’t do it literally (as a burnt offering), but rather spiritually by yielding ourselves to the will of God. And, it is the reasonable thing to do in light of God’s great mercies to us.

This spiritual milk is rational–it is grasped with the mind.

Thus Christianity is essentially rational, but not rational in the worldly sense, but rational in a spiritual sense. Human reason must be subject to the written revelation God has given of Himself in the Bible. But you cannot know God without using your mind, since He has revealed Himself in the propositional revelation of the written Word.

This balance would correct many of the excesses of our day. Some Christians who are heavily subjective. They operate on a feeling level, devoid of solid theological content. Others emphasize theological content, but they’re afraid of emotions. The Word of God ought to fill our minds with the knowledge of God and move our hearts with His majesty and love.

The word is nourishing.

Peter is referring to a mother’s milk, as the analogy of newborn babes makes clear. He isn’t contrasting the milk of God’s Word with meat, as Paul does (1 Cor. 3:2). We are always to be feeding on this nourishing milk. It is simple enough for the youngest infant in the faith, but solid enough for the most mature saints.

God has designed a mother’s milk as the perfect food for newborn babies. It will immunize her baby from many illnesses and nourish her baby for growth. God’s Word will protect Christians from the many spiritual diseases which abound and nourish them to grow in the Lord.

A mother’s milk will make her baby grow for months without any other food. God’s Word will nourish Christians so that they “grow toward salvation” (2:2). Peter means salvation in its ultimate sense, which includes everything that God has provided for us who are His children. We never reach a place in this life where we can stop growing.

One thing about kids is that they’re excited about growing. Just about every home with children has a growth chart. Every few months you measure your kids and say, “Wow, look how much you’ve grown since last time!”

That’s what the Word of God is like: It’s pure; it’s rational; it’s nourishing milk that will make you grow toward salvation.

I didn’t understand this analogy until we had children of our own. Newborn babies have an intense craving for their mother’s milk! It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 a.m. If they’re hungry, they let you know about it and don’t stop letting you know about it until they get what they’re after! You can stick your finger in their mouth and they’ll suck on it for a minute (and what powerful cheek muscles they have!).

How do you get that kind of motivation for the Word of God?

NEGATIVELY, PUT OFF RELATIONAL SINS THAT HINDER THE WORD’S EFFECT IN YOUR LIFE (2:1).

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

   In the context, it is clear that these relational sins (2:1) will hinder your motivation for the Word (2:2). To “put off” means to cast aside like you take off dirty clothes. They are standard operating procedure for many people in the world, especially when they get into a tough situation. But Peter says that they are opposed to spiritual growth and they must be discarded like dirty clothes.

Let me quickly go over the list:

“Malice” is a general word for wickedness of every kind, but especially having it in for someone.

“Guile” originally meant “bait” or “snare,” thus came to mean deceit. It means to tell someone something that isn’t true, so that you trick or mislead them. It involves having ulterior motives in your communication.

“Hypocrisies” (plural) comes from a word meaning to wear a mask and refers to the many ways we can project a false image to people. If we are inconsistent between how we behave at church and how we behave at home or at work, we are engaging in hypocrisies.

“Envyings” refers to the attitude behind much deceit and hypocrisy. It means being jealous of another person or their things. It was the motive behind the crucifixion of Jesus: the religious leaders were envious of His popularity (Mark 15:10).

Envy often works itself out in all sorts of “slanderings.” This word means to speak against someone. The slanderer says nice things to the person’s face but disparaging things behind his back, with the motive of making himself look good in everyone else’s eyes.

POSITIVELY, FOCUS ON THE KINDNESS OF THE LORD (2:3). …if {since} indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Since this is a quote from Psalm 34:8 (LXX), it shows that Peter believed Christ to be God (“Yahweh” for the psalmist).

Psalm 34 must have been Peter’s favorite–he quotes from it again in 3:10-12. Also, the theme of Psalm 34 is roughly the same as that of 1 Peter.

Peter here is referring especially to the Lord’s kindness or grace that was shown to us when we trusted Him as Savior and Lord and followed faith that takes us to a burial in water (immersion) in order to have our sins forgiven.

If you’re saved, you have tasted of the Lord’s kindness, because you know that though you deserved His judgment, He showed you mercy.

The cross of Christ, where a holy God made provision for me, the sinner, so that I could experience His forgiveness and receive eternal life as a free gift, ought to be the focus of every Christian every day.

