Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matthew 22:41-46 - Jesus Turns the Tables

After a long day of questions from Jesus' opponents (Matthew 21:1-22:40), Jesus initiates his question to a group of Pharisees (religiously faithful, Jewish Biblical scholars). He asks, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" (v. 41). D.A. Carson notes, "Jesus' question (v. 41) focuses on the real issue--christology, not resurrection or taxes--that turned the authorities into enemies." Unsurprisingly, the Jewish scholars affirm that the Christ is the son of David (2 Sam. 7:13-14; Isa. 11:1). Jesus' uses the Spirit-inspired Old Testament (Mt. 22:43-44; Ps. 110:1) to show them that David recognized the coming messiah as his Lord (adonai in the Hebrew). Though by blood, the Christ would be Davidic, in role, the Messiah would be David's Lord, ruler, and sovereign (cf. Ps. 45:6-7; Isa. 9:6; Jer. 23:5-6; Zech. 12:10).

The questioners are silenced by Jesus' profound understanding; sadly, many never trust in Christ for salvation . . . in fact, it's likely these silenced questioners soon become those who loudly call for Christ's death.

Implications:

1) No earthly hope is sufficient. Those who are looking for salvation from any mere human source will miss the Messiah who came down from heaven to live, die, rise and then reign again.
2) Faith is the only means of escape. By quoting Psalm 110:1 as a clear text prophesying a coming Messiah (probably written down over 1000 years before Jesus' birth), Jesus affirms that all those who oppose Him will one day be crushed . . . Ps. 110:1 reads, "The LORD (Yahweh) says to my Lord (Adonai), 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Woe to those who remain as enemies of Christ, their day of humiliation will come. The Bible says the only way to move from enemy to friend is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ's death and resurrection (Rom. 5:1-8; Eph. 2:1-10).
3) And yet the mercy of God is wide enough for even the worst of sinners! "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Repentance - Should this word be scary?

New York Times Best Selling Author Tim Keller has a nice summary of Biblical Repentance:


http://download.redeemer.com/pdf/learn/resources/All_of_Life_Is_Repentance-Keller.pdf

And a quote from the 17th century Thomas Brooks:

Ah! Sinner, remember this, there is no way on earth effectually to be rid of the guilt, filth, and power of sin, but by believing in a Savior. It is not resolving, it is not complaining, it is not mourning, but believing, that will make you divinely victorious over that body of sin that to this day is too strong for you, and that will certainly be your ruin, if it be not ruined by the hand of faith.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Freedom from Idols

Great article on lies, idols, death, and the Gospel at Christianity Today:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/marchweb-only/idolatrygospelimitation.html?start=1

I loved this paragraph: (2) We begin to destroy the power of idols by believing the good news of all that God offers his broken human images in the person and work of his Son. In Christ we receive a new adopted identity as God's beloved children who are assured of acceptance, forgiveness, resurrection life, and a global inheritance. This identity is available apart from success, popularity, creativity, and wealth. God gives redemption despite our failure, poverty, and spiritual barrenness. He holds out proof of his love in the bloody death of Jesus for sinners, in his life-giving resurrection, and in the empowering gift of the Spirit of adoption.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Great Review of Love Wins by Denver Seminary graduate, Chris Durkin

http://solablogtura.blogspot.com/2011/03/fredo-uncle-ben-and-holy-fear.html

Chris' closing words are haunting and well put:


As I read this book, I couldn't help but think of Spider-man. Yes, Spider-man. The guiding mantra of that character's story is what his Uncle Ben taught him before being shot by a burglar... "With great power comes great responsibility."

Rob Bell has a platform and an audience that I will never have. He is a fantastic communicator and I'm sure, in many ways, a good pastor. But "Love Wins" is an abuse of power. I weep for those who read it and believe that if they are enemies of God (Rom 5:10), blind (2 Cor 4:4), deceived (Tit 3:3), slaves to sin (Gal 4:8-11), dead in sin (Eph 2:1-5), deserving of wrath (John 3:36) God will somehow save them in Hell regardless.