If you don’t have a craving for God’s Word, there could be several reasons. Maybe you’ve never tasted the Lord’s kindness in salvation. You need to believe that He died for your sins and that He offers His salvation to you as a free gift. Take it! And start feeding on the Bible.

You may not have a craving for God’s Word because of sin in your life. Someone has said that God’s Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God’s Word. Confess and forsake it! And get back into the Bible.

You may have ruined your appetite by feeding on the junk food of this world. Read your Bible! Hunger for God’s truth. Drink it in like a nursing infant. You’ve got to have it above all else if you want to grow in your salvation.

The result?

4  As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,
5  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6  For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7  So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
8  and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

He closes this first major section of his letter by showing that our salvation must be lived out by being built upon Christ, in Christian community, with witness to the world: God’s people must keep God central, be built together as His people, and proclaim His excellencies to others.

Peter portrays the church as a living, spiritual house, with Christ as the foundation and cornerstone and each believer as a valuable element.

Paul portrays the church as a body, with Christ as the head and each believer as a contributing member. Both pictures emphasize community.

One stone is not a temple or even a wall; one body part is useless without the others.

When God calls us to a task, remember that he is also calling others to work with us. Together our individual efforts will be multiplied.

Look for those people and join with them to build a beautiful house for God.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2019 in 1 Peter, Sermon

 

Crisis and change often bring people to times of self-examination and reflection and even prayer


Crisis and change often bring people to times of self-examination and reflection and even prayer. It was just such a time for young Isaiah when he went to the temple to pray (Isaiah 6:1-9). 

King Uzziah’s reign had begun with such promise, but unfortunately, pride overtook Uzziah and he presumed to do, in the temple, what was forbidden. He was struck with leprosy and he died, not in the palace, but the leper ward.

Any crisis, even a small one, can be an opportunity for a fresh vision of God. If we consider what Isaiah saw, it might help our spiritual eyesight. Like Isaiah, we can find new inspiration and renewed commitment.

John 15:5 (45 kb)Isaiah saw his Lord: It was a time of reverence. He needed to see God. He had placed so much confidence in a visible king that he had previously felt little need to reach out to the invisible king. He saw God in all His majesty; God was “high and exalted.” 

He saw God in His power: “The train of his robe filled the temple.” He also saw God in His holiness. The seraphs, covered in humility, sing “Holy, holy, holy.” The seraphs’ song underscores the fact that we have a holy God.

In our desire to stress the love of God, we should never rob Him of His awesomeness.

Isaiah saw his sin: It was a time of repentance. This is a natural reaction after coming to terms with the holiness of God. When we capture a vision of God, we must be willing to see ourselves as we really are, even if it grieves us. It is a refreshing thing to see that Isaiah mentioned his own sin before he mentioned the sin of his neighbors.

Isaiah saw his own sin and said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”

Isaiah saw his cleansing: It was a time of restoration. God did not deny Isaiah’s sinfulness, but he did provide an escape. A seraph took a coal from the altar, where the sacrifice for sin was made, and seared Isaiah’s lips, sterilizing them.  There was no reason for Isaiah to continue to feel unworthy. He had been made pure.

Isaiah saw his mission: It was a time of recognition. When God says, “Go!” we go. There is no debating. We don’t say, “There he is, send him.” We don’t worry about how the people will respond. Isaiah was warned ahead of time that the people would not respond as they should. [1]

It doesn’t matter what the people do, we must be faithful. God sent the people a message not because they wanted it, but because they needed it. The message Isaiah would bring his people was the message he had received. There is forgiveness and purpose with God, if you will just turn your life over to his care and authority.

There is change and chaos in the world, but I say to you, “God is still on the throne.” If you doubt it, just look around. He might be closer than you think. Maybe you can say, “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, and that has made all the difference.”

How does God reveal Himself?  One way is in nature. David proclaimed that ”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. {2} Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. {3} There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. {4} Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, {5} which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. {6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.” (Psalms 19:1-6)

Paul lays a heavy responsibility upon every human being, who can learn at a stated level that he is left without excuse if he does not respond with a changed life:  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, {19} since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. {20} For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. {21} For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)

The Apostle Paul taught us that God reveals something about His holy standards through man’s conscience. (Romans 2:14-16) Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, {15} since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) {16} This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

But none of these give us very many particulars about God’s personality or nature. We need something more. We need to have Him talk with us. And He does that, not through spooky voices or mystical experiences, but through Scripture.

They are God’s words to us. They were given by the breath of His mouth: (Matthew 4:4)  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Peter 1:20-21)  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

In the Bible God tells us what He is like. We learn how He thinks, how He feels, and how we can expect Him to act. If we want to know God, we must begin by opening the Bible and reading what He has to say about Himself.

But God is infinite, and we are finite human beings. How can the finite ever really understand the infinite? How can the human ever truly know the divine?

It seems that God must reveal Himself to us in some way more personal than mere written words if we are ever to know Him genuinely. And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14-18)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. {15} John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” {16} From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. {17} For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. {18} No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (Hebrews 1:1-3)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Jesus Christ is the out-shining of God’s glory and the perfect expression of God’s essential being. To know Him is to know God. Jesus Himself made that claim when He said: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:7).

While Jesus has returned bodily to Heaven, God has given us both the inspired record of His life as well as the spiritual faculties we need to know Him personally. We can know Christ just as intimately as if we walked with Him on earth as His first disciples did. And to know Him is to know God.


[1] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.
 
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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Sermon

 

What is our greatest need?


If you’re sick, you may think, “My greatest need is to be healed of this illness.” If you’re unemployed, you may think, “My greatest need is to get a good job to provide for my needs.”

If you’re single, you may think, “My greatest need is for a mate.” If you’re in a difficult marriage, you may think, “My greatest need is for harmony in my marriage.” If you have a child who has become ensnared by drug abuse, you may think that your greatest need is for your child to be free from this addiction.

While all of these are important needs, none of them are your greatest need. The greatest need of every person, whether he recognizes it or not, is to have God forgive his sins before he dies and faces God’s eternal punishment.

        Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)
1  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2  And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
3  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
5  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7  “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?
9  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?
10  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
11  “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
12  And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Mark encourages us to notice the crowd in this house, or the four men who cared enough about this man to go to a lot of trouble.

What did Jesus see? NOT a man with physical ailments, BUT someone who needed his sins forgiven!

Don’t miss this point! Our greatest need? Forgiveness of sins.

Health, adequate money, and a happy family are wonderful blessings, but if you die without God’s forgiveness, these blessings will be useless. Your greatest need is to know that God has forgiven your sins and that you are reconciled to the holy Judge of the universe.

The subject of knowing and experiencing God’s forgiveness of our sins is so important that the enemy of our souls has worked overtime to sow seeds of confusion and error. Our modern pagan society often deals with the problem of guilt by telling us that we don’t need to worry about it.

In other words, since guilt doesn’t make me feel good about myself (which is my aim in life), when my conscience condemns me, tell it to take a hike. Rather than being ashamed about our sins, we now celebrate them under the guise of being “true” to ourselves.

Another ploy of the devil is to get us to invent a god who is not perfectly holy and to view ourselves as basically good people. This god is tolerant and loving. He couldn’t possibly condemn a nice person like me!

Of course, I’m not perfect, but compared to terrorists who blow up innocent women and children and perverts who abuse little children, I’m not so bad. So I can excuse my relatively “minor faults” and dismiss my need for God’s forgiveness.

Satan also sows confusion about God’s forgiveness under the guise of religion. All of the world’s non-Christian religions, some branches of Christianity, and all of the cults that claim to be Christian teach that we must do something—fasting, prayer, penance, self-denial, good works—to help pay for our sins and to earn God’s favor. Often religious people base their hope of forgiveness on the fact that they have faithfully performed certain religious rituals for many years.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
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
5  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
6  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
8  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
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, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
13  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Paul is saying, In Christ, we have redemption through His blood, the abundant forgiveness of all our sins.

re·demp·tion   [ri- demp-sh uhn] NOUN

  1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. atonement for guilt.
  1. repurchase, as of something sold.

Before we consider the meaning of Paul’s words here, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these truths for your life. If you try to seek God’s forgiveness in any way other than what Paul here states, you will waste your time and endanger your soul.

If your hope of heaven rests on anything that you must do to earn it, you will hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me” on that great day. If, as a Christian, you do not understand and live daily in light of the truths that Paul here sets forth, you will not grow in godliness. You will be defeated by sin and guilt. So these truths are vital for a healthy Christian walk.

In Christ we can have redemption.

So, if you lack redemption or forgiveness of your sins, you will not find it anywhere except in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

REDEMPTION MEANS THAT CHRIST PAID THE PRICE TO FREE US FROM THE PENALTY AND POWER OF SIN.