That is why this conversation is important and that is why this book needs to be confronted.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Matthew 22:15-33: "The King and His City"

For those who are interested, these were the sections I didn't have time for during Sunday's message:

Matthew 22:15-33 – The King silences those pursuing money, morality or knowledge for life.
            In the first event (15-23), the Pharisees and the Herodians come to Jesus. These two group of people hated each other. The Herodians were those who supported the Kingship of Herod in Israel (Rome's puppet leader). The Pharisees were the religious leaders who believed the only way to get rid of Rome and King Herod was to obey the Laws of Moses like an OCD person cleans their house. That the two groups were working together shows just how unpopular Jesus was becoming. The question they ask puts Jesus is a lose-lose situation: Matthew 22:17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" If Jesus says what the Pharisees would say, that is, "Give nothing to Caesar," Jesus will enrage the Herodians and give them an excuse to have him killed for treason. If he says what the Herodians thought, that is, use the Roman money and power anyway you want, the Pharisees would paint Jesus as faithless to God’s true people and land Israel.
            Jesus responds: Matthew 22:19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" 21 "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
            Notice Jesus didn’t have any money himself; he was poor. He served freely, not for profit. By claiming that Caesar should be given what is Caesar's, he was authenticating on one level that those who benefit from Caesar (roads, military protection, etc.) should not withhold from Caesar his due (nor the US Government). But those marked by God’s image, that is every human person (Gen. 1:26-28), should give themselves wholly to God. Neither money (Herodians) nor morality (Pharisees) were sufficient for true life . . . only surrendering one’s life to God was sufficient. And you can do that whether you pay taxes or not.
           Next comes the Sadducees (Mt. 22:23-33). These were the ruling religious leaders in town. They did not believe in a resurrection or final judgment, claimed only the first 5 books of the Bible were authentic, and thus had worked it out that since life was only these 70-80 years or so they could do whatever they wanted in this life (align with Rome, tax people, etc.). Their question to Jesus cloaks their deeper desires to continue their vile status quo. This is often why people use intellectual arguments to ignore the demands of Christ. We are not unwilling to believe because Christianity is illogical; we are unwilling to believe because we want to continue in our sin. Jesus, however, showed them they had no clue how to even understand their own Scriptures (note, Jesus quotes from one of the first 5 books). By showing them their faults, and thus, showing that immortality and judgment awaited those who attempted to use false teachings in this life to excuse sinful behavior, he put them (us) in a difficult spot.
            All of these things that Jesus judges are some of the ever-present idols. Like in the 1st century, we all are seeking life, hope, and happiness. Some have sought it in religion. Others turn to money; some of us like morality; some of us turn to knowledge (regardless of how logical it is) to excuse ourselves and our sin. But all of these pursuits mean we have turned from God. We are not seeking Him as the Lord of the universe, the pearl of great price, or the way, the truth and the life. Jesus will not allow any idol to stand in the way. In fact, in 70 AD, the Romans came into the Holy City and effectively destroyed all the false idols that are shown in Matthew 21-22. Religion was destroyed. Those clinging to power now had none. Those who thought money, morality, or knowledge protected them and brought them life, were exiled or killed, abandoned, and alone. What’s not so funny is that today, we still put our trust in similar idols. We turn to these idols even though judgment always follows these pursuits.
             But here’s the amazing story, the real story that goes on during Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem. On a fateful Friday, Jesus went to the top of a hill and took the judgment we deserved. All of our idolatry and wickedness deserved death and God’s vengeance. But on Calvary 2000 years ago, the Son of God gave his life up for us. Yes, the power players did the killing and they thought by doing so they would remain in power forever. But it was God’s will that Jesus should be crushed. It was God’s will that the Son would die for the sinful. And then, 3 days later, God was pleased to raise Jesus back to life with an indestructible body. Now those who trust in Christ (not in money, power, morality or anything else) are promised an indestructible life as well.
             To understand Christ fully, we must first accept the bitter truth that we deserve God’s judgment. We are no better than the 1st Century folks who had trusted in other things. We deserve to be punished. But by embracing the bitter truth of our own judgment, we are prepared then to turn to the one who took our judgment that we might have life. Do you know this Jesus? Have you trusted in His death on your behalf? Turn to Him, believe in Him! Cry out, "Jesus save me from my sin."

If you are interested in the earlier parts of the sermon, check out the audio by clicking HERE.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Encouraging Pastors - We really do need it.

I found this on another local pastor's blog today (which one will you do this week? which one will you do next week?):


Thom Rainer offers some practical suggestions on how to encourage our pastors. 

Here are his main points:
  1. Let your pastor know specifically how you learned something from his sermon.
  2. Help your pastor have a date night with his wife.
  3. Confront one of the pastor’s perpetual critics.
  4. Give him a book he would love to have.
  5. Do something for the pastor’s wife.
  6. Speak publicly on behalf of the pastor.
  7. Pray for your pastor.
HT: Eric Schumacher, pastor of Northbrook Baptist

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Matthew 20: "The Great Reversal"

Peter opens his big mouth at the end of Matthew chapter 19, asking Jesus (with seemingly mercenary intent) what the disciples get for giving up everything to follow Jesus. Jesus' reply offers both a word of encouragement (19:28-29) and a rebuke (v. 30). The rebuke, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first," reminds Peter that no one can put God in debt. God owes us nothing. Everything we receive comes from God by grace, and only those who put themselves (that is, recognize the reality that they are) last will ever receive God's blessing . . . a.k.a. "a great reversal."


Mathew provides 4 separate episodes in chapter 20 to illustrate the great reversal(s):

1) The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (1-16): In this parable, we learn what the Kingdom of God is like (v. 1). We know that the repeated line in verse 16 (an inclusio) tells us Jesus is still instructing Peter that God owes no one (cf. 19:30). Whether a worker works 1 hour or 12 hours, by God's sovereign authority, he can pay them whatever he wants. "The point of the parable is not that all in the Kingdom receive the same reward [though they do in this parable], but that Kingdom rewards depend on God's sovereign grace." Peter's attempt to curry favor with God through sacrificial service is just as much of an anathema as the religiosity of the Pharisees (Mt. 15:8-9). God's grace opposes all notions of desert, prominence, rich, morality, power, etc.

2) The Prediction of Death (20:17-19): To be honest, I'm not sure why Matthew put this prediction where he did. Is it to highlight the source of God's sovereign grace (referring back to vv. 1-16)? Is it designed to show a sharp contrast to the incident that follows? Regardless, I think Jesus' mention of being "raised to life" is the phrase that must have set the Zebedee clan to work. If Jesus' is going to be "raised," then they want to make sure they're in on the glory.

3) The Zebedee Request (20:20-28): James' and John's mom serves as the speaker for the delegation. She asks that her two boys get the highest seats of honor in the coming Kingdom. Jesus explains that the highest positions in the Kingdom involve a life of suffering, rejection, and pain (just like King Jesus, 20:22). Still they are willing to endure it. Jesus affirms that such a future awaits the naive disciples, and yet, Jesus does not promise any prominence for such efforts (see thoughts under #1). The whole conversation caused a stir among the other disciples (20:24); so much so that Jesus had to speak up. He warned them that the "Great Reversal" included worldly notions of leadership. In God's economy, real leadership requires sacrificial service. Real greatness is marked by the willingness to die for others, not by how many servants one has under their thumb. At this moment, Jesus reminds them that the Son of Man did not come to be served. O, the Son of Man had the right to demand servitude. But the gracious God does not get served by human hands (Acts 17:25). Instead, the Son of Man gives his life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28). He came to ransom (buy back) people out of slavery, sin, and death. The Son of Man became a slave to death that he might become the master of life.

4) The Blind See (20:19-34): This final story humorously shows the disciples (and us!) that it's the down-and-outers who often understand Jesus. The blind see Jesus as the merciful Son of David (20:30). They see Him as the Great Reverser. They cry out to Him. Jesus is compassionate and heals their physical blindedness. Then, they join Jesus; rag-tag team of followers, ready to serve and give their lives in service to others.