We use words such as “redeemer” or “redemption” as religious terms. But when the man of the first century heard them he immediately thought in non-religious terms.” It brought to mind the common picture of a slave being purchased and then set free. Redemption meant release from bondage by the payment of a price. Every Gentile in the Roman world would have thought of this when he heard the word, “redemption.”

The word also has roots in the Old Testament, which refers to a “kinsman-redeemer.” For example, in the Book of Ruth, Naomi’s family property, due to debt, had fallen into other hands. Because she had lost her husband, she could not afford to recover it. Boaz was a near relative who had the right to redeem the property by paying the price, which he did.

In other Old Testament contexts, God is seen as the one who redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt (Exod. 6:6). As you know, the Jews had to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintel and doorposts of their homes. It was a picture of our redemption through the blood of Christ.

Paul uses the word in a spiritual sense to refer to Christ’s paying the price of our sin by His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf. We were helplessly, hopelessly enslaved to sin and under God’s just condemnation. But with His own blood Christ paid the penalty to release us from bondage. We now belong to Him.

Implicit in the biblical doctrine of redemption is that God did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. We were enslaved to sin and had no power or means to free ourselves. God did not need our help in paying the price. In fact, it is an insult to Christ if we think that we can add anything of our own to the great price that He paid.

If someone offered you a gift that was worth thousands of dollars and you reached in your pocket to give him a penny to pay for it, you would insult him. Jesus graciously paid it all. We can do nothing except to receive His gift and then live every day in light of what He so graciously and generously did for us.

WE CAN KNOW AND ENJOY OUR REDEMPTION RIGHT NOW.

Paul does not say, “In Him, someday we hope to be redeemed.” Nor does he say, “We’re working at obtaining redemption, but we don’t know yet if we’ll get it until we see whether our good works tip the scale.” Rather, he says, “In Him, we have redemption.” It is our current possession and experience.

Knowing that should fill us with joy and gratitude and love for Christ. It should remove any fear of judgment and fill us with hope beyond the grave. It should motivate us to be holy. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as the payment for your sins, God wants you to know and enjoy the fact that He has redeemed you from bondage to sin.

So the issue is, either you trust in what Jesus Christ did on the cross as the full payment for your sins, or when you stand before God at the judgment, you must pay for your sins through eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

There will be no second chance (Heb. 9:27). That is why making sure that you have redemption through the blood of Jesus is your greatest need! Paul goes on to elaborate on what such redemption means:

Redemption through Christ’s blood is according to the riches of God’s grace, which He lavished on us.

The word “lavished” may be illustrated by ocean waves. They just keep coming and coming and coming. They never stop. God’s forgiveness is like that for those who are redeemed through the blood of Jesus. If you have trusted Christ as your sin-bearer, and responded to Him through faith that culminates with an immersion in water in order to have sins forgiven, Paul wants you to experience the extravagant, lavish undeserved favor of God in forgiving all of your sins.

We sometimes sing the old hymn, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Either that’s true or it’s not. If the blood of Jesus does not wash away all of our sins completely, then we’re all in a lot of trouble, because we all have a lot of sins to deal with.

If it only atones for minor sins, what good is that? “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.” Thank God that is true! Cling to it and live it each and every day!

Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV)
6  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:6-7 (MSG)
6  GOD passed in front of him and called out, “GOD, GOD, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—
7  loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.”

We read and quote John 3:16 (ESV) all the time: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

But we also need to take to heart verse 17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

———————————–

When A. J. Gordon was minister of a church in Boston, he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, “Son, where did you get those birds?”

The boy replied, “I trapped them out in the field.”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.”

Gordon offered to buy them, and the lad exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.”

Gordon replied, “I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.”

“Okay, it’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.”

The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue.

The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ’s coming to seek and to save the lost—paying for them with His own precious blood. “That boy told me the birds were not songsters,” said Gordon, “but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, ‘Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!”

 

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2019 in Sermon

 

Questions Jesus Asked (From the gospel of Mark) – What is Easiest To Say?


Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?

When Adam and Eve had fallen into sin and were hiding from the Lord God among the trees of the garden, he came seeking them not with a rebuke but with a question: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9.)

Obviously, divine questions are never asked to get information. God knew where they were, they didn’t hide so well that he couldn’t find them. So the question “Where are you?” was meant to be answered on a deeper level. He asked the question because he wanted Adam and Eve to discover things that they were hiding from themselves.

Answering God’s questions teaches us truths about ourselves that we would otherwise not know. The penetrating questions of God prepare us to hear the rest of what he will say, the words of comfort, challenge, warning, correction, promise, prophecy, salvation, and hope.

Mark 2:1-12 (ESV) 1  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2  And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
    With amazing speed the news spread that a miracle-working Teacher had come to Capernaum; and wherever our Lord went, great crowds gathered. They wanted to see Him heal the sick and cast out demons.

Jesus had already attracted the crowds.  Because of that he had attracted the notice of the official leaders of the Jews.  The Sanhedrin was their supreme court.  One of its great functions was to be the guardian of orthodoxy.  For instance, it was the Sanhedrin’s duty to deal with any man who was a false prophet.  It seems that it had sent out a kind of scouting party to check up on Jesus; and they were there in Capernaum. 

3  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.

 

WHAT DOES FAITH LOOK LIKE?

Verse 4 tells us that these four companions dug through the roof to lower their paralyzed friend to Jesus, bringing us to the questions of the physical circumstances in which this event took place. Capernaum is not an easy place in which to maneuver if you are disabled. The roads are not paved smoothly, stairs and vertical rises make it difficult to get around, and you must rely on your friends to help you travel there if you’re not ambulatory.

The homes were small. The crowd filling this home might have numbered fifty, at most one hundred, and we know they were spilling out into the street. The walls were made of stone, but the roofs had beams across them, between which straw and thatch were packed together with clay.

Most homes had stairways leading to the rooftops so people could ascend on hot evenings and enjoy the breeze, using the roof as a sort of porch. Apparently what these men did was climb up the exterior stairway to the roof, dig out the clay and the thatch from between the beams to open a hole in the roof, and lower their friend down to Jesus.

Let’s consider why Jesus concluded that he was seeing faith as this man descended before him from the hole in the roof. These men were audacious enough to believe him! They were boldly saying, “If you say so, we are going to trust that you care more about people than buildings, and we are going to tear a hole in your roof and put before you one of the very kinds of people you said you have come to help.”

They believed the things that he had said about himself and they acted on their belief. They were willing to go to lengths that other people would question.

They were deeply concerned about their friend and wanted to see him helped. They had the faith to believe that Jesus could and would meet his need. They did not simply “pray about it,” but they put some feet to their prayers; and they did not permit the difficult circumstances to discourage them. They worked together and dared to do something different, and Jesus rewarded their efforts. How easy it would have been for them to say, “Well, there is no sense trying to get to Jesus today! Maybe we can come back tomorrow.”

There comes a time in every relationship when a decision must be made that will change everything. And when God himself draws near and we hear his voice, postponement can lead to a hard heart.

5  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7  “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?
   When they heard Jesus say to the man that his sins were forgiven it came as a shattering shock.  It was an essential of the Jewish faith that only God could forgive sins.  For any man to claim to do so was to insult God; that was blasphemy and the penalty for blasphemy was death by stoning (Leviticus 24:16). 

At the moment they were not ready to launch their attack in public, but it was not difficult for Jesus to see how their minds were working.  So he determined to fling down a challenge and to meet them on their own ground.

It was their own firm belief that sin and sickness were indissolubly linked together.  A sick man was a man who had sinned.  So Jesus asked them:  “Whether it is easier to say to this man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”  Any charlatan could say, “Your sins are forgiven.” There was no possibility of ever demonstrating whether his words were effective or not; such a statement was completely uncheckable. 

But to say, “Get up and walk” was to say something whose effectiveness would either be proved or disproved there and then.  So Jesus said in effect:  “You say that I have no right to forgive sins?  You hold as a matter of belief that if this man is ill he is a sinner and he cannot be cured till he is forgiven?  Very well, then, watch this!”  So Jesus spoke the word and the man was cured.

The experts in the law were caught in a dilemma: on their own stated beliefs the man could not be cured, unless he was forgiven.  He was cured, therefore he was forgiven.  Therefore, Jesus’ claim to forgive sin must be true. 

Jesus must have left a completely baffled set of legal experts; and, worse, he must have left them in a baffled rage.  Here was something that must be dealt with; if this went on, all orthodox religion would be shattered and destroyed.  In this incident Jesus signed his own death warrant-and he knew it.

The first part of Jesus’ two-part question in this passage is “Why are you thinking these things?” The second part is “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

As illustrated earlier by God’s question to Adam and Eve when they were hiding in the Garden, Jesus didn’t ask the teachers of the law, “Why are you thinking these things?” because he didn’t know. Rather, he wanted them to answer the question, to consider why it was that what they believed about God led them to anger and rejection of the possibility of forgiveness of sins rather than hope.