So too, we are to become like the blind men, not demanding or expecting glory, but simply turning to Christ for mercy and then joining Him in the ministry of mercy.

Matthew 19:16-30 "The Almighy (dollar?)"

Here is the audio for the sermon I preached on money March 13, 2011, entitled, "The Almighty (dollar?)" 

Click HERE to download. A manuscript is available upon request.

The best quote I mention in the sermon is from Robert Gundry. This is his reflection on Jesus' interaction with the  the Rich, Young Ruler: “That Jesus did not command all his followers to sell all their possessions gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom he would issue that command.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review (s) of the Controversial Book, Love Wins by Rob Bell

Helpful reviews of Rob Bell's Love Wins (more to be added as they become available):

**3/23 - http://solablogtura.blogspot.com/2011/03/fredo-uncle-ben-and-holy-fear.html - Fantastic word by friend and fellow Den Sem grad, Chris Durkin.

Added 3/16 Al Mohler - http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/03/16/we-have-seen-all-this-before-rob-bell-and-the-reemergence-of-liberal-theology/

Added 3/15 - Denny Burke - http://www.dennyburk.com/revising-hell-into-the-heterodox-mainstream/

Added 3/15 - Russell Moore - http://www.russellmoore.com/2011/03/15/the-blood-drained-gospel-of-rob-bell/

Added 3/15 - Doug Wilson - http://www.dougwils.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8501:mars-hell&catid=84:sex-and-culture

Added 3/15 Mark Galli of Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/april/lovewins.html

Recently updated (3/14): Kevin DeYoung (long, 20 pages) - http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/03/14/rob-bell-love-wins-review/

Also updated (3/14): Baker Book House Reviewer (short/clear/concise): http://bbhchurchconnection.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/love-wins-by-rob-bell-a-review/ 


http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/love-wins-a-review-of-rob-bells-new-book?page=1 - One article on the book by veteran blogger and book reviewer, Tim Challies.

http://thetenthleper.com/category/book-reviews/ - Several articles on the book, very helpful critique with Biblical rationale.

One thing I'm picking up from all the reviews (both the favorable and not-so favorable) is this: Bell tries to cover up or conceal what he really believes (most of the reviewers above, however, pull back the cloak and name him as some version of a universalist). Bell (like in other books) shocks the reader with rhetoric but offers no clear Biblical teaching or definitive, personal position (not to mention a lack of footnotes) on heaven/hell and the fate of every human person. These reviews have cemented my plan to not read the book and use my limited time on this earth to read books with clear positions and Biblical reasoning.

So rather than waste your time reading another, "new" but seemingly unhelpful book, I suggest:

John Stott's The Cross of Christ
J.I. Packer's Knowing God (Knowing God)
C.S. Lewis' allegory on heaven and hell, The Great Divorce

And after you've read those, add a comment and I'll offer a few more suggestions.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Matthew 19:1-12: Jesus on Divorce

Back during summer 2010, I addressed Jesus’ teachings on divorce from Matthew 5:31-32. My thoughts have not changed since then, so instead of preaching Matthew 19:1-12 this week, I have decided to reproduce a large portion of my thoughts from last summer on this difficult topic with a few edits. 

One of the dangers of the internet is you cannot see the angst in which I write these tough truths. I know people have been in awful marriages and it is not my intent to heap heavy burdens on anyone. God is gracious and kind; He is the God of second and third chances. If you have caused or been the recipient of pain in marriage (then or even now), know that I love you and have prayed that these words below offer hope and healing as they point us all to the God who is always faithful.