9  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?

 

The second part of Jesus’ question is more logic-based. He asked them to draw a conclusion, and then he acted to prove the point: “If I can do the apparently more difficult, visible, thing, then doesn’t it seem that I can also do the invisible thing?”

10  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
11  “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
12  And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The need this man had was for his sins to be forgiven. The paralysis was not the main point, and the hole in the roof was not something that concerned Jesus, because people were more important to him than buildings. Jesus’ focus, then and now, is on what is important, not on the curiosities of the moment.

WHAT SORT OF GOD DO YOU SERVE?

Finally, let’s return to the two questions that Jesus asked the teachers of the law. He had forgiven the paralytic’s sins and given him relief from his desperation over all the things he had done to drive a wedge between himself and God. The man was free of his urgent spiritual burden. The knocking of a hole in the roof was of no consequence to Jesus.

Knowing all of that, Jesus still asked them the question, “Why?” I believe what he was truly asking was, “What kind of God do you serve?”

It is the kind of problem religious people always have: The more knowledge we gain, and the more we are involved in churches and Bible studies and Christian groups and so on, the more we learn to hide sin rather than see it forgiven.

The simple point is, Do we serve a God who is passionate about forgiving sins, who loves to remove burdens from people, who is generous with grace and mercy, who characteristically does good for us rather than raising his eyebrow at us and remaining distant? Of course. Of course his Son will speak of mercy and love, the removal of burdens, and the giving of life. That is God’s nature.

I believe the problem these teachers of the law had was the problem that folks like us have, so it is worth asking, “Why do we have so much trouble forgiving ourselves? Why do we have so much trouble welcoming hardened sinners or difficult people and sharing with them a word of forgiveness? Why would we rather live with cover-up than with forgiveness?”

DOES JESUS HAVE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE?

Jesus’ other question is one of logic: “If I can do the more difficult, external, visible thing, isn’t it likely that I can also do the invisible thing?” This addresses the question of whether Jesus Christ has the authority to declare, “Your sins are forgiven. The struggle is over. You and God are in perfect relationship again. There is nothing from your past that clings to you any longer.”

Jesus said, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” This is his message to people like us-people who are aware of our failure, who know there are things about us that we would be ashamed if anyone else ever knew, who long for some relief from the struggle, who want to believe that God will be for us, not against us, who want to start today’s battle with a sense that God is on our side, not removed from us by some distance or barrier, who need the hope that goes along with forgiveness.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV)
5  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

   To “confess our sins” means to agree with God that an act or thought was wrong, to acknowledge this to God, to seek forgiveness, and to make a commitment to not let it happen again. Augustine observed that confession of sin is a sign that truth, which is itself light, has already begun to illuminate people’s sin-darkened lives.
     But I don’t feel forgiven? 1. Believe God. 2. See yourself as God sees you (cleansed by the blood of Christ).

Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. Let us shake off paralysis, pick up our mats, and walk.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2018 in Sermon

 

Five Characteristics of a Leader


John W. Gardner, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, who also directed a leadership study project in Washington, D.C., has pinpointed five characteristics that set “leader” managers apart from run-of-the-mill managers:

1. They are long-term thinkers who see beyond the day’s crisis and the quarterly report.

2. Their interest in the company does not stop with the unit they are heading. They want to know how all of the company’s departments affect one another, and they are constantly reaching beyond their specific area of influence.

3. They put heavy emphasis on vision, values, and motivation.

4. They have strong people skills.

5. They don’t accept the status quo.

Lead Others

Actually, a manager needs the ability not only to make good decisions himself, but also to lead others to make good decisions. Charles Moore, after four years of research at the United Parcel Service reached the following conclusions:

1. Good decisions take a lot of time.

2. Good decisions combine the efforts of a number of people.

3. Good decisions give individuals the freedom to dissent.

4. Good decisions are reached without any pressure from the top to reach an artificial consensus.

5. Good decisions are based on the participation of those responsible for implementing them.*

One Man

Wherever anything is to be done, either in the Church or in the world, you may depend upon it, it is done by one man. The whole history of the Church, from the earliest ages, teaches the same lesson. A Moses, a Gideon, an Isaiah, and a Paul are from time to time raised up to do an appointed work; and when they pass away, their work appears to cease. Nor is it given to everyone, as it was to Moses, to see the Joshua who is destined to carry on his work to completion.

God can raise up a successor to each man, but the man himself is not to worry about that matter, or he may do harm. One great object of every religious teacher should be to prevent the creation of external appliances to make his teaching appear to live when it is dead.

Charles Spurgeon, in Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, W. Wiersbe, p. 223

Position of Leadership

Don’t take a position of leadership in church unless you are prepared to be honest, pure, and loving in your lifestyle. Leadership is a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. God holds teachers of His truth doubly responsible because we who lead are in a position where we can either draw people toward Christ or drive them away from Him.

This is illustrated in the life of the famous author Mark Twain. Church leaders were largely to blame for his becoming hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith. As he grew up, he knew elders and deacons who owned slaves and abused them. He heard men using foul language and saw them practice dishonesty during the week after speaking piously in church on Sunday. He listened to ministers use the Bible to justify slavery. Although he saw genuine love for the Lord Jesus in some people, including his mother and his wife, he was so disturbed by the bad teaching and poor example of church leaders that he became bitter toward the things of God.

Indeed, it is a privilege to be an elder, a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, or a Bible club leader. But it is also an awesome responsibility. Let’s make sure we attract people to the Savior rather than turn them away.

Quotes

  • Dwight Eisenhower described leadership as “The act of getting somebody else to do what you want done because he wants to      do it.”
  • Give your decision, never your reasons; your decisions may be right, your reasons are sure to be wrong. – Lord Mansfield
  • When it is not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision. – Lucius, Second Lord Falkland
  • Leadership is the ability to hide your panic from others. – Quoted in MSC Newsletter
  • Look over your shoulder now and then to be sure someone’s following you. – Henry Gilmer
  • Effective leadership is the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of predetermined objectives. – Ted Engstrom
  • When a general gets too far ahead of his troops, he’s often mistaken for the enemy. – Anon
  • Leadership is the discipline of deliberately exerting special influence within a group to move it towards goals of beneficial permanence that fulfills the group’s real needs. – Dr. John      Haggai, Lead On!
  • Experts know what should be done; leaders know what should be done and how to get people to do it. – Quoted in C. Barber,      Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Leadership, p. 72.
  • You can judge leaders by the size of the problems they tackle—people nearly always pick a problem their own size, and ignore      or leave to others the bigger or smaller ones. – Anthony Jay, in Bits and Pieces, Sept., 1989
  • Effective leadership is the willingness to sacrifice for the sake of predetermined objectives. – Ted Engstrom, in Erwin Lutzer, Pastor to Pastor, p. 117.
  • A leader who keeps his ear to the ground allows his rear end to become a target. – Angie Papadakis
  • You cannot paint the “Mona Lisa” by assigning one dab each to a thousand painters. – William F. Buckley, Jr.
  • Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Anon
  • A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. – John Maxwell
  • A leader is a person with a magnet in his heart and a compass in his head. – Vance Havner
  • Leadership in the local church should be determined by spirituality, not notoriety. – Tony Evans
  • The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn. – David Russell
  • It is small wonder where the shepherds hesitate and stumble, that the sheep draw back affrighted. – Scott Nearing.
  • The captain of a floundering ship does little good by criticizing the crew to the passengers.
  • In order to give the illusion of authority, one must make immediate changes. – loose paraphrase of Douglas McArthur
  • The trouble with being a leader today is that you can’t be sure whether people are following you or chasing you.
  • One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.
 
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Posted by on September 6, 2018 in Sermon

 

Habits and Attitudes of Highly Effective Churches: Devoted To Scripture


Does anyone here remember a phrase used in our fellowship in years past: “chapter and verse?” It carried the idea that we knew our Bible and used it regularly. It’s a phrase I hope is remembered in this assembly and I hope it will always be set before us as the beginning standard of who we are and why we do what we do!

We ought to require it of anyone who seeks to press their agenda upon us…or creates tensions which need to be clearly identified as “matters of opinion.”

We began a series of lessons entitled Habits and Attitudes of Effective Churches….and made the case that any successful congregation must first be Centered on Christ.

Second only to an affirmation of faith in an allegiance to Jesus Christ, a faithful and fruitful church declares its confidence in the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.

It may even be a mistake, in fact, to list these two affirmations as if they were somehow capable of being separated.  All we would dare affirm about Jesus is what we can ground in Holy Scripture.  It is our definitive source of information about him and the normative guide for understanding his function as head of the church.