            In the midst of large crowds, the Pharisees show up to ask Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason” (Mt 19:1-3). What the Pharisees are referring to was that in the first century, people used a few verses in Deuteronomy 24 to allow for an easy-out of marriage (for only the men, of course). In fact, men could divorce their wives if the wife burned the food or if their wives grew plain looking and a newer model could be found. What they didn’t understand and sadly I do not think we in the 21st century understand much better is that divorce is never a good thing (19:6). Divorce is allowed as a concession because of the hardness of human hearts (19:8). Many times I have heard people talk about, “a biblical divorce,” as if there is some God-approved version of divorce. There is no such thing as a Biblical divorce. Yes, divorce is sometimes the lesser of 2 evils. I read of a man who married a woman to cover up his homosexuality. Then for several years he brought male sexual partners into his home, even while his wife was present. This dear woman refused to get divorced because every pastor she talked to said she’d be an adulteress for the rest of her life if she did (a shameful and cruel use of the pastoral role).
            Well, here’s where I want to write candidly, but also, Lord willing, graciously. All divorce is adultery. There is no version of divorce that does not have a connection to adultery. Adultery involves a violation and betrayal of the intimate, exclusive bond formed at marriage. It’s more than sex; yes, having sex with another human being is worse than just walking out on a spouse and ending the relationship. But all of it is adultery. God repeatedly said that Israel was an adulterous people. They were not having sex with other gods (usually anyway), but they had broken their vows against God, and every single divorce will have devastating results. The natural effects of a divorce are like a baby who does not bond with his mother or an infant not giving proper nutrients. There will be consequences; there has to be. That's why Jesus warns us not to separate what God has joined together (Mt. 19:6).
            Michael Green writes in his Matthew commentary in The Bible Speaks Today, “[Marriage] was intended to be exclusive and lifelong. That is the ideal. To fail to keep this ideal is to spoil God’s plan for man and women. It does not mean failure cannot be forgiven, or that a subsequent marriage cannot be happy and fruitful. It simply asserts that such a marriage is adulterous and can never bear testimony to the one-man-one-woman relationship, for good or for ill, which marriage was intended by the Creator to be . . . In the kingdom, as at the creation, marriage is meant to be exclusive and lifelong.”
Marriage, every marriage, is to be a testimony of faithfulness, a faithfulness that reflects the faithfulness Christ has shown to us.

Application:
            If you are single or a widow, be faithful in your singleness to God and to your future spouse by staying morally pure (not just avoiding sex, but guarding your mind, heart, etc.). Use your singleness to invest in the Kingdom of God (Mt. 19:12).
            If you are married, love your spouse. Stay faithful to them even if they have not been faithful to you. God will give you the strength to love them. Keep praying for them. Serve them. Forgive them. God will use your love in deep and profound ways.
            If you are separated, I think in most cases, staying single is the best way to express your faithfulness to your spouse (even if they are far from faithful). Keep loving the person with whom you’ve separated. Seek reconciliation; try and save the marriage for as long as possible. Even if they remarry, there is no reason you cannot choose to honor the oneness that was created in your marriage.
            If you are remarried, still pursue reconciliation with your ex-spouse. Biblically I don’t think you should remarry your first spouse if either of you have already remarried (see Deut. 24:1-4). But I do think forgiveness and reconciliation should be pursued. Nothing is irredeemable. God loves you. Yes, you have broken a sacred vow with your spouse. Yes, it was sin. Yes, it will have dangerous consequences. BUT you are not a second class citizen in the kingdom of God. God can and will use you for his service. You won’t be able to have the testimony of faithfulness that the Bible calls for, but you can sure seek God’s redemption in the midst of the mess!

Conclusion: God’s faithfulness to us enables us to be faithful to others (cf. Jer. 3). God’s faithfulness is demonstrated by His vigilance to keep His promises to faithless people. He promised to send His Son to save people from sin (Rom. 3:23-26). He did that. God promises to bring life to those in death. He has done this time and time again. He can do it in your life, in your marriage, and even in the steps you take to pursue reconciliation. Trust in Christ; He always provides what we need (Philippians 4:19).

God's goodness amidst suffering, a testimony

I received the message below earlier today and have received their permission to make it known. Read, pray, think, worship . . . 




"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."--Job 1:21
We cherish your prayers as our house was robbed yesterday. See below if you have time to read some details...