The Christian faith rests upon the data found in the Bible, for “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

The world around us is looking neither for someone to toss away the Bible nor for a group that will turn its authority into a heavy yoke no one can bear:
· It is waiting for churches to so embrace, affirm, and live Scripture that they cannot but see Jesus in them.
· They want churches both to teach and to model the life of Christ.
· Those churches will draw men to God.
· They will lead men and women to salvation in Christ.

1. THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD HAS BEEN PROCLAIMED
Paul spoke these words to the elders at Ephesus: Acts 20:20-21: “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. {21} I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”

Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Acts 20:27: “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”

2. WE HAVE ALL THINGS PERTAINING TO LIFE AND GODLINESS
2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

3. THE FAITH HAS BEEN REVEALED ONCE FOR ALL
Jude 1:3: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

In the Greek, “once for all” is “one time for all time.” I.e., the faith (that body of knowledge we are to believe) was delivered one time for all time:
· The faith wasn’t partly revealed, with more to come through later revelations years later!
· The faith wasn’t revealed just for that generation, with a different faith to be revealed for a generation yet future!
· Therefore the task we have is “to contend earnestly for the faith”, not be looking for a new faith to fit our desires or expectations!

4. THE SCRIPTURES CAN MAKE US COMPLETE, EQUIPPED FOR  EVERY GOOD WORK
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV)
1  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
2  Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.

We are faithful to this “word of God” only when we are willing to accept its rebuke and correction as quickly as we accept its teaching and training and encouragement!

When I turn to the Scriptures, I find that I have all I need to…
a. Believe in Jesus – John 20:30-31

b. Have life in His name – John 20:30-31
c. Have fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the apostles 1 John 1:3
d. Have joy that is full – 1 John 1:4
e. Have help when I sin – 1 John 2:1
f. Know that I have eternal life – 1 John 5:13
g. Understand the revelation of the mystery of God – Rom 16:25-26; Ep 3:3-4
h. Be fruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom – 2 Peter 1:8-11

There will always be a distinction related to “the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures.” The distinction becomes apparent as one considers the doctrines and practices of any religious group…
a. Those who accept it are more apt to be like the church you read about in the Bible
b. Those who deny it will quickly evolve into something much different

Introduction to 2 Kings 7 events:
In the period of Israel’s history known as “The Divided Kingdom”
a. The nation was divided into two parts
1) The kingdom of Israel in the north with Samaria as its capitol
2) The kingdom of Judah in the south with Jerusalem for its capitol

The weakened condition of both kingdoms left it open to attacks by other countries

We read of one siege of Samaria in 2 Kings 6, which brought a terrible famine upon the city of Samaria. Among those suffering in the famine were four lepers: 2 Kings 7:3-8 (NIV)
3 Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die?
4 If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’–the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”
5  At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there,
6  for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!”
7  So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.
8  The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.

They discussed their plight
· In desperation they decided to surrender to the Syrians
· To their surprise, they found the Syrian camp abandoned
· At first, they splurged in their newfound riches

But upon reflection, they knew they needed to tell others what they found, and did so: 2 Kings 7:9-11 (NIV)
9 Then they said to each other, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”
10  So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, “We went into the Aramean camp and not a man was there–not a sound of anyone–only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.”
11  The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace.

The lepers knew what was right, and did it
a. They knew they would be wrong by keeping silent
b. They knew punishment would befall them if they kept the good news to themselves — So they went back to the city and told the good news!

Many Christians are not like these lepers…
a. Despite it being “a day of good news”, they remain silent!
b. While many die of spiritual starvation, they feast on the gospel!

Matthew 28:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. {19} Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””

1 Peter 2:9-10: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. {10} Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Today, the church is God’s “watchman” to the world! We are to take the gospel to every person! Those who have not heard will die in their own sin, but we will be held accountable if we gave them no warning!

We are not obligated to teach the non-Christian beyond the “first principles” Only if they accept the “first principles” will they ready to receive the “second principles”

If we are silent with regards to the “good news” (the gospel), then the words of the four lepers is true of us:
“We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell…”- 2 Kings 7:9

A highly effective church is so focused on Jesus that its own experience of the Word of God reveals him to everyone who sees it. If we cherish, teach, and offer the Word of God to others merely as a library of statutes and case studies, we reveal our own impoverished understanding of the Bible.

The Bible is God’s revelation of himself in the person and work of Christ. And we are reading and interpreting it correctly only when we see beyond the words and cry, “I see Jesus! I see Jesus!” And we teach it effectively only when we model it so faithfully through the life of our churches that unchurched people around us cry, “I see Jesus! I see Jesus!”

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2018 in Sermon

 
 
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