I came home late tonight from work. Jude [not his real name] was still not home and I could not get a hold of him. I sensed something was wrong and sat in my car in my driveway worshiping to the song below:
Closer/Wrap Me in Your Arms
Into your arms
I'm drawing near again
To dwell with you
It's my only heart's desire
It's my only heart's desire

All I can do
Is fall on my knees and cry
Cleanse me with fire
And purify my heart

Draw me close
Closer than before
Closer than I've ever been

Wrap me in your arms, oh God.
[Repeat]

So take me to that place Lord,
To that secret place where
I can be with you
You can make me like you

Wrap me in your arms
Wrap me in your arms
Wrap me in your arms

As Jude was coming home, God brought the song below to mind and tears to his eyes:

Unashamed Love
You're calling me to lay aside the worries of my day
To quiet down my busy mind and find a hiding place
Worthy, Worthy

I open up my heart and let my spirit worship Yours
I open up my mouth and let a song of praise come forth
Worthy, You are worthy

chorus:
Of a child-like faith
And of my honest praise
And of my unashamed love
Of a holy life
And of my sacrifice
And of my unashamed love

God was preparing us... 
We came home to our house having been burglarized. Police have been here. Forensics left a few hours ago. A detective has been assigned to our case and will call tomorrow. There is a chance that the burglars took a look around our house and will try to come back again. We feel violated and have gone through all the emotions. We're so grateful that we're both safe but still sad, angry, hurt, anxious, etc. 

As God's timing is perfect, once we prayed, cried, talked, etc., we opened our mail to find a bunch of cards from precious family and friends reminding us of what's truly important. God hasn't changed, we are together and God has a baby that He wants to love through us. [They are in the process of saving and raising money to adopt a child.] We had been receiving a card or two one week, then nothing for weeks towards our adoption, yet today we were flooded by God's grace. (Thank you for being one of those we received yesterday!) We cried once again in humility at God's goodness in the midst of a confusing world. We cherish your continued prayers as we give Him the praise due His name, regardless of our circumstances. 

We love you and leave you with an encouragement from the writer of Hebrews: "You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."--Hebrews 10:34-36 God is good all the time...
By His grace alone--

How Calvinists and Arminians Should Interact -

In the middle of college, I almost lost a good friend because of growing theological differences. One of us was becoming more Arminian, the other more Calvinist. By God's grace, we worked through our theological differences, much like Charles Simeon (a Calvinist) and John Wesley (an Arminian) did around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries:

See the famous dialog below - (Wesley always in italics):

Simeon: Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers.  But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions.  Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Wesley: Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

No.

What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Stooping to See - Matthew 18

   Henri Nouwen was an Ivy-League professor in the late 20th century, one of the most famous in the realm of religion in the 1970s. But at the high point of his career, he left academia and began working with mentally-handicapped adults. I believe Nouwen understood Matthew 18:1-14, that to truly see as God sees, a person must stoop down to a place of humility. The world says proper vision is found by climbing the corporate ladder or doing whatever it takes to get on top. But Christ calls us to humble ourselves like little children to enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens. Then, as we bend down, we begin to see with Christ-like eyes. We desire to serve the vulnerable, the weak; we do everything in our power to protect and bless other brothers and sisters in Christ ("little ones," Matthew 18:5-6). Christ lowered Himself and became a servant: "For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life away as a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45). All those who follow in Christ's footsteps must stoop down to receive His grace and forgiveness, and then we are invited (commanded) to stay low, bending and straining to have eyes to see who we might serve in this lost and hurting world.
   O Lord, keep us from climbing mountains of personal fame and glory to our shame; rather, let us delightfully humble ourselves to receive Your grace and stay low to be a servant for the glory of your Name.

I left out this particular point in the sermon I preached yesterday. If you'd like to hear the rest of the sermon from Matthew 18, "Who is the Greatest?" check out: http://cornerstone-marion.org/sermons/11-0306_~Who_is_the_Greatest_~Matt_18_(Matt_Proctor).mp3

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Matthew 17:24-27 "Jesus: No More Taxes!"

   The 1st century Jews required an annual payment from each Jewish male to support the temple and its services. Apparently, Jesus hadn't paid by April 15th or whatever was the expected deadline (17:24). After the tax-collectors harangued Peter for Jesus' payment, Peter approached Jesus to ask why Jesus hadn't paid. Note that the text says that as soon as Peter arrived, Jesus spoke first (v. 25--divine omniscience), "From whom do kings of the earth collect duty and taxes--from their own sons or from others?" Peter knows full well that princes don't have to pay taxes to their dads (v. 26). Jesus affirms this as such to be true for Himself. Jesus does not have to pay a tax to His Father's temple. Similarly, as the miracle to follow shows (v. 27), Peter does not either. Through faith in Jesus who died for our sins on the Cross, we become sons and daughters of the King. We are no longer subject to the demands of the Law, because those demands have been met in Jesus Christ (Mt. 5:17). Jesus is the divine Son, but He laid down His rights as Son to bring us redemption (Phil. 2:5-11). At no point did He cease to be the divine Son--He could cause a fish to eat a silver coin and later bite the hook on Peter's fishing line to pay a simple tax. More importantly, our debts (what we owe because of sin and disobedience, Rom. 6:23) have been paid by this Son to make us Sons and Daughters of the King (John 1:12). We owe nothing because Jesus paid everything (Rom. 3:24-26; 2 Cor. 5:21).

NIV 1 Peter 1:18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

   This doesn't mean that the IRS doesn't get their due on April 15th :) -- We are subject to human authorities (Rom. 13). But praise be to God we are no longer subject to Satan, the ruler of the air (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Matthew 17:14-23 - "Painful Faith"

   On Jesus' return from the mountain of Transfiguration (17:1-13), he is greeted by a hysteric dad, kneeling and begging Jesus to heal his son. Nine of Jesus' disciples had failed to perform the miracle. In v. 17, Jesus laments over the faithlessness of His followers. Their faith is actually painful to Him; He is disgusted by it. His soul aches as he sees the poverty and perverseness of their faith. Somehow they had forgotten their authority to cast out demons and heal the hurting came from God. Probably, they were thinking they had somehow become magicians or powerful healers in their own right. Faith is simply "dependence on one who is stronger." But the disciples were no longer dependent on God, but were ready to tackle the world on their own.
   Jesus wanted them to have simple, mustard-like faith in Him (prayerful dependence, see Mark 9:29). When someone's faith is based on the all-mighty, all-knowing and all-loving Creator of the universe, even a mustard-size (think kid's size) amount of faith is sufficient to change the world; no ministry is impossible with faith and dependence in the great God of the universe (v. 21). He is the great God who came in the person of Jesus Christ who went to Calvary to die for faithless people, and yet His own faith was rewarded and He rose victorious over sin, death, and hell (vv. 22-23).
  This transition from faithful to faithless is common among the most "mature" followers of Jesus Christ. After a few years of service, we look back and see all kinds of miraculous happenings. We see that we have changed lives, spoken words of wisdom, and been blessed with financial blessings, etc. The sad thing (and painful to God) is we begin to forget our dependence on God and start thinking these blessings have all come about through our own brilliance or power. Like the disciples, the Lord will bring us through our own painful seasons of failure and loss to bring us back to Him. It's the most loving thing God does sometimes, when He removes His hand of blessing so we come and kneel before Him confessing our pride and idolatry. God is to get the glory; we are to receive His grace.
  

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

2011 Central District Conference - EFCA

I am attending my 6th Central District Conferencen of the Evangelical Free Church of America (2003-07, 2011). Day 1 was a rich day of Biblical Exposition, worship, and reaffirmation of our commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It's a special blessing to have President Bill Hamel with us this year. Last night he asked the question, "Why Not Today?" Why in the 21st century do we not see both the numerical and spiritual growth of the early church? He highlighted 4 core elements that made up the DNA of  the churches that are highlighted in the Acts of the Apostles:

1) A sense of God's presence that creates a hunger and expectancy for the miraculous.
2) Bold praying to the miracle-working God.
3) Passionate testifying of the Gospel of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
4) Generous giving and sacrifical love to meet the needs of those around us.

When these items are lacking, the work of the Gospel will be drained of vitality. When they are present, the world gets turned upside-down for the glory of God.